Thanks for visiting Real Men Quilt! My quilting adventure is a bit of a love story. A few years ago my wife became ill (she is much better now) and I retired a few years earlier than planned to be with her and take care of her. I love my wife. I had been a very busy professional in the insurance industry and frankly needed to come up with an enjoyable hobby which would keep me busy but allow me to be at home. My part time real estate investing (buying, fixing up, and reselling old homes) and my golf game were very enjoyable, but took me out of the home.
One of the things she loved to do, and could do, was piece together quilt tops. We sent them out to a professional long-arm quilter to be quilted and they came back drop dead gorgeous! I decided to research long arm quilting as a possible new hobby. I figured if I could do the quilting at home my wife could have fun making more quilt tops without the expense of sending them out for finishing.
I found a nine foot wood frame with a stitch regulator on eBay for $500.00. I decided to give it a try. I purchased a Janome sewing machine with a 9.5” throat, mounted it on the frame, and began practicing on cheap lap size pieces of fabric. We had 19 grand-children at the time (we now have 26) so we decided to use my practice quilts as birthday presents. I love my grandkids. Each quilt was custom designed and quilted to fit that person. Frankly, the first few quilts were not that special, because I wasn’t very skilled, but they loved them! And in the process I became hooked on quilting!
When the word got around in the family that a quilt was sure to come on their next birthday, we began to get “suggestions” and “requests” from both the kids and their parents. Both my wife and I then had to transition from doing what we wanted, to doing what they wanted. It was a great leap forward for me to be able to execute things that were out of my comfort zone. And it made me a much better quilter.
The next turn in my quilt story involves my 88 year old mother. I love my mother. She has been making beautiful quilts all her life. She owned a large industrial Gammill Optimum quilting machine which has a 30” throat and sits on a twelve foot frame. She and my sister decided to go together and purchase a new computerized long arm machine. Since she knew my wife and I were having fun quilting she offered the Gammill to me so she would not have to sell it or store it in the garage. It didn’t take me long to convert my home office into my quilting studio, and the professional size machine was soon turning out bigger and better quilts!
The word soon got around among friends and neighbors that I was a real “long arm” quilter and I began to get requests to finish their quilts. I had customers who paid me for having fun. What a deal!
I joined the local quilting guild, the Boise Basin Quilters (or BBQ, as it is known locally) where I met 200+ amazing quilters. During the first monthly meeting there was a show and tell portion when I saw over a dozen beautiful quilts. I was blown away at the creativity and variety. I soon figured out that I knew nothing about real quilting (piecing). They are a constant source of inspiration to me. I am now a member of the board for the guild.
I was invited to join a group of local long arm quilters called the Quilt Whisperers which met twice a month. The focus of each meeting was show and tell and every meeting was a great learning experience for me. They introduced me to the tools of long arm quilting, the templates and rulers, which is the next chapter in my quilt story. I own a computerized carving machine, which is designed to carve wood, but can also carve cast acrylic. It soon became apparent to me that in order to execute some quilting shapes consistently (circles, ovals, hearts, swags, etc) I would need the help of a ruler or template. So as the need would arise I began to create a variety of acrylic templates using my carving machine. They worked awesome, and allowed me to take on more intricate and elaborate designs. The finished quilts became even more professional looking and even gave the appearance of being computer controlled.
Most of my customer quilts now involve custom quilting where the customer says, “Do whatever you want, you’re the expert.” I very seldom use pantographs or patterns. I have now progressed in my quilting skills to the point where I am comfortable executing custom quilts, wedding quilts, memory quilts and my favorite, wholecloth heirloom style quilts. I love it when a beautifully pieced quilt “whispers” to me I feel inspired as I add value and additional beauty. My favorite moment is watching the reaction when I deliver a quilt that surprises, delights and exceeds my customer’s expectations. I love to quilt. I would love to finish your quilt.
I told you it was a love story.