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I love that we might have a spot for newbie advice soon!

We have a depth of experience here on the forum that is unsurpassed. And a culture of generosity that can't be found anywhere else online.

I'll start things off with some advice from my hubby Dennis. He is smart, makes me stuff, fixes my machine problems, and is cuddly. And he loves "the quilty women". :D

Here is something we were talking about last night.

Den says--if you want to become an expert at something you must practice that thing for 2000 hours. That's like a full-time job for a year. Eight hours a day for five days a week for 50 weeks. Nobody would do that. But that's what it takes to become "an expert". This pertains to every talent, hobby, or vocation. That's why the first advice you will get is PPP. Practice practice practice. Boring and easily discounted--but TRUE.

So when you buy your longarm, load that first piece of fabric, and stare at it--please realize that it's just your first hour. Allow yourself to be "not good' until practice makes you "good". It will happen quicker than you can imagine. Muscles and eyes learn to work together. Trying new designs stretches your brain. Two months later you'll be saying "not bad" when you stitch something graceful and recognizable! Then you tackle your first "real quilt" and you are on the journey to your 2000 hours. You'll be good before you are "an expert" and thrill yourself with your pretty quilting.

I send you good thoughts--may your stitches be perfect, your bobbins always full, and your life surrounded with beautiful quilts!


Linda Rech

Finely Finished Quilts

Millennium on Bliss rails--hand-guided

http://www.topperquilttools.com

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Great advise Linda! I've always told my students of the 10,000hr to be an expert rule. Here is a great little read http://www.victorantonio.com/malcolm_gladwell_10000_hour_rule


Matt Sparrow
APQS Canada
National Sales Manager

 

Sparrow Studioz
Longarm Quilting Studio & APQS Showroom
We Sell, Rent & Service APQS Longarm Machines

 

 

apqs-canada.png
 
 

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Linda's advice is terrific.

When I started I found it very helpful to load a piece of fabric with a definite pattern on it that I could trace with my machine. I actually traced it many times without even stitching to start getting that muscle memory. When I finally stitched it, it wasn't beautiful, but it was great learning for me. It helped me develop the skill to make curves look like curves.


68580D71558C5CD4FA14E80CBBEC4870.png  Millenium with Circle Lord, Bliss and IQ

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Linda, what a great topic to start. I remember being so nervous my hands were shaking, then I put Millie in a death grip that wore me out on the first pass! LOL! I still have to remind myself to relax and breathe. Have to remind myself that a feather touch really gives a much smoother stitch than my hand wringing strangle hold! :o


2EC2AA7574F475301B3018AECBD11B21.png

Proud Owner of 2009 Millie

Bliss & Quiltazoid Friendly

We cannot change the direction of the wind, but we can adjust our sails.....

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I think this discussion of thousands of hours is pretty discouraging. I'm working on quilt #5, and I have practiced some before each quilt. The results? Well, I can see room for improvement and accomplishments in each one. I suppose if your goal is national show ribbons or a business, maybe thousands of hours make sense, but for those of us who simply want to create quilts -- well, I'd never have bought a machine is I thought that was required. I'm glad to find out it's not!

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Robin, please don't get discouraged. I am fairly confident that the message was that to master a skill you need to practice. But the great thing is that practice can be on quilt tops. I started out with and Utlimate II with no SR. I never learned to free motion quilt, but I did learn how to panto and I was good at it. I took the time to learn the skills needed to do the panto's, but not the free motion quilting.

When I upgraded to a new Lenni last year, I thought I was basicly getting the same machine with a stitch regulator. I was wrong, I had to learn how to use my new machine. Now I have Quilt Path, and I again am learning a new system.

The real message is that there is a learning curve to the machines, make sure to give yourself the time. Don't assume that you can buy a machine and go into business the next day.

And the best tip I can give anyone new is: Try to guide your machine only using the tips of your fingers.... my quilting was much prettier once I gave up my death grip on the handles. :)


2D56C41AB83C600945E092C3751340C4.png

http://iowacomfort.blogspot.com/

Everyday is a good day when you get to play with fabric!

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I think this discussion of thousands of hours is pretty discouraging. I'm working on quilt #5, and I have practiced some before each quilt. The results? Well, I can see room for improvement and accomplishments in each one. I suppose if your goal is national show ribbons or a business, maybe thousands of hours make sense, but for those of us who simply want to create quilts -- well, I'd never have bought a machine is I thought that was required. I'm glad to find out it's not!

Hi Robin--please don't think you need to practice for thousands of hours to become proficient. As someone else mentioned and what I wholeheartedly agree with is you practice every time you quilt--whether it's on your own quilts or those of your customers .I practiced on non-customer stuff for six months before I took my first customer quilt. What a ride!

