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Column #16

A Long(arm) Story: Renae Haddadin

Kate Renae Haddadin at her longarm quilting machine. Photo by Jamie Thorpe.


AwawaRenae calls this quilt His Light Reflected and describes it this way: "I used 65 shades of thread to shade the ring of color. I hid spiritually significant words in the background to make this quilt personal. Those words are Jesus Christ is Lord, and Father, Son, Holy Spirit." Photo by Jan Gough.


AwawaSugar and Spice by Renae Haddidin. This quilt is actually two-sided and features machine embroidery. Photo by Joy Gough.


AwawaOn her website, Renae says that "this quilt includes many different techniques. One of those techniques is shadow embroidery. The colored fabric shows through the white fabric, hence the name Beauty from Within." Photo by Jim Lincoln.

In the last Suzy’s Fancy column, Quilting for the Public, I promised to introduce you to someone who does just that—quilt for the public—using a longarm quilting machine. Before I do that though, it might be a good idea to give a (very) brief primer on longarm quilting for anyone not familiar with it.

Longarm quilting uses a special sewing machine that allows its operator to mechanize the process of combining a quilt top, batting, and quilt back into a finished quilt. First developed in the late 1800s, today’s longarm quilting machines rely on sophisticated technology such as computerized machine heads and laser pointers to produce excellent results in a fraction of the time required by hand quilting or traditional machine quilting. Longarm quilting machines are large—they range from ten to fourteen feet in length—and consist of an industrial sewing machine head, a work table, and rollers on which the fabric layers are placed.

Longarm quilters can do either freehand meandering quilting or pantographs. Meandering designs rely on the quilter’s imagination, rather than any prescribed pattern. A pantograph is a long design that can be placed beneath a plastic layer on the longarm table and traced using the laser pointer on the machine head. A pantograph usually spans the entire length of the quilt and can be repeated in rows to produce an overall design on the quilt top. Pantographs allow a quilt to be finished relatively quickly.

Because of the quick turnaround, affordable pricing, and aesthetically pleasing results, longarm quilting has both streamlined and popularized the quilting-for-hire process and brought a new brand of quilting professionals into the marketplace.

Renae Haddadin is one such professional longarmer, and keeps two machines busy full time. The award-winning quilter, writer, inventor, teacher and occasional marathon runner lives in Sandy, Utah (a suburb of Salt Lake City). Renae began using a longarm quilting machine in 2001—although she started quilting by hand more than a decade earlier.

“I saw a Baltimore Album quilt and fell in love with it. I said to myself, ‘I need one of those!’” recalls Renae. “My older sister, who taught me to quilt, told me that it probably wasn’t such a great idea to begin with a Baltimore Album, so she started me out with a 12-inch square block instead.”

Renae enjoyed making quilts, and perfected her skills during the nine years that she lived in Jordan. When she returned to the United States, her quiltmaking kicked into overdrive. “I started ‘losing it’ when I saw the plethora of wonderful fabrics here,” Renae laughs. “I hated hand quilting though, so I sent my tops to a longarmer to be quilted. By the third quilt, however, I realized that the quilter just didn’t have the same vision for my quilt as I did.”

Around that same time, Renae’s youngest child started the first grade. Renae had been thinking of a way she could earn some extra money since her children were all in school, and she decided that she might like to try quilting for the public herself, with a longarm. There were only a couple of problems with this idea: she didn’t have a longarm machine and she didn’t know how to use one.

Not one to be deterred by such hurdles, Renae started looking in magazines for longarm machines, and when she found one that looked good to her, she ordered it. She then set about mastering the machine. Working long hours to become proficient, she began winning awards with her quilts after only nine months. Not long after that, customers started lining up to have Renae quilt for them, and her business was off and running.

By 2004, Renae had become so adept at using the longarm machine that she began teaching others how to do it. A born problem solver, she invented a series of tools for marking quilts and drafting radiating lines and circles. The tools, known as Renae’s Amazing Rays, Renae’s Mini Rays, and Renae’s Amazing Arcs, can be used either in longarm quilting or hand quilting. She has released an instructional DVD for the tools and has written a book about them, Amazing Ways to Use Circles and Rays, which will be published in March of 2010. She writes articles for various publications, travels widely teaching workshops, and provides tips and techniques on her website, www.renaequilts.com. Renae’s sister now operates one of her two longarm machines.

Although longarming is now Renae’s main source of income, quilting is not just a job to her. When asked if the creative aspect was a part of the process for her, Renae’s response was immediate and emphatic. “Absolutely!” she said. “In fact, I’m not sure which one is more important to me.”


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Archived blogs:

Column 149: Rosie’s Redwork
Column 148: The Quilt of Belonging
Column 147: Kanthas—The Quilts of Bangladesh
Column 146: Patterns
Column 145: Suzy on Carolyn Mazloomi's Groundbreaking Quilt Exhibit
Column 144: Texas Community Marks Juneteenth Sesquicentennial with History Quilts
Column 143: Maya Embroidered Patchwork
Column 142: Huipil Patchwork Quilts
Column 141: Tom Korn’s Military Medal Quilts
Column 140: The Return of Double Knits!
Column 139: Passage Quilts
Column 138: Home of the Brave Quilts
Column 137: The Story of Fabric Yo-Yos
Column 136: Christmas in July
Column 135: Trifles
Column 134: Deaf Initiatives—Communicating Through Quilts
Column 133: My Betty Boop Quilt
Column 132: Maura Grace Ambrose
Column 131: All You Need Is Love
Column 130: Chicken Linens
Column 129: The Quilted Chuppah
Column 128: Patchwork Around the World: Yoruba Dance Costumes
Column 127: The Bowers Co-Op Quilts
Column 126: Fon Appliqué and Haitian Voodoo Flags
Column 125: The Quilt Garden at The North Carolina Arboretum
Column 124: Harriet Powers and Handful’s Mauma
Column 123: Quilters de Mexico
Column 122: An Appliquéd Surprise
Column 121: Matisse’s Fabric Stash
Column 120: Soogan—The Cowboy’s Quilt
Column 119: The Ron Swanson Quilt
Column 118: HClarkdale, Georgia—A Thread of History
Column 117: How WWI Changed the Color of Quilts in the United States
Column 116: Wagga—The Bushman’s Quilt
Column 115: All in the Family
Column 114: The Alabama State Quilt
Column 113: Balloon Quilts of Albuquerque
Column 112: The Family That Quilts Together, Stays Together
Column 111: Two Rivers, Three Sisters
Column 110: Quilters Helping Quilters
Column 109: Community Cookbooks and Fundraiser Quilts—Parallel Histories
Column 108: Quilting to Freedom
Column 107: National Quilting Day
Column 106: The Airing of the Quilts
Column 105: A Call for a National Juneteenth Commemorative Quilt
Column 104: Dominoes
Column 103: 1936 Texas Centennial Bluebonnet Quilt
Column 102: Helen Blackstone, A Texas Quilter
Column 101: Montana CattleWomen Anniversary Brand Quilt
Column 100: 100th Suzy's Fancy Column!
Column 99: Montana Stockgrowers Anniversary Brand Quilt
Column 98: The Tobacco Sack Connection
Column 97: Meet the Sisters Who Are State Fair Quilting Queens
Column 96: The connection between fairs and quilts.
Column 95: Her Mother Pieced Quilts
Column 94: Rebecca Barker’s Quiltscapes
Column 93: The Thread and Thimble Club Mystery

See other archived columns here


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