When I was growing up in Salinas, my sisters would spend hours at Beverly Fabrics on Main Street, browsing through Butterick and Simplicity pattern books and choosing fabrics. I walked the few blocks to the public library and immersed myself in the young adult section. I hated the sewing arts. I got a “D” on my A-line skirt project in junior high. My fingers were clumsy pinning the seams and the uneven stitches couldn’t hide the markings for the darts. I resisted learning how to use a sewing machine and didn’t have the patience to master how to work with fabric bias or basting or threading bobbins.
As an adult, I discovered the beauty of hand quilting when I volunteered to help my son’s elementary class stitch their class project. I made a couple of quilts my own but it was painstaking work and after my husband’s brain injury, I didn’t have the energy to continue.
After his death, I re-discovered the pleasure of quilting when I made a memory quilt of clothes. I found solace in the tiny stitches and welcomed the meditative nature of sewing by hand. When I had stitched together all the squares and quilted the top, batting and bottom together, I needed to put the finish the ends, called binding the quilt.
I took it to my local sewing store and the manager taught me how to bind the quilt using a sewing machine. I brought the sewing machine my sister gave me that belonged to my mother. I was intimidated to use it and couldn’t get it to work properly on my own. But the store manager showed me how to thread the machine, wind the bobbin and make mitered corners on the quilt. Soon enough, I was enjoying the hum of the machine and marveling at the uniform stitches.
The finished quilt now adorns my bed and I found that I missed sewing. I found a box with quilt pieces I had started 12 years ago when my younger son was about to go away to college. Some of the squares were completed but there was a large stack of meticulously cut pieces ready to be hand-sewn. I felt overwhelmed, just like I did 12 years ago.
But with my newfound expertise in sewing by machine, I stitched them together in a few days and they are now ready to be hand-quilted. I started new quilt patterns for my sons with the leftover material from my husband’s clothes, and in my spare moments, run them through the sewing machine so that I can hand-quilt those later. A whole new world of quilting has opened up for me.
And I learned that it’s never too late to learn a new skill.