I think I’ll make a quilt…

Ginger Cat Quilting Studio is the brainchild of a frustrated quilter. Me. Lee Lindemann. I started quilting when I was expecting my first daughter, who is now 35 years old. I bought a pattern, from one of the Big Three companies at our local fabric store, for a strawberry applique patchwork quilt with a double ruffle around all four sides. Same applique on all the blocks. Same 5″ blocks alternated with plain blocks for the whole quilt. What can be so hard? Right? Right!

Well the pattern instructions said nothing about stabilizing the fabrics for appliqueing. Or how to set up my sewing machine for a decent looking sating stitch around those strawberries. Or how to turn the corner on the point-ish end without it looking awful! But I got the squares done after lots of trial and error (and no web lessons to turn to remember…) and started sewing together the squares.

thread measuring tape buttons
thread measuring tape buttons

Again, no directions on how to get EXACTLY a 1/2″ seam and get those corners to all meet up. They didn’t. I’ll just say that right here and now. But finally I had the main top. And I was darn proud of it.

The worst thing in the world to do to a nice small top? Put a double ruffle around the entire thing. But that’s what the pattern called for. The folded lengths of flat ruffle extended from my parent’s living room sliding glass door (I was sewing at my mom’s as I did not yet own a sewing machine as a newly married, mom-to-be) and went through the living room, down the long hall and through the doorway to my parent’s bedroom to her dresser. And that was just the first ruffle! I had double-basted that sucker the way the instructions tell you to do and it took over 2 hours to agonizingly gather together the ruffle. Shuffling those gathers meticulously down that highway of fabric, all the way praying out loud that the gathering threads didn’t break, over and over and, you get the pictures. I was 7 and a half months pregnant and getting up and down off the floor was not easy so I ended up crawling back and forth as I gathered and did eventually get carpet burnon my knees, as my impatience with the whole project grew substantially. But eventually it was close to being gathered enough and then I gingerly laid it down on the couch and started the agonizing process of pinning it to the top.

The top did NOT care for the weight of that ruffle. I punched through all those layers with the tiny sewing pins my mom had and can you imagine the mess at turning the corners?

I’m sure the gathering threads broke more than once and I quick-like-a-bunny hand gathered those little sections, stabilized them with some pins, added four or five more between the stabilizing ones to replicate the gathers and gathered up my mess (aka the quilt) and wobbled to the machine to throw down some machine basting stitches to hold those sections in place. Again, the instructions failed to tell me how to meet the two ends of the quilt together once the long lost ends met once again at the sides. I’m fully expecting this pattern instruction author was NOT a quilter. It was 1983 and not many women across the country had found the quilting bug again.So I guess they threw the job at a dress seamstress who did her best.

My last step, putting top, batting and backing together!! How hard could this be? I can hear you laughing, or groaning. And yes it was bad. First off, I wanted a nice THICK quilt. So I bought a nice THICK batting…Secondly, the pattern instructions told me to cut the backing the exact same size as my finished top. What size was that? Did I measure my top and then cut the backing (which would still be a disaster). No! I always did exactly what the instructions told me to do when I was sewing and it usually worked well. So I had already cut out my backing and it was perfect! My top however was not exactly the finished size it should have been. To make matters worse? I had to sew on the back the way you do with ruffles…lay it down on the backing and stitch almost all the way around and turn it inside out. With all the fullness of the ruffles, I had one heck of a time, keeping those  ruffles out from the stitching line and the battle at each corner to not catch fabric in the seam line became intense. I think that’s when I ran through some pretty sharp language, quite a few times and my little bundle received a lesson in adrenaline fueled tirades vicariously.

FINALLY, it was done and all I had to do was turn it inside out, finish off that little opening edge and ta-duh, a quilt. Not so fast. As I turned the quilt inside out and carefully steamed the seam down (ok, so it was more like beating it into submission) I started to realize that the backing was too short at the bottom, and more so on the right side than the left. I had a lovely little 1″ fold at the bottom of the quilt on the right side. It started out as a 1/4′ fold on the left side. I stood there at the iron. I stared. I cried. I pushed that little fold around, back and forth, through my tears, hoping it would dissipate with exercise. Alas. I was too exhausted and frankly, too pregnant, too sit down rip that whole thing out and start over. I had no idea the backing should be cut 2″ (at least!) larger ON ALL FOUR SIDES than the top (which I should measure carefully when done!)

Old singer sewing machine
Photo by Jonas Kakaroto from Pexels

So I decided to do the final steps, call it a quilt and ignore that little roll (just like I do now with my waist…) You’re thinking I’m pretty much done with my story of woe. But wait! The instructions had me “tying” the quilt together where four squares come together in a seam (can you say bulk?) with a needle and 1/8″ satin ribbon! I found the mother of all needles with a huge eye in my mothers stash (my mother wasn’t a seamstress but somehow, some way, she had some nasty big needles hiding under that cushioned sewing machine stool) and thought I would be well on my way to be finished in no time! Let’s just say that I had to raid my fathers tool chest for pliers…That “quick” tying project took me three days to complete as my hands recuperated from pulling that needle through all those layers, I would take a break and come back to it 30 minutes later. Also needless to say , my mother did not get her needle back. It was one mangled you-know-what by the time I was finished.

But I was finished! And, as my dear husband always says, driving by at 65 miles an hour, it looked pretty good. But I was proud as punched and I proudly put it in my daughters crib. And quickly decided as soon as she was born that it was much too heavy, the ruffle irritated the heck out of her and kept her from sleeping and babies pee and spit up A LOT (I was being an earth mother and used cloth diapers and didn’t have any plastic overpants yet….) So the quilt became a wall hanging.Flawed as it was, that little wall hanging kept me company through all those MANY, MANY breastfeeding sessions at night. This gave me plenty of time to sit and stare at…my mistakes. And that’s why I didn’t try quilting again for many, many years.

I decided to not let that hiccup in the road to quiltdom stop me. I picked up some fabrics for another quilt when my son was 8 and wanted a sailboat quilt. I bought some beautiful 100% cotton for the blocks and —I bought a nice heavy denim for the borders. (I can hear you!! “Can this girl do anything right?” Yes. It just took a second “what was I thinking” to get it right the third time. And the fourth time. And every quilt since. Mostly… We all have a quilt we wished we’d done something different on.

But those ‘flops’ were still family treasures. Flops that started me on a quest to do it right–the first time around– and now I make beautiful quilts that garner oohs and awws whenever anyone walks through my home. So I have come to the realization that quilting is a journey, not a destination. So travel with me and I’ll see you on the road!