A Longarm Story

Quilting became my passion in 2011. If you are interested in reading about the start of my quilting journey, you can do so here. Needless to say, I’ve wanted a longarm ever since I knew such a thing existed. But as you know, they are expensive and require A LOT of space. This has not kept me from test driving them, I do so any and every chance I get. At stores, shows, retreats, friend’s homes, etc. And the more I drive, the more I want one.

After moving to Liberty Missouri in 2018 and frequenting Angela Walter’s Quilting Is My Therapy shop, I set my sites on the HQ Amara and started thinking of ways to get one sooner than later.

The two immediate things I could do are 1. stop spending money unnecessarily and 2. apply that extra money towards my car payment.

But then I started thinking where would I put it? I have a good size sewing room in the basement but a longarm would not fit in there, even if I moved the guest bed out…and I’m not giving up my cutting table.

However, I do have an extra garage that is currently being used as storage and my pets’ poop room. It would make an awesome sewing/quilting studio with some remodeling and I believe I could fit everything in it. So now I’d need to pay off my car AND remodel a garage before I can get a longarm!

Fine. I can do this. Stop the unnecessary spending and start applying the money to the principal on my car loan and in about 5 years or so, I should be ready to buy a long arm. And this means no more paying to have my quilts quilted. For the last year I was taking them to Angela’s shop to be quilted but I would have to start doing my own quilting on my domestic machine. Fine. Another sacrifice I’m willing to make to hit my goal sooner….until I decided to make a king size quilt.

The more progress I made on the king size quilt, the more I wondered how in the world was I going to quilt it on a domestic machine! And then I remembered a good friend telling me back in November that she was planning on selling her longarm. At the time, it went in one ear and out the other. I had my mind on Amara and Amara on my mind. And hers was not an Amara. But the more I thought about it, the more sense it made.

  1. She would probably give me a great deal on it.
  2. With minimal rearranging it would fit perfectly in my office/spare bedroom.
  3. I could become really proficient on the longarm whilst I pay off my car, get my garage remodeled, and save to buy my dream machine.

So I reached out to her. And guess what?! She GAVE it to me! For FREE! I just had to get it from AZ to MO.

And so it was! Meet Esperanza (hope in Spanish), the newest addition to my family!

She arrived on March 10, 2020 in those big boxes in the garage pic. I put her together mostly by myself. My son helped a little. What was once a spare bedroom/office, is now what I call the Finishing Room. It’s where I quilt and bind my quilts.

I put the twin bed in storage and moved the office into my bedroom.

Before Esperanza arrived I started researching Tin Lizzie and more about longarm quilting in general. It is not a very popular brand and there isn’t a whole lot of information about it but I found a couple of helpful videos on the TL and watched several How To vids on Sparrow Quilt Co. They are actually an APQS distributor but they have great How-To videos on YouTube.

I ordered a roll of Warm & White batting from Joann because I had recently used it for the first time on a smaller quilt and I really liked it! I also ordered a couple of pantographs from Urban Elementz.

I started practicing on the longarm on March 20, 2020. Here are a few of pics of pantograph and FMQ practice. Not all done in one day.

Panto called Bauhaus Baby

I really had plans to become the Panto Queen. I thought it would be a perfect gateway to FMQ. And it may very well be for some people, but not for me and definitely not on this machine. The main reason is because the machine only has one set of handles which means I have to disconnect from the back and move to the front each time I advance the quilt to baste the edges. Let me tell you, this got old very quickly. But I’m not mad about it. It is forcing me to practice FMQ.

The most surprising thing I’ve learned lately, is that batting has a right and a wrong side! It comes w/the right side facing out just like fabric does and the right side has “dimples” and the wrong side has “pimples”. I cannot believe I’ve been quilting for almost 9 years and didn’t know this!

So now you know. I have a longarm! And I am so grateful and ecstatic! Thank you Lord! It’s not Amara but it will serve it’s purpose well. I still plan to upgrade to the Amara someday and I am continuing with my goal to pay my car off sooner BUT I don’t necessarily have to remodel the garage at all. My current set up works really well.

