Patti Lee

Batik Bag Ladies

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I still remember the feeling of pride and accomplishment I had upon completing my first project when I learned to knit at age 10. For the next 25 years I dabbled in projects including sewing, crochet, cross stitch, basket weaving, tole painting. In 1985, I was introduced to hand quilting; the enthusiasm and passion for quilting remains strong because of ever changing techniques, patterns, tools, and love for fabrics. After concerns that arthritis would change my pastime, I began more machine piecing and then machine quilting on my domestic machine. As much as I loved quilting, I didn’t love the achiness in my shoulders after struggling to move the quilt around limited by the throat size. Once retired, I felt that I deserved a sewing machine that was new for me—a machine with a stitch regulator and perhaps a wider throat. After researching and comparing my options, I went to my local quilt shop prepared to order a new sewing machine. A spur of the moment decision was made to order an HQ18 Avante quilting machine instead of a sewing machine. (I was familiar with the HQ, having taken training at my local shop and then renting time on the HQ Sweet Sixteen at this shop.) With my new HQ18 Avante, I got my stitch regulator—it’s wonderful. No regrets on this spontaneous decision. It is great to have the time to practice and improve without reserving a rental time. Having Fibromyalgia, it is great to be able to work in shorter time increments, shutting the door when I’m fatigued or “achy.” My “studio” is the smallest bedroom in our house, so I ordered the adjustable table. It accommodates the size of quilts I make. I was able to set up the machine myself. (If and when we move, I’ll get the studio space befitting my Avante.) In the meantime, I’m grateful to have this amazing machine. My husband can spend all the time he wants golfing, because I have more quilt time. In the first six months of having the HQ, I quilted everything in sight—UFO’s, re-quilting old pieces, small projects like pillows, table runners, Linus Project, etc. My mantra was practice, practice, practice. I decided no more time-consuming applique quilts for a while because I wanted to focus on the quilting, not making tops. When I wasn’t preparing tops or quilting, I was searching the internet for videos (yea HQ website and QNN’s Quilt It!) and searching for pantographs to add to my repertoire that would work for my freehand style. My new dream is a Pro Stitcher—but I tell myself I can show my true creativity using freehand patterns. There’s a world of information on line. One hint I acted on was to volunteer to longarm charity quilts, specifically Quilts of Valor (QOV). Besides the feeling of accomplishing something worthwhile while quilting for such a deserving cause, I’m challenged to move away from my comfort zone (hearts, flowers and feathers). From the time each (QOV) quilt arrives in the mail, I agonize over what pattern will enhance the tops; not wanting to shortchange the deserving recipients. This stretches my talents and has also improved my confidence. I’m using my new ruler base and S-curve ruler on my current QOV quilt. I look forward to playing with the micro handlebars I’ve just ordered. I’m designing my own QOV top at the moment to give to a friend who retired from the military before the inception of the QOV Foundation; he still suffers periodically from malaria he acquired during the Viet Nam era. I hope my quilt for him will show that people still care and appreciate his sacrifice. In this past year, my HQ 18 Avante has expanded my quilting horizons more than I would have anticipated. I’ve been creating more, marketing patterns for my new designs, selling and donating quilts (QOV, Susan G. Komen, Project Linus), and I’ve been enlisted to teaching quilt classes. What started as a way of practicing new stitches led to making batik tote bags. I gave tote bags for Christmas, birthday and “just because” gifts if someone needs encouragement. People have stopped me on the street (in the fabric store, in waiting rooms, parking lots, etc.) to compliment me on my bag. By keeping business cards handy I have sold enough bags to keep me in more fabric. My friends joke that we don’t need Red Hats for our shopping forays and travels, we all have similar batik totes and we call ourselves the Batik Bag Ladies. (If our husbands weren’t such nice guys, they could derogatorily call us the Batik Old Bags.) I consider my HQ a health positive. I’m staying active (mind and body), staying involved and this keeps my hands away from the nibbles. At any given time I have a number of projects in the works, so I laugh when people ask me if I’m bored in retirement. There aren’t enough hours in the day. While I’m doing activities unrelated to quilting, I’m planning my next quilt project or organizing something to streamline my time. The HQ is more than my ultimate toy; it is bringing me a sense of accomplishment and validation. I can show my appreciation to others by making a tangible, “blankets of love.”

I own the following HQ machine: HQ18 Avante