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!


  1. Sounds a lot like tips for quilting in general.:) lol

  2. LA and machine quilting has a steep learning curve. Tension gave me headaches until I spent time talking and listening to my machine guy. I could literally feel tension and know how to adjust the case. So hats off and lots of applause for tackling this technique and staying with it.
    I think the biggest thing is to figure out what you want to do with it and ignore what everyone else is doing. Like I love seeing ruler work, but it is NOT something I want to do. I just want to be happy with finishing my quilts. Set your boundaries and get very good at it, then grow in your own direction.

  3. 8. Remember to listen to your husband when he tells you the read the manual first...Lol
    Signed, your Husband

  4. I love that quilt!! The colors!

  5. Excellent advise! There were days I was certain my LA and I were going to break up. I’m sure there will be more days like that in the future too! But every time I’m working on it I learn something new. I’d add one more thing: play music loud enough to drown out any cursing so the kids don’t hear - just keeping it real!

  6. Sounds like great advice for everyone even if you don't have long arms. LOL

  7. Okay first of your husband. Second, I totally agree. You are so right when you say, it's not like bringing home a new sewing machine. It DOES take time, DON'T PSYCH YOURSELF OUT. Enjoy the journey....BTW...quilting i also very forgiving. :)

  8. Thanks Diane, we need to be reminded of this. We start reading with Dick and Jane, not War and Peace.

  9. Learning the tension settings for different thread is a good place to start. After finding an upper thread wt and bobbin thread weight and Brand that worked I used the same brand of thread and wt until I got the hang of it. Then I experimented. That way I could practice and become comfortable before tackling the experience of changing threads and the issues that can arise.

  10. So sorry! I feel your pain! I put mine on the back burner for awhile and went back to free motion on my machine. Time to pick it back up and try try again until I get this licked!Lol!

  11. Yes to the check book comment. When people ask me about buying a machine, I explain I spent about $10K more when I consider all the "extras" I now have about $3K in thread alone! Ackkk.


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