MariaElkins2012-webI have loved fabric and thread from the time I was very young and my mother let me play with her bag of fabric scraps. My mom taught me to hand embroider when I was five. At nine, she taught me how to use the sewing machine and how to read a pattern. That’s all it took.

From there I was hooked. I was sewing most of my own clothes by junior high school. My dad gave me my first sewing machine when I was 14 and not long afterward I remember patching a pair of blue jeans by machine appliqueing an owl over the hole and using free motion embroidery to add texture. I didn’t know that it was unusual for a teenager to do this. I just read the directions in my sewing machine’s instruction manual and thought, “I can do that.”

I can’t remember when I was first introduced to quilts. No one in my family quilted, but when I was in high school I collected all my blue and white fabric scraps, cut them into squares, and created a patchwork fabric which I used to make a blouse with a white mandarin collar. I loved that blouse and I wore it regularly. Again, where did the inspiration come from? I don’t really remember. I just knew I liked mixing fabrics together.

Lion Quilt, 1985
Lion Quilt, 1985

During the few years I went to college I majored in fiber arts and spent hours absorbing every quilt, fiber art, and historical clothing book I could find. I made my first quilt in 1984 while I was expecting our first daughter. It was a 45” x 60” lion baby quilt in turquoise and lavender. I continued reading quilt books and collecting fabric, but I didn’t make another quilt again until 1991. That quilt was a feathered star with hand appliqué and hand quilting. That experience made me want to create my own patterns.

In Answer To Prayer by Maria Elkins, 1997
In Answer To Prayer, 1997

“In Answer to Prayer” was my first original quilt, begun around 1995 or 1996. It was a sampler of sorts. My husband graciously modeled for me so I could draw the large warrior angel. I did hand appliqué using Charlotte Warr Anderson’s technique to create the angel. I experimented with machine trapunto for the wings. I adapted the watercolor technique for my border. I tried my hand at free motion machine calligraphy. Then I hand quilted it with sliver metallic threads. It sounds simple now, but all this was done in fits and starts over a span of three years. I would try something and then stuff it in a drawer for a while before I attempted the next step. In 1998 I gathered up my courage and entered this quilt into the National Quilting Association 29th Annual Quilt show and I was absolutely dumbfounded when it won an Honorable Mention ribbon!

I have made numerous quilts since then. The quilts I make now are all original designs, although I still mostly design quilts in my mind and collect fabric for my dreams.