I don't enter shows, don't quilt for ribbons, and don't need the stress. But I have enough hours under my belt to feel I'm a expert at what I do. I know my strengths and limitations, what style of quilting I'm best at, and still thoroughly enjoy the process.

Sorry that my initial post on helping newbies fell flat or discouraged someone--not my intention.


Linda Rech

Finely Finished Quilts

Millennium on Bliss rails--hand-guided

http://www.topperquilttools.com

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Wow I only have a month and a half on my new Millie. I PPP as much as I can. I'm not anywhere near ready for anyone else's quilts let alone putting one of my own on. I've been using muslin and batting. I like instant gratification and am impatient to get good enough and brave enough to put one of my own on. It's really scarey. This forum, blogs and websites are wonderful sources for ideas. But I feel I'm still lacking the basics about it. What do you mean load fabric with a definite pattern, how does one decide what to quilt where, what type of threads, what colors? I have many many questions and I really think a beginners forum would be such a great idea. Don't get me wrong I will still read and look at all the beautiful quilting most of you do but I feel much better knowing there are others out there struggling like I am. Maybe with other newbies I would feel more comfortable asking those basic questions I need answered or help with. I am totally in awe of all of you in this forum and can only hope I someday will be half as good.


Ann

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I agree that you have to ppp but don't let it ruin your fun. For me I picked something I wanted to work on and went for it. It wasn't always pretty but if you keep working on it you'll get good at it. I liked having boundaries, big open free spaces freak me out, still do. LOL For instance if I want to do a free-motion feather circle I draw an inside, middle and outside boundary and then go from there. I love to use stencils, either in part or whole. Don't worry about the lines too much just use them as a guide, once you wash the lines out nobody will know you didn't hit them all :D. If you don't have a quilt to work on draw a block on plain fabric. You can use cheap sheets from Walmart to practice and you can layer two or three top layers without having to change out the whole sandwich.

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The first quilt I quilted on my machine was a queen size muslin sandwich with Hobbs 80/20 batting. I chose a pantograph that had lots of different shapes, so that I would get experience with all different shapes. I quilted the panto over the entire quilt--probably took 11 rows. It was a great way to learn the machine and gain experience, without worrying about ruining a quilt. That quilt became a dog bed, which my pooches greatly appreciated. :)


Joan

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Hi Robin--please don't think you need to practice for thousands of hours to become proficient. As someone else mentioned and what I wholeheartedly agree with is you practice every time you quilt--whether it's on your own quilts or those of your customers .I practiced on non-customer stuff for six months before I took my first customer quilt. What a ride!

I don't enter shows, don't quilt for ribbons, and don't need the stress. But I have enough hours under my belt to feel I'm a expert at what I do. I know my strengths and limitations, what style of quilting I'm best at, and still thoroughly enjoy the process.

Sorry that my initial post on helping newbies fell flat or discouraged someone--not my intention.

UhOh! First let me say, Great discussion for newbies... I apologize for mis-intepreting your first post Linda and not focusing on the 'Newbie advice' topic. I feel the exact same as Linda. My bad if my comment discouraged anyone. I was only commenting on 'Expert' Status for any skill. Our goal when we first start longarming isn't to become an expert it is simply to become proficient so we can start getting some quilts finished almost effortlessly. :D

When I first started on a longarm, I had to fight the urge not to stitch everything in the ditch really slow with a ruler or stitch every quilt using groovy boards. About a month in I started doing freehand quilting. I did the same design which was headbands/teardrops - whatever we are calling it now... lol I must have quilted that design on over 50 charity quilts in a row. Then I moved into flowers and leaves, changing the centres of the shapes between teardrops and swirls. These were ALL large all over echoing designs. Shortly after that I started making these same designs really small and using them as background fillers. From there I finally got enough courage to get into feathers.

Funny enough, It took me over a year to master stippling. I don't know why but my mind just couldn't wrap itself around the spacing or the fast curvy direction changes.

We now start all our new renters with a 3hr class and then have them follow a pantograph from the front/back of the machine(depending on their preference). We find removing the idea that they have to come up with a design removes a lot of anxiety. Allowing them to just swing the machine around in all directions following a nice big open stipple panto, allows them to find the most comfortable speed for them. We then stitch rows of L's and e's to show them that their muscles will repeat the same size and shape of design with very little practice. We find that everyone has a different goal as far as how they want to quilt their quilts. We have renters that stitch a large freehand stipple on a large quilt in less than an hour and others that will take four hours practicing a much denser stipple on the same sized quilt. We have renters that can panto a quilt in half the time it takes others.

