Joanne Grata

Me and the lizard quilt done on the HQ18 avante

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I have been a quilter want-a-be for about 7 years. I guess you could say I was more of a fabric piecer. I would diligently pick my fabric, wash it, press it, making sure to cut the exact measurement to obtain that amazingly pieced quilt top, and learned to love the quarter inch seam. Oh, those beautiful quilt tops. My family thinks I am possessed because of the ultimate joy I have for looking at and touching (and buying) the amazing fabrics that are available today. While I had truly completed only about a dozen of the quilts I pieced over the last 7 years many of the others have found a home hanging in my spare room closet – 28 to be exact - waiting for their fateful day when they to could be called a real quilt.
I marvel at those accomplished hand quilters out there. But its just not for me, I guess I am just too much of a wimp because my fingers just could not get used to being poked by that needle. Quilting on my regular machine was fun in the beginning since I started out doing baby quilts and youth quilts. But then it happened ….the dreaded queen and king size quilts. One day, I think I almost stitched my cat into the quilt because the fabric was so everywhere. I felt I was spending more time adjusting fabric than I could possibly be quilting. My frustration was building. That’s when I walked into our local quilt shop and there it was… the HQ Sixteen. It was love at first sight. That was about 4 years ago. Unfortunately, at that time I had 2 kids in college so financially I was committed elsewhere. Over the next 3 ½ years I would glimpse at other machines but my heart always went back to the HQ Sixteen. Last fall I finally took the step and took a lesson on the HQ Sixteen. The spark was back to work on quilts, but as is for most wives and mom’s I felt guilty to spend money on something so awesome that would be just for me.
My amazing husband of 33 years knew how much I enjoyed the HQ Sixteen and surprised me last Christmas with an envelope containing a commitment on whatever mid-arm I would like as my very own. I was so excited and just could not wait to place my order. But as many romances go, I also fell victim. When I went to the Quilt Peddler shop in Johnstown, PA to place my order, there it was…the new HQ18 Avante. I just had to take her for a test drive and HQ Sixteen had to take a back seat. The new rail glide system and extra quilting space was a dream come true. That was it, by mid-March HQ18 Avante became part of my household. Lugene Sheetz, the owner of the Quilt Peddler, was awesome in helping me set up the machine and has continued to provide great support to me when I have questions about my machine. I love free-motion quilting and the opportunities that this system is allowing for me to expand the kinds of stitching that I previously only dreamed of being able to accomplish. The laser light has also become one of my best friends. While I am still a novice at quilting, I can’t wait to turn out some of the truly amazing quilts that others accomplish.
I currently work fulltime and also live on a rural farm in Western Pennsylvania, so the amount of time I can spend quilting, especially in the summer, is limited. The Avante makes it so simple to even spend just a little bit of time quilting in an evening or weekend. A flick of the switch and I am off and running. It is sort of funny because we have horses that we barrel race and always have lived with the philosophy that to make a horse perform the proper way it takes a light and steady hand and to be relaxed. This lesson has also been very helpful as I work at learning the Avante system…take a deep breath, relax and keep a light and steady hand and she performs amazingly. I hate to say it but I think this is the first time I actually look forward to fall and winter, because as the amount of daylight grows shorter and the days get colder, I will be able to spend even more time quilting. Just what I needed, one more reason not to spend time cooking and cleaning.
I plan on retiring in the next couple of years and can not wait to be able to go full force on my Avante machine. Already some folks have asked me to machine quilt some of their tops for them, so who knows it might be a way to keep busy once I retire from my full time job with an activity that I truly love and enjoy. My kids are also excited about my new machine because they said they never have to worry about Birthday and Christmas presents again. All they have to do is log into the Handi Quilter website and buy me all the cool accessories that go with the HQ18 Avante. Yeah!!!! Thank you Handi Quilter for making a machine that is so well suited for us hobby quilters that is cost effective but truly can give us the opportunity to accomplish such professional looking quality and results. Well gotta go quilt…………………

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