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Thread: Renting a long-arm questions

  1. #1
    Super Member AshleyR's Avatar
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    Renting a long-arm questions

    I found out my fabric shop rents a LA for only $8/hour. Any time I have a crazy idea, I try to talk it through with my husband, but he couldn't wrap his head around this one.... So, what do you think?

    I have to drive an hour to get there, so I want to make sure it's worth my while!
    I love to FMQ on my own sewing machine, but I'd be happy to skip the basting
    I usually just buy quilt tops, instead of making them
    I haven't used a machine-quilting frame. I tried at home, but couldn't get it on there right, and I had no help with how to do simple things, like change the bobbin. Using the one at the shop sounds like a great way to learn without a heavy investment.
    I know it could take years to get good on it, so here's my crazy idea....

    What if I used my good backing and batting and top instead of sheets or muslin fabric? However, instead of "real" thread, I just use water-soluble thread? If I quilt it on the LA there with w.s. thread, then bring it home and quilt it for real on my own machine?

    The advantages I see to this: I can buy backing and batting there (I do anyway) and I get help loading it on the frame and I don't have to store it at my house until I'm ready to baste. I can quilt it good/bad/ugly and it won't matter, because it will just wash out. I get to learn how to use the expensive LA and decide if I like it or not. I get my quilt "basted" really well so when I start quilting it for real, it shouldn't pucker. I have the perfect quilt to experiment on: it's gigantic and I have almost no money invested in it (top was free and backing was only $1/yard) and the thought of basting it keeps it on the bottom of the pile.

    Disadvantages: I believe $8/hour is a very good rate, but it can add up. My plan is ultimately to be able to do several quilts in a morning/afternoon but I know at first I'll be lucky to get one done. So adding $24 to an already expensive quilt seems like a luxury. Especially considering that it won't "finish" it, and I can achieve the same results with a $5 pack of safety pins. I want to count the trip as a disadvantage, but in reality, I go there anyway, I just need to make sure I can reserve the LA when I'm there. If I buy wide backing on the same trip, I won't be able to wash it, and sometimes, that stuff causes my arms to break out. But since it's just on the backing, I should be ok. I'd just have to hope that shrinking ends up ok.

    I don't plan on doing it every week, or even every month. Would I even really be able to pick up the skill of LA'ing if I only do it for 4 hours every 2-3 months? I've never used dissolving thread, is it difficult to use? And does it really last until you wash it out (or spill tea on it haha)? Would I be able to press the quilt (no steam, of course) with it?

    And last question: Is this even a good idea? It's very early in the morning, so I'm sure there are things I should already know that I'm not thinking of, and things that I don't already know that I need to.

  2. #2
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    I think you should just use the rented longarm to thoroughly baste the quilt for yourself, in regular thread, then take it home and fmq it there, they way you like to do. I do longarming, and you will not get good at it with only occasional practice. Unless you are planning on quilting an allover meander, you will most likely be very disappointed in your results. Most places with a long arm to rent also require you to first take a class in using it--another expense you have not figured in.

  3. #3
    Senior Member qbquilts's Avatar
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    As someone said, you most likely will be required to take a class on using the LA before being allowed to rent it - so make sure you consider that expense & time as well. Also, some LA machines are very sensitive to different types of thread, so you may not be allowed to use the water soluble. Also, loading your quilt on the frame takes a good bit of time and you may discover that you can only get one done in a 4 hour visit, depending on how big the quilt is.

    Since you most likely will have to take a class before using the machine, buy the backing then so you can wash it. If you've washed all the other fabrics, I'd wash the backing if at all possible.

  4. #4
    Super Member eparys's Avatar
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    IMHO great advice JustABitCrazy. Also I would be concerned about using water soluable thread on the longarm.
    Betty

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  5. #5
    Super Member AshleyR's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by JustAbitCrazy View Post
    I think you should just use the rented longarm to thoroughly baste the quilt for yourself, in regular thread, then take it home and fmq it there, they way you like to do. I do longarming, and you will not get good at it with only occasional practice. Unless you are planning on quilting an allover meander, you will most likely be very disappointed in your results. Most places with a long arm to rent also require you to first take a class in using it--another expense you have not figured in.
    I don't mind taking a class - would welcome it, actually. I would anticipate a charge for that. However, from talking to the sales rep, I get the impression that there is not a class.

    I'm sure I would be disappointed with the results, which is why I'd want to wash the quilting away, instead of picking it out.

  6. #6
    Super Member pamesue's Avatar
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    wow...sounds like a lot of work to me...why not just quilt it and gain your experenice that way?
    Pam H.

