The Free Motion Quilting Project: 7 Reasons Why I Don't Want or Need a Longarm

Saturday, September 24, 2011

7 Reasons Why I Don't Want or Need a Longarm

About two weeks ago I posted about my quilt hanging system that's allowing me to quilt Emergence, a 70" x 90" extremely heavy quilt, easily on my home sewing machine.

I think this is an awesome way to solve many issues quilters have with quilting big quilts on small machines and if I could figure out a way of packing the clamps, bungee cords, and handles together, I'd turn it into a Suspended Quilting System and sell it on the site just so more quilters would try it out and start quilting this way.

But quickly I began to receive comments asking why I don't just give it up and buy a longarm already?! Why screw handles to the ceiling and clamp bungee cords to my quilts when I could just buy a big machine to quilt my big quilts so much easier?

I'll be honest - these derisive, eye rolling kind of comments really boil my blood. Nothing makes me madder than one quilter scoffing at the ideas of another quilter or "putting her in her place." And I'm really sick and tired of the snobbery that comes with machine choice. It shouldn't matter what you stitch on so long as you ARE STITCHING!

So allow me a rant on this Saturday afternoon as I explain exactly why I absolutely don't want or need a longarm to quilt my quilts, even the really big ones. Yes, I expect I'll annoy a lot of people with this post, so if you'd rather not get mad at me, feel free to check out videos today instead.

Keep in mind that I'm not attacking quilters who want longarms or who own them.

I'm just sharing my opinion why I absolutely, positively don't want one, and I'm attacking the elitist, snobby attitude that surrounds machine choice.

7 reasons why I don't want or need a longarm machine:

#7 - They're huge - If I installed even a small frame in my basement, I would have to completely rearrange my sewing space to accommodate the large, bulky contraption.

Right now I have several tables set up around my Janome Horizon, but if I needed to, I could work with a much smaller setup. I could even collapse all the tables and quilt in a closet if I absolutely needed to.

But with a longarm, the ability to downsize is essentially impossible. It's going to be huge and it's going to take up a ton of space. There is no way to make a 20" long machine any smaller!

Now let's talk about the attitudes surrounding the size: The general attitude is IF you're serious and IF you're dedicated to quilting, you will spend the money, remodel your house, rearrange your living room, etc. - essentially do whatever you need to do to make a longarm fit.

Quilters that don't have dedicated sewing studios, who quilt when they can with the space they make on the dining room table or laundry room, are they really any less dedicated or interested or skilled in the hobby than those with wide expanses of space? No. Absolutely not.

That kind of snobbery about space really needs to end. Work with what you have, make the best of the space you are given, and when you see opportunities for improvements, such as better lighting or storage, make the changes that need to happen!

#6 - They're expensive - I can stomach shelling out $10,000 for a good used car if we're needing one, but I can't wrap my brain around spending even $4000 on a quilting machine.

When I first got into quilting, $300 was the absolute most I could spend on a machine, and I still remember the look on the dealer's face when I told her my budget. She thought I was a waste of her time.

Again the attitude from the Elitists is IF you're serious and IF you really love quilting, then it should be no problem to take out a loan, refinance your house, sell your kid, etc. in order to get the machine of your dreams.

But the fact is, it really doesn't matter how much money you have to throw into quilting! I've known many quilters who have obviously more money than sense (or skill) and buy hugely expensive machines that just sit and collect dust.

A bigger, better, more complicated machine does NOT make you a better quilter, and it will not instantly improve your free motion quilting skill. Only time and practice can do that!

#5 - I Quilt for Me - This should probably be my slogan. I should put it on t-shirts so everyone knows how selfish I am!

Why is this important? Because in order to afford a longarm quilting system, most quilters will start quilting for other quilters.

This isn't a problem in and of itself. Lord knows, I support anyone wanting to create their own business and make money on their own.

But here's what I do have a problem with - the quilters that DON'T want to turn their hobby and passion into a business feeling pushed and prodded into it due to the high cost of the machine.

As I've written before, finding a balance between a craft you love and your business is an endless battle. I have no idea how quilters who longarm for money can turn off the business aspect of the craft in order to find enjoyment in the quilting for themselves. That is one situation I never want to find myself in and another reason why a longarm is not for me.

#4 - I quilt from the center - I like quilting my quilts from the center of the quilt to the outside edges, filling each section with color and seeing the quilt come to life.

While I have never quilted an entire quilt on a longarm, I know you don't really quilt from the center in the same way. While everyone has a different opinion about this, personally I would dislike having to work from edge to edge from the top to the bottom of a quilt.

What if I had a section on my quilt that covered 50 inches of space from the top to the middle? With a domestic machine, I can start in the center and fill that entire space, maintaining the design and fills and thread color throughout.

From what I understand about longarms and how they work, I'd have about 20" of space to work on at a time, then I'd have to break thread and advance the quilt to get to the rest of the area. While yes, I know professional longarmers that can do this perfectly, it just seems a bit counter-intuitive to me.

#3 - I don't want to learn how to quilt all over again - I'm a pretty good quilter on a domestic sewing machine. I can easily stitch on a 1/8" scale and achieve the dense stitches I like to create on a quilt. On a longarm, it might take years for me to achieve this kind of mastery.

While the two are pretty much the same as far as forming and quilting designs, moving the machine rather than moving the quilt is quite a different application of the stitches.

The few times I have touched a longarm, I've been literally pulled around by the inertia of the huge, heavy machine. Yes, I'm sure I could learn how to wrangle it in and eventually learn how to control it, but I don't really want to. If I can quilt on a domestic, why would I ever need a longarm?!

Now for the attitude that really cheeses me off - most people cannot believe I quilt on a domestic! They look at me like I've grown two heads when I explain that I don't own a longarm and don't want one.

It seems that everyone now assumes that longarm = awesome quilting and that is just not true. You can achieve gorgeous stitches on ANY machine you use, so long as you take the time to find them.

#2 - Most quilters start on domestic machines - Most quilters getting into the hobby have a domestic sewing machine, or can easily get one for under $500.

What does this have to do with my choice? It comes down to being an effective teacher. If most beginners start on a domestic sewing machine, that's the machine I should be teaching on.

Yes, I could make YouTube videos of me swinging a longarm around on a frame, but I'd likely loose 80% of the beginners that read this project because that's not the machine you have or the way you quilt.

It's important for me to be a good teacher, even if I'm just teaching online and will likely never see you in person. I want to know I'm reaching the most people and helping them in the clearest way on the machine that most have access to.

#1 - It's NOT any easier - There's this idea that longarm quilting is SO much easier than domestic machine quilting. I sincerely doubt this is true. Yes, longarms involve moving the machine and not the quilt, and for some people that might work better for the way your brain works.

However, just because you have a 20 inch throat, and just because the quilt is wound up on a frame doesn't mean you're going to instantly touch a longarm and be transported into a world of perfect stitches and golden tension.

Check out any forum from yahoo groups to individual forums for each manufacturer and you're going to find hundreds of posts from beginners desperate to understand how to use their machine.

I've spoken to many quilters about their decision to buy a longarm and most stories go something like this:
"I wanted to learn how to free motion, but I just couldn't get the hang of it on the machine I had. And then I met so-and-so and she said I needed a longarm to do that kind of quilting. So I went out and bought one and it was SO expensive, but then I got it home and I still couldn't quilt! But since I've spent all that money I HAVE to learn on this machine!"
So rather than spend the time and energy needed to get comfortable quilting on a domestic, most of the quilter's I've spoken to have been seduced by the dark side and purchased a longarm, only to find that, while frame quilting might be different, but it still requires hours of practice to master.

And that is the point of this entire ranting article! YOU HAVE TO PRACTICE!

I don't care whether you're quilting on a $300, $4000, or $30,000 machine, you cannot achieve master of the machine just by turning it on.

You have to stitch on it, play with it, adjust it, adjust your setup around it, keep stitching, and eventually you will find your way through the ugly stitches and into that perfect place where the speed of the machine and the movement of your hands finds a balance.

