Wednesday, September 4, 2013

Learning to Long Arm

If you know me at all you know about my fear of free motion quilting. Thankfully, after taking Elizabeth Hartman's class at QuiltCon and then starting to practice my skills on charity quilts at home that fear has disappeared. Each quilt I work on now helps me gain more confidence and improve my skills. I actually really like free motion quilting now. But there was one more fear out there I needed to conquer: mastering the Long Arm. 

I had been putting off learning how to Long Arm until my free motion skills got better. Right now, I don't branch out much past a basic stipple. But my husband requested that I stipple the Scrappy Trout Along Quilt and I was faced with two options. Now this quilt is a King Sized monster. And it's super heavy thanks to all those seams. There was no way in hell I was going to attempt to quilt this one at home. I know better. Especially with my expanding belly, I knew that for me it would be a nightmare. So I could either send it out to a Long Armer to quilt for me. Or I could bite the bullet and do it myself. I debated vigorously between the two options and eventually decided that now is as good a time as any to teach this old dog a new trick. 


I signed up for a private lesson on Harley (the resident Long Arm at my favorite LQS, Sew Modern) with my friend Lisa. She taught me everything I needed to know from racking the quilt to threading the machine. I even brought a charity quilt with me for practice. I can't believe how intimidated I was by the Long Arm. I wish I had mustered up the courage earlier to take a lesson because it was so much fun and so much easier than I expected. Quilting on the Long Arm was so much easier and more fluid than trying to free motion on my home machine!

I used my lesson time to learn the basics, like racking my quilt, threading the machine, etc. And then I just practiced stippling. I wasn't ready to get too fancy and I just wanted to get the hang of the machine and how it flowed. Also, my husband requested that I stipple his Scrappy "Trout" Quilt so initially that's all I needed to know. I was able to stipple a small charity quilt on the long arm in about an hour, which was awesome. Now I'm addicted!.

So here's my advice to all you chickens, just like me, that are out there. Take a deep breath and just try the Long Arm. You will be so surprised at just how easy it actually is to work on one. I am mad it took me so long to muster up the courage. It's fun and it's super easy. You'll get the hang of it in no time and be kicking yourself, just like me, that you didn't try it sooner.


  1. Glad you had fun! My first go at long arming was on an enormous quilt that was going into a competition, so my teacher really pushed me. It took over 11 hours! Don't do that... ;o)

  2. I big pink puffy heart long arming a quilt! I actually tried long arming before I tried FMQ on my domestic ("quilting") machine! I don't know people are scared. It's AHHHHH MAAAAAAYYYY ZING!!!

    I'm glad you loved it as much as I do! And, you will feel like a freakin ROCK STAR when you get the Scrappy Trout all stippled (you should do fish scales! THAT would be cool!).

    Well done!!

  3. I love my long arm - and you're right, it's so much easier than doing it on my domestic!! It's like having a great big piece of clean paper and a marker - so many things you could do with it!! Congratulations!