The first quilt that I remember is one that my mom had finished by a longarm quilter. The quilt was started by my great-great-Grandma Jarvis with hand-cut pieces made from clothing that my family members had worn in the 1950s. The top wasn't complete but my Great-Grand Aunt Vera finished it so that my mom could have a local woman machine quilt it. I loved that quilt and used it all the time! And then my children used it until I had to make us all stop. Some of the squares were disintegrating from all the use. It is now only a display item but every once in awhile, I'll let one of my kids use it with a stern warning to be careful!
So I have grown up with quilts and was fortunate enough to have my Grandma Jo to make anything that I wanted from quilts to Halloween costumes. She gave me my first sewing machine and was always up for my ideas .....except a t-shirt quilt. She drew the line there. So that's where my quilt-making journey started.
Since she would not work on a t-shirt quilt, I had to figure it out. Between my friend, Ericka, and Pinterest, I made my very first quilt that not only used t-shirts but also included transfer copies of newspaper articles. I like to dive right in on challenging tasks, obviously! I had a local woman do the machine binding for me and it turned out so well that I made a few more. (There is no shortage of t-shirts around our house because it's a big part of sprint car racing.) Our camper has several quilts, our kids each have t-shirt quilts, and then, a friend asked if I could make him one. And then he told friends, so I made a few more. Until I was making enough quilts that it seemed silly to pay someone else to machine quilt my projects. My mom was also taking a couple quilts a month to the same lady. She did a great job for us but it was time for us to take the next step and purchase our own machine. So we researched machines and purchased the Babylock Regalia longarm from Ellen's Quilting Corner in West Burlington, Iowa. Ellen is amazing! She helped us get set up in my basement family room and answered every phone call or text any time I ran into a problem (which was usually the computer operator's mistakes....me).
So fast-forward four years to Ellen retiring and closing her business which was not only machine sales but also our fabric and quilting supply store. Mom and I decided that we should take another leap and work towards opening our store. While this is still in the works, we continue to offer custom quilt making and longarm services out of my home. But we're very excited about opening a storefront and offering fabric, notions and inspiration. So check back for our progress!
On a personal note, I am a wife to Bobby, mom/stepmom to three (ages 21, 20 and 15) and a teacher, in addition to being a quilt maker. If I'm not working on a quilt, you can find me at the race track watching sprint cars, reading a book, walking or working on genealogy projects.
I guess you could say I have a genetic quilt gene inherited from my Great Grandma Bessie, Great Aunt Ruth, and my mother, Joann! There was always a quilt frame in my great grandmother’s dining room which was a great place to play, especially as an imaginary home for doll babies! Laying on the floor looking up at a quilt top being carefully hand stitched by grandma, watching the design taking shape was so interesting and so very peaceful. She would often give me a needle and let me sit beside her as she guided my hand in adding my own quilt stitches to her beautiful quilt. My grandmother made quilts till her hands and eyes no longer allowed her to do so, well into her mid-late 80s. In the late 1950 early 1960s, I can remember Grandma and her daughter, Vera, using sandpaper, sometimes brown grocery bags or cardboard, cut to a shape to use as a pattern for the fabric. Generally, the fabric was from used clothing. Each pattern piece was then cut by hand with scissors before being expertly sewn by hand with needle and thread into a block, and the blocks sewn together to make the quilt top. Then the top was loaded onto a quilt frame, and quilted by hand! Can you imagine the time and the patience it took to make? I know at some time, Grandma had a sewing machine, but I never saw her use it!
I marvel and have a deep appreciation for the older “vintage” quilts. I wonder about the hands and the people who made these beautiful quilts, their thoughts as they stitched, the lives they lived. They left such a legacy that possibly outlasted the maker by many, many years. Often being loved and cherished family heirlooms passed down from generation to generation! Ok, now you know my sentimental side!
My mom, Joann, was an amazing seamstress, making everything from wedding dresses to ladies business suits, bell-bottom pants, and curtains/drapes! She developed a love of quilting after she retired, making hundreds of beautiful quilts for her children, grandchildren, and great grandchildren. She also bought a fancy sewing/embroidery machine and her creativity developed to another level! Every Christmas for many years, she gifted a tree ornament of an angel, snowman, snowflake, or similar holiday design to her family and friends. Now that she has passed away, they are treasured indeed. She also created lovely wall hangings, table toppers, and Christmas tree skirts. She was blessed with amazing skill and talent. My mom belonged to the Colonial Quilt Club, a group of local ladies who got together weekly to hand quilt tops for people. My Great Aunt Ruth was also a long-time member of this club, as well as my Great Grandma Bessie, and I have a memory of attending one of their quilting days with Grandma!
My journey began when I wanted to make a quilt for a future step grandbaby. I was not a sew-er of anything, since I had my mom do all the projects and repairs! So, I looked to her for help. She taught me so much and I was hooked! I even quilted that first project by hand! Life got busier and although I thoroughly enjoyed making a quilt, I didn’t do much for several years.
When I married my husband, Richard, in 1976, he was father to Angela and John, we had Mandi, Brett, and Brian together, and after growing them all up and getting them on their own, we adopted Charli and Serah as baby girls and started over! Sadly, my husband passed away, leaving me a very “mature” single mom. The girls and I moved to a home that gave me a dedicated sewing room which my older kids furnished with all I needed to make my “Happy Place”! This is when I really got serious about quilting and have made quite possibly near a 100 quilts!
When my daughter, Mandi, extended the quilt gene line in our family, by deciding to make a quilt. It was a special experience with three generations: my mom, my daughter and myself. I tend to gravitate more towards traditional style quilts, and Mandi is amazing with T-shirts and custom memory quilts, whether she’s using old shirts, jackets, or Crown Royal bags. She even makes memory pillows! She’s much braver than me! But, we make a good team!
I have lived in Wapello, Iowa, my entire life, and probably always will! I like to read, do word games, puzzles, spend time with family, and can make great coconut cream and apple pie! I especially love Christmas time! I am about to become an empty nester when my youngest heads off to college this fall. That will be strange after 48 years of being a mom and taking care of kids! I currently work at our elementary school as a special education paraprofessional, but retirement from that job is on my horizon as Mandi and I move forward with our quilt business. I’m excited to think I can do something with quilting and fabric every day!
As my life is sliding towards the “golden years,” I know that God has a plan for me, He has carried me through dark grievous times, and rejoiced with me in the happiest of times. With Him all things are possible!