In this issue of Behind the Stitches, we meet Priscilla Madsen, owner of Madsen Originals.
When did you learn how to sew, and then embroider?
I learned to sew and embroider when I was 5. My Mother insisted that I learn sewing, embroidery, crochet and knitting. It was a long and frustrating process, because I wanted nothing to do with ANY of it. I wanted to be outside, or reading, not doing all this sewing stuff. She would stamp the dishtowels and hoop them for me and I had to finish the entire picture. I would take the largest stitches I could, thinking that I would get done faster. I soon learned that large stitches led to ripping out and doing over. It took me a half a dozen times to learn that I couldn't get away with sloppy work. By the time I was 18, I was well versed in all types of needlework, but spent most of my time ignoring them.
Was there any needle craft that you did like?
The only thing I can remember liking was making crocheted chains that wrapped around the house. I used to chain and chain, while I walked, with it trailing behind me. It was a challenge to see how long I could get it before my Mother made me rip it out.
Obviously, you changed your mind about needlework, but what happened that turned on the “switch?”
It wasn't until I was married and had 2 little boys that I suddenly discovered that I LOVED to sew. I'll never forget calling my mother on the phone and saying "Do you remember how you promised to buy me a sewing machine if I wanted one?" Well it wasn't an hour and she was at my house! We went to the department store and she bought me my first machine.
Is there anyone else in your family who enjoyed sewing and what kinds of
projects did you have?
My sister took to sewing the way I didn't when I was young. (My mother of course, loved to sew.) My mother used to make all of my clothes and I loved most of them. I made more embroidered dishtowels than I care to remember, though. After I discovered that I actually liked to sew, I used to make all my son’s clothes until they were 6 or so.
When you began, there were no machines dedicated to embroidery but did you
dabble in free-motion with your regular machine?
I learned how to do free-motion embroidery and made a few items using it, mostly rocks to cut out and decorate scenic appliqué quilts that I made. Rocks were easy to do and no straight lines to have to follow.
Indeed, you can’t mess up a design for a rock. I need to incorporate more rocks in my designs from here on out!
When did you start using an embroidery machine?
I got my first embroidery machine in 1996, a Pfaff 7570. I remember sitting and watching it for hours, just amazed that this machine could do THAT!
What did you like about them?
What wasn't to like? I loved embroidery! I loved how you could just hoop the fabric and it would make this wonderful design.
Yes, it’s true, who among us hasn’t marveled at what these machines can do.
What were, and are your favorite projects?
When I first started, I did a lot of quilt blocks. They were easy. Find the center of the block, stick a design there, and make a quilt. I also did a lot of t-shirts.
After a couple of years, I started playing with placement. Most of the machines on the market did just a 4x4 design, but I wanted more and larger. I learned how to manipulate designs and using templates to create large overall designs. This is still my favorite thing to do, take a lot of small designs and create a large quilt or wall-hanging.
How did your business get started?
I used to teach embroidery placement and I always swore that I would never digitize, because every design I ever needed was out there to be had. I soon discovered that I was wrong. In 2001, I wanted a particular type of design to use in my classes and couldn't find it. After much trial and error I came up with a design to use. I learned a lot about what makes a terrible design from that one design! After that, I started playing with my digitizing software and slowly learned how to make a good design. I actually started the business and sold my first set of designs in 2003 on eBay, then got serious and decided to join an embroidery Mall.
What future ideas and activities do you have planned?
Always have new ideas running around in my head! Right now, I have several articles published or being published. The first one was in July. This is an exciting new venture for me as I never thought I would ever be published.
How did your hobby of embroidery and love of sewing help you get through tough times along the way?
Sewing and embroidery got me through some really tough times when I was working full time for a woman I just hated! Sewing would pull me out of the anger and frustration of not being able to quit and calm me down so that I wasn't taking it out on my family. Just half an hour at the sewing machine at the end of the day would make me ready to face it again the next day.
My husband was in the Navy and spent a year overseas, and the kids and I couldn't go. Let me tell you, sewing got me through some of the worst of the lonely times. There was no email then, and phone calls were few because of the situation, so sewing helped to ease some of the loneliness after the kids were asleep.
Do you have some sewing/embroidery tips to share that you've picked up along the way?
Keep at it, don't give up. If you can't seem to figure it out, walk away and come back later. Many times, I've found that if I just leave it for a few hours, or even overnight, when I come back, it all makes sense.
Buy your Embroidery machine from a dealer, not a department store. Don't be afraid to ask lots of questions. Important questions are: "Do you service the machines here, or are they sent out for service?" "What is the turn around time for service?" The best dealers will service the machine in the store, will have a turn-around time of no more than 10 days and some will even offer appointments. "How many lessons are included with the purchase of the machine?" You should get at least 3 one-on-one lessons. Group lessons are ok, but sometimes you won't get the personal attention you may need.
The price and brand of the machine is less important that the value of your dealer. Get the best dealer you can!
Use the best fabric, stabilizers and thread that you can afford. You'll get a more professional look and have less disappointment.
Priscilla Madsen is the owner of Madsen Originals. She lives in Caldwell, Idaho with her Husband Karl. In 2002, Priscilla started digitizing designs and opened Madsen Originals in 2004. Her designs can be found at: http://www.madsenoriginals.com/