"Learning to Quilt"
Submitted by Carol Moll
I learned to quilt from my maternal grandmother when I was in elementary school. Gram lived with us and spent every morning at the quilting frame in her room. She always let me have the Mountain Mist batting wrappers, and I started out making paper quilts from the colorful blocks on those wrappers. I received a battery-powered sewing machine for Christmas one year, and she helped me pick fabrics from her stash to make a simple nine-patch quilt. Most of her fabric came from mill ends. The only fabric we bought was for sashing and backings. My dad made us templates and quilting stencils from heavy cardboard. My quilt blocks progressed nicely until we discovered that the toy machine sewed the kind of stitch that immediately comes out if one thread is pulled! Gram helped to re-sew the blocks on her Singer treadle machine, which she taught me to use as soon as I could reach the treadle. Hand quilting was done in the floor frame which my dad had made for her many years before. I have to admit that most of the quilting was left to my grandmother, as I didn’t have the patience to work on it fast enough for her – she needed to get the quilt finished and out of the frame to start another!
My second quilt was an “improved nine-patch” and I remember working on the blocks in seventh grade Home Economics class. There I learned to use an electric sewing machine, and was allowed to work on my blocks since I already knew how to sew on a machine. To prevent the problem of delaying Gram’s quilting, Dad made me my own frame on the same pattern as Gram’s. One of the bars was already very well-used, having come from his mother’s similar frame, and we made the other from a 2” x 2” x 8’ piece of lumber by planing down the 4 long edges to make it nearly round. I don’t remember how long it took me to finish the quilting, but I do have a vivid memory of taking the quilt off the frame and discovering that the wood stain had soaked into the first round of the quilt! Most of it came out with thorough washing, but you can still see some of the discoloration. Dad put something on the wood after that to prevent the staining.
Other quilts followed, with patterns being selected based on my grandmother’s philosophy that you shouldn’t stick with the easy ones, but challenge yourself to make the most complicated patterns you could manage. I made several quilts for friends’ wedding presents and tied them – a tradition from way back in my family. But around that time I discovered weaving and quilting became a secondary hobby, with only a few quilted pillows and wall hangings here and there.
I totally missed the quilting revolution, and was still drawing around templates and cutting pieces with scissors until I retired about five years ago. Finding no evidence of weaving supplies or guilds anywhere close to Neffs, PA, I discovered a hand-quilting group at the nearby church. Those ladies pointed me toward Wooden Bridge Drygoods and Allentown Sewing Machine Outlet. I saw signs there for quilt shows and started looking on line for information. What a revelation!! Rotary cutters! Jelly rolls! Layer cakes! Machine quilting! Quilting videos like The Quilt Show and Quilt in a Day! I discovered a whole new world and started experimenting with all the “new” techniques I had missed. And eventually I discovered The Quilted Crow on the way back from the PA Turnpike one afternoon. I now have a great group of quilting friends and excellent sources of supplies! And an addiction to acquire more and more of said supplies! Quilting sure is great!