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What the Pandemic Taught Me about Sewing and Quilting

What the Pandemic Taught Me about Sewing and Quilting

Written by: 
Linzee McCray

For many of us, being at home during the pandemic meant time not only to stitch, but to try something new, tidy our sewing spaces, and to reflect on what part quilting and sewing play in our lives. We asked Moda designers to share lessons learned and here’s what they had to say.

Debbie Maddy

The Pandemic taught me to slow down and enjoy my days of sewing or hand work. I decided to try English Paper Piecing (EPP) with all Christmas fabric from Moda designers and with larger EPP pieces with my Tochi Line of fabrics.

Debbie Maddy Christmas hexagons

Debbie Maddy hexagons

Jackie McDonald

I took the time to really learn new skills (quilting basics) without a cloud of anxiety over my head, whispering to me about the things I should be doing. I watched and re-watched instructional videos and gave myself permission to feel as if I owned what I was doing rather than rushing through the process to get to whatever else was on my never-ending checklist. I enjoyed being fully immersed in learning again!

Jackie McDonald Break of Day quilt

Vanessa Christenson

The pandemic taught me to have sewing time with no expectations. This has opened up time to sew with my daughter. She can walk in and say “can I just sew something?” and I let her lead. What came from that was her asking to learn more things. We are currently working on flying geese. I don’t know if she will continue to sew, but for now, it’s been fun with no expectations of what’s next. 

Katie Christenson cutting fabric with her mom Vanessa

 Corey Yoder

I know we all realize the importance of community, for me, 2020 reiterated that importance. It's been really neat to see so many sewists new and old banding together for comfort and encouragement. And we are so fortunate to have a thriving online community of quilters that has allowed sew-alongs, quilting bees, quilting Facebook groups etc. to exist and bless so many people when we weren't able to gather in person. Here’s a photo of my Moda Blockheads quilt which, as you know, thousands of us sewed together in 2020.

Corey Yoder's Moda Blockheads quilt

Barb Groves of Me and My Sister Designs

During the pandemic I had lots more time to sew BUT I still wasn't finding any time to finish my UFO’s. So…I took care of that little problem by getting rid of them ALL! What a great feeling to be rid of projects that were causing me stress! This is what my UFO shelf looks like today. Before it was filled with a jumble of disorganized projects in plastic bags. I wish I had thought about taking a before photo!

Barb Groves newly tidy shelves

Robin Pickens

The pandemic introduced me to my friend, Zoom. Zoom has a lot of friends and allows me to join in too. Most of us were not used to being at home quite so much and needed those quilt guilds and activities more than ever. Zoom became the lifeline to see each other’s faces and do virtual meetings and classes. Although I missed the in-person camaraderie, I also appreciated not having to lug my machine, rulers, cutting mat, iron, and fabric to another location (no forgetting something you needed!) Sew-along groups on Facebook and Instagram were crucial for connecting with other people.

Robin Pickens and her husbadn working from home

Personally, my work life didn’t change much in the respect that I work from home and during the pandemic I was still working from home. However I was not accustomed to having my husband and son at home, every day, all day. My husband was furloughed from his job due to the pandemic and we really didn’t know what would happen. Is this what retirement will be like with my husband, having him here each day? If so, I learned I really like it. We are a good team. He already helped in my business, but now he did even more with photography, video, filling pattern orders, and cutting quilt kits. He did get called back to work so we have adjusted again, but now we have a new knowledge of what it is like to work together in this quilting world and because of it, we have some new goals. The pandemic really opened our eyes to a new perspective in how we look at the future and continuing that work and growth together.

Betsy Chutchian

My first thought was to take advantage of my passion, sewing and quilting. Besides sewing quilt tops for a Spring and Fall Quilt Markets that didn’t happen, except virtually, I found I needed to sew for fun, for my health and sanity. First I asked permission to reproduce an antique quilt using a treasured Moda print from the Collections for a Cause charity. Next, I took one of my favorite mini quilts, the pink and green hourglasses, and created mystery sewalong to engage quilters and keep them busy. #pickledpinkmysterydollquilt

Betsy Chutchian Pickled Pink mystery doll quilt

That was so popular, I asked a very dear friend, Deirdre Bond-Abel in Australia to design a mystery sew-along with me. It’s the quilt with the different blocks. We called it Dear Friend. As everyone across the world was missing human contact, and we brought them together in our sewing rooms, thanks to the magic of Instagram. #friendsacrosstheworldqal 

 Betsy Chutchian Friends Across the world QAL

And then it was time to reproduce one of my antique quilts using my fabrics, along with other Moda designers’ fabrics. Another way of sewing with friends! Strip pieced, easy cutting, and mindless sewing for those blocks and for Moda’s honeybun sew-along.

Betsy Chutchian doll quilts and blocks

I enjoyed every minute with all of these projects, from selecting fabrics, designing, cutting, and piecing blocks. And then, I hit a wall in November, stopped making blocks, and didn’t touch the machine for a few months. As abruptly as I stopped sewing, I rushed back to the sewing room and resumed my passion, cutting up fabric and sewing it into something beautiful. 

The pandemic taught me to be thankful that I have a craft I enjoy, that I can be with friends across the world, united in our love of quilting, even when we can’t stitch together in person. 

And me - Linzee McCray:

I’ve always enjoyed doing handwork in the evenings, especially if watching TV. As a matter of fact, I can’t stand to watch TV without it and because we watched a lot more television during the pandemic, I got a lot more of it done. But I enjoyed it during non-TV moments, too, as a way to feel calm instead of worrying about what I coudn't change. Just before lockdown I’d bought an English Paper Piecing (EPP) kit at QuiltCon from Brimfield Awakenings. I might never have finished it without the enforced time at home. I enjoyed it so much I’ve gone on to make some more of their larger blocks in Flowers for Freya and Flour Garden.

Linzee McCray's Brimfield Awakenings EPP with Flowers for Freya and Flour Garden

I also bound several Flowers for Freya quilts. Sitting with a lovely quilt on my lap was cozy and helped me focus on the moment, instead of worrying about the unknown ahead. This one is Sunspot.

Linzee McCray binding Sunspot in Flowers for Freya

Finally, I loved connecting with other quilters in talks from the Iowa Quilt Museum. They were on a range of topics and quilters from around the world joined in. The camaraderie was so successful that they are continuing to hold them monthly this summer. You can find information here.

The lesson learned by us all? Sewing is there for us, in good times and bad. We hope stitching provided some comfort for you, too, during the uncertain times we've all been through.