As I ventured into the world of larger quilts, I quickly found out that marking, basting, folding, and pushing large quilts around my sewing machine aren’t skills that come naturally to me. These processes taxed my patience and more importantly, I felt very constrained in terms of what I could do. The good news is in the Spring of 2001, I met Laurel Barrus at a quilt show in San Mateo, CA. She was demonstrating the Handi Quilter I, and I was in complete awe of her amazing invention. In no time, my husband, Al, helped me set up the Handi Quilter I in our family room. I started carrying a notebook around to practice ‘drawing’ quilt patterns, feeling full of hope and enthusiasm that in time, with focus and persistent practice, I would become proficient at free-motion quilting with the Handi Quilter I. Unfortunately, this just wasn’t meant to be. I realized pretty quickly that I wasn’t coordinated enough to be good at free-motion quilting; and more importantly, I don’t have natural drawing skills, so getting proficient at ‘drawing designs’ on to quilts wasn’t going to happen, no matter how hard I practiced.
The good news is sometime in 2003, I came upon another amazing invention - a robotic quilting machine that operated with my home sewing machine and personal computer. This new invention was a great match for me because I’m very comfortable with computers. In no time, Al helped me with a new setup, this time in one of our guest bedrooms. We replaced the double bed with a Murphy bed to make room for an 8-foot table to set up the quilting robot. I was quite happy with this arrangement, except that over time, three limitations started making me feel restless. First, I could only work on quilts that were no larger than about 72 inches in width; second, my quilting designs were limited to about 4-5 inches in height; and third, as a quilting studio, the 110-square-foot guest room was a pretty tight space.
Between 2003 and 2008, I was on leave from Handi Quilter, but I silently followed the company’s innovations. When Handi Quilter launched the HQ Pro-Stitcher in 2007, I knew in my heart that some day, I’ll be a Handi Quilter customer again.
In the spring of 2008, we took on a home remodeling project; and this time, Al outdid himself by creating an 500-square-foot quilting studio. Together, we furnished it with a sewing table, cutting table, and storage cabinets made from Ikea kitchen cabinet parts. We completed the nine-month remodeling project in December, 2008, and when we moved back into our home, an HQ Sixteen, HQ Pro-Stitcher, and HQ Studio Frame moved in with us. This new setup has exceeded all my expectations.
I feel so proud and appreciative of what Handiquilter has achieved in less than ten years. I love my Handi Quilter products for the following reasons:
(1) The HQ Sixteen runs very smoothly - the stitches look great, the thread never breaks, and the machine glides like a ballet dancer.
(2) The HQ Pro-Stitcher is very innovative - the features are powerful, the interface is user-friendly, the software is very stable, and it relates to the HQ Sixteen with much grace.
(3) The HQ Studio Frame is a remarkable system - it’s sturdy, works nicely with small quilts as well as king-size quilts, has a wonderful bonus pole to hold two large bolts of batting, and it serves as a perfect rock for the HQ Sixteen and the HQ Pro-Stitcher.
(4) The HQ Sixteen, HQ Pro-Stitcher, and HQ Studio Frame package is functional and aesthetically pleasing at the same time - it’s indeed designed by a quilter, for quilters.
(5) The HQ support team is great - one seldom needs support with the Handi Quilter products, but for the few times that I did, I got great help very quickly.
(6) The most remarkable thing about the Handi Quilter products is they’re very easy to use. I work full-time and thus have never had the opportunity to take formal classes, but this hasn’t prevented me from learning how to use the HQ Sixteen and the HQ Pro-Stitcher. While far from an expert, I’m able to do what I need to do with ease.
I usually work on multiple quilts at the same time, so there’s frequently a quilt mounted on my HQ Sixteen. Most of my projects are bed quilts of various sizes, and they’re almost always given as gifts to family and friends. I have a large extended family - 12 aunts and uncles on my Mom’s side alone, each of them with 3-7 children, and all but five of my maternal cousins are married with children. The Handi Quilter products allow me to make beautiful quilts in a reasonable period of time, so my goal is to make a quilt for every one of my relatives and close friends. This is a long list of quilts to aspire to make, but thanks to Handi Quilter, I hope to share the joy of owning a home-made quilt with as many people as possible.
My Handi Quilter story is a story of a wonderful personal journey. During the very early years of this journey, I made an applique quilt just to give the technique a try. This quilt had little use for many years but much to my amazement, it works perfectly as a wall hanging in our quilt studio. This wall hanging and my quilting journey is a vivid reminder of my favorite verse from the Bible: “To everything there is a season, a time for every purpose under heaven.” (Ecclesiastes 3:1)
I own the following HQ machines: