Learn to Longarm Quilt-My New Adventure
Today’s Topic: Learn to Longarm Quilt
Good Morning, Quilters!
Starting today, I will be adding a new series of posts, Learn to Longarm Quilt with Lori! ( I love alliteration LOL!)
Yes! I did it! After years of thinking about it, I took the plunge and purchased a longarm quilting machine. Please join me as I chronicle each step of the way. This week: Purchasing a Longarm Quilting Machine and Frame and Setting Up a Room for Longarm Quilting
BERNINA–Tried and True
After testing several brands of longarm quilting machines at various quilt shows, I purchased the BERNINA Q24. Faye, Nora and I tried many very good machines, but I decided on the BERNINA first and foremost because I liked the feel and intuitive design. Secondly, because there are several BERNINA dealers near me, I know I can get advice and service. (You are buying a dealer, not just a machine!) And finally, as a life long user of BERNINA sewing machines, I have a general comfort level with the quality of the machines.
Shopping at Quilter’s Haven BERNINA Dealer
First, I did some online research at BERNINA.com, then I headed off to my local BERNINA dealer, Quilter’s Haven in Rosemount, MN.
After consulting with the lovely owner, Jean Graham, I decided on a few optional accessories:
Hydraulic Lift–Because my daughters and sisters will learn to longarm too, I think the hydraulic lift will be useful to accommodate our different heights. Also, I’m not sure if I will want to sit or stand while quilting, so the hydraulic adjustment will make both options easier.
Frame Casters-Casters allow the frame to be moved more easily. While I’m not sure we will move the frame often, it would be hard to add the casters after the frame is set-up, so I added this option just in case.
Mechanical Channel Locks-This simple device allows you to quilt perfectly straight lines. I imagine these will be useful right away.
Palm Precision Handles–The dealer recommended I purchase these as she thought the hand position is similar to the way I currently quilt.
I did not buy:
The batting roll holder or the extra shelves because I plan to build those into the room itself.
There are many other accessories including pantograph and ruler work accessories which were very tempting. However, I showed a little (very little) restraint and decided I could purchase those in the future. (Funny how we create these little economies and then feel virtuous!?)
The BERNINA long arm frame comes in three sizes. The dealer had a floor mat outlining the available sizes. I was able to take the floor mat home and evaluate how the frame would fit in my room.
I chose the Classic size (12 feet by 3.9 feet). It holds a quilt up to 108″ wide. The larger size would not fit in my new room and the smaller size would not accommodate most of the quilts I want to make.
The Qmatic-Computer Controlled Quilting
After doing online research, my plan was to purchase the Q24 and the frame without the Qmatic computer. I have always enjoyed creating my own designs and creating quilts this way seems the most natural to my current workflow.
However, I brought my husband with me….
He took one look at that computer–and convinced me it was necessary. His argument: even if I didn’t want to use it, my daughters and sisters might, and technology is always the way to go.
He’s probably right, but don’t tell him I said so!
Order to Delivery
I ordered the machine in October and it arrived 8 weeks later via a cartage company.
They wheeled two huge packages up my driveway and into the garage. One long box contained the frame and the other package included several boxes: the machine, the lift, and the computer.
Currently, the boxes are patiently waiting for us to set up the new studio.
Once the studio is ready, a BERNINA technician will set up the whole thing.(This is optional–you can do the set up yourself by following online videos.)
Setting Up the Room
We are reclaiming a room in the basement to use as the quilting studio.
The room is currently the “junk drawer” of the house. Everything that is broken or has no other home, lands in this room.
The hardest part of this whole process will likely be getting the room cleaned!
Next Steps: Drywall, Flooring, Lighting and Electrical
My husband will be doing the drywall and ceiling.
An electrician is coming today to upgrade the electric, install outlets and prepare for the lighting.
With a little luck, the laminate floors will be installed in two weeks.
I will add details and photos as we go!
Do YOU Longarm?
We’d LOVE to hear from YOU, readers!
Do YOU have a longarm quilting machine?
Have YOU ever considered purchasing a longarm?
Any thoughts or comments on our progess so far?
Do YOU have a big project or something to learn in 2021?
We’d LOVE to hear!
As my son always says….
