Up Close Quilting with JoAnn Hoffman

July 30, 2012

The APQS Up Close Quilting series returns this year with a spotlight on APQS Quilt Artists who are also successful APQS dealers. These individuals are not only talented quilters in their own right, but have also established a successful quilting business and dealerships.

Our next dealer is JoAnn Hoffman. JoAnn had been doing embroidery for 20 years when she discovered longarm quilting. She has since built a successful quilting studio and dealership in the Black Hills of South Dakota. Thanks for taking the time to talk to us, JoAnn!

Q: What sparked your interest in quilting? How did you get into it?

A: I’ve always had an interest in turning thread into art. I was an embroidery design digitizer in California for over 20 years, creating corporate logos for companies like Sea World, Mirage Hotel, Coca-Cola and others.

I moved to Hill City, South Dakota in 1994 when I met a South Dakota cowboy who would not have survived in California. To make friends, I joined the local garden club and quilt guild. And that’s when I fell in love with quilting. The Hill City Quilt Guild was made up of great women that were willing to share, and they soon became my best friends.

Q: What did the first quilt you made look like? Do you remember the colors and patterns?

A: Of course! I made a purple batik lonestar quilt. Doing “Y seams” to set in the triangles and squares around the star were a little challenging for a beginner and, of course, there is always a volcano in the center. Now I know better and I know a much easier way to do it.

Q: Did you begin your quilting journey as a longarm quilter? If not, how did you make the transition?

A: After I made my first quilt I shopped around for a longarm quilter who suited me best. I was informed I could send my quilt to her in three months, and then have it back 4-6 weeks later. WHAT? I started calling every longarm quilter in the area and was told the same story. The average turnaround time was 3-6 months. Instead of getting frustrated, I got excited and decided that this must be a great business to be in. I was used to working with embroidery machines so I thought this would be an easy transition.

Q: When did you purchase your first APQS longarm quilting machine? Do you remember why you chose the Millennium?

A: I purchased my first longarm, which wasn’t an APQS, in 2004 sight unseen. I fought with the machine for 9 months because it bounced, vibrated, fishtailed, and I had no control. I was so frustrated thinking it was me and that I wasn’t getting it. So I went on the Internet and found the best longarm quilter I could find and flew to the west coast to take private lessons.

Within minutes of laying my hands on her APQS Millennium I could do everything I couldn’t do before. Bells went off in my head, and I could hear the angels sing. I was sooooo happy. I went home, sold my machine and purchased a Millennium within weeks. I now own an APQS Freedom with IntelliQuilter.

Q: How long were you a quilter before you became a dealer? What prompted this move?

I knew immediately I wanted to be a dealer. Since I already had a background in sales, I knew only to sell products I’m in love with. I was totally in love with my Millennium that would do everything I wanted it to do. I became a sales rep in 2005. I am blown away by the talented, award-winning reps APQS has on their roster, and I am honored to be a part of the family.

Q: Purchasing a longarm quilting machine is a big step. What advice do you have for quilters who are thinking about it?

A: Definitely go to quilt shows and test drive all the machines. Find a good local sales rep that will train you and answer all of your questions.

You also have to have a passion for quilting and you have to allow yourself time to learn. The more time on the machine, the more control you have. You also have to be willing to buy books, videos and take classes from experts to advance your skills. I still take classes and if I learn one thing to use on a customer’s quilt or make my life a little easier it was worth it.

Q: What are the most common questions you receive from people who are in the market for a longarm?

A: Is it easy to use; is it easy to maintain; can you add a computer and what about customer service? With APQS’s 8-year warranty and great customer service it’s a no brainer. There’s nothing to worry about. I’m more concerned that the quilter buys the right batting and thread and knows how to test their bobbin tension.

Q: What’s it like being an APQS dealer and running a quilting business? Can you give us some insight into a “typical” day?

A: Every day is a little different but it always revolves around quilting. I am either making a quilt or quilting a quilt for myself or customers. I spend time digitizing designs for computerized quilting and sell them on my website www.compuquilterdesigns.com. I also check the APQS forum often to see if anyone needs advice, a pat on the back or a prayer. It’s a wonderful group of people and you can find an answer to just about anything, anytime of the day.

Q: What is the most important thing people should keep in mind as new quilters?

A: Not all beginner quilters (newbies) are born with quilt designs in their heads. The designs have to come from someplace. Start by taking pictures of the quilting on the quilts, and not just the whole quilt, when you attend quilt shows. I also recommend www.webshots.com to get quilting ideas. It is a virtual library of quilting designs. If you put Irish Chain in the search box, 500 different quilting ideas will pop up.

When you start quilting the quilt and you think you made a bad mistake don’t pick it out, keep going. Just continue and finish the quilt. When you are done you can roll the quilt back and look for what bothers you. Most the time you can’t find it. If you see it and it still bothers you, then pick it out and redo. It’s only thread.

Go to your local guild and get 15 charity quilts and practice loading and quilting different pantographs or experiment with freehand. They don’t care if there are booboos as long as they don’t have to tie them. Most of all have fun, relax, don’t stress – after all, it’s just a blankie with stitches.

APQS Roadshows

Want to try out an APQS longarm quilting machine?  Want to try out JoAnn’s APQS longarm quilting machine – the Freedom?

The APQS Road Show crew is traveling across the country, giving you the chance to try them out for yourself and to discover what model is right for you. Click here for more information and to find out where we will be next.

Not able to make it to one of our road shows? Download our updated information kit, instead.