We learned very early in our rental program that everyone is different. Some want to finish as many quilts as fast as they possibly can while others want to master the art of longarm quilting and take their time getting better with every single quilt. I honour all our renters. Nothing gives me more pleasure than seeing a brand new renter pull their first quilt off the machine. It is pure magic! I think I enjoy it even more than finishing my own customer's quilts.

So in case I wasn't clear above, I'd recommend you quilt one design over and over until you feel proficient at it. Your goal should be to build confidence and nothing builds confidence faster than checking quilt tops off your list of UFO's. Finishing lingering projects releases endorphins and you'll find it really hard not to feel good about it. As you practice the same design, it gives you the opportunity to play with tension, learn how fabric behaves, figure out how to advance a quilt, decide whether you want to load your top or float it, tying in & out, what button does what... It frees up your mind to learn all the subtle intricacies that will become your regular habits.

Most of all have fun and find a mentor or friend that you can go to before getting so frustrated that you don't want to quilt.


Matt Sparrow
APQS Canada
National Sales Manager

 

Sparrow Studioz
Longarm Quilting Studio & APQS Showroom
We Sell, Rent & Service APQS Longarm Machines

 

 

apqs-canada.png
 
 

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I meandered for the longest time. Just think dog bones and go for it. I quilted a lot of donation quilts before I ever quilted somebody else's quilt. I also ran out of family and friends to make quilts for, and that's when I went into business. Not everyone makes a business out of it. I didn't intend to either, but circumstances changed. You just never know. There are days I feel like a beginner again, and I purchased my machine in 2006. I still "death grip" my handles and have to tell myself to relax. I'm still learning, nearly every day, even if it's something small. I still struggle with what to quilt where, but it's getting easier (sometimes). Repetition is your friend in quilting. Practice on paper first or a chalkboard or dry erase board. When you're comfortable with that, then try it with the long arm. These are just a few things that helped me not feel so intimidated to try to quilt something other than dog bone meandering. I struggled with pantos for the longest time. Then someone on here suggested guiding with my left hand on the handle and grabbing the back of the machine with my right hand to push and pull with. I no longer struggle with pantos since I tried this method. This forum has been a Godsend in helping me overcome a lot of my fears with quilting.

I still remember taking my first computer class in college. My professor asked me if I was scared if "that man in the computer" was going to jump out and get me. Then it didn't seem so scary. I pretty much applied that to my long arm, too. B)

I hope I can pay it forward someday on this forum as much as others' posts have helped me. Hang in there NEWBIES! One day at a time.


Cindy Thompson

(My perfect quilting combo...Milli and Quiltazoid)

Chrome Top Quilts

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I've owned my older machine (1989/90 Ulti I) for just a couple years, and due to some long distance elder care, I can't be at my machine enough at a time to really become proficient at any one design. So I still feel like a newbie more often than not. Initially I put muslin sandwiches on, but I quickly became bored and brainless in coming up with what to practice doing on them. So I grabbed some fabric that I didn't mind devoting to this use, as well as some quilt tops I had found at auctions, etc., and started working on them. I started outlining shapes and designs in the fabric (still helps me with learning to control my machine) and then "doodling" in between these areas ( still helps me practice filler designs). I've taken these things and cut them apart, binding the edges or just serging them, and made them into many other things, including simply making mats for our local vet's animal kennels. They are a testament to me at this time that I AM making progress in mastering my machine.

One other thing I do to help me get better is I lay a panto or picture on top of my project on the frame, chalking the design on to the fabric or just use them as an example to glance at as I free hand stitch. Also, I've also watched Matt Sparrow's videos on setting up and using our machines (if you haven't done so yet, make sure to check out manquilter's site).

Most importantly to me I find I am more intrigued in using my long arm to make other things more often than finishing quilt tops. I haven't found it hard at all to convince myself it's ok not to be stitching on a quilt, and perfectly ok to be working on something else on old Mabel. It's been commented here many times that there are no quilting police - and that is so true!

This quasi-newbie says just let yourself relax and have fun. What ever you are stitching on is practice - so enjoy practicing on whatever it is that you find the most rewarding. My bro and his wife are re-doing the interior of their sail boat, and we've got some creative ideas we're going to try after the holidays - my LA will be just as busy as my Sailrite and sergers if it goes as planned. This type of work is my motivator, my creative outlet - and Mabel is just another tool I've found to use to express myself.


