Dangler has a simple job: keep Deana Novak company — and hold on tight.
The stuffed animal is tied to the arm of Novak’s quilting machine and rides along with the robot as it churns out quilts day and night.
Novak's Williston shop, Just Peachy Quilting, is now in its fifth year of business. In that time, she's created just shy of 1,200 quilts for her loyal customer base.
“I can do just about anything on a quilt,” Novak said. “It’s fun, it doesn’t feel like work because it’s so fun.”
Novak started as a hobbyist and would bring her personal projects to a long-arm quilter in town. When that woman retired, Novak was forced to drive her materials across the state or ship them across the country to be quilted.
“Then I decided it would be a pretty good business to do it here because we have a very vibrant quilting community here in Williston,” she said.
Business has been steady ever since.
The star of her shop is a 12-foot long arm quilter that can spin out quilts that are larger and more complex that an at-home machine. Novak likens it to a computer-powered CNC machine that one might use to shape wood or cut metal.
Novak starts by selecting the fabric and one of more than 300 distinct design files.
“The quilter can be as involved in that process as they want,” she said. “Some ladies like to come in and pour over my book to find the perfect pattern. Then we’ll match thread colors and everything. Others like to just come in, hand me the stuff and say ‘just do it and I’ll come get it when you’re done.’”
Then the fabric is securely fastened to the table and the thread is loaded in. From there, the computer takes over — carefully stitching the intricate patterns, one row at a time. Novak stands watch, checking frequently to ensure all is going smoothly.
Followers of the Just Peachy Quilting Facebook page will be familiar with this process. Shortly after she opened the shop, Novak started doing live videos of her daily projects.
“People just love seeing their projects on the videos,” she said. “I’ll get little text messages ‘I saw my quilt on the video this morning!’ They get all excited. It’s just fun to share all the stuff that I can do.”
It’s also an opportunity to help educate people about her process and quilting in general.
“I’m always here for questions. I love when people come in to see what’s going on or want to stop and see how the machine works,” she said. “It’s something different and not everybody does it and not everybody has the space to do it. Certainly not everybody has the money to put into a giant robot that does this.”
Novak is heading into graduation season; up there with Christmas and her annual anniversary sale as one of the busiest times of year.
Though she doesn’t have as much time as she used to for personal projects, Novak is still always on the hunt for good fabric.
“Once a fabric shopper, always a fabric shopper. Even if I’m not making anything I still see it and say ‘Oh I like that, I have to have some,’” she said.
But the joy of creating quilts for customers' birthdays, christenings, weddings and graduations makes the tradeoff so worth it, Novak said.
“It’s fun knowing that I got to be a part of all those little memories,” she said.