Listen to the Stop Scrolling, Start Sewing Podcast

20. Longarm Quilting

If you’d like to listen to the episode in its entirety, click here.

Hi there. I’m Nicole Gilbert and you’ve joined the stop scrolling start sewing podcast. Are you new to selling and want to start quilting, but have no idea where to begin each Wednesday? Join me as I share the ins and outs. If you don’t havea sewing machine, I have no idea how much fabric you need, or you’re just trying to figure out where the heck to stick that Bobbin. This is the podcast for you.

Hey, there, Nicole here, and you are listening to episode 20 of the stop scrolling start selling podcast. Today, we are talking about long arm quilting, but before I jump into the meat and potatoes of today’s episode, I want to talk about some really fun stuff I have coming up, and I really hope you’ll join me. So many of you have messaged me about working with me one way or another. So I just wanted to give you guys some info. The next class of the modern quilters Academy, we’ll start enrolling in early September. So in just a couple of weeks, the current group of quilters who are finishing up, uh, this latest session of the modern quilters Academy are just finishing their quilts, which look amazing. And I am so proud of them and have had so much fun guiding them through this journey. And I’ve got some really fun stuff coming their way too, but I am super excited about the quilting startup experience that I’m hosting starting August 31st, but I will dive deep into that one on the next episode.

All right, guys. So just keep an eye out and let’s get going with today’s episode. So on today’s episode, we’re chatting about long arm quilting. And this has been on my brain lately because I have three whips. For those of you who are not familiar with that term, a whip is a WIP or work in progress. So I have three whips that I really want to finish and get out into the world, but life is getting in my way. So having the kids around more than usual and then gearing up for the new class of the modern quilters Academy, which opens in just a few weeks, it’s just, it’s a lot going on in my house right now. And then like art, the kids go to school. Are they not going to school? Like the whole, we’re doing a lot over here. So I’m contemplating sending my whips out to alarm service to be quilted so that I can just get these projects out there already.

Um, let somebody else kinda do some of the work for me. So I guess I need to kind of start at the beginning here. So what is long arm quilting and why would you choose? And like, why am I personally thinking about it right now? So long-arm quilting is a process for the actual quilting portion of making a homemade quilt. And so what it is, it’s a long arm, sewing machine mounted on a frame and frames range anywhere from like five feet long to 10 feet. I mean, I’ve even seen crazy specialty ones. I mean, it’s kind of the, sky’s the limit if you’ve got the room for it, but there are these huge frames and the backing batting and quilt top are loaded in over rollers and spread out. And the long arm quilt machine is actually set up on, um, casters or wheels.

I mean, the constructions are always a little bit different, you know, different brands do it different ways, but it’s all the same concept. Um, and it’s on the frame. And so the machine moves freely over the quilts. And so it allows for the actual quilting portion to be done at a quicker rate than on a domestic machine, especially when you’re talking about like a large quilt, like a King size quilts on a machine domestic machine, that’s only got like a 10 inch creative space is a lot different than a King size quilt on a long arm frame. So it’s, it could be a lot quicker. Um, and also these machines can be operated either by hand. So like complete free motion quilting done with a long arm machine or some of these long our machines can actually be, um, run by a computer. And so it’s like a set it and forget it thing.

So you like, you legit set up the programming in the computer press go and it will quilt the whole portion that’s set out in front of it. So pretty cool, like very minimal, um, technician requirements on that style. But anyway, so that’s what long-arm quilting is why you would choose to do it. I kind of touched on it a little bit. You can totally quilt on a domestic machine. I have quilted all of my quilts on a domestic machine. I’ve never used a long armor, um, because I personally really liked to do it myself, but in this season of life where I’m getting very busy and I’m cranking out a lot of projects, which is great, I’m so excited. I’m so excited to be making different things, collaborating with fellow quilters, um, participating in so long. It’s just like, I’m, I’m hitting a really good stride right now in like my quote life.

And I’ve got a lot going on and I don’t want to just have a ton of quilt tops. I know there’s a lot of people out there like different quilters who specialize in different things. Like I’m about like the, of the quilting. So I do it all, but some quilters are about like the piecing of the quilt tops. And so they put together a quilt top after quilt, top, they CR they’re creating patterns. And so, I mean, their Instagrams are gorgeous and it’s so drool worthy, but they’re doing quilt tops and they’re putting them to the side and that’s great because that’s what they do. Um, and then other people are all about the actual quilting of the quilts. And so a lot of them are long armers or, um, quilters who actually get people to send them their projects and then they just show off their artistry and the quilting.

