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Longarm Quilting First Stitches: Beginner's Guide to Qnique Longarms

Written by: Leah Day



Time to read 28 min

Are you ready to take your quilting to the next level? If you've been wanting to try longarm quilting but don't know where to start, you've come to the right place. 

In this beginner's guide, we'll walk you through the basics of using a Q'nique longarm quilting machine and teach you how to take your first stitches with confidence. 

With their user-friendly interface and innovative features, Qnique longarms make it easy for beginners to dive into the world of longarm quilting. Whether you're a seasoned quilter or just starting out, this guide will provide you with everything you need to know to get started. From setting up your machine to choosing the right thread and tension, we'll cover all the essentials to ensure your first stitches are perfect. 

We'll also share expert tips and techniques to help you improve your quilting skills and create beautiful, professional-looking designs. By the end of this longarm quilting guide, you'll have the confidence and knowledge to quilt your own quilts. So grab your Qnique longarm and let's go quilt!

Beginner Longarm Quilting

What is a Longarm Machine?

A longarm machine is a specialized quilting machine designed to roll on a quilting frame. There are three main differences between a longarm machine and a home sewing machine:

  1. Feed dogs - longarm machines do not have feed dogs. These machines are specifically designed for machine quilting, not for piecing or sewing fabrics together.
  2. Size - a longarm machine has a larger throat space, which gives you more room to maneuver your fabric. 
  3. Stitch regulator - most longarms have some sort of stitch regulator that allow you to make consistent stitches, no matter how fast you move the machine. Most home sewing machines, unless they are specially made for quilting, do not come with build-in stitch regulators.

Grace Company's Qnique longarm machines are designed with hobby quilters in mind. Our longarm quilting machines are smaller in size, offer plenty of features for beginners and a variety of accessories to expand your longarm quilting abilities.

Qnique longarms are also priced affordably so you don't have to build a business around quilt making (unless you actually want to).

How is a Longarm Machine Different from a Midarm Machine?

The term "midarm" can create a lot of confusion for quilters looking to purchase a machine specifically for machine quilting. Technically, there are three types of machines:

  1. Machines with feed dogs - This includes everything from the treadle machine your Grandma used high speed, wide harp sewing machines like the Little Rebel. Feed dogs are the little teeth under the presser foot designed to feed fabric forward. Most likely if you are looking at a "Midarm" machine - it's really just a bigger or higher speed home sewing machine.
  2. Machines without feed dogs and a long arm - These are longarm machines designed to be used on a quilting frame, though some manufacturers do design longarms to sit in tables (sit down or stationary machines).
  3. Machines without feed dogs for embroidery - Machine embroidery is super popular with a variety of machines designed to only embroider. With no feed dogs included, these machines can ONLY stitch digital embroidery designs within a hoop.

"Midarm" is mostly a marketing word used by sewing machine dealers. Unfortunately it's been used so randomly that it can refer to smaller longarm machines like the Qnique 16X and high speed home sewing machines too.

That is pretty confusing, so it's important to understand what you are purchasing.

If you are looking for a machine that can hem your pants, piece a quilt, and quilt a project beautifully, you'll want a high speed, larger home sewing machine like the Little Rebel.

If you want to quilt your quilts very fast using a quilting frame, with the least amount of strain on your body, and with perfect stitches, you'll want a longarm quilting machine.

Why Choose a Grace Q'nique Longarm?

There are several benefits to using a Qnique longarm machine and quilting frame.

  1. Choose between 16, 19, and 21-inch longarms - the longer the arm, the more space you can quilt on your frame. If you love piecing 12-inch quilt blocks, you'll want at least a 19-inch longarm so you can quilt across the entire block in one pass.
  2. A Qnique X and X Elite longarms offer built-in stitch regulation. This feature ensures that your stitches are the same length, regardless of your movement. With stitch regulation, you don't have to worry about inconsistent stitches. This feature is especially helpful for beginners who are still learning to control their quilting speed.
  3. All Qnique longarm machines are designed with user-friendliness in mind. The adjustable handles and touchscreen interface make it easy for beginners to navigate and operate the machine. The intuitive controls allow you to focus on your quilting without being overwhelmed by complicated settings.

