Our First UK Longarm Quilt Academy was designed for longarm quilters to enhance and increase their machine quilting skills, to be inspired by top teachers and to meet kindred spirits to enhance the community of quilters who use longarm machines. Quilters from novices to experts converged at our venue near Bristol, England - coming from all around the UK, Ireland, France, Denmark and Switzerland.
Kimmy Brunner and Kelly Cline were our main teachers. Kimmy has great skills built up over many years as a longarm quilter, especially with templates. Kelly's focus is on Vintage Quilting which I knew would appeal to many of our UK customers. They are both Handi Quilter Ambassadors and both have been voted Quilting Teachers of the Year in the USA so we knew that the teaching would be both excellent and inspiring.
Here's the story of our Academy 16-19th February 2018 in words and pictures.
Preparation started nearly a year earlier. We knew that we wanted to run a bigger event than just a single teacher event. Whilst we had the ability to set up the machines, get the fabric and supplies and find excellent teachers, there is always a lot more organisation than most people realise in taking bookings, invoicing, sorting out menus, liaising with the hotel plus at the actual event checking people in, dealing with any issues that arise, etc. I knew that we couldn't do that as well as support customers with 25 longarm quilting machines.
Fortunately Christine Porter who runs Cabot Quilting and I (Liz) had worked together since the late 1990s on various Cabot Quilting Conferences so I knew that with Chris' partnership we would be able to run the event successfully together. The venue would be Bristol Aztec Hotel, a 4* Spa Hotel that Chris has used for over twenty years for her Quilt Retreats.
In June 2017 I visited Salt Lake City for a week at Handi Quilter's Retailer and Consumer Academies. I took most of Kelly's classes so that I would know what to expect when she came over to our Academy. It was great to be in the classroom with Kelly and I knew that her style and inspirational quilting would go down really well with our customers.
Not only that but as you can see from the photos HQ Quilting Elevated was quite a bit of fun too!
We launched Academy with bookings after Festival of Quilts in August 2017 and within a matter of days we had sold out all the spaces and had a wait list!
During the following months Chris, Kimmy, Kelly and I refined the content of the classes, talked online and facetimed when we needed to and hammered out all the details with the aim of making sure everything would be ready for February 2018. Preparing for Academy took a week for the fabric preparation alone! All of Kimmy's samples had pre-stitched lines representing the ruler lines. These were done using Pro Stitcher, Handi Quilter's computerised quilting option.
Three days before Academy Kimmy and Kelly arrived in the UK - it was quite a relief as without them we didn't have any classes!!
Two days before Academy we loaded up two vans and our trailer and drove down to Bristol, ready to set up.
We had lots of help to unload from Alan and Denise Harwood (Alan is our Senior Engineer providing support and doing installations when required), Denise normally works at The Cotton Patch so she assisted with our in house shop in her time off (!), Lynda Jackson our Handi Quilter Educator and Ambassador, Abigail Sheridan de Graaff who is helping to do demonstrations at various shows and training events, Derek Weir, our newly trained engineer covering Northern Ireland and Ireland as well as parts of Scotland.
Here's Lynda with some boxes (in the sunshine!)
Having that help to unload and set up the 25 machines was essential. It took us from Thursday afternoon to Friday mid-day to get everything ready for the start of Academy on Friday afternoon.
Chris was assisted by Cecilia Magor and check-ins were happening as we finished setting up.
After everyone had arrived and had lunch we were ready!
The first day we mixed classes of standup and sitdown together so that everyone could have a machine to themselves in two sessions - it looked pretty impressive!
Lynda and Denise ready and waiting!
Kelly' beautiful vintage quilt made from an original vintage tablecloth. There are beautiful crystals that really make it shine.
Our First UK Longarm Quilt Academy Team. Left to Right: Derek Weir, Denise Harwood, Alan Harwood, Christine Porter, Kimmy Brunner, Pete Holpin Chuck Fresina (from Handi Quilter) and Kelly Cline.
Kelly Cline - vintage quilt based on handkerchiefs.
Kimmy with Liora
Alan and Derek serviced customer's machines during Academy.
Pete and Chris
Di and Sue
Carol and Roz
Lots of sitdowns
Abigail with Judith
Laura using the Infinity
A beautiful example of Kelly's work.
Pete - he's not talking about templates!
Kelly's talk on Vintage quilting with a trunk show provided the ideas and inspiration for her later classes.
Vintage quilting - using Cindy Needham's Ultimate Stencils for designing and marking.
