Pam Stalter spent most of her Saturday morning and afternoon greeting guests at the grand opening of Prairie Patchwork Creations before taking them on a test drive.
While her husband, John Stalter, discussed the ins and outs of the high-tech quilting machinery with a pair of curious customers, Pam offered her set of Prairie Patchwork Creations first-day visitors some hands-on experience with a fancy longarm quilter equipped with micro handles.
Looking more like an apparatus for an arcade game than a quilting accessory, the handles fit perfectly in the palms of Pam’s hands as she instructed guests to move the device any which way — etch a design, scribble some stitches, spell their name in cursive. The needle stirred at the slightest bit of movement from the operator, sewing a steady line of thread through the black fabric with relative ease.
If that quilting tool was too complex or afforded too much fluid control to the user, Pam directed customers to another table outfitted with a standard sit-down model powered by a foot pedal. However, the Handi Quilter-brand machine is still equipped with technologically advanced features that old school quilt makers could marvel at.
Jan Kain of Runnells, certainly had a bit of fun with both machines Saturday morning. She and Pam spoke openly about the tools and their quilting backgrounds, conversation reminiscent to the way car enthusiasts chat with each other. An avid quilter for many years, Kain likened the larger longarm machines to a model she keeps at home.
“It’s a great big thing. It’s long like this one,” Kain said, pointing to the Handi Quilter Infinity 26-inch longarm. “Only mine is an old machine that you do by hand.”
“Oh wow! So you don’t have a stitch regulator or any of that stuff?” Pam asked.
“You are,” Kain laughed. “You are the stitch regulator.”
Pam and John, who are authorized dealers of Handi Quilter goods, find the technology fascinating, albeit for different reasons. John, a recently retired shop teacher from Southeast Polk High School, likes learning the mechanics and assembling the machines. Pam, also a retired teacher, enjoys the control and automated stitch regulations when quilting a new piece.
Pam will be the first to admit she is no expert when it comes to quilting or owning her own business for that matter. But she is determined to give it her best shot.
“I’m still learning how to do all this,” she said. “I can do the piecing, but putting it all together and putting the quilting on, which really makes them pop, is still new to me … When we first started looking, I really knew nothing. It’s kind of nice to be able to have a place to practice and see how they work. That’s what we thought we’d try to do and provide.”
Why a quilting focused business? Well, it only seemed proper for the longtime sewing aficionado and her die-hard tinkerer. Together, they provide Handi Quilter sales and services to customers. Allowing customers to use machines for their own projects, or have someone familiar with the equipment make custom quilts for clients are options Pam and John have yet to decide.
“We’re toying with ideas,” John said. “I don’t want to be too confined. I hope to find somebody local who is good and would want to do it. We’re not in it so much for the money as we are providing an interesting thing that people enjoy, plus our own use.”
The first shipment of machines, they said, arrived in December. However, the business had not kicked off until summer.
To get the word out about the Prairie City quilting store located across the street from Goldie’s Ice Cream Shoppe, the couple worked 12-hour days in the Varied Industries Building at the Iowa State Fair. From 9 a.m. to 9 p.m. every day of the fair, Pam and John showcased the Handi Quilter tools.
“It helped us get started,” Pam said.
Although she had sewn for most of her life, Pam said she had hardly any time for much quilting between teaching full-time and raising three boys. Retired for almost five years now, Pam said she spent a great deal of her free time behind her embroidery and sewing machine and eventually gave quilting a chance.
Owning a quilting business also allows Pam to continue her stitching and patching ventures while also sharing the experience with both seasoned quilters and newbies. Ultimately, she and John hope Prairie Patchwork Creations makes customers as happy as they are when learning about new tech and techniques.
“This is new for us in a lot of ways,” Pam said. “We just want to make people happy.”
Contact Christopher Braunschweig at 641-792-3121 ext. 6560 or firstname.lastname@example.org