So please stop blaming your machine for all your problems and fantasizing that a bigger, better, more expensive machine will fix everything. Chances are, it's not the machines fault. Spend more time quilting, less time complaining, and you will find better stitches very quickly.

Staying afraid of it, terrified you'll "ruin" a quilt, that's a place that will keep you treading water for the rest of your life. Look back to the first block you pieced - was it perfect? Stop expecting the first quilts you quilt to be perfect!

Here's another final quick tip - if your tension isn't perfect, please ignore it.

This is the #1 reason why quilters start, and then stop free motion quilting forever. But if you ignore those ugly stitches, if you plow through them like a bulldozer with no brakes, you will find your way through to beautiful stitches eventually.

Quilt every day for the next month - just 30 minutes each day - and I'll bet you'll see an enormous improvement in your quilting stitches.




  1. Leah, have you seen the doc Stitched? Carol Bryer Fallert has this terrific system of suspending her quilt from above so that she can do her free-motioning - on her little domestic machine. Very inspiring for those of us who have come to the same conclusion you have about long-arm machines!

  2. Leah,
    I agree with both your sentiments regarding the snobs and the comparisons between long arm and short arm. When I look at a quilt, I can usually tell what type machine did the quilting. Long arm tends to have more open patterns and longer stitches. That may be an artifact of a professional who needs to stitch more square inches to make it pay. I like the short arm look better, which seems to generate shorter stitches and smaller designs. I don't want to use up have my basement on a really expensive machine and I don't want to have to go somewhere to rent one and HAVE to get the quilting done. I like quilting when an idea hits me or when I am inspired.
    You are also right about practicing. I look at my first quilts and what I do today (and I still have a long way to go), and I can see the improvement. Thanks for all you have done to promote this wonderful art form!

  3. AMEN! Leah, it's like you're saying MY words. I totally agree with you. I wouldn't have a longarm if someone bought it for me. I'm perfectly content with my 30 plus year old Bernina domestic machine to work my FMQ. I love FMQ! Thank you, THANK YOU for all your hard work, dedication and love to teach us how to FMQ and have fun doing it.

  4. While you have listed a couple of objections to the longarm that could be quibbled with, you don't even have to have a reason not to get one. Your work is beautiful, your creativity remarkable, and willingness to share your ideas and designs is generous and good: don't get distracted by Other People's Suggestions.

  5. YAY, Leah! I don't often leave comments on the blogs I read (and there are alot) but you summed up everything I have thought about longarm quilting. While I do not deny there are many who are proficient on a longarm, you hit the nail on the head with reason #3, last paragraph about achievement of gorgeous stitches on any machine. Thank you for all that you do for quilters of all levels!

  6. Mmm-hmmmm -- you tell 'em girl! I bought a frame & realized quickly why it wasn't for me. It sits dismantled in a corner.

  7. i'm all for everyone quilting the way they want to, but i do want to mention (being both a domestic and longarm quilter) that quilting from the center is every bit as viable AND recommended when using a longarm machine. you don't have to break the thread, either. you can leave the needle down, scroll the quilt to the new location, and resume quilting. just so you know! :) any time you quilt from the center out you are adding to the certainty that your quilt will continue to lie flat and be wrinkle free when it's all over.

  8. Very interesting. I have been thinking about closing in a patio to accommodate a longarm. I've played some on a friend's & I like moving the machine rather than the quilt. I paint & draw & it's more like that. In the meantime, I am getting better at freemotion on my sewing machines, but I have problems getting the stitches consistent in size. It mainly depends on the $ -- if we can afford it, I may do it so I have the option of using either. Really appreciate your teaching videos!

  9. Thank you Leah; well said!
    Most, if not all, of your reasons for not buying a long arm are MY reasons also. I totally understand where you're coming from.

    I've been following your work for the past 3 years and you have been an inspiration to me for sure. So much so that after getting off to a good start with FMQ on my Bernina, but not really liking the "feel" of it, I went to my wonderful LQS and tried out a Juki TL98Q (like you were using at the time). That machine came home with me that very day! I LOVE the feel of it and eventually built in a permanent 5' x 4' table in my sewing studio to accommodate it.

    When I first got this machine I was still pretty green at FMQ but I was determined to get better. I practiced often until my stitches were even enough and my designs were smooth enough to suit me. The online videos of your 365 day project kept me going and trying out new things.

    I'm at the point now where I do pretty well with my setup, and like you say, people look at me in disbelief when I tell them I do not have a long arm. I don't know how many times I've heard, "You did THAT on a domestic machine?!! When are you going to get a long arm?" from both long arm quilters and domestic machine quilters (who likely haven't put in the necessary practice time...).

    I started out with small projects (some of which our barn cat now sleeps on), and worked my way up to larger pieces as I got better and more comfortable. I've done a few queen sized quilts and have 3 more large tops ready and waiting to do before Christmas!

    I particularly liked your early video of how to handle the bulk of a large quilt; it WORKS! I'll be checking out your new method too, as soon as I'm done writing this comment.

    Thanks for all you do for us "domestic quilters"!


  10. Great post Leah! I agree with all 7 :).
    BTW- I sent my husband into Joann's yesterday for a pack of "cheater" needles. The lady argued with him that there was no such thing and I should just do it "her way" and use a regular needle, blah, blah, blah. I know she figured he was just a man & didn't care either way- but my husband didn't budge. She finally showed him the self-threading needles & he came home to a happy wife :). Nothing makes me madder than people assuming that b/c I'm young I should have no idea what I'm doing in the quilt arena.
    Thanks so much for your site!

  11. Leah-Everyone is entitled to their own views! I am a long arm quilter and once you get the hang of it-IT IS FUN!!!

    1. vivian-I absolutely agree: everyone is entitled to his or her own views. Leah never said that this was what she took issue with. What she (I think), and I do take issue with is the elitist attitude some quilters have regarding the tools/machines/methods others choose to use. It seems to me this community of quilters ultimately share common goals: to express their creativity in ways that best suit their vision, using tools of choice to achieve this end; to experiment with whatever strikes their fancy; to gain feedback and learn from the community with the expectation that the feedback will be constructive and respectful (as a trained fine artist and now a beginner quilter, I have learned so much from constructive criticism); to be open to new possibilites (methods, tools, innovations, various ideas about materials others found successful...); to make their own decisions regarding their work without fear of being "talked-down-to".
      It's a wonderful thing that you have success, and more importantly, fun using a longarm quilter! I appreciate how you expressed your thoughts and experience with using this way of quilting. You stated why you love being a longarm quilter, and although you were brief (um, unlike myself), you made a great case for an important reason to try it. It would be something I'd like to become proficient with, if only to add to my arsenal of tools, but budget and space restraints keep this from becoming possible. It's ok, though. My handed-down Bernina will do and it will force me to find solutions to problems I run into based on the reality of my situation. An extremely talented artist once told me that when it comes down to it, all that is needed to make great art is the burnt-end of a stick. I have found this notion to be true in all my creative endeavors.
      Finally, and this is not directed at you vivian, for those who can't restrain their elitist views/comments, perhaps there's a website community that share your beliefs where you would be better suited and comfortable. Speaking for myself only, I don't need to feel less-than for how I have chosen to work. In this community I find the support and respect of each others journey paramount. This does not mean we always agree, nor do we need to be coddled, but the criticism that's offered is constructive, not destructive. Just the (long) musings of a grateful nascent quilter.

  12. Great post! I have a longarm and wouldn't trade it for the world. But every one of your points is valid, especially #3. Longarm quilting is totally different and does require learning everything all over again. Like you, I know a LOT of people with expensive machines and gadgets and some of them spend more time acquiring than using. I think this post would be a great guild lecture topic.

  13. Well said Leah! I love quilting on my domestic, and while larger quilts can be more difficult to do, they are doable. I'm trying to figure out how I can use your pulley system - ingenious! I do not need or want a long arm, and I agree with your 7 reasons completely.
    I sure hope I can find 30 minutes a day to quilt for the next month, as I know my quilting will improve immeasurably.

