Learning to Longarm

I FINALLY made the time to take a longarm quilting class!

So excited!!!

Our local tech school has an Artisan Center branch downtown, and they have a textiles studio with three Nolting longarm machines on 12-foot tables.

I signed up months ago for the intro session which consisted of two Wednesday night classes, each about 3 hours long. I paid $75 to register, and all materials and thread were included. I did notice that going forward, the class price has dropped to $60, but oh well! I ended up being the only one in class, so I got one-on-one instruction (which isn't normal- the other lady who was signed up forgot all about it).

I absolutely LOVED it. Lynn, the instructor, was really nice and walked me through the process, but didn't do too much for me so I had the opportunity to do it myself and retain the information. It is quite a bit to remember! I've got a pretty solid background in sewing machine use, since I started sewing at age 4; it was really just the loading/unloading process that was new to me.

The first night we did a brief tour of the NWTC Artisan Center facility, which includes the textiles lab, a wood-turning shop, jewelry and metals studio, printmaking, drawing and ceramics workshops. They offer regular classes as well as open studio time. It's really a great asset to the artistic community! I can't believe it took so long for me to check it out.

Back in the textiles studio, we started with a quick rundown on the parts of the machine and general rules and maintenance. Time on the machines can be rented out for $15 an hour with a two-hour minimum, plus $1.50 per bobbin of thread. I'm hoping the schedule is flexible; the open studio times are posted on the website and it looks like mostly daytime hours.

We then jumped right into the hands-on stuff by loading up some muslin and batting onto the rollers. I got right to doodling- apparently I'm a "natural", which makes me so excited! I doodled all sorts of patterns and shapes, and tried some stars, leaves and flowers. I cruised my way through the first sandwich and loaded up a second, and switched to a fun rainbow variegated thread. I attempted to draw rainbows and clouds and raindrops... with questionable success. Ha ha. Looks like I need a bit more practice to start "interpretive quilting". Also, pebbles and feathers are hard!

When the next Wednesday rolled around, I came prepared with my Cotton Cuts mystery puzzle quilt top and backing. We got it loaded up right away, and I cranked out an all-over loopy pattern in about an hour (and three bobbins). I would have loved to spend more time with custom quilting, but with it being my first go I'm fairly happy with how it turned out. Angela Walters always says that no one will notice your mistakes so long as they're consistently spaced... and you don't point them out. It's surely not perfect, but it's done! I'll share finished pictures of the quilt in a separate post once I get the binding on.

I'm really hoping to get back into the studio soon and FINALLY finish the honeycomb quilt I started for my husband nearly FIVE YEARS AGO?! I was going to do this one as my first quilt on the longarm, but Lynn suggested black batting for it, which I have to special order. Apparently my photography skills have also improved since then... yikes!

I really, really love the feel of moving the machine to do the quilting instead of trying to maneuver the quilt around under the needle; the stitch regulator function is incredible as well! I guess it's good to have some experience with both. My mother-in-law's sit-down longarm is great for small things, but this is totally awesome. The majority of the stuff that I do is crib-sized or larger, so I'm pretty sure I will get plenty of use out of my "certification".

Aaaaaand now I want one of my own. Only problem is that I don't have that kind of money. And it would take up my entire living room...


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