A Quilt for Grandpa West by Tim Langlitz

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It may sound cliché but quilting really does bring souls together. I began working for the American Quilter’s Society at the end of 2010. Although I knew much about the business of quilting, I was woefully unable to create anything that would earn as much as a “B-“ in any grade-school art class.

Since I work with quilters, I set a goal to make a quilt worth sharing, in my spare time. With five kids at home, spare time to me is like Moby Dick to Ahab – always within reach, but never close enough to snag.

I doubted I’d get enough time to make a quilt, since I was told they took weeks/months. It surely wouldn’t be possible without a sewing machine. Sure, hand-sewing is possible, but not for someone like me. My fine-motor skills would lose a challenge with a tree sloth.

So, this beauty presented itself to me at a yard sale.

Here’s my 1940’s Blue Grass sewing machine made by Belknap Hardware Company in Louisville, KY. With the solid, wrought-iron frame, the odds of it breaking under my uncoordinated control are unlikely. Plus, it just looks pretty, and the wooden case is in excellent condition.

It included so many attachments, and even the users’ manual. Don’t tell any of my friends, but I actually read the manual! On doing that, I successfully stitched some straight-ish seams. My wife looked at them and feigned pride, as any good spouse would do when shown two squares stuck together.

Soon, the baby fussed, and I was back to being a father and husband. Thus was the end of my sewing endeavor for a while…. The machine sat on the path to my office as a teasing reminder of dreams yet unfulfilled. Someday, I’d get time and a reason to sew… maybe.

One weekend, we took a trip to Southeastern Kentucky to visit my wife’s grandparents. We had a great visit; my kids had a wonderful time with the great grandparents.

Grandpa West is a talker, and loves to share stories of his life. Since the only two grandparents I knew passed away a long time ago, listening to him was a joy. He told about buildings in my town of Cincinnati that he built years ago as a brick-layer and mason. After a few hours, he asked me what I do for work.

The mention of “Marketing Director” leads to questions about what that means. Then eyes glaze over when I explain about Circulation, Renewals, Search Engine Optimization, Social Media, Direct Response… See, you did it too!

To save time, I just said “I work for the American Quilter’s Society”. Instead of glazed eyes and a yawn, Grandpa’s eyes lit up and he jumped from the couch (jumped is a relative term when you’re in your mid-80’s…). Since he made a quilt for each of my kids, I knew he was a quilter. But I had no idea he’d made over 150 quilts, and given almost all of them away.

He started showing me several of his quilts in the house. Many of his earlier quilts were more elaborate, using patterns and blocks requiring more cutting and piecing. He was especially proud of one that was on the bed in the spare room, which was very nice. Then he flashed a smile, and he pulled one from the closet that he was really excited about. It was his state quilt, with each state and the year they joined the union.

With the false humility of an artist, he was sure to point out the areas he didn’t think he had done well. Plus, apparently one of the states had the wrong year. Of course, only the creator knows where things could have been better, and to me they were wonderful.

Grandpa spends a lot of time cutting hundreds of squares and sewing them together quickly to make as many baby quilts as he can. He does this so he can sew a lot at a time. Then, he walked me into another room and showed me boxes with thousands of blocks he’s cut for quilts. Without batting an eye, he grabbed a handful of 2.5” squares with his giant mallets of hands, gave them to me, and said simply, “Make me something”.

When a man with fists the size of your head tells you to do something, you do it. Even though I’ve been married to his granddaughter for years, but it’s never too late for an opportunity to impress… I determined to make him proud. Plus, now I didn’t need spare time for a quilt, I was making something for Grandpa!

This challenge was just what I needed to get started quilting. Everything was square, rather like a spreadsheet. After convincing myself that the quilt was just a colorful spreadsheet – and I love spreadsheets! – I was all set. Plus, all the cutting was already done. All I needed to do was sew some straight lines. But, I had to make it unique.

My wonderful wife had taken a picture of my five kids with their great-grandparents while we were visiting. Isn’t this just the cutest picture ever! This was just the thing I needed to personalize the quilt. I decided if I could make a square quilt, and leave room in the center to put this picture on fabric, it might just look decent. So, let the sewing commence!

After I got most of the pieces together, I printed the picture onto a fabric transfer we had in our craft supplies. It came out a little rough – apparently this only works on cotton, and the plain fabric I had was something else. Oh well, live and learn.

It took a few evenings of sewing and work to get the top put together. For a first time, it didn’t turn out too badly. Of course, when looking at it closely, it’s apparent that not all the seams hit each block, and there are a few gaps. But I hear that can be fixed in the quilting.

Now onto the greater challenge, how am I going to finish this quilt? Through pure, dumb luck the top came together decently. It would be too risky to tempt fate twice, so I decided to bring it with me the next time I went to the AQS office in Paducah.

Linda Lasco met me at the office early one day, so we could set this up on the longarm machine donated so graciously by HandiQuilter. She taught me how to use the machine, then I actually did the quilting. I finished the stitching just in time to head up the hill and meet with the CEO of HandiQuilter, who was in the office for some meetings. I was pleased to report that I quilted my first quilt on his machine, and it didn’t turn out too badly.

With a little coaching on how to bind and finish the quilt, I was able to complete the quilt at home. We sent it with my father-in-law the next week when we visited with his parents. Apparently it was received with rave reviews.

