Monday, March 21, 2016

Beginner Longarm Quilting

Being a new longarm quilting machine owner is like being a beginner quiltmaker.  I've quilted on longarm machines in the past, but mostly using spirals, loops, and meandering.  In my quest to quilt custom quilts, I've watched a lot of YouTube videos and joined a lot of  Facebook groups to feed my hunger for knowledge and quilting motifs.

First, I practice on either a dry erase board or paper.   I have poor penmanship and am no artist when it comes to drawing, but I do know that what I draw will look much better quilted.  I've done a lot of free hand work as well as using various rulers.

Yesterday was the first day that I decided to start making a sampler of some of the designs I've seen (that I have a chance to stitching out).  This is definitely a "practice makes perfect" scenario I find myself in.  I need a LOT more practice, but am sharing my experience in the hope that other beginner longarm quilters will not get discouraged.

The plan is to make three to four rows of blocks, quilting a different design in each.  Today, I'm sharing  Row 1.  I'm using the machine's horizontal and vertical lock control to quilt the block grids. A close up of each design, technique used, and my review of each block follow.

Block #1 - Orange Peals:  I used a wash away blue marking pen to draw 2" grids into an 8" square.  I actually started out using the ruler in the bottom left hand corner.  I used a 1.5" circle template to stitch the design.  Other than using rectangular rulers to stitch in the ditch, this was my first times using any sort of shape ruler.  It was tedious, time consuming, and I could tell that a lot of this would cause fatigue.  So, I started stitching from the top left hand corner freehand to see if I needed to use the rulers.  The start was pretty poor, but I started to get the hang of it in the second row.
Review:  Quilters who use templates/rulers have spent many, many hours perfecting this skill and it takes many, many hours of work.  I will definitely appreciate this talent when I view future quilts.

Block #2 - Circle Templates:  This was oh so easy on paper; not so using the machine.  I used the inside and outside of circles.  None of that mattered for my skill level.  Much more practice is required for this one.

Block #3 - Linda rtaylor's Applique Helper:  This ruler is intended to use to trace around applique shapes.  However, it has three (or four) scallops on one side.  I decided to  make a random grid.  I love it.  I now have another use for this ruler.

Blocks #4 and #5 - Top Anchor 6" Five Point Star Template:  These rulers are very costly.  I spent about $70 for two templates, 6" and 10" 5-point star.  I love the idea of these rulers.  I tried six times in two blocks, changing the color of thread and/or moving the template to a new spot.  Only two of the six stars matched back up at the beginning.
Review:  There is definitely a learning curve here.  I watched the video twice prior to stitching but I plan to watch it again and again if necessary.  I so want to be able to use these rulers.

Block #6 - Random Grid Lines:  After the fail with the five point star template, I decided I needed no structure so I grabbed a straight ruler and made a random diagonal grid.

Block #7 - Swirls (Free motion):  For a little pick me up after a stressful row, I decided to do a free hand design.

I'm working on row #2.  We will see how that goes.
-------------------------- Type-u-later,


  1. I like your trial and error technique and the notes about what needs work or what a great way to do things. I'm rooting for you in your long-arm endeavors!!!

  2. I have never used longarm before but I dream of one (dream that only other quilters will understand) and I love watching how others get to play wit it. I love that you include notes, not everyone is doing that. Keep up the good work :)

    1. Thanks Mari. One day your dream may come true, like mine.


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