Sandi Craven


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I started sewing when I was 5 years old on my mother's treadle machine. I took doll clothing and made them fit my dog Tippy and my cat “Tom“. That is the first time I ran the sewing machine needle into my finger. Then Dad bought Mom a Necchi machine and I was sewing away making clothes for my dolls and little “blankets”. Then I started to sew for myself since I was so thin that it was hard to find anything that did not spin around on me when I wore it. When I married and became pregnant, I made all my maternity clothes and layettes and later clothes for my children. I saw people quilting but wondered how they got it to go together to make a quilt. No....quilting was not for me. I later made the girls prom gowns and my last gown was my oldest daughter's wedding gown. I retired from formal wear and started dressing porcelain dolls in the finest of gowns. Once again, I ran into people that quilted and was invited to join a group. I thought that quilting looked like too much work and I did not have time for that. Finally, I got into making costumes and was thoroughly enjoying what I was doing. I went to a local fabric store and there was a red/white/blue log cabin quilt hanging up and it piqued my interest. I stepped over the line and took the class. Well, I did not have the best of teachers and when I was finished the red center was not in the center. I thought oh well, now I will quilt it. I asked how to finish it and the answer was, "oh the usual way" and she walked away. I kept that quilt top for 5 years because I really did not know anyone that quilted on anything but a big wooden frame and knew that was not going to work for me. I asked and asked and found that a lot of people made the tops and did not finish them. I knew by this time, there had to be a better answer. Finally, my old Golden Touch and Sew was in need of repair and I went to a quilt shop in the next town looking for a repair person. I met a girl that worked there and asked about getting the machine repaired AND how to finish the quilt I had. I went back the next day with quilt in hand and she showed me how to "make the sandwich". I went home and tried to quilt it and found that machine needed a walking foot. I had to search around for someone that sold Singers and came up with a walking foot that worked on my model. I finished that quilt but did not like having to roll it up inside my machine to make it fit to quilt. That was the second time I ran a sewing machine needle into my finger. Then I saw stippling and wanted to know how to do that. My machine would not cooperate and I bought a Bernina. That worked for a few months and then by this time, I am making quilts left and right. I wanted a long arm but not the ones on big permanent frames. So I had someone do my quilting for me and that was fine for about a year. I wanted to make my quilts from first cut to last stitch on the binding. I was looking for something that had a computerized design but did not see what I was looking for even though I went to quite a few quilt shows. Then one day I walked in the local shop and there was a HQ Sixteen with someone behind it quilting. OH WOW, I was in love. The next day, I took a lesson, quilted my first quilt top and I immediately had to have one. It was ordered and delivered to my home, set it up and I loaded a quilt top on it and the rest is history. I enjoyed free handing one after the other because by this time I had a huge stack of quilt tops. I was blessed with the ability to free hand. I was not much interested in pantographs but thought the groovy boards were fun. I still wanted something computerized. This was the third and final time I ran a machine needle into my finger and boy oh boy, the bigger the needle, the more it hurts. I started practicing very safe procedures of not hitting the start button when you are changing the bobbin in the HQ Sixteen.
By this time, I am getting ready to retire from my job with the Federal government. I quilted everyday that I had a free moment with my dear friends. I took out the furniture from the formal living room and dining room and set up the Handi Quilter in one room and the dining room table was where everyone came to quilt.
THEN I developed a huge itch to go somewhere….travel. The problem was, I wanted to take my quilting with me but how in the world was I going to do that. Well, I went to the local home and garden expo and as I walked out the back door to the outside vendors, there was this big beautiful motor coach. I forgot about everything else I was looking for that day. In slow motion, I ran out to the lot with the campers, 5th wheels, etc. sitting around. I knew immediately that the motor coach looked like it would be a great way to see the country AND take every piece of fabric it would hold AND my Handi Quilter. That was on Saturday and after a few measurements, on Monday I bought the motor home. The motor coach had two long slides and in the middle of the coach, it was 14 feet wide and 15 feet long. I packed up my home and put everything into storage, leased it out for two years, packed up the motor coach with fabric in every available spot that could not be seen. I put the Handi Quilter and two sewing machines in the basement of the motor coach along with multiple containers of fabric and patterns and my little Yorkie Scarlett and away we went. The dealer told me that you could not overload the motor coach unless you loaded it from top to bottom with rocks. Well, I think it was overloaded with fabric. This was in March of 2006 and I made quilt tops until I had to start quilting them into quilts. I put the long arm together on an 8 foot folding conference type table and quilted 10 quilts for Christmas that year in the motor home while it was parked in a camp resort down in Florida. My quilting buddies had to come and see how I was doing it. It was a little snug, but I was happy and able to be free enough to do what I loved and continue to travel. I later bought a little place in Florida and the first thing I made sure of was I had room for my Handi Quilter. I was back up in Maryland for a visit in the summer of 2008 and stopped in the local shop. I walked in the door and they said, “Sandi come here, we have something to show you.” There was the HQ Sixteen with a HQ Pro-Stitcher and I knew that finally someone had designed exactly what I was looking for all this time. It was ordered and mailed to Florida so it was there when I arrived back in Florida as a snow birder. I started a little quilting group in the 55 and over community and every Tuesday, 15 ladies would meet for the day. Before I knew it, I was long arming for the ladies in my class.
I have since moved back to Virginia with all my beautiful fabrics and made sure that half my ranch style home is big enough for a studio and storage room. My HQ Sixteen with the HQ Pro-Stitcher is the only furniture that the living room needs. My HQ Sixteen made its journey into the Shenandoah Valley of Virginia in the back of my SUV along with nine other machines being trailered behind the 26-foot moving van holding quilting furniture, all my quilting fabric and books, and patterns and a bedroom set and my other little goodies from life. One of my dear quilting buddies always said to be happy all you need is a bedroom set and a quilting room and a long arm and I agree 100%. I set it up on a new adjustable frame and there she will sit until she needs a companion or wears out to be replaced with the next fabulous machine that HQ develops.
Thank you Handi Quilter for making my dreams come true of how to make that quilt top into a quilt.

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