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So many good suggestions!!! Keep them coming!!
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If you don't want to waste batting, I've used old mattress pads, old bedspreads, I've RE-quilted things I had just tied before. I save all of my batting scraps and on my practice projects, I use the leftover batting and just piece it. Any small pieces, I cut into 4x4 pieces and use them for cleaning my machine.
I was told to clean the rails, bobbin area, wheels every time I use the machine. I just spritz the cotton batting bits with alcohol and wipe EVERYTHING, dust it well, make sure there are no bits of thread or lint in any of the rails or on the wheels. I do this while the machine is warming up. I just let it run, without thread, for about 5 minutes while I am cleaning. Then I oil, wind bobbins, etc until the machine is ready to go...oh, and I also do some practice stitching just to double check the tension before I start on my quilt. When I'm done with one, I can't wait to start on another!
Don't try to to do much to start with! There is a big learning curve when you are stitching on a longarm. You can't run if you don't know how to walk.
Start with simple meadering. Once you get that stitching out the way you want, then and only then move onto a new motif. Practice on paper or a white board helps with the learning curve. Don't try say - leaves - then think, "I can't do those." Then try something else and think the same thing. Get one down pat first - then move onto a new design.
I hope this is making sense to you. Get some cheap muslin and practice on that. Don't jump in and put a quilt on unitl you feel comfortable with it.
Like I said before - there IS a learning curve here. You have to find how high off the bed of the machine the quilt needs to be and many other things. Take it one step at a time and RELAX!
If you take it slow and realize you can't put a quilt on the frame and quilt it and have it look the people who have been longarming for years. It will come, it just takes time - and PRACTICE - PRACTICE - PRACTICE !!!
I have read on another forum that it takes about 300 hours to get really good.
You might want to think about joining the yahoo group - homequiltingsystems. I have learned so much from this group. I don't know what I would have done without it.
Good luck and remember - the frame is your friend!
Just get on it and quilt! You will learn it eventually. You can't expect to be an "expert" right out of the gate. Quilt quilt quilt.
I was in your shoes a little over a year ago. Fear had me ready to sale my quilter and frame BEFOR i even opened the boxes.Now even though I am not a great long arm quilter, I am happy with what I can now do. It really does take time, we are told to work with our machines off the frame for a while.This is real good advise. Then get some cheaper fabric , a cheaters quilt top or a panel to work on.This is only to get a feel of your machine .Using the paper to pratice on is a good thing also.I am still working on the choosing and implementing designs. I can not do free motion yet but I hope this to shall come.I think I am to stiff and need to loosen up.Practice Practice practice. Sorry no wonderful words of advice But you are not alone . Have fun and go crazy!!!!
The topic of this thread is exactly what I'd ask! All the advice here is wonderful.
I have a Pfaff 1200 GQ..I would love to have a Longarm..about a year ago in January I saw it on craiglist..got it watched youtube programs..and drew lots of patterns on paper.. and practiced on the machine..found drawing helped pattern my brain so i could do it with the machine..it is like tracing curves and shapes with a pen of pencil..the videos help the thinking process and what to say to yourself..I can do my own designs much easier than following patterns from someone else.. like writing we used to practice until it looked beautiful..I love to make roses,rosebuds and vines. or write messages like "Jesus loves you and Mommy and Daddy do too!" scripture verses and prayers..lots of fun!! fear of failure is a trap but just having fun and telling myself I can do it and it is like dancing.. Put on some beautiful music and dance with the machine..you will love it..
Gals YOU TUBE has great video of how to load, sew and make the quilt once you have a long arm. One even shows how to load bobbin with thread. I am finding some GREAT help on my self taught quilting situation of NO friends here. I join quilting guild here but NO car to attend so life is getting rough....if I didn't have my internet..I would be really dumb about things I'm making! Good luck with Long Arm and I hope all goes well!