I was recently asked by a new APQS machine owner for advice on what she needed to have on hand right after her machine is delivered. I thought other newbies might like the same info so I’ll copying my reply to her here.
Fabric: When I got my machine initially I went to Goodwill and got some cheap sheets (not too high of a thread count-think CHEAP) for about $1/each. I used those as practice fabric. The CD-ROM manual has tutorial lessons that walk you through step by step. Focus on those first. My next step up from cheap sheets was cheater panels. These allow you to start to think about piecing and how the seam lines influence the freehand choices you have.
You may have heard about zippered leaders. I wouldn’t worry about putting zippers on your machine just yet. I didn’t have them for 3 years. (When you are ready, I bought my separating zippers from ZipperStop.com and the duck canvas from JoAnn’s.)
Pins: (*I have since moved from using pins to using zippers and, finally, now I use Red Snappers instead of pins. Leadergrips are also a great product to use. (click here to purchase them in my online shop). I will say it took me about 4 uses to get to the point where I enjoyed the Red Snappers. At first they hurt my hands really, really bad but after they broke in a bit they don’t any longer. The Leadergrips don’t start out hurting your hands like that). You’ll need some decent sized T-pins to attach the fabric to the leaders. With those Tpins you’ll appreciate a good strong magnetic bowl. You’ll want some thick diameter flowerhead pins. My favorite are the ones Clover makes that comes in the box.
Batting: You’ll want some batting. I like FiberCo 80/20, FiberCo 100% Cotton with Scrim, Hobbs 80/20, Hobbs 100% cotton w/scrim, Quilter’s Dream (not request loft). Be cautious about using Warm and Natural. Many longarm quilters dislike the feel of this W&N after you put the high number of stitches in it with a longarm. You’ll have to try it yourself to see if you agree. Quilter’s Dream offers a sweet sampler case of every batting they sell for a good price but only to those with a retail tax ID number. This gives you a lot of batt to discover and play with. Don’t buy a roll of anything until you know you like how it functions on the frame.
Thread: You’ll want thread. Lots of it in all the pretty colors of the rainbow. Your thread addiction begins now. 🙂 Superior has good sampler cones where you can get a cone of every thread they sell. 80% of the time I’m running Glide or So Fine in the top and Bottom Line in the bottom. I carry every color and every size of Glide in my shop. My recommendation is to start with the neutral pack. Give me a ring and I can ship it to you. (502) 718-7148. I also love the varigated Affinity too.
Needles: Your APQS machine was timed at the factory with MR 18, 4.0 needles. You’ll get a pack of those with the machine but you’ll soon need more. You can buy them from my online shop.
Pantographs: You’ll want to start out practicing with pantographs. I like the ones that interlock and nest so you can’t see where one row starts and another row begins. I love just about any pantograph from Keryn Emmerson. My favorite pattern to this day is Cascade and Featheration. When you are looking at pantographs keep the throat space of your machine in mind. Since I have an APQS Millennium, I can get the biggest pantos they make. Bigger pantos mean you can cover more ground in one pass- such a luxury!
Freehand: I really love Darlene Epps pocket guide books. I will say I’ve been using them for the past 9 years and I haven’t outgrown them yet so the value of these books make the price well worth it. They come in a 3 pack. The books start out basic freehand designs like a meander and then build elements into that meander page by page until at the end you are doing some pretty fancy stuff. There are TONS of great ideas in these books.
More then anything, though. You need courage, practice time, and a willingness to allow yourself time to learn. You won’t be making perfect circles initially. It will feel like you are walking on someone else’s legs. I have some client’s who don’t give themselves permission to really wallow in the newbie stage. Go through the tutorials in the CD manual that comes with the machine. Go to Youtube and plug in “longarm quilting” and watch some videos. Take it one step at a time and remember it is a bit like drinking from a firehose. There is a LOT of info out there you’ll want to learn but don’t feel like you have to know the info by the end of the first month or two.
But…. YOU CAN DO IT! 🙂