Best Time to Purchase a Longarm Machine

Purchasing a longarm quilting machine is a big investment in time, money, and space in your sewing room. It is NOT the right time to purchase your longarm quilting system if any of the following is true for you:

  1. I'm in the middle of a renovation and my house is a mess.
  2. I'm in the middle of a life crisis and can't think straight.
  3. I'm in the middle of a move, downsizing, or about to have a new baby.
  4. I don't have time to clean my sewing room and make space for a big piece of equipment.
  5. I don't like putting equipment together and the person that does (my husband) is sick or disabled.
  6. We're going to have the perfect space for this system in a few months, but it's not ready yet.
  7. I plan to leave my equipment in boxes for more than 30 days before using them.
  8. I'm going on vacation and I can't be home for delivery.

Why is it a bad idea to leave your equipment in boxes for more than 30 days? Because your Grace Company and LeahDay.com warranty begin when your system is delivered, not when you actually open the boxes and begin setting things up.

I've experienced all of the examples above as a longarm quilting machine dealer. I've seen many quilters leave their longarm machine in a box for months or years before setting it up. Please don't purchase until you have the time, energy and mental bandwidth to build this equipment and begin quilting with it.

It's also a good idea to plan to build your longarm quilting system yourself. Something about attaching the bolts and screws, installing the encoders and the nuts on your quilting frame can help you feel more comfortable and less intimidated by your machine.

Getting Started with Your Qnique Longarm Machine

It's time to get started with your longarm quilting journey. Here are the steps to set up and start using your machine:

  1. Prepare your workspace - Clear out a dedicated space in your sewing room where you can set up your longarm machine and quilting frame. I recommend having 2 feet of space behind the quilting frame and 3 feet to the front so you can comfortably quilt from both the front and back. Clear any clutter from the area and ensure you have good lighting.
  2. Assemble your Quilting Frame and Machine - Begin by assembling your Qnique longarm machine and quilting frame using the included instruction manuals. You will have to switch back and forth between the manuals, a bit like a "choose your own adventure" book. Take your time and make sure all the components are securely attached and in the correct positions.
  3. Load Your Quilting Frame - Watch the videos below to learn how to load your first quilt on either a Hoop Frame or Rolling Rail Frame. It's best to use a 1 yard practice panel  (see instructions below) for your initial stitches and tension tests.
  4. Follow the Longarm Setup Steps - Follow the 5 steps to setting up your Qnique longarm machine shared in Video 1 below.

Remember, adding a longarm quilting machine and frame to your sewing room is a big investment of time and space. Plan to take 2-3 days building your quilting system. Ask a friend for help moving the boxes to your sewing space and when lifting your machine onto the frame tracks.

If you purchased from LeahDay.com, I am your quilting dealer and want you to have a great experience setting up your longarm machine. Please contact us if you have any questions as you assemble your longarm quilting system.

Video 1 - Qnique Longarm Setup

With your longarm machine and quilting frame built, it's almost time to start longarm quilting! But there are a lot of little steps we need to do to set up our new machine and ensure the first stitches look great. See all the longarm quilting setup steps from navigating the menu, installing a needle, winding a bobbin, and threading the machine in this quilting video: 

My Favorite Longarm Quilting Supplies

5 Steps to Setting Up Your Longarm Quilting Machine

Here are the steps to setting up a Qnique longarm machine from the video above, in case you prefer reading instead of watching:

  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.
    1. For best results, start with a fresh needle (my favorite is size 18) 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.
    1. 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.
    1. 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.
    2. 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. Click Here to find a video on this step specifically.
  5. Get your foot to the right height - All Qnique longarms include a foot height gauge and this can help tremendously in getting your foot to the right height.
    1. In order to use this tool, your foot needs to be loosely attached and the needle in the lowest position, dropped into the machine. Qnique longarms have a subtle hopping mechanism to the foot and when the needle is down, the foot will be at the lowest height.
    2. 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. 
    3. 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.

Would you prefer these steps written in a PDF guide? Contact us and make a suggestion! I'm always looking to improve our longarm quilting dealer resources to best assist our customers! 

