Mary McAllister

Before presenting quilt at the wedding

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I began sewing 30 years ago when I gave birth to a beautiful little girl. I had chosen to be a stay at home mom, which meant we were on a very limited budget. I had this little girl that I wanted to dress in all of the wonderful clothes I could not afford to purchase so I had to learn to make them. After she graduated from high school and I no longer sewed for her as much I needed a new creative outlet. Since I come from a long line of quilters (my grandmother made each of her 22 grandchildren at least one quilt) that is where I began to migrate. Piecing was so frustrating in the days before rotary cutters and mats, I almost gave up. Of course some of the beginning quilts were not very pretty and were put on the back burner when I went back to work. As I got closer to retirement and great improvements and shortcuts were created I began to feel a growing interest in getting back into quilting. When my brother died in 2004, I needed something to keep me occupied during that "first" Christmas and decided that I could start with an Irish Chain. I had never been very good picking out colors, it just didn't come naturally to me but went to the store to try. The fabrics I chose were literally lined up on the shelf so I took it as a sign. I pieced my first real quilt in 2004 and have not stopped since. When I wanted to get one quilted, I first tried machine quilting on my sewing machine and absolutely hated the experience. I found someone who would quilt for me over the internet and began sending my quilts to him. While he did wonderful work, I could only get E2E or pantos done and I wanted so much more for my Irish Chain which was made in honor and remembrance of my brother. I go the the Houston International Quilt show every year and began to try out all of the long,mid-arm machines. I really settled on the HQ Sixteen as the one I wanted but could not justify the cost for just quilting my own personal quilts and did not want to quilt for others. I began watching everywhere I could think of to try to find a used one, but had almost given up finding one and was in the process of buying another machine when I found my used machine within a 4 hour drive of my house! I bought the machine at a great price and brought it home and set it up in my front room. I could barely contain my excitement. I rolled on my first practice piece and while I could get the machine to make beautiful stitches from left to right, I got really ugly stitches going from top to bottom. For over a week I worked at making all stitches beautiful and COULD NOT do it. I did not want to tell my husband that I had made a huge mistake and bought a machine that had something wrong with it (the closest dealer to me was 3 hours away). He came home one day and found me crying and the story spilled out. Kind and gentle as he is, he was not upset at all and began methodically checking everything out. Magically he found what I had not been able to find! While a connection can look plugged in, it may not be completely plugged in and my problems were solved. Shortly after I had the opportunity to buy a HQ Pro-Stitcher at a terrific price, something I only dreamed about but had no plans to do because I still was in the learning stages of the quilt machine. The first quilt I did was my Irish Chain, flaws and learning areas were left exactly as they occurred because that quilt is beautiful to me and I would not change anything about it. I have had my machine for one year and quilted several quilts (the stack never seems to get smaller!). On July 31, 2010 I presented my son and my wonderful new daughter-in-law a double wedding ring quilt, quilted on my machine and it turned out beautiful.
I have since cleaned out my sewing room and moved everything back to one room (that I can close the door to when the mess gets too bad). I know that I have so much to learn and it is difficult because I live in an area that does not have quilt shops so everything has to be self-taught. I belong to every online group I can so that I can learn everything I can, so that someday I will be able to really feel that I can do anything on my machine. I have started piecing baby/child quilts and will soon begin quilting them to donate to various charities. I know that every quilt I have done so far has been a learning experience and each one is an opportunity to learn something I did not know how to do. I am now walking (quilting) a journey that I never pictured or predicted, but I am having so much fun that I want this journey to continue for a long time.

I own the following HQ machines:

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