Quilting and The Life List

A few weeks ago I realized there was still much to do on my life list. The only item I could cross off was “Attend a book signing.” What?! That’s a poor showing for someone who counts making a batch of salad dressing as a life goal.

As we get closer to moving the boys into one room (maybe next month?), I’ve been thinking more and more about making them quilts. I’ve been obsessed with quilts since I was Mikey’s age which, if you recall, was the height of the Little House on the Prairie years. Quilts and country and small calico prints became the rage a few years later, which suited me fine. We would visit Lake Tahoe in the summer and winter, and many of the stores would hang quilts from their balconies for decor and enticement. I wanted one desperately, but they were so expensive I didn’t bother asking my parents. I did say out loud once, “Boy, I sure would like a quilt one day!” while I pointedly stared at a pretty blue and white Star quilt, but my parents were impervious to my super-sly manipulation. Years later my mom bought me a Laura Ashley quilt-like comforter as a compromise. I still have it.

Making quilts is on my life-list, so I signed up for a quilting class in September. I ended up missing the first of two classes thanks to a last minute practice for Mikey’s Filipino choir performance. I called ahead of time and was able to move to the October class instead, so it’s not a big deal except that two days before the class was to start I went to the quilting store to buy fabric. Even that isn’t a big deal, except I liked only two fabrics in the entire store. I was there for over an hour waiting for pretty fabric to magically appear. It didn’t happen.

There was country fabric, traditional fabric, children’s fabric, batik fabric, contemporary fabric, and Harley Davidson fabric. Some of the children’s fabric was cute, but it was way too baby. Two women helped me put together the pile above, and at the end one of them turned to me and said, “You sure are needy!”

And I said, “If by needy you mean needing fabric that doesn’t suck, sure. ” Actually, I said that in my head. In reality I just smiled and felt stupid.

Had I known I would miss the first class and have more time to find fabric, I would have gone to a different store or shopped online. Instead, I ended up settling for yellow roses and butterflies. The pattern I am going to make is called Yellow Brick Road, and the women in the shop swore to me the final product will not scream BUTTERFLIES! or BROWN SWIRLS! or IS THAT SUPPOSED TO BE WATERCOLOR (ORANGE)!

We’ll see.

After a few days, I realized it was probably for the best that I didn’t find what I liked. I won’t feel bad about cutting it up the fabric or screwing up, and it will make for a good practice quilt. I’m not sure what pattern (or fabric!) I will eventually use for the boys, but I’m sure it will be simple. I have my eye on this book and I own this book and this book.

I have a few quilting resources pinned on Pinterest, but I would love to add more (or hear advice!) if you have any good links.

p.s. Three more days until my library deadline, and 31 Days of William Morris starts on Monday. Where did the month go?!

Jules Kendall writes about books, family, and easygoing simplicity.


  1. says

    ahhh, quilting resources! Where to start? I have a pinterest board you are very welcome to rummage through if you like.
    I get most of my inspiration from bloggers rather than books (although I do seem to own a ridiculous number of quilting books, I very rarely make anything from them). Excited to see how your quilt turns out!

  2. Aimee says

    I love quilts more than any other kinds of blankets–I am actually snuggled right now under the quilt my mom made me 20-odd years ago. It gets used the most of any blanket we have, by humans and cats alike.

    My favorite online fabric source is Hawthorne Threads. Great selection, reasonable prices, and excellent service. Both my mom (in Michigan) and I (in NorCal) have ordered from them and had great experiences and speedy delivery. They have a nice search menu, too.

    Good luck!

    • says

      Thanks! I will bookmark the site and check it out when I get home! :)

      I sure hope my quilts (1) get completed and (2) are something the boys keep forever. Who knows–maybe one day they will fight over the ugly butterfly quilt! Actually, the only reason I picked that fabric is because it reminded me of the visit to the National History Museum in Los Angeles we took in the summer. They went in that butterfly exhibit and had a really great time!

