Long Arm Quilting Christmas

by Dave Brown

The Millie Machine

The Millie Machine

This story begins as any long arm quilters may during the Christmas season.


It was the first Christmas season since we started our quilting business. My wife, Jane is the designer and “piecer”, as well as the consultant on my long arm projects. Jane had been piecing and I had been “long arming” for what feels like 24-7 for several weeks. The date was on or about December 17th.


We’d been in the long arm business only since March of the same year. In just that short time we had developed a close relationship with many of our clients and they were more like friends.

On that day, we came home to find a box sitting by our front door. In that box were 4 quilt tops with a note from Elizabeth – or Liz as she preferred. Liz was one of our clients, who we now considered such a friend. Her instructions indicated on the flowered appliquéd top to SID (stitch in the ditch) and copy the flower and leaf quilting pattern from a drawing she included. For the remaining tops, she just wrote “do what you do best, Dave, your choice for quilting. Please use cotton batting and neutral backing fabric. Thread color is your choice. I know this is asking a lot, but please, please have these done by Christmas.”

I looked at Jane and said, “I don’t know if we’ll make it, but we can try. I’ll call Liz and tell her we'll do our best. I called her number and just got her answering machine and left her the message.

I had felt very good, as I had just completed the last of my Christmas “rush” quilts for the season. But now there were 4 more to complete!!!

The appliquéd quilt appeared to be a very “special” quilt. That night I sat down to my computer. I copied and digitized the pattern from Liz’s drawing. It was not too hard as it was simple leaves and flowers as fill in for some triangle setting pieces. The rest of the top was very busy and did not need much quilting. I then transferred this triangle motif design to my trusty, “Millie” - long arm machine's computer. I applied this new design to the specific areas and then added freehanded fill patterns to the rest.

Jane chose the backing fabrics for each quilt. I then cut and squared the backing fabric to fit and then mounted the piece to the quilting frame, added the batting and then the appliquéd top. The process went well, as Liz was an excellent quilter – her quilt tops were square and laid flat, including the borders. It was the reason I felt it would be possible to have her quilts done by Christmas.

On December 23rd, I started the last of the quilt tops. It appeared to be the easiest, as all it needed was an allover pattern to match the theme of the quilt top fabric. As I lifted out the last quilt from the box, I noticed a small bag under the quilt. In the bag, there was a label and binding prepared for each quilt top, with a note.

“I am so sorry to be such a bother, but please ask Jane to put the binding and labels on for me. I would so, so much appreciate it.” This was very unusual, as Liz loved to complete her own quilts. I called Jane over and she read the note. She gave me an “I don’t know” look and said, “This may be impossible, but I will get done what I can”. After all, Liz was one of our best customers and friends. If we could help her – we would.

Jane set to work and had attached the binding to the front of 3 of the quilts by noon of the 23rd. Gathered them up with her thread, needle and thimble and headed for her favorite chair in the living room to hand sew the binding to the backs of the quilts and attach the labels. She knew she would be there for hours. I completed quilting the last quilt by 2 in the afternoon.

Jane took a break from hand sewing and quickly attached the binding to the front of the 4th quilt. She then continued with her hand sewing. She noticed each quilt had a theme and something very special about them – a little extra special touch added to each one.

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