I thought I’d share a few pictures of my longarm quilting machine and explain a couple of differences between a longarm and a domestic machine. This first shot is of part of the machine. You can see how it sits on rollers and it has a bigger arm/throat space than a domestic machine. Mine has 19″ to work with. Domestic machines sit without moving. You have to move the fabric around on a domestic machine to do the quilting. You can also drop the feed dogs on your sewing machine to do free-motion quilting. When you do that, you get the sensation of what it is like for a longarm quilter to quilt.
Here is a shot of more of the machine’s frame. You can see the the machine floats around on a frame that has several roller bars for the fabric to roll along. Longarm quilting machines… as big as a car and costs as much, too!
If you look closely at the hopping foot (as opposed to the presser foot), you will see that it does not sit down on the base of the machine. It hovers across the fabric. That is why it is so difficult to draw a straight line. We use a straight edge ruler for this, which takes a LOT longer to do, since you are manipulating the machine with one hand while holding the ruler with the other hand. It takes a lot of patience to get that line even close to straight, which is why custom work like this costs our customers so much more.
When we use rulers and templates, we need to add an extended base for the templates to rest upon. Do you notice how much more it sticks out than the attached base?
I took a ruler to see how much further the extended base sticks out on each side. As you can see, it adds an extra 5 1/2 – 6 inches on each side. Beyond that, I add clamps to the backing fabric to make sure it is taught. They add another 2 inches to each side. This is the reason why I like to have an extra 8 inches of backing fabric on each side of the quilt top. Otherwise, custom quilting is next to impossible to do.
This last picture will probably end up in another post as it relates to the lighting – see those LED lights reflected on the Plexiglas? To be continued…