Examples of Vintage quilts
Kelly's classes used vintage pieces in class to practice some of the techniques learnt.
Do what brings you joy and your purpose will unfold.
Kelly explaining how she achieved her finished quilt
Exercise! Always get up and stretch every half hour!
Back to the quilt face.
One on one tuition
Lots of laughter in class makes for lots of learning.
Quilt frame friends
Kimmy with her vinyl quilt. Can we just say learn from Kimmy - do not press your binding with a hot iron anywhere near a vinyl quilt.
Quilt frame friends - Jayne and Olenda.
Examples of some of the work on the standup frames in Kelly's class.
Sisters with a great sense of humour!
There's always time for photos when you're having this much fun!
Our Sitdown Quilters Class with Kimmy
Our standup Quilters Class with Kelly
On the final day the classes were a mix of Kelly doodling and Kimmy doing a little mug quilt. It was a nice change from the day long classes of the previous two days. The doodling on paper and fabric was a lot of fun. It's nice to do a manageable project and have a bit of playtime.
Roz is very colour-co-ordinated!
On the final afternoon Pete taught a class on Timing the Handi Quilter machines. Most customers will be able to get access to an engineer if they need repairing but the aim of this class was go give information on how to check whether something is amiss before calling for an engineer. Lynda Jackson did a class on binding and finishing techniques.
Binding and FInishing has become a really important part of what differentiates a great quilt from an exceptional quilt so customers who took part got some insight into how they could achieve a better finish.
It was all rounded off with a Forum with Christine Porter chairing with Lynda Jackson and Annelize Littlefair. There were lots of discussions about entering quilts in competitions and about the Radiance Challenge which is a special challenge run annually by Annelize Littlefair which seeks to increase the skill levels of all participants. Everyone who takes part has a Handi Quilter.
A raffle of a number of donated items from Makower, The Cotton Patch, Handi Quilter and Pinhole Quilting with a main prize of a beautiful cushion made by Kelly Cline (which Lynda won) raised nearly £400 for the local branch of the NSPCC.
In the evening we had a wonderful Gala DInner with drinks reception followed by a fabulous talk by Pauline Burbidge, who is a Quilt Artist and Handi Quilter Ambassador.
Brenda, Lynda, Nel and Liz
Brenda, Lynda, Abigail and Nel
Jane, Laura, Pam and Jane
Carl, Kelly and Pauline Burbidge
Christine and Neil Porter with Derek Weir and Cecilia Magor.
Jane, Sue and Pete
Annelize, Denise and Olenda
Roz, Kelly's husband Carl and Kelly
Kimmy and Nel
Carl was ill with a virus during the Academy - everyone decided they needed to wear facemasks to match the one Carl had been wearing!
Neil Porter, Christine Porter, Carl Kline, Kelly Kline, Kimmy Brunner, Pauline Burbidge and Pete Holpin
Doing the final thank yous.
Kimmy receiving her tiara courtesy of Nel
Kelly with her gifts.
The Pinhole Quilting / Cabot Conferences / Handi Quilter team.
Left to Right - Alan Harwood, Denise Harwood, Kelly Kline, Abigail Sheridan de Graaff, Denise Harwood, Pete Holpin, Liz Holpin, Derek Weir, Cecilia Magor, Kimmy Brunner and Lynda Jackson.
Our engineers - Derek and Alan
Pauline and Liz
Chrisinte Porter with a quilt made by Pauline Burbidge that Chris purchased many years ago. Pauline's talk was inspiring. A true artist sacrifices many things in pursuit of their craft. Pauline and her husband Charlie have created a beautiful space in which they can explore their self-expression in fabric, paint, paper, sculpture and so much is played out in their daily lives.
Pete and I had the privilege of visiting last year. You can read more about our visit on a previous blog post.
Nel with Kelly and Kimmy all wearing their Gala Dinner tiaras!
Academy was a huge project to run with many complexities but we know from feedback that it was a big success.
So, thank you to everyone who attended because without you we would not have been there! Secondly, huge thanks to the support staff - Lynda, Abigail, Derek, Chris, Cecilia, Alan and Derek.
None of it would have been possible without Kimmy and Kelly who provided fabulous classes. The results are already being seen in some of the quilts that are being quilted since 18th February.
If you would like to register interest for the next Academy sign up to our Email LIst here.
To read about Lynda's perspective on it, you can see her blog on UKQU here.
You can find Kelly's Facebook group on Vintage quilts here.
Kimmy Brunner offers classes on Craftsy - you can check those out here.