So really all of that babbling is to say a great reason to send my pieces out to a long armor is that I just don’t have the time to do it myself. And I know that, um, I can send it out to a long armor who I have every confidence in, uh, because I’ve done the research and, and asking the right questions. Um, and in a month I could get my quote back and maybe I can get all three back in a month and they’re all completely done. So that’s kind of nice because it allows me to move on to my other projects while still getting my quilts completed, not just like, kind of leaving them to the wayside and people kind of land in two camps when it comes to long arm services. Um, either there’s a lot of people who use longterm services for everything.

Like I know a lot of quilters who piece together, their quilt tops and send out their long, their quilt top to a long armor every single time. And they send it out to somebody else, somebody else does the quilting and then they get it back. They bind it and they’re good to go. And I think that’s awesome. I think good for them. I’m not one of those people. I do all my own quilting. I like being in every single part of my quote making. Um, and again, it’s not really a, I don’t think either one of those things are different it’s that you enjoy different parts of the quilting process, um, which is why you then choose to spend more of your personal time on it. Um, which is why I think quilting is so cool is because there are so many different parts. And if you asked a hundred people, what their favorite part about quilting, you would get 25 different answers, which I think is pretty freaking sweet.

Um, also I haven’t sent my quilts out to a long armor and I’m like battling it internally because it’s like a different thing for me. Cause I’m like I do my quilting. Um, but I also, that’s also to say, I really want to learn how to long arm quilt myself. Um, now, like I was saying earlier, when I mentioned the frame sizes, these are, this is equipment. That is one it’s kind of pricey. Um, I don’t think insanely so, and again, that’s a relative thing. So, um, depending on where you’re at in your quilt journey, you just might not be ready to invest. And I totally get that. Um, but it’s also large machinery, like large machinery, like the one that I want it’s, it’s it start off straight up. It’s a 10 foot frame. So I need to have a designated room just for that.

And now I know you’re like, well guy, Nicole, I know you’ve got a designated sewing room. So what’s the problem. I do have a designated sewing room. It would not fit in my designated sewing room that has my cutting table and my domestic machine table and my design wall and all that. It wouldn’t fit in here. So I would actually need to have a second room many long-termers when you see them, like, I don’t know if for those of you who are still on TechTalk um, if you go on tic-tac or you go on Instagram or you go on YouTube and you search long armers or Lauren long-arm quilting, a lot of these long, our machines are in basements. They’re in garages, they’re in outdoor work, sheds they’re in attics. Um, because they’re big, they’re real big until I really, really want to do it, but I don’t think that it is something that is in my cards until my husband has retired from the military.

We just move too often and we don’t have the guaranteed space. So what I have in this house right now might not be replicable in the next house, just because we, we never know when we get somewhere, um, necessarily where we’re going to live and what it’s going to look like. Um, we, as our family has gotten larger, we’ve gotten better at, you know, picking homes before we get there. So we are giving ourselves some searching time. Um, but you can only get what’s available. And at the end of the day, the military gives us a date that we have to be there. And if we haven’t found something, that’s perfect, we have to find something that we’ll do because we can’t be homeless. So I don’t always have the perfect setup. So I just don’t think long arming is in the cart for me right now, but it is definitely on my quilters bucket list.

So a lot of people, long arm and quilting is a much smaller section of quilters, but there are quite a few people who do it. And I would say, I mean, I know too long armed services within a 45 minute drive of the house that I live in right now. And most places will allow you to mail your quilts to them. So like, if you fall in love with the long armor, you could totally mail your quilt top to that long armor and have that long armor warm at for you. So keep that in mind. But anyway, in this episode, I really, the idea for this episode came to me because I was sitting here and I was doing my research and I research and research and research. And I know what to look for when I’m researching, which makes researching so much easier. Like if you just Google long armed service, you’re going to be like, uh, now what, how do I know what I want?

But I knew what to look for because I’ve just, I’ve been in the circles, I’ve got people I know that do it. And so I knew kind of what to look for and what not, but I wanted to make sure I share with you guys so that you know what to look for when you’re considering hiring out a long arm service. So I guess the first thing most people are thinking about is like, what’s the actual cost, what’s the investment. And it’s interesting because before I really knew about longterm services, I kind of assumed it would be like super astronomically expensive just because, um, I personally, um, love and put my blood, sweat and tears into my quilts. And so when I’m ready to sell a quilts, um, which I’ve only done a handful of times, cause I like gifting my quilts. I think it’s just, when I make a quilt, it’s usually for somebody and somebody that I love and I know will appreciate it.