  3. Annabelvita says

    I made two very simple quilts this year (one little http://annabelvita.com/2012/02/01/northcote-cabbages-and-roses-baby-quil/ and one large http://annabelvita.com/2012/04/16/moda-etchings-layer-cake-quilt/ ). None of the individual steps are hard, just take your time and try to have fun! I never found one resource that told me everything I needed to know so googled a lot before each stage (I linked to my favourite sites and tutorials in those two blog posts). Do you have a baby you could make a small quilt first? I found that a really great learning experience. Also, if when you get to the quilting stage you’ve had enough, there’s no shame in sending it off to a long arm quilter- even people who’ve been quilting for years do this!
    Good luck!

  4. Susan says


    My eldest daughter works at PurlSOHO and they have a very nicely curated selection of fabrics. And those pretty inspiration photos on their blog. I thought this one was really cute:


    Perhaps you have already seen all this, but your blog has been giving me so much pleasure and inspiration the last couple of months that I couldn’t resist chiming in.
    All the best to you and your family!

  5. Bec says

    My first quilt class was when I was 9. I love the 1930s reproduction prints. You can find them pretty easily in Iowa, but not sure about California! I’m sure they are online. I made my last quilt with them and I love it.

    • says

      How funny you should say that! Based on the pictures I brought with me and what I described, the women at the store said I liked 1930s quilts or more modern quilts, like Denyse Schmidt. I will have to do a search once I get ready to tackle the boys’s quilts.

  6. Michelle says

    The first quilt I made was a log cabin. I used all the “wrong” fabrics (not enough contrast between light and dark), but it still turned out really pretty. And yes, you’d be surprised how much those fabrics will change when you cut them up and put them back together!

    Also, look for another quilt store locally that is a better fit. A good store will stock fabrics you like, display sample quilts that inspire, and have staff that is super helpful and encouraging.

    • says

      I hope the fabrics change! The floral and butterflies I can deal with, but that brown swirly thing and orange I-don’t-even-know-what make me nervous.

      The shop owner gave me a list of quilt shops and said one had more vintage fabrics, which she suspected would be more my style. I’ll have to check them out.

  7. says

    I am a very inexperienced quilter, but I have made a few. I would recommend the following: first, check out this super simple quilt: http://katiedid.squarespace.com/katie-did-journal/2009/1/27/quilt-how-to.html. I’m working on a quilt like this for my boy.

    Next, I would go to the Moda Bake Shop online, and under the Recipes tab, check out the Quilts. Tons of great ideas.

    Finally, I would consider starting with something like a Jelly Roll (a group of coordinating fabrics pre-cut into 2 1/2″ x 45″ strips). This is a great way to begin quilting without freaking out about ALL. THE. MEASURING. AND. CUTTING.

    Good luck!

  8. says

    Boo on those fabric store women for making you feel bad. The choices can be overwhelming in the shops, even for me. The class I took was above the fabric store, so it was easy to keep second guessing and buying until I ended with franken-quilt. (yellow, purple and blues, eek)
    I have sewn garments ever since I can remember so when I got my new machine (about 6 years ago) I thought it was about time to try a quilt. They suggested yellow brick road for me too. Skipping to the end, it was easy but alas I am not a quilter. The top is finished and sitting in a box waiting to be quilted. Never going to happen. It is easier for me to whip up a dress or outfit then finish a quilt. I’m not saying you can’t teach an old dog new tricks, but I’ll never look at a quilt and call it easy again.
    I’m sure you will do great. Don’t over think it!

    • says

      I kinda see where that woman was coming from, because I really was freaking out about not finding fabric I liked (this was when I thought I was going to be taking the class in two days and had no other day I could go look for fabric).

      I’m hoping that quilting will appeal to my methodical, regimented side with all that measuring and cutting. Then again, it could be like scrapbooking and bring out the worst in me!

