Quilt by Patricia Belyea of Okan Arts

my first quilts

By Patricia Belyea

When I made my first quilt at age 53, I had no idea that the act of cutting apart fabrics and sewing them back together would take over my life!

I thought quilts were made out of old clothing so I headed to Goodwill to buy my materials. A girl’s blue floral dress by Gymboree became my feature fabric. I borrowed a friend’s sewing machine and got to work on my dining room table.

Here’s me assembling that first project—a baby quilt with a Broken Rail design. And the quilt recipient.

Patricia Belyea of Okan Arts making her first quiltThe recipient of Patricia Belyea's first quilt

Through my church, I met Maurine Noble—founder of Plymouth Piecemakers, author of three books on quilting, and international teacher. Maureen accompanied Nancy Crow on two of her teaching trips to South Africa!

Maurine and I became best buddies—talking about quilting non-stop and even traveling together to Quilt National in Ohio.

(Yes, Maurine is the mother of Elin Noble, textile artist and dyeing expert.)

Maureen Noble with Patricia Belyea

Maurine was downsizing. I spent many Saturdays helping Maurine sort through her stash. Often Maurine handed me bags of amazing fabric that wouldn’t fit on her new storage shelves.

With Dutch wax prints from Africa, I tried out the quilt-as-you-go technique.

Quilt by Patricia Belyea of Okan Arts made with fabrics from South Africa

As a mother-daughter project, Maurine and Elin had marbled many small squares of cotton. With this bonanza, I made a table runner with curvy edges, a quilt jam-packed with the swirly designs, and more.

Cotton squares marble-dyed by Maureen and Elin NobleTable runner made by Patricia Belyea of Okan ArtsQuilt made by Patricia Belyea of Okan Arts with marble-dyed cottons by Maurine and Elin Noble

When I went to quilt gatherings, I found intriguing fabrics in the Free Boxes. Many times I grabbed batik cottons for my explorations.

Batik quilt by Patricia Belyea of Okan ArtsChinese Coin quilt by Patricia Belyea of Okan Arts

I got busy using my free or found fabrics to try out more ideas.

This whole-cloth baby quilt is made with a black and white African cotton from Maurine that I colored with dye pens and uber hand-stitched.

Patricia Belyea with a whole-cloth baby quilt made from African fabric

For another baby, I made a second whole-cloth quilt. This time I added a circus dog and ball with satin-stitched appliqué.

Circus Baby quilt by Patricia Belyea of Okan ArtsDetail, Circus Baby quilt by Patricia Belyea of Okan Arts

For a boy quilt, I created folksy little men. Note the ubiquitous Kaffe Fassett Roman Glass fabric in the composition. I think we have all used some of this pattern over the years!

Little Men baby quilt by Patricia Belyea of Okan Arts

This next quilt, called Passport, was made out of global fabrics for a high school senior. A prescient project, Wiley traveled the world as a young man. Today he lives in Peru and is married to a woman from Kazakhstan.

Passport, a quilt made with global fabrics by Patricia Belyea of Okan Arts

For my mom, I made this improv quilt that’s a mash-up of marbled, hand-dyed, and batik cottons.

Mom’s Quilt by Patricia Belyea of Okan Arts

Over a one-year period I made 14 more smallish quilts. I called these projects Quilt Sketches—quick exercises with color and pattern combinations to learn more about quilt making. 

Quilt Sketch by Patricia Belyea of Okan ArtsQuilt Sketch by Patricia Belyea of Okan Arts

Then I had an Open House & Quilt Sale. Quilts were hanging on curtain rods, in doorways, and on walls!

All the quilts sold to family and friends with the proceeds benefitting a special charity.

Open House & Quilt Sale by Patricia Belyea of Okan ArtsOpen House & Quilt Show with Patricia Belyea of Okan Arts

Around this time I discovered yukata cottons on one of my trips to Japan. Instantly I pivoted and began treasure hunting for this fabulous hand-dyed fabric overseas. 

For more of my story, check out this one-hour Quilter On Fire podcast with Brandy Maslowski—Episode 110 +listen here 

For those of you who know Victoria, here she is making her first quilt with silk-screened creatures and fabrics from my eclectic stash. 

Victoria Stone as a teen making her first quilt

ABOUT US: Okan Arts, a petite family business, is co-owned by mother-daughter duo Patricia Belyea and Victoria Stone. Patricia and Victoria sell Japanese textiles online, host creative quilting experiences, and lead quilting & textile tours to Japan.