Um, but, um, they’re expensive. They’re not cheap. And so I kind of assumed considering the fact that this is the thing that holds all the guts together, um, for lack of a better words, uh, that it would be super astronomically expensive. And again, I understand that this is also relative, so please feel free to tell me to go bark up a tree. Um, but I don’t think that paying like a hundred to $200 for somebody to quilt the quilt is actually that expensive. When you think about the time and effort you put into it and the incredible return you can get now, um, you should definitely look at the cost per square inch. Now common near me is about 2 cents to two and a half to two and a half cents per square inch. And most long farmers will targe you by the square inch.

So I really need you to pay attention to that, but, um, it’s actually not that costly when you really think about it. Um, you know, a 60 by 70 quilt top, it’s gonna cost you a little over a hundred bucks, not bad, but there’s a lot of other things that can come up. So I really, really, really want you to keep that in mind. So some other costs that you can potentially run into and well, this one, the first one is not a potential you’re definitely going to have to pay for this. It’s the cost of the threat. Most quilt shops will charge you, um, per cone and, um, rarely do you use more than one cone, um, per quilt. So don’t get too worried about it. Usually you end up paying between like four and $20 for the thread. Um, but whole cones will, we’ll usually go, uh, for $25 or more. Um, I see quite often like 30, 35 bucks. So keep that in mind cause you will have to pay for your thread.

Okay. You will also need to pay for your batting. Obviously that’s probably something that you’ve already included, but you definitely want to talk to your long Armour about your batting choice. Um, and they will usually, I mean, if you get a good long Armour, they will usually talk to you about your batting choice, especially when you’re picking out your quilting pattern. Um, because, uh, and I know I’ve talked about batting with you guys before, but different batting lends itself to different types of quilting as well as different functionality later on. So you’re definitely going to want to pick a batting that goes well with your quilting pattern that you choose. And also some along we’ll prefer certain types of batting over other battings. And usually they will include some sort of rorting like if you choose like a polyester batting that they’re like super not a fan of for one reason or another, usually they will say, okay, well we can not guarantee, you know, it’s going to look like this.

We cannot guarantee it’s going to look like that. We cannot guarantee that this won’t happen simply because you are not doing like their preferred methods. So keep that in mind. Most of it is pretty reasonable and common sense stuff that doesn’t really deter me. But every once in a while I’ve seen stuff that I’ve been like, okay, check either you can quilt this or you can’t. So like it’s not that big of a deal. Uh, so just kind of keep that in mind, common sense, shopping around kind of stuff. Um, but also keep in mind. I know I mentioned that you can even send out your quilt tops to a different, or a far away long armor service and keep in mind if they sell batting there, it’s going to be cheaper for you to ship your quilt top to them if you buy your batting from them.

So keep that in mind. Um, sometimes, you know, batting can range a couple bucks depending on the retailer, but if it’s going to drastically change the cost of the package that you have to pay to ship out there, it might kinda even out in the end. So look out for that as well. And I mean, they will always love to use whatever batting they sell in the shop or at the long farmers. So, um, kind of keep that in mind, but then now that’s kind of like the common sense stuff. Like, okay, done Nicole, of course I knew I was gonna pay for thread. And of course I was going to pay for batting, but there’s some other costs that might come up. Um, if you were quilt that you don’t send to them is not square. They will charge you for squaring it. And I’ve seen labor rates at like 25, 30 bucks an hour, and I’ve very rarely seen anybody square a quilt.

And when I say anybody, I mean like a service because I can square a quilt in an hour usually. And that’s because I know my methods, I knew how I quilted it. I know. I mean, how I pieced together the top I saw where my mistakes were coming from. I knew like, Oh, it’s wonky in this direction. But when they pull it out of the package, they don’t understand all of that. So they need to lay it all out. They need to press it. They need to, you know, do X, Y, Z, um, and then really kind of understand where the faults might lie before and then start squaring it. Um, and so it usually takes a little bit longer. So that’s a potential, um, cost. Now this is an issue. If you’re mailing it pressing, a lot of places will charge you to press your quilt top and your quilt top needs to be pressed.

You know, me, I love pressing. I think pressing is like one of the most important things you can do in your quote life. And especially if you’re mailing it and you’re folding it up to fit into a mailer, it’s going to have fold marks in it when it gets on the other side. And so they’re going to have to press it and they’re going to charge you for that. Now, if you do it local, you can bring it in yourself and you can get creative to not fold it. I usually roll mine when I’m going to transfer it to not get. And this is not for a long arm cause I never done to a long arm, but like when I’ve gone to like quilt retreats and stuff like that, and I don’t want to have to press it as soon as they get there, I roll it usually like on a pool noodle and uh, that keeps it from getting all creased up.

