Thursday, March 22, 2018

What NOT to do with a new longarm

(Shop Hop sample quilt that I made and quilted on my Amara.)

1. Do NOT expect it be like getting a new sewing machine. 

Getting a new machine is so exciting! You do the research, compare the brands and models and find what you think is the perfect machine for you. It finally arrives and you read the manual, watch the video, etc. But there is ALWAYS hands on learning that needs to happen. With a sewing machine you can sit down and start stitching and see how it all works.

A longarm is different. There are more moving parts. There are computers and a frame and all the parts need to be 'talking' to each other properly before you can begin to interact with it. There are just way more variables at play. It's exciting and you want to jump in (I know I did!) but slow down and really get to know what your machine is expecting from you before you start.

You may be intimidated, I know I was!! It's normal, just take it one step at a time. Set your own pace and write everything down. Every little step. Then cross out what doesn't work, what you learned, or what happened. As with any long journey, it starts with one step at a time.

2. Do NOT think you can do it by yourself.

It's okay to ask for help. It's better to ask and get the correct information rather than continuing to be frustrated. I asked my friends, I called the manufacturer, I asked online message boards. Asking is good, it means you are learning. Every single longarm quilter was new at one time. Don't be afraid to ask!

3. Do NOT think you are done spending money.

I hate to be the bearer of bad news, but you are not done spending money. Your checkbook may still be having palpitations from the initial purchase, but there's more. You need to invest in good supplies for your machine. You need to invest in tools that will make your machine function properly. You need to invest in education so that you are doing what your machine needs to be it's best.

4. Do NOT fall for every gadget and gizmo.

That being said, there are plenty of things out there that you DON'T need. Do not think you need every single thing being advertised. Ask your friends what they use. Ask your friends what they purchased and never did use. You might need different things, just don't think you need every single thing. Pace yourself.

5. Do NOT compare yourself to others.

And if you listen to nothing else I say here, listen to this...DO NOT COMPARE YOURSELF TO OTHERS! Their quilts are results of years of practice, and your quilts will be just as amazing in a few years. For now, you are a beginner and that is OK.

See the quilt at the top of this post. It's NOT perfect. It's not even very good. Yes the tension is good (with minor exceptions in the first row). I had to pull out a row of stitching at one point. The design isn't nested together the way I would prefer. The scale of the design is too big for the patchwork. There are many things I could have done differently that would have made this quilt better. But you know what? It was one of my first quilts. It's okay. I'm learning. I learned a lot of lessons with this quilt. Is it ruined. Nope. It is just a reminder that I still have lots to learn and the journey is going to be so fun!

6. Do NOT continue to get frustrated.

Don't let mistakes ruin your attitude. It's going to go great sometimes, and not so great sometimes. There will be day when you think you will never figure everything out. Step away and go do something completely different. This is not a race, or a competition. You know your limits. Be patient with yourself.

7. Do NOT give up.

But most of all, do NOT get discouraged. There is so much to learn, and there is no way to learn it all at once. Give yourself credit for getting the machine threaded properly. Give yourself credit for getting the quilt loaded properly. Give yourself credit for each step you learn and know that each new thing will build on those basics. Think of it as a grand adventure. The ride to the airport isn't supposed to be the exciting part of any trip, so why should getting the tension right discourage you?

You WILL figure it out, you WILL find the answers you need, you WILL become good friends with your longarm. Now excuse me while I go spend some quality time with mine...

Enjoy every stitch!

Monday, March 19, 2018

Hello Monday

Hi there! It's me again. Sorry for disappearing on you all last week I have some good excuses, so here goes...

My kids were home from college for Spring Break! They didn't all have the same week off but it did overlap for one weekend and we went to Six Flags for the opening day. We had a wonderful time and rode roller coasters and laughed and ate way too much crappy food.

We also went out to dinner a couple of times and took in some movies and generally just 'hung out' around the house. It was beyond wonderful to spend time with the kids and their friends.

And there was the Bulloch Hall Quilt Show that featured the amazing travelling exhibit on the National Parks.

BINDING! I quilted five quilts on my new Amara longarm this week and now I have oodles of binding to do. This whole long arm experience involves a HUGE learning curve, but I am determined. I've spent way too many hours standing at the longarm determined to figure out what needs to happen. I plan to conquer this thing...