    1. I feel the same way I quilt for me. I wouldn't know where to put one those long arms. I can quilt without it. I was taught by my grandma Leah and she never had a long arm either.

  14. Hi Leah:

    Great post. Many quilt artists do their own quilting on domestic machines. As Donna mentioned, Caryl Bryer Fallert has a great system. And I can think of many other well-known quilt artists who use domestic or mid-arm tabletop machines.

    I've also met longarm quilters who just love working with that size of machinery and really enjoy quilting for others.

    What you've said about the importance of having the necessary equipment to just sew is very true. Though machine quality is important one doesn't need to break the bank to find quality in machines, i.e., my Viking was not very good at free motion quilting, whereas my Juki --- which was much less expensive --- is an excellent machine for this purpose.

    Thank you for your contributions to the quilting community.

  15. Leah, thanks for this post. I decided to improve my FMQ after I started following your blog. Your posts make it all seem possible if I'm willing to practice. I'm far from proficient, but I can see improvement in my work so I think I'm on the right track. Another point -- maybe an 8th reason?-- I can have my special quilts professionally done if I think it's necessary. I can have a LOT of quilts done by a long armer for the money I'd spend to buy a LA machine. I don't want to change, I want to learn and grow -- and improve. Thanks for all you do to inspire and teach us!!!

  16. Thank you, Leah and Amen to all you said!! I'm learning to FMQ through you on my little domestic machine and I LOVE it. Where in the heck would I put a big machine or even be able to buy one?
    Good rant!
    Off to quilt. :o)
    Hugs, Deborah

  17. Oh m y gosh, I totally agree with you Leah, in fact, check out my recent post from two days ago called "Smelling the Roses." My goal is to quilt for me... to enjoy the process and what I love the most, which is hand quilting. I will use a machine, of course, when I need to. But I don't feel the need to buy a long arm and have to pay for it by quilting for other people. Amen, Sistah!

  18. I agree 100% to go with what works for you.

    There are many award winning quilters who quilt on domestic machines. One that stands out in my mind is Diane Gaudynski. Goodness, if she can do it anyone can.

    I agree that there is a lot of snobbery. I have recently been re-introduced to vintage sewing machines. In fact I'm so interested I restore them. These machines cost a faction of the cost of a cheap plastic clam shell and sew/quilt better than a brand new high end machine.

    Believe me, my Janome 6600 has nothing on my grandmother's Singer 15-91. I can sew/quilt much better with the old machine. And I can still buy parts for the older machines, but not so with a majority of the new machines. On the new machines, the manufacturers discontinue parts after 5 years.

  19. Leah, I have been following your work for several years now, and shared your link with many, many quilters. Everyone I know who has looked at your work is amazed at your skill level and strong will to do so much beautiful work. I agree with everyone's posts here...quilt the way it suits you best. I know of at least two very well-known "table quilters" who wouldn't use a long arm on a frame. Although one of them does use a long arm set into a table.

    I am single and retired and chose to buy an inexpensive 10' frame setup because I have difficulty dealing with 100"X100" quilts. It is setup in my living room, aka, quilt studio. I have not seen your new method for dealing with large quilts, but will check that out as soon as I finish here.

    I also agree there is an elitist sense of those who own longarms. My total set up cost me $2500, and has no stitch regulator. I am still proud of my quilts finished on that machine. There were definitely startup issues in learning how to properly set up the machine and quilt, but with the help from Yahoo Groups members I made it through. The key to all of it was Practice. There's simply no substitute for it.

    I have plans to look at an 18" machine next week, but just may rethink that, if I can create a table environment that doesn't tax my shoulders and back.

    I will share your post with my local "table quilt" friends, and I'm sure they'll agree with you too!

    Take heart, we're behind you!

    (One more note: in looking for reviews of the 18" machine, I came across a Yahoo group, but discovered you could ONLY belong to the group if you already owned one of the had no access to read messages regarding problems and solutions to using the machines....Elitist? I think so.)

    We love ya, Leah...keep up your extraordinary work!

  20. hey,
    thanks for that post. I just upgraded on a second hand pfaff quilt expression 2048 because my Singer from a discounter got me mad too many times. The Pfaff cost about ten times as much as the Singer but still was below 1200$ because it was a used one and came with a lot of extra stuff. My sewing did improve with the new machine, but I bought the second hand machine because I saw no sense in buying a brand new one fpr double the prise only because its new and the next generation. This machine has everything I want - and I hope it will accompany me the next 10-20 years faithfully.
    I thought about letting my quilts getting quilted because I was afraid to ruin my tops on which I spent so much time. But then I thought, that even the tops have little flaws, so its ok if the quilting has flaws as well. And if you step back you won't see it. My quilts are for usage, not just for looking beautiful. I hope one time they will be both - look beautiful with nearly no flaws and being used with love. They are certainly made with love. So I'll start to practise everyday for the next month. And the money I saved by quilting myself I'll spent on a good thread and fabrics!
    Thanks again for that comment. I don't have the money nor the space for a longarm. And when I have the money and the space I hope to be good enough on a domestic machine, so I will not need nor crave a longarm.

  21. Amen Sista! You've hit the nail on the head with your "rant."
    And I even do have a 10' quilting frame that I use my Horizon on - sometimes. Right now, it's boxed up in the closet because I needed the room for something else.
    And, I found I wasn't using it as much as at first, for one of the reasons you mentioned. The frame limits my designs to the space between the rollers. If I want to echo stitch a large design, I can't without a LOT of extra work. I have about 9" between the rollers on my frame, so the largest "block" I can do is about 6 1/2" by the time I get to the last 1/4 of the quilt because the take up roller starts to get so big it takes up the throat space.
    And YES there is a huge learning curve to "longarming."
    So, I say, "Amen." Keep doing what is right for you in your art. There are critics and snobs in every walk of life, and personally, I think their attitudes just make them miserable so they try to spread the 'miserable' around. I love you and your teaching and your art. Stay true to yourself.

  22. Leah, I truly appreciate why you don't have a long arm or need one for that matter. I haven't the space in my small house for one, but I really love doing my quilts from start to finish. With your videos I have become a much better quilter on my sewing machine and I truly enjoy the process now. Long arms serve their purpose and those who are good at them are really good, but for the rest of the world who don't need really showy quilting, etc being able to do it yourself on your own machine and at your own pace - well that is truly awesome. I have an expensive viking that does embroidery and there is now way I'd pay the money to replace it today, and I probably wouldn't even care about the emb. part the next time I have to buy a machine. Mine was 5k when I bought it and now the same, but "better" machine is around 12k today - ugh, no way. I just need something simple that works for me. Would you ever consider doing a video or a writeup about how you square up a quilt once you've quilted it. I don't have a lot of space and I've never been shown how to do it properly, so I wing it the best I can and usually it turns out pretty good, but I'd love some ideas to improve the process. Thank you so much for your fantastic videos and how much you've taught me.

  23. You are so fabulous and I read all of your reasons (I am not nearly good enough for anyone to think i need a longarm). I laughed out loud at the end-plow through! Yay! I figure only my friends and family are getting my practice quilts so what do I care? They will think they are marvelous.
    You are a wonderful and generous quilter. Don't let other people get under your skin!

  24. My main issue with my domestic Bernina is the small throat space. If I ever had a longarm, I would do a stationary mount and use it like a large domestic. That's probably heresy to the longarm snobs, but I think that would work best for me to get the results I would want. Before that is a consideration, though, I am just dreaming of a craft room and a serger.

  25. As a longarm quilter, I say, "Good for you!" I think you are a fantastic quilter and don't see any reason why you would want to change. I have an aunt that gave me a quilt as a wedding gift unquilted. She has a longarm and when I asked her about it, she says that she has never used it because she is a little afraid of it, so she continues to quilt on her smaller machine happily and the huge machine has it's own room in the house mostly displaying fabric. Since she told me this, a number of customers have said similar things. It's a lot of money for a giant display piece. On the other hand I use mine frequently and it's easier on me that hunching over a machine. The sewing snobs always have to have their piece though.