A865FFE96B99D13D2E3C09AF2B8376EA.png
2009 Freedom, and a 1989 Ulti I w/Intellistitch

 

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Wow I only have a month and a half on my new Millie. I PPP as much as I can. I'm not anywhere near ready for anyone else's quilts let alone putting one of my own on. I've been using muslin and batting. I like instant gratification and am impatient to get good enough and brave enough to put one of my own on. It's really scarey. This forum, blogs and websites are wonderful sources for ideas. But I feel I'm still lacking the basics about it. What do you mean load fabric with a definite pattern, how does one decide what to quilt where, what type of threads, what colors? I have many many questions and I really think a beginners forum would be such a great idea. Don't get me wrong I will still read and look at all the beautiful quilting most of you do but I feel much better knowing there are others out there struggling like I am. Maybe with other newbies I would feel more comfortable asking those basic questions I need answered or help with. I am totally in awe of all of you in this forum and can only hope I someday will be half as good.

Hi Ann! I"m a newbie as well, so believe me, I know where you are coming from! It is terribly scarey to put on a quilt top that you put so much time into and think, I don't want to ruin it with crappy quilting. My advice is that of Nike.... just do it. you won't be disappointed! My first try with my Mille was in my friend's basement before she sold it to me. I hadn't worked on it before and wanted to see if I would even like it. She said I could come over and practice a bit. To my absolute horror, she had a "real" quilt on it. I looked at her like she had 5 heads. She told me to just go for it. It was just a baby quilt that would be puked on and dragged around so it didn't need to be perfect. Man, talk about death grip on the handles!! 4 hours later, while not perfect, it didn't turn out half bad (if I do say so myself). I would suggest you throw together a quick, small quilt. something that doesn't take a lot of piecing, like a rail fence or a 9 patch alternating with snowballs. Then, pick a panto that you like and load 'er up. You will be amazed at how well you do (especially with a month under your belt). I think that practicing on a top that is not plain muslin will help to build your confidence. And hey, if you really hate it, you can always cut it up and make it into a tote bag right LOL? Something else I have noticed, if you are using dark thread on muslin, it doesn't look great no matter who you are. In my opinion, a light thread on a dark fabric will always look so much better than the other way 'round. If you really don't want to put a pieced quilt top up, try getting either some dark muslin, or, what I like to do, is to get a mottled fabric in a color you love and get a light thread to contrast (Personally, I like purple fabric with light yellow thread) and use that. It always amazes me how much difference that change can make in the look of the stitches. We are always too critical of our own work. I have complete faith in you!! Go for it!! Melissa

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Thank you all so much for the encouragement. I guess I just need to be brave and go for it. I am getting bored on muslin. Haven't put a printed fabric on but think I may try that. I also ordered a preprinted panel to practice on. I think I need to draw some blocks on muslin and decide how to quilt them. I am going to MQX East so I can take some hands on classes. I am curious about all the gadgets and rulers quilters are using. I appreciate any and all advice and guidance I can get.


Ann

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I might also add that your quilting probably looks better than you think it does...as long as your machine is cooperating with good tension, no one will notice if you don't have a few stitches right where you wanted them.


aedc2cc10e0045c5397509e8f6b74d4d.png

http://www.flickr.com/photos/sewmanyquiltssewlittletime/

Proud Millie Owner!

Sew Many Quilts - Sew Little Time

Custom Long Arm Quilting

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Thank you everyone for the great advice. I have only had my millie for a few months. At first i was a little discouraged when I looked at all the beautiful quilts on the forum, but my wonderful husband encourges me every day and reminds me when i have a bad day that I am new at this and my work is getting better and better. So for now I will keep reading and PPP :rolleyes:

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We cannot compare our relatively new experiences quilting to those on here who have been quilting for years. Doing that is a big disservice to ourselves. Grab some fabric or tablecloths, or sheets from a second hand shop if you need to, to have fabric to practice on. If you quilt up an area that you think looks pretty cool afterall, then cut that area out and in to a placemat or something functional that you can proudly say 'I made that!' It won't be long doing this that you definitely will start to see positive changes in how well you are controlling your machine and not the other way around. I don't show much of what I do by choice, but I definitely follow my own advice, and my quilting has improved a lot (and there are several friends who are getting sets of placemats for Christmas!) ;)


A865FFE96B99D13D2E3C09AF2B8376EA.png
2009 Freedom, and a 1989 Ulti I w/Intellistitch

 

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I was petrified by my Millie for 2 months. When I went downstairs to do laundry, I would see it sitting at the end of the room and I began to call it the intimidater. After a few lessons, I started a wholecloth quilt. This helped me tremendously. It had straight lines, curves, feathers and background fill. I learned so much on that one quilt and wasn't so intimidated when I was finished.

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