About Pam and Quilting
Like so many passions, they are either discovered or you're born into them.
I was born into quilting, crafting, and cooking. I can still remember when I was a child sitting at my mother's feet as she handed me scraps to sew together as I pretended to mimic her quilting. I would sit under the quilting frame made of 2 x 2 poles that hung from the basement ceiling to pass the needle back up to the neighborhood ladies that came often to our basement for a quilting bee. My mother and my grandmothers as far as I can remember, and as far as my mom and paternal grandmother can remember, quilted. These women were far more disciplined than me. They worked hard during the day on farms or just their house and yard, cooked all meals, mended all clothes, and took care of the children. At night, they quilted by hand from cut out cardboard shapes they either drew or cut out of the newspaper. They worked a couple of hours on their quilt and then exhausted, went to bed to start all over again. I'm sure they looked forward to that time when they could be still and enjoy the feel of the fabric in their hands and the needle being pulled in and out to create a masterpiece that took time and patience. As for me, chores come second to quilting. The love for this art runs rich and deep in my blood. It's a passion that is often hard to control. It's a passion that grows with the desire to make something with my own hands for someone else. They often don't know of the love and effort that goes into their gift. This matters not to me. Giving to others is probably my greatest joy.
Even though I was born into quilting, I didn't actually get serious with it until 2000. My husband and I bought 20 acres of land in Georgia and put a mobile home on it while we watched our dream house being built. During that time I pieced a king size log cabin quilt by hand while watching my two, now grown, boys play. In 2006, I was diagnosed with Thyroid Cancer and I can remember thinking that I wanted to make more quilts so that if anything ever happened to me, I could leave a little bit of my love behind in a handmade gift. Luckily this cancer was very treatable and I'm now 13 years cancer free. It was in 2006 that I began to take quilting lessons to learn to make a quilt from instructors. I was self taught and only knew what little mama had taught me. As I began taking classes, I was determined that by hand was the only way to properly quilt until I witnessed how much faster I could get a quilt done with a sewing machine.
I bought a Baby Lock 1900 sewing machine. Now I own 4 Baby Locks and a Bernina. It was also during my first quilt lesson in 2006 that I learned about longarm quilting machines. These totally fascinated me. I gave my quilts to a lady at the local quilt shop and she doodled designs over the top, batting, and backing to make my pieced top a quilt. I can remember having separation anxiety from handing over my pieced top to someone else to quilt. I had this little voice in the back of my head saying, "You can do this".
I have always doodled. In school I would get into trouble for doodling on my papers. I doodled to listen better. I also loved it. In 2010 I decided to rent a Handiquilter Longarm machine at a local quilt shop. I can still feel the anxiety and excitement as one of the ladies taught me how to load the machine and operate it. The quilt was made for a friend's baby girl and I had used ladybug fabric as this was the nursery theme, so I decided to do a leaf meander all over the quilt. As soon as I started driving the machine and getting a few pointers from the lady assisting me, I fell in love with it. I didn't want to stop and when I was done in about 2 hours, I was sad that I had finished and I wanted to do it again. I still feel this same emotion today whenever I finish a quilt on my longarm.
So in 2006, when I was diagnosed with cancer and then successfully treated, my wonderful husband, realizing life is short and we should make the most of it, bought me a Jaguar convertible, my dream car. I was so surprised and so deeply moved by this gift. I drove it very little for 4 years, wanting to keep it looking nice and in good shape and I didn't want to put too many miles on it. I enjoyed it immensely when I did drive it. So in 2010 when I quilted my first quilt driving a longarm machine, I knew I wanted one but they were so dang expensive. I approached my husband and told him I wanted to trade in my Jaguar for something that I knew I'd drive more...a longarm. So we sold that beautiful convertible and bought a Handiquilter Avante. My two boys still haven't forgiven me. They would walk by my studio with their friends and say, "That machine is my mom's Jaguar." In 8 years, I put almost 8.5 million stitches on that "Jaguar". I took lessons at every expo and quilt show that I could. It took me 6 years to feel confident on the machine.
I retired as a teacher in 2014, and then had more time for training out-of-town, including AQS Quilt Weeks , Birds of a Feather, and lots of training videos from Jenny Doan of Missouri Star Quilt Company, Angela Walters of Quilting is my Therapy, Jamie Wallen of Quilters Apothecary, Natalia Bonner of Piece and Quilt, and The Quilt Show to name a few, further improving my skills. These talented people taught me whenever I wanted a lesson in my own home and helped me on my longarm journey.
In March of 2018, we bought a Handiquilter Amara, a larger and more updated longarm machine and were going to sell my Avante. I just couldn't part with it so we decided to keep it. I've only had my Amara for a year and it already has more than 15 million stitches on it. I started quilting for Quilts of Valor and I've done about 50 quilts for them in a year or so. I realized then that I wanted to start a quilting business and help other people complete their quilts. As a result, Down South Quilting was born. We bought a Handi Quilter Pro-Stitcher for computerized quilting, and it has been installed on my Avante so that I can offer affordable edge-to-edge quilting to customers.
My love is custom quilting. I love creating designs and fitting them inside the quilted blocks to bring them to life. I think about quilting almost every second of the day and I dream about it at night. I can't wait to get up each day and begin quilting. Being with my family is my first love but quilting is running a very close second. My husband has learned the maintenance of the machines and can time them and service them. My heart is so full knowing he loves me so much to learn about and get involved with my passion. Just like a verse from my favorite song, "I can fly higher than eagle, but he is the wind beneath my wings", is what I think and feel daily about my husband. Sorry y'all, I got the best partner in the world to share life with. My whole family knows and can feel my love of quilting. Now I have my sons' two girls involved as well and knowing this art is being passed on in our family has given me joy. Now as I patiently wait for grandchildren, I have high hopes that they will also want to know this art.
I often wonder when customers hand over their quilts to me to quilt if they feel that same little feeling I had of separation anxiety. I like to tell them that I will love their quilt as if it were mine and it's in good hands. My quilting business offers custom and computerized quilting, quilt piecing lessons and also longarm quilting lessons. I would love to help others cross over into that feeling of being confident on their longarm machine. Thanks for reading about me! Remember, Life is short. Do more of what makes you happy!
Many blessings to you,