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Susan vs. The Seam Ripper: The Epic Tale of How I Became A Quilter

So, my adorable PR-majoring daughter, who is becoming well-versed in all things social media, tells me that I need to blog. When she first mentioned it, I thought “what would I have to write about?” Well, she gave me a few ideas and then I had about a dozen more. So here begins my first blog -- and I have decided to tell you about my sewing journey and how I reached the point of having a quilting business.

My quilting career began by joining 4-H when I was 8 years old. My mother is an accomplished seamstress and was very helpful in teaching me. My first project was a trick skirt. Lovely, isn’t it??

During my 9 years in 4-H, several other outfits were made, purple ribbons were won, and trips were made to the State Fair for clothing construction and style revue. After that, I vowed I would never sew again. You see, the seam ripper and I had become best friends during those 9 years and it was not a friendship that I treasured. Every seam in every outfit was sewn twice – or so it felt – so that everything was just perfect. While I enjoyed the competition aspect of it all, I just did not see this as something that I would ever choose to do on my own.

Then came my first teaching job, a move to a new town, and I needed something else to occupy my time instead of concentrating on “band” things 24/7. Guess what? The first thing I did was buy a sewing machine. I began by making a few clothing items for myself and continued to make even more clothes when our daughters came long – pretty dresses, pajamas, shorts outfits, Halloween costumes, and doll clothes.

As the girls were outgrowing the desire for homemade clothes, I decided that I wanted to learn to quilt. Both of my grandmas had quilted and I thought that would be a great way to continue with my sewing hobby. I purchased a book entitled, Learning to Quilt: A Beginner's Guide, and went through the process of learning to piece 20 different blocks. This large sampler quilt used templates to make every quilt block. Little did I know that that was an extremely tedious way of making a quilt block. Nevertheless, that is how my passion for quilting began.

My first quilts, both large and small, were machine-pieced and hand-quilted. Along the way, I began to combine hand-quilting with machine-quilting and then chose to do either one or the other on my quilts. All of the machine-quilting was done on my Bernina 430 with a stitch-regulator. Small quilts were no problem to complete on my domestic machine, but larger quilts were entirely another matter. I completed several but I found it difficult to do anything more than a stipple or straight lines as the three layers of fabric – top, batting, and backing – were very heavy and awkward to handle.

So I started dreaming about a long-arm quilting machine. With the full support of my husband, we began researching the different machines and even made several road trips to see them in action. On one such trip to a quilt show in Des Moines, IA, I was able to “test-drive” about 16 machines. Wow!!! I was like a kid in a candy store. It was so much fun!!! But first we needed a place to put long-arm quilting machine in our house. My husband came up with the idea of converting our store room into my sewing room. That meant down-sizing our present store room into a space about 1/3 of its size. That also meant getting rid of a lot of stuff – not a bad thing!! So now I have a wonderful sewing room that is 15’ x 24’ and room for my Handi-Quilter Avante. It is definitely one of the happiest places on earth!!

After teaching instrumental music for 33 years, I decided to retire so that I could concentrate on quilting full-time. Sometimes I have to remind myself when I am doing a customer quilt that I am actually “working”. I just chuckle – it doesn’t seem like work at all!!

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