By TYLER MASK
Growing up, Connie Holland was surrounded by people who loved to sew, particularly her aunt and grandmother, who taught her the tricks of the trade. Her desire to finally open a quilting business began nearly 10 years ago as a dream that came into fruition last August as Hen House Quilts, located at 339 Millsap Highway.
In the quilting business there are two main ways to stitch a quilt together. The first way is by hand, and the second is through a process known as machine-quilting. The backbone of Holland’s machine-quilting business lies in a computer-powered tool called the long arm.
“The long arm is where you put the top of the quilt with some batting in the middle, and then a backing,” Holland said. “Then you sew them together, which is where the long arming comes in. Some people hand [stitch], but I do it by machine.”
What’s more, the benefits of machine-quilting seem nearly limitless.
“I can do different designs with my computer,” Holland said. “Like my western quilts, I can do western themes. If it’s a football quilt, I can do football themes.
“I can do a theme, whereas hand-quilters don’t usually do that. [Hand-quilting] is strictly an old-fashioned way of [quilting] and it’s nice – super nice – and those are very expensive quilts too because it takes a lot of time.”
According to Holland, there are two major benefits to machine-quilting. One, machine-quilting is consistent.
Holland is able to create the exact same design as many times as she wants.
Two, the amount of time it takes to stitch the sandwich (the three parts of a quilt minus the binding) is shortened to a matter of hours compared to hand-quilting, which can take months.
“I am taking what they used to do, and modernizing it,” Holland said.
The top part of the quilt is called piecing, which is made up of blocks and various patterns and designs. Holland said some customers like to piece and prefer her to long arm their quilts together so they can finish their products with precision and quickness and stick to designing the tops of the quilts. Another key thing customers enjoy is the intricacy Holland can provide.
“You can put more out versus hand-quilting,” Holland said. “With machine quilting, you can get more detailed sometimes and it just makes [the process] faster.”
Concerning cost, it is all about how fast things get done. You can’t really compare costs between hand-quilting and machine-quilting because it all depends on the who is doing it, how intricate the quilt is and how long it took to stitch it all together.
According to Holland, it boils down to just quilting two different ways.
Although machine quilting modernizes the way quilts are stitched together, all the quilt tops that Holland uses are either handmade by herself, or by her customers, so people can still take ownership over their quilts and say “I made that.”
“[Customers can] just bring in [their top] and the backing they want, and I [supply] the batting.
“Then I put it on [the long arm], hit a button on [the computer] and it [puts designs on it]. [Customers] just tell me what designs they want on their quilt.”
Customers have two options at HHQ.
They can either have Holland use her automatic long arm at a cost of a penny and a half per inch, or they can use Holland’s manual long arm and guide the machine along a computer-guided-pattern.
For customers wanting to go the manual route and take more charge over their quilt, all they have to do is pay $50 for an introductory course on how to use the manual long arm.
After that, they are charged $20 per hour. According to Holland, generally two to three hours is plenty of time for a customer to stitch their sandwich together.
To put things in perspective, Holland charges what seems to be a very fair price for her services. The automatic long arm runs about $28,000, and the manual long arm runs about $18,000.
But money is not why Holland opened shop.
When Holland began quilting and shopping around for places to do for her what she does now (putting quilt sandwiches together), she realized that prices were seemingly high, breaking $300 to $400 dollars at times.
By charging per inch or allowing her customers to manually do their own work, Holland gives people more control over how much they want to pay.
Another thing Holland mentioned was that she is frugal with where she buys her fabrics and supplies and always passes her savings on to the customers.
“My business is [here] to teach people. It’s not about the money. Ladies come and sew all day, and we pass around stories [and] help each other learn. And that’s what it’s about to me.”
To make things even sweeter, customers can bring in their own fabrics and materials they purchased elsewhere.
“They don’t have to come buy my fabric to sit and sew with me. It’s the sharing ... it’s not about the money.”
If quilts don’t interest you, it doesn’t stop there. Holland stresses that just about anything you can think of to stitch can be accomplished at HHQ. Beyond just long arms, Holland has an arsenal of tools that can get nearly any sewing job done.
“This is about having friends and family and being able to help someone.
“I want it to be something neat and fun.”
Whether you’re a quilting veteran or looking to start a new hobby, HHQ has the tools and the skill-set to accommodate you.
The business’ current hours are Tuesday through Thursday from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. and Saturday from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. Thursday nights also have an event called “Sit N Sew.”
For more information, contact HHQ at (940) 325-5858.