Must-Haves For Longarm Quilters
Whether you're brand new to longarm quilting, or you've been here for a while, it can be easy to get overwhelmed by all the different quilting accessories out there. However, there are definitely the "must-haves" when it comes to these accessories, and some that can make your life so much easier.
Here are my must haves for longarm quilters that I recommend, to make for easy quilting.
Top Accessories For Longarm Quilters:
1: Machine Cover: Don’t let your quilted fabric go to waste - make your own machine cover. As quilters, we all always have practice quilts and fabric we just played on. Cut it up and make a quilt cover! Then, as your quilting improves you can make more covers for your small machine, or other appliances (even a toaster or a blender!) My dog also loves his quilted fabric to lay on and take a nap! Get creative, and use that spare fabric!
2: Feet: Many longarm machines come with only one or two feet; open and closed. However, Handi Quilter has several choices of feet for quilters to create art and textures and find what works best for their style of quilting.
The first thing I recommend all new machine owners to buy is the Glide Foot. This food will slide over thick seams, applique, and the edges of your quilt smoothly without ever getting caught up under the fabric. I love this food and leave it on for all my quilts!
3: Needles: Needles are inexpensive, and really make a difference in how well your thread is stitched into your quilt. A new needle will keep everything running smoothly. I recommend you keep sizes 14, 16, and 18 to use various thread weights. Remember: the needle size should always be coordinated with the weight of the thread you use on the top. If you change the thread weight, you should also change the needle size.
I recommend changing to a new needle for every large quilt you make, and every 2-3 small quilts or throws.
4: Bobbins: If you've quilted, or sewn before, you know about bobbins. A Bobbin is a small spool prepared by winding thread on it. It holds the thread that forms the stitches on the underside of the fabric. Each sewing machine requires a specific type of bobbin and the owner's manual will also have instructions on how to insert the bobbin.
Make sure to keep them covered to avoid dust. It is important to wind bobbins properly with good tension. Also, the bobbin thread does not have to be the same thread used on the top.
I recommend you try pre-wound bobbins, as they are easier and time-saving, with consistent tension.
5: Bobbin Case: The bobbin case is inside of the machine, and holds the bobbin while you are sewing or quilting. With longarm quilting you adjust the bobbin case tension before the top.
Always keep extra bobbin cases on hand, so you have them before you need it or for when accidents happen.
6: Quality Thread: Having quality thread is so important. As you try different brands you will notice how the quality changes and lint build-up changes depending on what type is used.
I believe every quilt needs its own thread depending on the design and look the quilter wants to create on top.
If you are a new quilter, choose one weight, one brand, and one type of thread and stick with it for 60-90 days while you learn how to use the machine. And remember to not use any old thread, as it could lead to tension issues.
I find that thread is not like a ‘dessert’ where you can order blindly and anything can taste good. It’s more like choosing a drink, where you choose what you already know you like and know what to expect.
7: Super Leader: A Super Leader is one of my top must haves for quilters. This is a longer length of the top leader that pulls towards you to attach the backing fabric. This extra length helps relieve shoulder and back stress. This also makes pinning from the front of the frame even easier. Remember to NEVER wash leaders, and mark the center clearly, as you will use that marking for every quilt you make.
8: Quilting Pins: These pins are not your normal pins used for pinning fabric during piecing or used to baste layers. These pins are long and sharp to go through the folded leader (2 layers of thick fabric) to attach the quilt backing and top to the leader. They will be reused for every quilt. They have to be stronger and longer to hold the quilt backing straight on the frame when it is rolled taunt, so make sure to replace them when they are no longer sharp. You should have enough to pin a king-size quilt back and the quilt top.
9: Batting Scissors: These scissors are specifically designed to cut batting. With a round nose and extra long-length, batting scissors work great for cutting batting off a roll, fabric off a bolt and cutting a quilt off of the frame. The off set handle makes trimming a quilt easy. I love these scissors and they make my top three recommended accessories.
10: Hammock: A hammock is used to hold the batting off the ground. It's very convenient to store and protect quilt batting while quilting. As quilters know, dust, threads, and all kinds of lint hangs around your quilt frame and on the floor of your sewing room. The hammock doesn't seem important but once you use it to hold your batting off the floor you will find it more than a convenience, but a great tool.
11: Tool Kit or Tray: Having a took kit is so convenient to keep things on hand and within reach when quilting. I always like to keep these items on my tool kit or tray for the project I’m working on:
- Small scissors to cut thread a brush to wipe out the bobbin case
- Oil to put on the bobbin case when changing
- Tools to change the needle or foot
- A square of batting to keep dust and lint off the thread
- A painter or washi tape to mark spots for designs
- Extra needles
- Wound bobbins
12: Channel Locks/ Magnetic Channel Locks: The Channel Lock attaches to a machine wheel or carriage wheel to enable the machine to make a continuous straight line. This is great for sewing on the batting to line the quilt top on, for basting, or for creating a design with long lines. The two-piece plastic channel locks have gel tips to aid in their ability to grip and lock.
The real splurge is the Magnetic Channel Locks. These have magnetic bars attached to the frame along the front track. There are two magnets attached to the carriage with a switch near the front handlebars. With an easy flip of the switch, you are locked in a straight line. I love my magnetic channel locks and even do grid-free motions on quilts with my locks.
13: Preview Paper/ Golden Paper: These papers look very different, as one is clear and one is golden. They are both design tools to help quilters audition quilting motifs for their quilt.
For the Preview paper, simply lay the clear film over the quilt and use a dry-erase marker to draw quilting designs to see what you like before quilting on the quilt.
The Golden Paper is used to draw a design on and then pin the paper to the quilt; you can then quilt through the paper. After stitching pull the paper off and you have your design quilted into the quilt top.
14: Quilt Clamps (Easy Grab or Super): Super Quilt Clamps provide a tight hold of a top to the bar when using the "float a quilt top" method. These clamps help to control and adjust your quilt top. I don't recommend floating quilts all the time but old quilt tops or beginner quilt tops that may not be straight or flat can use the extra help of adjusting every time the quilt is advanced.
The Easy Grab clamps are great to hold a piece of fabric on the side of your quilt when needing to check tension after changing the bobbin or top thread.
How many of these quilting accessories do you own? And, how many are on your wish list?