Every so often questions and comments come from readers that I think others would like to hear my response to. That’s when I feature them on the blog. This is one of those days. Today’s question is about longarming.
I started answering today’s question in the morning post but it got long and I decided to split the post up into two parts…Just as a reminder, this was the original question..Oh, and if you missed the original post, HERE is the link.
Sarah asked: “Loved your post!! How did you get started long arm quilting“
I told you that I made a quilt top after my mom died…and that got me hooked on quilting. I looked at all types of magazines and quilting books but then I saw this magazine on the newsstand and I finally saw the kind of quilts I wanted to make. It’s the 1st edition of Quilt Sampler.
Oh my word…I loved the cover quilt. I loved the pictures of that shop. I was head over heels and this was the color and style of quilts I wanted to make. In the article in the magazine, it said that the people featured were from Garner, Iowa and there was a quilt shop there. WHAT??
That was my introduction to Country Threads. My life goal was to get there one day.
At about that time, I was heavy into doll making…and rabbit making. All of those country 90s crafts, I did them. I went to craft shows and sold them but it was always in my mind that one day I would go to Country Threads in Garner.
I can’t remember when I actually went the first time…once I did, it became a destination for me…but the problem, I wanted my quilts to look like their quilts and I just couldn’t. I didn’t have a longarm. That’s when I started dreaming about having a longarm. I knew I could take quilts to a longarmer and they could quilt them but as a young family now with five kids and me not having a full-time job, it just wasn’t something we could budget for.
Crafts started being made in China and the popularity of handmade bunnies went away so I quit doing crafts for money. By then we had moved to the farm where my husband worked and I started doing childcare full-time. Now I was quilting as a hobby obsessively but still really sad. I could only make small quilts.
I had learned to machine quilt them on my domestic machine but it was such a chore. I dreamed of having a longarm but we didn’t have the money. At the time, I only knew of APQS machines and they were $10,000. There was no way we could afford that.
Fast forward a couple of years…Quilting was still my hobby. I had resorted to tying quilts. I just hated it. I wanted my quilts machine quilted. I more or less quit sewing because I couldn’t make the quilts like I wanted them.
Then one day I went into Quilters Window in New Hampton Iowa. They sell Pfaff machines and there was something there called a mid-arm. I could get the machine and the frame for about $3000. WHAT!! REALLY?? I thought we might be able to afford that. Oh, I wanted one. I wanted one badly. I told my husband about it when I got home and we bought one within the month. I was SO INCREDIBLY EXCITED!!
Here it was…
I was so happy to have it and for about three years, it was a great little setup. I was making quilts right and left and my daughter Kelli stared quilting too. I was in heaven.
Then the machine started having trouble ALL OF THE TIME. I was having thread breakage ALL OF THE TIME…unless I wasn’t. For some reason the next quilt I did, it would work fine. I was miserable. By then we started having quilts published in magazines. I can’t tell you how many times I dragged my husband upstairs to try to help me figure out what was wrong. I took the machine in…no luck. But…again, no money to do anything else.
About then, my Dad passed away and left me with a little bit of money. After about the fifth crying session in two weeks my husband said, “That’s it.” He told me to take some of the money and get a new machine. I wouldn’t. I didn’t want to spend my parent’s money. I felt so uncomfortable about it.
Then my husband said- Remember how your Dad used to give $10 to this organization and $20 to that organization? Why don’t you just do come charity quilting with the machine and think of it as all of the $10 and $20 gifts your dad regularly gave away…so began the want for me do charity quilting. I could justify the machine then and I felt MUCH better.
I had a couple more crying sessions fighting the old machine until I made the final decision that I was getting a machine. Then the wonder was which machine. Two of the local quilt shops had APQS machines. At the time I was reading Bonnie’s blog at Quiltville and Judy’s blog at Patchwork Times. Both of them had APQS machines. They were an Iowa company too so I made the decision to get an APQS. There was a shop an hour north of me that had them on the floor and I could try them out…so I did…and I bought an APQS Millenium in 2012. Mine was a refurbished machine. I’d do that again in a heartbeat.
Here she is the day she was delivered.
That’s how I got into longarming.
I don’t longarm for others as a profession. Occasionally I do quilts for a few friends but not often. I don’t like the pressure of needing to feel perfect and I hate people criticizing my work. Nope. Not for me.
I don’t regret buying one…I very much enjoy owning one.
My machine is a workhorse. I rarely have had any problems with it at all. I have a thread or two breaks occasionally but it’s not troublesome. I don’t cry at the machine. I think in the 11 years I’ve had the machine I’ve only cried twice…that’s great in my book!!
If anyone is at all thinking about getting a longarm I would say this. Buy a machine from a company that specializes in longarms. APQS has only every made longarms. They know what they doing…they are the specialist. I do not recommend buying a midarm machine from Pfaff or other companies that have both domestic and midarms/longarms. They are dividing their attention between too many different products. If you’re spending that much money, go the extra and buy the best.
As I am aging I am often tempted to get a computerized machine. It would be an APQS again. My shoulder gets the brunt of things if I do too many quilts in a row or am at the machine for a long time…but again, that’s a little out of reach right now. It’s on my list to think about though. I feel like if I had a computerized one it might free up a little time and I could sneak in a few more charity quilts. It’s nothing I need or have to have but if I made a list of 5 higher-priced things I blow money on it would make the list. I’m content with what I have though. I do have an account that I’m throwing any unexpected money into with the intention of someday possibly getting a computerized machine…but if I never get one…that’s totally okay.
And that’s the story of how I started longarming…THANKS for the question!!