I got in a car wreck. Technically, I was just driving on the highway minding my own business when someone ran into my passenger side door, knocked me off the road, then managed to hit me a second time as I tried to recover. The good news is that I am okay. I was terrified and very shaken up, and the other driver was unhurt as well. The 'good news' is that my car only needs two new doors and some body work. That's right, my new car that I've had less than a year! Sniffle. The other car had to be carried away, it couldn't even be towed. It was a total goner.

Getting hit at 70 miles per hour in the middle of rush hour traffic is a scary experience, don't let anyone tell you otherwise. I find myself much more aware of 'impending disaster' now when I am driving than I did before the accident.

I got some new templates made! My template man retired and I found myself in search of a new source. So I did what any professional would do and I ask on Facebook. LOL My friend David recommended another local friend who did an amazing job. Check out his work here. Thanks for stepping up and being wonderful to work with in a pinch! I'll be using Paul for all my future template needs.

Not to mention, my sweet friend Helga did an awesome job on the new patterns! They will be in the shop by the end of the week.

Speaking of this week...
Image result for greater atlanta shop hop

The Greater Atlanta Shop Hop begins Thursday! I hope many of you will come see me at Tiny Stitches on Friday. The theme is 'Oceans Of  Notions' and it's going to be fun! You will get to see several of my new quilts and the my new notion!

Have a great week and I hope to see many of  you Friday!

Tuesday, March 13, 2018

Choosing the right Longarm

As with any large financial investment, you want to make sure you have all the facts and accurate information before taking 'the leap' and buying a longarm quilting machine. There are so many factors to consider, so I am sharing my checklist with you in case you are considering a longarm purchase now or in the future.

This list is a starting point. You may decide that some factors are more important than others. You may have a specific budget, or want to do specialized work. You may want to avoid a computerized system, or you may be looking for one that has certain functions. I would recommend that you make your own list. Or if you print use this list, it may help you think of additional items that you need to add.

Here's what I considered when purchasing my longarm. 

Choosing a Brand/Dealer 

Location- Is the dealer local or can be reached easily? This is going to be a long term relationship, so you need to know that you can contact or visit your dealer. Are you comfortable with an online relationship, or is it important for you to deal with someone directly face to face?

Reputation- Does this brand/dealer have a good reputation? Google them, read every review you can find. More importantly, do quilters go back to this brand or switch to it from other brands? There are going to be negative comments about every machine out there, but reading lots of reviews with show you a broad perspective.

Relationship- You are going to be dealing with this brand/shop owner/ dealer for quite some time. Do you like them? Do you find them irritating? Do you feel like they are honest and trustworthy?

Value- Even if finances aren't your first concern, consider the value you are getting for the product and service. Would you rather save money and set up the machine yourself or pay a bit more and have installation included? Do you need some hand holding or are you confident to tackle any situation that may arise?

Technical Service and Support

Set Up- Get all the details about what is or is not included in delivery and set up of the machine. This will involve several large boxes that are too heavy for one person to move. Will your machine need to go up or down stairs? Will there be any sort of delivery guarantee? When will the set up be scheduled? What sort of training is included with set up?

Maintenance and Repair- Find out who will be servicing your machine. What is the maintenance schedule and the approximate cost for service? How are repairs handled? Ask other quilters how they feel about their maintenance person/options.

Warranty- Find out the details of what is covered or not in the warranty. These differ greatly from brand to brand, so don't assume anything. Some brands require registration, some do not. Be sure to follow the specific instructions needed for the brand you choose. 


Training Classes- Does your brand offer training sessions locally? Are there special events held with training sessions in other locations that you can attend? Is there good written information in addition to hands on training? How frequently are these offered and are they affordable for you to attend?

Online Education- Are there online videos that teach a variety of  lessons about your machine and how to use it? Does the manufacturer have a Youtube channel? Do other quilters offer online video or live chats? Are there message groups for asking and answering questions? Is there are place on the manufacturers website that allows you to easily contact them via phone or email?

Special Features

Think about how you plan to use this longarm and what functions will be most useful to you. How do you see yourself using the machine and/or the computer? Those answers will dictate what features you need to focus on and prioritize.

