by Kylie Blanchard  | Submitted Photos

Gone are the days of just a needle and thread to make sewn creations and simply a scissors and stamps to make cards and other paper wonders. With advancements in technology, crafting now has endless possibilities.

Fancy Machines

“These advances have completely changed the size of the projects people do, the ease at which they can do them, and how quickly they can get them done,” says Joy Papke, owner of Bismarck Sewing & Quilting. “This means the most advanced machines are not just for retired people with lots of time. Younger people are justifying purchasing nicer machines as they can do more and do things faster.”    

Joy says she has been sewing her whole life and quilting and embroidering since 2000.

“I have been in the industry since 2008 and have seen huge advances in the technology of sewing and embroidery machines. The sewing and quilting industry continues to excite me, there is always something new to learn.”  

She says machines now have faster processors, more memory capabilities, larger hoop sizes, larger screens and graphic programs, and range in price from $99 to $20,000.

“I particularly like the laser beam function on some of our machines that can act as a seam guide line. It can tell the machine where to stop sewing automatically, and it can even eliminate the need for drawing lines on the back of quilt blocks,” Joy notes, adding machines also have the ability to download embroidery artwork and fonts or allow crafters to create their own artwork. “We also have long-arm quilting machines that can be computerized and can literally quilt for you.”

While the technology of today’s sewing and quilting machines can be intimidating, Joy says it often just takes a demonstration to ease hesitations.

“Many times, I have had customers say, ‘I hope I can figure this fancy machine out,’ but you show them a few things and they are amazed at how easy they are to learn and how intuitive the machines are.”

Joy expects technology will continue to advance the sewing and quilting industry.

“I am always amazed at what our manufacturer comes up with. I can’t even imagine what they will be able to do next.”

A Cut Above

When Kris Olson bought her first Cricut® cutting machine, she did so with a bit of hesitation.

“I bought it not knowing if I would like it. I had it a week and was so frustrated, I was going to return it,” she says.  

More than a decade later, she now owns five Cricut machines along with a Silhouette® cutting machine.

“The Cricut came out, and it had the whole craft world in the palm of its hand. You can do so many things with these machines from cutting fabric to making the pieces of a ‘busy book’ for a child and even etching glass.”

She says the machines have evolved from using changeable cartridges loaded with designs to machines now loaded with designs. The latest models have the ability to download designs and even allow users to create designs or make changes.

“When the machines first rolled out, you could just pick a letter to cut and adjust the size,” says Kris. “Now, technology allows you to do so much more. With a software program you can take any image, pull it from its background, trace it, and cut it out.”  

Kris says she still enjoys testing the boundaries of the machine’s abilities to make gifts and projects for family and friends and to try custom orders.

“I’m not very nice to my machine, and it hasn’t broken yet,” she notes. “If people only knew it’s more than just cutting paper and vinyl.”

She also hopes to one day hold workshops for the crafters wanting to learn more about the possibilities available with a cutting machine.

“I want people to know all the machines can do,” says Kris. “The machines can do pretty much whatever people want to do. Cutting gifts and cards, quilt pieces, leather, fabric for clothes, baby blankets, Christmas stockings, and specialty decorations. The coolest thing I ever did was a 12-foot wall mural.”  

Owning Cricut and Silhouette machines has helped her to learn a lot about technology and expand her crafting abilities, says Kris.

“It’s made crafting quicker and easier. You are able to put your own personality on what you do, and make it special.”   

Kylie Blanchard is a local writer and editor, and busy mom of three, who admits she’s not one to sew much more than a button onto a shirt.