Monday, July 9, 2012

How I chose a Long Arm Quilter

I got back into quilting in 2006 and have been piecing quilt tops like a maniac!! So how do I get all this tops quilted and made into a quilt? Some of the quilts I have quilted myself on my home sewing machine. The majority of the others, I have had quilted by an experienced long arm quilter.
I have been fortunate to use 2 experienced quilters in the last 4 years. I had heard about long arm machines and quilters, but didn’t think I could afford their services. Then I saw a sample quilt in a shop of a kit that I had recently made myself. I decided that I wanted to have my quilt similarly quilted. The shop put me in contact with the quilter and a friendship was started. I had seen her sample so I was comfortable with her skill level and when I talked and then met her, I was even more impressed. In my opinion she is an Artist! She does all of her quilting Free Hand!! Her pricing per inch was acceptable and she was willing to hear what I wanted done, but made suggestions on ways to enhance the quilt.
I recently sent her an oddly shaped wall hanging, that she sent back to me, because she didn’t feel comfortable quilting it. I’m glad she did that, I would rather she not quilt it, then to damage it in the process. Honest discussion of projects is very important between you and the person you pay to complete them. You want to be happy with the completed quilt and your quilter wants you to be able give her a good recommendation.

The second quilter I found through recommendations from my local quilt shop. I had seen examples of her work and had met her a couple times. She had left some coupons at the local quilt show, so I decided to have her quilt a few quilts. She also is a Free Hand artist, and we discussed some ideas for each of the quilts. They turned out great and I would recommend her to anyone that asks.
When deciding to turn your quilt top over to someone to quilt I would suggest you discuss and think about the following items.

Ask if they have pets or smoke.  I would prefer that my quilt not smell of smoke or have excessive pet hair on it when I get it back. 


Get recommendations from fellow quilters and local quilt shops.

Look at the quilts in local shows and see if a quilter has completed a quilt that you really like. Most shows now list who the quilter is.

Skill level/Experience
How long has the quilter been a paid Long Arm quilter, how many quilts have they completed?

Quilting Style

Free Hand, pantograph templates, computerized

Levels of Quilting

There are many levels of quilting, these are my levels:

Utility – Baby quilts, Picnic quilts, Pet quilts, Bed quilts
Home D├ęcor – You want people to look at these quilts and wall hangings and say how beautiful!

Show - You want people to look at these quilts and say WOW!

These quilts usually include dense quilting and maybe even special threads, such as variegated or metallic.

When talking to your quilter they should ask what you plan to use this quilt for, which will help you both to settle on a style and price.
Pattern selection
Your quilter should be willing to listen to what you want, but be able to make suggestions on thread and motif choices to enhance the quilt.

Free Hand quilters should have samples of the patterns/motifs they use.

A pantograph and a computerized quilter will have samples of the patterns/motifs they use also.

Ask if there is a minimum charge.
Some quilters have a setup fee and a minimum price per quilt. A minimum charge can be a little high if you have a small wall hanging to be quilted.

Pricing may be based on the square inch or yard. There is usually a thread and batting charge (unless you supply your own batting).


As quilters we know fabric is heavier than it looks. So don’t be surprised at the cost of shipping. And make sure you track your package, both ways. You may want to pay to have your package insured.
You have to remember that it will cost more to have the quilt shipped back, if you did not send batting with it in the first place.
I hope some of these tips will help you in your search for the professional long arm quilter that will turn your quilt tops into quilts.

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