Thursday, October 20, 2011

Start Your Own...With Penny Barnes

Our guest blogger this week is Penny Barnes.  Penny is a longarm quilter who incorporated her love for fabric and quilting into a career for herself, but in a different way than what you might think.  I admire her open spirit to take an opportunity when presented.  Thank you, Penny, for writing such a personal, tangible post for us today!

Hello Everyone! My  name is Penny  Barnes and I am a Fabricaholic, which has triggered symptoms of being a Quiltaholic as well.  I love fabric.  I love to look at it, touch it, and bring it home to my sewing stash.  Sometimes, occasionally (okay… most of the time) I purchase fabric without a definite plan in mind for it’s use. There is currently no known cure. I work at a local quilt shop called The Quilted Forest, located here in north central Iowa that feeds my habit. Okay.  There.  I said it.  Admitting I have a problem is key in beating the… Hey wait!  I don’t to cure this!   I love to make quilts for family, friends and people I’ve never met.  I’ve also recently made quilts to donate to a local Children’s Hospital.
 
In 2008, I started out working at the quilt shop on just the occasional Saturday, an opportunity to spend a day surrounded by my beloved fabric. I treasured those Saturdays.   I was working another full time job when, due to cuts, my position was eliminated.  My mom was admitted to hospice on that same day.  That’s what I call a bad day, but I carried on; was able to move in to another full time position which I like to refer to as The Job from Hell.  (Ever have one of those?)  Less than one year later, that position was eliminated as well, and it was a wake up call. Somebody was trying to tell me something.  It was time.  Time to step out in faith and into my world of quilts!  I was able to begin working several days a week at the quilt shop nursing my wounds.  Losing one’s job is hard. Being told it’s nothing personal when it still feels personal, is painful.  But now I was spending my day in my most favorite happy place, helping other quilters choose fabrics for their projects, sewing shop samples and getting paid for it.  It felt good.  (Is anyone else thinking about that saying “when one door closes  another one opens”?)


As part of my therapy to deal with losing my job, I decided I would make all of my kids and grandkids quilts that Christmas.  Did I mention I have 6 kids? And, at that time 4 grandkids?  (I have six now and one due next February)  Six plus four equals ten. (Yikes!) And I started in August.  Doesn’t that sound crazy? Yeah, I thought so too.  As I started finishing quilt tops, I wondered how I would ever afford the cost of getting them all quilted.  Enter another great idea: I asked my shop owner, Shelley, if I could learn how to run the longarm machine in our shop, so that I could quilt my own quilts on my own time.  She said YES!  So I got my first lesson...the week of Thanksgiving.  I had less than a month to finish all 10 quilts and I did it!  It wasn’t long after that the longarm quilter at the shop had to leave and I was asked if I wanted to take that position.  I was terrified.   The only thing I had done was a basic meandering stipple with the occasional star or heart.    I knew I couldn’t take on that job without more training, so was fortunate enough to enroll in some classes with Dawn Cavanaugh at APQS and have been doing all of the machine quilting at the shop since. 
One of the most important things I learned was to practice, practice, practice…and then practice some more! So my first purchase was a dry erase board.  I still use it when I want to experiment with a design I’d like to try.  I watch you tube videos and love to find books on machine quilting.  Some of my favorite and most inspiring books have been Freehand Patterns by Nan Moore, and Hooked on Feathers by Sally Terry.  I also have a few books by Sue Patten that have also been very helpful.  Qnntv.com has a show called Quilt It the Longarm Quilting show which has been awesome to watch and get ideas for quilting. There are so many great resources available for us quilters.  I love to experiment with new patterns and ideas in my quilting, whether for myself or customers.   What I have found is that everyone has their own style, even when you are attempting to mimic a design in an instructional book.  Your quilting is going to be your own.  And that’s a good thing.

I’ve had thoughts of purchasing my own longarm machine, and still may do so at some time so that I can continue to quilt my own quilts.  Longarm quilting can be a bit isolating.  It’s a lot of time with just you, the machine and the quilt, and hopefully some really great music on your IPod, which on some days is great.  I tend to be a people person and love my time with the customers who are shopping for fabrics.  Having the machine in the basement of a quilt shop lets me take an occasional break and have opportunity to do just that.
I feel so fortunate that I’ve gotten to experience so many aspects of the quilting industry since taking that one tiny step.  Offering to work that occasional Saturday has given me the  opportunity to experience quilt shows, quilt market and I’ve learned to be a longarm quilter.   I feel like I’m on such an incredible journey…and now the journey is taking me to Ireland!  I’ve been asked to be a tour escort for the International Quilt Festival of Ireland next June!  I can hardly wait!  Is it June yet?
So I guess my advice to you, if you are thinking about starting some sort of quilting business.  See if you don’t have an occasional Saturday in your schedule.   Just one small step could provide you with the experience and knowledge to decide if that’s the right path for you. 
I hope you’ll stop by and visit me on my blog Pieces of Me.
Penny

11 comments:

Flying Blind... said...

I wish my job could be eliminated if it opens up opportunities like that!

Love that green fleecey quilting!

Judith, Belfast said...

What a brilliant post from Penny! I would love to meet her when she's in Ireland next year! Do you know where the International Quilt Festival of Ireland is taking place in June? Jxo

Sheila said...

What a great story - and the quilt store looks fab!!

Trudi said...

That's a great story, and give me HOPE that my own little venture will take me on an incredible journey too!

Nicky said...

I think Penny's story says it all - one step leads to another! We need to be brave and make that first step...the rest will follow but it may not lead us where we think we are going...

Quilter in the Gap said...

How inspirational!! Now only to find a local quilt shop! LOL My only option would be to open one myself...is that possible "on an occasional Saturday"? hehehe Great story. Thanks for sharing.

Archie the wonder dog said...

What a great post! I know from experience that losing a job is painful but it does open up other opportunities - so glad Penny has now got a job that she loves!

Katy Cameron said...

Oh to have a local quilt shop to Saturday job at *sigh*

Still, wonderful story, and have fun in Ireland Penny!

beecee said...

oh yes, I was thinking when one door.... but importantly, you took the step though it.

susan said...

Great post from a very positive person. So glad she is finally in a job she loves. Nothing worse than hauling your body into work where you hate being there.

Penny Barnes said...

Thank you all for your wonderful comments! @Judith, International Quilt Festival of Ireland will be in Galway! Let's meet up!

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