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’m copying my reply to her here.
- Fabric: When I got my machine, 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 manual for your APQS longarm is a pdf on the jump drive that ships with the machine is about 250 pages long and at the back of it you’ll find tutorial lessons. 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 or snapping systems called Leadergrips or Red Snappers (I like Leadergrips, BTW). You can certainly attach your quilts with pins from day one and wait on deciding about adding a loading system until you know more about how you like to use your machine.
- Pins: You’ll need some decent sized T-pins to attach the fabric to the leaders if you aren’t using Leadergrips. With those Tpins you’ll appreciate a good strong magnetic bowl. You’ll want some thick diameter flowerhead pins to use to pin baste the top edge of the quilt. My favorite are the ones Clover makes that comes in the box.
- Batting: You’ll want some batting. I like Hobbs 80/20, Hobbs 100% cotton w/scrim, and Quilter’s Dream (but not their request loft). Just don’t use really thin batting that distorts or falls apart if you look at it funny. Your batting needs to have some “ompft” to it.
- Thread: You’ll want thread. Lots of it. In all the pretty colors of the rainbow. Your thread addiction begins now. 🙂 80% of the time I’m running Glide or So Fine in the top with Bottom Line or Magna-Glide in the bottom. I carry every color and every size of Glide in my shop. My recommendation is to start with the neutral pack. I also love the variegated Affinity too. Oh, and I really love the Glide60 or Microquilter because it is so skinny that you can’t see the wobbles and bobbles!
- Needles: Your APQS machine was timed at the factory with MR 18, 4.0 needles. (If you have a George you may have a machine that was timed to a smaller needle.) You’ll get a pack of needles 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 Square Spiral. 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!
- Books/DVDs: I am a little biased but I think you’d appreciate having my two DVDs to refer to over time. 🙂 Each DVD contains three classes that are all one hour long. Volume 1 contains a full one hour class on multiple ways to load a quilt on the frame as well as a one hour class on how to use paper pantographs. Volume 2 goes through using rulers with your longarm, how to use your personal handwriting for border designs and how to use stencils to expand into custom quilting. These DVDs were produced in a professional studio with four cameras, a director and a producer so I know you’ll love their quality.
More than 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 clients who don’t give themselves permission to really wallow in the newbie stage. Go through the tutorials in the 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! 🙂