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”
Congratulations…excited for you! Laughed about your hubby convincing you to buy the computer. I was going to look at the Q16 and my husband urged me to go for the Q20…saying that I may as well get it right. Of course, I did not argue. Best decision I have made in a long time. Will be following…
Enjoy your adventure with the new machine…lots to learn! Hope you will still have time for FMQ tutorials on regular sewing machines. I have learned a lot from you and appreciate your sharing spirit. Good luck.
Wow, I must congratulate you, What a move. Now not to be a wet blanket, but, I feel you will be leaving us to play with your new toy. On the other side of the coin so many long arm quilters will be so delighted to have you work on this new machine. Good luck and have lots of fun I know you will break lots of old ideas and develop wonderful designs I am so pleased I have my ’25 days’ to keep me going on my domestic machine.
Congratulations to you and your family! This will be a fun time learning to use this beautiful machine. I have a longarm also, and unlike me, I think you will not spend a lot of time afraid to use your machine and make mistakes. Your free motion experience will be a perfect background to switch to a new free motion. Looking forward to seeing Learning to Long Arm Quilt with Lori videos!
Congratulations, I have the Bernina Q24 (no computer) and I love it. Looking forward to some longarm tutorials, my hardest part is thinking of what to quilt.
I’d love to take the plunge myself but I’m afraid of spending the money and not using it enough. Right now I’m enjoying quilting with the skills I’ve learned from you. Maybe in a few more years!
Please give some thought to the amount of dust/lint/fuzz that a high speed machine kicks up. In my sewing room I have a small air clener I run on a regular basis especially when doing frre motion quilting. I watched a big Grammil working in a smallish room and the amount of stuff in the air was frightening. Be kind to young lungs….and have lots of fun with your new machine.
Thank you—this is not something I had considered!
Congratulations! Funnily enough, I have been thinking about looking into the possibility of a long arm quilter so I will be following your journey with interest. Super happy for you and I hope that you have many hours of enjoyment. Thank you for everything you share with us 🙂
What a thrill!… another “new baby” in the family! Happy for you and the other family who quilt. I don’t have one, No space in either house for one. After watching people do it… not sure I would ever enjoy setting up and taking down a quilt. But then I stick to smaller (60×60) quilts due to health issues with neck spine. Yall go for it and bless your husband for committing his time and heart into helping his quilting world !
I have a long arm and especially like it to free motion quilt. Using rulers sometimes help, but when doing a charity quilt I prefer free motion. and of course as with anything practice is the answer. and being kind to yourself. I have learned to accept that whatever the result it was the best that I could do at that moment. and I learn something with every quilt about what to do or not do. For example: I have found that I prefer to leave borders Unquilted until the top, middle and bottom are quilted. I like my borders to be one continuous quilt design even if it is only leaves and stems. It somehow works for me.
Congratulations! I’m sure you will just LOVE your new machine! If you decide to quilt while standing, consider an anti-fatigue mat. American Floor Mats has several options and sizes. I have a 12’ frame and ordered a 10’ X 3’ “Hog Heaven Plush” in a pretty blue. It really saves my feet!
I am following with excitement. I have taken a class on how to use a longarm in anticipation of one day owning one and also to have access to one until we have room. So far I like working on my home machine as well as hand stitching but it sure would speed things up if I had a long arm. My daughter loves to sew tops but needs my help to layer and quilt. Just the ease of not having to try to sandwich the layers kneeling on the floor or layering it on the wall is very compelling. I do wish cost wasn’t such an issue though. Looking forward to vicariously living through your journey.
Lori! Oh, my goodness… Several years ago I purchased a Q20 (strongly influenced by your recommend of your own new Q20). I love quilting on it. I am wondering if you traded yours in or added to your BERNINA family? I dream of having a longarm on a frame, but don’t have a place to put it and wouldn’t want to give up my Q20 on the table. Looking forward to hearing of your adventures setting up your new space and learning the differences in your new machine.
First I have all your books and have followed you over the years. I’ve used many of your quilt designs to increase my ability to use my longarm.
