Thursday, June 24, 2010

Long Arm Quilting from a Medium-Armed Woman

I had a mission, a quest. I have long gazed at work by my authors and dreamt about being half the free motion quilter they are.   Laura Heine doesn't draw it out. She just goes with the flow.....and I think they all do that!  Even if I drew every stitch on my quilt, I wouldn't be able to hit the lines! Philippa Naylor quilts tiny 1/4" feathers which are amazing. I can only dream.  (Pictures from Laura Heine Fiberworks and

After hours of unsuccessful practice on my beloved Bernina, I decided enough was enough. Time to get some real help. I took a class last year at the National Quilting Assoc (NQA) by the master Diane Gaudynski. She was fantastic! By the end of the class I was doing all kinds of shapes. I saw a glimmer of hope that one day I may be half as good.

At this year's NQA show I had a bright idea. Maybe it would be easier to be an excellent free-motion quilter on a longarm machine. Eureka! I took a class by the Queen of Longarm, Linda V. Taylor.  Wow, was that different! Those industrial longarms (made for doing factory bedding 24/7) are huge machines; very heavy and powerful.  Sure, they glide smoothly. Yes, they do all kinds of magic. I, however, could not follow the pattern with the laser light to save my life! (Hopefully I will never be called on to save a life with an industrial longarm.)

The graceful ballerina I tried to draw had cellulite and some severe limb problems.

Still not deterred, I thought, Linda, maybe if you do free-motion with the machine it would be smooth and easy like drawing with a pencil, which I can do well. To the front of the machine I marched. I tried. I flunked. I couldn't get a straight line or a smooth loop despite hours of trying. It just didn't feel right for me. 
I was relieved in a way. Those machines cost so much. One would take up an entire room in a normal house and I could just hear my husband scream at both problems! 

Discouraged, I walked the show floor looking at the gorgeous quilts with all their beautiful free-motion quilting. If I wasn’t going to need to buy a longarm machine, then maybe I could at least find a great quilt. Suddenly, lo and behold, I literally ran into a mid-arm quilting machine! 

It looked nice and friendly, all white and compact, just sitting there waiting for me. It said, Try me, Linda! Somehow I knew just to press the handle button and take off so I did.....loop-d-loop....signed my name....made a tiny circle and retraced right over!  Smooth, simple and just what I was dreaming about!  There is some hope. I might be a decent free-motion quilter after all.  I signed up for lessons on the mid-arm and if all goes well, I should master it by next year. 

I’m happy and excited I found my machine. It's affordable, and I can fit it in my house. 

Moral of the story...Don’t give up! Try the machines. There is one that is right for everyone. (And every house!)

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