If you had told me 10 years ago that I would be making my living as a longarm quilter, quilting for hire and teaching classes around the United States, I would have thought you were crazy. I can’t believe how much my life has changed and all the wonderful people this crazy passion has brought into my life. One of the biggest changes happened just recently. I added a new addition to my studio.
Before I tell you about my new addition, I’d like to tell you a little bit about how I got to this point. I have always sewn. At least as long as I can remember. My mom taught me how to sew when I was little and I did the requisite 4H projects in the small midwestern town where I grew up. I even made a few baby blankets, but no real “quilted” projects. I started getting into quilting when my niece and nephew were born 20 plus years ago, but I never really made any quilts. I just made tops. I tried hand quilting. It just wasn’t for me, and I’ve never been able to get the hang of moving the quilt around for domestic quilting. It wasn’t until we moved to Lincoln, NE, ten years ago, that I really started actually finishing tops.
I had been teaching nursing at the University of New Mexico, prior to the move, but with a 4 and a 7-year-old I needed something more flexible. I saw an ad for a used Gammill Longarm machine in the paper and I told my husband “I can do this as a business”. He said “sure, I believe in you”. “No,” I said “I appreciate that, but I really think you need to come look at it”. “It’s ok, I trust you” he said “if you say you can make it work, I know you will.” Now whereas I appreciated his support, I really felt that he needed to come look at the machine first. After a bit of persuading, he came with me to the lady’s house. He was really quiet for a few minutes, upon being confronted with the enormity of seeing a longarm machine for the first time, then he said “we’re going to need a bigger truck.” That’s all he ever said about it. I really love that man.
Now I had a machine that cost more than my minivan and a husband who was incredibly supportive. (this sounds like a good thing, but it was a lot of pressure too.) I set out to teach myself everything I could about longarm quilting. I took a few classes, but not until later, as it was hard to get away with little kids. I did have an advantage in that I had grown up in a family business, so at least that aspect wasn’t new to me. I knew that I had to make this work no matter what. Fortunately, I really enjoyed it. This helped get me through some of the rougher patches. (The first time I blew a fuse and was in tears because I thought I had killed my machine). (The first time a needle broke and ripped a customer quilt. It happens.) My joy and love (my kids and family called it something different, i.e. obsession) for my new-found career got me through all of the difficulties I encountered. (Believe me, not every day was a bed of roses). Over the last 10 years I’ve tried to be open to new opportunities and challenges as they have come my way. Some have worked out better than others, but I’ve learned something from all of them.
This brings me to my new addition. Last November, I was honored to become a Gammill Quilt Artist. I have loved Gammill since I bought that used Optimum plus. They are a beast. There is nothing my machine won’t do. (within reason, of course) So, when I was given the opportunity, I jumped at it. I had been toying with the idea of getting a second machine for a while, and this was just the impetus I needed. There was only one problem. Where was it going to go? These are not exactly small after all. Even going down to a 10’ table it was still going to take up a fair amount of space. My husband was not wild about the idea of it living in the living room so I had to come up with plan B.
Fortunately, my dad used to own a construction company. He helped me remodel the back half of my studio and finish the ceiling. I pretty much bought out the shelving section at my local Shopko and organized the heck out of the rest of the space. There wasn’t any room to spare, but we created enough space to put in the new machine.
Now it was just a matter of waiting for the machine. Between my schedule and theirs, and the awful flooding around the plant, it took a little while before we could coordinate a delivery time. Finally, two weeks ago, the awesome Holly and Farley Zuber of Coyote Creek HQS in South Dakota brought me my new baby.
It’s fantastic. Both my new and my old machine are hand guided, so I can still only quilt on one at a time, but it allows me to actually get some of my own things done. In the past, if I wanted to work on something of my own, I had to rush to get it done. I didn’t want to be late with any customer quilts. Now I can have something of mine on one machine and a customer quilt on the other. The new machine has a light bar and hydraulics. I don’t know how I ever got along without these. I had hydraulics put on my old machine while they were here too, and my back is absolutely loving it.
Now some of you are probably wondering how I determined it was a boy. For starters, it’s a lot more demanding than my old machine. It’s a Gammill Vision 2, so it has the touch screen and just like a smart phone it’s wants to be the center of your attention. You know, look at me look at me. Also, because of the extra features (don’t get me wrong, they’re really cool) it has more bells and whistles. Literally. Lastly, it’s a back-seat driver. It keeps telling me that I drive too fast. So, I’ve decided it’s a boy. (apologies to the three I live with, but it is what it is.)