I come from a long line of women in my family who sewed, knitted, and/or crocheted. I remember sitting next to my great-grandmother as she knitted clothes for my Barbie; going to the fabric store with my aunt to buy patterns and fabric; and helping my mom cut out squares for the quilts she made, and letting me tie them off for her when she was done.
Sewing has been a huge part of my life. During junior high my mom made sure I took sewing classes in summer school and kept me busy making my own clothes. I was tasked to make my brother’s friend a 3-piece lined suit and all of mine and my sister’s prom dresses. I continued to make my own clothes all the way through high school.
One year, I skipped sewing class to take auto shop. My home economics teacher had other plans for me. She pulled me from auto shop and signed me up for a sewing contest at the county fair. In those days you did the sewing on a stage in front of everyone. Not only did I win 1st place at the fair but I also got an A in auto shop and was the first girl to take the class.
My junior year in high school a breakout backpacking tent company came to the school looking for someone to help out after school with some sewing and my teacher recommended me to the owner. I had a great time learning to sew dome backpacking tents which you see everywhere these days. I had no idea at the time that I was a part of something so big.
In my senior year I got a job at an upholstery shop, became a journeyman seamstress and worked before and after school. In my spare time, I helped a friend do side jobs, upholstered my dad’s vintage car, and sewed leather jackets and vests.
My sewing slowed down when I got married and had my daughter who was born with cerebral palsy. My daughter was 2 when my younger brother got married. I made all of the dresses for the bridal party, a dress for my daughter and one for myself as well put together all of the flowers for the wedding. After that it was a small quilt here or there and a stitchery project now and then.
As my daughter got older and didn’t need so much help I signed up for a quilting class for the both of us. That was about 15 years ago and I haven’t looked back. My main goal was to sew samples for my local quilting shop. I figured if I was asked to sew samples then maybe I was a good enough quilter to show others my work.
I got asked to sew samples and I was thrilled beyond words, I sewed samples for a year but my satisfaction level never rose. All along the shop owner would say I needed to do a mariners compass and each time she would show one to me I would say to myself I don’t like that. This went on for over a year until one day she handed me something and said again that I needed to do this mariners compass and I almost yelled out loud “I don’t like this”. At that point I knew I needed to leave the store before I got myself in trouble for hurting someone’s feelings.
I went home and thought about what the store owner had been telling me for over a year. Did she see something in me that I didn’t see? Did she know something that I didn’t know about me? Maybe there was something to this that I just could get past so I looked on the internet to see what was out there.
I found a beautiful bed and breakfast in Tennessee that catered to quilters. I thought what a wonderful place to take a class so I went to sign up and all I could do was laugh at the class that was being taught. Of course it was the mariners compass. The one class I didn’t want to take. It must have been destiny. It would be my first class with a Judy Niemeyer instructor.
I remember when I got my first sewing machine on Christmas eve from my grandpa, and how my brother, sister and I got up early on Christmas morning to sew on the lines of notebook paper, and got yelled at by my mom to go back to bed because it was too early to get up.
I should have been a paper-piecer all along because I now have found the technique that makes me proud to show anyone my work thanks to Judy Niemeyer and her company Quiltworx!