Back in the mid 1970's, Laura Ashley came to Adelaide. This little shop first opened in a now defunct city arcade and was a treasure trove of white cotton lace dresses and pretty floral fabrics. I loved visiting this shop and I'm pretty sure I touched every bolt of fabric as it sat propped on its shelf with it wonderful assortment of coordinating prints, stripes and florals.
As a teenager I began visiting the city by myself. I would always pop in and marvel at the prettiness of everything in this shop but with price tags way beyond my meager part time job income, I would generally walk out empty-handed. Then I discovered the discount table. Oh what delight this table would deliver. Fabric covered diaries....who cares if it was March, there was still 9 months of good diary keeping to be had. Soaps in broken containers and discontinued single rolls of wall paper and borders that were perfect for the dolls house. Then on one such discount table rummage, I discovered the best prize of all. A packet of Laura Ashley cornflower blue fabric squares for patchwork projects for just $5. Needless to say that little torn plastic bag came home with me that day and there it stayed waiting for the perfect project for about 30 years. It moved house with me several times and was then duly forgotten until 4 years ago when I found it again in a suitcase of craft 'stuff'.
"Hummm", I thought. "I've always wanted to make a quilt". So that Friday night I popped into a bookstore and bought two quilt books. Inside one book was a 9 patch quilt for a cot. It called for 11 different colour prints to be cut into 2 1/2" squares. "What's this inches business?", I thought to myself.
My fabrics were 12cm and I had 5 prints in my Laura Ashley stack. 12cm is roughly 4 1/2" and I decided not to cut them down but rather make the quilt in the book but use the full patch.
So early next morning after a sleepless night watching the clock tick down till the lovely fabric shop around the corner opened, I waltzed in with my squares hoping to select the remaining six lots of fabric along with white for the sashing.
I was bamboozled to say the least. So many gorgeous fabrics and absolutely no idea how to pick them. Luckily there was a very obliging staff member who helped me make up the balance of fabrics I needed.
Home I trotted with my fabric booty, new cutting mat, ruler and this roller blade thingy.
I cut and sewed all afternoon and by the end of the day I had a finished quilt top.
Looking back now, I laugh and shake my head in disbelief at all the mistakes I made because I didn't know any better.
I measured everything in centimetres when I should have used inches.
I concocted this measuring technique using my tape measure and placing my ruler on the 'wrong' side of the fabric....how it ended up straight and even is a miracle!
I used my regular foot because I didn't know what a quarter inch foot was.
My ironing is sloppy with many seams not quite fully pressed flat.
And of course the size of a cot quilt that should finish at 44" x 36" when cut from 2 1/2" squares ends up at 84" x 64" when made from 4 1/2" (12cm) squares!!
I started to baste it on my dining room table, tacking it down by hand and not knowing anything about taping down backing before placing batting and a top and blissfully unaware about pinning with safety pins.
And then I panicked. How was I going to quilt something that was over 2 metres wide on my 1980's Husqvarna?
I folded it up and put it away and went and learned a bit more about cutting, ironing, piecing, basting and quilting.
A couple of years ago I pulled the tacking out and used the batting for another project. Goodness knows what became of the backing....which by the way was completely inappropriate now that I think about it.
Then last week and many quilts later, I pulled that quilt top out of the cupboard with the intention of pulling it all apart. But I looked at it and thought, "Who cares if the seams are little wider than a 1/4"? They all match up, and the fabrics are so pretty."So I ironed that quilt top and bought some new backing and batting and now 4 years later, I'm a much braver and wiser quilter with better equipment and I'm ready to give it another go. And every time I look at this quilt I'll think, "thank goodness for that Laura Ashley discount table in that shop full of beautiful things I could never afford because if it wasn't for that reject cornflower blue patchwork fabric, I might not have ever become a quilter".