Saturday, May 14, 2011

The beginning of a love...the pre-Elefantz journey of sewing.

Week 3 of the second school term for the year has just passed. Only 7 more weeks till the next holiday break. Am I counting? Indeed! The next term break (in July) will be three lovely winter weeks , and winter time is so precious to me living here in the tropics because actual hand-quilting becomes a reality. 
Since 2005 when I first picked up quilting and embroidery, I have loved to quilt by hand, and my first few quilts were all made that way - my first quilt top was even hand pieced as I did not have a sewing machine.
This is the quilt below...
All those tiny pieces stitched by hand over a few weeks while we lived in a tiny cabin in an Armidale caravan park. It was winter and the overnight temperature would drop to -17C. There was no insulation in that cabin so we would chip the ice off the inside walls every morning, and wait till after 10am for the water in the pipes to thaw enough that we could have showers and cook. 
My husband had taken a casual 6 month teaching position in the town so we had sold half of what we owned, put the rest in storage, and moved across the state to set up a temporary home in a tiny masonite cabin. We were homeschoolers and whilst my husband was teaching the children and I set about making friends with some other local homeschoolers. One of them had two daughters who could quilt and after I admired their work I was given some quilting magazines to read through during the cold winter nights when our little family group snuggled up in the cabin beds to keep our toes from dropping off. 
I took to those magazines with delight, and decided to give a small quilt block a try.  It was a bears paw, with many tiny pieces for me to hand stitch together. I was cutting every piece with scissors and measuring with my son's wooden ruler. It was so hard, but I persevered. 
My husband saw that I seriously enjoyed this new form of sewing, so on the next weekend he drove me down to Tamworth and I bought my very first rotary cutter, self healing mat, and ruler. I also bought some cheap fat quarters and embroidery threads because I intended to teach myself to embroider. 
So the quilt above was my 'learner' piece, and within a few weeks I had moved on to applique and embroidery and finished this table centre. It is also completely made by hand, and to this day remains the most favourite project I have ever made...
I began sewing in August 2005, and in October my husband surprised me with a sewing machine! We moved to a slightly larger cabin for our last 3 months in Armidale and I would sew on a small round glass table after I had finished the lessons with the children for the day. By the end of October I had completed this quilt for our bed (this photo was taken when we finally moved to a house in early 2006)...
...and by year's end the number of projects were in high double digits. I was giving away gifts on a weekly basis because I wanted to sew but had nowhere to store everything I had made. 
For Christmas 2005 I made Blossom this quilt...
...and this one for Sam.
As the months rolled by and we moved into a house, more quilts were made for my older children and my grandsons, and new babies of friends...

 There are now many more quilts made, but these ones heralded the beginning of my love for quilting, sewing and embroidery.  Sorry about the photo quality but some of these are photos taken at a time when I wasn't so computer savvy with a camera. :-)
I am sharing these photos and a little of my story today to encourage those of you who are just starting out and doubting your ability to take the next step. I started with scissors, a wooden school ruler, a pencil, and some scraps of fabric found at an op-shop. I wanted to give it a go and used all I had available. 
I knew within a day that this was something I would do always, and so as the months and years passed I honed my skills and asked lots of questions of experienced quilters. It wasn't until early 2009 that I took a leap and decided to give design a try, and from that point Elefantz evolved to where it is today. 
Be encouraged. We all start at the beginning. 
If you have any questions about this craft please leave a comment and ask me. I'm going to do what I can to answer your questions in the coming months - all part of that new direction for Elefantz later in 2011.
Have a lovely weekend! Mr E is taking me riding today up along the mountain range to a special place for lunch. :-)


  1. I LOVE seeing your journey as a quilter! Girl, you made some outstanding quilts. I love them all. I too started with scissors - and a cardboard template - doing it all by hand. Sewing machines still intimidate me, but now I'm determined to be boss over them, lol. Your quilts are all so beautiful!

