Your questions about long-arm quilting

HQ Your questions about long arm quilting

Me at the HQ retreat (Photo by Sherri Driver)

I spent the past week at Handi Quilter headquarters in Salt Lake City, Utah attending two back-to-back long-arm quilting retreats. I was in a class of 16 and we each got our own HQ Avanté to practice on.

The first class covered the basics – loading the quilt top, batting, and backing into the machine, inserting the needle, oiling the bobbin case, threading the machine, starting, stopping, and basting. Then we moved on to actual quilting. We covered feathers, trapunto, pantographs, stencils, and free- motion machine quilting. It was a lot to absorb in a very small amount of time!

Nine students from the first class stayed over the weekend and attended the second class along with five new students. In this one we practiced with all the Handi Quilter rulers, did a lot of free-motion quilting, copying patterns that had been drawn out for us, and learned to use dots and reference points to quilt free-motion designs. We even tried micro-quilting on the Fusion.

We finished up on Wednesday with a class from Suzanne Hyland on how to quilt a wide variety of quilt tops. Each student brought in two tops and we did “quilt design by committee” taking into account all we had learned over the course of the classes, and Suzanne’s presentation.

As someone who mostly makes tops and rarely finishes them, this was an education!

While I was away I stayed in touch on Facebook and this blog and asked our readers for their questions about Handi Quilter machines and long-arm quilting in general. Brenda Groelz, Handi Quilter’s Director of Marketing and Education, was kind enough to provide answers. I’ve broken this blog into two parts. Part two will be posted next Friday.

I hope this information is helpful to long-arm quilters and newbies like me and if you have any other questions, feel free to post them here!

Q: I was told that since I’m not very tall to purchase a machine no larger than a 18″ throat area since I would have to stretch too far with a larger machine which would make quilting uncomfortable. Is this true or false?

A: While it’s true that a quilter with shorter arms will be uncomfortable stretching too far to quilt, there are other factors to consider when deciding on throat size in a quilting machine. If you ever intend to add a computer-guided system, you may be happier with a larger machine, such as the HQ24 Fusion, with its 24” throat. The larger the pass, the fewer passes you have to make. Even if you don’t go with the HQ Pro-Stitcher, there’s nothing that says you have to physically quilt in the entire space. It’s very nice to be able to see what your last pass looked like, so you can match the size of your stipple or meander pattern. It’s helpful to have the extra visual space when working with nesting edge-to-edge designs and the extra space also comes in handy when working with rulers, giving you plenty of maneuvering room, especially when doing crosshatching.

Q: What are the payment plans?

A: Handi Quilter offers two types of payment plans. One is a fixed-rate, 36-month plan and the other is a lease plan. To get details about these plans, please contact your local HQ Rep. Visit our locator page to find your closest Rep.

Q: We’re thinking of buying a HQ for our new shop. Is it good for beginners?

A: Handi Quilter quilting machine systems are simple to use and intuitive. The only user maintenance that is required is to keep the tracks and machine, including the bobbin area, clean of lint and oiled. They are industrial-quality machines dressed up in an attractive home package and are perfect for beginners, quilters-for-hire and show quilters alike. I’d be happy to have the Territory Sales Manager for your area visit with you about becoming an HQ Rep. Just email me at

Q: I am considering an HQ Fusion. Do they offer free training at their SLC facility if you buy one of their machines?

A: All HQ Reps are required to train the new owner on a variety of use and maintenance items including threading, changing needles, adjusting top and bottom tensions, loading the quilt sandwich, and oiling the machine. This training will be done either in the Rep’s store location or the new owner’s home, depending on the Rep’s policy. Many HQ Reps offer more quilting training, sometimes for free and sometimes for a fee. Each HQ Rep is an independent store owner and their policies vary. We recommend finding the local HQ Rep that is the best fit for you.

Handi Quilter also offers fee-based educational retreats at their Salt Lake City facility, taught by four HQ Studio Educators. Classes run three days and are limited to 16 students per class, with one machine per student for the optimal hands-on experience. Go to our website and click on Education to read more information about the U of HQ Retreats. These fill up fast.

