Your questions about long-arm quilting | Inside Quilters Newsletter


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!

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