Helen Cooper


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The Long Arm of the Law I am a dinosaur. An alpha female with memories that can only be revealed after the statute of limitations has expired. A woman with a gun who felt as if I had one foot in the 19th century and one in the 20th, or is the 21st now? I was one of the first two female police officers in Chattanooga, TN in 1972 and retired in 1996 as a Captain, then I moved to Nashville and worked for the state managing grants in the Office of Criminal Justice Programs for five years. A co-worker, Jeanne, and I decided that we’d do some quilting after work. I’d made most of my clothes while going to school and managed to alter some men’s police uniforms (there weren’t any female type uniforms then) for work, but that was the extent of my sewing, other than a Cathedral Window wall hanging I did by hand. I decided on a nine-patch. I did all the thinking parts – shopping for fabric, measuring and cutting – on a weekend. I then color-coordinated the little blocks in a wire bound notebook so that all I had to do was pick up the little blocks, sew them together in the order laid out, then flip the page and do it all over again. I ended up with enough blocks for two quilts that I later hand quilted. When I returned home in 2001, thoroughly bitten by the quilting bug, I continued with my handwork and teaching some crazy quilting classes. As I made new quilting friends at home now, my horizons were broadened but I was by then definitely a hand-quilter type snob. My mother-in-law became ill during that time and I needed something that I could accomplish and realize a much quicker product to finger and fondle to soothe my frazzled last nerve while taking care of her. I figured that if I could sew clothing that I could sew quilt blocks. By this time we had a new quilt shop just opening and I found Diana Leone’s The New Sampler Quilt book and I was off and running. With hospital visits to M-I-Law, I could make a block in about three days, one day to fondle and figure out which fabrics to use, one day to actually cut, and the third day to sew. It didn’t occur to me that a quarter inch is not necessarily always a quarter inch but it didn’t take long for that bolt of lightening to strike my brain. By the time I had 29 blocks machine pieced, and one block hand pieced at the hospital (this one has 165 pieces and is “spools” of some of the 85 fabrics used in this quilt) I had only SIX BLOCKS THAT WERE THE CORRECT SIZE! If I’d had time, I’d have been the pitifullest person on my corner of the planet, but there wasn’t time. I was having trouble sleeping and when I’d awaken during the night, I’d think about how I could make these thirty blocks go together squarely. This I did by adding borders to some and calculating to the 1/16 of an inch just how wide the sashing would have to be. As you might guess none of the sashing is the same size on any side. It only took three weeks to get this worked out and by then Mom-in-law was home and I was convinced that I could benefit from some machine piecing classes, which I did. But I was still a snob about the quilting. I’d look at this top, now all squared up and plan how to quilt it – you know how it goes. For two years it went like this, before I considered a long-armer. After I did the 2 hour interview to make sure she knew what would happen if she boogered up my quilt top, I reluctantly surrendered it. Two weeks later – I’m done for. I wish I’d sugar coated all those words of derision regarding “machine quilting,” because they’d surely have gone back down a lot easier when I had to eat them. My quilt is just Beautiful! (Two best of show and two Blue Ribbons) So then I got a real Quilter’s sewing machine and the next year made 13 kids/lap quilts for family for Christmas, pieced and quilted. Then danged if I didn’t get bit by that Long Arm bug! My husband and I talked about the long arms but after calculating how many tops I’d have to make to pay for one, and the fact that I have problems standing now, I just couldn’t make the numbers work, so I gave up on it. Then I went to the Quilt Show in Knoxville in July 2011 where I saw a woman actually sitting down to quilt! Being the shy person that I am, I invited myself to a sit-down and commenced a brief hour long conversation about the HQ Sweet Sixteen. As I sat at the machine with her coaching me, she let the machine sell itself. So now I have my own HQ Sweet Sixteen and using it is more fun than chasing down and catching bank robbers on foot! As we were wrapping up the paperwork on my machine, one of the very nice HQ ladies mentioned that there is now a certified HQ guy in Chattanooga. He just happens to be the very qualified man I’ve been taking my machines to for their annual checkups! And then there was my horoscope that said I’d be hitting a creative spurt as Mars went somewhere ……..

I own the following HQ machine: HQ Sweet Sixteen