Practice Quilt Materials List

At this point, if you've followed the steps above, your longarm machine is ready for quilting. But taking your very first stitches on a real quilt is not a good idea. Quilting first on a plain, solid colored practice quilt sandwich will give you the best opportunity to adjust your machine tension and troubleshoot any stitching issues you see.

  1. 1 yard solid 100% cotton fabric for quilt top (blue, green or purple)
  2. Crib Sized Batting (45 x 60 inches)
  3. 2 yards solid 100% cotton fabric for backing (different color from the top)
  4. Quilting thread
  5. Size 18 quilting needles

Cut and piece the backing fabric to measure 48 x 60-inches. Trim the batting to measure 45 x 50-inches. These sizes will work well with your 36 x 42-inch "quilt top" of solid fabric.

For the best results use solid, 100% cotton woven fabric. A dark blue, green, or purple solid fabric is a great choice because you'll be able to clearly see your stitches. Using different colors of solid fabric will make it easier to see your stitches and adjust your tension.

Please use light colored thread and wind a fresh bobbin. I use two different colors of thread (orange and white) only when testing tension. Variegated threads aren't a good choice for first stitching because your tension can fluctuate with the color changes.

Loading this 1-yard practice quilt will be different depending on the quilting frame you're using...

Put Your Practice Quilt on a Hoop Frame

If using a Hoop Frame, first create your quilt sandwich on the floor or wall. Layer the backing fabric on the bottom (wrong side / seams side up), the batting on top, and the 1 yard of solid fabric "quilt top" on top. Smooth out the layers with your hands to remove wrinkles, then load the practice quilt on your Hoop Frame.

Make sure to attach all the clamps to the back, front and sides. The quilt should be attached, but still have a little bounce and movement within the frame. Thread and needle breaks can happen if your quilt is loaded too tightly on your frame.

After securing the clamps on all sides, use the "Stitch Regulated - Baste" function on your longarm to baste stitch 1/8-inch away from the edges of your quilt top. This stitching allows you to remove pins and locks the three layers of the quilt together securely.

Which Grace frames are Hoop Frames? All of the frames listed below can be loaded this way:

Put Your Practice Quilt on a Rolling Rail Frame

If using a rolling rail frame, pin or clamp (using Red Snappers) the narrower side of the backing fabric to your leader cloth. Roll the frame rails until the backing fabric is held "bouncy tight" between the rails. Also attach the side clamps with side leader cloth to ensure the backing has good side-to-side tension.

Spread out the batting on top and use your channel locks and the "Stitch Regulated - Baste" function on your longarm to stitch the batting across the top of the backing fabric. To ensure your basting stitches are straight and parallel with the rails of your frame, lock the channel lock on your longarm wheel. This locks the longarm in the horizontal position so you can only move the machine side to side.

Smooth out the batting with your hands, making sure there are no wrinkles between the batting and backing fabric. Place the 1 yard of solid fabric on top and smooth out any wrinkles. Baste stitch across again, 1/8-inch from the edge of the fabric.

Which Grace quilting frames are rolling rail frames? Our current rolling rail style frames are listed below:

How is the Evolution Hoop both a Hoop and Rolling Rail Frame?

The Evolution Hoop Frame is a hybrid quilting frame - it can switch between Hoop Frame style and Rolling Rail style. Here's how it works:

- When quilting a quilt top less than 42-inches wide, you can load the frame with Rolling Rail style. The backing, batting, and quilt top are layered directly on the frame and roll up on the rails quickly.

- When quilting a quilt top BIGGER than 42-inches wide, you will layer the quilt off the frame and load it using Hoop Frame style, using clamps to lock the quilt in place on all sides.

The main benefit of being able to switch between the two styles is speed. For smaller projects, you get a faster and easier loading experience directly on the frame.

All around, the Evolution Hoop Hybrid quilting frame is a great choice of you: 

  1. Make a lot of baby quilts
  2. Don't have a lot of space
  3. Wish to quilt quickly with a bigger longarm machine
  4. Plan to expand your quilting studio in the future

Longarm Quilting Settings & Tension Test

It's finally time to start longarm quilting! Yes, we've done some basting stitching with our longarm, but baste stitching won't give you an idea of your machine's tension or any adjustment needed. 

