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Burns woman adds creative touches to machine quilting

Work can be seen at Marion City Library quilt show

Staff writer

Fern Goodwin, 66, of Burns, has been in the machine-quilting business for 10 years. She said she finishes 65 to 70 quilts a year.

She noted that machine-quilting is much faster than hand-quilting, and women are willing to pay for it.

“Many women love to piece tops but have no desire to sit and quilt for days and days,” she said. “They can pay to have a quilt hand-stitched, too, but not many groups are available to do that anymore. So, more and more, people are turning to machine-quilting.”

She uses a laser-guided machine to produce patterns that run throughout a piece or on certain sections. She also creates her own custom designs using a ruler to produce straight lines and free-form quilting to add her own creative touches.

The quilting table she uses is 12 feet long. Goodwin assembles the quilt between rollers, putting the backing in place first, then the batting, and then the cover.

The quilting machine spans the width of the table and moves along the width of whatever quilt is assembled on the table. The machine is operated from one end to do laser-guided quilting and from the other end for custom quilting.

Goodwin said the simplest and least time-consuming job is one that requires edge-to-edge quilting, repeating the same pattern across the width of the quilt. Custom quilts require “brain power” to create and mark designs before quilting can begin.

“When I first get a quilt, I have to study it for a while,” she said. “Then I see patterns that come to mind.”

Goodwin began her business at the suggestion of her husband, Ron. She was a bookkeeper at Ludwig’s Trucking in Florence and was looking for something she could do at home. He speculated that many women probably had quilt covers tucked away in drawers or boxes just waiting to be quilted.

He was right. Since she bought her first machine, she has had a steady stream of customers. Even after she had been off the job for three months while recovering from a broken arm, it didn’t take long for customers to return.

Goodwin said she never had much interest in quilting but did a lot of custom sewing years ago. Machine quilting has paid off. She charges by the square inch.

She said she spends from 6 to 25 hours or more on a quilt, depending on the pattern and size. She currently has a stockpile of 15 to 18 quilts awaiting her expert touch.

She is on her third machine since starting 10 years ago. She learned the trade on a used one and has updated twice with new ones. She buys the machines in Kechi.

Goodwin keeps her templates, threads, and other supplies in a custom-designed cabinet.

Ann Wiederstein of Newton delivered a quilt top Thursday to Goodwin’s home at 404 Cemetery Lane. Wiederstein had heard of her through a friend.

Goodwin consulted with her about the patterns and color of thread to use.

“I feel like I’m leaving my baby in good hands,” Wiederstein said as she left.

Goodwin grew up in the Burns area as Fern Schmidt. She graduated from Burns High School. The Goodwins have lived in the area off and on throughout their married life. They have lived in Burns for 20 years and have three married children — Larry, Sara, and David.

Larry and his wife, Teresa, live in the Burns community. He runs Goodwin Industries, a business he took over from his father, who originally established it as Goodwin Enterprises.

Sara Meisinger and husband Mark live in rural Marion. David and wife Shawna live in Douglas. Goodwin has nine grandchildren and three great-grandchildren.

She said she likes the freedom that comes with working in her home. She can set her own work pace and is free to travel with her husband whenever they choose. She also enjoys the stimulus quilting provides.

“I enjoy the challenge of putting in designs that compliment the quilt,” she said.

Her work can be seen in some of the quilts that are on display now through Saturday at Marion City Library.

Last modified March 24, 2011

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