Size- What size frame will actually fit in your room. Map it out on the floor of your room and consider electric outlets, as well as room to move around the frame. What size machine do you need? Will you need the largest throat space or will you prefer a smaller one. I am short and have short arms, so I needed an adjustable frame with a machine that was only 20". A larger one would be too difficult for me to reach. As it is, I have to walk around to the back of the machine for lots of things anyway.

Style- Have you tested different styles? Do you want to avoid basting your quilt? Do you plan to do multiple quilts a week, or do you want more of a leisurely experience (perhaps a sit down machine is for you?) Do you need to be able to move your machine? I had my installed with casters for rolling. Think about how your machine will function in and fill up your space.

Computer- Do you want a computer system? This is a big choice. There are several systems and they are all different and offer different options. Look at online training videos to see how they work and if the system looks user friendly for you. What's right for you might be different that what's right for other quilters you know. Also, what kind of training and support are offered to go with the computer system. What is the warranty for the computer? Do you need your own tablet or is one included? What are the restrictions or limitations?

Support Groups 

Local- Are there local guild's or support groups that meet and discuss/ offer education information on your longarm, or any longarms in general? Connect with other local longarm owners and ask where they turn to for support or to get answers.

Online- Social media is a great place to start looking for support groups. Check facebook, Instagram and any other social media you use for groups that include longarm quilters or brand names that you choose. I've joined four facebook groups so far, one for beginner longarmers, one for the brand, one for the model and one for general sharing. Also check Youtube videos for longarm lessons and information. There is so much information available online, just google any question you have!

What did I choose?

I purchased the HandiQuilter Amara with ProStitcher Premium. I did not purchase the Art and Stitch program. I can add that later if I decide to. This is NOT a sponsored post and I am in no way affiliated with or getting any compensation from HQ.

I'm needy, I know that, I chose a local shop with a supportive staff. My good friend chose to purchase online because she can do anything herself without getting rattled. The only right choice is the one you are most comfortable with. 

Go with your gut. What's most important to you? Start with what's most important and work your way from there. There are some great machines available and you will find one that's right for you.

I hope these tips help you to ask the right questions and get the answers you need to make the best decision for you.

Enjoy every stitch!

Sunday, March 11, 2018

Lessons Learned from a New Longarm Owner....

I've learned a lot during the first week as a proud new longarm owner. So I thought I would share a few things with you including the good, the bad and the ugly. It's mostly been good, but I like to keep it real, so here goes...

1. Watch every video/tutorial/youtube/online lesson you can find. Check out the manufacturer's website and follow every link on every social media group you join.

2. Speaking of social media, look up every variation of the name of your brand, make and model of longarm and join every group that will accept you. These are a gold mine of information and suggestions as well as trouble shooting tips.

3. Take a lesson at your local shop. Hand's on experience is invaluable. There's nothing like getting the 'feel' of the machine before your own arrives. I'm so glad I did this (even though I had no idea at the time that I might be getting one in the future!)

4. Practice, practice, practice. From threading the machine, to simple stitching. Make a quilt sandwich from fabric and batting that you don't mind using up, and just practice. I played with free motion stitching as well as trying the free designs offered with the program. Try repeating designs, resizing them and combining them. Try anything you think you will need to do on your first quilt. You won't know everything you will need to learn, but practice as much as you can!

5. There are going to be problems. There are going to be frustrations, knowing that ahead of time helps prepare you mentally. I only cried twice the first week. I know that may sound crazy to you but I was so proud of myself for that. I really expected it to be much worse. I get frustrated easily and I cry when I'm frustrated.

6. Know when to step away. The problems with the longarm won't solve themselves but stepping away will give you time to calm down. I have been know to smash a printer on a concrete floor. That's how my relationship with technology is. Give me a screaming baby any day and I can handle it will all the patience in the world, give me a machine and let it malfunction then watch me come completely unglued. Acknowledging a problem is the first step in solving it. :)

7. Order the printed manual. Read every page. Then read it again. Add tabs and sticky  notes and underline and circle stuff. Trust me this is going to be your best friend.

8. Speaking of friends, do you know someone who has a longarm? I am so fortunate to have a local friend (Shawn is my angel) who came over and spent HOURS with me that first weekend. She is the reason I have finished not one but four quilts in as many days. Truly, a friend that is willing to help you is worth more than 1-7 combined.

