Thearica, who blogs at Pig Tales and Quilts, is an experienced long arm quilter and today she will share ideas and thoughts on long arm quilting. Many of you know that I came home from QuiltCon dreaming of owning a long arm quilting machine and these insights only make me want one more, I am sure you will enjoy them as much as me - read on.
I am a 33 year veteran hand quilter who, because of carpal tunnel, had to turn to machine quilting in 2001. It was very daunting at first because no matter how I tried, I could not quilt to "suit myself". I finally let the machine just sit. My husband finally asked me if I was going to quilt on it or just look at it. That is when I knew I had better do something with this $10,000.00 piece of machinery since he had purchased it for me.
I went online and searched for any longarm quilting classes I could find nearby. I was lucky enough to find one in West Virginia, fairly close to where I lived. I signed up, paid my fees and got excited about the possibility that I would learn to use the machine. Nichole Webb was the instructor and she was fantastic! I learned so much in that first class that I hosted her in my home 3 months later. I also took classes from 3 more very talented instructors, including Sherry Rogers Harrison, Sue Patten and Karen McTavish. If it were not for these 4 instructors, I would have eventually sold the machine.
I am here to tell you that if you are a beginner longarm quilter, take classes. If there are no classes near you, then go to some of the bigger quilt shows where you will find these instructors and others just like them. The knowledge they have to share is far worth many times over what they charge for their classes. I am confident that you will walk away with a whole new arsenal of knowledge to use in your own studios. I also want to say, don't be scared to spend a little extra money on books that these instructors publish. A lot of them will come with a DVD and you will reap so much from these learning tools as well.
One of my favorite books is "Quilting Makes The Quilt" by Lee Cleland. I have used this book more in my quilting than any of the others in my library. I also love Patsy Thompson's DVD's. These are a must for every longarmer's library. They are full of fun quilting designs that your customers will come to love and expect on their quilts.
I quilted feathers in the following quilt using Patsy's hyper quilting style. The customer entered the quilt in a show and we won 2 ribbons! It is one of my favorite quilts and was really fun to quilt!
This Christmas quilt was done for a customer and I quilted snowflakes all over the background. I used Signature 100% cotton thread in Mustard color and when I finished quilting the quilt, it looked like a metallic Christmas card. Always remember that your thread color plays almost as much a part of your "finished" look as your quilting design. Mustard thread is wonderful on Christmas quilts and red/white/blue patriotic quilts. I remember when my friend Regina Carter suggested I use mustard on this Christmas quilt, ...I wasn't so sure... until I took the quilt off the frame. I am now hooked... line and sinker on mustard. I turn to it more in my quilting than any other color thread.
I made this quilt for my daughter's 30th birthday and drew the tiger's face on with my Clover pencil. Once it was quilted, I just spritzed water right over my quilting and any marks showing were gone like a puff of wind. They come in white, pink and blue for any color fabric you may need them for.
As much as we all would love to load a quilt and begin quilting immediately in order to get the most use of our time, it is not the way to get the best use of your time. When you are willing to sacrifice a little of your hourly earned wage for your customer, they will be awed with your quilting and become a "return" customer for sure. Remember, a rushed job looks like a rush job!
I will hang a top that has come in to the studio and study it for at least 3 days while I quilt on another quilt. I will photograph it and upload it on my computer. You have no idea how this will actually allow you to see the quilt top differently. 2nd and 3rd design opportunities will jump out at you. If you approach the quilt in a "treasure hunt" way, you will see the "hidden" potential. I love to quilt someones top using a "hidden" design feature that you normally do not see when you first look at the quilt. That is when you will see your customers eyes pop open, the smile come to their lips, and you know you have done your job well!
Another quilting design opportunity may lie within the fabrics that the top is made from. Look at the fabrics... Do they speak to you? Are there designs in the fabrics that you can bring out in your quilting? The possibilities are endless if you know what to look for. This is where you will train your mind to look for what you normally would not see.
This is one such quilt where I played off of the pine cone designs in the fabrics. I pulled that out to the border for a WOW! factor! You can see the judges thought it was a perfect idea!
My advice is to load a play quilt, or ask your friends if they have some quilts they would be willing to let you practice on. Load it and be ready to quilt. Study the quilt for several minutes and decide on a design you would like to quilt in one of the blocks. Now, go sit down for 2 hours. Yes, 2 hours... get out your pad and draw the design you want to quilt. Draw it over and over again. Draw it until you think your hand is going to fall off. Draw it until you have it drawn like you want it. It might take 2 pages of paper, it might take 20, but draw it until you are comfortable with how it looks. Then trace over that drawing. Trace it again and again. Just zone out.. possibly have some soft instrumental music playing low in the background. When the 2 hours are up, go to the machine and quilt it right then. You will surprise yourself. Practice, practice, practice. I cannot emphasize how much this will benefit you.
To become the best quilter you can be, you must be willing to study, study, and study harder! Don't ever settle for where you are at this moment in time. Always want more from yourself and you will shine above the rest! By taking the time to study and taking the time to practice, you will find yourself becoming more confident than you ever thought possible. But it won't come free. You will have to dedicate hours to yourself to make it possible.
And always remember "Rome wasn't built in a day!"
Helpful links for todays longarmers:
Thanks again Leanne, for allowing me the opportunity to share what little knowledge I have on longarm quilting. It has been fun!
Thank you Thearica!
Don't forget to link up your Q1 finishes - the Q1 post-quarter link is open and it will close at midnight MST, April 7, 2013. And if you still have some UFOs I hope you will join us for Q2 of the FAL, Q2 FAL lists can be posted starting on April 8.