Woman wins diamond necklace after entering sewing machine contest

The diamond necklace sparkling around Arline Whitney's neck wasn't any brighter than the happy twinkle in her eyes as she showed fellow fabric artists her prize.

Whitney, a former Othello resident now living in Green Acres outside Spokane, won it when her name was drawn this summer in a national Husqvarna Viking sewing machine company contest.

"You always hear someone wins these contests but it's never anyone you know," said Sandy Votaw. She and her husband, Frank, have owned Sandy's Fabrics & Machines in Kennewick for 28 years.

Whitney became eligible for the glittering prize after she and her sister-in-law, Ann Whitney of Seattle, met at Sandy's last May to test out the new Husqvarna Viking Designer Diamond deLuxe sewing and embroidery machine.

"We've been customers at Sandy's Fabrics & Machines in Kennewick for decades," Arline Whitney said. "We used to meet here for classes a couple times a year and still do. I used to come more often when my husband, Ivan, and I lived in Othello."

They both filled out a comment card along with about 28 other Sandy's customers. The Votaws forwarded them to contest headquarters, never dreaming a card from their store would be drawn.

"There are a lot of big dealers in the country who have multiple stores and must have turned in hundreds of cards. I was flabbergasted to hear it was one of my customers," said Sandy Votaw.

"I was so glad to hear it went to a customer and a very loyal customer. Arline's been coming in since the early 1980s," said Frank Votaw.

When they heard the necklace was on the way, the Votaws began planning a party, which was Tuesday at the store. The real surprise for Whitney were the 30 or so people who came to toast her good fortune with punch and cake.

They're the core group of dedicated sewers Whitney has shared classes with at Sandy's for decades. Many, like herself, have moved away. But when they heard about Whitney's win, they made the trip to Kennewick.

Shirley Quist of Pullman was one.

"I came especially for Arline. There's no one more deserving of this than her. She's very artistic and very giving and those two things don't always go together," Quist said.

Whitney was 13 years old, living in Grandview, when her mother taught her to sew.

"Pretty soon we were kind of fighting over who got to use the machine, so I saved my money to buy my own," she said. "I had to borrow some money from her to finish paying it off and she told me, 'If you don't pay me back, it's mine.' She never, ever turned it on."

At first Whitney sewed to save money and made all her own school clothes through college.

"A favorite trip was to the Pendleton Wool Mill to buy fabric," she said.

Later, teaching for the Othello School District, Whitney still made her own clothing, but sewing had changed from a necessity to fun and therapy.

"If there was something wrong, if one of my students wasn't doing well in school, I sewed. Things have a way of working themselves out in the sewing room," Whitney said.