Who taught you to sew? Who taught you to quilt?

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gerrycam1 wrote
on 2 Nov 2010 2:20 AM

how lovely-- these are all healing arts.

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on 4 Dec 2010 5:47 PM

My mother taught me how to sew on the machine.  My beloved Greek grandmother taught me how to do all types of needlework...she also taught me to dream and design.  I started to sew my own clothes at 7 years of age.  The first dress I designed by myself I cut the patterns out of newspapers taped together...kneeling on the floor...I did this in memory of my grandmother who made her own patterns!

I learned to quilt with quilt designer and author Roberta Horton.  I didn't want to quilt and she was just starting out...she was teaching at a community college.  I was a perfectionist and sewed following all rules...Roberta took away my rulers and my patterns and brought me back to my roots ... to my grandmother....God Bless them Both!  Karen in Indiana

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on 8 Dec 2010 6:09 AM

I am 68 years old and my paternal grandmother worked in the garment district in NYC on children coats.  I always loved being fitted and watching her on the sewing machine.  My mother encouraged my sister and I when we were in grammar school and taught us basic hand sewing and embroidery. Later i taught myself how to use my uncle's machine early on.   My aunts and mother's friends were great inspirations and teacher for me.  Plus my sister and i were taught that sewing was more economical and fun than buying . i always like the idea of choosing my fabric colors and textures.  Now i sometimes sew clothes but mostly i quilt art pieces, blankets, bags and dolls.  Sometimes i sew shorts and pajamas for my grandsons.  I love my sewing machines.  I still have the one my parents bought for my sister and I, plus a Phaff  which my husband bought me as an engagement gift , a Husqvarna which i bought about 7 years ago and a Bernina that i won at a quilt show and a serger which is still in its box because i have no time to learn how to use it.  Maybe in 2011I will do that . 

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prisw66 wrote
on 31 Dec 2010 4:22 PM

My needlework growth has been long and varied and added a wonderful dimension to my life. I learned to sew in Jr High School like so many others...1st a gym bag, then an apron and a jumper.  My first "formal" was made with my mom, and there was no end to creations after that. There was no such thing as ready-to-wear maternity clothes when I had my first child, so sewing saved the day.   My mother-in-law taught me to sew with real attention to detail when we made a flower-girl dress for my 4 year old to wear in a family wedding.  Her mother took in sewing to support her family of 4 in the early 1900's, and had passed on those talents so  that years later I benefited from them.  She also taught me other needlework and basket making.  Needless to say I lucked out in the in-law pool.

All of my relatives crocheted.  My mom would sit and watch tv while turning out perfect tablecloths and bedspreads made with fine thread.  She hardly ever referred to a pattern once she got started.  Somehow I missed learning those skills and am still struggling to crochet on my own.  I learned to knit from a friend when I was in my late 20's.  I started out with an argyle sweater for my hubby so it wouldn't be boring.  It wasn't!  Fortunately, my friend was very patient as well as a good teacher.  But, I have not had much trouble with any knitting pattern since.  Tried tatting several times and finally gave up.  That seems to be one skill I won't acquire!

I majored in art in college, but other than amusing myself, have never done much with it.  I taught myself to quilt when my 1st grandchild was due and I wanted to make something special.   I had ruined my machine, sewing leather pants from a piece of leather my hubby brought home, so he bought me a Jenome 6600 and an embroidery machine when I retired, and now I have no excuse for not covering my world with my creations!  The first time I saw an art quilt I was so excited I couldn't wait to get started.  Oh, the colors and patterns and threads...pure visual joy!   I want to make art quilts and embellish them so they are beautiful.  That surely is what I have been heading toward for so many, many years. 

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Emily714 wrote
on 15 Feb 2011 10:28 AM

My mom taught me how to sew (by hand) when I was 4 or 5. She showed me how to use her sewing machine when I was 8 or 9, and I started creating bathing suits! I'm surprised they stayed on me.... My grandmother and aunt showed me how to make lace by tatting (sp?), and also how to embroider, crochet and knit. Starting in 7th grade, I made most of my clothes (with the exception of jeans), and worked in a small fabric store in HS. I went to college with the intent of studying clothing design, but realized after 4 semesters that I just wasn't cut out for the competitive nature of the industry. This was back in the mid 80s, when there were very few American designers, and even fewer women in the field. I went on to get my first degree in Retail Management, went back to school for Fine Art, and eventually ended up getting my MFA in painting and drawing, nearly 20 years later. Currently I teach part-time at the Univ. of Maryland. I'm a self taught quilter, very experimental with my approach, and mostly just learn by doing. I'm terrible at following directions (but great at giving them to my students!)