To properly test our quilting stitches and do a tension test, we'll need to switch a different stitch regulation setting. Use the monitor on your longarm to switch to Stitch Regulated Precise or Stitch Regulated Precise. 

What is the difference between these stitching settings?

Stitch Regulated - Precise - The stitch regulator will match the movement of the machine to create a certain number of stitches per inch, as set on your monitor. When you aren't moving the machine, the needle will hover in the up position.

Stitch Regulated - Cruise - This also uses the stitch regulator to create even stitches, but when the machine stops moving, the needle will continue bouncing up and down. The speed of the needle movement can now be set as a percentage on any Qnique X Elite model. I recommend setting this to 5% so the needle doesn't bounce too much in one spot.

Leah's Favorite Longarm Quilting Settings - Stitch Regulated - Cruise and stitch length to 16 SPI - that is 16 Stitches Per Inch.

Video 2 - First Longarm Quilting Stitches

In this longarm quilting video, you'll see how I change settings on my Qnique 21X Elite longarm, baste stitch to load a practice quilt on a rolling rail frame, and quilt a simple design to test my machine's tension. These are the very first stitches I made with this machine so this video captures all of my beginning quilting steps:

The first design I stitch is very simple and is the perfect test for thread tension. By stitching the straight line, I'm able to see how the top and bobbin threads are balancing. The gentle U-Turn and stitch back allows me to see if the tension changes in curves.

I use two different colors of thread for this first stitching so I can easily see how the threads balance and if tension is off. But I honestly didn't need to mis-match thread color because my first stitches on the Qnique 21X Elite longarm were perfect! I didn't need to adjust tension at all!

Here is a picture of the Longarm Tension Test Design I recommend stitching first:

First Longarm Quilting Design

Tension Adjustment on a Qnique Longarm Machine

But what if your longarm quilting machine doesn't stitch perfectly from the start? How do you resolve tension issues on a Qnique longarm? Let's work through this issue step-by-step:

  1. First make sure you are well rested and feel good. When we try to resolve issues on a quilting machine when we feel bad, we tend to make more mistakes (like missing thread guides) that just add to the problem.
    1. Also only change ONE thing at a time, then stop and stitch the tension test design again. If you change multiple things at once, you will not know what caused the original issue. You may fix your tension issue, but then mess it back up by changing something else.
    2. Only change ONE thing. Test between changes thoroughly before making another change.
  2. Check the Top Tension Discs - The most common culprit behind a Qnique tension issue is the top thread not being fully seated between the tension discs. Because the tension dial is ALWAYS under tension, you need to FLOSS the thread between the tension discs. Check this area often as thin or slippery threads can slip out of the tension discs too.
  3. Set your bobbin tension properly - Watch Video #1 again (time 20:25) to set your bobbin case tension. Make sure to do this carefully and over a soft surface!
    1. Once you set your bobbin tension with the thread you're using, it probably won't need to be adjusted again. Please be careful as you handle your bobbin case. If you drop the bobbin or bobbin case against a hard surface (your frame rails, floor, etc), they dent easily and this stops the bobbin from spinning smoothly.
    2. An erratically spinning bobbin can create issues that look like a tension issue, but you can't adjust it away because it's not something a tension dial can fix. If you suspect your bobbin case has been dented, get a new bobbin case and try again.
  4. Adjust the Top Tension - We use the top tension dial to bring our stitches into balance on a daily basis.
    1. Stitch the tension test design on your practice quilt. Stitch four or five lines, then stitch far enough away that you'll be able to see your stitches from the front and back of your quilt. Yes, this may mean crawling on the floor to see your stitches on the underside of your quilting frame. Who said quilting isn't a physical activity?
    2. Top Tension Adjustment - Too High - If you see bobbin thread pull up to the quilt top this means the top tension is too high. It's pulling too strongly against the bobbin thread - Lower your top tension by 1/2 turn. Test. Adjust again if needed.
    3. Top Tension Adjustment - Too Low - If you see top thread pulled to the back of your quilt, this means the top tension is not high enough to balance with the bobbin tension - Increase your top tension by 1/2 turn. Test. Adjust again if needed.

