Some quilters love piecing, while others live for the string art that dances across the quilt. These days you can get almost any quilting pattern you can imagine added to a quilt. A skilled longarmer can add custom designs to enhance the style of the quilt, or they can use computer software to run readymade patterns in an all-over design. In our monthly series on longarm quilters, we called on Sarah Yetman, owner of Spooled Rotten 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 longarm quilting for 2 years. Prior to that I domestic quilted for 6 years. This gave me a great knowledge base. There was a learning curve as I began to transfer my domestic skills to the longarm. I currently quilt on a 22” Innova longarm and upgraded it to be computerized last year.
2. What made you get into longarm quilting?
I didn’t know I wanted to be a longarm quilter at first. I loved playing with my domestic machine and was getting beautiful results with it. It wasn’t until I went to my first Quilt Canada and got to play with a few floor model longarms that I got the bug. I instantly saw the benefits. Stitch regulation, no more basting, no more puckering of fabric in the back and a much quicker process to stitch compared to wrestling large quilts through my domestic. I also had a dream of leaving my job in sales to start a business in quilting. Working from home would allow a flexible schedule to care for my 3 young children. A longarm was my answer!
3. What is your favorite technique to use when longarm quilting?
I love mixing free motion quilting and ruler work when custom quilting. Free motion quilting is the reason I started quilting. I was drawn to the beautiful and intricate stitching designs in a quilt.
4. Can you share a risk you took on a longarm project that surprised you?
I think the scariest risk was when I had the longarm for a very short time and my mentor asked me to quilt her amazing applique quilt that took her three years to complete. It was my first time using invisible thread on the longarm. No pressure right? I surprised myself with my accuracy and was very pleased with the result. More importantly, she was happy with the result and competed with it, bringing home a viewers choice ribbon.
5. Any tips for people who would like to start longarm quilting?
Go to the shows and get a feel for the different brands of longarms. A longarm that may be perfect for one person is not the solution for another. One major thing to keep in mind is the support you will receive from your dealer. There is so much to learn about your longarm once you have it. It’s great to find a dealer that has an amazing product and offers continuing education classes. Especially important if you purchase a computerized system.
6. What are your go-to longarm materials?
My go-to thread is Superior So fine, monofilament and Microquilter, also Glide. When using different threads a TOWA tension gauge is a must. It really helps to ensure my tension is set correctly. Spray starch helps with wavy quilts. Water-soluble marking pens for custom work, and Hobbs is my batting of choice.
7. What is the scariest/most exciting part of the process?
I consider it my job to make the quilt top come to life. I want to enhance the piecing or the applique in a way that makes it shine without allowing the quilting to take over. The top is the star of the show. Coming up with a design that suits this mindset can be challenging. The scariest part can be figuring out an amazing quilting design and seeing if it translates as well on fabric as it did in my mind. It is certainly very exciting to push my creative boundaries with each quilt. My favourite part is seeing my clients’ reactions to their beautiful finished creation.
8. How would you describe your style of longarm quilting?
Certainly a mix. In my business, I offer computerized edge-to-edge services as well as custom quilting. The majority of my personal quilts are custom quilted as the patterns are complex and take me a while to finish. My children are also quilters, and they generally prefer an edge to edge finish. I see myself as a traditional quilter, perhaps with a modern twist.
9. What is your favorite motif to quilt?
I love to quilt feathers. I find it such fun to quilt out an amazing feather!
10. How do you select your thread?
It depends on the project. For edge-to-edge quilting I like Glide and So fine. Glide will give a sheen, So Fine has no sheen. If I’m quilting an applique quilt I’ll use microquilter for the background and monopoly (invisible) thread to go around every applique piece. This will make the applique stand out.
11. What advice would you give someone who is using a professional longarm quilter for the first time?
Make sure to press the top and the back to ensure best results. Check that your backing is the appropriate size to allow your longarmer to put it in the machine properly. The requirement is different for each longarmer. Ensure your borders are not wavy. If you lay your top on the floor and it doesn’t sit flat your longarmer will have a hard time making it as square as possible. There are many online tutorials that help with attaching borders correctly. Lastly, always be proud of your work regardless of your quilting level of expertise. As a longarmer I am thrilled to be a part of your quilting journey!
Thank you, Sarah, for taking time out to share your story and photos of your work! To see more of Sarah’s work, be sure to check out her website, Spooled Rotten Quilts, and Instagram profile.
The Fat Quarter Shop stocks a range of longarm quilting supplies.
What beautiful work! I love the rescued bird quilt. It looks like it was traupunto work or is that the result of how you quilted it? When I was in HS I pieced my first quilt-Sunbonnet Sue and Overall Sam. My parents sent it off to a longarm quilter and I guess we didn’t know how to explain what we wanted, I was so disappointed because they used an overall scribble and it took away from all my needle turn applique pieces. I guess I would have to find a local LAQ and explain in more detail and see their work before going that route again. I really love all your examples above
Thank you so much Sandra! The rescued bird quilt does not have any trapunto in it. I agree it does look like it though. When I first started quilting my budget did not allow for a longarmer so this is why I did all my quilting on a domestic. I know if I was in the same boat I wouldn’t have known what questions to ask the longarmer either. It’s too bad you were disappointed with the result in your quilt. Needle turn is a labour of love! When a client brings me a quilt we both discuss the style and what function the quilt will have. If it is a quilt that will be frequently used an all over pattern may be the answer. Or if it will be a showpiece, custom may be the right answer. Make sure you and your longarmer are on the same page about how densely you would like your quilt to be quilted. I have learned my idea of density is not the same as someone elses. Lastly make sure to consider budget. If you are looking for custom quilting on a detailed needle turn project your longarmer will more than likely stitch around all your applique pieces and want to add background fill that will make you applique pop 🙂 It’s certainly all about communication. I hope this helps and I wish you best of luck on your quilting journey!
WOW! Your work is amazing! Getting a quilt top finished is so satisfying but you really bring the quilts to life! Fantastic!
This is an excellent interview. The FMQ work is amazing.