Go BIG or go HOME!
What have I gotten myself into this time!?!*(@#????
78 responses to “Learn to Longarm Quilt-My New Adventure”
I’m so happy you have joined us. I have a Q20 sit down and love it. There is a Bernina Q20 Facebook page and your attendance would delight us all. Please post your progress. Welcome aboard.
Congrats on your purchase Lori! Santa delivered my own Q20 on the frame on Christmas Eve!! I will definitely be following “Longarm Lori” to see what else I can learn from her! Woohoo! Look out world! Here we come! Ha ha!
So excited for you! I live in a small town in NB and have only been quilting since retiring- and boy if I knew how expensive quilting is I would have stayed working! There is a lovely Bernina dealer close to me who rents time on her longarm so I have spent three days on her Q24- you will love it. Easy to use, intuitive and lovely stitches. Plus uses the same needles as a regular Bernina how smart is that. I would love to get one but as a hobby quilter with no interest in quilting for others or starting a business I haven’t yet justified the cost! But it certainly sounds like you will get value out of it- and yeah for your husband encouraging you to get the computer! Perhaps a new book will be in the works- I have all of yours and need something to new to drool over please! Looking forward to reading all about your journey.
Congratulations! I do not have a long arm but it will be fun to follow you in your new adventures! I may just get more information from Jean about renting time in her shop!
Lori, I would love to know the reasons you decided to go from your sit-down Q-20 to the longarm. Possibly because you make more larger quilts? Thanks!
I would be interested to know this, too!
I would also like to know the reason why. I’m considering the Q16 or 20 sit down long arm. I have limited space and mainly make art quilts and some charity quilts.
Congrats on your move to long arm. I have followed your FMQ blog for many years. I have doodled, and have lots of sandwiches to demonstrate progress. When Covid hit, and we anticipated wintering in Canada, I decided to give long arming a try. A local shop offered rental time, and her supervision gave me the confidence to invest!
So I did. I chose a Grace Q’nique 15 with an 8 ft frame. Price, and dealer were the major decisive factors.
There are many fabulous long arm sites which are wonderful resources for problem solving.
Soon I will complete the Labyrinth top and load it… my top finishes at 84 inches which will be the max…
I am resistant to pantograph as a follower of FMQ… but the results are effective, and consistent… so maybe?
I am just delighted that you will continue to be my guiding light in the world of quilting. Congrats to you and your family…
I bought a small Grace frame this summer (can’t remember what it’s called) that I can use with my B570 Bernina domestic machine. She is sitting down in my basement sewing room waiting for attention and set up. With all my fall gardening demands and the holidays, I have not had time to get her all set up. Guess I should give her a name…?! I enjoy your emails and posts and look forward to your new adventure as I tag along.
I am excited to hear about your new adventure. I dream of having a long arm but can’t justify the expense at present. But I love doing research by following the experiences of others. Congratulations and happy quilting
I am teetering on the same decision…I currently have a Q20 sit down – I’m curious if others can identify the benefits/drawbacks of each…or do I need both? Love my Q20 but would love to do straightline channel lock sometimes. I’d love to hear more from those of you with more experience with both options!
You will love your longarm. I bought the Handi Quilter Amara in September. I am a beginner and learning but am having a great time. I love using it. I was short on space so bought the 10 foot frame but set it up as 8 foot. I can do a large twin and if I do bigger I will quilt with my checkbook. I used to do that! Again enjoy your new machine and I will enjoy following you and learning from you.
Lori, so very excited for you! I look forward to following your story. I have the Q20 as a sit down machine and love it. There is a Facebook group if you’d like to join us.
I also own the Q24 and like you, moved from a sit down (not Bernina) to a LA on the frame 2+ years ago. No regrets, I’m as excited to quilt on this machine today as I was the first day it was delivered. I look forward to following you on your new adventure
Congratulations Lori…you’re going to love the Q24. Also a fan of Bernina’s quality and service, I purchased one almost 2 years ago and have never regretted my decision. Have fun with your new machine.
Wow, congratulations! I have often wondered if I should get a longarm, but not even sure if I’d like it, so I think I’m going to try renting time on one first. I also don’t want to quilt for others, so I find it hard to justify the expense. I will definitely be interested in reading about your experience with it!