    BTW, I started sewing on the cheapest machine that Wal-mart had to offer. It was a Brother in 1989 and had 7 stitches. I used that machine for year and even made and quilted a very basic top on it, so I'm in complete agreement with you on not being a snob about what works.

    I started reading your blog because one of the quilts I did back in 2007 was an antique Sunbonnet Sue. I had only been using the longarm to quilt for a few months and I put a different pattern in each Sue. I remembered how a struggled for a bit trying to come up with a new pattern when years later I found your blog, and I really enjoy seeing some of the ones I used when they show up and also some of the ones that are new to me. Stay true to your art and don't worry about the less positive comments.

  26. Leah, As a Minnesota high school quilt teacher I always stress to the students to "Practice, practice, practice!" To impress this point to them I show quilts I made 5 years ago on my 1975 Sears Kenmore and current quilts made from my Janome Horizon. They giggle when looking at the earlier ones but can understand the importance of practice. It doesn't matter machine a person quilts on, all must practice to obtain smooth, even stitches.

  27. Thanks for this post. A couple other reasons to quilt on a domestic machine:
    #1 - you can avoid that flat 'mattress' look that many long arm quilted quilts have due to uniformity. I prefer the slight puffiness and more 'trapunto-like' effect you can achieve with a domestic machine. Less of a factory feel to your quilt.
    #2 - I enjoy 'handling' my quilts...the sensuousness of moving it around and enveloping your hands in the thing. It's a true physical pleasure.

  28. How could anyone doubt your method after seeing your beautiful work? Your FMQ style has inspired me so much. I do have to admit I have a stationary sit down longarm machine I bought from a friend. But, like all your reasons, I will never go to the kind that comes with railroad tracks and a computer. In my eyes, you are the ROCK STAR of FMQ!

  29. It's really refreshing to read your thoughts, darling... :-D
    Many of my friends are buying expensive machines. I still use the same for the last 9 years, and I got to say, my oldest machine was even better!!!
    They are "cheaper", but they do beautifully the job. :-D
    Which makes me very happy!

    Thanks again, have a great weekend!

  30. Good for you. I took classes on a long arm and did a couple of practice pieces after doing a lot of FM on my domestic machine. I had the space all planned and ready for the longarm but I hated the process. It just wasn't for me. Also bought a Superquilter and did a couple of quilts on it but don't like that either. I like the control I get when I can see what I'm doing on my domestic machines. Watching what I'm doing an arm's length away doesn't work for me!

  31. Leah, I agree with you one hundred percent!! You said things here that I have been feeling for YEARS! An acquaintance of mine through local crafting circles had a close friend who was selling her big longarm, and all supplies with it for $2,000. It was a very early model, no bells and whistles.. and it was a 14.5' table.. Because I had always wanted one, because I bought into the crap that was fed to me, I went for it. I rearranged my entire house for this thing. Literally, I shuffled furniture to all other rooms.. I regretted it everyday since. Buying a machine does not mean you're going to be comfortable using it. It was horrible on my back and feet, it's too high, heavy and just all around a pain to use. I went on those forums for advice to try and get accustomed to the machine. There's a HUGE learning curve with these things. And I decided I am just not physically able to deal with this monster. I recently sold it for what I paid for it, and I am happy as a clam to be back on my little "workhorse" machine with which I am so familiar. Oh yeah, and it's a cheap Kenmore, and I quilt LARGE quilts on it, with very little problems..

    You're so right, the snobbery needs to stop. I no longer sew with my local group because of the looks I get when I fire up my Kenmore.. Some people think if you don't have a Bernina, you're nothing. I left all that junk behind when I graduated high school. I didn't have designer jeans, and I'm happy with my cheap machine. Well, I have news for them, I produce way more quilts on my machine, while their Bernina sits under their pretty dustcover, because they are too busy learning their longarms.

  32. I'm so glad that you are teaching me to quilt on my Janome Horizon. I'm a novice and scared to try free motion since I'm just now getting the piecing down. I have the supreme slider and gloves I ordered from you sitting by my machine and I stare at them. After reading your post I've decided to meet your challenge and see what happens in 30 days! I'm so glad I found you!

  33. One thing not mentioned is that long armers in my area are beginning to hurt for work..... economy is tanking.

    I live in Mid Mi and the economy has hit us hard... Most of the ladies I know are learning to quilt on their domestic because they no longer can pay to have it done. Options are hand quilt... learn to domestic free motions.... find a cheap quilter.... Gone is the custom work.

    A second reason you might not want to use a long arm machine .... many long armers are developing health issues with their shoulders, and back. (I know of three long-armers who have had shoulder surgery in the last 3 months.) Domestic FMQ might be developing health problems from FMQ but I do not know of any.

    I also find I WANT to know the entire process. I plan to FMQ my projects in the future... I am learning now before I retire. I do check your site frequently and I am ready to buy one of those suspension kits when you start packaging them.


  34. I so agree with you Leah! I have a Janome 6500 and I have been in love with my sewing machine from day one! I am a "tactile" person and can not see myself using a long arm: I need physical contact with the fibers while I work with them. I prefer to use my sewing room space for an extra table, lots of storing space, and enough table space to accomodate my 4 machines: My Janome 6500 by itself on one big table (she is the Queen of my sewing room!), and my serger, embroiderer and felting machine all on one big table. I call this room my Queendom: When the door is closed, my husband is required to knock to get permission to visit, and when I am not in the room, again he has to ask me first before going in. I am so happy that you do all your work on a domestic machine: Since I have found your blog, I have gained confidence in my FMQ abilities and found lots of inspiration for projects. A big thank you for all you do for us "domestic" quilters.

  35. Free Motion Quilt ON sister! And keep on quilting for YOU!

  36. Hi Leah

    You are my motivation to quilt without spending the big bucks - please don't change! Justine

  37. Love this post, Leah. You've definitely proven that using a domestic machine can result in ABSOLUTELY STUNNING quilting - you do it every day and share it with us! And it's because you don't use a long arm that I love following your the hopes that maybe one day I can become as awesome at quilting as you are!

  38. As the girl who let someone convince her that she "wanted" a 26" longarm just shortly after she discovered the world of quilting, I have to say I agree with so many of your statements. That said, I do have a beautiful machine in the basement that I feel guilty for not utilizing to it's potential almost every day of the week. I'd love to be free of it and send out my quilts or manage with my Janome that I adore. One day, I will find a buyer for my machine. Till then, it'll be a REALLY big paperweight in my basement and I'll be the guilty quilter who's SO sad that she let someone else tell her what to do.

  39. No need to apologize for getting a little steamed! I've been becoming progressively enraged on your behalf every time I read one of your posts and immediately see the "DERP U NEED A LONGARM LOL" comments. Do these people go to quilt shows and track down Ricky Tims, Caryl Bryer Fallert, Sue Nickels, Hollis Chatelain, and Diane Gaudynski to say the same thing? The growing attitude that quality machine quilting can ONLY be done on a longarm is scaring some beginning quilters away from even trying to quilt on their home machines. Thank you for continuing to be a voice of reason on this topic!

  40. Thank you Leah! You truly inspire me every day. I have only been quilting for about 2 years and finding your blog a year ago inspired me to try new things on every quilt I make. My little house just can't accommodate a longarm set up so I use what I've got and I love quilting more and more every day. Thanks so much!

  41. You have stated exactly what I've come to believe. I would like to get a Janome though, just for the bigger throatspace, but that isn't even necessary! I signed up locally (well within 45 miles) for a quilting card that would allow me to use their machines. I haven't even finished the card. Fight traffic, stand for hours and then fight traffic to get home and that isn't even including the learning curve on those machines and the troubles with tension etc. etc. Would have someone over my shoulder at home? Nope. If I have a huge quilt, I send it out. I did the math--it just doesn't pay me to buy a $10,000 or more machine and then still have the work of quilting it. You've just cinched it all in a great way!

    Your sentiments on business and quilting is exactly why I don't quilt to sell my quilts! It takes the JOY out of the very reason I started quilting. Giving them away is totally different. If there is something not quite right, no worries--it usually isn't even seen by anyone but me!