Memorize these steps and make sure to check your quilting stitches daily. I like to pull my longarm to the side of my quilt and stitch a few lines of the tension test design in the batting area on scrap fabric.

You may have had a home sewing machine with "auto" tension and never had to touch your top tension dial before. Longarm machines require daily tension checks. Checking your tension ensures you're only putting pretty, balanced stitches on your quilts. This little bit of time testing will save you tons of time ripping out ugly stitches.

Thread Pops Verses Tension Issues

A tension issue is when the top or bobbin thread actively pull to one side of the quilt with thread loops, no delineation of stitches, or the thread looking like it's laying on the surface of the quilt, not being pulled to the middle. Here's an example of a tension issue - the white top thread is too tight and pulling the yellow bobbin thread to the quilt surface:

Longarm Quilting Stitch Tension

The solution to the tension issue above would be to loosen the top tension on your longarm. The top thread will stop pulling so hard and the threads will better balance.

However, sometimes, you will see only a glimmer, or "pop" of the bobbin thread through the holes created by the needle. Check out the photo below and you can see the thread pops on the left.

The solution for thread pops - bobbin thread showing through the needle holes - is to match your bobbin and top thread. The only thing I changed between the left and right stitching is I switched my bobbin to white thread. The stitches have nice tension and now no thread pops are showing:

Pops of Thread Longarm Quilting Solution

The stitching on the right is a thread pop.

A pop of color is when the opposite thread is visible through the hole made by the needle. Stitching through our quilts puts holes in it. We use big needles (size 16 or 18) when longarm quilting and often the holes made by this needle leave room for the bobbin thread to show from the front.

The bobbin thread is peeking or "popping" through the hole in the fabric. This issue cannot be adjusted away with your tension dial.

How to Hide Thread Pops - The only way to fix a thread pop is to minimize the appearance by matching the same color thread on the top of your quilt as the bobbin. With the popularity of specialty (annoyingly thin and temperamental) bobbin threads, this bears repeating - I wind my bobbins from the spool on the top of my machine. Yes, even if this means my quilting thread contrasts with the backing fabric.

Many quilters wear their fingers out and drive themselves crazy trying to resolve thread pops. This is a total waste of your time. The holes made by your quilting needle will shrink after the first wash, making the pops much less noticeable.

It's also important to remember that when quilting, our face is 6-12 inches from the quilt surface. Every issue is magnified far more than it will ever matter as a finished quilt. Step off the Crazy Train and embrace using the same color thread on the top and bobbin, yes, even if that wildly contrasts with your quilt backing. The back of your quilt is the back! Let it go!

Troubleshooting Thread and Tension Issues

Sometimes we don't get perfect stitches on the first try. There are a lot of steps to remember and missing only one or two things can create lots of issues! Follow this list if you don't see improvement in your stitches:

  1. Adjusting the Top Tension Doesn't Do Anything - If your tension dial has absolutely no effect on your stitches, most likely your top thread is not under tension. Watch the videos on this page and make sure your thread is properly flossed between the tension discs.
  2. Thread Feels Tight and Doesn't Pull Smoothly - When you thread either the top or bobbin and tug on the thread, it should pull out smoothly. It shouldn't feel stuck or locked in the machine.
    1. Check each guide - it's very easy to loop your thread around a guide twice, miss guides, or get snagged on parts of the machine. Pull the bobbin back out and check that it was threaded properly, then insert it again until it pops in place. Pull on both threads. They should feel like they are under tension (some resistance) not stuck in the machine.
    2. Change Bobbins - A bent or slightly dented bobbin will not spin properly. Changing bobbins is the fastest way to fix this issue. If it does fix the issue, make sure to mark the bad bobbin or throw it away so it doesn't have a chance to annoy you again.
  3. Thread Breaks Quickly - Your thread could be old, so first change to a new spool of thread and wind a fresh bobbin. Don't use mystery thread!
    1. If the thread continues to break, first check your needle height and make sure the needle is fully seated into the machine and facing the right direction. You could try rotating the needle very slightly to the 5 or 7 o'clock position to see if that helps the thread breaks.
    2. If your thread continues to break, check your foot height using the foot height gauge. If the foot is too high, it can allow the quilt to bounce too much and put excessive wear on the thread.
    3. Continued breaking may mean you need to try a different thread. There are threads marketed for machine quilting / longarming that are just too thin, too slippery, and too finicky to mess with.
  4. Thread breaks in a specific spot of a quilt - Check the fabric in that area. If you are getting great stitches everywhere else, but one particular fabric is giving you trouble, it may be the nature of that material that is causing issues. Experienced longarmers know that thread tension can change between batik fabrics and regular woven cottons and of course a t-shirt quilt will have everything in it under the sun.
  5. Thread breaks when stitching in a particular direction - Home sewing machines are notorious for breaking thread when quilting in certain directions. Longarm machines can experience this too. Most often this can be resolved by lowering the foot height slightly and / or rotating the needle slightly.