So keep that in mind. Also, if you want a backing that is pattern in a specific way where you’re going to need the quilt top to be centered over a specific portion of your backing. They’re probably going to charge you for that because it’s just more labor intensive, um, a plain repetitive pattern backing. They could just kinda throw over the frame and wherever it falls, it falls as long as it’s, it’s their appropriate size. Um, also they will charge you if they need to prepare the quilt. So preparing the quilt is again, you know, trimming any borders, squaring, whatever, what have you pressing individual seems so like, let’s say you send your quilt top out and everything’s all good, but there’s like one seam that just won’t lay flat for anything in the world. And they’re going to have to press it. They’re going to charge you to press it.

Even if it’s just that one scene, if you have a ton of threads on your backing. And so I am guilty of this, especially when I’m using a thick batting or a hefty batting, I’m a little bitch lacks on my thread dripping on my back because I know it’s not going to come of anything like a thinner batting. I’m really, really particular about my threads because I don’t want you to ever see or feel them, but in certain types of lofts in certain heaviness, I just know you’re not going to see it. So I don’t really pay attention, but regardless they will usually a good long armor will say, no, this is what I work with. This is how I get the best results. I won’t long-arm this, if it’s got accessive threads, so they will trim the threads for you, but they’re going to charge you for that as well.

And then, um, Oh, another thing, and this is kind of like the last thing that you will notice is that you can potentially be charged for five Oh five basting. Now you don’t need to base a quilt typically on a long arm machine because of the way that the backing batting and quilt top are laid across the frame. Um, they are rolled over, um, large pins or pipes and, uh, they, they lay smoothly and they lay on top of each other in a way that doesn’t necessarily require basting. However, depending on your piecing style and how your seams are laying or how your seams are nesting, it may be a good idea to five Oh five based or spray based, um, your quilt top and you will get charged for that as well. So I just, those are some things I want you to look at, like what are the costs for those things some long armers.

Um, Oh, and then like, so back to that cost per square inch thing, I want you to also ask like, look at what’s included because a pretty decent amount should be included in their base price. Now, if you are talking about some pretty intricate, um, free motion quilting that is not repetitive, it’s very stylized and specific per block. It’s going to cost you more. I’ve seen up to 6 cents, which again, you’re like, eh, 6 cents what’s that hits a lot, honestly. It’s, you know, you’re now talking about three times the going rate. It can get pricey rather quickly. Um, so want you to look at that and see, like, what do you like? W because so often we see long arm quilting and it was like, Oh, this is what long arm quilting is. And it’s like, no, that’s what long-arm quilting is on YouTube. That’s what long arm quilting is on Instagram. That’s what long arm quilting is when you are a long arm quilter and have your own machine and do, can do whatever the heck you want when you’re having, when you’re paying somebody, it’s kind of a different ball game, because those styles that they’re doing are intricate and time consuming and gorgeous, but will typically end up costing you quite a bit more money. So keep that in mind. Um,

And that’s kinda, that’s kinda what

I got for you today on long arm quilting. I know that was like a super basic overview. Um, but if you have any questions, please email me or go over to the Facebook page, the modern quilters Circle, or

Go to the website, the modern quilter, check out today’s episode and any past episodes. So you guys, you have just completed a, another episode of the stop scrolling start sowing podcast. Thank you so much for hanging out with me and make sure you never miss an episode by hitting subscribe wherever you listen to podcasts. Now, stop scrolling and start sewing.

Quilt Love

Noelani T.

I worked with Nicole in a one on one environment on a large quilt. I have limited sewing experience and...

Noelani T.

The Modern Quilters Circle

Noelani T.

I worked with Nicole in a one on one environment on a large quilt. I have limited sewing experience and Nicole’s expertise was invaluable for this large project. Nicole is very patient and explained the different steps and their purposes clearly. She improved my original idea to better accomplish my overall goal. I highly recommend Nicole as an instructor and would personally have another session in a heartbeat!

Michelle L.

I seriously didn’t even know the names of parts of my sewing machine before I worked with Nicole. She walked...

Michelle L.

The Modern Quilters Circle

Michelle L.

I seriously didn’t even know the names of parts of my sewing machine before I worked with Nicole. She walked me through everything step by step. And it was amazing. She taught me the ins and outs of my machine and how to add each basic concept together. It was invaluable, because now I can figure things out and get creative without fearing the dreaded unravel!
The Modern Quilters Circle