Women turn quilting hobby to business in Contoocook Village

  • Ruth Fischer (right) and Hester Campbell watch their computerized long-arm sewing machine stitch a bubble pattern on a customer’s quilt at QuiltWorks in Hopkinton’s Contoocook Village. Sarah Pearson / Monitor staff

  • The computerized long-arm sewing machine at Contoocook Quiltworks stitches a bubble pattern on a customer's quilt. Sarah Pearson—Monitor staff

  • The computerized long-arm sewing machine at QuiltWorks stitches a bubble pattern on a customer’s quilt. SARAH PEARSONMonitor staff

  • Hester Campbell uses a paintbrush to dust lint off the long-arm sewing machine while a the bobbin is being replaced. The machine uses two threads, one from the top on a large spool and one on the bottom on a bobbin. Sarah Pearson—Monitor staff

  • Ruth Fischer bastes the edge of the quilt. Though the sewing machine does decorative top stitching, the edges of the quilt top, back and inner batting must be tacked together as the stitching progresses. Sarah Pearson—Monitor staff

  • Ruth Fischer bastes the edge of the quilt. Though the sewing machine does decorative top stitching, the edges of the quilt top, back and inner batting must be tacked together as the stitching progresses. Sarah Pearson—Monitor staff

  • Ruth Fischer looks at one of the quilts for sale in her shop. Though not an original part of its business plan, Contoocook Quiltworks sells quilted blankets and placemats. Sarah Pearson—Monitor staff

  • Contoocook QuiltWorks opened in April in Fountain Square in Hopkinton’s Contoocook Village, neighboring 3 on Main Mercantile and Indigo Blues, among other shops. Sarah Pearson / Monitor staff

Monitor staff
Published: 11/7/2019 4:42:43 PM
Modified: 11/7/2019 4:42:32 PM

Ruth Fischer and Hester Campbell were supposed to be retiring. But it wasn’t long after Fischer stopped working that the plan changed.

Fischer and Campbell have been hobbyists quilters since their young adult years. Now in retirement, Fischer was quilting more than ever.

Often home quilters piece together the tops, then hire someone with a long-arm sewing machine to topstitch the patterns that hold together the quilt top, backing and inner batting. Run out machines tend to be more expensive than home sewing machines, and require more room.

Fischer said getting a long-arm sewing machinist to sew a quilt can be a several-month wait.

So she asked Campbell if together they wanted to buy a long-arm, and she said yes.

In April of this year, Contoocook QuiltWorks opened in Fountain Square, in Hopkinton’s Contoocook Village.

Campbell is still employed full-time, so the shop’s hours are Tuesday through Friday, 10 a.m. to 4 p.m., and Saturday, 10 a.m. to 2 p.m., or by appointment.

After Campbell joins Fischer in retirement, they hope to increase their hours.

Unlike many long-arm sewists, Contoocook Quiltworks has a storefront and isn’t operated out of a person’s home or garage.

Having a storefront means they can help shed light on a cottage industry. People can walk in off the street and watch the machine go.

“I really like interacting with people who make things,” Fischer said.

Though not an original part of their business plan, they also now have quilts and quilted place mats and table runners for sale.

The long-arm sewing machine is computerized with thousands of programmed patterns that can be stitched onto a person’s quilt.

“Our job is to work with the quilter to enhance their quilts,” Fischer said.

“It brings it to life,” Campbell added. She explained that the pieced quilt top is like a 2-D image, but the quilting makes it seem 3-D.

“It makes a huge difference,” Campbell said.

Fischer explained that it takes about an hour to square up the quilt top and backing and get it set up on the long-arm. After that, and depending on the size of the quilt, it takes about four hours to do the top stitching for a queen size, if nothing goes wrong.

Though computerized, the long-arm still requires a bit of manual help. Similar to a typewriter, the sewing machine will stitch one row and ding when it reaches the opposite end of the quilt. It’s then up to Fischer or Campbell to reset the machine at the start of the quilt. Hit another button and it’s doing another row. It also requires human hands to replace thread when a spool or bobbin runs out.

Fischer said there’s been plenty of business, but their wait time is still just a few days, which is something they hope to maintain. She said they’ll get another machine before they make people wait long times for their quilts.

Fees range from about $65 for a baby or lap quilt to $300 or more for a king size or larger.

“People spend a lot of time and money on them so we want our work to be perfect,” Fischer said.

“We want to respect their work,” Campbell agreed.

Contoocook Quiltworks is located at 905 Main St., Contoocook, and is online at contoocookquiltworks.com.




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