Beginnings, part 3

Taking pictures of your work is very important. First, it provides you with a visual diary of your progress. Second, looking back at the things you have accomlished can be very motivating. Third, if you don’t, someday you will wish that you had. There are quilts and other fiber art gifts that I made and gave away without taking photos, and now I’m very sorry for it. However, I did take some photos which I would like to share with you.

Sunbonnet Sue

My handsome husband flirting with Sue (1993)

Delectible Mountains

Delectible Mountains (from Bunyan’s The Pilgrim’s Progress, one of my favorite books)

Nine for Nathan

Nine for Nathan

Applique Quit

Wee Sweet Applique

Baby Bright

Baby Bright Log Cabin

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N. Rene West
Time Treasured

Beginnings, part 2

Rather than taking things one step at a time, my second quilt project involved flying geese, squares in a square, border math, and all sorts of challenging techniques. It didn’t take long before I realized I was in over my head. But I learned a lot from that experience, especially about the importance of precision.

Second Quilt

Second quilt project (1991)

Third Quilt

Third quilt project

When we moved to the mountains of North Carolina (1992), I immediately set up my studio. It was much smaller than my previous work area, but I loved it just the same. We’ve gone through several phases of room additions since then, and I’m now in a much larger space, but not large enough!

First Moutain Studio

My first mountain studio with the Bernina 1230

From the very beginning, I loved making baby quilts for family and friends. I seem to have a way of interjecting complexity into everything I design, so I have to work at making things simple. Baby quilts provide a medium where I can relax and adopt a minimalist approach. They’re also a great place to experiment with traditional patterns if you normally produce contemporary work.

First baby quilt

First baby quilt (gift for a friend – 1991)

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N. Rene West
Time Treasured

Beginnings

My mother put a needle in my hand when I was six years old. I loved taking her scraps and constructing doll clothes (at least in my mind that’s what they were) and mixing together all those wonderful colors and textures. The sewing machine was off limits owing to my parents fear that I would sew my fingers together or some such thing. By fourth grade, I just couldn’t take it anymore. I figured that if I showed them I could sew without incident, they would let me go at it. So, I cut out a wrap-around skirt, set myself in front of my mother’s Necchi, and the rest is history. My parents were so impressed that they never restricted me again from what would become a lifelong passion.

Although reading often competed with my love of sewing (I consumed Nancy Drew Mystery Stories like there was no tomorrow), I made time for both and continued honing my skills little by little.

When I was sixteen, my mother presented me with a new Singer sewing machine for Christmas. You could have knocked me over with a feather! I can’t tell you how much I loved that machine. Compared to my mother’s old Nechhi, it was state of the art. It’s one of those memories I will always hold dear. I only wish I had a picture of it, but I don’t think one was every taken.

Happily, the Singer was not to be the only sewing machine I received as a gift. Advancing a couple of decades, my husband presented me with a new Bernina 1230 for one of those milestone birthdays that come every ten years. The 1230 marked my initiation into the world of quilting. Anyone who has owned a Bernina 1230 knows how special this machine is. Every owner I talk with says the same thing: they’ll never part with it. I’ve only had one repair done on it in fifteen years, and it continues to operate as it did right out of the box. Of course, it’s not an only child any more, but that’s a subject for another time.

First Quilt - Spool Pattern

I chose the spool pattern for my first quilt to commemorate the special gift

I had received. It proudly hangs on a wall in our guest bedroom.

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N. Rene West
Time Treasured

Four Generations – It’s in the Blood

When my mother was pregnant with me, my fraternal grandfather asked her to name me after his mother. My great-grandmother (1859-1944) was of Scottish descent and known as a quiet “angelic” woman. The family history states the following regarding her life:

Her rocking chair stood in the living room by the south window. She always kept a basket of quilt scraps and mending beside it, ready to be worked on. She was good at sewing, quilting, crocheting, and weaving. She was the best quilter I ever knew. Her stitches were so small and even. Between the kitchen and the milk house was a porch that was screened in on the south. It was used for work such as stringing beans, churning butter, and other chores. She kept her loom there.

I’m so privileged to possess two of her quilts, Goose in the Pond and Snail’s Trail. You can see in these photos the tiny stitches and the intricate quilt patterns she used. It amazes me that she embarked on such challenging projects, considering the busy life she led.

My maternal grandmother was of French descent and emigrated to this country from Lithuania. She and my grandfather settled in Illinois, where she sewed “professionally,” designing and constructing wedding gowns and fine clothing for women within her community. Cut from the same cloth as my fraternal great-grandmother, she excelled at sewing, knitting, crocheting, embroidery, weaving, and lace-making.

So I ask you, what was a girl to do with such a family history?

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N. Rene West
Time Treasured