The Free Motion Quilting Project: Moving the Grace Qnique to a Frame!

Sunday, November 26, 2017

Moving the Grace Qnique to a Frame!

It's finally time to share a new video on the Grace Qnique 14+! Early this month I moved my sit down longarm machine to it's new home on the Grace Continuum Frame. I shot timelapse videos throughout the build so you could see how this changed my basement sewing room:

Click Here to learn more about the Grace Qnique 14+. Currently Grace Company is offering a terrific sale on these machines, but make sure to call the company and mention Leah Day said Hello My Quilting Friends in order to get bonus accessories with your order!

Initial Feelings about Longarm Quilting on a Frame

I couldn't be happier with this machine set up on the Continuum Frame. It's so easy and fast to move the machine and far less effort on my shoulders to move the machine rather than a quilt.

I originally set up the frame low, but after watching Jamie Wallen's video on Longarm Machine Height, we adjusted the legs to the highest setting. I can clearly see what I'm quilting and all around the needle and my shoulders and back are staying straight instead of hunched forward.

As I said in the video, I feel a bit silly for not making this change sooner. It's not that quilting on a home machine is so much harder. I've been quilting on a home machine for years and I still love it and think it's a great way to quilt your quilts. I wouldn't have created so many designs or spent so many years teaching this method of quilting if I didn't think it was awesome.

But longarm quilting on a frame scratches an itch for speed I didn't know I had until this machine was set up in my basement. I can quilt faster, with big open designs that get the job done quickly. This isn't glamorous show-style quilting, but it is adding texture, simple designs, and getting the project finished so it can be used and enjoyed.

I knew longarm quilting would be faster because I've rented time on a longarm at a local quilt shop. But there's a difference between showing up once every few months to use a machine and actually having it in your basement. I can slip into the room first thing in the morning, click on the machine and quilt half a quilt in half an hour. I can jump back on the machine after watching a show with James and Josh in the evening.

Lately I've been eyeing the stack of Quilty Box quilt tops and wondering just how many I could quilt in a day, or a week. Because now it's no longer a question of when that quilt will be done, it's a question of what do I want to finish next?

The Frame Quilting Experience

Longarm quilting on the frame does feel very different from quilting on my home machines or the Grace Qnique when it was a sit down / table mounted machine.

I spent a few days after we set up the frame trying to put my finger on the difference in feel and flow from these two styles of quilting. What I ultimately realized is quilting on a frame just feels lighter and faster. I'm standing up, moving my body and arms with the machine, and with very little effort I'm stitching a 5 inch path of Zippling from edge to edge across a quilt.

That same 5-inch section would have taken a lot more time on a home machine because of all the shifting, scrunching, bunching, and smooshing required to fit the quilt through the arm of the machine.

It's also faster because I can run the machine as fast as I can think of the design. I've been critical of stitch regulators for years because on a home machine, they tend to be clunky and can limit the speed you can stitch.

With the machine on the frame, I'm regularly running the machine at full speed and the stitch regulator keeps the needle bouncing up and down to produce perfectly spaced stitches. It's easier for the stitch regulator to work because it's just the machine moving over the quilt.

There are little encoders attached near the wheels of the carriage which keep track of how fast you're moving and adjust immediately when you change speed. I found I liked the Cruise setting best and usually set my stitch length to 16 stitches per inch, which looks almost identical to the quilting stitches I make without a regulator on my home machine.

As for the best designs to get started with, I'll have more videos on that coming very soon. I have found my understanding of quilting filler designs and how to use them has translated perfectly over to longarm quilting on the frame. 

If you know how to quilt a design by heart on your home machine, you'll also know how to quilt it on the longarm. That doesn't mean it will look perfect, but you will still understand how it's stitched!

But What About Your Home Machines?

Of course this is the point where lots of quilters are going to start pointing fingers. But you've said for YEARS home machine quilting is just as good? Weren't you the girl that wrote 7 Reasons Why I Don't Want or Need a Longarm?

Yes, and Yes.

Most of the reasons I listed in that post were about money and at the time I didn't feel like the juice was worth the squeeze.

I also wrote that post more than 6 years ago and the machines and prices have changed a lot. The cost of larger, higher end sewing machines have also increased rapidly. Yes, you can get a home machine with a 11 inch harp space and all the bells and whistles, but it will cost more than the Grace Qnique!

So prices have changed to the point that a small longarm machine on a small frame no longer requires you to go into business. It's still a chunk of change to shell out all at once, but so are the larger home sewing machines.

It's time to think about what you want out of your machine and what you plan to do with it most so you get the most bang for your buck.

And NO, I'm not switching full time to quilting on a longarm! I will still be making videos, quilting workshops, and books on quilting on my home machines!

Next year we're going to quilt along with walking foot quilting, a quilting style you can only do on a home machine. Click Here to check out the schedule and materials lists for the three quilts we'll be making together.

I do want to share videos on quilting on the longarm and I've been thinking a lot about how to incorporate them into our weekly schedule. What I'm considering right now is to combine our weekly new design video so we quilt half of the design on a home machine, then switch to the longarm and see how it works there.

It will be cool to see how the designs are quilted on two different machines, plus helpful to see which style of quilting is easier for particular designs. I know already that travel stitching and hitting exact points will be much harder on the longarm than it is on my home machine.

So that's what I'm thinking about right now. Please let me know what you think of this new video series idea and any other suggestions for new videos quilting on the longarm frame. I hope you're as excited about this new quilting adventure as I am!