  42. Thanks for your 7 reasons! They all make sense to me. Thanks to your blog and some other great bloggers, I started FMQ on all my quilts. Especially since I retired, I didn't want to pay someone else to quilt them and wanted to be able to say that I made the quilt in all it's aspects. Sure I thought about a long arm quilting machine - for maybe 5 minutes! The expense and size made them out of reach, also if I did get one, I figured I would have to quilt for other people, which I definitely did NOT want to do. Over the past year, I have done a lot of FMQ and am still learning, but quite happy with quilting on my domestic machine. Keep up the good work!!!!

  43. Leah,
    I don't care what type of machine or quilting set up you have. What I do care about is that you continue to create the beautiful pieces that you do and that you continue to share so unselfishly your talent with the quilting community.
    Thank you,
    Joyce Greer

  44. Totally agree with your comments Leah. Practice makes perfect and the aim is always to enjoy yourself.

  45. G'day. Well said. Great post...A friend has just bought the top of the range Bernina sewing machine and this is serious money we are talking about here and still she has found things that she is not happy with !! and is talking about getting a longarm and yet she has done some lovely quilts on her original small domestic. A workmate bought a longarm some time ago and has to have it set up in her dining room and the area has been moved around to accomadate it and yes, she took out a loan to get it. Since moving to a much smaller home, my sewing/computer room is also smaller than I have been used to, but, I still get my sewing done, that hasn't changed. I just compromise and am making the best of what I have and I am grateful to have it. I don't need or want a longarm and I couldn't justify the money anyway. Take care. Liz...

  46. Leah I have been following you since the very start and have had so much fun playing with (and using!) all these new quilting ideas. I felt I MUST reply to this post.

    I have a long arm (actually 13" of quilting space) and have done 150 quilts on it - and I love it. Next week my new, bigger long arm (22" of quilting space) arrives. I love frame quilting. But YOU know how hard I have practiced, how many screw ups I've made, how frustrated I've been one night only to succeed the next morning. Everybody needs to do what they love doing. Period. And nobody else should feel free to express negative opinions.

    Like you, I only quilt for me; I have the $$ and the space to have a long arm; I have worked hard to succeed at it; and I am learning from you daily as you use your domestic machine. Kudos to both of us! (and I loved your tension comment! RIGHT ON!)

  47. Thanks for this post. Part of me feels like I shouldn't call what I make "quilts" because I don't make complicated quilt tops and I do pretty basic quilting on my trusty Bernina. But I love what I do, and I love giving my quilts for gifts, and the recipients always seem to love them too. So I think I'll just keep doing what I'm doing and continue to enjoy it!

  48. A well quilted quilt is a well quilted quilt, wether done on a domestic, by hand or long arm. I quilted many large size quilts on my Bernina before buying a Gammill. Would not trade my longarm for anything. LOVE it. Love your blog and your designs too. Yes, I quilt for others and use my machine daily. No health problems, actually had more neck shoulder problems using the Bernina. To each his own. I love seeing a well quilted quilt with interesting designs!

  49. Very interesting post. I am a professional quilter, so people pay me to quilt for them and I also teach quilting at my 'local'.
    I do all my quilting on a domestic machine. I figure like you it would take me a heck of a long time to master using a long arm and I just don't have the time due to the amount of quilts coming my way. Also as you have said the cost, that is many many quilts to pay for the machine.I haven't had any negative comments in regard to me not using a long arm. Most people are in awe. I say to them the only difference between my quilting and yours, is practice.

  50. I enjoyed your comments as I battle with learning on my machine vs. going to the longarm. So, it was good to read your points of view and the value they have!!


    This has nothing to do with longarms. It is a great pattern and when I saw it I thought of you.

  52. If someone has love in their heart and wants to make a quilt for someone special--it's always a perfect quilt! They don't have to spend a fortune to do it, but if someone buys a long arm and enjoys it that's wonderful to. Quilting is art and art takes practice! Thanks Leah and Happy Quilting :)

  53. 30m/30 days. You will be amazed at your improvements. I think everyone struggling should take this challenge.

  54. I agree with you too! Hooray for this post!

  55. Leah-it is if you are talking to me---I quilt on my dining room table half the time---fabric everywhere--someday I might have a special room---thanks for saying that we just need to practice--we don't need the ten thousand dollar machine to do it....I am one of those who don't want to wreck my quilts--after your blog I will try to fight through those ugly stitches and learn---I will see after a month how it is going....thanks for speaking how it really is...

  56. Great post Leah. Right now, most of my quilt tops are waiting to be finished only because they take up less room in this mini rental house. I am lucky if I can get to my sewing machine let alone quilt the top. Once our permannent house is done, I will have a larger hole to hide in and will have a better setup. I do most of my own quilting on my home machine - have for years. The embroidery unit is great where I want repetitive designs. I have toyed with the thought of a longarm, but can't see spending $$$$$$$ for one of the really big guys. I am toying with the babylock crown jewel or something similar in size. Do I want to make it a business? Maybe - after I retire. I do know one thing, I would like to be the quilter (not just the piecer) in the Quilts of Valor program. We'll see.

    One of my guild members does absolutely AWESOME quilting on her Janome. Kathy is one of the best quilters I have met. Like the old joke says - How do you get to Carnegie Hall? Practice, practice, practice.

  57. Well said, Leah. I *love* to FMQ on my Horizon and vintage machines. Sitting at a sewing machine w fabric in hand, free motion quilting, is one of *the* most enjoyable creative processes for me! I feel too far removed from this process the times I've used a longarm at shows.

  58. ROCK ON! I quilt on a 1951 Singer 201 that I paid $100 for. I'm pretty happy with the machine, love the history of a vintage machine, and am getting better with every quilt I make. There is far too much conspicuous consumption in the world, and unless you want to go into business, or make your living from quilts, then i don't see spending that kind of money. I think you need to make that T-shirt because I will buy one! I want a blog button, too, while I'm being all want-y that says "I quilt for me" and has your blog address on it. Your quilts are inspiring, and I am so grateful for all of the things I have learned from you!

  59. ROCK ON! I quilt on a 1951 Singer 201 that I paid $100 for. I'm pretty happy with the machine, love the history of a vintage machine, and am getting better with every quilt I make. There is far too much conspicuous consumption in the world, and unless you want to go into business, or make your living from quilts, then i don't see spending that kind of money. I think you need to make that T-shirt because I will buy one! I want a blog button, too, while I'm being all want-y that says "I quilt for me" and has your blog address on it. Your quilts are inspiring, and I am so grateful for all of the things I have learned from you!

  60. I love your reason no 2. You inspire me that I can actually do FMQ on my Janome machine. Yes I need to practice but I tried the other day using your not dropping the feed dogs and setting the stitch length to zero and I was thrilled with my little bit of stitching... so yes with practice I can do it and I don't need a long arm.I love reading your blog!

  61. A very interesting post. I have quilted on both my domestic machine and very recently on a longarm machine and from reading your comments I think the snobbery goes both ways!

    At the end of the day, you need to use the system that works for you whether it is domestic or longarm and appreciate that each person has their own opinion. I don't think that there is a wrong or a right way to go about quilting, just do it the way you want to and ignore those that question or judge you for it.

  62. Great post. I've never really quilted on my mahcine, other than quilt in the ditch, but I have plenty of old fabric(read that fabric I'm never going to use), and I'm going to do as you suggest, and practice daily for at least the next 30 days. I'd love to be able to do some nice work at least on small items.

  63. I basically never comment on anything, but as I read your post I was audibly cheering you. When it comes down to it, you need to do whatever makes you happy. And, thank you for helping me feel that whatever I do, although imperfect, is just fine. What a gift, thank you so much. Life is too short to worry about perfect stitches.

  64. I love the feel of free motion quilting on my Janome 6600. I also got the table with it to complete it. I so totally agree that "I quilt for myself" It says it all. Thanks for the rant if you want to call it, but it is so true. I did a quilt thatI thought was too large for me, but then someone noted that it wouldn't be "mine" so true. I did it myself. Love the blog.