I have 2 longarm’s at the moment. I purchased an HQ16 back in 2006 and had to teach myself how to free motion quilt. There were very few if any classes, videos or anything else back then to help you learn how to use the longarm. I used rulers, stencils and different marking tools, even creating my own from clipart. I quilted a large number of quilts over the years especially as I volunteered with Linus and QOV groups. As my back, shoulders, and eyesight began to give me trouble I had to slow down – coming up on 70 does that too.
In 2019 I purchased The APQS ‘Freddie’ with all the bells and whistles. I’m again able to complete even more Quilts of Valor with greater ease using a digital pantograph.
I’m learning how to use the computer more to create programed designs. I love my new machine because it has the capability for the entire frame to rise up and down with the push of a button using my foot. I also can roll the fabrics the same way. My new APQS has saved my back. I can change from computer generated designs to free motion that glides effortlessly. I have found I do both in the same quilt.
My 1st machine HQ16 moved into my dining room and hopes to find a new home soon.
Biggest tips I can give is buy what you can afford while considering your space. Don’t be afraid of your machine, and take good care of it.
When I worked in a quilt shop, I learned how to use both long arm and the sit down quilting machines. I considered both in my adventures but decided finally I did not want to spend the money. My husband died and I moved to a bit smaller home so now I really do not have the room for either one. I quit with a HQ 710 domestic. It has a large throat and I use card table etc around me to help with bulk. It isn’t perfect but it works for FMQ and, for me, it is better than any other way of getting quilts quilted. Maybe someday I will decide to try my machine on one of those frames that are small but can accept bigger quilts and which can be used with my domestic machine. Time will tell. It would involve a reconfigure in my sewing room for sure, I am sure you will love this machine. Bernina machines are terrific workhorses; I know as I worked with and sold them at the quilt shop. I wish you the best but I know you will make this work for you. And condolences on your loss. I pray for your family.
Please, what is an HQ 710? THank you, Marta
Congratulations on your new baby. I have an original Tin Lizzie 18 that I purchased in 2006. No computer, and it has a wooden frame. Very basic. I am not accomplished at free motion, but I figure done is better than quilt tops folded up in a closet somewhere. I don’t quilt for others so it doesn’t matter. I thought about upgrading to one with a computer, but at my age (72), I couldn’t justify the expense. Have fun!
I am a longarm using your books and love to doodle. So excited and welcoming you into the longarming world. Set you fabric out before you with the tread needle handles to draw, a free motion adventure.
Joy in quilting,
I’ve had a long arm since 2006, first an HQ16 now a BabyLock 18″ on a Handiquilter frame. I do only free motion and ruler work – pantograms are boring – and have used lots of your designs on my quilts. I use a motor cycle stool most of the time. I find my upper body is steadier if I’m sitting rather than standing. I can swivel and scoot along on the stool. I got the first long arm because I could never get the quilt sandwich together with all layers flat. Loading it on the longarm takes care of that problem.
I love the idea of sitting to long arm! Will check out a motor cycle stool! Thank you!
Congrats Lori! I am very excited for you! Thanks for sharing pictures of your ‘in progress’ room. I got my first longarm, an HQ Avanté, 4 years ago, to celebrate my ‘2 x 35’ birthday. My Swanny (our lake has swans) got her own room remake as well. The new room is in our basement and has 6 large windows that look out on our serene lake, I chose a cork floor because it makes it so much easier to stand for longer periods. My ‘slice of Heaven’! I don’t have an hydraulic lift, so I got a drafting chair that works well when I need to sit. I also have a stool on wheels for the back of the machine, where I just learned to do pantographs and groovy boards.
Another longarm quilter friend gave me the idea of using a dresser with lots of drawers for my threads. No dust for those spools! I found an antique oak dresser with perfect drawer space at a thrift shop for $45. I chose the Thursday 25% discount instead of the 25% Senior discount. After all, I was only ‘2×35’!
Switching from a domestic machine, where I have been using free motion designs for 30 years, has been a challenge. Doodling, building muscle memory, and lots of practice have helped me build confidence. I love using your many clever designs, and ruler work has also added to my skill set.
I wish you many lovely moments with your new toy! I can’t wait to hear about your progress and see all of your free motion creations!
Thank you for all the great ideas!