Coming Soon: How to choose the right longarm for you, what NOT to do with your new longarm, and Resources for longarm owners.

Now if you need me, you can probably guess where I'll be.

Enjoy every stitch,

Friday, March 9, 2018

Magnolia Quilt Guild in Mississippi

Last week I had the honor of visiting the Magnolia Quilt Guild in Mississippi. These lovely quilters were celebrating a special birthday in the history of their guild and they invited me to bring my Scrap Quilt Secrets trunk show as well as doing a fun day of workshops!

And when I mention that they were celebrating, I was quite impressed with how well they party. They had magnolia and quilt themed everything. Look at this cake! It was adorable and delicious!

They even treated me to a marvelous gift basket at the hotel. I was so surprised and delighted! I spent quite a bit of time going through the basket enjoying all of the fun Mississippi and magnolia gifts. From bars of soap, to lotion, to lip balm and snacks, they really made me feel special. They even included crochet slippers, hand made coffee mug and other hand made gifts. These ladies don't save all their talent for quilting, that's for sure!

So  how did I repay them, I put them to work! LOL They were eager and ready to start sewing. They made lots of progress on their blocks as well as playing with setting options.

I know it looks like they were working hard, and they were, but they also took time for a little fun and to show off their progress (and smiles!)

I sure did enjoy my time with the Magnolia Quilt Guild! Thanks for a wonderful visit.

Until next time,

Tuesday, March 6, 2018

February Reading List

Get the book HERE.

This was another good book from one of my favorite authors. I liked it because it kept me guessing until the very end about some of the details. I also liked the characters and the story line. I will warn that it is the story of a woman who has been brutally attacked and how her life evolved after the event. It was a bit confusing at times when the childhood story line and the adult story line didn't seem to mesh for me in places. But I am glad I read it and I would recommend it.

Get the book HERE.

I will admit I didn't finish this one. I ran out of time before book club was to meet, but I read all but the last few chapters. I loved the main character but the ending (according to book club reports) was a bit twisted and confusing. If  you like strong, funny and bit quirky female characters, you might really enjoy this one. I'll be interested in your feedback if  you choose to read it.

Get the book HERE.

My favorite book this month. It was the story of a woman who goes back home and faces the consequences of her past. There are lots of good characters and plot twists. The story kept me wanting to come back for more, and I liked the ending. I like a book that keeps me curious, and this one did!

I would love your recommendations and I have put several of them from last month on my list. Thanks for sharing.


Reminder: as always, these links will provide a tiny reward for me from Amazon, which in turn supports my reading habit, so purchasing through these links is greatly appreciated. Thank you!

Wednesday, February 28, 2018

February Frenzy

This month has been packed with all kinds of adventures! I have had a little trouble keeping up with blogging this month because...

I had a visit from this boy and together we went to see this girl ride in a horse show at Berry College where she got a 2nd place ribbon! So proud of her, and so fun to see her ride western after so many years of riding hunter/jumper. And secretly relieved that she and the horse stay on the ground the whole time!

Buddy decided to go on an adventure while hubby and I were both away at work. His nickname is 'dogdini' because he can escape our most elaborate attempts at keeping him enclosed. Apparently a large backyard with food/water/shade and plenty of places to roam with his brother and sister are unsatisfactory is his opinion.

We got a call from a local pizza delivery boy telling us he had Buddy. He found him wandering the streets (the rain shorted out the electric fence). He had been turned over to some neighbors who were looking for us. The neighborhood facebook page is now pretty much a daily diary of Buddy's escapades. He's more trouble than you would think!

I got a special delivery on Valentine's Day. I can promise you that this is the first valentine present I've ever gotten that required an 18 wheeler for delivery!

As of yesterday, it was set up and running. I'm going to have so much fun with this. It's a total game changer! And you think I got lots of quilts made before? LOL

Image result for mississippi state sign

I had a fun trip to Mississippi and I'm headed back tomorrow to visit another guild! I am so excited to share a couple of fun days with them.

And March is looking like it's going to be quite the adventure as kids are coming home for spring break!!!

I'll also be visiting SC twice for guild workshops. If you would like me to visit your guild, just print out this brochure and give it to your guild program people. I have a few dates available at the end of this year and I'm booking next year quickly! 

Enjoy everything,

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...