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  7. #7
    Super Member AshleyR's Avatar
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    I will check with them. I was thinking this kind of thread, which is recommended for LA machines: http://www.superiorthreads.com/shop/...tra-1-500-yds/

    I don't think there is a class, but I'll check. I'd be happy to take it. I guess I could keep buying backing for the "next" quilt, and bring it home and wash/press it and take it next time and buy for the "next" quilt, repeat.....

    Quote Originally Posted by qbquilts View Post
    As someone said, you most likely will be required to take a class on using the LA before being allowed to rent it - so make sure you consider that expense & time as well. Also, some LA machines are very sensitive to different types of thread, so you may not be allowed to use the water soluble. Also, loading your quilt on the frame takes a good bit of time and you may discover that you can only get one done in a 4 hour visit, depending on how big the quilt is.

    Since you most likely will have to take a class before using the machine, buy the backing then so you can wash it. If you've washed all the other fabrics, I'd wash the backing if at all possible.

  8. #8
    Super Member AshleyR's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by eparys View Post
    IMHO great advice JustABitCrazy. Also I would be concerned about using water soluable thread on the longarm.
    What would your concerns be?

  9. #9
    Power Poster ckcowl's Avatar
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    i'm a long-armer and have rented my machine on occassion- i require a 'certification class' which is a 4-hour class & costs $50 then i rent time for $20 an hour! this was how the shop did it when i first learned to use my machine (before purchasing) and that was 8 years ago- i still use her same prices...i live 1400 miles from the shop i bought my machine through.
    so---the $8 an hour is a good deal- but it can take an hour just to get loaded - if it's a large quilt-
    my machine is very picky about threads- i require you use the threads i have available- and order the colors a customer wants.
    if you want to just 'try it out' to see if you like the process you could probably just go in & take the class that teaches you how to use the machine- & see if the process is fun or 'not your cup of tea' i've had customers who after certifying decided they would rather just make their tops & have me quilt them- and i've had other's who enjoy the process & do come in to do their own- i have one lady who tends to quilt very very densly-and i always have to plan ahead when she calls to use the machine- she sometimes ties up my machine for a week or more- and does not mind the hourly rate- spending hundreds of $$ to quilt her own quilt- which would not cost her that much if i did it for her- but she's happy with it...i just have to be caught up & know i won't be able to use my machine for a week or 2. anyway- you have questions to get answered & questions to ask yourself- starting with the beginning class to learn to use it in the first place....when i took my first class i was told you could easily quilt a queen sized quilt in 3-4 hours---i've been quilting for 9 years now- and still have never been able to do that! i spend anywhere from 5-15 hours quilting a quilt on a fairly normal basis.
    hiding away in my stash where i'm warm, safe and happy

  10. #10
    Super Member AshleyR's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by pamesue View Post
    wow...sounds like a lot of work to me...why not just quilt it and gain your experenice that way?
    I'm not sure what you mean. I will be quilting it.
    I must not have been clear on my OP. I have no experience on LA and I know there is a huge learning curve. I don't want to waste my time on that learning curve by doing practice quilts. I'd like to learn on quilts that will be potentially given as a gift, so I want them all to look it's best. If I use disappearing thread, then I can "ignore" it when I am home, doing the "real" quilting. When I get to the point that my LA quilting actually looks good, I will decide if I want to keep using the dissolving thread or ready to switch to Big-Girl thread!
    I hope that makes sense.

  11. #11
    Super Member AshleyR's Avatar
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    I obviously don't plan on doing anything fancy on the LA, just practicing loops and "C"'s and "L"'s and maybe trying a panto.
    The shop is one of my favorite places to go to. I've been going there since I was in High School, and have made friends with the sales rep there. Her daughter is the one who is in charge of the LA so they don't mind if I ask a bunch of stupid questions. I will send her a message later asking if there is a class and if I could use the thread. I was just hoping someone on the forum could tell me if it's a good idea or not.

    Thanks!

    Quote Originally Posted by ckcowl View Post
    so---the $8 an hour is a good deal- but it can take an hour just to get loaded - if it's a large quilt-
    my machine is very picky about threads- i require you use the threads i have available- and order the colors a customer wants.
    if you want to just 'try it out' to see if you like the process you could probably just go in & take the class that teaches you how to use the machine- & see if the process is fun or 'not your cup of tea' i took my first class i was told you could easily quilt a queen sized quilt in 3-4 hours---i've been quilting for 9 years now- and still have never been able to do that! i spend anywhere from 5-15 hours quilting a quilt on a fairly normal basis.

