After several weeks of practice I finally worked up the courage to use my new Babylock Coronet long arm on a new art quilt. Before I loaded the art quilt onto the machine though I spent a lot of time practicing and experimenting not only with threads, needles and quilting styles but also with machine speed and settings, standing vs sitting and trying out different types of chairs. Here’s a few of the things I learned with all this practice and experimenting…
Lesson 1: Practice with the thread you will quilt with.
When it comes to thread quality is paramount! I broke one of my own rules about using inexpensive thread and used some thread that I had gotten for free years ago. I have a bin of free bargain bin thread tucked in the corner of the studio that I won’t use but I figured it was practice and why use my good Superior Thread. Well it took less than 10 minutes for me to remember why I never use that bargain bin cheap thread. Tons of lint, broken thread – ugh! Don’t cook with wine you wouldn’t drink and don’t practice with thread you wouldn’t use on your quilt!
Lesson 2: Use the right needle.
The wrong needle can result in poor stitch quality, broken thread and even damage to your machine. So make sure you are using the right one for the thread that you have loaded in your machine. Not sure what that is? Check the manufactures website for what they recommend. Superior Threads has printable reference guides for both long arm machine needles and domestic machine needles.
Lesson 3: Just because it’s a stand up machine, it doesn’t mean you can’t sit.
Seems counter intuitive to sit at a long arm machine but I found that it gives me more control. Being new to the long arm world I assumed that since it was a stand up machine, I should stand up to use it. That worked fine for general stipple work but when it came to some finer detail quilting I found myself struggling to get a smooth stitch quality. The angle that you are looking at the quilting surface changes when you sit vs stand. I also found that being able to brace my arms against the front rail gave me a little more control which resulted in a smoother quilting motion. Whether you are going to stand or sit at the machine, make sure you have it set for the right height for you. Jamie Wallen has a great video on this topic here.
Lesson 4: Read your machine manual!
Needle up, needle down, cruise mode, precision mode, stitches per inch, stitches per minute, timers, stitch counters …. My Coronet offers me a lot of different options and I am sure whatever machine you have also comes with many different ones too. Spend time reading your manual and experimenting with the different settings so that you can determine which ones work best for you and your quilting style.
Lesson 5: Find your way
There are a lot of social media groups, videos, books, and other terrific resources and advice out there on how to use a long arm machine, the best way to quilt a quilt and just about every other quilting topic. Everybody has an opinion on what works best (including me!) but remember that the approach and techniques that work best for them, may not work for you.
By all means watch the videos, buy the books and reach out to other quilters for guidance and advice because that can yield you valuable insights, save you time and angst and reduce your learning curve. Just don’t be afraid to experiment to find your own way that works best for you and your style of quilting!
Now I’ve got a new art quilt that needs quilting!