Whether you aspire to use a longarm sewing machine yourself or want to learn more about the art and craft of quilting, this post is for you. In our monthly series on longarm quilters, we called on Amy Bouchard, owner of Cascading Quilts, to find out more about how she got started and her process for longarm quilting. Here’s what she had to say:
1. How long have you been longarm quilting?
I have been long arm quilting for 8+ years. I purchased my first longarm in 2010. I had zero experience with longarm quilting, although I had a huge interest and did as much research as I could possibly do. My husband was still active duty military at that time, and quilting is a passion of mine that could move with me wherever we went, so why not take it to the next level! I currently own an APQS Lucey on a 12’ Deluxe frame.
2. What made you get into longarm quilting?
When I was a young girl, I hand pieced together some fabric to make a blanket for a baby doll that I had. I hand quilted those layers together and still have that little “quilt” today that my daughters got to enjoy with their dolls. I have always loved the way quilts look and the purpose of keeping us warm. I grew up on a farm in Northern Ohio and we only had wood heat, so the house would get cold in some of the rooms. When I returned after living in England for 2 ½ years, I purchased a new sewing machine and started quilt top piecing with the assistance and knowledge of my sister, Cheryl. She taught me different techniques to piece the tops quicker. I have pieced many quilts over the years and paid others to quilt them, however, I never seemed to be able to get the custom designs I wanted in my quilts. I always had a vision but the quilters always did meander designs and didn’t even give me a thread choice. I wanted more!
3. What is your favorite technique to use when longarm quilting?
I love ruler work. It is very therapeutic for me. I know it takes a lot more time, but I just relax and get into my zone when doing it.
4. Can you share a longarm quilting experiment you did that you liked the results?
I was stitching out a Judy Niemeyer Mariner’s Compass quilt and used a feather design on it. After finishing I took a step back and really didn’t like how the feather design looked and then spent 3 hours ripping out the entire design. At that moment, I decided the quilt needed to have ruler work to enhance the piecing of the quilt top. The straight lines looked incredible, and the quilt’s owner was extremely happy with the outcome.
5. Any tips for people who would like to start longarm quilting?
Be patient with yourself. Practice a lot, read as many books on longarm quilting and watch as many videos as you can find. See if you can visit with another longarm quilter in your local area or take a class at a quilt show to see if you really like it or not. That visit or class will either get you hooked or save you from purchasing a longarm and regretting it later. Check out the many Blogs on the web or the many groups on Social Media that will let you join to learn more too! Do have a philosophy that there are enough customers to go around. Never speak ill of any other quilter, we all had to start somewhere.
6. What are your go-to longarm materials?
My Kai 4” curved scissors to trim threads, a pair of good strong tweezers (to get a pesky thread to trim), high-quality threads, a water-soluble blue ink marker, and of course lots of quality rulers. My 6” ruler is my absolute favorite!
7. What is the scariest/most exciting part of the process?
Many quilting projects appear to be risks for me. I have lots of customers that just say, “do what you want, I know it will be great!” I view that as a lot of pressure and always worry if they will really like the quilting style I choose for that quilt or not. I also like to go “out of the box” with a thread choice to make the quilt “pop!”
8. How would you describe your style of longarm quilting?
I love the look of the modern designs as it brings quilting into a new generation. Straight, curved lines and circles give the quilt needed texture and a contemporary feel. I do like to keep the classic quilts in their traditional style and have tons of fun doing custom quilting! I also enjoy custom quilting popular foundation pieced quilts.
9. What is your favorite motif to quilt?
My favorite motif is a circle. No matter what the quilt, a circle is versatile to use in block specific designs or modern quilts. I can make them large or small and change their shape and style to fit the quilt. Most quilts are pieced in straight lines, so a bit of curvy quilting enhances the quilt, one stitch at a time…
10. What advice would you give someone who is using a professional longarm quilter for the first time?
Thread selection is very important. I will only use high-quality threads. Each quilt will speak as to what type is to be used on it, and the thread weight also plays an important role. I like to use a low sheen thread on a more traditional quilt and higher sheen on a modern quilt to give it emphasis. Some quilts really need to show the thread and others do not. I do a lot of thread changes, and I don’t always match my top thread to the bobbin. I also adjust the stitch length to complement the quilt.
11. What is your current goal for longarming?
Ask as many questions as you need to! No question is a bad question. Let your quilter know of any ideas for how you want your quilt to look and its function. Follow all directions from your quilter in preparing your quilt for them. These directions help with the process of getting you a beautifully finished quilt. Your quilter should be willing to communicate with you in any way that you need. You should make sure that if you have a question, even while you are piecing your quilt that you can call them or send a message to get assistance if needed.
The Fat Quarter Shop stocks a range of longarm quilting supplies.