In 2006, a few months prior to the arrival of my 4th grandchild, my daughter insisted that now that I was retired I should make her baby a handmade, hand quilted baby quilt. I told her that she had me mixed up with my sisters as I had no interest in quilting. She guilted me into starting a quilt for her daughter which also forced me into making one for my son’s one-year-old daughter since I couldn’t do one without the other.
My daughter chose the pattern and the ladies at my local quilt shop helped me pick out the fabrics (no quilt color sense yet as I had spent my career creating white apparel). I made two almost identical quilts with the binding and backs being the only difference. My daughter insisted that the quilt be hand quilted. In response to my moaning and groaning about the whole project my cousin and a friend both offered to help me quilt them. By the time the first one was finished my arthritic hands were so sore that I could hardly move them. So I called my sister who is an avid quilter and she clued me in to machine quilting sending me to one of the quilters she frequented. I took the 2nd quilt to her and asked her if she would mind my watching her quilt it as I was fascinated by the huge machine (coming from my sewing factory background) and I was very interested in seeing it work. It was a Gammill. She agreed, calling me before she started on mine. I was especially appreciative of her artistic ability to hand guide the machine knowing I didn’t have that talent. I was thrilled with the results.
When I showed my daughter the two quilts side by side and she told me she liked the machine quilted one better than the hand quilted one, I told her “Sorry, your daughter will have the only hand quilted quilt I will ever make”. (being that the quilter had just stitched the one-year-old’s name into her quilt.
I looked at the machine quilted one for weeks prior to giving it to my granddaughter as a Christmas Gift and the thrill I felt each time I looked at it was indescribable. I had not felt that since I had retired.
I decided right then that I would make each of my grandchildren a quilt and it would be worth every dime to have someone else quilt it.
After completing quilts for 7 grandchildren, I decided I wanted to get a little more ambitious so started looking at block of the month clubs. I fell in love with a “Civil War” quilt club being offered locally so I jumped in with both feet.
Shortly after starting this club I started having extreme lower back pain. Though sitting was the worst position, I survived the next 18 months by immersing myself in this quilt and subsequently others to take my brain away from the pain. By the time this quilt was finished, I had so much of myself invested in it that I couldn’t imagine turning it over to someone else, so I put it away hoping someday to be able to do it myself.
I attended the HMQS in SLC in May of 2010 and started looking at quilting machines. I knew that to afford the one I wanted, I would have to quilt for others and I wasn’t convinced that I was physically capable of doing that. By this time I had been informed by the best neurosurgeon I could find that the only solution to the pain was surgery so I put the idea on the back burner.
In January of 2011 after having recovered from a successful spinal fusion I realized that my days of sitting at my sewing machine for hours on end were over. So I started thinking again about a quilting machine because I could stand up to use it. One day my husband walked in while I was looking at machines online. I told him that I thought I could get into a basic model for less than $7000.00 and I gave him all the reasons why I should get one. (after all, I was going to have to pay someone at least $400.00 to quilt my Civil War quilt and that would almost make a payment.) Since we had had major medical expenses over the past year between high deductibles and 3 surgeries within our family, I did not expect him to even be willing to think about it so when he said he would If this was truly the one I wanted, having fully researched the market and I was sure I could make the payments on it he would support the purchase, I just about fell off my chair.
Then I had to make sure I was REALLY willing to commit to this both financially and physically.
First, I started visiting quilt shops asking if there was enough business in our area to support another quilter. I started going back through all the brochures I had collected last year at the HMQS studying the features that I would want on the machine. I soon realized that with my sewing background and desire for quality I was not going to be satisfied with a $6000.00 machine. I figured that the features I would want on this machine would put me closer to the $30,000 - $40,000 price point as I would definitely need a computerized machine with the physical limitations I had. And at this point there was no way I could justify that expense.
One day I walked into my local Bernina/Handi Quilter Dealer to drop off a sewing machine for servicing and said to the manager, “I am not ready to buy yet, but since I am here, give me your best sales pitch.” He blew me away when all the features I wanted were available on a HandiQuilter machine at half the price I expected AND he was willing to give me 12 months interest free financing. I left with a lot to think about. I went home and immediately started searching online for reviews on quilting machines. With many of the machines there were more negative reviews than positive until I got to the Handi Quilter web site. I started watching the videos titled “My HQ Story”. Every single one I listened over the next few days told how pleased the quilter was with their machine. I realized that this WAS the company website, so ever the skeptic, I started googling “negative reviews on HandiQuilter” and honestly couldn’t find even one. I decided that this “My HQ Story” section was either the greatest marketing ploy ever or there was truly some truth in what these people were saying.
When it was time to pick up the sewing machine I had dropped off for servicing I asked my husband to go with me. He hates shopping, let alone sales pitches, with a passion, so when I saw the manager I asked him to “just give us a quick demo (no sales pitch) so my husband could see what I had been talking about”. The more he saw, the more questions HE asked and the more sold on the machine HE became. By the time we walked out I had committed to purchasing the HQ24 Fusion with my husband’s blessing.
3 weeks later we had cleaned out, painted and set up a quilting studio in what used to be a large storage room, the machine was set up and ready to go. I got instruction from the dealer, bought videos and started practicing my heart out. I had about 2 weeks practice under my belt when my church group started a project for the girls who were graduating from high school. Each mother and daughter were supposed to make a quilt which would then be tied or bound in a group activity with all the women in the church. I let it be known that I would give a “new machine quilter discount” if they would let me practice on their quilts. Many of the mothers were thrilled to get this discount and I got great advertising at the group event after quilting 5 of the quilts.
I have been asked to display, discuss and show my quilting at an annual local quilt show as the “only machine quilting vendor” they have ever invited and been asked by a quilt shop out of state to quilt for their customers as well.
I just finished my 29th customer quilt and I am having so much fun that I have to admit, I like the machine quilting even better than piecing the quilt tops. I think the reason for this is that the turnaround is so much quicker and I still get the creative energy rush that comes with completing something beautiful. I just get it more often now.
The best payback of all though, comes with finishing a quilt that I have personally pieced AND done the machine quilting on. It doesn’t get any better than this.
I own the following HQ machines: HQ24 Fusion, HQ Pro-Stitcher