Friday, March 30, 2018

My New Longarm: Lessons Learned One Month Later

I've been the proud owner of my Handi Quilter Amara (with Pro Stitcher) for one whole month now! The lessons I've learned in this first month could fill a book, but I will just share some of the highlights here. For those of you considering getting a longarm you'll want to visit this post as well.

Lessons Learned:

1. It's Addictive

I never expected it to be as addictive as it is. I want to play with it every day. I want to learn something new every day. There are plenty of days when I can't and I find myself thinking about what I want to try next.

2. It's Frustrating

And every single time I try something, I find out how much I don't know. I run into issues and I spend 95% of my time troubleshooting or problem solving and about 5% actually quilting. Luckily, that 5% success rate keeps me wanting to come back for more. Admittedly, the 95% has driven me to drink on occasion.

3. It's Complex

There are so many options and functions and settings that the learning curve is going to be a long one. I just manage to figure one thing out and I find out that there are multiple other ways to do it. I doubt I'll ever find all of the things that can be done because there doesn't seem to be a comprehensive information file on it anywhere. It's just a 'let's try this' sort of experience and see what happens.

4. It's Stubborn and so am I!

The good news is that I'm as stubborn as it is! I am the most stubborn person I know (just ask my husband.) It's a good thing. Because this system is NOT for quitters. Because trouble shooting can require re-threading, changing needle, changing needle position, changing thread, changing tension, changing bobbin tension, rebooting the prostitcher, etc. MULTIPLE times before getting the right combination of solutions that work. And next time, it will be a different combination, so be prepared!

5. The Manual

The manual covers almost nothing. While you will notice I have it laying open in the photo above because I need to refer to it every single time I'm at the machine, most of the time it doesn't cover what I need to know. It's super limited information is very basic. It really needs to be an encyclopedia.

6. Finding Support 

And that's why finding support is so important. The problems will never occur during working hours when the technical support is available on the phone. So I google YouTube videos. If those don't cover what I need, I turn to social media. Facebook has several great groups that are filled with helpful folks. Taking a photo of the issue and posting it helps to show what's going on. So don't be too shy to ask!

7. Each Machine is Unique

So I have found that there is no one correct tension or bobbin tension setting. Each machine is different and the settings are different depending on what you are doing. I'm still struggling with shredding thread. I can make it through almost one whole row without shredding, and that's a huge improvement, but still not ideal. I should be able to quilt a whole quilt without the thread shredding. So it's something I am still working on.

8. The Basics

I'm still struggling with rolling the quilt forward and restarting the design in the right place (haven't found any tutorials or videos on how to do this.) It's something that must be done on every quilt, and yet it is so glaringly absent from any place I've looked!

9. Disappointing products

Red snappers were supposed to be the best thing ever. I watched the video on how to use them. And my machine still got hung up on them and kept stitching the pattern skewed and in the wrong place. UGH. And they are painful to try to get into place. I watched several videos, and using the table base helps, but leaves the snappers in the way!

Edge clamps were supposed to be helpful. I watched the video on how to use these as well. They suck. They don't hold the fabrics, they slip off and shred the backing. I've added strips of batting to help hold them, still slipping. Back to the clamps that came with the machine.

10. Enjoying small successes

I've finished quilting 5 quilts. None of them are perfect. Some are better than others. All of them had thread breaks, shredding, etc. I fixed almost every issue to the point it would be hard to find. Well, except one quilt. It's pretty awful. So I take the successes I can get and I learn from them. Mostly, I've learned that I'm a lot more patient than I thought I would be. I've only cried 3 times and I've only screamed bad words once. Trust me when I say I'm proud it was only once!

Looking forward I believe that it will get better. 

I'm going to get someone to come out and adjust the timing on the machine. I believe the timing is ever so slightly off, that's why the needle keeps piercing the thread and it shreds.

I'm going to take classes, and more classes. And watch videos, and watch more videos. It's a long learning curve and I'm determined to not give up.

I'm going to be proud of my successes. I'm going to write everything down that I've learned. Having written notes of everything is so important, because it's impossible to remember everything.

For now, I'm off to SC again to teach more workshops, then when I get home, I am going to keep learning about this crazy thing I've gotten myself into.



  1. OH, my gosh! You should be proud of your accomplishments. I'll never take what my machine quilter's do so lightly. It's a real developed skill. Good luck!

  2. The more you use your red snappers the easier they will be to put on, they will become less stiff. Just make sure they are behind the back roller (closest to the machine) before you begin quilting. You might need to make your backing a few inches longer while you get adjusted to using them. Don't give up on them just yet.

    My machine only likes one type of thread and that is all I use, same with the bobbin. Once I figured that out I have not had any tension, breaking thread issues for over 10 years.

    Glad you are having fun...

    The quilt on your machine is gorgeous!

  3. Diane have you watched Bradie Sparrow of Sparrow Studios on YouTube? She does a video & it shows advancing the quilt to begin the next row. I found it helpful so maybe you will too. I agree, there is not nearly enough info available on long arms. Easter Blessings! Becky

  4. Ah Ah !! I have no Long-Arm but I read all those instructions !!
    Have fun Diane !

  5. You have a lot more patience than I think I would have! Good for you! That quilt in your picture is beautiful!

  6. I have a HQ Fusion with ProStitcher. It's a love/hate relationship at first, but it turns into a love relationship before long. Keep at it. You'll learn something on every quilt. You can search for "handi quilter how to advance a quilt" for videos on learning that; look for those produced by users, not just HQ. Also, be careful of the design you choose. The designs that meet or join the previous stitchout will be very difficult to get right as a newbie. Something is off if your thread is shredding on a brand new machine. Have them help you with tension as well; once this is set, it rarely needs changed. Keep at it - the fun will come!

  7. Looks like you have a challenge,but I know you have the will to win and be a great LAQ

  8. I hope everything starts to click soon! It's amazing how much there is to learn - and you only used Words of Power once!

  9. I like your attitude! Keep gong yo will get it!

  10. I am seriously green with envy (except for the frustration part!) Soon you'll be an old hand, tossing a quilt on the frame and getting it done with ease!

  11. I replaced my side clamps with giant Oxo bag clips. There are lighter than the ones that came on my long arm and they are wider and hold more of the side fabric.

  12. you make me laugh! Enjoy your machine!!!


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