Made in Eastern Iowa: Stitching together custom quilting machinery in Hiawatha
The business of actually making a quilting machine has very little in common with the characteristics of a quilt itself.
This is not a fuzzy, warm or soft process. It’s business with steel, aluminum and, perhaps, even more precision that stitching together a quilt.
“Every machine is custom-built to order,” said Dan Terrill, owner and president of Nolting Longarm Quilting Machines of Hiawatha. “The color of the machine, the size of the machine, the length of the frame, the height of the frame. We try to match it to the customer’s size of the room they have, their budget, the color they like and their physical arm reach.”
Longarm quilting is a very specific form of quilting for a niche market yet the balance between the hobby quilter and the professional is substantial to fill the workload between two buildings just off of Boyson Road. This year marks 15 years since Terrill purchased the company and opened the facility at 1265 Hawkeye Drive.
The entire production takes place at Nolting as Terrill said the company makes its own pulleys, shafts and gears.
“We’ve got welding bays along this side of the factory,” said Terrill. “They do the steel welding over here and the table tops are all steel.”
Here is an example of how precise the machinery must be to handle the workload of a quilter.
“To make the needle meet the hook assembly, 2,000 times a minute, the precision really matters, basically, on every part of this,” said Terrill.
Between the products and the quilting shows, Nolting does benefit from visibility and exposure in a rather tight circle of longarm quilting.
“More and more of our customers come from finding us on the Internet,” said Terrill. “The days of the phone book and the newspaper is going away. Google is the way to find us. Longarm quilting machines are not for everyone. They’re a pretty specific tool for this. It doesn’t produce any other product. It’s just for quilting.”
Quilt shows are a prime opportunity for quilting enthusiasts to gather. Nolting is holding its open house on Saturday, July 16 at the Hiawatha location.