Michelle Banton

Just me.

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About 10 years ago I discovered the world of Longarm Machine Quilting. I purchased an old, circa 1983, machine from a friend who had a home decor business. One button made it start and stop. That's it. No stitch regulator, no table height adjustment, no computer, no laser pointer, no pantographs, no bells, no whistles. I played with that monster for a few months and sold it. I knew it wasn't the right machine for me – either for my own use and especially not for going into business. But, I was hooked on the idea of moving the machine to create the quilting pattern, instead of moving the fabric. I started hanging out at Longarm Quilting Shows – getting to know the different dealers, machines and other professional quilters and pretending that I “belonged” to the “club”. I tried using a Juki TL98e on a Grace frame – the concept was the same, but it just wasn't the REAL Longarm experience. Fast forward 10 years to this spring – I realized I needed to work a few more quarters to qualify for Social Security in a few years. Because of the need to sometimes be available in a caregiver role, I knew I couldn't have a “regular” job that required me to work a certain weekly schedule. But I had to find something to earn those Social Security credits. After much consideration I decided to go into business for myself – as a Longarm Quilter. It was time for MQX East. I've attended this show from it's beginning – pretending that I was part of the Longarm Community. I was always the kid standing outside the fence, looking into the playground and wishing I could join in the fun. But this year it was different... I was going to purchase a machine and the show wasn't going to close down until I decided which one to buy! My husband encouraged me to find the right machine for me. He knew that I would thoroughly research my options, and he left the decision entirely up to me. I test drove every single brand of machine there, but it didn't take me long to decide that Handi Quilter was the brand for me. The smooth lines of the machine make it the most attractive one on the market, but pretty doesn't necessarily mean the best machine – except in this case! I had my choice of 2 excellent local dealers – a huge selling point! My dealer (Charlton Sewing Center, Charlton, MA) offers monthly training classes. The owner (Cathy Racine) has been repairing machines of all types for years, so I knew my local dealer & her staff would have the technical knowledge I needed...and they are so close! I also really appreciate all the online support that is available on your website. I bought the HQ24 Fusion with 12' frame. To top it off, my friend Sue Fors, has the same machine and I knew we'd have one another's support, knowledge, and ideas to build on. On my way home from the show, I was still so excited that I called and ordered the HQ Pro-Stitcher too! I know this combination will last me for years – both mechanically and technologically. I've always enjoyed making quilts to give to others (graduations, weddings, babies, Project Linus, ABC Quilts, and other local charities) – it's so much easier now to be able to not only piece the tops, but finish the quilts in so many different ways. I've gotten comfortable with pantographs and some freehand quilting and now I am learning to use the Pro-Stitcher. Finding quilt tops to practice on hasn't been hard – I've had them waiting in my UFO boxes for years. I'm just now launching my business so I can start earning those SS work credits – but it doesn't seem like work. It's great to think that I'm getting paid to do something I enjoy so much! I also recently found out that my Great-Great-Grandma used to machine quilt for others with a precursor to our current longarm machines. Her frame hung from a track on the ceiling in her living room and allowed her to do free motion work. I think of her nearly 100 years ago doing basically the same thing I'm doing today. Wonder what Great-Great-Grandma Minshall would think if she saw my HQ24 Fusion and HQ Pro-Stitcher? I bet she'd want one too! I'm passing my love of quilting down to my 5 year old granddaughter, but she won't have to wonder what things were like back in 2011 – she's right there along side of me “helping” me every step of the way. When my frame arrived, she insisted on helping me assemble it. Sure, I could have put it together faster alone, but what fun we had sorting all those bolts and pieces. She's already learning how to do free motion work with my Fusion. Finishing quilts these days is so much fun with the ease of operation, quilting options, and dealer support that I have with my HQ24 Fusion and HQ Pro-Stitcher. That's MY HQ Story!

I own the following HQ machines: HQ24 Fusion, HQ Pro-Stitcher