Ad-Express and Daily Iowegian, Centerville, IA

February 26, 2013

Local quilters look back on how they got their start


Daily Iowegian

CENTERVILLE — Editors note: This is the second of three articles to be published in the Daily Iowegian in the run up to the Honey of a Quilt Show held at Honey Creek Resort March 9-10. The articles are submitted by Bev Frevert.



The rapid growth of technology affects our lives, and  the world of quilting has also not been  immune to change. Quilters that began sewing with a treadle machine have long since advanced to computerized machines and the thought of cutting fabric with a scissors is a thing of the past. And like most specialized activities, quilting has a jargon of its own. When the members of the Material Girlz Quilt Guild were asked about their favorite quilting tools and techniques, past and present, their answers were as varied as the tools they use.

Marilyn Vanderlinden began with a trip down memory lane.

“When my oldest daughter was two years old, we rented a furnished house for a short while,” Vanderlinden said. “There was a treadle sewing machine in it, and I made a red print dress. Later, I had a chance to buy an old treadle machine and have always been sorry I didn't. I think those early machines were indestructible. I know my mother and mother-in-law used one for years after electric ones were available.”

Long time quilter, Lorraine Dickinson added, “I started sewing on my mother’s White Treadle machine. The worst mistake I made was telling her I didn’t want that treadle machine. She only had one bobbin for the machine and to me it seemed just a chore to continually wind the bobbin to complete a project. Years later, I visited my sister in-law to find the treadle machine case sitting in the yard painted red, serving as a plant holder. The sewing head was no longer in evidence. At the time I was looking to buy an electric machine. I then proceeded to decline an offer to buy a Singer Featherweight. To me, after the treadle, it looked like a toy. Wow! Talk about the arrogance of  youth. I now have a Singer Featherweight purchased in 1995, which I purchased at three times the cost. I’m still on the search for that elusive treadle machine. In total, I now have five sewing machines and a new quilting machine. So I’m covered for all the current sewing apparatus. Along with the original mode, a needle for handstitching.”

So what about the sewing machine of today?

Cathy Clark had this assessment of sewing machines.

“My favorite improvements on the sewing machine are the automatic thread cutter and the automatic needle down when I stop sewing,” said Clark. “My husband bought my first sewing machine in 1975. It was the Super Elna with all the embroidery cams. Since I didn't like to sew it sat in the closet for 25 years. Then in 2000, I signed up to take a six week beginning quilt class in Bloomfield. My sewing machine was dusted off and came out of the closet. During the next five years I took several more classes and also made quilts on my own. In 2005, my mother bought a 7200 Elna Quilter's Dream machine for me. This machine had the thread cutter and needle down features.”

Local quilter, Nancy Kelly shared that she is “in love with her walking foot. It keeps my fabric from moving, especially when I am sewing through several layers of thickness of fabric, like putting on binding. I also love to glue when binding. Of course my wonderful digital machine does a lot more than my first lightweight machine. I just wish I knew how to use all those wonderful attachments and stitches. I'll just have to take one at a time!”

Quilter Claudia McCarthy focused on the tools of the quilter.

“When I stop and think about what it was like before my rotary cutter, mat and all the different rulers, it is like wow,” said McCarthy. “How did I ever get along without those things? Well, truthfully, not very well. My Grandma Amel was quite a seamstress, making all of our clothes and many a quilt with the neighbor ladies. She would give me a cardboard template cut from a cracker box, a pair of scissors and fabric. Well no block cut was ever the same size. No matter how I tried it was just a lot of work. I moved on to sewing clothes but always thought about quilting. But then I heard about the rotary cutter. This piece of equipment was magical to me, once I learned to use it. Now I just keep cutting, just me and my rotary cutter. Life is good.”

So where does this obsession with quilting begin? It takes root with a love of sewing.

Quilter Linda Phillips shared, “I have always loved to sew, and have since I was very young. It’s still my favorite thing to do! I sewed on my mother’s Singer, but before that I made Barbie clothes by hand sewing. When I was a senior in high school, I made a wool outfit, with fabric bought at Valentine’s Fabric store. That was the going away outfit for my wedding. Thanks to 3 great teachers in school, Faye Selix, Carol Park, and Linda Harris, I loved home economics. My mother could sew anything and did, so I am willing to try almost anything. My friend, Sharon Walker and I love to sew with wool, one of the easiest fabrics to work with. I am passing my love of sewing onto my grandchildren, who will all be able to sew!”

Regardless of how the quilter got their start with a treadle machine or a “dream machine,” cardboard template or rotary cutter, the love of quilting has flourished.

These quilters, along with their fellow members of the Material Girlz Quilt Guild have been using the tools of their trade in preparation for the upcoming quilt show.

The public is invited to see the results of their work at the Fourth Annual Honey of a Quilt show at Honey Creek Resort on March 9 and 10. Members of the Material Girlz Quilt Guild will be available to share their quilts, answer questions and be more than willing to share their own quilting story.