ESC - Maryland

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on 15 Apr 2011 7:24 AM

I loved reading your stories! I actually learned how to sew from my grandmother. She taught me (and later my sister) when we were in elementary school. I remember going on road trips with my mother and grandmother. My sister and I'd both be hand sewing in the back seat of the car and when we got to our destination, we'd show off our creations.

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Muppin wrote
on 15 Apr 2011 8:47 AM

Ellen, that's so wonderful!  Those must be cherished memories.

Of all people, my grandfather was an accomplished tailor.  He could make wedding dresses (and did for my mother), as well as make all sorts of home dec and even upholster.  I wish he lived closer to me to teach me back in the day, but we do have lots of his work in the family.  He didn't quilt (that I know of).

Cheryl / Muppin


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S. Casler wrote
on 16 Apr 2011 1:19 PM


My mother  taught me to sew when I was about 4 or 5, I made doll clothes.  I bought my first sewing machne when I was 17.  No stopping after that.  I am self taught in knitting and crochet and was able to make myself several very nice outfits to wear.  I tried quilting in the 70's and am also a painter so the Art Quilt thing is what I am most attracted to.  I still design my own sweaters and sew some of my tops and skirts.   The knitting and crochet ability is useful when i need to emblish a piece of art.   My mother always said that I didn't have the patience to make a large quilt...and she was right I like do to things that I can get done quickly........

S. Casler

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KimberlyF@2 wrote
on 17 Apr 2011 9:36 AM

At the very young age of 4, I was what is now known as ADHD and my mother taught me to sew and knit as a way to focus my attention.  She sent me to needleart summer classes at a local art museum while in elementary school.

By 6th grade, I was making (most) all of my own clothes. 

Then I worked as an engineer for 25 years....

Now, I put all the different needlearts together (with some engineering know how) to create quilts, home dec, bags, and embellished clothing. 

Here are my latest endeavors undertaken with the ultimate goal of using some of the decades of beautiful fabric, notions, etc., I have collected.






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edyth wrote
on 22 May 2011 6:59 AM

Hi Muppin,

What a fantastic forum...

I have started a reply 3 times...then deleted...my story is exactly the same ....as all the previous stories....a little different here & there...but basically  the same..self taught..high school , Nuns.. no interest what so ever until many years later...then all the lessons surfaced...

I remember sleeping beneath ALL THE HANDMADE QUILTS, from my Grandmother Lily McKinney/Johnson...Chockoloskee, Florida.. I use to sit at her feet ( I was 5-6 yrs. old)  & watch her feet on the OLD Singer treadle...she made bras for one of my cousins...????  Not one scape of old clothing went to waste... :>)


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Posts 429
on 2 Jun 2011 2:58 PM

I love this question!

My grandmother taught me to sew when I was young. I wanted to make a bed for my dolls, so she showed me how to make a "mattress" (which was just a pillow).

Then, when I was older, Pokey (I know - I am a lucky girl) taught me how to do crazy quilt stitches. That was over ten years ago, and I still love to stitch/sew/quilt!

- Lindsey Murray
Assistant Editor, Special Projects

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RUEdOAK wrote
on 14 Jun 2011 10:32 PM

I am enjoying reading each of your stories, and find so much in common.

My mother began teaching us basic sewing skills -- so early I cannot remember when I did not sew. Every August she would line up my sister and me, trying on clothes put away from the end of the school year. She would measure the hems, and off we would go....can't say I have ever loved hemming!

Like others of you I was making doll clothes by mid- grade school years. In particular, I drew a small catalogue of outfits for trolls, for my best friend to choose what I would sew.

My mom -- well, even at 91 still is -- a regular shopper and volunteer at the thrift store. I hit junior high at the time when shirtwaist dresses were OUT and empire was in. So my mom showed me how to convert thrift store dresses into fashionable high waistline outfits. We of course only wore dresses to school then :-). The wide circle and gathered skirts became yardage for A-line mini-skirts and romantic hippy-style loose shirts. Using these thrift store clothes gave me room to create without fear of waste.

Quilting came later, with the influence of like-minded friends, and it was all self-taught, built on a foundation of sewing skills, a passion for fabric, and a strong design/art upbringing. Circa 1973, very few books (and certainly fewer specialty stores) existed for quilts and quilting. Curious, two friends and I talked our college (Stevenson College at University of California, Santa Cruz) into allowing us to do an independent study research project on the history and culture of American quilt making. We did all sorts of research at libraries around the San Francisco area, seeking information and stories in magazines from the 1930's etc., and put out a notice seeking quilts to display as part of our project. We even had a formal show at the college library. My great-grandmother's fancy crazy quilt of velvets and silks was featured on the show poster.

Life went other places for many years, and I have only more recently returned to fiber art, after a career as a graphic facilitator and a fledgling watercolor artist. What a delight to find that the "crazy" projects I was doing 30 years ago have a name: Art Quilting.


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