  9. says

    I totally agree with the above commenter about checking out the MODA website. I am one who abhors things like patterns and careful measureing, and even I managed to make a beautiful quilt. The secret was the charm packs Moda sells (precut beautys that already look great together). The other secret was my serious “nesting” mania that overtook me in the weeks before my son was born. No kidding–I made and froze 11 heart healthy casseroles, finished all our Christmas shopping and wrapping, moved our family out of our sold house and into a rental cottage for our last year in Charleston, and then decided I needed to make this quilt since my oldest daughter had just turned 2 and was graduating to a big girl bed. I made the entire full sized quilt, including the batting and backing, in a two week period during her naptimes, while watching hallmark Christmas movies. I’m not gonna lie, it was epic.

    Honestly I want to make another one. It is sorta addictive. However–I may need another nesting frenzy to help. No luck there right now.

    • says

      I cannot explain to you how deeply appealing it sounds to sit with a sewing machine and watch nonstop Hallmark Christmas movies. One just HAPPENED to find its way to the TV last year while I was doing my wrapping and my husband kept rolling his eyes, but he was poking tons of fun at it with me by the end! (As much as I like to gently mock Hallmark and Lifetime movies, I will watch anything with Christmas as the main subject, because of that warm, cozy glow you get.)

  10. says

    Oh, Jules, I feel you on that fabric. I had the same sort of problem looking for scrapbook paper to turn into origami letters for my nephew’s party. (http://littlebronzelion.wordpress.com/2012/08/17/origami-celebration-party-decorations/) All of the choices in the big chain craft store were HORRIFYING. (And not appropriate for a boy. Let’s just be real about that.) Had I more time to order awesome paper, that’d be another story. (Luckily my Target had a good, and inexpensive, set of papers and a good friend of mine checked another one on the other side of town for me when the two I’d been to were out of that packet.) I think it’s wise to consider this your “practice quilt” and then you can order something fantastic, or find another brick and mortar store even, for your next round of fabrics. Shame on those women for not treating you with patience.

    Good luck with the quilting class! I’ve recently gotten into piecing fabric together (I just finished a sewing machine cover I need to blog about), and I find it addicting. I’m slowly ratcheting up the difficulty level, maybe I’ll try a quilt soon myself!

    • says

      I’m glad everyone agrees with my decision to call this a practice quilt. I was hoping people wouldn’t tell me there was no such thing!

      Scrapbook paper for boys is RIDONKULOUS. So, so ugly. Everything is either too baby or too BOY! Because all boys, apparently, like camo or Ed Hardy.

      I hope I like quilting! I kind of feel it’s the perfect 10 of crafting: beautiful and useful!

  11. says

    Good for you! And, I second the need for you to find a store with more helpful people…also, Hawthorne Threads is a great online store. Wonderful service and selection. A quilt kit might be a good way to start.

    Here are some fabric designers/quilt designers that you might like:
    Anna Maria Horner
    Tula Pink
    Denyse Schmidt
    Amy Butler

    I love Japanese imported fabric, too. Etsuko Furuya is the best.

    • says

      Alicia Paulson mentioned on her blog last week that she was considering a quilt kit. Since she is the one who inspired me to try quilting, I sure hope she does it!

  12. frances says

    For my first quilt ever I picked this one: http://www.purlbee.com/the-purl-bee/2012/4/29/mollys-sketchbook-broken-dishes-baby-quilt.html
    I worked on it all summer, and finally sewed together the first block last night. It’s taken a while – mostly because I’m snatching the odd moment here and there, while my son naps and I don’t need to be cooking or cleaning or doing something else useful with my time – and I probably should have picked an simpler first project, but so far I’m really, really happy with it.
    I’m a lifelong knitter who only got into sewing recently, but I’ve always wanted to quilt. I’m so excited to actually be doing it! Once I got started it was simpler, if more time consuming, than I thought.
    I picked this pattern partially because it was shown with all solid color fabrics. I suffer from huge pattern indecision. I love the look of patterns all jumbled up together – it’s one of the things I’m drawn to in quilting – but I’m terrified I’ll make something ugly when I try. I’ve done some projects where I’ve tried pattern-on-pattern work and I’ve come to the conclusion that the most important thing for me is that I actually like all of the patterns involved.
    I’m lucky enough to have a couple of great fabric stores in easy driving distance, places that carry interesting and unusual stuff. I’ve also done some buying online at Purl. It’s a very good thing I don’t live anywhere near that place or it’s West Coast warehouse or I would have neither money nor a place to live because my entire house would be full of fabric and yarn.