So happy for you and the girls too! I purchased my machine used, it was 4 months old and rearing to go with someone who appreciated her. Ebee and I have been quilting for 2 years now and have actually been stitching up a storm with your 25 weeks to better quilting lessons. Only thing is I could use more quilting space already, but she works beautifully, so I’m happy! Can’t wait to follow your journey with this fabulous machine and all it’s awesome extras!
I LOVE my Q24 and am sooooo happy that you are joining us! I love your work and use it for inspiration and practice. Can’t wait to follow your journey!
Ooh that is so exciting!! Congratulations!! You’ll have a lot of fun on it. And, love Bernina! If I ever got one, that’s the way I’d go, but I don’t have room right now to have one and I have a friend across the street that’s a long arm quilter, so how easy is that…quilt by cheque book LOL. As hubby says, Chris can quilt a lot of quilts for me before it equals the cost of a long arm LOL. I quilt smaller quilts myself and can do that on my domestic Bernina and I use a lot of the things I’ve learned from your lovely lessons and book :-). Have fun!
Dear Lori: Congratulations! You are going to love it! I bought my Longarm in 2010 and won’t quilt any other way. Give yourself good lighting & happy music. Have fun!
I just started practicing on my LA! After years of contemplating, my husband encouraged me to take the plunge. It is getting physically more difficult to FMQ due to arthritic hands and torn rotator cuff. My daughter also quilts and has joint issues, too. “Freddie” from APQS will end up with her eventually. I have been trying to retrain the brain for motifs. Most quilts will be done via computer, but sometimes they need that little extra. Will enjoy following your journey!
I so envy you the space for a longarm, and being able to custom design your layout on top of that! You will have actual shelves! (Guess what I don’t have in my sewing room?) I am trying to figure out how to improve my sewing room layout for better space utilization, and so far all the possible options are less efficient that the existing arrangement, which isn’t optimal. Last fall I bought an APQS George (he lives on the front porch), which took some adjusting to – much noisier than my VQ3000, more finicky about tension (but once you get it nailed down it stays that way), and it just “feels” different when I use it. I chose the George for several reasons, not the least of which is the lifetime warranty, followed closely by the fact that it fits the available space and is a sit-down machine. The only thing I really wish George had that he doesn’t is a stitch regulator. If I had more space I likely would have made a different choice.
Congratulations on your Longarm! My husband and I purchased one several years ago. We both love it! It is fascinating the accessory purchases that you did and did not make — our purchases were nearly the same and my logic for all was essentially the same!
How fortunate that you get to build your studio. Make sure you build in enough light for the quilting area. IMHO, you cannot have too much light.
Best wishes on your new adventure!
I can just imagine your excitement as I too have recently treated myself to an Innova Longarm (M24) on an 11 foot table. The 12 foot was just too big for my space. The two crates (weighing 320kg) arrived from Texas during one of our British lockdowns. We live in a second floor apartment so unpacking took some thinking about, I assembled it all myself as the dealer could not visit because of restrictions. I agree a friendly dealer is a huge bonus. I am so pleased to have purchased one, thrilled with the magnificent Innova engineering and have put in many a happy hour on it, learning as I develop new art quilts. Look forward to following your work.
Congratulations! i just bought a APQS Lucey because of the close dealer. That’s a must. I was going to use your book for inspiration and so am really excited about you having a longarm too. Here’s to many happy years as we learn our longarms together.
Congratulations Lori and welcome to the long-arm world of quilting!!! It’s freedom you’ve purchased to play and create new designs via machine and thread.
I purchased a Gammill Classic purchased in 2001 when I started my business. I fell madly in love after test-driving three models at a quilt shop. Give yourself room around all sides of the table as you’ll travel around it. You’ve heard the expression, “miles to go…” you’ll be practicing and experimenting for many years to come. The rewards are many and you’ll learn techniques you couldn’t do on a domestic machine.
All my best wishes for long-arming future!
Congrats! So exciting! I’ve used a long arm that a friend has. It’s different than free motion quilting and I had to reeducate my brain. Doodling really helps! Have fun with this! I’m still trying to find room and convince my husband that I need this. Wish me luck!
