I love to hear how other quilters got started with this addictive hobby / vocation / occupation. (I also absolutely love seeing other quilters' studios & workspaces.) I'm mostly a self-taught quilter, not because I was a natural or was particularly brilliant. Rather, I just had a fondness for not following formal directions.
My friend Susannah, a very talented handquilter, helped me get started in the summer of 1996 while I was on hiatus between undergrad and graduate school. We shopped for a preprinted panel and various other items I'd never heard of -- “Batting? What is that? Do I really need it?” After sewing the panels into a Queen size quilt, basting it, and quilting about an 18” line of stitches, I completely lost interest. The could-have-been bed quilt became curtains and I moved on to piecing with some help from magazines. I had caught the quilting bug, and I’ve been busy ever since then making quilts and buying more fabric than I could ever possibly use.
Before I started quilting, I did not consider myself to be artistic at all. My drawing was mostly limited to a cow-horse-dog, which could pass for a cow, a horse, or a dog, depending on its surroundings. Quilting has given me an artistic outlet and permission to make plenty of what some people call MISTAKES. I prefer to call these miscalculations and alleged errors IMPROVISATION -- it's a much more constructive way to view them, and it also gives them the credit they deserve, because my improvisations have proved to be the best quilting lessons I've had, by far.
I have countless quilts that began as clear plans in my head, with some scribbling on paper, but took very different directions along the way because of problems I encountered, like when I cut strips incorrectly or my calculations were wrong from the start, causing me to run short on fabric. I'm quite good at coming up with solutions, some viable but many not so viable. After more scribbling and a good dose of frustration (and maybe some “marinating" time in the closet for particularly difficult quilts), more likely than not, I’ve found some solution that led to a finished quilt that I like much better than my original idea.
Over the years, I've taught various classes at local quilt shops, guilds, and retreats, and I've published a quilt pattern and even started a book proposal. During this time, I was either a graduate student, a stay at home mom, or gainfully employed, so I never made a serious effort at making of quilting into a career. I’ve dreamed of owning a longarm machine since about 9 months after I started quilting. I’d considered buying an Innova several times over the years, but always thought better of it (i.e., chickened out) because of the expense. When my church eliminated 2 positions in June, one of which was mine, I took it as a sign -- the time has come to chase the dream. So here I am.