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You have admired machine quilting for a while – maybe
even done some on your home sewing machine and thought “There has to be an
easier way to do this.” Maybe you have seen a longarm quilting machine
demonstrated at a local quilt show or have watched your local longarm quilter in
action and have admired her (or his) work. Maybe you are thinking of getting a
longarm quilting machine to start a business for supplemental income. Where do
you start looking for information to make an informed choice if you do decide to
purchase a longarm quilting machine? You have so many questions and so few
Purchasing a longarm quilting machine is
very much like purchasing a new car. You need to do some research and take it
for a test drive. Of course, cost is a major consideration, but don’t dwell
only on the price of the machine. There is a lot to consider before making your
decision to purchase of a particular brand of machine.
Here are some ideas, guidelines and
questions you need to ask yourself and longarm quilting machine
dealers/manufacturers before purchasing a machine.
Here is a list of longarm quilting machine
manufacturers listed alphabetically (Click on their names to go to their
I suggest you begin your longarm quilting
machine research by going to the websites of the longarm machine manufacturers
(listed alphabetically). Request any information packets they have.
Look to see if they have any dealers listed
in your geographical area and contact the individual dealers and ask if you can
come and look, touch, feel and run their machines. Before making a final
decision on a quilting machine “test drive” as many different machine brands as
you can. You may have to travel to several locations and/or states to test
drive various machines.
Another option is to travel to a longarm
machine quilting conference such as:
These conferences will have many different
brands of machines set up to test drive, classes in longarm quilting and
wonderful quilt shows. These machine quilting conferences are the best way to
get a LOT of longarm quilting information in one location in a short amount of
There are many longarm teachers who travel
all over the country teaching classes and many longarm teachers teach classes in
their studios. These talented teachers teach both beginning and advanced longarm
classes. Another great way to get longarm education is to attend classes at
All the longarm quilting machines on the
market are very good, well built machines that will do an excellent job. But,
as with cars, each manufacturer’s machine is a little different and has
different features. You have to make the decision as to which feature is BEST
Here are some
questions you may want to ask yourself before looking for a longarm quilting
Where will I put the machine?
Most machines come with a 12 foot table and you need at least 2 to 3 feet of
clearance on three sides of the machine.
What else will be in the room with the machine? Will this be a dedicated
quilting space or will the machine share space with a spare bedroom or
How will a 12 foot length of 2 inch steel (the top, bottom and take up bars)
be moved into this space? If the machine is to be located on a second floor
or basement will the bars be able to “turn the corner” to get it up or down
If you are considering this purchase to
start a business:
Save all your receipts for any travel and related expenses
you incur during the research stage as they may be deductible as a business
start up cost. Talk to your tax advisor about these expenses.
Make a business plan and besides the cost of the machine
include other start up costs including business set up costs (business
licenses, business insurance, any construction or remodeling that may be
needed to your studio, etc.), thread, batting, fabrics, patterns, machine
Think about the type of quilting you would like to do. Do
you want to do simple, all over, edge to edge, row (pantograph) patterns or
do you want to do creative, custom, “fancy” quilting?
Be realistic about the number of quilts you plan to
quilt. Even though some advertising will state you can complete 3 quilts a
day, I feel that this is a very inaccurate statement. The reality is that
most quilters complete one quilt per day or less depending on the density of
the quilting. The more dense the quilting the longer it will take to
complete. And yes, I have quilted quilts that have taken many, many days to
Be realistic about your own physical capabilities.
Longarm quilting is not as physically challenging as some occupations.
However, operating a longarm quilting machine will require you to be on your
feet and use upper body movements (especially your arms and shoulders) for
extended periods of time. Will you be able to do this for several hours each
day, several days per week?
Be realistic about the time you have to devote to a
quilting business. If you have small children, work full time, have other
time commitments such as church, school, family, volunteer and other
organizations, you may not have the time it takes to run a quilting
Be realistic about the money that you can earn quilting
for others. I recommend that people consider income from a quilting
business be considered as supplemental income rather than their main income.
I would recommend underestimating any income you expect to make from
quilting, at least for the first year or so.
I would highly recommend the
Pricing for Your Longarm Quilting Business, Your Customer Worksheet.
The view the details about these booklets
Also recommended is the ONLINE
Pricing for Your Longarm Quilting Business recorded live at Innovations
Visit the blog, Machine
Quilting Business for more information about machine quilting as a
successful business To visit the blog
Be realistic about how quickly your skills as a longarm
quilter will develop. Longarm quilting is a skill that is learned. How
quickly you learn this skill depends on a lot of factors, but the most
important factor is practice, practice, practice and practice some more.
Give yourself several months of practice time before quilting on someone
If you are considering a longarm quilting
machine purchase for your own personal use:
Are you going to quilt your own quilt tops? Are you going
to make quilts for family only? For friends? For charitable organizations?
What would you do if a neighbor asks you to quilt her quilt? Would you
charge her a fee? If so, how much? What if she asked if you would quilt for
a friend of hers? Where will you “draw the line” for quilting for others?
(If you charge her a fee, then you are in business and need to have the
appropriate business licensing.)
If you quilt for charitable organizations will you set a “limit” of
quilts you will do for them? What if they expect you to quilt many more
quilts that you are able to? Is it important to you to get recognition
within the volunteer group for your donated quilting services?
Here are some questions you may want to ask
a longarm quilting machine dealer/manufacturer beyond the price of the machine,
what is included in this price and warranty information:
Will you come and set up the quilting machine? Is there a
cost for this and what does the set up fee cover? Be honest when you tell
the dealer/manufacturer where the machine will be located. If the
dealer/manufacturer will not set up the machine, do they have instructions
on how to set up the machine correctly? Do you have access to the “muscle”
necessary to set up a machine? Most longarm machines have parts that are
heavy and the machine needs at least two people to set it up.
Who will do the maintenance and repair on the machine?
The vast majority of machines have NO problems, but what happens if you
break a needle and the “timing” is off. Who will repair it for you? If
there is no local repair person does the manufacturer /dealer offer phone
repair consultations and is there a fee for this?
Is there any education included with the machine
purchase? If so, when are the classes and where are they located? How long
the classes and what is included? Are there any follow up classes for more
experienced quilters? Are there comprehensive operation/instruction manuals
available? Can you purchase a copy before you purchase a machine?
Will the dealer/manufacturer give you references to others
who have purchased their machines?
If you have any local longarm quilters in
your area you may want to talk to them about their businesses. Be honest with
them and tell them you are considering purchasing a machine. Many professional
quilters will talk with others about their businesses, but be respectful of
those who do not want to discuss the details of their business.
Here are some questions you may want to ask
a local longarm quilter:
Why did they purchase the machine they did?
Where did they purchase it? Is there a local dealer/rep?
Are they satisfied with the service they have received?
Who is their local service person? Are they reliable?
Is there a local longarm guild or group in your area? Can
you attend the meeting before purchasing a machine? Get the name and contact
info of the person in charge of the group/guild and contact them and attend
Would the local longarm quilter be willing to be a mentor
If the local longarm quilter could “do it over again” what
would she/he do differently?
How many quilts does she/he complete per week? Per month?
After you have asked questions, received the
answers and gathered the information then you can make the informed decision to
purchase a machine.
©2006, Cindy Roth, Renton, WA