Primitive Quilts and Projects

Primitive Quilts and Projects Magazine

A premium publication dedicated to the primitive quilter, rug hooker, stitcher and more! Each issue features at least 15 projects from some of the most admired designers in the primitive fiber arts world.

Wednesday, October 7, 2015

UFO's...Make them YOUR good story!

Hi, everyone!  This is Gretchen…my first blog post EVER!  I’ve been thinking about this for a few days….seems that a lot of people stress out about unfinished projects.  If that’s the case in YOUR sewing life, let me just take this opportunity to maybe help you think about these UFO’s a little differently.

In 2004, when I moved back to my hometown from San Antonio to open The Woolen Willow with sister Jeni, I had to go on a massive furniture store shopping extravaganza to find JUST the right couch for my basement family room.  My house was not really built with finishing off the basement in mind, so the stairwell was just wide enough to walk down, with shallow/steep steps.  You know, the kind that you pretty much injure yourself on each and every time you go up and down holding the laundry basket full of clothes!   Oh, and at the bottom anyone over 5’2” had to bend their body sideways to avoid smacking their forehead on the ceiling.  Got the picture?   Now…go find a couch that can be moved down there.  You see my dilemma.

Armed with exact measurements, Jeni and I traveled from store to store not looking at the actual styles of couches, but rather whipping out the tape measure to see how tall everything was.  Store after store, couch after couch, pushy salesperson after pushy salesperson (I’m telling ya, buddy…it just won’t fit down my stairs no matter what kind of discount you give me!) and we finally landed on one that would work…if you took the legs off!

The couch was perfect!  Slid right down that stairwell (Whew!  Because don’t we all secretly have a little doubt about these things when the day actually comes to rely on said measurements??)   It was a really great RED couch with tan piping on the edges.  And, a matching big, oversized chair, too!  Happy, happy!!  

A couple weeks after getting my pretty red couch, we received a big box of patterns and books from our distributor and there it was!  A book called “My Red Sofa” by Atkinson Designs.  It was meant to be!!  My first quilt would come from this book!!  A simple pinwheel design “Tilt-a-Whirl” caught my eye and I jumped right into the project.  We had lots of pretty homespun fabric in the store and so I got busy selecting and cutting what I needed.  I then paired up what I wanted to use in each block, made little planning piles and got all organized.  I cut all the little pieces and stacked and set aside everything and was all ready to sew!   Woohoo!!!  

Well, then something sort of distracted me…something like owning a quilt shop, having two young boys in school and sports, running the Sunday School program at church...

Now, this isn’t to say that I didn’t make OTHER quilts.  My first pieced quilt turned out to be a beautiful pastel number that we were selling at the shop – we needed a sample and so I whipped that up!  This quilt, too, has its creation story complete with me laying out all the individual blocks on the floor in the living room without closing the windows first.   Every quilt has a story, right?  

Now, jump ahead in time to the 2nd time I moved back to my hometown (spent a year in Minnesota) in 2007.  I actually ran into the plastic pouch of nicely folded fabrics while unpacking!  I sat down and started sewing my blocks – weee!!   Wait a minute…this piece is too small!!  What??!!  Too small?  This can’t be happening!  Aaaahhh!  I put the fabric away and moped around about it for a couple more years.  Ha!

So, I’m aware that this blog is getting long (remember, I’m a newby), so let me wind down by saying:  this is Oct of 2015 and somewhere in between 2007 and now I actually got the fabric out to assess the damage, and figured out that it wasn’t that bad and with a little fudging on my part, I successfully put together 9 blocks! I can’t remember “when” that happened, but obviously I had to put the project away again and just dug it out of my sewing storage area this morning in order to tell this tale. 

Needless to say, the red couch is long gone – gave it away when I remarried in 2013 and moved into my husband’s house (my sweet, new hubby’s name is Mike).  But, I WILL FINISH THIS QUILT!  I WILL!  I don’t know when, but that’s beside the point now.  

Each time I run into my little plastic pouch of ready-to-assemble pieces it makes me smile instead of cringe.  I smile at the memories of how this project came to be started.  I smile remembering the excitement of moving home, purchasing a beautiful old house for our shop, all the home renovations, the thrill of my younger son having MY 2nd grade teacher as his for Kindergarten, etc.   

This quilt represents a really fantastic journey in my life, and I’m actually glad that I still have the unassembled pieces to give me a constant reminder of it.  Maybe when Mike and I build our new home together in the next few years, I will get it finished and buy a pretty new red couch.  Now, that makes me smile, too.


  1. Great Post! And you're right, every quilt has a back story. Simple or overwhelming, it's always interesting. Thanks for sharing.

  2. Sure couldn't tell you are a newby. You're a natural born story-teller. Loved every minute of it.

  3. Thank you for reading, Robin and Suellen! Kristen is up next for the blog, so I'm anxious to see what she has to share!

  4. Enjoyed your first blog post! Keep it up! And, I agree! Every quilt has a story, whether it gets finished or not, in a timely fashion. HUGS... and stitches

  5. You've mastered the first lesson of quilting- being at peace with the pieces, unfinished or otherwise:)

  6. Cute story! There was a coffee table book that was published in 1979 by Kevin Clarke that had photographs of this red couch in strange places all over the world. It was before photoshop and digital imaging so it was a very interesting book. Your story made me think of it and smile.

  7. Awesome post. Quilting is about the journey. If it is not fun ---we should not be doing it. I love this. I'll smile all day remember -- Quilting is about life.

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