Congrats! I have a HQ Avante and love it. I have been following along with your tutorials and lessons and have learned a great deal. Can’t wait for the longarm version. Thank you 🙂
Lori, so glad you are entering this fun area of quilting. I recently purchased a mid arm and I am really really really looking forward to your lessons.
I am so thrilled you have purchased this longarm, how exciting. How exciting for you once your space is finished and you are ready to quilt! I acquired this exact machine right before covid hit so I have been struggling to learn how to use it on my own. I would love to get some good tips from you! You have been a wonderful inspiration over the years. Thank you so much!
Congratulations Lorie.Ten years ago I bought my A 1 long arm. I was 75 years old,and was not sure if I should spend that much money, at that time. Here I am 10 years later turning 86 in May and still enjoying my machine. I did not get a computer than, and have decided not to now either. I quilt for myself and friends.
Looking forward to sharing your quilting journey with your Longarm Shirley upstate N Y
I just got my APQS Lucey a few weeks ago and I couldn’t be happier. Even though I don’t live near a dealer, their customer service and on-line support are terrific. We also converted a messy basement space but all we had to do was to add additional lighting. My husband and I are in our seventies so it was quite a challenge to unpack and assemble the machine by ourselves but we did it! I started out trying to justify buying it since I have no intention of quilting for money. However, I do lots of charity quilts and decided that was good enough! Besides, we have not been able to travel, eat out, go to the movies, etc., so this replaces all of those–plus it keeps me sane–I consider it a bargain!!
Congratulations on your new longarm purchase! Will you be going through your 25 Days to Better Machine Quilting using the longarm? I was signed up for the class last year, but was not able to fully participate due to covid, family, work, etc.
I am surprised that your machine came in 8 weeks; I have been waiting for almost 12 weeks for my Bernina Q20 to arrive and am running out of patience! The excuse of course, is the COVID thing; seems that excuse is getting to be a scapegoat! I envy all of you that are happily quilting away while I wait. My pile of quilt tops is getting bigger!
Karen, our supply chains has absolutely been compromised by covid. From staff shortages in the manufacturing sector to the shipping industry this slow down is not just impacting small business. My husband works for the US postal service and since covid shut our world down in the spring, they have had to deal with short staffing and an extreme increase in package shipping as we all started buying online. Christmas only served to make the problems worse as freight trailers stacked up in shipping hubs, unable to move because of a lack of personnel. It’s frustrating, I know, but for our part, we need to respect that businesses are working as hard as they can with limited staffing and resources to meet our needs. I can’t tell you how many times my hubby comes home frustrated because of an angry customer taking it out on him.
My Q 16 took 9 weeks to come to MO and was ordered the day after it was announced on Amanda Murphy’s Thankful Thursday video. I got the sit down version with the folding table. Hope your Q comes in soon..
How Exciting! If I had the space, I’d get one too. Since I don’t, I gifted myself a Q-Zone Hoop Frame. My Babylock Crechendo fits nicely on it. It is less than 5′, but I can quilt any size on the frame by simply sliding it over and re-clamping. I’m still trying to figure out translating my favorite motifs on the domestic to the range of movement afforded on the longarm style carriage. This will be fun to go through with you. I love that block wall in your space!! I think I’d paint it and keep the visual texture.
I am excited for you but please don’t abandon us that can’t afford a longterm and don’t have the room for one. We still need your help and great ideas.
I have the Q20…I love it. I chose sit down because I cannot stand too long…also I have a small space…and can barely do a queen size..I recently did a king and happily sat down to quilt and found the ROOM was too small! That quilt is off to a quilter friend of mine. Sadly, my Q20 has its limits….my room!
In any case, I will follow your adventure…sounds like great fun…
I always look forward to reading your emails and watching your videos. Congratulations on taking the leap to longarm. A longarm is on my bucket list. I’ve been sewing since I was 11 and am 67, but only began quilting in my early 60’s. I long for a dedicated sewing room, but I’m still someone who has to pull everything out of a closet and set up on the dining room table. What are the dimensions of your sewing room? Maybe I can convert a guest room into a sewing room.
