A Long(arm) Story: Renae Haddadin
Renae Haddadin at her longarm quilting machine. Photo by Jamie Thorpe.
Renae calls this quilt His Light Reflected and describes it this way: "I used 65 shades of thread to shade the ring of color. I hid spiritually significant words in the background to make this quilt personal. Those words are Jesus Christ is Lord, and Father, Son, Holy Spirit." Photo by Jan Gough.
Sugar and Spice by Renae Haddidin. This quilt is actually two-sided and features machine embroidery. Photo by Joy Gough.
On her website, Renae says that "this quilt includes many different techniques. One of those techniques is shadow embroidery. The colored fabric shows through the white fabric, hence the name Beauty from Within." Photo by Jim Lincoln.
In the last Suzy’s Fancy column, Quilting for the Public, I promised to introduce you to someone who does just that—quilt for the public—using a longarm quilting machine. Before I do that though, it might be a good idea to give a (very) brief primer on longarm quilting for anyone not familiar with it.
Longarm quilting uses a special sewing machine that allows its operator to mechanize the process of combining a quilt top, batting, and quilt back into a finished quilt. First developed in the late 1800s, today’s longarm quilting machines rely on sophisticated technology such as computerized machine heads and laser pointers to produce excellent results in a fraction of the time required by hand quilting or traditional machine quilting. Longarm quilting machines are large—they range from ten to fourteen feet in length—and consist of an industrial sewing machine head, a work table, and rollers on which the fabric layers are placed.
Longarm quilters can do either freehand meandering quilting or pantographs. Meandering designs rely on the quilter’s imagination, rather than any prescribed pattern. A pantograph is a long design that can be placed beneath a plastic layer on the longarm table and traced using the laser pointer on the machine head. A pantograph usually spans the entire length of the quilt and can be repeated in rows to produce an overall design on the quilt top. Pantographs allow a quilt to be finished relatively quickly.
Because of the quick turnaround, affordable pricing, and aesthetically pleasing results, longarm quilting has both streamlined and popularized the quilting-for-hire process and brought a new brand of quilting professionals into the marketplace.
Renae Haddadin is one such professional longarmer, and keeps two machines busy full time. The award-winning quilter, writer, inventor, teacher and occasional marathon runner lives in Sandy, Utah (a suburb of Salt Lake City). Renae began using a longarm quilting machine in 2001—although she started quilting by hand more than a decade earlier.
“I saw a Baltimore Album quilt and fell in love with it. I said to myself, ‘I need one of those!’” recalls Renae. “My older sister, who taught me to quilt, told me that it probably wasn’t such a great idea to begin with a Baltimore Album, so she started me out with a 12-inch square block instead.”
Renae enjoyed making quilts, and perfected her skills during the nine years that she lived in Jordan. When she returned to the United States, her quiltmaking kicked into overdrive. “I started ‘losing it’ when I saw the plethora of wonderful fabrics here,” Renae laughs. “I hated hand quilting though, so I sent my tops to a longarmer to be quilted. By the third quilt, however, I realized that the quilter just didn’t have the same vision for my quilt as I did.”
Around that same time, Renae’s youngest child started the first grade. Renae had been thinking of a way she could earn some extra money since her children were all in school, and she decided that she might like to try quilting for the public herself, with a longarm. There were only a couple of problems with this idea: she didn’t have a longarm machine and she didn’t know how to use one.
Not one to be deterred by such hurdles, Renae started looking in magazines for longarm machines, and when she found one that looked good to her, she ordered it. She then set about mastering the machine. Working long hours to become proficient, she began winning awards with her quilts after only nine months. Not long after that, customers started lining up to have Renae quilt for them, and her business was off and running.
By 2004, Renae had become so adept at using the longarm machine that she began teaching others how to do it. A born problem solver, she invented a series of tools for marking quilts and drafting radiating lines and circles. The tools, known as Renae’s Amazing Rays, Renae’s Mini Rays, and Renae’s Amazing Arcs, can be used either in longarm quilting or hand quilting. She has released an instructional DVD for the tools and has written a book about them, Amazing Ways to Use Circles and Rays, which will be published in March of 2010. She writes articles for various publications, travels widely teaching workshops, and provides tips and techniques on her website, www.renaequilts.com. Renae’s sister now operates one of her two longarm machines.
Although longarming is now Renae’s main source of income, quilting is not just a job to her. When asked if the creative aspect was a part of the process for her, Renae’s response was immediate and emphatic. “Absolutely!” she said. “In fact, I’m not sure which one is more important to me.”
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Column 90: Leitmotif for a Lifelong Love Affair
Column 89: Quilting in The Bahamas
Column 88: Joan of Arc: A Quilter's Inspiration
Column 87: Home Demonstration Clubs and Quilting
Column 86: Linzi Upton and the Quilted Yurt
Column 85: A Bounty of Quilts
Column 84: Desert Trader
Column 83: Quilts and the Women’s Liberation Movement
Column 82: Replicating the Past: Reproduction Fabrics for Today’s Quilts
Column 81: Why So Many Quilt Shops in Bozeman, Montana?
Column 80: Southeastern Quilt and Textile Museum
Column 79: 54 Tons of Quilt
Column 78: Ollie Steele Burden’s Quilt Blocks
Column 77: Quilting with AMD
Column 76: Maverick Quilts and Cowgirls
Column 75: The Modern Quilt Guild—Cyberculture Quilting Ramps Up
Column 74: The Membership Quilt—Czech Quilting in Texas
Column 73: Maximum Security Quilts
Column 72: Author: Terri Thayer
Column 71: The Christmas Quilt
Column 70: New Mexico Centennial Quilt
Column 69: Scrub Quilts
Column 68: “Think Pink” Quilt Raises Funds for Rare Cancer Research
Column 67: Righting Old Wrongs.
Column 66: 100 Years, 100 Quilts - More on the Arizona Centennial.
Column 65: Arizona Centennial Quilt Project
Column 64: Capt. John Files Tom’s Family Tree
Column 63: The Fat Quarters
Column 62: Quilt Fiction Author: Clare O’Donohue
Column 61: Louisiana Bicentennial Quilt
Column 60: The Camo Quilt Project.
Column 59: Thread Wit
Column 58: Ralli Quilts
Column 57: Preschool Quilters
Column 56: The Story Quilt
Column 55: Red and Green Quilts
Column 54: On the Trail
Column 53: Quilt Trail Gathering
Column 52: True Confessions: First Quilt
Column 51: Quilted Pages
Column 50: Doll Quilts
Column 49: More Than a Quilt Shop
Column 48: Las Colchas of the Texas-Mexico Border
Column 47: Literary Gifts
Column 46: A Different Way of Seeing
Column 45: Sampling
Column 44: Hen and Chicks
Column 43: A Star Studied Event
Column 42: Shoo Fly Pattern
Column 41: Awareness Quilts
Column 40: Tivaevae
Column 39: UnOILed UnspOILed Coast Quilt Project
Column 38: Katrina Recovery Quilts
Column 37: Quilted Vermont
Column 36: The Labyrinth Quilt—A Meditative Endeavor
See other archived columns here