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Oct 1, 2013

First Quilts on the First: Elizabeth of Don't Call Me Betsy

Oct 1, 2013
Pin It Welcome October!  We have a great guest on First Quilts on the First this month.  My friend, Elizabeth Dackson of Don't Call Me Betsy, is sharing her first quilt with us.  Elizabeth and I met in my early days of blogging, in 2010, when she was just getting started.  Now several years later, she has just published her first book, Becoming a Confident Quilter (look for a review later this month) and she's a pattern writing maniac!  I love her style...  let's hear about her first....

Thanks, AnneMarie, for inviting me to pop over and share about my first quilt. I had to do some digging to find some photos of my first quilt, but first I have to tell you the story behind how I came to quilting.

My first sewing setup

I started sewing completely on a whim, when I wandered into my local Jo-Ann's shortly before my son's second birthday and decided to take up sewing. Why? Probably because I couldn't see myself knitting (tried that, failed miserably), painting (because I stink at that too), or making jewelry (because I'm so not a jewelry person). But I needed a hobby, that much I knew. I needed something that I could do that would give me an outlet. So, I bought a sewing machine and all the accouterments, and started devouring library books on sewing. Then I found blogs, and oh my, was I inspired. I quickly fell in love with Elizabeth Hartman's blog, Oh Fransson, and purchased my first quilt pattern, her Simple Modern Baby Quilt pattern (which is no longer available). I then purchased my first group of fabric online, Michael Miller's Zoology collection from Fabricworm, and I got to trying out quilting.

SMBQ - Zoology Baby Quilt

I made this quilt for my son's toddler bed. He had previously somewhat disliked sleeping under covers - but this quilt changed things for him. Ever since he received this quilt, he's enjoyed being loaded up with quilts when he goes to sleep at night. There's three of them on his bed right now! In Florida!

Zoology in action

To say that I made mistakes while making this quilt would be a ridiculous understatement. It's almost like I read the pattern and decided to defy it just for fun - honestly, I'm often bad at following directions, so it's not terribly surprising that I couldn't follow the super simple instructions that Elizabeth wrote in her pattern. I didn't get how important pressing is in quilting, so I only pressed some of the blocks here and there. I'm not quite sure why I did that, but it made for some wobbly seams here and there in the finished quilt, though no one but me noticed.

Someone really enjoyed my first quilt

I also decided when it was time to finish it that I'd free motion it myself. I'd never free motioned before, but I figured it couldn't be that hard. I marched back over to Jo-Ann's and got a spring-loaded free motion foot from my dealer there and went home to quilt. I pin-basted the quilt, not taking anywhere near as much time to smooth things out as I should have, and got to quilting. I didn't have a clue what I was doing, so I just winged it. I remember my husband asking me about whether or not it was supposed to look like "creepy fingers," and it nearly made me cry. I was self-conscious about doing it wrong, but I trudged on. I still mention the "creepy fingers" in my FMQ classes, because I find that lots of beginner FMQ'ers do exactly what I did early on - making long skinny curves that are more ovular than round, which gives the creepy fingers vibe.

Close up of Zoology Baby Quilt

While there's lots of things I did wrong on this quilt (and many that followed it!), there's still lots I learned in this quilt. I learned about buying fabric, I learned about grain-lines, I learned about so many things, but the most important thing I learned was that I loved the journey. I loved the process. I had found the hobby I was so desperately searching for, and I guess you could say the rest is history.

Chain + Link quilt - front view
My Chain + Link quilt, featured in the Sept/Oct issue of Quilty magazine

These days, my style may be different - I don't sew up as many simple patchwork quilts as I did in my early days of quilting, but I am still drawn to bright colors, like the ones I used in my first quilt. I'm really into foundation paper piecing this days, and more than that, I have found that I love teaching others and helping others find a love for quilting. I've written loads of quilt patterns now, and my very first book Becoming a Confident Quilter has recently been published, which is super exciting. I'm teaching classes regularly at my local quilt shop, and starting to travel for teaching as well. It's so fun to help someone fall in love with this hobby that has meant so much to me.

Polaris Jr - Full frontal
My Polaris Jr mini-quilt, using the Polaris pattern in my book Becoming a Confident Quilter
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  1. Love this post! I'm another one who totally didn't understand the importance of pressing when I first started quilting. I saw the arrows that indicated which way to press the seams in the pattern I was using, and was just like, "Well, why does that matter? I'm just going to do it the way I feel like it!" : )

    1. At least you two read SOMEthing! I was so stubborn, I didn't even want instructions (knowing I'd disobey them and severely mess up the whole thing anyways...) :)

  2. I bought that Quilty magazine just for that pattern, it's beautiful!

  3. When I first began quilting, it took a me a l-o-n-g time to discover that I didn't need to backstitch every single seam. That one discovery made the sewing go so much faster! Thanks for sharing your journey.


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