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About Sandy and Quilting...for the Rest of Us

Mom, circa early 1980s

Mom, circa early 1980s

I was one of the last generations of girls for whom taking home ec was required. Even so, all I took out of it was that I hated sewing. My mom had sewn all of our clothes for many years until we all rebelled and stopped wearing homemade clothes. When that happened, she turned to quilting--she was one of the 1976 surge of women returning to quilting during the Bicentennial renewal of the art. I spent many a happy hour thumbing through her quilt magazines and quilt catalogues, pointing out quilts I'd like to have her make me.

Finally one afternoon she turned, raised an eyebrow at me, and said, "You could learn how to do this yourself, you know."

During college, my main activity for stress relief was coloring in geometric design coloring books by Dover. I loved the new box of crayons, all sharp and waxy-smelling and organized by color. I would carefully turn my crayon in my fingers to keep that sharp point. I enjoyed figuring out how to place colors to the greatest effect in my geometric designs and learning where to leave white space to better highlight the colors. I'd hang my finished pictures up on my wall and ponder how I could have colored them differently.

To which Mom said, "It's a short step from that to quilting, you know."

My first quilt--sorta

My first quilt--sorta

I lived at home again for four months in my early 20s when my husband was in boot camp for the National Guard. During that time, I finally asked Mom to teach me how to quilt. She helped me choose a simple design (9-patches alternated with snowball blocks). I loved choosing the fabrics and piecing the quilt. And then I lost interest. A few years later, after my husband and I had two children and were embarking on our careers, I opened a Christmas gift from Mom--there, wrapped in bright paper with a big ribbon on the top, was my first quilt, now finished. It's UFO status had bothered her far more than it had bothered me, but I was so happy to be able to hang it on my wall.

My first real quilt that I made all by myself like a big girl

My first real quilt that I made all by myself like a big girl

Fast forward about 10 years. My father was having serious health issues and I was the most available daughter at the time to be able to help my mom out with his care. To help give her something to think about other than Dad's difficulties, I once again asked her to teach me to quilt. This time, for simplicity's sake, I chose a kit out of a catalogue that I liked and Mom assured me would be simple enough. When the kit arrived, Mom walked me through the steps and this time, I'm proud to say, I finished it completely on my own, quilting, binding, n' all. And then I went home and repainted the entire first floor f my house to coordinate with that little wallhanging.

To which Mom said, "Now you're a real quilter."

More recent work

More recent work

Yes, that time it stuck. Dad passed away a few months later and I worked through my grief by making a quilt. I have been quilting ever since (and I still occasionally paint a wall to match a quilt). I've only been able to spend serious time on it in the last few years as my kids got old enough to drive themselves around and are now out of the house at college and embarking on their adult lives. Mom passed away in 2009. Not only do I miss my mother, I miss my best quilting buddy. We'd spent many an hour pouring over catalogues and magazines together, going to fabric shops, having show n' tells with each other, and (I'm so glad to be able to have this memory) attending the 2008 Quilt Festival in Houston, TX, together.

In 2010 I started my podcast, "Quilting...for the Rest of Us," because I missed talking to my mom about quilting. I had no expectations that anyone would listen. I've been greatly surprised and tremendously gratified that people have listened and have become a key part of the conversation.

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I am a traditional quilter, a modern quilter, and an art quilter. I've gotten into hand-dyeing, spinning, and needle-felting. I do whatever catches my fancy at any given moment with no regard to categories or definitions. I have a passion for encouraging others and empowering their sense of personal creativity.

If you choose to subscribe to this podcast and blog, please do talk with me--leave comments, ask questions, share your own tips and frustrations and joys. Because that's why I do this thing.