Let's go quilt,

Leah Day


  1. Thank you so much for sharing and posting these videos. I am a new Q14 on the frame owner and struggle. Wonderful to hear that you too had a couple of ugly stitches. I still find the finer movements (small pebbles and feathers) rather difficult to control. It is as if I simply can stop, return at the right spot. I however lowered my machine to its lowest position being rather short also lifted the idler bar to provide smoother gliding over the bed of the machine. Not yet convinced that it is the ideal but still experimenting.

    1. I had a LOT of ugly stitches so far! LOL! It's definitely challenging to control the machine and do travel stitching or small scale stitching. It's much easier to quilt large designs (big sweeping movements) that interlock together, but don't touch. I think you just have to play with the height to see what feels best to you, but the key is quilting daily for 15 - 30 minutes every day. I just finished the test I was working on for the video so tomorrow we'll put another quilt on the frame and my goal is to have it go from a top to a finished quilt in one day!

    2. Hi Leah, I to have the mid-arm machine and am oh so happy with it except now they have come out with a 21" that I am coveting. I too prefer the Cruise setting but am playing with the Manual setting which I also like for it's smoother flow and tighter curves and circles. The higher the percentage the faster it sews but there is no regulation so you have to find that groove to keep your stitches consistent.

  2. Oh golly gee whiz...there's gonna be some fun going on at the Day home! First, I have to say I was tickled when James lay splade out on the floor, being a kid. Then went onto helping! Second, I see a longarm in my future. Being able to educate myself, while you're learning is thee best research I can do. Looking massively forward to more, Go Leah-GO!!! YAY to The Grace Company for their generous provisions.

    1. LOL! He was out of school that day and while we got started he baked muffins upstairs, then came down to help. Such a rock star!

  3. I'm so excited and can't wait to see the upcoming longarm videos. I have this machine on a similar frame, so it will be great fun to quilt along with you. I also have to pat myself on the back because I set mine up, initially 10 foot and then expanded to 12 foot, by myself!

    1. Wow! That is a seriously big frame! Mine is set up at 8 feet and so far I haven't pushed the length very far. If I want to go bigger I'll have to take out a wall so I'm hoping I can be satisfied with it the size it is!

  4. I love that you are adding a longarm to your quilting experience. You are running a business, this will help. As a hobbiest, I have had the pleausre of quilting on my friend's longarm Bernina. It's been great for large quilts, but I'm not ready to invest the time effort and money (yes she charges me, but a very reasonable price) in mastering the longarm. I think it's wonderful that you are expanding your skills. I'm sure you won't neglect the sitdown machine. It clearly has it's time and place.

    1. Definitely! I plan to continue with videos on my home machine as well as videos on the Grace Qnique. It's been really nice to see how this feels and be able to hop in the room and quickly throw some thread at a quilt top that's just been folded in the closet for years. Faster finishes definitely make me happy!

  5. Hi Leah, I have also purchased the Q'Nique frame with the Q'Nique 14+ and am still at the 'struggling with the tension' phase. As I have always quilted on my Bernina 750 which is a dream machine - the challenge in getting the stitches right on the Q'Nique is huge! I have watched all Jamie Wallen's videos as well as Linda V Taylor's...but when I do everything they suggest regarding tension I am still not happy with the stitches. I had it set at 10 stitches per inch and I will try your suggestion of 16 per inch. I've also found I prefer the Cruise setting. I've invested in Glide thread and Cairo Cotton Longarm thread - so hopefully I'll master the tension issue today.

    1. Hi Joy - I'm sorry you've had struggles with tension on the Grace on your frame. Have you tried Isacord thread? I've played around with lots of threads over the years and I keep coming back to Isacord because it's just so rock solid. It's 100% polyester embroidery thread, but very strong, color fast, and it just doesn't break unless you really tick it off!

      I think it also helps to use the same thread in the top and bobbin of the machine. It's worked for me for years on my home machines and has definitely held true on this longarm.

  6. I'm looking forward to seeing where you go with your longarm. I think there is one in my future.

    I give you full credit for getting me started quilting on my sewing machine. Your Building Blocks and Sunshine Surprise gave me the confidence to start quilting some of my aged quilt tops. Thank you for all the work you've put into my quilting journey.

    1. Aw! Thank you so much Liz! I'm so happy to hear you were with us for Building Blocks and Sunshine Surprise. I'm sure we will have many more quilting adventures together!

  7. So happy to see you get a frame for your Qnique! And right when I’m getting my first longarm! Perfect timing! Now I know I’m going to have fun!

  8. Hi Leah,
    I just bought a Q’niIque 14+ at Houston. I have the SR2 frame. And I am in love...I too wonder why I didn’t do this sooner. It is simplistically wonderful. The Grace folks were wonderful and answered all of my questions. I also have a Baby Lock Tiara and feel what I learned on my sit down long arm totally transferred to this machine. It took me no time to get the tension just right. I am so looking forward to watching your videos. I have a practice quilt that I’m learning on. And I am looking forward to stitching through my mile high stack of quilt tops. Thanks for sharing....

  9. Really you going to show more quilting with your Grace Q'nilque? How's it going?

    1. Yes! I decided to start with some Ultimate Quilting Tutorials to showcase quilting on both a home machine and longarm. It's really fun to show both methods. So far I've shared a video like this on Stippling, McTavishing, and Pebbling, and this weekend I'll share a video on Paisley too! You can find them all linked up here:


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