AND!!! I didn’t have to quilt my king size Everything Goes Scrappy Trips on my domestic! Some of you have already seen pics on Instagram, and I’ll be sharing more pics here on the blog, but here are a couple in closing.

Thanks for stopping by! God bless and happy stitchin’!

A Thread for Life

preach the word; be ready in season and out of season; reprove, rebuke, and exhort, with complete patience and teaching. For the time is coming when people will not endure sound Or healthy teaching, but having itching ears they will accumulate for themselves teachers to suit their own passions – 2 Timothy 4:2-3 ESV

Linking up at:

Can I Get a Whoop Whoop?

Finished or Not Finished Friday

Beauties Pegeant

Long Arm Learning

23 thoughts on “A Longarm Story

  1. I am SO happy for you!!! What a blessing to have a generous friend and the place to put a longarm without renos on top of everything else! Looking forward to seeing more pics of your progress!

  2. Thatโ€™s a great long arm story! The perfect solution! Saving your quilting $$ to apply to your car loan…gets you to your dream machine sooner. Have fun, learning and getting proficient!

  3. Congratulations! In a world full of uncertainty, it’s good to know there are always people willing to do something amazingly kind. I know nothing about longarm machines so I always assumed pantographs must be a really convenient way to accomplish complex patterns. It never occurred to me that they would be a nuisance to use. Enjoy your new journey quilting on your own longarm.

  4. Yea for a new long arm. I have friends who absolutely swear by their Tin Lizzies and have quilted a huge number of quilts on them as they have quilting businesses. Hum, I’ve been quilting for a ridiculous number of years and I’ve always heard “bump it up” meaning the bumpy side goes up. I’ve been using Pellon 80/20 with excellent results plus buying at a great price at a show. Buying at a roll at a time is absolutely the correct way to go. Have fun with your new “toy.”

  5. YAY YOU! So many blessings come from planning and patience (and a little boldness, too). I look forward to seeing many more creations.

    ps–I rent time on a longarm machine at a local quilt shop. It isn’t the same as owning, but much more cost and space efficient for me.

  6. Oh my goodness – look at you go! I’m so happy for you, and how fun is it that you got it for free. This is the best post I’ve read all day, it’s leaving me smiling from ear to ear. Have fun! Enjoy!

  7. Congrats!! You are entering the world of soooo much fun!! I have never liked doing panto’s. My reason, I like to see the stitches forming, each and everyone of them..Freehand and ruler work is my desire.

  8. You are so lucky!!! I too dreamed of a long arm but I got a Sweet 16 sit down. I am enjoying it all the same and getting my quilts quilted myself. I buy my warm and white batting at Hobby Lobby by the roll and use a 40% off coupon. It’s all I use anymore.

  9. Congratulations! Lucky you, to be gifted a long arm AND be able to find space to set it up. Have fun learning to quilt with it. I can’t wait to see your finished Scrappy Trips all quilted and finished.

  10. Congratulations. That’s awesome news. That is definitely a great friend. Have fun playing around.

  11. I really admire you working towards a goal, and doing all the set up yourself… that looks like a gigantic and intimidating jigsaw puzzle to build… with moving parts… yikes! Great job! Enjoy!

  12. I loved your story. So glad you were given a long arm…such a generous friend! I too have a long arm (Innova) …. what great therapy to quilt whenever you want. Happy Quilting ๐Ÿ˜Š

  13. This is a great Long Arm Story!!! And I am so glad it all fits in your house…. The Quilting house!! haha! Well that is what I feel like mine it too – I keep taking over more space ๐Ÿ˜‰ Love the quilt you showed at the end – can’t wait to see more!

  14. Awesome story, Zenia!!! I love how you had a plan to keep moving forward and you were blessed with an in between solution.

  15. Congrats and great story! I thought I got my longarm for a deal but you certainly topped me! Working on my intro post so I’ll be linking it up soon (tomorrow?). After so many years of quilting freehand on my reg sewing machine being my only option, I have been in LOVE with pantographs (also use Urban Elementz) for the 3 years I’ve had my LA!