Q: I’ve been thinking about getting a Handi Quilter for some time now but can’t decide between the sit down table model and the larger stand up ones. SO many factors to consider! How do you decide? And can you quilt queen sized quilts on the sit down model? Or do you run into the same problems as with a regular machine, trying to push huge wads of quilt around? I curious to know what you think.

A: Here are the questions you need to ask yourself when choosing between the standup and the sit-down models.

  1. Do I have room for the 12-foot-long frame? The HQ Studio Frame needs at least an 8’ x 14’ footprint, but more space is better, allowing you to work comfortably from both the front and the back of the machine. The HQ Sweet Sixteen table measures 30” deep x 36” wide, and adding the optional table extensions can take the width to a full six feet.
  2. How much do you like basting? And how fast do you want to finish your quilts? Quilting quilts on the HQ18 Avanté with the HQ Studio Frame means no more basting quilts ahead of time. The 18” throat allows you to cover a lot of territory before rolling the quilt.

The sixteen-inch throat space allows you to easily quilt even king-size quilts on the HQ Sweet Sixteen. No problem!

Q: I would like to know how you get started at doing different designs on the quilt frame, I have a Little Gracie and have had it for 3 years, and I’m still scared to try new designs…. I always do the same old stippling and I’d like to get adventurous and try something new, but I’m scared I’ll wreck my quilt.

A: Handi Quilter believes strongly in education. Stock up on books and DVDs that help you jumpstart your free-motion quilting. Quilting Academy’s Longarm Basics DVD set includes one DVD devoted to creating your own continuous line designs.

Check back next Friday for the rest of the answers to your questions!

About Kelly M. Smith

Kelly is Senior Editor of Quilters Newsletter.
This entry was posted in Kelly M. Smith and tagged , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

16 Responses to Your questions about long-arm quilting

  1. Pingback: Tweets that mention Your questions about long-arm quilting | Inside Quilters Newsletter --

  2. Paula says:

    That was very interesting & informative. We can learn something new every day. We have the HQ18 Avante’ in our store & I am doing different things with it all the time. I just finished stippling a wallhanging then I embroideried a scripture verse on top. Looks great! Plus, I did a set of eight placemats for a New Year’s gift, then was quick & now I am just finishing a set for my home for my husband & I to enjoy. This machine is so smooth, and easy to operate. Thank you Handi Quilter & great hands-on on going education with purchase. What else could you ask for! Just had to comment!

  3. Terry Soll says:

    I purchased the first Handi Quilter frame to use with my home machine and have been changing ever since. Each time there was an update or frame change I did it. Yes, I am a dealer so it makes a big difference in how we learn and move product. There is always someone out there that wants to buy low and get started just to see if they like it. They will. When you come to purchase for the first time it is so hard to tell you how much you will love quilting. This is almost more fun than the piecing process. Actually now I have a lady who makes almost all the quilts and I quilt them. I have to overlook that she does not piece quite like me. If I were purchasing at this time I would decide how much money I could spend and then borrow more to move up to the next machine. Within a few months you will want it larger, longer, and because you can do it you will be making larger quilts even though at the store you said that you would never make queen or king size, you will. The only thing is that everyone in the family is going to want you to quilt for them so make sure that you figure a way to have them pay for the extras like fabric, thread, oil, needles, time away from your piecing. I could say more but time to go to work. One tip of the day. Buy 108″ wide fabric at least 6 yards long so that you can quilt many projects with only one backing attachment. I just finished two queen size quilts quilted sideways on a long backing. Quilting free motion sideways is a great learning experience.
    Terry Soll
    There are no mistakes only opportunites to be creative

  4. wilma Tays says:

    Most interesting article! Sounds like a great two weeks. I don’t think it is a DIY project for me. I’ll share someone else’s talents for my large quilting projects!

