Community Quilts from Ray and How He Came to be a Quilter

I was so excited.  I have managed all the emails from one day, went to town, came home and Ray had filled my inbox.  It’s a good problem to have.  So now I’m sitting down at the computer and sharing the emails with you in the form of a blog post.  I actually have plenty for two posts so that’s what I’m going to do…put two posts together.

The first thing is something many of us have been waiting for.  All the time in the comments, readers ask how Ray got to be a quilter.  Ray was sweet and took the time to put something together to share with us.

Ray writes:
I occasionally see in the blog comments questions about how or when I learned to quilt. Those are good questions but the real question is when or where did I learn to sew? SO let me start somewhat at the beginning so the answer to the question makes a bit more sense. 

As you may or may not know I grew up on a farm in SW Indiana, about 20 miles north of Evansville. It was a grain farm with lots of machinery. I was always considered somewhat of a runt. My Dad was 6′ 2″ and 220 pounds in his twenties. Mother was 5′ 2″. I am 5′ 9″. On a farm, you are of little benefit until your legs are long enough to reach the clutch and the brake on a tractor. It was years before I could do that even on a little Ford tractor. My Mother was a very good seamstress. She made almost all her clothes back then. I have two sisters. One is 6 years younger and the other is 11 years younger. She also sewed for both of them. Mother would lay out material on the big dining room table and start cutting. She would pin and then I was to sew as instructed from one pin to another. Lots of gathers and lots of curves. I hate gathers and curves to this day. However, I did learn how to use a sewing machine.

I have always liked to be creative. To take one item and make something else out of it. I used to refinish furniture to save money. I watched an aunt crochet one year at Christmas and decided I could do that. I picked up a book and started in. Yes, some of the afghans were a little wonky as I hated counting stitches. I did a fair amount of crewel embroidery. I have four barn pics in my sewing room that I made for Dad years ago. From there I went to counted cross stitch in the mid ’80s. That I really liked and stayed with for many years. Both of my daughters have lots of handmade Christmas ornaments.

In 2010 my life turned upside down and I started over in many ways. I determined that all my sewing and crafting days were over. Floss, fabrics, magazines were donated and I set out on a new path in life. In many ways but not in all ways. In the summer of 2015, I was walking through Aldi’s and saw a Singer sewing machine on the clearance aisle for $75. I knew Singer was a good brand at one time but was not sure if that still held especially with it being in Aldi’s. I contacted a friend in PA that sewed and quilted for info. She said it should be OK for just odds and ends patching. I bought it. Then in the fall of 2016, I was trying to decide what to get my granddaughter Maddie for Christmas. What do you get a 1 year that has everything? I decided to make her a quilt. I contacted my friend and told her what I wanted to do and she guided me through making my first quilt via text and email and several boxes of fabric and books. Well, I ended up making a rail fence quilt with the help of some wonderful ladies in a quilt store.

In 2017 we moved to Fort Myers, FL. I retired and had lots of time on my hands. I noticed that the throw on the couch was looking worn from Sarah’s paws. Sarah was a big, black lab. I decided I would make a cover for the couch. Found a local fabric store, modified the rail fence pattern, and set to work. Not only did I make a cover for the couch but also for two chairs. From there I started making placemats and decorative pillows. Enough of that I decided I wanted to go back to work. I was hired at a Polo Ralph Lauren outlet store part-time. And then full-time. And then beginning burnout. One day I was at my favorite fabric store and the owner and I got to talking and got complaining about the hours. She said I need to consider long arming. She had seen my sewing and knew I could do long arming and there were never enough longarmers. I thought about it and dismissed it and thought about it. In the meantime, we moved from a condo to a single-family home with a lot more space. As I walked past the den one day, it occurred to me that the den would make a great long arming studio. 

I bought a Babylock Regalia and figured I could do it after seeing some demos in the store. Right!?!?!? Well, it sat unused for 6 months. Then right before COVID hit in 2020 I decided I had better get myself to Babylock classes to learn to use the long arm. Never made it to an in-person class. I started watching classes on my laptop and trying to do what was demonstrated. I long-armed several fat quarters, pretending they were quilts. That did not really get it, but I at least had it running. Then one day I happened upon Jo’s blog and started reading it. She was looking for long armers to finish quilts and donate them. I sent her an email explaining who I was and my lack of experience. She said I was exactly what she was looking for and to give her my address. The next thing I knew I had a dozen tops in my mail. Before I could get those done, here came some more.

There you have all the pieces to that puzzle as I know and understand it. It has been one hell of a ride and a whole lot more miles to go thanks to all of you.”

WOW…great story.  I love hearing peoples’ stories.  Thanks for sharing that Ray.

Now, how about some quilts from Ray…

He writes:
“Here is another sampler quilt from the Cresco ladies. It appears that all of the blocks were made by the same person because of the fabrics that are repeated from block to block.

I am assuming that it may have been part of a BOM project that was sent to them to assemble. Regardless, it is beautiful. I had a difficult time trying to decide what to do for quilting. none of the old standbys worked. Then I found a new motif with feathers and tried it.

I love it!! It has many soft curves in it that softens the sharp corners and gives it a bit of a vintage look. I used bone-colored thread.

My thanks to you, the Cresco ladies, and the anonymous piecer of the blocks for this wonderful quilt.”

Here is another beautiful sampler quilt from the amazing Cresco ladies. The blocks in this quilt have so much interest to them. It would be interesting to see how many of your readers know the names of all 12 blocks.

I selected a bone thread for the front and a white thread for the back so that the stitching would blend in as much as possible.

I used the stipple motif to soften the lines.

The backing came from Deb and Pat, I think. Unfortunately in a major reorganization some of the labeling has disappeared.

