Our Quilting and Sewing Stories

A while back, we on the Bernina ThirtySomethings List were discussing the stories of how we got started quilting and sewing and what a fascinating, interesting discussion it is! We quilters and sewers are able to bond in friendship very quickly because of our shared experiences and understanding of one another.

I’ve asked permission to share those stories here and invite you to add your story, too, either by adding it to the comments or by emailing me at maria@mariamichaelsdesigns.com and having me add it. I would like to have this become an ongoing event and continue adding our stories. Not only do they help us to get to know one another, they are a part of quilting/sewing history. Please add yours!

Here are our first stories:

“My first garment was a jumper that I sewed the top aschew to the bottom. I still wore it. When I took sewing in high school, the teacher made me drop it and take cooking. She said I had no aptitude for sewing.”

“After I finished nursing school a lady working in a fabric store “adopted” me and said, “There is a sewer wanting to come out.” I took classes from her for 3 years.”

“I hand tailored a suit and wore it back for a high school alumni day. The sewing teacher said, “You must be doing well in life….that is one fine suit.” When I said I had made it, she spit coffee half way across the room. That one second was worth all the effort to me.”

“It’s been 50 years since anyone told me I didn’t have aptitude for sewing.”

Frecia K., WA

“My father was given half a crown (old UK money) back in the early 1950’s to take away an old Singer treadle machine. The part that held the boat shuttle was damaged and so he brazed it and got it working again. I seem to remember it had a date of 1874 on the metal bit covering the shuttle. It had a rounded wooden lift off top that I would use as a doll’s cradle while my mother sewed on the machine. I was desperate to use it but my eyes only came up to the top of the table!!”

“My mother taught me to knit when I was about 4 or 5 and I knit my first sweater when I was 6. It was cherry red chunky wool with a three button opening and a collar. I did all the knitting – ribs, decreasing for raglan etc., but my mother sewed it up for me. When I went to school, my teacher sent me up to the primary school to show Mrs. Miller who taught kntting and sewing to 7-11 year olds. She was impressed and was waiting for me when I was old enough for her class.”

“Mrs. Miller and her sister Mrs. Lidster both taught at the school and were old school task masters – very strict but I loved and respected both of them. We had one afternoon a week when we did knitting and sewing. I still had to start doing what the others did – a pot holder – but soon rattled it off. We then went on to hats, bed jackets, mitts and socks on 4 needles – I now knit on 5 – much easier for socks and gloves.”

“Sewing at school seemed to take place in the spring and summer terms. It was all done by hand and we did aprons, oven gloves, bags, dirndl skirts, and blouses. Some of these had simple embroidery on them and I had learned all the skills of French, run, and fell seams and good hand stitching.”

“At 11, I passed the exam to go to the grammar school which was very academic but we stil did domestic science and had to make caps and aprons for learning to cook. We used electric machines and I hated them and the teacher. I was glad when I didn’t have to sew in that class any more. However, due to a brain operation I had put on a lot of weight and couldn’t get clothes to fit that weren’t for “old ladies” so I started to sew on the old treadle. My clothes were very home made looking but I wore them with pride. I still knitted, learned to crochet, and a friend’s mother taught me to tat.”

“When I started my first job, I got a tax rebate of £44 and spent it on my first sewing machine- a Merrit. This I traded for a NewHome (now Janome) and my niece still has it. I bought a second hand Pfaff but couldn’t use size 70 needles in it and traded it for anothee Pfaff 1473CD which my neighbour is “fostering” for me. She uses it every day.”

“I bought another Janome 6500 when they first came out here and while in the shop one day saw my 1080 special. It had been traded in and was hardly used at all. I decided I needed a second machine so it came home with me. It cost £500 but was worth it.”

“When my children were small I made all of their clothing, my husband’s work jeans and my clothes . I still sew things for myself. Just finished a warm jacket with lining I free motion quilted and a hat to match. I wore it to the hospital on Sunday and my son said I looked like Nanny 911. LOL.”

“I made a quilt for my first son. I learned about plastic bag appliqué from a Relief Society manual (from the church I attend) and then tied the quilt. We still have it – bedraggled, but we can’t part with it. Most of my sewing these days is quilting which I really enjoy. I have signed up for another Quilt University course with the same tutor I had last year – Linda Schmit and just hope I have time to do it.”

Brenda in the Boro, UK

Note: Another place to take online quilt lessons is QuiltCampus. Must plug it too as I teach there. 🙂

“My mother, before she was married, went to art school in Minneapolis hoping to become a fashion designer. She loved drawing beautiful women in fancy outfits and did that all her life. Though she was a talented artist, she HATED sewing, but unfortunately, in order to go through the art school program, she had to take sewing classes. So she dropped out and got married. I think she regretted that later!”

“Then when I was in junior high school, I took a home ec course and immediately fell in love with sewing and making my own clothing. So my mother bought me a Singer Featherweight that I still have and used until I moved to Alaska in 1969. In Fairbanks I was living in a tiny cabin with no electricity. At an auction there, the first one I’d ever been to, there was a group of treadle sewing machines for sale. I ended up buying two of them, more or less by accident. I think I bid on myself at least once! My boyfriend thought I was crazy (and a few other people did too) but I actually came to love both machines, a beautifully decorated Singer and a White. They had different personalities. I kept them repaired myself and used both of them to make winter coats, backpacks, even a sleeping bag.”

“A few years later I got a job working at a canvas supply business, one of my favorite jobs. People came in all the time with odd requests that we would figure out how to sew. We made a tipi once and also fitted a half-wolf for a dog pack. I loved the industrial machines, giant sizzors, and huge tables to lay out fabric.”

“When I was working there I bought an 807 Bernina (I was barely able to scrape together the money) that I loved and used for years. Now I live in Michigan with a very nice Necchi I found at a garage sale for $25. Then a few months ago I was able to find a Bernina 830 on eBay and I’ve been so happy to have my Bernina back!”

“I have never made a quilt and that’s the next thing I want to do.”

Susan, in Michigan


1 Comment

  1. Martha in Utah

    I would like to get in touch with Brenda in the Boro if possible. I really enjoyed reading her sewing story- especially about Relief Society. I tried to get in touch with her at Quilt University in the Student commons page. Brenda, if you happen to read this, you can get in touch with me there. Thank you.

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