Angela Huffman and Sara Gallegos, co-hosts of Fons & Porter’s Love of Quilting, share two vocations: quilter and mother. Often, the projects they present on the show are inspired by—or partially made by—their children. In celebration of Mother’s Day, we asked them to share their experiences as mothers and quilters in a trunk show.
Angela Huffman came to quilting after she became a mother… three times over. With the birth of her triplets, who are now college-aged, she quickly learned that babies thrive on a schedule, but that she herself did not.
“When they were small, my world felt like I was in the middle of that movie Groundhog Day, where every day was the same as the day before and as the day before,” she confesses. “I felt myself withering and needed some way to play with sharp objects and express myself creatively.”
Her house had a split stairwell leading up to the triplets’ bedrooms, and it created an echo chamber, and the smallest noise would wake the babies from their naps. “As you might imagine, you don’t wake sleeping triplets without paying a very dear price,” Angela says. “I needed a way to absorb sound and decided that quilts hanging in the stairwell would do a great job.”
Stepping foot in her local fabric shop, she encountered her path to saving her sanity: an intricate quilt with curved piecing. “It was one of those moments in life where the clouds part and the angels start to sing. I had no idea what I was looking at or how to accomplish it but I knew more than anything that I was going to learn how to make that quilt.”
Sara, the mother of two school-aged girls, got started quilting a little younger, inspired by her own mother, Sandra. “My mom always says that I have been sewing and teaching since age four,” she says. “She taught me how to make a doll blanket and I immediately taught my kindergarten bestie to make one, too!” She stuck with sewing through 4-H in grade school, but sports and activities kept her busy through high school and college. “Right as I got out of college, my mom opened a quilt shop and I got bit by the bug!”
While her mom sews everything and anything, Sara sticks with quilting these days. “I really like that quilts always fit!”
Her mom is always there to help with ideas, step-outs, and often with babysitting when it comes to crunch time preparing for filming Fons & Porter’s Love of Quilting.
And that may be one of the keys to being a mother and a quilter: a support system that enables you as a quilter.
Angela experienced this with her quilting guild. She says, “My biggest influence was my local guild that allowed me to bring my toddler triplets to meetings when I couldn’t find a sitter. They are a fantastic group of ladies.”
Finding your supporters is key for any quilter with young children. Time, both finding and making it, is another key.
“It really only takes 5-10 minutes a day. When my kids were younger, I was more focused on quick, instant gratification projects—this allowed me to complete something pretty without stressing over how long it would take,” says Sara. “If you can carve out those few minutes to sew a couple of seams during naps or after the kiddos go to bed, it will help you to feel refreshed.”
She adds, “And don’t worry about putting every single thing away! I get that we want to tidy up, but having a few pieces sitting at the machine so you can sit down when you’ve got those few minutes isn’t a bad thing.”
Bringing your children into what you do—so that your creative outlets aren’t excluding them, or forcing you to make a choice between being a mother and a quilter—is another excellent step toward happiness. The question is, how to get your kids involved in quilting.
“Fabric is what is going to pull them in,” says Angela. “Let them dive into your novelty prints and pick out their favorites, then cut them into large squares so they can finish a quilt top fast.”
There are steps you can take to lower the pressure and increase their enjoyment. For example, Angela recommends machine feet or gadgets that help keep a (somewhat) precise quarter inch seam. Those can go a long way to helping kids feel confident.
Sara goes as far as recommending that you let kids use your higher-end machine. “A lot of people say, ‘I don’t let my kids/grandkids touch my nice machine.’ Why not?! Teach them respect and safety, and then let their creativity fly! Kids, like grown-ups, will have a better experience and enjoy the process more if they are using a good quality machine.”
Angela learned to be fearless on her own longarm machine by observing her children. “Once I got a longarm machine, they started to play with it to finish their quilts. They were never intimidated by it. They jumped right in and helped me to see there wasn’t anything to be scared of.”
In fact, Angela was so impressed with their work, that she encouraged them to enter the state fair, an experience she highly recommends because it changes their perspective to see their own work admired.
When her son’s Going Buggy won Best of Show, for the Junior Division at the Kentucky State Fair, he was over-the-moon excited, Angela says. “He even asked me to find him a chair so he could sit by his quilt and chat with everyone about it at the fair.”
Sara advises, “Just let them play! Allow it to be fun, don’t stress. Kids are so clever and figure out so much on their own.”
She says her daughters have learned ingenuity and inventiveness through quilting. “Their ideas blow me away. I don’t give them a lot of instruction. They come to me with an idea and sometimes want my help executing, and sometimes not! They have learned that small, curvy seams are tricky, but not impossible—just to keep trying and that sometimes you just need the glue!”
Angela found out, too, that quilting taught lessons beyond mere piecing. “I thought I could teach them some basic math with quilting, maybe even simple fractions. It quickly became obvious that quilting was a way to teach them character lessons. They learned about perseverance, patience, doing your best work, listening to instructions, being careful, and encouraging others.”
Vanessa Lyman is the Senior Content Developer for The Quilting Company and a regular contributor to Fons & Porter’s Love of Quilting.