I use Isacord thread for machine quilting and have been since 2009. It's thin, strong, has a beautiful sheen, rarely breaks, and has virtually no lint. When I find what works - I stick with it - and that's why I'm still using Isacord today!

6 Beginner Longarm Quilting Designs

Longarm quilting offers endless design possibilities. The best quilting designs to quilt in the beginning will be simple, continuous line designs with minimal travel stitching (stitching over a previous line of quilting). These designs will help you get the feel for moving your longarm machine on the quilting frame, but not require precise stitching to look good.

The following six designs are great for beginning longarmers. The steps can be easily memorized, much like writing your name in cursive, and quilted large scale - with lots of space between the lines:

Longarm Quilting Design Stippling
Beginner Longarm Quilting Design
Flame Key Longarm Quilting Pattern
Longarm Quilting Spiral Knots Design
Beginner Longarm Quilting Ideas
Undulation Longarm Quilting Design for Beginners

All of the longarm quilting designs scrolling above are free hand, free motion quilting designs. This means you can quilt these designs without marking your quilt top, just through memorization of the simple design elements that create the quilting pattern.

Video 3 - Quick and Easy Spiral Quilting Design

Ready to quilt your first quilt on your longarm machine? See how I longarm quilted a simple quilt using Basic Spiral in this video:

Longarm Quilting Styles

There are lots of different longarm quilting styles beyond free hand, free motion quilting! As a beginner, it's important to familiarize yourself with the different types of longarm quilting designs. Here are a few popular ones:

  1. Edge-to-Edge Quilting - This design involves quilting a continuous pattern across the entire quilt top. Edge-to-Edge designs are great for beginners as they are easy to execute and can be done with no marking. All of the designs listed above can be quilted with Edge-to-Edge style quilting to cover your quilt with one single texture.
    1. Pantographs - You can also achieve the same Edge-to-Edge look by following a printed paper guide from the back of your frame. This is called Pantograph Quilting, and it does require additional accessories to try: Rear Handlebars and a Qnique Laser Light.
    2. Quilting Stencils - Stitching through paper stencils and your quilt at the same time can also give you a nice line to follow. The advantage with stencils is not having to add additional accessories to your frame. The downside is you will have to remove the paper after quilting.
  2. Ruler Quilting - If you find yourself craving control when longarm quilting, grab a quilting ruler! You'll need a 1/4-inch thick longarm ruler, ruler base, and ruler foot in order to play with this style of quilting safely.
  3. Custom Quilting - Custom quilting involves quilting individual motifs and designs in different areas of the quilt. This technique allows you to highlight specific areas or blocks and add intricate details to your quilts. You can use free hand quilting, paper stencils, computerized quilting, and quilting rulers to create custom quilting designs for your quilts. Click Here to find a tutorial on Custom Quilting.

Experiment with different designs and techniques to find what you enjoy most. Don't be afraid to try new things and push your creative boundaries.

But... don't expect your beginner longarm quilting to look perfect. All beginners make beginner stitches. Daily practice and a willingness to ignore your mistakes is the key to mastering longarm quilting.

Essential Accessories for Longarm Quilting

Qnique longarm machines come with 3 bobbins, a standard hopping foot, needles, longarm machine oil and a variety of threads to play with. In short - your machine comes with everything you need to begin longarm quilting.

The additional accessories below are not necessary to take your first stitches, but can expand your quilting abilities, offer you more control over your stitches, and an easier quilting experience.

