Long Arm Styling

Well, I’ve recently had a chance to try out the local long arm quilting machine to whip through a few quilt tops before I leave town.  Let’s just say that I have very mixed feelings about the experience.  I have this impression that using a long arm quilter makes everything easier and better.  After all, you can quilt a large queen or king-sized quilt in matter of a few hours.  But reality struck as I attempted to use the long arm quilter on my own.

I quilted one twin-sized quilt the first day of my two days of quilting.  And all went fairly smoothly.  I had the woman who taught the long arm class there to help me set up the machine and do the adjustments as I needed.  I chose to quilt the top that I recently put together after a few years of holding onto the rows.  You might recall it.  It has blue and green and white and lots of circles!

Long Arm Styling

I chose to do a loopy pattern that I felt I could reasonably tackle as my first attempt at free-motion quilting on a long arm machine.  And I’m pretty happy with how this one turned out.  The all-over pattern brings some continuity to the quilt made from different rows.  I’m saving a full reveal of all of the quilts until I get a chance to bind them and show them off separately, but I did remember to take some close-ups of the curved flying geese row at the top that some of you requested.  I have no idea how she made it and no idea how to get in touch with her.  But here’s the pictures nonetheless.

Long Arm Styling

Long Arm Styling

Having felt that I achieved a fairly successful first attempt at long arm quilting, I happily went away for the weekend on my sewing retreat.  I worked the whole weekend on a quilt top that I planned to quilt on the machine on the following Monday.  I’m happy to say that I finished the quilt top as planned.  I’m not as pleased with the fact that I was NOT able to use the long arm quilting machine to finish up the quilt.  Because you see, I had a hellish day with the long arm quilter on Monday.

First off, the lady who helped me on Thursday and had promised me on multiple occasions that she would be there to help me on Monday (I had the whole day dedicated to quilting there) changed her schedule over the weekend and did not come into the store that day.  She was in another city teaching other classes instead.  So when I confidently walked in the store all ready to accomplish my many quilt tops, I was quickly frustrated to learn that she would not be there.  You all know that I’m in the midst of moving and putting aside this kind of time to quilt was a big sacrifice.  And I felt like I was wasting my own time….and I HATE that.

I started out with a crib quilt that I wanted to use as a practice for some quilting ideas.  But crazy quilting techniques went out the window when I realized I was on my own to figure out how to use the huge machine with no instructions.  None.  No diagrams, no nothing.  Frankly, I would never let someone use my machine without any instruction and it’s nowhere near the price of this machine!

Long Arm Styling

I think just about everything that could go wrong did.  I had the quilt on there the wrong way.  The thread of course broke and the machine needed to be rethreaded…oh and did I mention that the store is under new management (which in the long run will be a good thing) and the woman running the store doesn’t know anything about anything.  She’s sweet but uninformed.  So I muddled my way through that little quilt…taking hours on what should have been a 45 minute quick top.

I moved on to my pink quilt, properly named Neapolitan Dreams, and at least I managed to get the quilt rolled on the machine correctly.  I was now an expert in threading the machine due to the number of times I had to rethread it on the first quilt.  I do think that the machine was out to get me, but after hours and hours with the machine, I have a feeling that I understand it better than the lady who was supposed to be helping me.  Too bad I’ll never use it again.

Long Arm Styling

Again, I did some random free motion quilting…at a very lame attempt at feathering.  I know that it looks ok…and I haven’t been able to wash the quilt yet because it is not bound.  But I know that it could have been so much more than it is.

And that quilt top that I worked so hard to finish for Monday for the long arm quilting machine?  Well, the baby quilt and the pink quilt took the whole day and there was no way that I was going to risk that new quilt top with my shady quilting abilities.

So, lesson learned.  A long arm machine is not a magic machine…especially if you are free motion quilting and are not a natural artist.  I know other people have no problems, but I really think I could do better if I were able to follow a pattern for a bit to get a feel for the motion that you need to use for particular patterns.  And I really would love to learn more about the machines from someone who knows what they are doing. 😉  But in the end, I have three more quilts finished and ready to bound once I get to South Bend.  Can you believe that I actually had aspirations of getting even the zig-zag quilt done?!  Reality check needed.

13 thoughts on “Long Arm Styling”

  1. Your quilting looks wonderful! And how did I miss that you were moving to south bend? That's not all that far from me – and we drive by the exit every time we visit my family in ohio. Maybe once you get all settled (and scope out the good LQS's) we can get together. Hope your move goes smoothly!

  2. What you have done is amazing. And just think learning to thread that machine like a pro will be useful in something else later! Good job my dear!

  3. Wow…I really can't believe they'd let you use the machine without someone there to help you! Your quilting looks great, but I can definitely understand your frustration.

  4. I know its sounds kinda funny, but…. it is so helpful to practice the stitch you will be doing on Paper with a pencil in hand. Just pretend you are driving that long arm. I Long arm quilt and I love it but I can understand your frustration. My first attempts were frustrating as well. The machine I first worked on was a small home quilter ( mega quilter) it has a 6 inch space for quilting and if you forget to put the presser foot down then on the back side your quilt gets all kinds of big loops and knots on the back and you don't realize it until either your thread breaks or you roll the quilt. Any way I'm sorry you had a bad experience. What kind of long arm did you use? Oh and I would never leave somebody alone with my machine either.

  5. Getting three quilts done is great. I have had my quilting machine 7 years and I doubt that I can get more than 3 done in 2 days. The machines don't do the work themselves unless they are computerized , there is a lot of work to them. What you did looked good so you got in some great practice. Ella, is right, practicing your design on paper first makes it easier to do on the machine.

  6. Oh how frustrating!! The quilts look wonderful though! And you got more things checked off your list, because as we know (to us math minds anyway), list chekcing off-age is a VERY good thing 🙂 LOVE it!

  7. It sounds like your shop's long arm is a lot more accessible than mine. My LQS requires a 3 hour training class, costing $45, and then charges $15/hr to use the machine. I would at least allow customers to apply some of the class cost toward a quilting session.

    But then again, they're a very pricey shop. I got "talked to" once in a class I was taking for not having bought all my supplies from their store….sorry, but my friend JoAnn's gives me coupons 😉

  8. I'm stunned they didn't have someone experienced there to help! The good thing is that it doesn't sound like it could get worse so any subsequent experience should only be better!

  9. What a frustrating experience! But your post is so enlightening and helpful. I've always thought of long arm machines as magical instant pretty quilt machines too. It's nice to hear your experiences with them, even if they were kind of a bummer. And I really like the quilting that you were able to finish 🙂 I guess it's one of those things that gets easier and better with experience. And really, your free motion designs are WORLDS better than mine would have been! I'm sure of it.

  10. I'm sorry you had such a hard time! How frustrating when you had put aside so much time to use it. I often think I can get more done than I really can with sewing. When will I get a better sense of that, I wonder?

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