When I started making lots of quilt tops and couldn't keep up with the quilting on the domestic sewing machine. I went looking for alternatives and started renting long arm at my LQS: Bits N Pieces. Liz the owner of the shop and her daugher Alyssa are just awesome!
This is going to be series of posts to getting started with longarm who have already experience with free motion quiliting on the home/domestic sewing machine(HSM/DSM). I will be sharing my experience transitioning to long-arm and some helpful hints so that you don't make the same mistakes as I did.
Preparing your quilt for long arm checklist:
1. Square up your quilt top, trim all the threads so that it doesn't get caught up while quilting.
2. Your batting should be at least 3 inches longer and wider than your quilt top.
3. Backing should be at least 4 inches longer and wider than quilt top. Preferably 6 inches is good.
4. Square off the top and bottom of the quilt backing so that its straight of grain.
Now comes the dilemma about what FMQ designs to choose from. Lets talk about "Regulated mode". The "Regulated Mode" on the long arm helps to ensure that your stitch lengths are regular. What should we try:
1. Choose Precision Mode - SPI(Stitches Per Inch) set it 12. You can start with 10 which is wider than 12.
2. % I usually set it to 35% since I tent to move the longarm rather fast. I have tried till 40% it seems to be okay.
3. While working with regulated mode choose a FMQ design which has straight lines up and down. The weight of the machine helps you get your straight lines up and down perfectly.
See below an example of my first attempt at straight line based FMQ design:
Will be back with more tips soon. I also recommend taking the introductory course if you can at your LQS, to get familiar with the long arm. I have used HQ Avante and really love that machine.