“Where It All Started. . . and Where It’s Led Me . . . .In Honor of National Quilting Day “

It was in the late seventies when I saw an article in a women’s magazine with a Schoolhouse Quilt Block.  I was young, studying to be a teacher and thought, “That would be a cute wallhanging, perfect for me since I’ll be making a career in education.” My creative urges were strong. Sadly, my skill was not!

“I’ll make about nine blocks and frame them.” What did I care that I knew absolutely nothing about quilting? My sewing experience was basic, at best. I did not even own a sewing machine. I had little time and less money. But I was strong-willed and resourceful, (some things never change,) and I determined that I would stitch these blocks up by hand. They looked so cute in that magazine picture, after all.

After purchasing a navy-blue small print, a rusty-nail colored solid, and a sweet little cream calico for background, I formed the plan of alternating color schoolhouses.  Easy enough, right?

I made cardboard templates, but I was not a precise measurer.  (Did that really matter?)  I didn’t have an Exacto Knife, so the windows I cut out of the templates didn’t have sharp edges. (I figured the edges of the window panes wouldn’t matter too much because I could stitch them down how I wanted.)  I didn’t have exact color matches of thread. (Would it really make a difference if I used red thread on the rust?)

My schoolhouse windows looked more like hobbit-hole-ports. Absolutely none of the blocks looked the same. Some of those educational buildings were actually leaning! The sashing was uneven, and the three blocks I had tried to stitch together were cattywampus and crazy. (FYI. . . . I was NOT doing a crazy quilt.)

Years later, I found the box with those sad, silly schoolhouse blocks and tossed it in the trash in embarrassment, but it was that project that planted the seed. Someday, I wanted to know more about quilting.

Forty years later, I run a fabulous quilt shop and retreat center. Who knew what a single look at a schoolhouse could lead?

I’d love to hear your beginning stories or tales of your journey along the way!


What a schoolhouse quilt should look like.



  1. FayeWilliamson says:

    Laughed out loud. Because, I think about my first quilt. I had lots of scrap fabric from making the kids clothes, lots of polyester, so my neighbor had her husband make us a wood block template. we exchanged fabrics. Drew around the block and cut out with the sicssors. Finished the top. That was the early 70’s. Someone finally quilted it, with a polyester backing about 1985. It is so heavy. After retirement, a friend and I went to block of the month classes at Hancocks in Champaign. Found out as seamstress’s we knew nothing about quilting. Laugh about this now. Never finished the first block of the month quilt. but did the next 2 yrs. classes and continuing all this time. Still learning.

  2. Oh my, Missi!
    I laughed out loud! This is a great blog to celebrate National Quilters Day.
    I was 10 when I made my very first quilt. I don’t have it anymore, but wish I did.
    My grandma painstakingly cut big squares out if red flowered fabric and smaller squares out of blue flowered and green flowered fabric to make a 4 patch. I alternated big square and the 4 patch. We used an old sheet for the “batting” and backed it with another flowered fabric. I remember sitting at the sewing machine, excited to get it all together and then somewhere in the middle grumbling because it was getting to be boring!
    But, my grandma was patient and I managed to make a quilt. I think we quilted it in or close to the ditch. I can’t remember how we did the binding.
    Machines and quilting tools and techniques have come a long way, baby! (But, yes, accurate measurements are important).

  3. My first “quilt” was made out of the scraps from my other sewing projects, polyester and all. I didn’t know about sandwiching my quilt with batting so I used my worn bed comforter as a filler and tied the whole thing with yarn. Wish I had that creation now just to see how far I’ve come.

  4. Ann Hiser says:

    I love reading this Missy . You are so good telling your stories. You are a very special lady and I look forward to hearing more stories from you.

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