Nikki O’Neill grew up in what she calls an “anti-craft” family. She remembers, as a kid, watching her mum struggle to sew curtains on a borrowed machine.
“I had never heard my mum curse before, and I learnt so many new words that day!” Nikki laughs. “I thought, ‘Wow. Sewing is too hard. If my mum can’t sew
– and she can do everything – then it’s not for me.’”
HOW TO GET STARTED?
Social media is a wonderful place. Look through Instagram for inspiration, or ask questions in Facebook groups. There are all sorts of people on there, supporting each other and helping each other out.
Teach yourself with YouTube. Pretty much anything you need to know is on there, and it’s so specific. You don’t just search for how to thread a bobbin. You can search for how to thread a bobbin on your particular machine.
Start small. You don’t have to commit to a king size quilt right away. Try a mini quilt or a bag to work up your skills and confidence.
Get social! Quilting is best when it’s done in a group. Find a local guild, go along, ask questions and make friends!
Nikki was well-established as a mum herself before she touched a sewing machine again. Determined to make a gift for a friend’s baby, she found a second-hand machine in the Trading Post and got stitching. “I had to watch 12 different YouTube channels because I literally didn’t even know how to thread the sewing machine,” she remembers. “I was worried I was going to lose a finger!” Despite all this, Nikki was thrilled with her first sewing creations. Then she discovered quilting.
FINDING HER QUILT TRIBE
The inspiration for her new hobby came first from an Instagram post (“I thought, ‘Oh, hello – that’s 2D sewing! That’s for me!’”), and then Nikki reached out to a local quilting guild. “I was expecting little old ladies sitting in a row and it is nothing like that. They were all so welcoming, so eclectic, so knowledgeable. I was just like, ‘Oh, I’ve found my tribe.’
“The first few times that I went, I just wandered around seeing what other people were doing and asking questions. Everyone was so happy to talk about what they were making and show photos and give examples and little tips along the way. I don’t think a new member has ever gone away thinking, ‘Oh, that was a lonely place to be.’”
I was expecting little old ladies. Instead, I found my tribe.
“I was expecting little old ladies. Instead, I found my tribe.”
QUILT, CHAT, WINE, REPEAT
Nikki has been a member of the Brisbane Modern Quilt Guild for five years now. That means going along to regular sewing days, making quilts together for charity – like those Nikki creates for domestic violence survivors through The Salvation Army – and trips away with “quilty friends” as often as possible. “There are lots of little holidays,” Nikki explains. “We go away overnight and take our machines and our bottles of wine and have a bit of a crafty weekend away. It’s literally just like finding a second family.”
Nikki has also found plenty of quilty friends online – through Instagram, Facebook groups and her YouTube channel, In the Sewing Room with Nik. She often has other quilt-loving YouTubers on in the background while she’s crafting, a bit like a digital version of her social sewing days. “It almost feels like you’ve got a friend sewing with you,” Nikki says. “You can hear someone else’s machine as you’re sewing along.”
CRAFT TIME IS ME TIME
Nikki is a big believer in mums making time for themselves. But with four kids living at home – twins Lachlan and Harry (19), Katy (15) and Mason (9) – that can sometimes be a tough ask. Her job in special needs is fulfilling but high-stress, too. Having a child with cerebral palsy inspired her career – these days Nikki works in schools and homes providing support for people with disabilities. Including, of course, teaching basic sewing skills. “I’m always encouraging people to start sewing,” she says.
For Nikki, quilting has become an essential way to unwind. “You can really change your mood if you’re stressed, even to sit down for 10 minutes in front of the machine and just rhythmically do what you need to do.
“It is a priority for me and my mental health because that is my way to unwind. Some people like to go for bike rides, some people like to go fishing, some people like to go hiking. I like to sew, for my own mental health and my own wellbeing. I do have a stressful job. It’s very rewarding, but it is quite a demanding job. So being able to have that time downtime is really important.”
“I like to sew, for my own mental health and my own wellbeing.”
Some of this might have to do with her relaxed approach to rules. “I use instructions as guidelines!” she laughs. “I don’t necessarily follow them because I get in my zone. Sometimes I go, ‘Oh, that’s not actually what she wanted me to do. Oh well, we’re doing it this way now!’” This is an attitude Nikki learnt through her friends at the quilt guild, she says. “Before I went I felt like I didn’t know the rules, so I wasn’t really a good sewer. And then I was told, ‘Well, actually, there are no rules, and everything you’re doing is good. Just keep playing.’”
As a quilting champion herself, Nikki is always ready to welcome newcomers to her favourite hobby. She says anyone who’s even a little bit interested should give it a go. You might surprise yourself, just like she has: “Back when I was failing Home-Ec in high school, if someone said to me that my number one hobby as an adult would be quilting, I would’ve just laughed at them.”
YOU MAKE THE RULES
Nikki reckons she’s made about 100 quilting projects since joining the guild. These include bags and mini quilts as well as bed-sized creations. She doesn’t make for specific people – her projects tend to find the right owners once they’re done, she says. And as much as she appreciates a completed quilt, Nikki is all about enjoying the process every step of the way.
GET THE RIGHT MACHINE FOR YOU
It’s been a while now since Nikki bought that second-hand sewing machine. She’s invested in a few different machines over the years, matching her needs as her skills and projects become more ambitious. “I stepped up gradually each time as my confidence with machines grew,” she says. “Just be really comfortable with the one you’ve got, know what you wish it would do that it isn’t capable of doing, and when it’s not capable of doing enough things, that’s when it’s time to step up to the next one.”
Helping her along the way has been her local sewing machine dealer. Nikki says she appreciates their specialist knowledge, and ongoing support with servicing and know-how. Plus, when it comes time step up to a new machine, “It’s really good to be able to talk that through with someone who knows what they’re talking about!”
HOW DO YOU FIND THE TIME?
Have a designated space so you don’t have to always set up and pack down. This makes the most of your hobby time, with more minutes spent on the fun bits.
I am lucky enough to have a whole quilting room now, but I started off with a drawer and the end of the family dining room table. Find a space and make it yours!
I don’t have huge chunks of time for my hobby – usually 20 or 30 minutes if I’m lucky. Even if I just have five minutes, I make the most of my quilting. It’s almost like it calls to me!
Have a few different projects on the go at the same time. Right now I have a bag and a quilt and a mini quilt. And I can reach for whatever I’m in the mood for at that time.
Know that it’s worth it. Quilting is part of how I look after my mental health and wellbeing, so I don’t feel guilty about taking time for my hobby.
EXPLORE THE BROTHER INNOV-IS NV1800Q
With features designed to make quilting easier, like the Pivot Function for making quick work of corners, it’s clear why so many quilters choose the Innov-Is NV1800Q computerised sewing and quilting machine. Nikki calls it “a very smooth machine”, and loves making the most of a large workspace, easy-to-use controls and Automatic Height Adjuster (AHA) feature.
She is a big fan of the hard cover, with space for stashing away pedals and other accessories. (This means her machine looks as neat when tucked away in the sewing room as it does when it’s in use.)
All up, Nikki reckons the Innov-Is NV1800Q computerised sewing and quilting machine is simple enough for a beginner, but with “the capabilities for anything that a confident sewer would throw at it”, she says. “I don’t think there’s anything it wouldn’t be able to do.”
Discover more here. Or talk to your local dealer to find out if the Innov-Is NV1800Q is a good fit for your new hobby.