  12. #12
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    I guess I'm missing something. Why would you want to quilt something twice? I rent time on a Gammill at a LQS. It usually takes about 4 hours and I was required to take a class. I also had to buy zippers to load the quilt. They cut the loading time considerably. $8.00 an hour sounds very reasonable, by the way.
    Sue

  13. #13
    Power Poster PaperPrincess's Avatar
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    I understand what you are saying, but I think I would start with something smaller than the quilt top you describe. Superior does make a WS and according to their website, it can be used in a long arm:
    http://www.superiorthreads.com/shop/...FWQDQAod80WB2g

    Please let us know how it works out!
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  14. #14
    Super Member eparys's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by AshleyR View Post
    I'm not sure what you mean. I will be quilting it.
    ... I don't want to waste my time on that learning curve by doing practice quilts. I'd like to learn on quilts that will be potentially given as a gift, so I want them all to look it's best.
    Never a waste of time - lol. My first quilted projects were just fabric and batting. I practiced meandering. Then I used the fabric for quilted bags. I put the printed fabric on the bottom and the plain fabric on top so I could "see" my stitches and pattern. (posted two of them below)

    Quote Originally Posted by AshleyR View Post
    If I use disappearing thread, then I can "ignore" it when I am home, doing the "real" quilting. When I get to the point that my LA quilting actually looks good, I will decide if I want to keep using the dissolving thread or ready to switch to Big-Girl thread!
    I hope that makes sense.
    It seems like a lot of time and $$ to have nothing to show for it. If nothing else - purchase some cute Juvenal fabric and donate it to Linus. - Just my honest recommendations!!
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  15. #15
    Super Member feline fanatic's Avatar
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    I was introduced to LAing this way. A LQS 60 miles away from me (hour and half drive through the mountains) had a similar deal. Take the class get certified and then you could rent time. I realized 3 things immediately. 1. I really liked LA quilting 2. I would never get any good at it renting time at a shop when I could only get there every few months. 3. The pressure of the hourly rental rate hanging over my head while I was loading/quilting etc would definitely have an effect on my quilting.

    It was then that I started saving and shopping for my own LA. Before you even toss around the idea of water soluble thread, better make sure the LQS renting time on the machine is ok with it. It may just be a moot point if they won't allow it. You can practice your loops, C's L's etc but I can tell you right now it will be practice pretty much thrown out the window if you can't get back to practice more often than once every two to three months. LAQ is just as much about muscle memory as it is skill and talent. If you can't practice the designs enough to the point that the movements to make them become second nature to you it will be an effort in futility IMHO. May as well just use the LA for basting if that is what your ultimate goal is anyway seeing as you plan on doing your "real" quilting on your DSM at home.

  16. #16
    Power Poster Tweety2911's Avatar
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    Lots of great advice already posted. For my first attempt I would just bring muslin and backing for a crib size to practice working the machine. FMQ on your domestic machine is very different from quilting on the longarm. I say it is a great opportunity at $8/hr and worth trying it out. At the very least you can learn to load and baste and then take home to quilt on your domestic machine. Definitely worth planning on spending a few hours! Let us know if you decide to take the plunge and share your experience
    Helen T.

  17. #17
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    I would check with the shop and see if their machine "likes" water soluable thread. That should answer a lot of your questions right off. If it can't, I would see if she offers a basting service on the longarm. She might baste the sandwich for you at a nominal fee and it will be ready for you to machine quilt. If you just want to try your hand at LA quilting, bring in a cheater top (printed design) and quilt your heart out. It will make a great picnic or car quilt and it might turn out nice enough for a extra winter blanket.

  18. #18
    Senior Member kountrykreation's Avatar
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    I think I can see where your going with this and honestly, think it's got some potential. Your getting your practice in on 'real' quilts, without having to 'worry' about the learning curve errors on the LA, or wasting 'practice' materials. In short, your basting the quilt on the longarm, just to be able to take it home and quilt it, and if you end up liking the initial quilting w/the WS thread, you can always quilt over the WS thread with regular thread. The zipper suggestion would save time on loading the quilts, that would be a plus, if the LA frame has that option. I think I would first try taking a class, to see if LAing is appealing, or not. The downside might be the time spent between LA visits. The longer between visits (maybe because of my senility), the harder it might be to learn the LA process? With either route though, it would seem something is being wasted, the material used for practicing, or the time spent duplicating the efforts?

  19. #19
    Super Member AshleyR's Avatar
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    UPDATE: I talked to my friend that works there. She said there is a class (yay!) and that water-soluble thread is ok to use!

    Now to find the time to do it....!

