Quilting is a relatively late addition to my life. My love for fabric and sewing has been around for decades but it wasn’t until 2009 that I took my first quilting class and quickly became hooked. So what took me so long? Perhaps, my journey to quilting began with my enlistment in the Marine Corp in 1969.
The war in Viet Nam was well under way. I was 18 and without resources for college and wanted to launch my life.
In boot camp, we took many tests to determine what kind of training we would get for a job at our duty stations. For my education, the Marine Corps decided on aviation electronics, a career path that I would never have chosen for myself. It turned out to be a gift for which I have been forever grateful. My profession as a software developer in Silicon Valley was a direct result of my training and experience in electronics.
Thus began my immersion in technology. When I started working in Silicon Valley, the personal computer was just beginning to be developed. We had to build them ourselves, struggled to run our code in limited memory and used eight inch floppy disks to store the programs. More memory, bigger hard drives, smaller computers, the internet, email, social media and cell phones were all developed during the time I was working in Silicon Valley.
When I bought my first house in 1984, I discovered a love for gardening and woodworking. Playing in water and dirt wasn’t new to me and gave me a head start at a very early age. Eventually, wearing more clothes, I had a lot of fun designing and working in my gardens. I planted all my favorite flowers from my childhood: hollyhocks, iris and roses. We had fruit and vegetables too: tomatoes, corn, cucumbers, oranges and strawberries. I tried to grow melons but my dog ate them before they could ripen. Oh well, I’m glad she liked them. There was plenty for all of us to enjoy.
At this time of my life, my garden was my artistic expression. Color and fragrance were deliberate influences in the ongoing results. Other considerations such as shape, balance, scale, contrast and texture were present but a bit more unconscious. I loved that garden and miss it until today.
Other things I miss about that house are the changes that I made to the inside. One year, my dad gave me a circular saw for Christmas. A carpenter by trade, my dad has an appreciation for good tools and since I am a Daddy’s girl and notorious do-it-yourselfer, it was a thoughtful and practical gift. That was the beginning of my adventures in remodeling.
I started in the garage, building cabinets for storage. Then we gutted a bathroom and rebuilt it from the ground up. I refaced the fireplace and added shelves and a new mantle. The kitchen got a facelift with new cabinet doors and flooring. The cabinets and book cases that I built in the master bedroom are the things that I miss the most—and the woodworking endeavors that I’m most proud of. There is a little jewelry cabinet built into wall on the left side of the mirror. It has velvet lined drawers for rings and inside a door, a fixture for hanging necklaces and earrings. There is even a secret compartment for hidden treasures! I had so much fun designing and building those cabinets. Art and power tools played a big part in that experience.
When we moved to a bigger house on half an acre in a pine and oak forest, gardening and woodworking became activities of the past. When I planted roses, the deer ate them. When I switched to deer resistant plants, the deer ate them. I tackled a few building projects—created a laundry room lined with tile and cabinets and replaced a 17 x 30’ deck. Then, in 2000, my interests took a radical right turn. I discovered belly dancing.
Looking for a new, fun way to exercise, around the beginning of the year 2000, I tried tap dancing, belly dancing and Tai Chi. From the first class, belly dancing was it. Not only did I love the music and the costumes and the body movements, for the first time in my life, I began to appreciate how awesome it is to be a woman.
Through this dance form, I felt connected to an infinite procession of women back through time who are strong and resilient, caring and patient, nurturing and sensitive, creative and cooperative. This was a new and welcome awareness for me.
My continuing desire to build things found a new outlet in costume design and construction. How wonderful it was to combine texture and color and sparkle to express a mood.
Perhaps my favorite costume, “Under the Influence of Aphrodite”, was inspired by a photograph of a white sandy beach with increasing depths of water revealed in varying shades of blue. The decorations of beads, sequins and pearls took months to sew on. It was glorious!
Though the stage was set for my quilting days to begin—I had acquired an adventurous sense of color and a habit of collecting fabrics—there was yet another activity that I had to experience before I discovered quilting: rock climbing.
Though not an obvious connection, there is a path that led me from belly dancing to rock climbing to quilting. In 2006, I decided to be a cool grandma and learned to belay so that I could take my grandchildren to the climbing gym. One of my friends in belly dancing was a climber, so one day I went with her to the gym. It was so much fun, I took some classes and even got a job at the gym. Of all the activities that I’ve tried for exercise, climbing is, by far, my favorite. For the next 8 years, I was a regular climber at the gym–usually 2 times a week.
There is a fabric store near that gym and one day in 2009, I stopped in on the way to climbing and saw a quilt of appliquéd guitars on the wall that captivated my interest.
So, I took some classes and learned how to make that quilt. It’s from the book Free Expression by Robbi Joy Eklow. I think this was the fourth quilt that I made and the first one that I had quilted by someone with a computerized longarm. When I saw the results, I knew that free motion quilting on my home sewing machine would not do for me. First of all, I’m terrible at free motion quilting, even with the longarm.
And second, did someone say computerized?
In 2011, I bought my Gammill Optimum with the Statler Stitcher and started my business, Lily Street Quilts. For a few years, I quilted for other people and became so busy that I was never able to quilt for myself. Now, I quilt for myself and sell the patterns that I develop to other computerized longarm quilters.
For me, all the activities of quilting—creating a design, selecting fabrics, piecing the top, designing the patterns, quilting on the longarm—are an enjoyable and fulfilling blend of art and technology. It was a long and winding road and I’m glad it led me here.
Marci Gore, July 2017