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Published: Jul 31, 2015 3 min read
illustration of woman using sewing machine to make quilt
Gary Musgrave

I learned to sew in high school, but I'd barely touched a needle and thread by the time I landed in Germany in 1983 as a 24-year-old American soldier. One day while shopping on the military base, I saw a Pfaff sewing machine for $300, almost half of a month's pay. I decided on the spot to splurge. I hoped to take lessons from my grandmother, an avid quilter, when I returned to the States. Besides, I was getting married, and I figured a sewing machine might come in handy.

My husband was also a soldier, and when our first child was born in 1986, I left the Army to be a stay-at-home mom. Over the next eight years, whenever my husband received orders to a new duty station, the sewing machine shuttled along with us. With the arrival of two more babies, however, sewing took a backseat to motherhood.

It wasn't until the summer of 1992 that I was able to visit my grandmother in Kentucky for a few days. After receiving those long-delayed lessons, I was confident enough to attempt my first quilt—an anniversary gift for my sister and brother-in-law. I loved turning a pile of fabric pieces into something beautiful and useful. Over the next few years, I made three more quilts as wedding gifts for friends.

Finally, after I had given away four quilts, it was time to keep one at home. I turned my husband's well-worn rugby T-shirts into a quilt for his 60th birthday.

Whenever I purchased quilting material, I would admire the latest sewing machines in the fabric stores. All the fancy features were mind-boggling—as were the price tags. But my simple and reliable machine did what I needed, so I saw no reason to upgrade.

My frugal grandmother certainly would have approved. Unfortunately, she passed away, at 90, before I could get back to Kentucky to share my quilting stories with her. My family and I still wrap ourselves in her quilts on cold nights in Georgia, just as we did in Germany, New Hampshire, and all the other places we've lived. My next quilt—for me this time—is already in progress. More than 30 years ago, I invested $300 in a sewing machine that is still paying dividends of beauty, love—and warmth.

Cindy Dunn is the founder of the Foreign Language Library Online . She lives in Columbus, Ga.

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