    And now you know, Jules, the two things that will almost certainly get me to comment: books, and fiber arts.

    • says

      THAT QUILT!!! It’s gorgeous!!! Well, I know Larissa (a reader) who lives near me wants to make quilts for her boys. She’s an avid sewer and even had a purse making business for a while. Maybe she would do it with me. I’m big on hand holding.

  13. Susan G says

    Nononononono! I have avoided quilting like the plague because I SO want to do it and since I am incapable of doing things in moderation I know it will take over y life (and my house). I went into a quilt fabric shop once and practically had to run out because I wanted everything – it was arranged in ROYGBIV which makes my heart melt, my eyes delight, and my good sense desert me!

    Best of luck – and I agree on all the advice you’ve gotten.

    • says

      Hahaha! Too funny, Susan. Honestly, I’m afraid quilting might bring out the uncompromising perfectionist in me. Fingers crossed I don’t turn into a maniac with a rotary cutter!

  14. Toi says

    I come from a very long line of quilters and so when people ask me how I know how to do that, I just say it’s in my blood. I’ve never been able to just “pick up” anything, but quilting I just inherently know how to do. I consider it one of my very few talents. I think it’s so sweet that you’re doing this for the boys. I have so many of my grandma’s and great aunt’s quilts. Every time I look at them or use them I feel like I have a little part of them still with me. The boys will keep those quilts forever and always have a little piece of you with them also.

    Consider yourself lucky that you went into a fabric store and didn’t see anything that you liked. Most people I know who quilt border on being fabric hoarders. I was close, but when I moved in with my fiance I had to get a hold of myself and get rid of my hoard! (I didn’t want him to think I was too neurotic.)

    Oh and Yellow Brick Road is a great choice. I’ve made that pattern several times. It has a lot of pieces, but it will be worht it! I can’t wait to see pictures.

    • says

      Every time I look at them or use them I feel like I have a little part of them still with me. The boys will keep those quilts forever and always have a little piece of you with them also.

      Sob!!!!! I loved this.

  15. Susan says

    How maddening to be insulted while shopping. Sorry you had an unpleasant fabric experience. I know nothing about quilting, but have always wanted to learn to knit. Once again, your willingness to try new things is inspiring. Hopefully one of these days I’ll have flying fingers…In the mean time, best of luck with quilting class!!

    • says

      I have found that I need to take classes to get me going. Otherwise, I kind of futz around for years thinking I would like to try one thing or the other. I say you try taking a knitting class! JoAnns and Michaels always have inexpensive knitting classes. So do most yarn stores, come to think of it.

  16. says

    It’s definitely best to start with fabrics you’re indifferent to for your first quilt. That way, when you cut/sew something wrong, you wont be so sad!
    I always have the hardest time figuring out what fabrics to choose. The trick for me is to try to take the fabric I *might* like over to a window or table away from all the other hideous fabrics and reassess. Sometimes really great fabric can just be guilty by association!
    There’s a quilt shop in Corona that has pretty good fabric. Stars and Scraps Quilt Shop off of McKinley on the 91.
    Oh, I can’t wait to see how your quilt turns out!

    • says

      Actually, that quilt shop was recommended to me by some ladies in the shop! They noticed I was drawn to 1930s reproduction prints, and that store seems to carry a lot of them. The store I went to, of course, had El Zero.

  17. Missie says

    I love your fabric selection! The colors are great. I’ve wanted to learn to quilt for years. My mom bought me a measuring board thing and cutter a few years ago. It’s still in the package. I pass by a quilting store in town now and then and think about signing up for a class. I’m going to make a life list or it will never get done. Thanks for the inspiration once again! Can’t wait to see your finished product! Oh, as for your salad dressing goal, my aunt- Pam Powell, has a salad cookbook on Amazon (Salad Days) and she has a dressing recipe for each salad. They are so good, I could just drink the dressings! You should check it out.

