Dog was Key to Woman’s Quilting Skill

The following article appeared in Clay Today on Feb. 16, 2012

By Christina Leach Phillips


GREEN COVE SPRINGS — Karla Petraglia says her dog helped her learn how to free-motion quilt.

Petraglia, owner of “Longarm Magic,” a quilting and embroidery business in Green Cove Springs, said she was struggling to learn how to use her new longarm quilting machine manufactured by Handi Quilter.

Petraglia, who finishes quilts for customers, said, “Longarm quilting uses a specialized, frame-mounted sewing machine to sew together a quilt top, batting and backing as the sewing head travels on a frame over the design. The process can either automatically follow a pre-programmed pattern, free-hand, or both.”

When Petraglia tried to develop her free-handing skills on the machine, she said she made mistakes because she was too tense and tried to “muscle” the machine along. 

“My stitches were not smooth, not artistic, not pretty,” she said.

The more time she spent at the machine, the more she said her 4-pound Yorkshire Terrier, Winnie, was at her feet, “fussing for attention.”

Petraglia said, “Winnie is a little pesty and always wants me to hold her.”

When Petraglia picked up Winnie to quiet her down, she said she proceeded to “one hand” the quilting machine with the other.

“The result was something I would have never expected!” she said. “This ‘one hand drill’ forced me to relax my grip, and my free-handing skills developed very quickly.”

Petraglia said she wrote an essay about her experience and submitted it to a national competition sponsored by Handi Quilter.  Her essay “My HQ Story” won a spot in the competition, and in November 2011, she received a free trip toSalt Lake Cityfor five days, some additional training classes, and dinner with the president of the company.

Her story was also selected by Handi Quilter for the manufacturer’s national advertising for 2012. 

McCall’s “Quick Quilts” magazine is featuring her story in its February/March 2012 issue, which is currently on store shelves.  In addition, two more national quilting magazines will feature her story as part of Handi Quilter’s advertisement for its HQ18 Avante longarm quilting machine.

Petraglia learned to sew when she was 10 years old in a home that she said was rich with the tradition. “My grandmother was a tailor fromGermanyand taught me a lot about sewing garments,” she said.

About two years ago, she said got back into sewing in “a big way.”

“My husband said, ‘If you’re going to do this right, you should get yourself a good machine,’ so, of course, I took his advice! I bought a top-of-the-line combination sewing/embroidery machine and set up shop in a spare room of our house.”

Besides running her quilting and embroidery business, Petraglia also makes two quilts a month for “Quilts of Valor,” a foundation that makes quilts for American combat service members and veterans touched by war.

She said she recently received a letter and Christmas card from one service member, Andrew Wilson, who is a double-leg amputee, thanking her for his quilt.

Now that Petraglia has mastered her longarm quilting machine, she no longer needs to hold Winnie as she works.

She said, “Winnie is quite happy to spend her days on a window seat in my sewing room, guarding against any squirrels foolish enough to approach our house! She also makes herself available to me for the occasional free-hand refresher course.”

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