Loving the Longarm

My grandfather believed that you should never begin a letter with an apology for not writing.

“Why waste the paper? If you get a letter from someone, you want news, not excuses.”

Blogging is the same sort of thing, I imagine.


If you’ve been following the Master Knitter Level 3 journey and other posts marking the voyage, you may be relieved/surprised that I finally sent the portfolio in about a month ago. I’ve had all kinds of fun during my free time, glorious long days and warm nights that beckon me to spend every possible minute outdoors.

Work wise, I’ve started spending a chunk of my week at Laurena’s Longarm Quilting.

Boston Longarm Quilting at Laurena's Longarm

Laurena’s ready for the next wave of growth and has realized that she can’t do everything (although she certainly tries!). I’ll help her with marketing, social media and assisting renters at her studio in Burlington. I’ve known Laurena for (gasp) seven years now, as a small group of Rising Star Quilters headed up to the Vermont Quilt Festival for a fantastic fiber escape as part of my Tactile Travel tour business.

At the time, Laurena had one longarm quilting machine, providing custom quilting for Boston area patchwork lovers. When she added another machine and started teaching others how to use the machine in 2008, I was quick to sign up. I love hand quilting, but I have machine quilted several queen and king size quilts on my Bernina . One of my art quilts made of 5 layers of wool just wasn’t gliding easily with my home machine.  So I started the path and eventually felt confident enough to quilt Plantano II in 2010 (somewhere I know I have photos…).

I still love hand quilting, but when it comes to bed quilts, I’m all about the longarm. For those quilters who still firmly believe that hand quilting is the only way, I respect your belief. But it’s not the true and only path. If I’m feeling flippant, I could remark that only sail boats are an acceptable form of cross Atlantic transportation as well (But I’m not, so I won’t!). We all love different things. I, of course, love many things.

Have you tried a longarm quilting machine? Once you’re loaded, it’s quite fun… anyone who loves to doodle will adore it.  Anyone who doesn’t like doodling can definitely get their zen moment by following a pantograph.  Laurena offers Learn about Longarm classes twice a month, so definitely contact her if the idea interests you.

I’m looking forward to sharing some of the projects that tempt and try my hands and mind lately. So, expect more frequent blogging this summer. For all things about longarm quilting, I’ll post content on Laurena’s blog. I enjoy posting Tactile Travel discoveries and living projects vicariously through some of my favorite blogs. If you really want to hear the daily scoops, definitely let’s connect on Twitter or Instagram.

Then if there is a delay in posting, we can at least keep in touch.

Best Wishes!


Signature “Sunspots”

Large chunks of last weekend were spent holed up in my winter studio space, working on a signature quilt from my sister’s wedding last summer.  With all of the weekend diversions and mild weather this winter, there’s not been too many home retreats for personal quilting.  It was sheer bliss, even though I discovered a mistake as I neared the end of the piecing.

Hopefully the quilt will be right and ready for quilting later this month at Laurena’s Longarm Quilting.  I love hand quilting.  And, as my skills grow, I love using the longarm machines as well!  Laurena teaches quilters how to use longarm machines.  After the lesson, you are ready to start quilting your own projects, or practice on benefit quilt tops that are in her care.   Laurena’s watchful eye and experience are a valuable part of the rental fee.  Silly mistakes are prevented, which means your quilt looks better and is finished sooner.  If you haven’t tried doing it yourself, it’s something to consider.  And if you have no interest, but want those tops done, put them in Laurena’s custom quilts queue.  Over the years, I’ve watched her hatch many ugly duckling quilts into beautiful swans.  She wants your quilts to look great!

But back to the Signature Sunspots…..

It all started with Kathleen McLaughlin’s Intersections which was on exhibit at the  Vermont Quilt Festival, 2010.  Very rarely do I purchase a quilt pattern, but Amalia Magaret’s Sunspots is an exception.

Intersections quilt by Kathleen McLaughlin at the Vermont Quilt Festival, 2010

Intersections quilt by Kathleen McLaughlin at the Vermont Quilt Festival, 2010

I knew I wanted that pattern. The opportunities to play with color are endless, and Kathleen’s was very inspiring. So when my sister asked me to make a quilt for her wedding with guest signatures, I saw my opportunity!

During the reception, 3″ strips of fabric with permanent, acid-free markers were on the table.  After the first toast, I picked up the microphone and asked everyone to sign and/or leave a message that would be used in their quilt. Before things got too wild, I gathered the strips (which I reinforced with freezer paper to create a sturdier writing surface), stuffed them into the bag and back home they went. These strips will be used in the quilt sashing.

My charming brother in law adores all sports, so it seemed sensible to emphasize the circular aspect of the quilt.  My sister asked for a blue and brown quilt… pretty neutral.  I’m embracing those but adding the bronze, gold and a bit of red to the mix.  I’m also throwing in a few novelty fabrics that represent some interests: cats, coffee, bicycles, books.  Some of these ended up in the backing, as it was easy to get wild.  Actually, as I laid one color option on the floor, my daughter said, “No, Mom, really, no.”  After all, they plan to use this quilt on a bed!

Piecing the curves has been quite simple.  This pattern  is well suited for batiks, as several pieces need to be cut in mirror image and batiks can be used on both sides.  I ended up cutting a few pieces backwards, despite knowing  this at the beginning.  The pattern itself doesn’t discuss the mirror image cutting, so I definitely wouldn’t encourage this as a beginner’s quilt project.

Sashing between strips means you don’t have to worry much about exact points.  Not a lot of opportunities for string piecing here, especially in my first attempt at this quilt.  Note to anyone who tries this: measure your strip before you sew on your sashing!  This way, that lost 0.5″ will be discovered without a lot of unsewing.

Choosing color mixes has been fun but challenging.  As I gathered fabrics for this quilt, it was clear that I had two color ideas in mind.  I’d like to make another one!  Even with the parameters clearly defined for this quilt, I trucked between my unheated studio space and the winter space, searching for more options.  In the end, I replaced 6 fabrics from my original layout, and added more dark blue background pieces from my stash.

What a tease, I know.  I haven’t taken pictures yet, but will do that in a later post.  Off to correct that mistake!