After six years of quilting on the mid-arm at the quilt shop where I work I bought my own Gammill Optimum Plus on a 14 foot frame. It was a gently used, trade-in at the Innova dealer who used to sell Gammills. I took my sister who has been in the quilting business for years with me to get her opinion. Obviously, she approved! It’s been nice to have her input and when she needs a bigger frame she is able to accommodate her customers, win-win for both of us. It’s a lovely machine and after 3 years, I’m still loving it. It’s hand guided but I ordered the IntelliQuilter, expecting delivery in February. My customers have benefitted from your quilting designs as they work regardless of the machine you are using. Thanks!
Congratulations, it’s about time!! You will probably say why in the world did I wait so long. Now you really can get to quilting 😊Looking forward to longarm posts from you.
I’m jealous but will be happy to watch you enjoy.
I don’t have a long-arm yet, but have been shopping/comparing them for a couple years now. My real issue is no room in the house for a large one. Am on the verge of purging a lot of clothes just to make room. What’s more important anyway? Quilting!!!
I have a Martelli sit-down mid-arm on an hydraulic table. We are building a retirement home and am designing a craft room. I have no talent in designing so am wondering if your other machines will be in the same room? I’ll be following you closely to see what your lighting decisions will be.
I don’t know what Lori will be going to, but I have invested in two Luminess lighting frames, one for over my cutting table and one for over my George on the front porch. This week we are having nice level tile flooring installed on the front porch to replace the extremely warped floorboards from the 1930s. Once the tile installers realized what the light bar was they took full advantage of it. It is height adjustable and absolutely a blessing – I couldn’t cut or quilt without it.
I am so interested in your long arm journey! I have just started looking into quilting with a long arm after many years of saying that I would never be interested in one. I quilt on my domestic machine and my sit-down mid arm… but… they just aren’t doing all that I would like them to do anymore. And the idea of not having to baste…well… I’ll be watching your journey closely.
Congratulations Lori: I have followed you for a long time, purchasing most of your books, Craftsy class, & emails. I struggled & tried every method to quilt big quilts. Finally after quilting 2 kings on my domestic machine three years ago, I took the plunge and purchased a refurbished Nolting Commercial 24 inch longarm & the largest frame I could buy. A computer addition was available, but since I was 73 at the time, I did not want to have to learn a new computer system & spend the $ as I did not plan to quilt for others. I too enjoy doing my own motifs even though it is challenging. I have done the pantographs especially on charity quilts which I have been fortunate to help our church quilt, allowing me to practice more. I try to piece easy quilts, including panels to have more projects to work on to continue to improve my skills.
Thank You for your inspiration throughout the years. I look forward to your new experiences which you so generously share with so many quilters. Bless YOU!!
Congratulations. I got a Q 16 with folding table on the 15th of Oct. Ordered it on the 14th of Aug. for my BD. This sit down fit in my sewing bedroom and I do not have room for a framed unit. at age 79 this will do and I love it. Will watch and learn with you and have fun.
Yes, you are gonna love your new toy, congratulations. I too went the longarm way last year with a 10 ft frame and a hand guided 18″ Vision2 Gammill, love love love
Welcome to the wonderful world of longarming, Lori. 🙂 I have a 20″ Handiquilter Amara with a computer and I love it. As a decades long Bernina owner, I looked very closely at the Q20 with frame and no computer, but for the same price I could get Amara computerized system. Add in that I could trade in my old HQ 16, and well I stayed with Handiquilter. There are so many really good machines out there. I’m looking forward to following along as you begin your new adventure.
Wow! this is exciting. I’ve used a longarm since about 2003. I will follow you set up with interest. I started with an HQ 16. Then upgraded to a 24. Then we retired to a smaller home and so I had to downsize to a 16.
Congrats on your purchase! I will be making my purchase of the Q24 later this year. We have an out building on our property that my husband is converting into a quilting cottage. Your space looks wonderful! I am hoping to learn many things from your blog!!
Wowser! Congratulations! And it sounds like there will be several family members interested in using it. And it’s wonderful that your hubby is helping with the room setup. I can’t wait to see pictures of the whole setup when it is done!
I ordered the Q24 too. I haven’t received it yet. Hopefully soon. I’m excited to watch what you can do with it!