Darlene Friesen: Quilt Artist and Coach
Quilting and sewing coach serving the North Okanagan in British Columbia: Classes offered in my studio or your home. I provide consultation to aid your personal projects. I also provide longarm quilting service.


(posted on 8 Sep 2014)

My first memories of sewing, was sitting on the front porch of our east Vancouver home. I was 5 years old and I was wearing a lavender coloured party dress with a nylon overlay. I loved dressing up! I was very excited because in my hands I held a threaded needle and a scrap of cloth. I was very intent on sewing, and so I was busy creating a bunched up ball of fabric with big random stabbing stitches. But I was enthralled by this process. I was sewing. It was all very fascinating until the moment came when I ran out of thread and as I held this balled up fabric on my lap, I cut, cutting right through the sheer layer of my party dress. Horrors!

Fast forward to a new house, and my yearning to learn to sew intensified. My Mom, a busy stay at home Mom, had a friend who had a hard life. On the days when my rather proper Mom would look out the window, and say to herself, "Oh no, I don't have time to visit, I have work to do", as she watched her lonely friend weave up the laneway with a bottle of red wine under her arm. I took a different approach. I knew this women knew how to sew! I brought out my sewing basket, and begged her to teach me how to embroider french knots and daisy chain, and flowers. I was so excited!

Then came grade 5 and a wonderful teacher who taught us how to make a fabric doll. I was in heaven. I remember purchasing my fabric with care, and doing the extra embroidery on the apron.

Soon I was asking for fabric from my young girlfriends that came to my birthday parties. While in grade 6 I badgered my older sister to show me how to sew. After all, she had taken sewing in home ec. She was less than compliant with my demands. So, I took matters into my own hands and went down to Eatons and bought a pattern and some fabric. I just did it. Nothing was going to stop me. Not even the fact that I didn't know how to sew. I think my sister eventually partially rescued me, but not before I made darts in the front of my linen jumper that came up from the bottom and from the side, and met in a perfect point! And I wore it. Stubborn.

So part of my telling you part of my sewing journey, is to say, 'Where there is a will there is a way', and partly to recognize that I am at a phase of my life where I realize it is time to give back. As a longarm quilter, I meet quilters who are at different levels of experience. This summer I quilted for two rank beginners, and as I heard their quilting journey, I realized that I would have liked to help them more.

While I remain fascinated with the way sewing has tradtionally been passed down through the generations from the older to the younger, I am also so pleased that youtube has opened avenues for young sewers who don't have the benefit of a sewing Mother or Grandmother, or teacher that happened to share a unit on sewing a doll.

I suppose us older women do have some experience to share though..... and here's mine.

When you are starting out quilting, be aware of the costs involved. One of the big initial expenses is a rotary cutter, cutting matt and ruler. Try to borrow a set of these to start. Or shop for sales. Fabric stores that offer membership card, do have good sales on these items occaisonally. Go into the store, and ask when the next really good sale - 50% off is going to be. A birthday or Christmas coming up? You might want to ask for a set as a gift. When not on sale, they will cost about $100.

A sewing machine. I have had many machines through the years, and my experience is for quilting all you need is a reliable machine that does a straight stitch. I have seen used machines in marketplace online adds for $50. Look for one that has recently been serviced. I have great respect for older machines that do the job well. Ask around, maybe someone has a machine they are not using that they might lend you. I presently use an old, old Pfaff, and that is a wonderful machine that a friend gifted me with as she upscaled her machine.

Beginner quilting designs that I recommend are Trip Around the World, Rail Fence, or Turning Twenty. These are all fairly fast to make. I recommend keeping your first quilt a lap size.

Once you've chosen your quilt pattern, shopping for fabric, or collecting fabric, is the fun part. Yes, shop at sales, but also shop at thrift stores, and on line. Mention to your local thrift store that you are a beginning quilter and are looking for quilting fabric. Maybe they will take your mission to heart and phone you when some comes in. Wouldn't that be great? Another expense is batting. Cotton batting is the best if you are machine quilting your small quilt. Recent experience has taught me the necessity of waiting for sales. I needed to purchase batting to finish a lap size quilt for a client. No sales were happening. I balked at the $60 I would need to spend on batting that was not on sale. A sale of 50% off is worth waiting for.

So, all this to say, if you are a quilter at any level, you are a creative person. I hope these tips inspire you to use that creativity to move ahead on your quilting journey with confidence and excitement!