Quilters, as a group, can take on some of the characteristics of a mob -- especially when they feel slighted by a certain reporter who innocently wondered in print why all the raffles in town are for quilts instead of power tools.
But when you meet quilters one-on-one -- a quilter like Debbie Stanton, for example -- they can seem nearly normal. I say "nearly" because a person who refers to the tool of her trade as "The Monster," is perhaps just a little off center.
And a person who uses her living room to house The Monster is, shall we say, just a tad tetched.
But Debbie Stanton is a very nice person and a very talented quilter, and once you actually cross over into her world -- where quilting is king and queen and court jester all rolled into one -- it's not such a bad place to be.
This day Stanton is working on a queen-sized quilt for a client at the 14-foot contraption that dominates the living room in the Pine home she occupies with husband, John, a quilting fan himself who just happens to be the director of the Rim Country Quilt Roundup unfolding this weekend at various locations around the Rim Country.
"It's called a long arm quilting machine," she explained, gesturing proudly at The Monster, a device so large it had to be brought in through a picture window by four men.
"As you quilt and roll the finished piece up on this rod it gets thicker and thicker and thicker, so you need plenty of space to accommodate that."
The Monster is, in fact, the largest quilting machine you can buy, and Stanton uses it to do the actual quilting part of the quilt-making process -- for her own quilts and for those made by her clients (fellow quilters who hire her to do the last quilting stage).
"It's just a really big sewing machine that does just a basic straight stitch," she said. "Your own hands moving is what makes the stitch."
The Stantons moved to Pine from San Diego, where they both did health care benefits consulting, among other things. While Stanton is very happy that the Rim Country is a hotbed of quilting, that's not what brought them here in the first place.
"We had friends who originally grew up in Phoenix that we knew in San Diego, and when they retired they moved here and they kept bugging us to come over and visit," she said. "When we did, we fell in love and started the process of getting over here."
Stanton says she has dabbled in a little bit of everything, and quilting has been among her dabblings for the last 20-some years.
"My mother was a professional seamstress," she said. "My grandmother was a quilter, but I didn't start quilting until she was gone.
"I do have two of her old quilts that I'm very proud to own. She did everything by hand."
Now that she owns The Monster, Stanton can do much more in much less time. The quilt she is working on (see the cover photo) is comprised of yellows, oranges and reds.
The quilter who made it wanted Stanton to use a thread that also goes from yellow to orange to red to make "these big, blazing suns."
"Most of the time my customers say, ‘Do whatever you want because I trust you.' (But this one) said, ‘Do something that looks like a blazing sun.'"
The Monster is so sophisticated it could actually do a lot of the work for her.
"You can buy paper patterns and you aim a laser at the pattern and you don't even look at the quilt," she said. "You're looking at your paper pattern as you drive your laser."
But that takes the creative part -- Stanton's favorite part -- out of the process.
"My feeling is there's no fun in that, so I do all my own stuff," she said. "I get immense satisfaction from the creativity of it.
"I'm in my bright period right now," she added, pointing proudly at a vibrantly colored quilt on the wall that took third place in a statewide show in March."
All she would say about her previous period is that it was "just quieter." But she did explain the creative part.
"I love the process of hunting the fabrics down," she said. "You can't go to one shop usually.
"It's the whole creative process of finding your fabrics, finding your pattern, designing it and putting it all together."
You can expect Stanton and the rest of the Rim Country's quilters to come together at the big Rim Country Quilt Roundup this weekend, and the public is welcome too.
"There's the Strawberry Patchers in Pine-Strawberry," she said, "and the Shoofly Quilters and Quilting Bees in Payson.
"Threadplayers is a group in Payson that also has Pine and Strawberry people in it. They specialize in art quilts. I think that's it."
Despite the varied groups, quilters are a unified bunch, kind of like a sisterhood, Stanton admitted.
"We always get along with each other, and when we feel slighted we get upset," she laughed.
And then, turning back to the blazing sun quilt, she added, "The maker of this quilt is one of the ladies who lambasted you."
It's truly a small world, after all. See you at the quilt show this weekend.