    • says

      I will check out your aunt’s cookbook, thank you! And I agree that you should take a class. For me, anyway, that’s the only thing I ever get anything done. I need accountability!

  18. says

    I found a lovely, simple, tutorial for rag quilts over at The Complete Guide to Imperfect Homemaking. http://www.imperfecthomemaking.com/2012/01/easy-thrifty-pretty-rag-quilt-tutorial.html I am currently making a rag quilt based on this tutorial and found it super duper easy. Don’t know if the ‘rough-ness’ of it is what you are looking for, but it is defnitly good for building confidence on the first try. I like the color pallet you chose :)Best of luck!

  19. says

    I come from a family of quilters; tying a quilt is as close as I’ve ever come to actually making one. It really should be on my list, however–because I know how much they are loved! My mom has one my great grandmother made–it’s filled with deep hues of olive, plum, and pumpkin, in squares of silk and velvet. It’s gorgeous! Then, my favorite of all–the jean quilt my aunt made for graduation. It’s so heavy, and wonderfully warm–it’s been the end of many a relationship. I just didn’t love them enough to let them get that attached to my blanket. :)

    So here’s to you–and the cutting/sewing of treasure!

  20. Alexis says

    There must be something in the water – I just started sewing and quilting last year and have passed it on to 3 friends! I’m self-taught so am probably doing a lot of it “wrong” but I just love it. The best book I’ve found is Elizabeth Hartman’s “Practical Guide to Patchwork.” Her writing and pictures are so clear and she really lays out the basis. For fabric, check out the fatquartershop.com. Or, if you ever come down to San Diego, try Rosie’s Calico Cupboard. Can’t wait to see your quilt progress!

  21. says

    Sweetie just recently got into quilting as well. We can’t afford to send her to a class though so she’s doing all the research and reading tons of how-to blogs and going it alone. We have a few friends who have quilted and she’s ready to call on them if needed but she really wanted to see how far she could get on her own. I think the one she’s doing is called “Road To Tennessee”. This will be her practice quilt. She wants to make a queen sized one for my parents for Christmas with a tree, the quilting pattern making the bark, and applique leaves & acorns for kids and grandkids.

    I’ve watched her iron, measure, cut and sew these little blocks over and over. More patience than I have, that’s for sure. I’m more of a demolition gal myself 😉

    I’m looking forward to reading about your progress!

  22. says

    Jules, back when I thought I was going to be a “crafty” person, I was pretty obsessed w/ fabrics, and awfully disappointed in the selections in the big retail chains, esp. here in the IE. But I was thrilled to find out there’s an outlet for the very popular online shop, “Purl Soho,” right in the OC, in Tustin. It was a magical place to visit, just a little place in a business park, but stuffed to the gills with great fabrics, from many of the big names in fabric design. Just a thought!

    I admire you for trying this & signing up for a class.

  23. Anne says

    I think you have great fabric choices for your first quilt. The butterflies can be a center of a block to draw the eye or cut into strips to minimize them. The sky is the limit when you are creative!
    PS I wouldn’t go back to that store – they obviously do not value your business!

  24. says

    Those ladies were rude, imho. I have not yet found any good fabric stores around here but I am excited to check out Purl Soho! The only fabric place I’ve found so far is JoAnn Fabrics, and they suck.

    my mother is a quilter. I have copious amounts of quilted baby blankets. I’m trying to get her to quilt us some larger twin size blankets for the kids. One of my favorite blankets that she has made (one for each of my sisters and I) were made from various favorite outfits over the years. (Have I told you this before? I feel like I have left this comment somewhere before.) My quilt has her maternity clothes when she was pregnant with me, each of my plaid school uniforms, the red bonnet I hated wearing, Christmas dresses, baby clothes, etc. Its a lovely compilation of memories.

