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Mathematician Re-engineers Quilting

During her career as a software engineer, Marci Baker solved difficult mathematical problems. When she became a stay-at-home mom, she turned to solving another problem involving precision and speed: "How do you make a traditional quilt in one-tenth the time?"

Along the way she discovered a sewing machine that appeals to both her quilting and her engineering sides.

A lifelong sewing enthusiast, Baker had not had much quilting experience. But looking for a creative outlet, she decided to focus on the craft and soon discovered that using the systematic approach of an engineer she could make the time-consuming process of cutting and sewing go much more quickly.

Baker developed a method based on "strip piecing," eliminating the need to measure and sew together every small piece of fabric in a quilt top. Instead, strips of fabric are sewn together, cut diagonally, and then pieced together in a pattern. Using Baker's method, a traditional quilt that would normally take about 50 hours to complete can be pieced together in as little as five hours.

Realizing she'd created a marketable product, Baker designed patterns and quilting tools and began selling them through her company, Alicia's Attic. With the ability to make quilting dramatically faster and easier, Baker's products turned out to be ideal for the two largest segments of the quilting market: experienced quilters and those who want to learn.

Two years ago Baker opened a retail space. She uses it as a workshop, to hold quilting classes and as a place to offer her books, patterns and quilting tools. She also sells the Janome line of sewing machines. She began using Janome sewing machines in her classes because she knew they would be easy for new quilters to operate and give experienced quilters excellent results.

Baker does her own quilting on Janome's Memory Craft 6500 Professional machine, which operates at up to 1,000 stitches per minute and has almost twice the workspace of the traditional home sewing machine. Janome designed it to have the power and stitch quality of an industrial machine, but with the quiet operation of a home machine.

Baker says she's looking forward to using Janome's newly released Memory Craft 6600, which has even more advanced features.