Connie Walterhouse and Penny Squirrel are busy people but somehow these friends manage to squeeze in 20-25 hours each week, sharing their long arm quilting machine. How did this all get started?
Penny has been quilting for 30 plus years. Not a fan of hand quilting, she tried quilting on a domestic machine but was never completely happy with the results. To get a flat quilt back, she needed to quilt heavily yet what she wanted was “light and poofy with no wrinkles!” She also found her stack of quilt tops was growing so she started to send them out to a long arm quilter.
Connie’s been quilting since 1993. She enjoyed hand quilting her tops, finding it a soothing pastime. But it took a couple of months to do a queen sized quilt, especially when she was working full time. She tried quilting on a domestic machine but found it too hard on her shoulders.
By the time they were both ready to retire three years ago, Penny had a stack of 40 quilt tops waiting to be finished and when she did the math, by the time she paid a long arm quilter, she’d have paid for half a long arm machine! So they teamed up to share the cost of a machine as their retirement gift to themselves. They knew they’d have lots of quilts to make for family and friends but they both had an interest in supporting quilts being donated.
Penny began researching online and via chat groups, and they both tried out machines at the large quilt shows. They quickly decided what they wanted: a user friendly frame that wasn’t complicated or heavy to move. They chose a smaller machine, an APQS Lenni with an easy glide system.
Once it was set up in Connie’s attic, they took a few classes with Tracy Gardener-Russell at Whirls N Swirls in Oshawa. Tracy specializes in custom quiting, and Penny and Connie wanted to get a lot of quilts done so they decided to use pantographs. What to practise on??? Why, all those quilt tops of Penny’s!
Penny pops over after lunch to set up a new quilt or work on the one that’s already in the frame. Connie does her quilting in the mornings and evenings. So far, they’ve completed over 500 quilts. Most have been donated to guilds, ornangeville, markdale, quilts of valour but some still make it to family and friends.
So three years later, how are they feeling about their journey? “Still having fun!”… but they still haven’t caught up to all the tops they have….
Janet Slater has been sewing since the 1950’s. She started with clothing, coats, bathing suits and finally moved on to quilting in the late 1980’s. She started hand quilting. There were so many beautiful patterns she thought that she would never get a chance to try them all unless she found a different method that was a little faster than hand quilting. So the journey began.
She started piecing and machine quilting on a domestic machine. That was a little quicker, but those large quilts were difficult to push through the small throat of a domestic machine. She decided to buy a plastic frame that required a long table to set up on. Instead of pushing the quilt through the small opening of a domestic machine, she was able to move the machine around on the quilt.
She still found this a little tedious and she couldn’t do a large design by the time she got to the bottom of a quilt. So, her next move was to buy an 18” longarm in 2004, purchased and shared with a friend for a few years.
Janet finally worked up to buying a 26” Gammill in 2010! It’s on a 12 foot frame and is set up in a loft above the old room that used to be a Schoolroom. The machine and frame had to come through a window and then up a steep flight of stairs. (guess that shows you that you can set up in very difficult situations !)
In 2017 she upgraded the Gammill to work with a Statler CAD system. This enabled her to have so many more patterns at her disposal. It also gave Janet the ability to design and change patterns. This has been a great learning curve.
Janet was always self-taught until recently. Since she bought the Statler CAD system, she has taken courses each year to use it to the best ability. There is a great deal to learn as it is a powerful system!
How do Janet know what design or pantograph to use? She looks at the quilt and let it speak to her. She looks at the material to see if there is an element of design the customer could use. Most of all, she listens to the customer’s wants. “It is their quilt, not mine.” She usually spends ½ an hour to an hour with the customer, choosing designs and thread colours so that the customer knows exactly what the quilt will look at prior to it being done. She spends about 5-6 hours a day quilting.
Janet enjoys the creativity of her job and at the same time, she enjoys working her own hours. She finds that she can work weekends as well as days during the week when quilts are coming in fast and furious !
She loves her job, especially watching people’s reaction when she returns their quilts.
Janet can be reached at 519-943-0024 or via email at firstname.lastname@example.org. More information is on her website www.createwithjanet.ca