  5. Hi Wilma!
    I think you’d really enjoy it. It was much more fun than I imagined and I found it *so* much easier than quilting on a domestic machine! Maybe while you’re out here visiting we can find a place where you can try it out. :)


  6. Vanessa Davidson says:

    I am one of the chosen ones for the HQ Story 2010. I went to HQ for three days in October. It was the best thing that has ever happened to me. We toured the factory,spent time with the educators,even went to a quilt shop, and I made some new friends. I learned so much about my machine. I was always afraid of using different threads and adjusting the tension. Not any more!!!. the educators at HQ are great. I am really having fun with the rulers. We also had a class with Suzanne on quilt designs. I look at my quilts several ways before I quilt them. Her Sew Precise,Sew Fast binding is great. The binding is all done on the machine.
    I was a hand quilter before I got my long arm. I too, had many tops that were not quilted. When I got my machine I had several tops to practice on. I now am able to make quilts for all my family and quilt for hire also. I love my machine. Check out my HQ story on HQ website.
    Thanks for letting me share my thoughts

  7. Victoria MacQueen says:

    I would really like to talk to someone that has a sweet sixteen sit down handi quilter, it seems most people have the larger long arm models , I purchased mine because I just don’t have the floor space and I just want to quilt for myself thank, Victoria

  8. gracely says:

    Kelly you have lot of knowledge about quilting. Provided information is really very helpful, also it will help beginners. Nice blog I am waiting for next 

  9. Jimmie Berg says:


    I just purchased a Sweet Sixteen and for a few days all I did was look at it! Then I started practicing to find my “rhythm” a la David Taylor. Today I shadow quilted an embroidered flower that I did a while ago. It is just big enough to be a cup coaster, but I was thrilled at how easily I was able to quilt around the flower and used the hopping foot distance as my guide. The stitches on both sides are perfect. After that I used my Ultimate Pounce’ that I just received in the mail and pounced on a pretty rose on a plain piece of fabric. I used the HQ to quilt the design and it was easy and the result was beautiful.

    Please email me or FB me if you want to compare as we newbies go along!

    Jimmie in Colorado

  10. Judy says:

    I loved reading all the positive comments about HQ…I am shopping for a longarm and like what I’ve seen of HQ..But, I should listen to a few others. Any suggestions where I can find blogs about other brands of longarms?

  11. Linda Perkins says:

    I missed your blog but I recently bought a sweet sixteen… I have a large quilt I want to quilt but I find even with the pro stitch I cannot get even stitches. It seem because the quilt is large it does not slide as easily as a smaller piece that they demonstrate on. I can get beautiful patterns on small pieces but when it comes to the larger things all I do is unpick. I am ready to throw it out the window. Any suggestions I would be so grateful Thank you


  12. Kristi Krisinger says:

    Hi there, I hate to say this but, I bought a HQ Avante 18 about 6 months ago. I purchased the machine from Sewing machines plus and paid $10,150.00 for it. I have had nothing but problems with the machine and can not get the help I need to fix it. It has had horrible tension issues. The tension spring was broken and bent when I got the machine and after that has been replaced, the machine still leaves wads of thread on the back side of the quilt. The needle has been changed, bobbin tension has been addressed etc. We have done it all and I think I have ripped out more quilts than I have successfully quilted. Its really is frustrating. I do believe I have a lemon and I cant get the help I need. When you spend that kind of money, the machine should work. We have had a lot of other problems with it, but there are to many to list. I just don’t want someone else to go through what I have.

  13. Michelle Whisler says:

    For Linda Perkins–you are trying to move the whole quilt. Try puddling the quilt around your sewing area, not spread it out too much. I FM my quilts on a baby lock symphony, my first was an extra large king (130×120) using this method.
    I have been also looking at a HQ sixteen but so far am doing just fine on what I have.

  14. Duella says:

    I have a long arm HQ and love it. My question is when the top of the quilt has a opening in the pieced and my quilt foot got stuck in it .. What is the best way to get the foot unsticthed from the top.?

  15. Martha says:

    Would like to know, do I do pentagraphs on borders first, or could I do the whole quilt, without having to start and stop several times?

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