Don’t Quit Your Day Job

chewelah06That’s usually good advice for an aspiring novelist, but my day job isn’t all that profitable, either. I teach quiltmaking.  I have been teaching for twenty years, and I love it. Teaching is something that blesses me. I also make quilts for sale on etsy or by commission and do some custom dressmaking.

Although I learned to sew clothing over forty years ago, I didn’t take up quiltmaking until I was pregnant with my second child. That first quilt was very sweet, with pink and blue lambs on a muslin background. I appliqued the lambs with a zigzag stitch on my sewing machine and used a puffy batting.


I decided I enjoyed quiltmaking and started looking for more information. We were living in a tiny farming town in Germany, and it was hard to find calico fabric in the local stores. The Air Force Base Exchange had some fabric, although none of it matched, and they had something even more interesting: a rotary cutter.

There weren’t many quilting books in the base library, and they were all too old-fashioned (I was 24), so I used graph paper and colored pencils to design a little wall quilt to insulate the bathroom window.

NOTE – Certain people claim that when they had to use the bathroom in our house, they would stick to the seat. That is not true. It never got below freezing in there. Bunch of sissies.

1000 Pyramids Free Pattern!

That did not satisfy my creative urges, so I found a magazine and persuaded a friend to help me make a “real” quilt. The “Thousand Pyramids” quilt looked good, so we made cardboard templates of those pointy triangles and then cut around them with the amazing little rotary cutter – no rulers or gridded mats – and of course the cutter just chewed up the templates until they were useless. We did get a couple rows of triangles sewn together, but then the rows wouldn’t match up.  I graciously permitted my friend to keep that project, and I believe she unloaded the whole mess on an unsuspecting neighbor years later.


jill5I persevered. I made more projects, including another baby quilt two years later. When we returned to the United States, I was able to take classes, meet other quiltmakers, read real quilt books and magazines, visit quilt shows… I even established quilt guilds and organized shows!




bomclass1I started teaching classes in 1992, at a local craft store. They had about twenty bolts of fabric and limited supplies, but the classes were a hit. I loved teaching. I still had to draw patterns with graph paper and colored pencils, and some of my class handouts were photocopies of handwritten instruction when I didn’t have time to type them up at the library. Those first few classes were a learning experience for me, too. My students were very patient and kind, and I didn’t have any dropouts.


bee8It’s been a delightful career. I have taught classes, workshops and retreats  across the United States, and I am now developing a new kind of quilting event: The Bridal Quilting Bee.  The problem with teaching quiltmaking is that in order to become rich and famous, you have to become associated with quilt shops, fabric companies and other aspects of the industry. Like writing fiction, it’s all about the marketing. You need to write pattern books and maybe even get a television show. I think all of that is great, but my heart is in teaching quilting and making it accessible to everyone. I don’t want people to be told they have to use certain brands of fabric or certain tools. I don’t want to teach in shops where the students are required to buy all new fabric for the class. Those things are fine, and they maintain the quilting industry, but it’s not for me.


bee1I created GloryQuilts as a business, so I can’t claim that it’s entirely a ministry. I would rather it’s not a non-profit ministry, mind you, but I’m not going to make any significant money from it. And that’s okay. If I can cover my expenses and buy myself a little more fabric, I’m happy. I want to teach people to make quilts – not to make only one specific project, but to make quilts. They should leave my classes with knowledge that they can apply to the making of another quilt. I want them to leave my classes happy and confident.



Most of all, I want to fulfill the “tagline” I have always associate with GloryQuilts:
So whether you eat or drink or whatever you do, do it all for the glory of God. 1 Corinthians 10:31

My writer friends have suggested that I write books with quilt themes, and even though the market is pretty saturated with those already, I am writing one. This one is historical fiction, starting in the early 1800’s in Sweden, and it’s a serial novel.  The first episode will be available on March 2! I hope you enjoy reading it as much as I have enjoyed the research and writing.