When I have a large top to be quilted, I turn to a longarmer. It is not in my plan to ever purchase a long arm machine (space & budget preclude it). Nor do I have the interest in getting ‘good’ at this part of quiltmaking.
Instead, I have several people that I work with and they do a lovely job of edge to edge (pantographs) or custom quilting. I have had great experiences over the years working with longarmers and thought I would share a few tips for finding and working with them. Why several people? Well, longarmers can be booked up in advance. Also, one of my longarmers focuses on custom quilting while others focus on edge to edge work.
How did I find these wonderful people?
Guild and Local Shop Recommendations: Of course, I ask my guild mates for recommendations and sometimes Guild members announce that they are starting a longarm business. I also check with my local quilt shop owners for referrals–they might even have a sample quilt by a featured longarmer in the store.
Social Media! Yep, I found two of my longarmers on social media. I saw their work on the feed of another modern quilter that I follow and contacted them. Both of them had their own IG feed and would post customer work (with permission). That way, I could see examples of their work and that helped me decide to work with them.
Tips for Working Successfully with a Longarm Quilter
Compatibility–style and personality. I work with most of my longarmers long distance and we communicate mostly by email –or an occasional zoom or phone call. If it is someone local, then you can meet in person. I think it’s a good idea to get to know each other a bit when you first start working together–it’s a nice way to have a warm business relationship. I also like to understand how they want to work with me–what are their needs in terms of communication, direction, etc.
Cost: I clarify the fees that the longarmer will charge. Out of respect, I do not bargain over rates. These women and men are professionals and they know what the market rates are. Most longarmers publish their rates on their website or are happy to send the information to you by email.
Sometimes, I have a very special quilt that needs custom quilting and I am willing to invest the dollars. I usually email the longarmer a photo of the top when it is nearly complete or complete. In that email, I ask about her availability or wait time. I also give details about the size of the piece. If it is a ‘go’, I mail or deliver the top to her and we discuss my general thoughts about the custom work. However, I mainly leave the design up to her. I trust her artistic vision and skills because she will have far better ideas than I could come up with. Here’s an example of a custom quilted piece. She not only varied the designs in each area of the quilt, she also changed thread colors.
Most of my quilts require either edge to edge designs OR just straight line quilting. I ask the longarmer for her recommendations for edge to edge designs. Fortunately, there are a LOT of wonderful modern edge to edge designs available. And, the longarmers that I work with know that I like fairly open quilting so they will scale the design to make it larger or less dense for my quilt.
Here’s a cool example of a pantograph that was scaled up a bit for this quilt.
Sometimes, I just want straight lines of quilting because I may add additional quilting to the top. I usually ask that the lines of quilting vary –meaning they are different distances apart. Here’s a top that was quilted with straight lines in black thread by the longarmer. I then added the bright yellow lines of machine quilting. On occasion, I might add handquilting to the edge to edge machine quilting.