It's only been the last couple years that I've taken up sewing after a 15-year hiatus. My sisters and I grew up with Mom sewing all our clothes. Back then, before the mid-1990s, the only department store in Hawaii was Liberty House, precursor to Macy's. The only other chain I can remember was Longs; it was much later before we got our first K-Mart, Wal-Mart, Costco, Home Depot, Ross, and only in recent history, Nordstrom and Whole Foods. If you weren't one of the original establishments, it was nearly impossible to break into Hawaii's "homegrown" market. In fact, even after CVS bought out Longs country-wide, they're still named branded Longs in Hawaii. It's an endearing and frustrating mentality.
In any case, it was cheaper for Mom to sew our clothes since everything was so expensive. We'd go to Kaimuki Dry Goods and look through books of McCall's patterns. Mom would buy bolts of fabric on sale at $1/yard, test on the cheap fabric, and alter the pattern before sewing the final garment. Every year we'd have home-sewn Halloween costumes. On special occasion, she'd sew jackets. I remember she made me an all-turquoise satin jacket back when letter jackets were in style.
I started my first project when I was 5, cross-stitched farm animals for a patchwork quilt.
From there I graduated to the smaller cross-stitch on canvas, usually Precious Moments designs.
At some point I picked up the needle again and started my own free-form embroidery.
Mom got me my first sewing machine, a Janome, when I was 9, so I wouldn't use her expensive Singer. I don't recall using it much until high school. By then we had our first Ross, so the clothing department was taken care of; I only sewed what was simple and cool in high school, like colorful pencil pouches, various Hawaiian print shorts for cross-country, and matching hair scrunchies.
Fast forward 15 years. I was in a local sewing store to get thread to hem pants and on a whim signed up for a Quilting 101 class. It stuck--I like that you have an open canvas that's pretty forgiving on mistakes. There's no fitting needed, you don't need to worry about stretchy fabric or the bias/grain. My first few quilts:
I've since reclaimed my old Janome sewing machine from Hawaii as a backup and it still works great. For quilting, I got a Janome with 12" between the needle and the right side to fit a large quilt inside. My first experiment to focus on the quilting more than the patchwork:
I usually use quilt patterns and follow tons of sewing and quilters' blogs to get inspiration to alter existing patterns, or to find interesting fabric and color schemes. The first 3 quilts pictured were straight from patterns with my choice of fabric. The last wave one started out as an "x" pattern I found for a small pouch. I made a ton of the x's, knowing I wanted the highlight to be the quilting (topstitching) rather than the patchwork, and make it like a painted canvas, but wasn't sure what design I wanted--I was thinking about scattered leaves falling in the wind or what I chose, a wave. I started bookmarking quilting topstitching designs and practiced a lot on scrap fabric before choosing to go with the wave. Then I placed the x's, finished the patchwork top, traced out approximately where I wanted each quilting pattern like the sea foam and water to start and end using a water soluble pen, and started quilting.
I'm getting into embroidery more again, too, since we're on the road quite a bit. I made these as our wedding favors:
And the obvious skull for Jeremy:
I've taken months off of sewing while rehabbing my knee but am feeling the itch again to start something. If you're in the Bay area, check out Ray's Sewing Center in San Jose for machines and Hart's Fabric in Santa Cruz for fabric.