MCM #79 – Four Surprising Lessons from my Longarm

It’s been several weeks since Freddy, aka HQ Fusion, came to live with me. As you know, we had a bumpy start but we are getting along better every day.

Fusion HQ quilting

That being said, there are some things about quilting on a longarm that have surprised me and I thought I would share those with you.

I have to say I’m really glad I had a sit-down machine prior to buying the longarm. While I don’t think it’s necessary to start with one, I am so comfortable using my Sweet Sixteen and very familiar with the machine and how the tension, etc. works. It eliminated the anxiety that I otherwise might have felt moving to such a big machine when I bought Freddy.

Handi Quilter Sweet Sixteen

The first issue I had when I started longarming was with ruler work. On Star Blossom (which still isn’t finished!) I did a LOT of ruler work. Each little section was quilted with a straight ruler and with different spacing. I found that I needed to write down the measurements for each section, because after I advanced the quilt I couldn’t see what was already quilted. After I unrolled the quilt for the second time, I remembered to write everything down!

Ruler Work

The next issue I had to work out was the thread that Freddy likes to use. My favorite thread to use is Omni by Superior. Thank goodness Freddy likes Omni! He’s not so keen on King Tut though. Every time I tried to use KT, the alarm would start buzzing at me telling me there was a thread break, but there wasn’t. I finally remembered hearing someone say their machine only liked to stitch in one direction with certain threads. Changing the direction I was stitching in (switched from left to right to right to left) eliminated the alarm and the stitches were beautiful. Who knew such a little thing would make such a difference?

Lesson Three – Picking is a PAIN! My goal now is to avoid it at all costs. Picking out my stitches was so much easier on a sit-down machine. I’m sure I should have tried to avoid it then too!

Finally, and most surprising to me – longarming is physical! When doing ruler work I tend to lean over and hunch my shoulders. This gives me a catch in my upper back. After about an hour I have to take a break and stretch everything out. I’m also on my feet a lot. I like that I’m not sitting for hours stitching, but it’s taking my body some time to get used to all that standing. I found myself taking frequent breaks.

I’m sure there will be other things I’ll discover as I do more quilting. I am so happy I have Freddy and I have a lot of learning to do. Quilting curves is not as easy as it is on my sit-down, so I’ll be doing lots of practice with curvy designs. This machine has made quilting so much easier, and I’m seriously crushing on how quickly I can load, quilt, and trim a quilt now. It makes me smile just thinking about it!

On a different note, later today I will be posting about the Christmas in July 2017 Bundle Sale. The sale starts at 3pm EST and runs for only 72 hours, so be sure to check back in this afternoon for more information. You won’t want to miss it!

Before we get to the linky party, I’d like to say Congratulations to Sarah of Cedar Fork Stitches. Sarah’s quilt – Four Square Float – is featured in McCall’s Quick Quilts. Her quilt was the most clicked on link from last week’s party, and understandably so. Her quilt is gorgeous!

Photo by Sarah of Cedar Fork Stitches

Now it’s your turn to share your quilty crush! You can link any blog post, Instagram or Flickr pic – here’s how:

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About Beth

I'm a wife, mother of two, and lover of all things crafty. I love to cook up new things in the kitchen and in my craft room, and sometimes get "licking the spoon" mixed up with "licking the fabric"!!
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16 Responses to MCM #79 – Four Surprising Lessons from my Longarm

  1. Patricia says:

    Interesting lessons. Personally, I am a “checkbook” quilter. Your post has made me appreciate Stephanie, my much cherished long arm quilter even more! Thank you so much for sharing and hosting the link up! 🙂

  2. Vicki in MN says:

    And I can’t imagine ruler work on a sit down, I know lots of people are getting into it though! Yes I too have to take breaks or my neck/back kill me, stretches are good:) If you have a hard time controlling the machine perhaps you can try a rice bag-you lay it over the quilt over the throat of your machine. I made mine a long tube. A ‘little’ drag on the machine can help.

  3. I snap a photo of what I did for FMQ before rolling. Writing it down is a great back-up also. My machine does not like King Tut either!!! I have a dedicated bobbin case for when I have to use it. But I’d much rather be using Glide.

  4. Andrea H says:

    Beth, Thank you for the great feedback and tips on transitioning to a long-arm machine. I am years away from getting one, but I always appreciate hearing everyone’s experiences. –Andrea

  5. Tish says:

    You are rocking your new machine! I’m enjoying everything you write about it and am hoping to use your advice when I start transitioning.

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  7. Cathy Bremer says:

    Look on Amazon at a saddle chair. It lengthens the time you can work. It makes micro stippling possible.

  8. Sounds like you’ve done a lot in figuring out your new sewing room buddy. Glad it’s working out for you really well.

  9. Kathleen McCormick says:

    All good information on the swich from the table top to long arm. I don’t think I’ll have room or be productive enough for a longarm, but it is always a tempting thought!

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  11. Posture and ergonomics are so important! Too many longarmers need shoulder surgery after several years of longarming due to poor body attention while sewing. Be sure to stand up straight (adjust your machine height if needed), keep your elbows close to your body, and try to relax your shoulders while stitching. Keep your whole body loose while stitching, feet apart and moving fluidly with the machine, using your wrists and forearms to move the machine primarily not your upper arms and shoulders.

  12. rl2b2017 says:

    Hi Beth,
    I love reading about your long-arm lessons and Freddy. I just got a new Elna 730Pro with an 11″ throat that I am looking forward to quilting on. I almost went the mid-arm, sit down route, and I don’t know that I’ll ever manage a long-arm. But it sure is fun to dream about, and read about others and their successes. I never would have thought about rolling up the design once it was finished, and then not being able to see it. ~smile~ Roseanne

  13. Cindy says:

    Sounds like you are taming the learning curve with your new toy, and having fun at the same time.

  14. Glad you and Freddie are fast friends now! Thanks for sharing the little lessons as some apply to domestic too!

  15. Liz W. says:

    I too never write down what I do, and then when I get to a new section … sometimes I have to roll back to see! I really should write it down, but it’s so tempting to just keep going! I love hearing your progress report on Freddie.

  16. Ruler work on a longarm is much different. I struggle with it myself and find that I prefer smaller rulers as I find myself needing to readjust too frequently on the longer rulers / not maintaining the control I would prefer. I hope you have a great week ahead, Beth!

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