    • says

      No, you’ve never mentioned this. It sounds so special! I don’t have anything like that. For a very long time (years) I saved all of Mikey and Nico’s swaddle blankets. I had this idea that I would use them for a quilt backing. I ended up getting rid of them in a fit of purging. Probably for the best, since they weren’t special–just Gerber brand.

      There aren’t very cool crafting resources of any sort in So-Cal, if you ask me.

  25. Rachel Love in the House says

    Choosing fabrics is the hardest part of quilting. I’m so sorry you had unpleasant experience. One time when I was taking a quilting class, due to unforeseen circumstances I had 45 minutes to pick out fabric at a very small store. I hated the main fabric and I was displeased with the other nine since they were based on the first one. Something magical happened once I started piecing it together, though. It turned out to be the most beautiful quilt in the class (said by others, not me) and my favorite that I’ve ever made. Even though I didn’t intend it for my bedroom, my husband and I have been sleeping under it for almost 3 years and still talk about how much we love it. It’ll work out, I promise. Good luck and happy quilting!

      • Rachel Love in the House says

        Think of the piecing the fabrics together like a writer writing a book. Only a certain few can be main characters, the rest are supporting characters who add texture and interest. The story wouldn’t be the same without the supporting roles but if everyone in the book is a main character, then nobody is. If each fabric is eye-catchingly beautiful, your eye won’t know where to look and will get overwhelmed. Your fabrics look great together; all the tones work well. I’m confident it will look wonderful.

  26. says

    I’m hanging my head in shame thinking of my partially finished lap quilt from years ago. It’s shoved in a box in the back of my closet. Need to finish it.

    It sounds like you need a better quilt store! I am hugely turned off by tons of quilting fabrics, but I’ve found that I love all the retro 1930’s prints. They mimic the fabrics that my great-grandmother used in her double wedding ring quilt, which is the only reason I’m willing to make the effort to quilt at all. My mom and aunt are seriously into it, but they also love shopping for fabric (I really, really don’t).

    • says

      Yep, I’m a 1930s gal, too. I hear there is a store in Corona that specializes in that type of fabric, and now that I know there is a Purl Soho in Tustin, I suspect most of my fabric woes are over. (Fingers crossed.)

  27. says

    That woman was RUDE, and there’s no excuse for it! I worked at a quilt shop in college, and boy, yes, some quilters are really, really picky/needy/etc. when it comes to fabric, and it can be frustrating to the shop workers, but that is their/your right. You’re spending a hefty amount of money and have to live with the results. Customer service, people!!

    That said, please don’t stress too much about fabric choices. My advice, which was usually never taken, was to put fabrics together that you don’t think are going to work. It almost always comes out looking pretty darned cool. I once did a quilt in oranges and pinks. Eww, right? It turned out AMAZINGLY GORGEOUS. Who knew? Once you embrace the adventure of it, choosing fabrics is the most fun – and the easiest – part of quilt-making. The trick is learning to let go, just a bit, of control over the end results. Hard for all of us (me included), but worth it.

    Have fun with it! I can’t wait to see the final product!!

    • says

      Thanks, Aimee. You are so right. I just need to let go and trust it will all work out. I know people online who just grab fabrics from a pile and start quilting! Scandalous!

  28. says

    Hey Jules, I don’t know how often (if ever) you’re in LA, but a great quilt shop opened up here recently: http://shop.sewmodernonline.com/

    It reminds me of Purl in Soho, except they don’t carry knitting supplies. Which reminds me—I don’t know precisely where, but Purl’s warehouse is in the OC somewhere, and I’ve heard that they allow local pick-ups to avoid shipping fees for those of us in SoCal.

    Whoops, just read other comments and saw that was mentioned. Anyway, if you make it to LA, let me know! The store is close by and I can bring a 13 month old to amuse you. :)

    Happy fabric shopping!

  29. says

    I’m with the other Rachel.
    Picking the fabric is the hardest part.

    I’ve finished a few quilts in my day {apparently that is what I spent my time on, before I blogged!} and if you ever need help, I’d love an excuse to drive out and see you, so just holler.

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