- I do not know everything there is to know about longarming – whether it concerns buying the machine, using the machine, running a longarm business — I just know what has worked quite well for me for the past 10 years and that experience is what I will share here.
- I am not trying to get longarm business by writing these posts. Yes, I still do longarm quilting for others but so do many other excellent longarmers. I love seeing what other longarmers have done and I’m never offended, even when good friends have other longarmers quilt their tops.
- Everything I say in these posts is just my own thoughts. If you’re a longarmer and you do things totally differently, or if your longarmer does everything completely differently from how I’m saying I do things . . if it works for you, that’s great! Don’t change a thing. Like I said, I do not know everything there is to know.
I’m assuming everyone reading my blog is a quilter. If not, you seriously need to get a life!
It’s probably safe to say that all quilters have at one time or another entertained the idea of owning a longarm, whether you want it just to do your own quilts, to supplement family income, to provide enough income to support yourself or just because they’re so darned much fun!
Considerations when shopping for a longarm:
- Price – How much can you reasonably afford to spend? I will not give financial advice here but we don’t do debt if we can help it. That’s why I started with a very used short arm, then went to a used non-regulated longarm, then to the Millennium. Used machines have held their value in the past. With the two used machines I bought, I used one for a little over two years and one for a little over three years and sold each for the same or more than I had originally paid for it.
- Brands – I’m more familiar with Gammil, A-1, Nolting and APQS. I’ve always been an APQS type quilter but I have friends who run Gammils, A-1’s and Noltings. I consider these companies the top four in the “longarm” industry and while there are some who refuse to consider one brand or the other for various reasons, I think all four make excellent machines and are good companies. I’ve always been happy with APQS and if I were in the market for a new machine today, I’d go straight to APQS without shopping around but it’s just like a car – some are a better fit than others. APQS is a good fit for me but that doesn’t mean another brand wouldn’t be a better fit for you.
- Extras – After the cost of the machine, the “extras” are minimal. You’ll need thread but you can buy a cone here and a cone there. You don’t have to start off with every color by every manufacturer. You’ll need batting. You can buy that on sale, wholesale or your customers can supply their own. You’ll need some amount of rulers, stencils, books of designs, etc. Again, you don’t have to buy every thing there is out there. You can start small. Another good thing about buying a used machine from an individual is that they will sometimes throw in all these extras.
- Room – These rascals take up a lot of room. The machines typically come with a 12 or 14 foot table. You can have 9 or 10 or 11 foot tables custom made by most of the companies. You do need room to walk around. I have a 12 foot table and while you would think that gives you 12 feet on which to quilt, the leaders are only about 124″ wide which means the largest top I can comfortably do is about 116″. That means that one direction needs to be 116″ or less. The other direction can be as large as you want. Say your quilt is 116″ x 200″ – that works on my table. Another consideration is storage – batting, thread, stencils, marking tools. If you’re going to quilt for others, where will you store their quilts?
- Customers – Are you going to be dependent on making a certain amount of money each month from quilting for others? If so, what will happen if there’s a lull in business and you don’t bring in the requisite amount of dollars? I’ve heard about saturation of the market for years but I still haven’t personally felt it. I still get plenty of business and I’m still of the opinion that there’s enough business out there for everyone who wants it.
That’s probably enough bullet points for today. I will say that I’ve never regretted my longarm decisions. While I’d hate to think I had to support myself on my quilting income, it has been more than sufficient for my stash building, quilt show trips, retreats, etc. While earning spending money, I’ve been home and available for my family, and have made some great quilting contacts.