Saturday, May 5, 2012

My Irma and my beginning as a quilter...

Aaaa, NO...this is NOT my Irma!  

 But, this IS!

See that scrap of fabric with lots of thread sewn through it?  Yup, that's my IRMA!

I know, it doesn't look like an "Irma", but that is what Jodi and I call this scrap of fabric with thread stitched in and out of it!  I'm not sure where the name came from...maybe from my friend, Ann?  I will have to ask her sometime.

I was first introduced to Irma when I began quilting in (clearing throat) 1991.  That is also when I met my life long friend and fellow quilter, Ann.  I took a beginning quilting class at our local Leisure Arts Center.  The class was from 9:00 a.m. until 12:00 noon, one morning a week.  It was heaven!  My youngest child (we will just call him Taz - after the Tasmanian Devil.  I think you get the picture!) had just started kindergarten and I had every morning free to do whatever I wanted.  Mostly I cleaned house, ran errands, or did laundry, but I had always wanted to learn to quilt.   So, that is when I signed up for my very first quilting class and when I first met Ann.  (Her youngest was in kindergarten too.)

When Taz was finally in 1st grade...I found I had all day, 5 days a week to myself !  I had looked forward to that day for years!  I'm sure most of you know that feeling!  But, I surprised myself because I had a whole range of emotions:  sadness, happiness, boredom, freedom, etc.  The boring part is what got me!  So I decided to do something about it.  I was still taking quilting classes one morning a week.  I had always noticed that after my morning class, another group of women came into the room with fabric, needles, scissors, other quilting supplies, and sack lunches!!!   Needless to say I was interested in what they were doing, but I always had to rush out of there so I could get home before Taz got off of the bus.  (Yes, don't hate me.  I made my kindergartener ride that big yellow bus! I'll have to ask him, but I don't think it scarred him!  Plus, his sisters were on the bus with him!)  For a whole year, I wondered what those ladies were doing.  I had never seen a class schedule with that class listed after my quilting class.  When Taz started that first day of first grade, I called the Leisure Arts Center and found out what those ladies were doing!  Come to find out, it was a quilting bee! 

A quilting bee is something I had heard of, but did not know how to go about being IN one.  The nice lady on the phone told me that it was just a group of ladies who met one afternoon a week to chat and quilt.  I just knew that I had to get into that group!  It was me!  After all, I loved to quilt, I loved to talk, and I loved sack lunches!  Anyone could join, so I was welcomed with open arms.  Aren't quilters the nicest people?  

On those wonderful mornings and afternoons, I kept seeing Ann using a little scrap of fabric before and after she started sewing quilt pieces together. 

There's Irma, the piece in back of my presser foot!
I am sewing off of Irma and onto the beginning of my block piece.
It is just like chain piecing.

Now I am sewing from my block piece back onto Irma.

Ready to clip Irma from the block piece.

One day I asked her why she was using that little bit of fabric before starting a seam. That is the day that Irma got her name and that is the day that she became my friend!

There are a lot of advantages to using an Irma.  When you start a block seam, there is no pulling of the beginning thread.  You also don't have to hang onto the threads in back of the presser foot, and your thread won't get caught up in the bobbin.  Using an Irma also cuts down on thread use.  Instead of pulling thread away from the needle in a long strand, you just clip the thread at the end of Irma.  

See those little bitty thread pieces.  This Irma had already been used many times.

An Irma can be made using any pieces of fabric that you have sitting around.....or sitting in the bottom of your sewing trash can!  That is often where I find mine!  The smaller the pieces of fabric, the less thread you use.  Sometimes, when I am feeling spunky, I will use a scrap pieces of fabric from the current quilt I am working on.  

The best way to "make" an Irma is to use two pieces of fabric.  I like the feel of the double layer, plus, it sews much nicer too.  Not sure why that matters to me!  Most of the time, I will use two Irma's.  One at the beginning of the seam, and one at the end of a seam.  I have so many little scraps of fabric, that I always have a large supply of Irma's.  
Future (and 1 past) Irmas!
As funny as it sounds, I am usually sad when I throw that little piece of fabric and thread away, especially if I have made a big quilt.  Maybe one day I will collect them and make them into something.  Or..maybe not!

There are several books on the market that deal with leaders and enders (or as I call them...Irmas!).  The books show you a lot of different projects using the leaders and enders.  I made a quilt this way recently and it was really nice to use the second quilt pieces as my Irmas!  I actually made two quilts at one time.  Here is one of the books by Bonnie K. Hunter.

Do you have an Irma?  I would love to hear what you call yours.


Jodi is doing a little better.  She told me last night that she is off of the pain medicine and is "just dealing with it".  Not sure how you deal with the pain from several broken bones and a big surgery!  She is one tough gal!  One of her son's (bless his heart) had a friend who had one of those reclining chairs that lifts you up so you can get out of the chair easier.  The friend is letting Jodi use the chair now, so that is making things a bit easier for her.  (It even has a built in massager!)  But, everyday things that we all take for granted, are a long, painful and tedious process for her.  Just getting her in bed can take 30 or more minutes.  I just have to say it....her husband is a saint!  He has stepped in and taken over the everyday things that Jodi usually does!  I know that he hasn't even complained about it.  He is just that way!

This Thurs., my son-in-law will graduate from CU with a doctorate in biomedical mechanical engineering.  (Say that 3 times fast!)  My DH and I are driving out to Colorado for the graduation and to spend time with family.  On Sunday, (Mother's Day) my husband will fly home and I will drive down to Jodi's and spend several days with her.  Hopefully I can make her laugh, feed her well, run her errands and do her laundry.  (And hopefully, her DH can take a break and maybe play some golf!)  I also plan to take a "surprise" project that we both can work on while we are sitting and chatting.  

Look for future posts on my trip to Jodi's!  Please continue to keep her in your thoughts and prayers.  

Prayer Works!


  1. You know that I ALWAYS use an Irma...but mine are turned into quilts! I'm so sad for Jodi. Thanks for the update, Jackie....keep her smiling!

  2. Ima???? Never heard of it! I always call mine a Pickle....I thought you did too. See, I learn new things everyday!

  3. Hmmm.....I think you are right, Jodi. You and I call it a pickle and my old quilting group called it Irma! I get confused should know that by now!! LOL!


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