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5 Tips for Getting Started with Longarm Quilting

Your longarm quilting journey starts here, Home-Based Quilter! Maybe you’ve been paying a professional longarmer to finish your quilts or finishing quilts on a domestic machine—either way, longarm quilting can have a bit of a learning curve.

To make the whole process a little smoother and less intimidating, we’ve compiled five tips to help you get started with your longarm.


A heart pattern stitched in red thread on orange fabric1. Practice Quilt Designs on Paper First

Get used to the feel of longarm quilting without burning through your favorite fabrics or wasting expensive materials. Lay out some butcher paper or open a sketchpad and practice drawing patterns the same way you would quilt them. Make sure to draw by moving your whole arm, rather than just letting the motion come from your wrist. This will help you build some muscle memory before you step up to the frame.

When you have a quilt top pieced together, draw out the blocks on paper and test some stitch designs before you try them out with needle and thread. This way, you can perform a kind of visual test to determine if you like the design before it’s too late. When you make this drawing, position your paper the same way you plan to frame your quilt, and do your best to draw the design the same way you would quilt it, from side to side.


2. Try Some Practice Projects Before You Start a Quilt

After drawing from the shoulder and mimicking stitching patterns feels natural on paper, it’s time to step up to the longarm—but don’t dive into a full-blown quilt just yet. Use cheap, solid fabric (like muslin) and batting and mark the fabric with chalk or marker.

Practice stitching along the marks you’ve made. Make sure to practice different kinds of patterns: straight lines, curved lines, sharp turns, a variety of shapes, etc. Just try to get a feel for the machine and the way you need to move it to achieve the desired result. Your instinct might be to slow way down to carefully construct each pattern, but confident, fluid movements tend to make for better stitching. 


3. Plan Your Design Before You Start

When you’ve completed a quilt top, make sure you have a plan of attack before you frame up your quilt and start longarming. You can look through longarm quilting pattern ideas on Instagram, Pinterest, or YouTube for inspiration. Make sure you plan out what stitching designs will look best with different portions of your quilt.

For your first longarm attempt, using patterned fabrics leaves a little more room for error. Your stitching will be more visible on solid fabrics, so if you’re not super confident in your stitching skills, pick a more forgiving material. Curved stitching patterns are aQuilters participating in a class at Grace Company little easier on the longarm than straight designs—doubling back to retrace straight stitching on a longarm is challenging.

Make sure that you leave an extra four inches of batting and backing around your quilt top to leave room for the bunching and shifting that’s bound to happen when you stitch the quilt sandwich together.  


4. Find Some Longarm Quilting Friends or Take a Class

Learning a new skill is always difficult, but it’s a little easier with friends. If you have longarm quilting friends, reach out to them and get together for a quilting session. It’s always useful to have someone around to answer questions, correct bad habits, or help you troubleshoot.

If you don’t have any longarmers in your circle, don’t worry. Check out your local quilting guilds or shops or sign up for one of Grace Company’s classes. We offer classes on a variety of topics that will help you improve your longarm skills and make a quilting project you can be proud of.


Woman celebrating while longarm quilting5. Be Patient, Be Kind to Yourself

Most importantly, remember that you won’t get it exactly right the first time. You are learning something new, and that takes time. As you make mistakes, reassure yourself that it’s part of the process. The more you practice, the more you’ll improve. It might mean that a few quilts don’t turn out exactly the way you intended, but that’s okay. You are making progress and creating, and that is a wonderful thing.


Good luck with your longarm journey and have fun!

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Posted by The Grace Company


For over 25 years the Grace Company has been the leading manufacturer of high quality quilting frames and quilting accessories. What truly sets The Grace Company apart from other competitors is its level of quality, value, and experience toward all their endeavours. From products to external and internal customer experience, the Grace Company responds to market and customer needs and continues to lead the quilting industry. Grace Company frames and hoops are designed to be easy to build and compatible with most major quilting machines. They'll have the quilting product you need.

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