Deena McAfee

Deena with her HQ18 Avante

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I have always been fascinated with quilts and quilting. Growing up I always wanted to make a quilt, but neither my mom nor grandmothers were quilters. When I was eight years old, my maternal grandmother came to live with my family a year after my grandfather passed away. My mom and grandmother sewed and made most of my and my sister’s clothes. My mom had a Singer treadle machine in which she and my grandmother sewed. I learned to sew using that machine. Oh what great memories of pumping the foot peddle. When I was in fifth grade, my grandmother got an electric sewing machine for Christmas. I loved to sew, and made craft things, like rag dolls, bears, rabbits and their clothes. I did not know the rules of sewing; I just knew how to sew on those machines. My grandmother is very talented and during my growing up years she was always crocheting or embroidering when she had free time. When I was in seminary, I asked my grandmother to teach me more about sewing and got a pattern to make an apron. I took it to her and she sewed most of it. When I said, I want to learn how, not for you to do it, she said, “You can learn when I'm dead and gone.” Well, this year she turned 96 and still crochets; thank God, I did not wait until she was gone to learn. I made my first quilt with my grandmother and mom. We hand appliquéd the pattern “Belle”. My grandmother and I then quilted it by hand borrowing someone’s quilt frame. We really did not know what we were doing. My grandmother knew how to hand quilt and taught me the basics, but we did not trace a pattern or know what was expected of our quilting. In 2003, my husband and I moved to San Francisco where my husband worked as Chief of Chaplain Services for the VA Medical Center. It was there; I started working with female veterans and wives of veterans. I told one of the women I was taking a quilting class and she encouraged me to learn to machine quilt. Learning to make quilts and machine quilting became my new passion. I started looking for long arm quilting machines on the Internet and I found Handi Quilter. I was so impressed with what I saw, I knew I wanted to own one. I started saving and would put $10.00 or $20.00 in my sock drawer when I had extra money. One of my dreams was to one day own a small retreat center. My husband wanted to have a place in the woods where veterans could come and get away from the stresses of their lives. I wanted a place where their wives or other women could come for quilting retreats. In 2007, my husband and I moved back to Virginia where we had purchased 75 acres of land and started remodeling “Birchleaf Center” for small retreats. I still had my long arm savings in my sock drawer, which was growing. In 2010, I went to the AQS quilt show in Knoxville and met Mark Hyland. I told him of my dreams for our retreat center and how I wanted women to come, make a quilt and finish it using a long arm machine. He showed me the HQ18 Avante and I fell in love with the machine. I went home vowing to save more money. My husband sold an old tractor he had and gave me the money for my sock drawer. I still did not have enough money. In October of that year, I was given a donation for the remaining amount from an individual who had attended a family retreat at Birchleaf Center. We now have this great machine at Birchleaf Center. The first week of August 2011, I had 9 women come for a retreat and we quilted 8 quilts on the HQ18 Avante, which will be donated to Virginia State Police to be given away in emergencies. We completed 10 out of 70 quilt tops to be donated to the Holston Home for Children in Greeneville, TN. I am so grateful for the HQ18 Avante. It has not only given me great pleasure in using it, but it is being used to help others.

I own the following HQ machine: HQ18 Avante