My Quilting Beginnings

Posted by Ruth on 23 March 2013 | 3 Comments
This content belongs to Arbee Designs.

Many times I am asked this question - “how did I get started in applique and quilting?” – so today I decided to write my story to share with all my quilt friends around the world.

When did I first start Quilting? It began way back in 1982 when my mother-in-law wanted to learn to applique so she signed us both up for an applique quilt class. As a young dressmaker I had always worked with fabric, but never thought about making a quilt. This turned out to be a lot of fun and as you can see, I’m still doing it after all these years, but things have changed dramatically from that day and age.

When we went to the workshop we were told to think of a Nursery Rhyme, this being the theme of the quilt we would make. I chose “Little Bo Peep”, not sure why, perhaps it was because I was brought up on a sheep farm as a child or maybe I just liked the idea that the fleecy fabric I had would make really great sheep.

We equipped ourselves with cutting tools (scissors, no rotary cutter in quilting days back then) and fabrics, which included stretch knits, tulle, fleecy fabrics, felt and poly-cottons. Now I know you are laughing because we all know you just do not use these types of fabrics in quilting. In fact, as it was known, I didn’t have one piece of cotton fabric with me that day unless it happened to be a scrap from a skirt or dress I’d made previously.

During the workshop, we built up a small quilt, crib size. I had bright green poly-cotton grassy hills with a brown wooden fence in the foreground. On the hill behind the fence were some decent looking sheep made from woolly fleece fabric with dangly felt legs hanging out from the fleece. I cannot quite remember if Little Bo Peep was present or not. All the applique shapes were zigzag stitched around, a sort of satin stitch but the zigzag wasn’t closed up enough to call it satin stitch, but it did attach the shapes to the background. There was no fusible web back then either. We stabilized all the shapes with iron-on interfacing. The pieces moved all over the place as we stitched (especially those stretch fabric shapes) and we worked around lots of pins, and I mean lots. Today, I use very few pins as I work, I could tell you why but I’m sure you can guess.

That’s about all I can remember of my experience in the first applique class except that I truly did love my little quilt and was so proud of my effort. My daughters did too. Not only did they use it on their cribs (thanks to their mother) but played ‘house’ with it for many years later. Unfortunately, we no longer have this quilt. It was lost along the way somewhere in the many house moves we did. Neither do I have a photo, just a memory in my mind (of what I now consider the most ugliest quilt in the world) that I can only share with words and a good laugh at the thought of how different the quilting world is today.

What I can share with you though is some of my early quilts. During the 80's I made a number of quilts but it was in the 90's that I started documenting them and displaying them. Some of the follow photos are my very first original designs, some are part original and part pattern and many of them are sold and unfortunately I do not have better photos of them. All were made in the 90's

My original Bargello Blues which sold after displaying it in a gallery. I slightly modified the original for today's best seller Bargello Blues pattern. (happens to be on sale this week)

Original Bargello Blues

One Hid Under the Lily Pad: Although had to see, this quilt had 3-d elements on it. It was made up of five window boxes. In the bottom was a 3-d frog jumping through to the pond so only his legs stuck out. This was the first piece I ever sold some time in the early 90's.

One Hid Under the Lily Pad

Butterfly Kisses: The pieced background was from a pattern book but I put my own applique in. This was one of my favorite pieces and I enjoyed it for several years before it sold.

Butterfly Kisses

During 97 I was into foundation piecing. The hand applique in the center of In A Distance is from a pattern but all the pieced work is original in both quilts.

In A Distance


Which Way South

The last quilt I'm going to share with you today is one of my very favorite. It is all hand appliqued and for many years was lost to me, but now is back in my possession.


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  • Thanks Stephanie and Jen!

    Posted by Ruth, 31/03/2013 11:10am (9 years ago)

  • I love, love, LOVE midnight! Just beautiful and so glad it was found.

    Posted by Stephanie, 24/03/2013 3:46pm (9 years ago)

  • They are all gorgeous Ruth. The horse is absolutely stunning but I think I like Which Way South the best. Oh in a distance is great as well. Too hard to choose a favourite.

    Posted by Jen, 24/03/2013 6:40am (9 years ago)

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