  1. Quilting Rulers- Quilting rulers and templates are helpful for creating precise designs and patterns on your quilts. They come in various shapes and sizes, allowing you to experiment with different designs and add intricate details to your quilting.
    1. In order to quilt with rulers on a Qnique Longarm, you will need both a Ruler Base and a Ruler Foot. You can find all the accessories you need for this quilting style in the Qnique Ruler Quilting Kit.
  2. Quilting Thread - Invest in high-quality quilting threads that are strong and durable. Polyester threads are a popular choice for longarm quilting, as they offer the strength and stability needed for high speed longarm quilting. My favorite thread is Isacord Polyester thread, which is actually an embroidery thread that works great for machine quilting in all types of machines.
  3. Quilting Needles - Your new Q'nique longarm will come with multi-directional MR needles in a variety of sizes. When you run out, make sure to use round shank longarm quilting needles which are more durable to withstand the demands of longarm quilting.
  4. More Bobbins - It's good to have 10 - 20 more bobbins than needed just in case you drop one or want more colors of thread wound and ready for quilting.

Having the right tools and accessories will not only make your quilting process more enjoyable but also help you achieve better results.

Tips for Successful Longarm Quilting

To help you achieve successful longarm quilting, here are some expert tips and techniques:

  1. Get to Know Your Stitch Regulator - Q'nique longarms have multiple options as we learned above. Play with Stitch Regulated Cruise, Stitch Regulated Precise, and Manual Mode to see which settings you like best for longarm quilting. 
  2. Smooth, Slow Movement - Consistency is key when it comes to longarm quilting. Try to maintain a steady speed while moving your fabric under the needle. Even though you are using a stitch regulator, moving the machine smoothly will result in nicer looking stitches and a smoother quilting process.
  3. Always Check Your Tension - Before quilting on a real quilt, roll over to one side and stitch the Tension Check Design shown above. Bend over your frame (or crawl on the floor) to see the stitches on the back of your quilt. Adjust the tension settings on your Qnique longarm machine until you achieve balanced stitches on both the top and bottom of your quilt.
  4. Plan your design - Before starting a quilting project, plan out your design and decide on the placement of different motifs and designs. This will help you stay organized and avoid any mistakes or inconsistencies.
  5. Take breaks -  Longarm quilting can be physically demanding. Take regular breaks to rest your hands and relax your shoulder muscles. This will help prevent hand fatigue and ensure better quilting results.

By implementing these tips and techniques, you'll be able to improve your longarm quilting skills and create stunning quilts that you can be proud of.

Longarm Quilting Resources

There are lots of longarm quilting teachers ready to help you learn more! While I'm focused specifically on longarm quilting on Qnique longarm machines, there are lots of other designers that work with APQS, Bernina, and HandiQuilter. Here are a few resources to explore:

  1. Ruler Quilting with Amanda Murphy - Amanda Murphy has created a huge variety of beautiful longarm quilting rulers. Click the link to find a YouTube Playlist showing you how to use each of her rulers on a longarm machine.
  2. Free Motion Quilting Tutorials from APQS - I've been a fan of Karen McTavish for many years and her videos for APQS are excellent! Watch this Youtube playlist for free hand free motion quilting designs on your longarm.
  3. Longarm Quilting with Angela Walters - Angela is an awesome longarm and home machine quilter and this Youtube playlist features lots of different longarm quilting and ruler quilting videos.

Conclusion: Your Longarm Quilting Journey Has Begun!

Congratulations! You've reached the end of our beginner's guide to Qnique longarm quilting. By now, you should have a good understanding of how to get started with your Qnique longarm machine and how to begin quilting your first quilt.

Remember, longarm quilting is a skill that takes time and practice to master. Don't be discouraged by any initial challenges or mistakes. Embrace the learning process and continue to experiment with different designs and techniques.

As you progress on your longarm quilting journey, continue to seek inspiration, learn from others, and share your own experiences. With dedication and passion, you'll soon become a skilled longarm quilter, creating beautiful, professional-looking quilts that will be cherished for years to come.

So grab your Qnique longarm machine and let's go quilt!

Leah Day