  65. There seems to be snobbery going both ways--those who think the longarm is the way to go, and the domestic machine quilters putting down the longarmers.
    You do beautiful work, Leah. I wish you would show more things done on much larger pieces, like a whole quilt. I seldom work in 4" squares, and my sashings and borders are larger than that, and I can't visualize how many of your designs would translate to much larger pieces.
    I have a machine with a 10" throat, and I bought a used HandiQuilter, I think it's the original. I've had my machine on that frame and used it a couple of times, and loved it. I don't have it set up now for a variety of reasons. And yes, there is alot of practice involved. Just as in pushing the quilt around involves alot of practice.
    I think there is a snobbery about quiltmaking for pay, also. Yes, I do quilt for other people, and it most certainly is a joy. I absolutely love taking hunks of fabric and giving life to my customers ideas. Just because someone is giving me money to do it, doesn't mean that it is no longer fun. If it wasn't fun, I wouldn't do it. But I feel blessed--I get to play with fabric, AND I get paid!! A dream come true!
    I'll never be a Leah Day, or Sharon Schamber. But I love what I do, whether I get paid to do it, or if I'm doing it for myself or for a gift.
    Thank you for all you do, Leah. You are fantastic!

  66. Yay, Leah, especially on the snobbery and competitiveness you have to look out for. Part of why I don't do more quilting is because I can't do it as well as some others. It freezes me up.

    I'm taking your challenge!! A month of 30 minutes a day learning how to do free motion quilting.

  67. I don't anyone thinks you can't quilt on a longarm.We are just saying it is easier on your body. That is why WE have longarms. NOT to make us better quilters. Because our bodies have gotten "worn down" from doing what you are doing. We've done it for years on a DSM...

    We are not knocking your DSM. We are just trying to show you another dimension to quilting that you haven't done yet.

    If you can quilt on a DSM(clearly you can quilt your ass off), you will quilt the same way on a longarm. Your brain and hands will work the same way. The only difference is the wear and tear on your body.
    You are young now. In 10 years, you may have some pain.

    Everyone who posted was not demeaning you at all. We ALL love you and admire the hell out of you, Leah. We were trying to show you another aspect of quilting. That's is what you do for us and why we love your blog and why we love you!
    There are many quilters here that have been quilting longer than you or me have been alive. I ALWAYS listen to them. You should too. Maybe not run out and do what they say. But put in your frontal cortex!!

    With love and best regards, Amie in Tn.

  68. Outstanding, well-thought out comments. Your work is beautiful and creative and filled with the love you put into it.

  69. The important thing is that you QUILT! You have my utmost admiration for being able to do the work you do on your domestic machine. I quilted several quilts (and not well) on my DSM before getting my longarm. I do believe that a longarm machine can be a whole lot easier on your neck and shoulders than a domestic machine, but then again, since buying my longarm, I've had to have a spinal fusion (from a bad fall) and I've needed to add a hydraulic lift to increase my quilting time (moving even a couple inches helps) and I sometimes sit to sew on a stool. Different strokes for different folks. I'm glad you're happy with what you do. I come here and look for ideas from you, even though I quilt on a longarm. I'm proud of my quilting and I believe you should be proud of yours too. You rock, gal.

  70. Leah, I have followed you for such a long time, admired your talent, your work ethic, your beautiful stitching. I am thrilled that you enjoy quilting on your domestic machine and how proud you must be to have taught so many quilters. I too am a longarm quilter because it works well for me, just as your method works well for you. I have never thought of one method being superior to the other, it's whatever fits us well. I know there are many, many longarmers who follow you and admire your work. ....ouch. I wish you continued success in every way.

  71. I think that it is great that there are so many ways to participate in quilting! I finally got a longarm because using a domestic machine was trashing my ligaments and I didn't want to have someone else doing my quilting. I love the creative opportunities that the actual quilting provides. FYI there is no reason not to quilt from the center of the quilt when longarming. I think that folks that depend on pantographs are the most likely to do edge to edge quilting.

    I also would like to add that no matter how you quilt, there are challenges and rewards.

    Thanks for all you do to contribute to the quilting community and to my personal skill set.

  72. Good for you Leah. Sometimes I think why am I doing this, I'm not good enough at quilting and don't have the money to spend for all the toys, but I love my quilts and because of you I'm learning to FMQ and improving. You are a treasure and keep us "poor" untrendy quilters inspired. P.S. I even like to hand quilt some quilts, talk about low tech!!!

  73. Good for you Leah! The whole judgmental thing that goes on in the quilting world, whether it be longarm versus domestic machine or modern versus traditional or hand versus machine quilting is so counter productive. ME DOING IT DIFFERENTLY THAN YOU DOES NOT - REPEAT,DOES NOT - MAKE EITHER OF US WRONG. period. full stop. There is no need to defend yourself or conversely make someone else wrong simply because you have a different way or preference or style. Do what works for you, do it the best way you know how, seek to improve your skills and be open to new ideas. That and a loving attitude will ensure that you never stunt the growth of another quilter/artist with judgmental words.
    Thanks for being honest and for speaking out Leah, you are a courageous woman!

  74. Woo Hoo!! Thank you for saying what I feel! I'm afraid there are "acquisition bullies" in every craft and you're right: quilting on a $12,000 machine doesn't make your quilts look better or feel better when you're sleeping under them! If I had the funds to purchase one, I would rent a studio, install the machine, and let other quilters use it. I would even "barter": studio time in trade for a homemade apple pie or a bag of zucchini or some fresh eggs from backyard chickens.

    Thanks for continuing to inspire me! xxoo

  75. I used to quilt king sized quilts on my little Janome, but it was killing my neck, back, and shoulders. That is why I bought my HQ16 which I LOVE!! I very much respect quilters who quilt on any machine. I frequently teach my friends on their domestic machines.

    As Cecilia said, a well stitched quilt is a well stitched quilt. Period.

    Keep up the good work with your project!

  76. I think you left out the short arm machines and the great option they give to people who want the freedom of the long arm and the affordability of a sit down machine. What I love about my short arm machine is that it holds the quilt sandwich together for me so there aren't the puckers in the backing that I get when I try to use my sit down machine. Also, my arms don't get so tired from wrestling with the quilt. I have the ability to adjust the size of the frame from baby to king size, but mostly leave it set up to do about twin size. Sure, it takes up a room in the house, but fits in with the rest of my sewing stuff nicely. I can quilt a lap size quilt in about 15 minutes with a free motion design and can get a lot of quilts done for charity. In the last 3 years since I started quilting, I have done over 600 quilts. Are they as fancy as yours? No. Would they win any awards at a show? Nope, but they sure do warm a lot of kids and that's what makes me happy. I say, if it makes you happy, stick with it.

  77. This was wonderful. I have been lurking your blog for a bit hoping to try my hand at free motion. The way you hang a big quilt with clamps is do-able, affordable, and genius. Thank you!

  78. All hail Leah
    You are 100% right in everything - about time the snobs started looking at their own problems and failure rather than pick on all those who quilt for fun, pleasure and 'therapy'. There are a few LAQ who are inspirational and worth every penny/cent it costs to have a piece of work finalised to your wishes and desires but there are many who just plod quilts out with template edge to edge work inspiring little and ruining someone's hours or months or creativity. If there is going to be a tuck or mistake I'd rather it was mine and not something I'd spent a fortune on someone else doing.

  79. I'm so glad there is someone out here in quiltland being reasonable about how much to spend on a machine. Sewing machines, longarm or not shouldn't cost more than any other household appliance. Last time I checked a nice fridge or dishwasher doesn't have to cost 3k or more.

  80. Leah. Sounds like you're taking snobbery the other direction.
    I make quilts to sell. My body reached a point that hauling a huge quilt thru a domestic machine was just too much. SO - I moved onto paying a long arm quilter. That took away any profit. Purchased a longarm. The learning curve along with the $ was steep. But in 2 years it's paid for itself and my quilts now again have some profit.
    These machines have their place. You don't need to justify why you don't have and don't want one. But there may come a day you'll change your mind.

