(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!