My thanks to you, the Cresco ladies, Deb and Pat, and the piecer(s) of the blocks.Wonderful quilt!

I think I am on a roll with the sampler quilts from the Cresco ladies. OMG!! They are all so beautiful and unique.

Each is special in its own wonderful way. So here are 16 more quilt blocks to name. LOL!! Honestly, I am not going to try to remember all their names. I need all my brain cells to keep up with longarming. I decided to go with my new found motif, the feather.

Love how it makes a beautiful final touch to the quilt. I used the bone-colored thread for blending in as much as possible.

My thanks to you, the Cresco ladies, and the anonymous piecer(s) of the blocks.”

WOW..what a great bunch of quilts.  Sampler quilts make great community quilts.  So many people do a block of the month program and then don’t finish the quilts.  If you are one of those, I’m sure Ray or anyone else on the donation list would happily take your blocks, sew them up and offer them as community quilts.

24 thoughts on “Community Quilts from Ray and How He Came to be a Quilter”

  1. Wow! Love Ray’s story. I live about 2 hours from where Ray grew up. I assumed Ray was a long time longarmer. He does great work and lots of it. Ray you are amazing!

  2. Enjoyed reading Ray’s story and seeing the wonderful sampler quilts. I have no idea for the name of most of the blocks.

  3. Thanks for getting Ray to tell us his story! Love it – and as usual his long-arming is lovely.
    And thank you to the Cresco ladies, Deb, and Pat and donors for helping Ray make beautiful quilts for someone.
    Ray is from my old stomping ground!
    Love and prayers,

  4. Christine Jernigan

    Looking at Ray’s work I would never have guessed he was fairly new to long arming. He seems to have taken to it so naturally and quickly. Your work is outstanding Ray.

  5. Ray’s story is amazing. He’s a rather new long armer and does it with excellence. He’s a good lesson in you can do anything if you try. Jo, your blog helps to cancel out all the bad news on the tv. You remind us of all the kind and generous people in the world. Ps Cresco Ladies Rock!

  6. Ray has such a good story and I am so glad he shared it. From his beautiful work, I thought he was a long-time long armer. These quilts are all so beautiful and beautifully quilted. Ray’s story reminds me of a guy I knew in Rochester, MN who was the oldest of several children and learned to sew clothes. He became a tailor in a men’s clothing store, but continued sewing for his wife and daughters – even made daughter’s wedding dress.

  7. Hi Ray, I grew up in Poseyville, Indiana. I had no idea you were from this area. I enjoy seeing the quilts you create. Thanks for sharing your story!

  8. I loved hearing Ray’s story! Thanks for sharing it with us, Ray. I have admired and been inspired by what you do and am even more amazed now, knowing how recent your foray into quilting and long-arming is. You are doing beautiful and meaningful work! Those sampler quilts are gorgeous.

  9. I really enjoyed reading about Rays journey into long arming, Ray you do wonderful work and we are lucky to have you in our circle of quilters. The blocks of the month are truly lovely and someone is going to be blessed to receive them. Nice job Cresco ladies.

  10. Hey Ray this is almost like the Christmas story. Poor country boy grows up on a farm in Indiana, maybe even born in the stable, then sees the sun in FL and follows it to the warmth of Florida. From there he spreads goodwill to quilters the world over, end of tale. Thanks Ray and thanks for the card.

  11. Fantastic Story Ray! Where did you purchase that adorable feathered long arm design?

    Both of my boys are involved with my sewing and crafting. It truly is a family affair!

  12. Thank you all!!!! I am so fortunate to be able to do what I do and to be a part of such a wonderful community of loving and giving quilters. May you all be blessed in 2022 and for years and years to come.

  13. Susan the Farm Quilter

    Loved to read Ray’s story!! How we all come to quilting makes for an interesting story! Love to see Ray stepping out of his comfort zone and trying a new panto – looks great! Next step will be trying a custom quilting, all out of his head, with no pantos. Pantos are a skill of their own – I tried one once and won’t be doing that again! Now I know who to send the pantos I bought when I started quilting!

  14. Thank you for sharing Ray’s story, Jo … I’d always wonder who was behind the name & now I know!

    You are clearly a great guy, Ray! Keep up the good work!!!

  15. Margaret in North Texas

    That is a great story,Ray! Your Mother kept you busy and you learned a skill used later in life. Love your creativity and that you enjoy it so much. Thanks to those Cresco ladies again & Deb and Pat for contributing tops and fabric for you to work your magic on.

  16. Thanks for a great story from Ray! It really is wonderful that he is using his energy for assisting other so freely. I too learned to sew from my mother and was already sewing for others when I started High School. I think it was because I grew up in southern Florida that I didn’t learn to quilt. There wasn’t much need of a quilt there! It was my mother-in-law that really got me interested in quilting and I love it! Thanks Jo!!

  17. OMG!!! The home of Posey County melons! Sure do miss those watermelons. They are the BEST!!! My other connection to Poseyville is going there with my Dad to the CO-OP tractor dealer. At one time that was the brand he bought. I still have a couple of toy CO-OP tractors stored away. I attended Fort Branch High School and lived between Fort Branch and Princeton.

  18. Judith Fairchild

    I enjoyed Ray’s history story. It’s always fun to learn how someone gets started sewing and quilting.. Ray a grandbaby. Was my entry into serious quilting. The grands get us every time. Such a delight to get to learn more about you and your family. My husband grew up in Rensaeler Indiana you can’t. Stop farm boy from doing anything he wants to do. Thankbyou Jo for sharing the posts. Those quilts are gorgeous.. I recognized maybe 6 of the squares.

  19. Love reading the story of how Ray got started on his journey of long arming. It sure is a small world. I only live about 30 minutes from Evansville, IN around the Owensboro, KY area.

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