  20. #20
    Super Member candi's Avatar
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    I drive two hours to rent a longarm and it is something I look forward to now...as much as I would love to, I just cannot fit a longarm in my house right now, unless it can convert to a bed and we can sleep on it
    At the studio where I go rent, I normally rent it for the whole day, and go when I have a few tops to be quilted depending on the size and pattern I want to use, now that I have done it for a few times, I have a pretty good idea on what to expect. To be able to rent that longArm, the studio required a certification class, where she taught us the basics of long arming, preparing your quilt top to be longarmed, attaching it to the zippers, which she sold to us and with them I can have a queen size loaded in 10 to 15 minutes, operating the machine and included in the class fee was a muslin sandwich, I think something like 40" square, where we got to practice hands on zipping, loading and quilting. It was an all day class, and I would recommend that if you are going to rent a longArm to get something similiar..I have never even seen a long arm before that class and after that class, I booked a time to bring my my first queen size Bargello to quilt it on the LA..I guess I loved that much, lol.
    Here are some points to consider:
    1- what kind of quilting are you planning on doing on your quilt? All over? If so, I personally won't take time quilting it with water coluble thread..because chances are if you can doodle that all over design on paper and the longArm has a stitch regulator, your all over quilting will look just fine.
    2- how good are you machine quilting on your home swing machine? If you are great, you probably won't like your first try at LAing because sure there is a learning curve involoved.
    3-I won't recommend using a panto or custom quilting on your first or second or third LAed quilts...this is just from my own experience, to me pantos are stressful, lol, you are trying to focus on them so much, my eyes and head start hurting, of course I only tried it for five minutes in the first class and decided, no thanks, I'll stick to what I can doodle and quilt free motion. Custom quilting on the LA requires a LOT of practice..after renting the LA for I guess five times now, the last time I started practicing custom, and it is OK..not great, but if I keep practicing I'll get there I hope, lol.
    I am attaching links to the threads of the first two quilts I LAed on first rental time, and the last charity ones Ipractcied custom quilting on.
    http://www.quiltingboard.com/picture...d-t110136.html
    http://www.quiltingboard.com/picture...d-t114058.html
    http://www.quiltingboard.com/picture...g-t187902.html

    All this being said, if all you want to do is baste a quilt quickly and then quilt it on your DSM, why not just rent the LA to baste the quilt? It won't take you long, you would have played with it, and you won't waste your time and efforts quilting with water soluble thread. Most LAs I used have a basting stitch and many LAer offer basting services.
    Hope this helps you make a decision on what to do.
    Last edited by candi; 05-24-2012 at 06:32 AM.
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  21. #21
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    You might want to see what system they use for loading their quilts. It may not be an issue if you just want to baste, but if you actually want to quilt- will you be able to unload and reload it? Our store uses a zipper system, so you can quilt in short bursts (they rent 3 hour blocks), but another basically requires you to rent the machine until you are done, paying for the time the quilt "sits" (though not hourly).

  22. #22
    Super Member BKrenning's Avatar
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    I would pay the rent and then just do a meander with real thread all over it. Even the best water soluble thread has to be run at a much slower speed than quilting thread and if it is a finicky longarm--it might not like it at all and you will have spent your rental & learning time fighting with thread that may never work properly. If the longarm is stitch regulated and tension adjusted for the thread--the quilt will look fine when it is finished. Don't expect a masterpiece and I think you'll be pleased with the end result. If it were me--I think I would just make up a large practice sandwich--muslin or cheap yardage--and just doodle all over it. Take it off the frame and cut it up for placemats, potholders, dog beds, etc.
    Beverly

  23. #23
    Super Member AshleyR's Avatar
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    Thanks for the advice. Lots to think about!

    I guess it comes down to how I want the finished product to look, and I don't think I could achieve it on a long-arm. I am glad that those of you who "get it" get it! The advice to baste it is good, but I do want to try to learn how to move the machine too! But I'm not going to waste a lot of time/thread trying to learn how to make feathers. The cheap-o side of me can't justify a large practice sandwich, knowing that it's not going to turn out when I have a dozen projects to do by Christmas.

    Irony: I could whip up some quick baby quilts on a long arm "in no time" but have no real issues with basting or quilting them.

  24. #24
    Senior Member cmw0829's Avatar
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    I think the real appeal is that you don't have to baste. $8 an hour is a super price and if you love being there, why not? But I would just quilt it and be done with it rather than doing it again at home.

    JMHO

    So good luck finding the time! I have a place that rents (at $20 an hour) only 15 min from my house and haven't been able to find the time yet.

  25. #25
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    I would mark my top, take it into the rental longarm and then follow my own pathing. The one thing that is different about longarming, is that you can draw on your quilt top with the machine vs driving the quilt under the needle on a domestic sewing machine. being able to see more of your work while you LA. I hate to see you do double work

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