The First UK Longarm Quilt Academy

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.

Kelly Cline, Liz Holpin and Kimmy Brunner

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!

Longarm Classroom

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.