  81. I was seduced into buying a sit down tin lizzy (no rolls, just machine and table - looks like a industrial work horse). I am still trying to master it and do routinely use my use my regular machine when I get frustrated. You are right that it takes practice, practice, practice. I can't say it was a bad buy, but without the practice, my quilting on either machine is still novice. I do feel like the movement is easier since the throat is much larger and I am having a lot of fun trying out your techniques on both the machines. The bugger is pretty heavy so when I jam up my bobbin
    (I do this frequently do to my in ability to set the tension right)
    I end up bruising myself. But when I have it set right, it is nice. I apreciate your insights - Thank you for wonderful instruction.

  82. I'm waaaay down on the list, but I, as well, agree with you 100%. I couldn't read every comment but there is a lot of support for our DSM. Thanks for this post. It's nice to see I also have company who agrees. I just do NOT see the economy of the huge machines, and I couldn't stand the guilt when sometimes I spend days not doing a thing - ugh to think itwas there not making $$ for me, or justifying its existance would makie me feel so guilty!!! And the owner STILL has to learn how to quilt with it!

  83. Well said, Leah! I sometimes teach at a store featuring very-high-end machines. The reaction when I unpack my very LOW end 7-pound portable is priceless.

    Last year an online friend gave me her HQ setup and 10' homemade frame when she upgraded to the latest HQ, complete with frame, etc. The gift HQ still sits in my living room -- it won't go around corners and into the spare bedroom. Once that's solved, do I want to tackle yet another learning curve?

    Re the snob factor, I agree it's on both sides. What concerns me more, however, is the idea, usually unspoken, that one isn't a "real" quilter without pricey fabric, exotic tools, and a high-end machine. I suspect there'd be a lot more quilters in this world if we all kept in mind that our foremothers made astonishing quilts with a needle, thread, scissors, a template or two, and "found" fabrics and batting. Some of these quilts are still around. Quilting isn't about posessions, it's about passion and practice.

    Keep up the good work Leah, I admire your independent spirit, your creativity, and your generous heart. Ruth

  84. YEA Leah, that was a very level headed rant with lots of common sense sewn in. i do get tired of some folks complaining they can't paint like me and i say that is right. but you can learn to paint, sew, you but you must do the work. i didn't enter this earth with these skills. i had desire and persistance and found my voice and made many wrong notes or learned what i did and did not like. if i am teaching a class i say no neg talking please, practice and patience and push on. no whining. ps i quilt pretty darn well on my mature Bernina record 830 , the square old one and shall continue long as i can see to thread the machine. she's a sweetie!

  85. Love your rant! And #2 is your best point in my opinion. I play with machine quilting, and don't have the money(#6) or space for a long arm(#7). I actually chuckled when I read the comments to your post about your new hanging system. Indeed, you have many reasons for not just buying a long arm for goodness sake! Love your blog Leah! Thank you for teaching through your blog!

  86. Amen to that. I totally agree with all your reasons and logic about long-arm quilting. A few years ago my sister and I 'rented' a long-arm to see if we'd enjoy the experience. We found no pleasure in it at all and shortly thereafter I learned that people were quilting with their domestic machines....then I discovered the Horizon. I'm having a great time and discovering abilities I didn't know I had. Judy

  87. Leah, Amen to the 7 reasons. I can't agree more. My sister and I 'rented' a long-arm to see if we would enjoy the process. Hated it! Then I learned folks were quilting on their domestic machines....and then I discovered the Horizon. Happy as a clam and discovering skills I didn't know I had. JudyM

  88. What a trivial issue to get so steamed about! Get a life, ladies! There's a big world out there.
    It's nobody's concern but your own what you quilt with or on.


  89. Way to go Leah! Well said!!!

    Nina in BC Canada

  90. Excellent post, Leah. I so totally agree with all you said. My one and only quilt teacher from the one and only class I ever took read an essay at the beginning of class that said, in essence, don't strive for perfection because it is an unattainable goal. Striving for perfection and being disappointed with your work will cause you to stop quilting, in frustration, and ironically, you'll deprive yourself of the one way there is to achieve beautiful results--practice. She did me such a colossal favor by pointing that out, and I've gone after quilting with a joy that I've never experienced with any pasttime. And my quilts show it, in my humble opinion. For people who worry about messing up their quilts, I suggest charity quilts or quilt swaps. I've been practicing on doll quilts for swaps. If I truly mess one up (which I have not), there's very little lost in time and materials.

  91. Well, I am a little late on finding this post, and my comment..but all I can say is, "You go Leah!" I whole-heartedly agree with everything you said...what is more is I also run into "bias" regarding the brand of sewing machine I use..which have been Singers, and currently I have 2 Brothers...that being said, while I am new to fmq, I have been sewing and straight quilting for a while, and actually my machine stitches look as nice as stitches on machines that cost a lot more. And my newest machines have the "extra features" such as knee-lift, and thread cut, and one has a 9 inch harp. So, just because I didn't spend thousands of dollars on my machines doesn't mean I am not a "serious quilter". I just want to be encouraged and also encourage other quilters!
    PS Forgive me for jumping in on your "rant" with my own...LOL

  92. You are so cool. I just started quilting (and blogging) and you are just so inspiring. I really enjoy your can-do attitude and your passion. I feel empowered, like I want to go quilt right now! I can't wait to read more of your posts!

  93. I love your reasons, I know I'll eventually be able to quilt on my ancient Singer 301.

  94. Thank you so much for saying this! I have been practicing different stitches, some I have learned from you, a couple I made up on my own before I knew about this blog. I have this flower stitch that I came up with to stitch on a quilt that I made in memory of my lost babies last year. I was using the same stitch on a current project this week and I positively beamed when my husband said, "You know Honey, you have really improved that particular stitch, keep up the good work!" It took a year of practicing and using that stitch on various projects before I had really improved. The other day I dusted off the old Meander stiple stitch and I could believe how easy and smooth it came out of my machine! One could not say that 3 years ago when I first started quilting!! Thanks so much for reminding me to practice and to keep stitching even with mistakes.

  95. I know you posted this 2 years ago but I really needed to read this today!! I have been upset at the fact that the dream of ever owning a longarm machine is never going to happen and that I was a failure in quilting if I didn't have one. Your words have inspired me to stop whining/having my pity party and get back to freemotion quilting on my home machine! Thanks!!!

  96. I love your blog. Not every one can afford a $10,000 extra wide sewing maching. That's all a long arm is anyhow. Why do they cost so much? My guess is because women keep paying too much. And because there are too many people with too much money, with so many others without enough. I love it. There is so much more freedom without having your quilt rolled up, I've never seen a long arm that quilts stitch in the ditch and goes horizontal and vertical with feed dog assistance...

  97. Leah's skill is obvious. Her quilts are great..but the bottom line one will take you seriously until you move into the long ARM arena...and get serious with pro equipment.
    I don't agree with this.. but I see it everywhere I go and at all the quitting conventions and workshops.
    This is an old post..but still holds

  98. If she's making art, it's not about "being taken seriously" as you would want to be taken seriously if other people are going to hire you to long arm quilt their quilt. When a person is making art, the finished product is all that matters, not the process used. Clearly, Leah's art is superior, it really doesn't matter that it wasn't rolled up onto a frame during the quilting process.

  99. Wow! I'm reading this post 2 years later and I couldn't have said it better myself. I've been machine quilting on my Bernina for nearly 20 years - I would hate to have to start all over on a long arm.
    Everytime I try them I do NOT like the feel of it! Go domestic quilters!!

  100. I know its been a while since you posted this but I've just seen it after spending an hour surfing the internet looking at long arm machines !!! I can't quilt yet - I'm signed up for your craftsy classes, I watch your youtube videos, and I'm one of those people who are too afraid to actually start !! so this post had me in fits of giggles - so I'm going to take up your challenge of 30 minutes a day for the next month and I'm sure I'll have the confidence to quilt one of the tops sitting in my cupboard :) actually when I look at my five samples from when I started a little practice a few months ago I can see improvements ! thanks for the back down to earth post and practice nudge - love your work !!