  16. What a great story…really enjoyed reading about your good fortune of getting this machine. Have fun and I am sure you will not loose sight of your goal. I also drooled over the Amara but decided in the end to remain a sit down quilter (now have the Capri)

  17. I didn’t know you just got your long arm machine in March! CONGRATULATIONS!!! You are so lucky to live near Angela Walters’ shop. Does she teach long arm quilting there? I admire her work so much; used to follow her blog years ago when she was still doing custom quilting for hire, and I recently got two of her books full of different quilting design ideas (put them on my Amazon wish list and got them for my birthday). I had the chance to quilt on the HQ Amara all week because their machines were in the long arm classroom at Spring Paducah last year when I signed up to take ALL the long arm workshops, and I really, really liked that machine. I can see why it’s your dream machine!

    1. I am really interested in the idea of a separate “finishing room.” I find that, even though my “bonus room” over the garage seems like it should be an ample size, I tend to spread out and fill up all available space. Usually I am in the middle of a quilting progress that is engulfing the room when I want to do something simple like fix a torn hem, make a T-shirt dress, or something like that, so the “quick thing” never gets done at all. Our guest bedroom is so rarely visited by guests that I’ve been considering moving “Headless Helena” (my dressmaker dummy who is hanging out in my bathrobe in all the pictures of my long arm) and some other garment sewing things in there and using my current room ONLY for patchwork and quilting. What has stopped me is that I’d probably want a separate ironing board, iron, and cutting table in there, and all of those duplicate items start adding up… Plus my husband is like, “Now you need TWO sewing rooms?!!”

    2. Which brings me to the second thing I appreciated about your post, which was your candid reflection about how you’re making your dream of long arm quilting a reality through being intentional about where your money goes. That is so true for all of us — we can look at a big ticket item and it seems so far away, but then you go through your budget and look at where lots of small amounts are being spent without thinking much about it, and all of that does add up. I am reading your post right after I read Cheree (Morning Latte)’s post where she talks about planning to get a different machine, but then “God shopping” happened and a different long arm machine popped up in front of her at a price that made a long-off dream possible right then and there, and I see that with your Esperanza as well. Come to think of it, when I was shopping for long arm machines 3 years ago, I thought I was doing research to see which machine I wanted, to know how much I’d need to save up, when I got the opportunity to purchase a dealer demo machine at a significant price reduction that made me feel like I could take the plunge right then and there.

    Hey, I have an idea for you for pantographs. I noticed in one of Carole’s posts (From My Carolina Home, either the finished Dream Big Dahlia post that she linked to Long Arm Learning or else maybe I saw it in Part One or Part Two of that Dahlia panel) that she bastes the sides of her quilt top with pins instead of machine basting them. And, when I saw that, I remembered that I’d heard of basting sides with pins before even though it’s not as common of a method. The danger for you with pin basting and pantographs would be hitting a pin when you quilted off the edge or too close to the edge of your quilt top, but what if you machine basted 4-5″ wide strips of muslin or old bed sheets or something to the sides of a quilt top before you loaded it onto your machine, and then used pins to baste the edges of the muslin/bed sheet strips to your batting and backing each time you advanced the quilt? Doing it that way would require more batting and backing, but it would enable you to do an entire pantograph quilt without having to move those handles back and forth with every advance of your quilt.

    Your Everything Goes Scrappy Trips is awesome and I hope you show closeups of the quilting when you post about it next time! Thanks for linking up with Long Arm Learning!

  18. Hi Zenia! I love your friend – what a treasure she is. Wow, when your LA arrived you had no idea what the very near future held. More than likely you had a ‘stay at home’ order of some sort to follow, and that may have allowed for a lot of practicing. Or none. Either way, I’m thrilled for you. I don’t have a LA and have never tried a panto, but I do think that being forced to FMQ without them may be a blessing in disguise. You will develop your own rhythm and favorite quilting patterns as you get used to TL. I know a friend uses a TL but I can’t think of who or I’d hook you two up. I look forward to hearing/reading about your journey on the way to nirvana. You lucky dawg, going into Angela’s shop!! Cool! ~smile~ Roseanne

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