Up Close Quilting with Myrna Ficken

August 24, 2012

The APQS Up Close Quilting Series features APQS Quilt Artists who are also successful APQS dealers. These talented quilters have also established a successful quilting business and dealership.

This Up Close Quilting article features Myrna Ficken. Myrna started longarm quilting in 1998 when she worked at a longarm dealership. Today, she owns her own business, A Quilter’s Choice,in Laurel, Maryland where she teaches numerous classes and has come out with a number of quilting DVDs. Thanks for taking the time to talk to us, Myrna!

Q: Thank you so much for taking the time to talk to us, Myrna. How did you start quilting? Were their certain people in your life that introduced you to it, or did you just stumble across it?

A: Several years before I began quilting, I saw Marilyn Bagder on a quilt show, and I was in awe. She was my inspiration and still is today. I had the opportunity to get to know her several years later and we became good friends.

Q: What did the first quilt you made look like?

A: The first quilt I made was a king sized scrappy Log Cabin in blues calicos.

Q: Do you still have it?

A: No, I gave it to someone and was promptly commissioned to do three more. At the time, I was hand tying them as I had seen my mother do many times when I was young. She made quilts out of every scrap of clothing she could get. She made quilts for our beds to keep us warm. They were so heavy. I suspect she did it because she loved making them as well. Funny thing is, I still do not have a quilt on my bed.

Q: Did you begin your quilting journey as a longarm quilter?

A: No, I taught myself to piece in 1995. After the giant Log Cabin quilts I took a class and made a couple of wall hangings and sent them to Montana to be quilted. I wanted to do the quilting myself, so I requested DVDs about a couple of longarm machines. I found a dealer of another brand machine not far from where I lived, and I started working there until we were transferred out of the area. Back then it was frowned upon to have your quilts machine quilted. But some brave quilters came in and my business started to grow. At that time there were almost no longarm educators, we learned pretty much on our own. Not many shared what they knew for fear of losing their customers.

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

A: I purchased my first APQS longarm machine, a Millennium, in May 2002. I chose it because it moved like a feather and because it was stitch regulated. The stitches were perfect. Another big reason was the adjustable handles. I test drove it and went back and purchased it an hour later.

Q: How long were you a quilter before you became a dealer?

A: I was a longarm quilter for three or four years before I became a dealer. I used a different brand machine during those years. I liked my new Millennium so much I wanted to spread the word on what a great machine it was and help educate others looking to purchase a machine. I also have great respect for the company and what they stand for.

Q: When did you start A Quilter’s Choice and what made you want to start your own business?

A: I started my business in 2000. Starting my own quilting business was natural for me because I had always worked for myself. Quilting was something I could do no matter where I lived. The business started flourishing, and I was becoming extremely busy. Then I started traveling and working at quilt shows in the APQS booth and soon started teaching classes as well.

Q: How has teaching quilting classes across the U.S. and internationally impacted your quilting?

A: It has given me the opportunity to see so many marvelous pieces of work that I continue to draw from. It has also given me the great pleasure to meet so many wonderful quilters across the world, who all have the same passion. It is so rewarding to see a student have that ”ah-ha” moment. Not to mention, I also learn something new from every class I teach.

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

A: Read about the machines you are interested in. Write your questions down and call someone to ask them. I will always take calls from anyone. When you test one, pay attention for the qualities you are searching for. With so many brands out there now it can be quite confusing. I have seen so many quilters make a purchase because of a low price and they end up unhappy because the machine does not do what they need or expected it to do. Also, get as much as you can for your budget. Look at our used machines, they have a warranty and last forever!

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

A: Just do it. Relax, and try to not be hard on yourself. Nothing is perfect, every time you do something it gets better and every day is a new day. When you relax your shoulders and grip, everything else relaxes as well, and your quilting will become much easier and look better.

Also, practice on paper. When I started quilting I couldn’t draw anything but a stick man. Take classes when you can, purchase DVDs or books. Remember there is no wrong or right way; we all have our own way we do things.

Q: Anything else you’d like to add, or have us talk about?

A: Longarm quilting is a lot of fun, but it is WORK. It’s hard on your body, eyes and mind. Take breaks and step away if you need to. If you are tired and taking out as much as you are stitching in, stop because you are wasting your time. You must also learn that it’s okay to charge for your hard work. It’s your job, just like a plumber, painter, doctor or dentist. Your customers just get more enjoyment out of your work!