Priscilla aka My Purple Stitching Machine

This post is for my Aunts who just bought their very own longarm quilting machine. The take away message is You Can Do It! One of the reasons we ohhh and ahhhh over beautiful quilting is because we know it took hours and hours of practice to create.

All machine quilters start at the same place. The learning curve is steep, but the rewards are worth it.

When we moved from Valdez to Anchorage in the spring of 2006, I had been quilting on a longarm quilting machince for about a year. Back at the Calico Whale, I’d had the opportunity to purchase 1/3 of an older Gammill Classic. This was a great way for me to see if I liked stitching with a larger machine–and I did.

Our new home had space for a large studio and a longarm quilting machine. At the time, Gammill had just come out with colored machines. Through a special package deal, I was able to buy the first purple longarm in Alaska. Her name is Priscilla after the movie The Adventures of Priscilla, Queen of the Desert. She is a Gammill Classic Plus. This purchase was also justified by the fact that I was now going to quilt for other people.

Here we are stitching away. In the present day, we are revamping my studio, so it feels funny to see old shelving.

Here we are stitching away. circa fall 2008.  In the present day, we are revamping my studio, so it feels funny to see the  old shelving.

Same quilt different angle.

Same quilt different angle.

Quilting for hire is one way to advance your longarm quilting skills, and I did learn a lot by doing this, but I also about killed myself in the process. Most of my clients wanted custom work. This kind of work is creatively very rewarding, but financially not so much. And stitching other people’s work meant I had less time to stitch my own.

I can’t remember exactly when I quit quilting for others. At one point, I had 80 quilts in my queue to be quilted. Ozzy and Tripp were still very young, and I struggled to balance quilting with parenting.

This is one of the sweetest photos of my little boys in my studio.

This is one of the sweetest photos of my little boys in my studio.

The long hours behind the machine were starting to bother my arms and back. So I quit except for a few dear ladies who knew when to ask and were okay with waiting for months to get their quilts back.

And finally, this fall–to make way for the sweater experiment, I really, truly quit quilting for others. All in all, It was a good experience. My skills advanced very rapidly because of the long hours I spent on my machine. If you would like to see more of my work from that time period, you can visit my website.

This summer, one of my students asked me if I still quilted for others. I shook my head no, and she said, “You must have paid off your machine.” And I said, “You’ve got that right!”

To all the long arm quilters who quilt for hire out there. Thank you. Thank you. You work very hard to make our quilt tops look beautiful. And if you use a long arm quilter to quilt your tops, know that they are doing their very best to make your work look good, and you probably are not paying them enough.

In future posts, I will share some of the show quilts I did for clients. I hope you will join me.

This entry was published on February 8, 2013 at 12:15 PM. It’s filed under Quilt Stories and tagged . Bookmark the permalink. Follow any comments here with the RSS feed for this post.

3 thoughts on “Priscilla aka My Purple Stitching Machine

  1. My husband thinks I should “write a business plan” when I talk about an expensive sewing machine…..and I think working on someone elses quilt takes away all the fun. Your story has convinced me. I hope that when ever you sit down to stitch; you smile, and enjoy the result of your efforts and imagination on your project. Keep stitching and smile.

    • There is a lot of truth to what you say.Quilting for others is very hard work and can be very stressful. But I did enjoy working with some of my clients very much. And there is no faster way to learn an assortment of quilting skills than by quilting a wide assortment of quilts. Thank you for sharing. I hope you are smiling when you stitch too!

  2. Pingback: Happy Anniversary! | Maria Shell

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