  101. Oh Leah, I am so proud of you for sticking to your guns. I just bought a long arm in April, & I have had more frustrating hours while using it than I have had happy hours. After watching your vids I never planned to get a long arm. Then my bulging disk in my neck gave me fits every time I spent too many hours on my domestic machine. Now it gives me fits because of the frustration/stress my LA is giving me, because the stress, no matter mental of physical goes to my shoulders & neck. Now I am stuck w/an $8000 machine for which I don't know if I can get my money back. On top of that, some of the things I did on quilts on my domestic machine, I could never do on a LA-it stiffles my creativity. I often wondered if you had a longarm but just never mentioned it. Not all longarmers are snobs about domestic machine quilters. Love you girl!!!!!

  102. Aren't we lucky that there are so many options to fit the needs of so many different quilters today!

    Yes, I quilt on a longarm (maybe technically a midarm, it's smaller than most) out of necessity. I have carpal-tunnel overuse problems in my wrists and cannot hold my arms in the position necessary to freemotion on a domestic machine without extreme pain.

    I don't look down on other quilters' different choices and I hope they also don't look down on me. Aren't we all more alike than different? It's just like the rift between traditional and modern quilting between some quilters (but luckily not all!). More sad than anything else.

  103. Leah, your words apply to MANY things in life. Better hockey equipment does not make you a better goalie. New "high tops" don't make you better at sinking 3 pointers in basketball. Having the latest kitchen mixer doesn't make you a better baker. Use what works with you and don't judge what others use. My aunt made the best bread in the world and everyone told her that she needed a kitchen mixer with a bread paddle to save her the work. She never did! Thanks for all you do - you inspire me with every post, every video!

  104. Leah, I love how you cut through all the seductive marketing hype and bring us all back to the Real World! THANK YOU! I don't need a longarm machine, either -- just more practice on the machine I already own. :-)

  105. Thank you from a husband of a quilter with no longarm. She has denied wanting one as long as I have been offering to buy one (years). After reading your blog, I understand and will leave her to enjoy quilting her way.

  106. I love your blog and I love your opinions. I think you should quilt with whatever you want. By sticking with the domestic machines, you have maintained your accessibility to a broader audience. Not only is that a great choice for you, it's an awesome business decision. Made obvious by what you've done so far, you are an exceptional business woman. Enjoy your art the way you want!

  107. I have to say, "You rock!" Thank you for your in depth view. My burden is lifted. Time to happily begin my journey on my domestic machine.

  108. My big concern is more than just the cost of longarms; its the overwhelming need to buy every new fabric/pattern out there and pump out hundreds of "homemade quilts".

    We've flooded the market/world with our craft since about the 1970s and on. Just go to eBay and do a search on "homemade quilt" and see what they go for: next to nothing, if they sell at all. Sellers can't even recoup their money invested, even if they use a cheaper domestic machine. Many of our quilts will likely end up stacked on a thrift store table with a sign saying, "$20 each", or worse--they'll be used to haul furniture in the back of box trucks.

    Why not just make a few, personal pieces of art of our own and stop there? The work would be more appreciated by our families and the world in general, and their value will hold over the long haul.

    My 2 cents.

    The only folks making any real money on quilting are the fabric companies, notion companies, and the artists/designers. That's it.

  109. Thank you for posting this! I rescued a vintage Necchi & had it refurbished. I have learned to sew on it and I love my machine. I am sure I am not alone in dreaming that a new machine or maybe even a long arm machine would improve my skills. I did not purchase a new machine & have over the last year gone from bumbling & knowing very little about sewing on a machine to finally getting my nerve up to try free motion quilting on my machine (the quilt tops and backing materials were piling up!).

    I went into free motion allowing mistakes & blundered through a throw size top made of scraps. I had long stitches, short stitches, points in my stippling & ripped not only really bad stitching but stitched up folded over batting BUT I made it through and by the end my quilt did not look that horrible.

    I have in the last week since my first attempt finished 2 more stippled designed tops (one baby & one large throw) and am pleased to say they look much better. I am now venturing out and am so excited to try new designs.

    I will never buy a long arm machine & doubt very seriously if I will ever buy a new machine. I like my vintage tank since she takes my "newbie" abuse and just keeps going. I am still working out stitch length but it will come. I am sure the thread cutter & the needle down position on a new machine would be wonderful but I think I will just adjust my skill & buy more fabric!

    Thank you for sharing your love of quilting.

  110. Thanks, Leah. I was thinking about a long arm and looking at various posts. Glad I found this one. I'm going back to my Singer 66 treadle. Only cost me $100. Grannie didn't need a $15,000 long arm, why should I?

  111. I just found this post today...I do all my piecing, applique and FMQ on a 1952 Singer and have heard "Why don't you get a "real" machine?" enough times that it makes me want to pull my hair out....thank you for speaking up for the domestic, and proud of it, machine quilters out there

  112. Hi Leah, I came across your website less than six months ago and stayed up all night watching videos, then spent the next week FMQing nonstop. I've been at it ever since. I stopped into my local quilt shop today to start a scrap recycling program and got into a conversation with a couple of gals. They mentioned how their quilt tops are piling up. I told them how great FMQing is once you get going and they both said "You should go into business doing that" and I thought "Hmmm that would be so much FUN!" Maybe...just maybe. Thanks again for being a great teacher and giving me the confidence to do this.

  113. Great insight!! You have challenged me to stop looking for the machine that will help me free motion quilt and start practicing!! Thanks!!

  114. You just posted that you did, in fact, recently purchase a Juki QVP sit down longarm. What made you change your mind?

    1. Hi Marie - Great question! I've purchased a table mounted longarm, which was supposed to have a similar feel and movement to quilting on a home sewing machine. It has ended up being much more of a learning curve!

      The reason I decided to purchase this machine is the massive change in machine prices since this article was written. Right now I can purchase a huge bulky sewing machine with 200 decorative stitches and an 11 inch harp space, or I can spend the same amount of money ($5500) and get an 18 inch table mounted longarm with a lot better visibility. So price wise, longarms have become far more affordable so you no longer need to justify the expense by starting a quilt-for-service business. Does that make sense?

    2. This is the best post I have ever read, I'm still giggling. You are awesome and I love your attitude. Keep up the great post.

  115. I loved your text on Quilt. I have the same thought. I do Quilt by passion. I once wrote: I love to quilt. I think you fantastic shape with the line as if his hands had wings. For me Quiltar is a trip planned beginnings of creative means and purposes elegant, delicate and often cheeky! I would like to make it clear that all I know of Free Motion Quilt learned from you!
    Adorei o seu texto sobre Quilt. Tenho o mesmo pensamento. Eu faço Quilt por paixão. Certa vez eu escreví: Amo fazer Quilt. Acho fantástico você dar forma com a linha como se as mãos tivessem asas. Para mim Quiltar é uma viagem de começos planejados de meios criativos e de fins elegantes, delicados e muitas vezes atrevidos! Gostaria de deixar bem claro que tudo que sei de Free Motion Quilt aprendi com você!

  116. Re-reading this post - Love this line -

    So please stop blaming your machine for all your problems and fantasizing that a bigger, better, more expensive machine will fix everything. Chances are, it's not the machines fault.

    I think I've been guilty of this one!!!

    1. Lol! Yes, it's easy to get into the habit of blaming the machine. The fact is free motion quilting is challenging no matter what type of machine you're playing with so it's good to always go into it with a mentality of practice and patience.

    2. Yes to everything you said! I find a lot of snobbiness around sewing of any sort. I have health issues and there are days, weeks even when I can't sit at my machine. I recently started hand embroidery and I love it. It's something I can do on the days when I literally can't do anything else. I'm absolutely hooked particularly on redwork. I posted some pictures in a sewing group I'm a member of and explained what had lead me to hand embroidery and 4 different people suggested I buy an embroidery machine. I mean Why? Over the past couple of years I have seen people in sewing groups post things like " I have just started sewing and I've bought a sewing machine, overlocker/surger and an embroidery machine is there anything else I need? " These people have more money than sense.


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