  2. A lovely story of a very special journey. I do enjoy looking at all your work!!!

  3. I too began with scissors and a ruler and scraps from the op shops...what a journey we have had :) I enjoyed seeing your quilts and they look like you did enjoy sewing them Jen :) hugs Vicki xx

  4. Lovely story Jenny. Thanks for sharing. I to started without a machine or any fancy quilting tools. My Mum gave me scraps & with determination i made myself 8 Dresden plate placemats all by hand. Never took a photo of them & wish i had as they all have long since worn out.I made them about 23 years ago. Enjoy your weekend. Happy Stitching

  5. Thank you for sharing your heart warming story with us:O) I homeschool too but I couldn't imagine doing it in a small cabin;o) Your quilts are all sew beautiful!

  6. What a great story! Thanks for sharing it. The best way to see how far we have come is to visit where it all started. You have followed a wonderful path!

    My husband took me for a long ride today, we went 200 miles on my favorite motorcycle ride up through the mountains and back again. We had a nice lunch at a new place we will definately visit again and stopped to visit a friend at the motorcycle shop in Santa Fe, NM, USA. It was a great day outdoors.

  7. I started with making templates out of cardboard from cereal boxes - marking with a pencil around each and every piece and cutting with scissors. I was fortunate to have a sewing machine, though. I suppose one can say that it becomes like a fever, this need to create.
    Thanks for showing us the beginning.

  8. Isn't it funny how we all start in a similar way and that inevitable thing about quilting just grabs us and wont let go!!!!
    I am especially admiring your table topper...the second photo....looks so familiar!!?? heehee...I'll have to post my lookalike on my next post!
    love n warm snuggly hugs sweetness
    Wendy :O)

  9. I remember some of those early quilts. You have really blossomed in your talent!

    Thanks for your comment about the pendant. My mom really loved it, and I can't wait to try this again!

    Peace and Laughter,

  10. Wonderful story ~ love the photos, too.
    Keep on stitching!

  11. It's really nice to see your quiltmaking progression. I'm guessing that we all have the same sort of story, but with different quilts. Please do tell how you got so interested - and talented- with embroidery. And how did you end up with the cute name: Elefantz?

  12. Many of us started our quilting journey in just the same way :) I owe my grands a big hug for teaching me how to use selvaged thread and a needle to piece my doll quilts and doll clothes...and the rest is history :) Love that you were able to share your journey with pictures as they brought back precious memories of my own and my journey. Thank you Jenny for sharing yourself with us.

    Carmen in AK

  13. How beautiful! I loved the butterflies! Very neatly done. Really good to see the journey you took with quilting. I did begin with "the right equipment". That was because my sister roped me in to quilting. However, on holiday in The Gambia I used scissors and a wooden stick to do my measurements...... it works too! Anything to keep the addiction going.

  14. Thanks for that Jenny, love your journey. Your family must have wondered what had hit them as they all got snuggled up in the quilting bug. I wonder how you go from having a drawing for an idea to a beautifully symmetrical & clear pattern - do you digitise, or use software to create - it's all a mystery to me? Love to read more of your journey. Tracee xx

  15. Wow!! you have convered a lot and grown so much in such a short time. And lovely to hear from you how it all started

  16. Loved seeing all your wonderful work and hear your story. Thank you :)

  17. awesome story, you're an inspiration............

  18. Jenny, Your story made my day today. I loved it. From your heart one could tell. You have done many beautiful things, Jenny. I love looking at your blog. You inspire all of us. Thanks for sharing. Dianne

  19. Jenny, what an absolutely wonderful post. This should be published in all the quilting magazines. I wish I had photos now of the things I have made, it brings back lots of memories..

  20. Oh Jenny...Have I told you what a beautiful person you are? Oh wait, your not a person, but an angel in disguise. :) This was a lovely tour and as always, I leave with a smile on my heart.
    xx, shell

  21. Hi Jenny
    My name is Nicky and I have questions about handquilting. Lots of questions!! Can you start from 'so I have just finished my quilt top, now I'm going to...'
    I need the very basics like how to baste and do you have to pin if you have basted? What kind of needle, what kind of thread? And that's just the start!! My journey is just beginning and I want to get off to a great start.
    Thanks for a great website, I love dropping by (and I love the Give Thanks BOM). Cheers.

  22. Que maravilla de trabajos, son todos fantásticos.

  23. Thank you for this post. I've loved seeing your journey as a quilter.

  24. Thanks for sharing that! It's always fun to hear how others got started with their hobbies!

  25. Thanks for sharing your beginnings. Love all the quilts you've done!! :)


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