Amy Wade is our resident long-arm quilter and owner of Amy Wade Originals. In her periodical “Quilty by Association” posts, she gives us a peek into the long-arm world and shares her tips and tools of the trade.
I’m a longarm quilter. When I see a top, my mind starts clicking pictures of it with different quilting techniques, patterns, and thread choices. But almost always, I do not use the first design that I latch on to. I’m not sure why that is, but I feel no guilt in moving on to another design choice because I have the advantage of knowing a lot of different digitized quilting patterns. It’s sort of a trade secret that I want to let out of the bag.
You might wonder why I would want to explain this part of the longarm quilting process as someone who does this for a living. It’s because the one line I do not like to hear is, “do whatever you want.” This scares the bejeezey out of me! I know I will love what I do, but will you? The more a customer knows, the better I can finish her top. Therefore, I hope that my clients will want to engage more in the pattern-picking process by knowing some of the great patterns that are out there.
I have a Gammill long-arm machine that is equipped with Statler Stitcher software. Pulling a description from Gammill’s website, “The system can determine the pattern size, block size, stitches per inch, repetitions of the pattern and the offset of the pattern.” It is an amazing machine that brings out creativity in me that I didn’t even know I have. (Side note: digital long-arm systems are a booming business. Here are just the systems I know about: CompuQuilter, HQ Pro-Stitcher, Innova Auto Pilot, IntelliQuilter, Machine Quilting Robot, PC Quilter, Pro-Stitcher, Q Bot, Quilt Artist, Quilt Magician, Quilt Motion, Quilt Sew Clever, Shirley Stitcher, and Side Saddle!) There are literally thousands of digitized patterns. My machine has over 4,000 patterns loaded on it designed by quilters and graphic artists from all over the world. In addition to that, my very favorite site to peruse is Intelligent Quilting. The patterns are easy to see and scroll through, and it’s a great site to start your imagination flowing. (Just don’t be buying any of these unless you own a long-arm system!)
Do you know a few of the basic terms in the digitized pattern genre? There are E2E (edge to edge), background fills, frames, blocks, point-to-point, along with borders and sashings. When you are searching for patterns, look at all of them, not just the one category you think your quilt top design fits into. Recently I did a custom quilt using a border pattern that I manipulated into an E2E. I love the overall modern effect:
Once I’ve picked a design or two, one of my passions is to connect different patterns together to form a unique design for my customers. I don’t always use a block pattern as a block or a sashing pattern in a sash. My system makes the connecting very simple (and fun!) because it utilizes a touch screen and literally allows me to draw connections with my finger or stylus. I doodle and improvise. I am a huge fan of Angela Walters’ free motion quilting; I’ve seen her do it up close, and I’ve even taken lessons from her. But unless I set aside ten years to practice, my quilting will not look as remarkable as hers. I strive for that, but know I need the help of digitized patterns.
As always, you can Google long-arm digital patterns to find ideas. However, on behalf of long-armers around the globe, please leave the picking of a specific design to your quilter! They know their machines and systems best. There are particular designers I gravitate toward because I know that their designs will “stitch out” (another cool term to know) beautifully and without errors. And when I am standing in front of my machine staring at a beautiful top that I know took many hours to produce, I don’t want any added headaches. Once I get my groove on, I just want to quilt, quilt, quilt.
So next time you’re tempted to tell your longarm quilter to “do whatever you want,” take a few moments and brainstorm. Even having a few general design ideas will help give your quilter an idea of what sort of quilting you like best, even if she isn’t able to use those exact patterns. The important thing to remember is that specifics help us make you happy, which is really all any of us (quilters and clients) want. Help us help you!