Saturday, September 8, 2018

Evolution of A Quilter

I decided to add this little biography as I had to come up with it to publish in our monthly QBTS newsletter.  I  added a couple of more pictures to it however!

Evolution of a Quilter

It stands to reason that I would choose this title as I majored in Anthropology/Zoology many decades ago at the University of Michigan, a major that for me was essentially about the evolution of man.  

With that in mind, I should say that I started sewing when I was about four  with the help of my Nana who was an avid garment maker.  From four to twelve, I sewed doll clothes for all my dolls from fabric scraps.  I started making clothes for myself then and by 14 had saved enough babysitting money to buy a brand  new White zig zag sewing machine.  I became more sophisticated in my garment making and took a tailoring class in high school.  I pretty much made most of my clothes for the next 25 years but at the back of my mind knew that someday I would quilt so saving fabric began.

I ended up with a career in computer information technology at Xerox for almost 30 years but continued to sew.  I took up free hand machine embroidery in the late 70s, taught by an Ecuadorian woman in Buffalo, NY.  After the birth of my first daughter, I took my first quilting class with a neighbor.  It was all hand quilting and I made a pillow!  I bought a Bernina at the same time and also an old-fashioned quilting frame and made my first top.  I never bothered looking at the measurements for the top and thought it would be a wall hanging.  However it ended up being a twin sized quilt. 

I quilted it using the stab technique that I had leaned in that quilting class and of course hated that.  It whetted my appetite so I next decided to do applique as I did like the hand work.  I flew frequently for work and one stewardess remarked that she remembered me as I was always sewing!  I got increasingly adept at applique culminating in a Baltimore Album quilt top (which didn't quilt until 3 years ago!!).

This was my first applique quilt.  Below is the Baltimore Album.

I decided that if I wanted to be called  quilter, I should learn how to machine piece and took a sampler quilt class at a local shop in the mid-80s.  I made that top and another one totally scrappy (the teacher told me I was a scrap quilter as I didn't know what that was, only that I got bored using the same fabrics).  I then subscribed to many quilt magazines and starting buying books!!  I  made  many machine pieced tops for the next several years, always hand quilting.  I was, however, anxious to do art quilts and loved the work of Nancy Crow, Michael James and Ruth McDowell.  

I still loved applique and had a chance to take a class with Ellie Sienkievicz in the late 80s but only if I signed up for two more classes at this small quilt conference.  So I took a hand dyeing class to fill in.  It was not a very good class and  used dyes improperly but I was hooked!!  I then took classes in Houston from Ann Johnston and ProChem (in the early 90s).  There were basically no books back then on dyeing only an occasional article in a magazine.  It got me started and then a couple of books were published by Ann and I was able to take additional classes from her as well as Elin Noble.  I did a lot of experimentation on my own, combining techniques used by a variety of dyers.  I was a frequent contributor and reader on the now defunct Dyerslist and taught dyeing locally in Rochester.  I also took up painting with acrylics on fabric.  It became a goal to try to duplicate the effects you can get with acrylics with my dyes. It was the perfect combination of art and science for me.  I had been dyeing for probably ten years when driving in my car one day about two years after the death of my mother, I suddenly realized that it ran in the family.  For some reason, it had never occurred to me that the mother used to smell up the house during my childhood doing acid dyeing of wools for her beautiful hooked rugs!!  I am still experimenting with dyeing and most recently have been doing “ice resist dyeing” and making complex designs not achievable with my regular techniques.

Life has been good to me and I have been able to take classes with all my quilting idols with my last major class being with Ruth McDowell where I learned to draft piecing patterns from my photographs.

These days I machine quilt almost all my quilts although  I like to have a hand quilting project for nighttime tv viewing and finished up a queen sized  wholecloth last winter. 

 I do some sort of machine work almost every day while binge watching Netflix, 

1 comment:

Barbara said...

Love your blog Beth, you are such an inspiration to me!