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5 Steps to Setting Up a Long Arm Quilting Machine

I've just recently upgraded my longarm and frame and am setting up my new Qnique 21X Elite longarm machine today! See all the steps to navigating the menu, installing a needle, winding a bobbin, and threading the machine to be ready for stitching:

Click Here to check out the new Qnique 21X Elite longarm!

Since I was already having to do a lot of work to change out my original Qnique 21 longarm for the Qnique 21X Elite, I decided to also extend my frame to a full 12 feet. This was a lot of work, but I am so excited to be able to quilt king sized quilts!

Click Here to check out the Continuum II Frame which can be set up at 8, 10, and 12 feet lengths. 

5 Steps to Set Up a New Longarm Machine

5 Steps to Setting Up a New Longarm Machine

1 - Install a new needle - yes, there is a needle installed at the factory, but it may have become bent or burred during shipping. We also don't know the size of this needle and it may change your tension dramatically when you switch to another size.

For best results, start with a fresh needle (my favorite is size 18 Grace Company MR needles) and make sure it's fully seated and the eye is facing out towards the front of the machine.

2 - Wind a new bobbin with your top thread - yes, there is also prewound bobbins included with your longarm. I call this mystery thread. I don't know what it is, when it was wound, how old it is, or if it's going to behave well.

I don't use mystery thread at all. Ever. I unwind all prewound bobbins and wind fresh bobbins of Isacord Thread, my favorite thread for quilting.

Normally I use the same color thread in the top and bobbin.

For testing the tension on a machine initially, I will mismatch colors simply so I can see if the top thread is pulling to the back or bobbin thread pulling to the top.

3 - Check your bobbin tension - Please do this carefully! The #1 reason quilters have issues with stitch quality is due to dropping their bobbin or bobbin case on a hard surface.

I like the tension on the bobbin case to be set where I can hold the bobbin thread and the bobbin and case will hang suspended and not move. When I shake the thread, the bobbin case will slowly unwind and slide downward.

This takes practice and experience to master and you may find you like more or less tension than this on your bobbin case. Experiment and see what works best for you!

4 - Thread your machine carefully - Longarm machines do not tolerate missed guides.

Longarm machines tension discs are ALWAYS under tension so you must FLOSS the tension dials. That means pulling the thread hard through the discs to ensure the thread is being squished between the discs. 

I've actually had to edit and upload this video a second time because I got the threading for my Qnique 21X Elite wrong the first time! The video here has been updated so it showcases the correct threading path for this machine:

Longarm Machine Setup

5 - Get your foot to the right height - We now have a foot height gauge and this can help tremendously in getting your foot to the right height.

In order to use this tool, your needle needs to be in the down position. Qnique longarms have a subtle hopping mechanism to the foot and when the needle is down, the foot will be at the lowest height.

Make sure you've properly inserted your needle into the machine first!

If your needle isn't inserted properly, it could crash against your bobbin case. We now have the needle jog buttons which slowly drop the needle by increments. Use those buttons to slowly drop your needle all the way down, then use the foot height gauge and tighten the screw attaching your foot.

Get to Know Your New Longarm Machine

The new Qnique X Elite series longarms have a LOT more features! Take time to page through the menu screen and check out all the new features and settings you can play with.

Qnique 21X Elite Longarm Machine

I hope you have fun setting up your new longarm and take the time to try these steps. While it takes a little more time to get started with fresh needles and bobbins, these steps take the guess-work out of your first stitches.

Taking our first stitches on our new longarm machine and getting great tension will be much easier because we've removed all mystery materials. In the next video, we'll take our first stitches and I'll share a few designs that are a great choice for testing tension.

Let's go quilt,

Leah Day

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