Longarm quilting takes up a lot of space, there is nothing that can be done to change that.
However, what you do have control of is how you organize the space around your long arm machine to best optimize your workflow.
There are two kinds of environments you may be using the long arm quilter:
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1. A Commercial Setting
Here you will (hopefully) be working in a large workshop and quilting professionally for commercial purposes. Space is enough to accommodate an industrial-sized long arm machine and more.
2. A Home-Based Quilting Setup
Here things can be a lot more challenging and are the focus of this article today. You may have a room/space/workshop at home where you have fitted a long arm machine, (or plan to do so in the future).
A combination of quality organizational skills, and maybe a touch of patience is needed to work efficiently where space is tight.
That doesn’t mean you can’t have an effective quilting room at home. You just need to plan ahead.
Let’s take a closer look.
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Understanding the structure of the long arm quilter
If you have yet to buy a long arm but are seriously considering doing so, (head here for reviews of some of the best machines currently available); you will need to have a clear idea of the principles of how the longarm is put together in order to accommodate one at home
The large frames involved for quilting are rarely collapsible. If you opt for a machine with a large 26” throat, you will also need space to accommodate the feed of material.
This of course takes space. Furthermore, the machines and frames are heavy. It is not a good idea to have the long arm in one position while not in use, (pressed against a back wall for instance) and then moves it into a different position for work.
There is also the issue of leveling the frame. Everything needs to be set so that the machine does not roll inadvertently during operation.
Essentially, once a long arm machine and frame is placed into position, that is where it should stay.
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Positioning the longarm and organizing the space
While it may be tempting to position your long arm flush against a wall, having access to the rear side of the frame is important.
Whether you need to adjust the take-up rail, manipulate fabrics, or just need to pick up a dropped component, having 360-degree access to your machine is definitely beneficial.
Positioning the frame about 15” from the wall should give you ample space to walk around your long arm rig.
If your frame is height adjustable decide whether you prefer a seated or standing position while you work. Height can also be determined by the size of the stool you are using too.
An added bonus of a taller frame is that it gives you more storage space beneath. Here you can fit dedicated sewing cabinets with your needed accessories. You can also opt for simple, easy access plastic storage bins that you can pick up from the likes of IKEA (check out this video, for tips on that) or HomeDepot.
Having all your needed quilting accessories properly organized and close to the long arm will clearly aid your workflow. It will also help combat the fact your space is probably limited.
Essentially, if you are using your long arm quilter in a confined area (just large enough to accommodate the large frame), you can not have any superfluous items in the room. Anything non-quilting related has to be banished.
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Get creative with the space that you have
If you have yet to buy a long arm quilter, or maybe you have one installed but space is causing you problems, it might be time to get creative.
Is there anywhere else in the house you could better fit the machine?
Do you have the opportunity to clear out the basement? What better reason to go on massive and ruthless processes of de-cluttering than to make room for your passion for quilting.
How’s the garage space? Could that be cleared out to make room for your machine and frame?
Has one of the kids left for college? Yes, sentimentality may make it hard to clear out all their old stuff, (and there could be issues come the holidays), but the room might well make a perfect workshop for your long arm?
You may need to get creative with the space you have available, but in the long run, it will be worth it. As long as the long arm machine you buy fits into the room, and you carefully organize the function of the space around it, you will be able to take your quilting to the next level.
And have a lot of fun in the process.