The world of long-arm quilters can seem daunting when you first take a look. Not only does the cost to buy one seem intimidating, (some models retail at over $10,000); there’s also the overall function to deal with. These are not easy machines to use if you’re inexperienced.
Do not let this put you off, however. If you’re thinking about launching your own quilting enterprise, or would like to jump in and create just for yourself, there are ways of doing both.
Here at Vault50, we have had all manner of questions sent to us about the long arm quilter, (most of which come off the back of the ultimate guide we published here).
In response to those we have come up with 10 tips, we feel all newbies to the world of LA quilting would like to know before they get started.
So without further delay, let’s jump to it…
Top 10 Tips for Long Arm Quilting Machine Beginners
1. Don’t be intimidated by your machine
As we stated in the intro above, these machines can be complicated and definitely come with a hefty price tag.
However, once you’ve got your system set up in your home or studio, do not let it get the better of you.
It’s okay to make mistakes. Use test fabrics and start experimenting. Find out what all those settings do. Switch things around, try it all out. Fiddle with the inbuilt software as if you’re a kid in a toy store… you’re not going to break anything and there’s always the default button to revert everything back to factory settings.
At the end of the day it is just a sewing machine. Grated, it is a bit bigger than the norm but it doesn’t mean it is going to hurt you.
2. Allocate play time with the your long arm quilting machine
Even if you’re bought the machine and are diving in to create items for business purposes, allow yourself time to ‘play’ with the machine too.
This is very much an extension of tip one. By sitting down to play you will learn more about what your new machine can do, without being tied up with seriousness of work.
And play sounds so much more enticing than practice.
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3. Don’t be too hard on yourself
I am sure you’re getting the tone we’re trying to put across now. As a newbie you shouldn’t take you or the machine too seriously. That will only end up in quilting paralysis.
Do not be over critical of your stitches. Keep on at it, and employ a pragmatic eye on the results.
Look at what you are doing and analyse without being overly critical on what you need to work on to improve. It’s important not to expect perfection, expecially during these early stages.
4. There’s no point in laying out your mistakes to the untrained eye
If you’re showing people your work and highlighting where you made a mistake or where you feel you can do better, stop.
That’s your insecurities coming through.
Let them take a look and if they are full of positivity, enjoy it. The untrained eye will generally admire what you have created, and will be full of praise for the overall aesthetic beauty of the piece.
That’ exactly what you should be appealing to anyway, your captive audience from a customer point of view will have a similar view. The average person is not looking whether a stitch is out, or if a pattern falls off where it shouldn’t.
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5. Don’t be afraid to use your materials
You can always buy more. Dive in and start stitching. If you make mistakes or something doesn’t work out as you’d like; buy more materials and start another project.
That’s how you you’ll get better and start creating results you’re really happy with.
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6. Use the same color thread in the top and in the bobbin
A little practical tip for you. Using the same color thread in the top and in the bobbin will help hide any minor tension issues you might have.
The thread doesn’t have to be the same, but using the same color will be a real help to you.
That being said, once you start learning how to adjust tension, different colors top and bobbin will help you see how your stitches are formed. This will aid you in deciding what adjustments need to be made to get the tension just right.
7. Allow ideas to flow – draw and doodle during time out
Learning how to get the most out of your long arm quilter doesn’t stop when you away from your machine.
By sketching out ideas on paper when you have a free moment, (bored at work, waiting for a friend at the coffee house etc) you can keep the creative juices flowing.
Not only that, you can also use these opportunities to practice continuous line patterns. Create those doodles while ensuring not to lift your pencil from the paper and you will physically be training yourself to do this.
8. Keep everything that you do, (no matter how annoyed you are with it)
While it may be tempting to throw early pieces in the trash so that you never have to set eyes on the textile abomination again, try to resist doing so.
By all means place them out of sight in a drawer somewhere, however to discard them completely is a mistake.
Once your frustration has settled you can revisit those pieces to see where you went wrong, and what needs to be improved upon.
You can also take a look a year’s down the line and bask in the sheer pleasure of how much you have advanced. You keep at it and you will only get better. Keeping those early pieces will help demonstrate just how much.
9. Do a little something every day
Whether it’s just playing with settings, creating patterns on paper or actually working on a project on your machine, the important thing is to do something that involves quilting, each and every day.
10. Learn from others and most of all, keep at it
If there’s clases in your area why not sign up. There’s also a ton of excellent Youtube videos you can follow.
If you can get outside help by any means to assist you, you will be winning as a newbie. Beyond that, we really have to reiterate point number 9; do a little everyday and keep on at it.
Your long arm quilting machine is a ticket to a lot of potential creativity as well as fun. If you persevere you will be extremely happy with the results.
So what are you waiting for? Stop reading this and get back to the machine. 🙂
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