Grandpa West still looks at it with some astonishment, asking “How did he do that?” I can only assume he’s referring to how former carpenter, teacher and now marketing geek could make a quilt that didn’t look like a tree sloth had made it.

Grandpa West, you are a blessing to my children, my wife and me. May all those who receive your quilts as gifts treasure them as much as we treasure you!

 

Tim Langlitz is the AQS Director of Marketing at our Cincinnati, OH, office.  Let Tim know what you think of his wonderful first quilt.

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Barbara Walock

Tim – Your first quilt sure looks better than my first quilt (or even my latest one). I’ve been quilting since 1999 and have yet to make a quilt that didn’t have questionable spots yet everyone who receives one thinks they are “wonderful”. Let us know how the next one (twenty?) turn out.

Jessica Polley

What a wonderful story! The tradition of quilting is being passed on in this family and through the men. I think that’s great.

Tim,what a great job on your first quilt! What a blessing to have the family connection with quilting. I am glad you had the experience because it probably enlightens the “geek” work you do for AQS. I can see your quilting life will take off from here. I live near Chicago but have been to Paducah and come to Cincinatti occasinaly to see our son who lives in Mason Ohio and is a minister there. The article about you was very touching. Thanks

Laura Gottlieb

Tim’s quilt is great and so is his sense of humor! What a well-written, amusing, and caring article!
Loved it!

M. Tilden

What a wonderful article! There is no stopping you now! I predict that one of your quilts will be in an AQS show one day.

Dee Winter

Wow! Great creation. You learned the first rule of real quilting – the desire to make something that someone will love! And you obviously did. Congratulations!

Joyce

Wow! You are a wordsmith and a quilter! A real Renaissance man! Your story is captivating and interesting. My eyes didn’t glaze over once! I am always interested in men quilting since I inherited my father’s Bernina sewing machine. Real men quilt! (and sew, too!) A great story! A great quilt! Congratulations!

Debbie

Tim … love your “Grandpa” quilt. Kudos for your tenacity to complete your 1st quilt – hopefully, the 1st of many more quilts to come. There’s alot more “men” quilters out there than you think. My brother has been quilting for 15-20 years, designing original cross-stitch “family themed” quilts — an idea started from tracing our roots.

Sue Lohr

TIM! How fantastic to get to see the quilt you did, and hear the story behind it! You did a fabulous job! I am still in awe of your first-time long-arm quilting…your melancholy personality must have given you a plan in your head that was transferred to your hands. Congratulations!

Marcia J

Very nice! Thanks for sharing. My husband is a long armer using a APQS machine. He is very good at it and I am very proud of him. Thanks again for the pictures too.

Marie

Bravo! A story and a relationship to treasure!

Judy S.

Tim, how wonderful. I am very impressed with your work. My first quilt surely wasn’t that intricate. And what a wonderful idea to put your family picture in the center. Your Grandpa will always cherish your work. Keep up with your creations. I hope to see more soon!

Kathy Phillip

Welcome to the World of Quilting!! This is just the beginning of the fun and all the wonderful people you will meet. Great job! I have yet to do a picture printed on fabric—some day soon.

Carolyn Edwards

Wow, Tim! What a great story! And what a great quilt! Keep up the good work! A life is enhanced when quilting is in it!

Brenda Hamm

Tim
I knew you planned to make a quilt and what a wonderful first quilt it is! I am sure that Jerry loves and treasures your gift from the heart.
Just be grateful he did’t give you handfuls of triangles, stars and circles!

As an aside, your story makes for great reading. Have you considered sending it in for publication? I am thinking quilting magazines, readers digest, etx

Donna Bonin

Oh MY! Your story took my breath away on several levels! I love that your grandfather makes quilts for kids (my husband and I do that as well) and that you made such a spectacular and thoughtful gift for him. I’m sure your name is written on his heart forever for that labor of love. Isn’t this why we make quilts?! But your sewing machine is what surprised me! Over a year ago, I purchased a Blue Grass machine from a Craigslist seller. I had planned to purchase only her Lotus decal Singer (which I did – I quilt almost… Read more »

[…] improving his quilting skills. You can read the story about the quilt he made for his Grandpa here: A Quilt for Grandpa West A trip to Quilt City USA would not be complete without seeing Duck Island at Noble Park. Do you […]

Amy Betha

That’s a great story, Tim. I think on your next visit Grandpa West should start to teach your kids how to make quilts. Wouldn’t it be great to have a quilt that four generations had worked together to stitch?

Amy Beth

Oops, I noticed the typo on my name while my comment was awaiting moderation.

Tim, your quilt is a treasure, just like your Grandpa. Welcome to the wonderful world of quilting and quilters. We need more men like you!

amy powell

I HOPE YOU READ THIS SOON LIKE TODAY PLEASE. My name is Amy I just bought a blue grass machine its on a singer treadl stand. Any hoot its in need of a good stripping down, oil, and lots of love. So I was on Internet hunting a manual for the old feller I believe I’ll call him BLUE. When I ran across your story, I’ve not read much only enough to know you’ve got a manual for yours. So my question is could you scan it, take pictures of every page, or email me a copy of yours. I’m… Read more »

Hi Amy, I have been in contact with Tim and he will get in touch with you to try to help you. Sylvia Thomas, AQS Social Media Manager