18 January, 2006
MAHWAH , N.J. – When Rita Steffenson began quilting, she didn't know much about it, and she wasn't terribly interested in being taught. But her experiments in the trial-and-error method of quilting eventually paved the way for prize-winning quilts at Ontario, Paducah and Houston. She sewed on a Janome Memory Craft 5700 when she received her first award and now does all her quilting on a Janome Memory Craft 6500 Professional.
Steffenson's career as a quilter began when her career as an environmental analyst ended. With the birth of her third child, she decided to stay at home. Looking for a personal challenge, she took up hand quilting. For several years she pursued her quilting almost completely on her own, with no instruction or classes. Using graph paper and a calculator to create her designs, she did things the hard way.
"Looking back," says Steffenson, "I admit I spent a lot of time reinventing the wheel."
In 2000, with half a dozen quilt tops finished, she visited her local Janome dealer to find a sewing machine to replace her department store lightweight model. Steffenson took home a Memory Craft 5700 sewing and embroidery machine and began finishing her quilts. That same year she joined her local quilting guild, the Antelope Valley Quilt Association. When they saw her work, the other members convinced her she had something special. With their encouragement she entered her "Dragon Quilt" in the Mid-Atlantic Quilt Festival in nearby Williamsburg, Virginia. To Steffenson's surprise it took second place in the Innovative Wall Quilt category. She was hooked on competition.
In 2003 she took second place in the Pictorial category at the American Quilter's Show in Paducah, Kentucky. She won first place in the Innovative Appliqué Wall category at the Road To California Quilter's Showcase in Ontario, California. And in the same year she won first place in the Pictorial category of the International Quilt Festival in Houston, Texas.
Since then, Steffenson has continued to win First Place, Best In Contest, and Best In Show at major quilting events across the country.
Though she left behind a career in environmental science, Steffenson didn't leave behind her love of nature. Her quilt designs capture the beauty of plants along with the birds and insects that live among them. Her camera has become an important tool in her quilt making. She's an avid nature photographer and often uses these pictures to guide her designs.
Her other most important tools have been her Janome sewing machines. She purchased her most recent, a Memory Craft 6500 Professional, in 2004.
"It has excellent stitch quality," she says. But what sold her was the extra wide work space. "When you're finishing an 88 inch quilt, it's much easier to use."
Janome has since upgraded the MC6500P to the Memory Craft 6600 Professional , which includes the exclusive AccuFeed layered fabric feeding system, a Start/Stop button, and many other new features.
Go to Rita Steffenson's website to see photos and descriptions of her creations.
Janome America is the largest subsidiary of Janome Sewing Machine Company of Japan, which produces more than one million sewing machines annually as well as a line of related sewing products and embroidery software. It is a category leader in innovation, and Janome sewing machines are recognized throughout the industry for their ease-of-use and unsurpassed stitch quality.