KAYSVILLE -- After spending 30 years as a dental hygienist, Laura Frasier of Kaysville decided to switch jobs and turned her machine-quilting hobby into a business out of her home five years ago.
She knew it was time for a change when she realized she would rather be working on quilts than cleaning people's teeth. Frasier, now 56, has been quilting since her high school years, but began machine quilting 12 years ago with an antique longarm machine.
She upgraded to a nicer model -- after her husband offered to sell his motorcycle to help pay for the new machine, which can run in the thousands of dollars -- before starting up her business.
A longarm sewing machine is equipped with a sewing machine head hooked to a large work table, several fabric rollers, and a metal frame. Frasier's machine is 120 inches across, which can accommodate a king-size bed quilt.
Almost anyone can quilt, Frasier explains as the process of taking a quilt top and connecting it to the batting and quilt backing, sewn together to make a quilt sandwich. But what makes Frasier's work unique is that most people don't have a longarm quilting machine, which takes out the frustrating maneuvering that comes with trying to sew a large quilt together in the tight space of a regular sewing machine.
There are other options to finishing a quilt without using a machine, but they are time-consuming.
Quilters can tie the quilt with pieces of string through the layers or it can be hand-quilted, a painstaking process using a needle and thread to insert small stitches across the quilt.
The most difficult part of longarm machine quilting for Frasier wasn't learning how to use the machine, which is a fairly simple process with practice.
"The hardest thing to learn for me was to (repair) other people's quilts, because you don't want to make a mistake on someone's prize possession they've worked hard on," said Frasier.
She conquered that fear by practicing on small baby quilts for several years before she turned it into a business. Now Frasier figures she has machine quilted hundreds of quilts, doing about 15 to 20 quilts a month using her specialized machine for clients.
"It's just rewarding because it's something that lasts and people keep using it, and I get to come up with new ideas and patterns to put it together," said Frasier.
Frasier said she can do an easy, wavy-line pattern on a quilt in about two hours, but if the pattern is more intricate, the process can take up to 16 hours. Frasier can move the sewing machine head using a set of handle bars, which she uses to guide the needle to the exact spot she wants to work on.
Longarm quilting machines have been gaining in popularity in recent years, and according to Frasier, quilting itself is seeing an increase in popularity.
"People are starting to get back into it as they realize the value of spending time being creative," said Frasier.
Sixty-one-year old Joanne Tyson of Kaysville began quilting a few years ago and enjoys the many different aspects of the craft.
"Some days you feel like sewing, other days cutting, and some days you want to just pick fabrics depending on what you feel," said Tyson, who usually works on several quilts at a time.
She has taken several of her finished quilts to Frasier for advice, which has been an important aspect of her enjoyment of the hobby.
"I love putting quilts together, but I don't have a machine big enough," said Tyson. "It drives me crazy using my own machine trying to keep the quilt flat and not pucker. You don't have a whole lot of room to stuff a queen-size quilt on my sewing machine."