When my six-year journey with Handi Quilter began, I had already been quilting for 20 years, while serving in the army. At the time, I was preparing to retire in Hawaii and was looking to buy a longarm quilting machine as a retirement gift for myself. I had only used a Bernina machine for piecing, so I researched and looked for other brands. Eventually, I found New Home Sewing, owned by Ed, selling Handi Quilter. After much research and debate, I decided to buy the Fusion (no Forte 24-inch throat space on a 12-foot frame). As the Handi Quilter representative, Ed gave me a quick training, told me about the website, and encouraged me to draw to practice.
I set up my machine in my carport and played with free-motion quilting for the first year, finishing my quilts faster than I ever imagined. Most quilters are overwhelmed with the cost of longarm quilting machines, but I began to realize it is all about time vs. money. By spending the money to invest in a longarm machine, I now had time to do more than quilt. What used to take me days, only took hours. I joined the Hawaii Quilt Guild, the Oahu Modern Quilt Guild, and the Stitch and Fiber Guild. It was great to network and learn from other quilters. I went on my first quilt retreat to the Big Island at 'Quilt on the Beach.' It was such an amazing experience to work with both local and national quilt instructors.
As I started to get more passionate about quilting, I went to the Handi Quilter website to find support information to help me learn more. I attended the Handi Quilter Academy (4 days of classes) and learned so much, and met so many great people. At this Academy, I became friends with Kelly Ashton (Handi Quilter Educator), Angela Walters (Handi Quilter Ambassador), and many more. My knowledge and interest in the quilting industry expanded quickly.
A fellow quilter, Linda, did longarm quilting as a business and encouraged me to start. I started quilting for my friends and then expanded into a business (Camokai Studio). I quickly learned about edge-to-edge quilting and pantograph designs. It took a few years to get a steady flow, but word spread, and my turnaround time became longer and longer. I enjoy seeing all the quilters around the island of Oahu, talking story, and admiring the variety of quilting styles and fabrics used. I even had some customer from Molikai and Big Island mail me quilts. It is a great privilege when quilters trust you with their quilts.
I kept quilting and started exploring fabrics and making quilts to sell. I took many design and quilting classes, trying patterns, improvisation, and fabric design. Through this, I found my passion and style. I was very successful with T-shirt Quilts or Memory Quilts for students going to college, or family members that lost a loved one. I love to create improvisation quilts in a patchwork style rather than symmetrical patterns. My goal is to put a little piece of “Aloha” in each quilt.
I love that I’ve been able to design my fabrics to represent Hawaiian culture. I’ve created a relationship with Hawaiian Mission Houses and Archives. I was invited to be a vendor to sell quilts with them, and they started to carry my quilts in their store. Now I have merged their logo into my Hawaiian Alphabet panel. I also print with Honest Fabrics. Karlee (from Honest Fabrics) is a friend, who created an amazing business supporting whole cloth quilting. These panels are created to be quilted but can be framed and used as a tablecloth or any other creative gift idea.
During COVID, I created an online store to sell my quilts, which I had been previously selling at craft fairs around the island. One year I even had a booth at the Blaisdale Convention Center selling my own quilts and fabrics. These craft fairs and events are difficult to manage, but with support from friends, it is a great adventure.
My online store, Art Quilts Hawaii, allowed me to streamline everything into one place. I’m currently still trying to get everything uploaded into the store, take photos, make measurements, and write descriptions.
I was a caregiver for my mom until she passed in January 2022. Shortly after, Kelly and her husband were visiting Hawaii and stayed a night with me. We were able to catch up about life, our new jobs, and quilting projects. She had recently been promoted to sales manager and was in Hawaii to see Ed. I took her to New Home Sewing and a few other quilt shops around the island.
Two months later, Kelly called and asked me to be a Handi Quilter Retailer. At first, I laughed and said I didn’t want to own a quilt store. She told me I already did, Art Quilts Hawaii. After a few more conversations, I soon became the Hawaii Handi Quilter Retailer. I attended Retailer Academy in June 2022 and started planning events to reach out to the Hawaii Quilting Community to share my love of these machines and what they have to offer.
Now, in October 2022 I headed back to the Blaisdale Convention Center for a big craft and gift fair. This event will hopefully become an annual event every October, for anyone to discover quilting and try a machine. Though it is called the Holiday Craft and Gift Fair, the October show is where all the sewing machine shops on the island attend.
After serving in the military for 26 years, working on my own was hard. Now that I’m part of the Handi Quilter Family, I feel really welcomed and like I’m part of a large mission. Ed with New Home Sewing and Raj with Bernina of Hawaii have also been so supportive in helping me be successful. The Handi Quilter mission is education, and helping quilters finish their quilts. As a retailer, I’m required to hold three events each year and have machines for quilters to try. I currently have five Handi Quilter machines for my customers to compare the difference in the machines, and see how they feel. My mission is to share longarm quilting and find the answers quilters have about the quilting process and finishing a quilt. I also believe that these machine are a new way of art and hope to attract artists to explore thread and fabric.
After attending the Handi Quilter Academy I was familiar with most of the machines and accessories. The one area I didn’t have access to until now was the Pro-Stitcher. This is the computerized software that works with Handi Quilter machines and allows you to create designs on a tablet that moves the machine over your quilt. As my friend Kayong says, “it’s like a giant embroidery machine.” The design capability is amazing and it’s my current mission to learn this amazing software and share it with others. This software opens the door for artists to really explore their designs and convert them into stitching. I look forward to sharing quilting with all genders and ages and anyone that want to find a new creative hobby or business.
Please contact me for a free consultation and to come play on a Longarm Handi Quilter Machine.