Sunday, 22 July 2012

Long-arm quilting- or how I would spend my millions

How many of us plan what we would do if only our lucky numbers came up on the lottery one weekend? For me it would be a simple and easy decision. I would have to buy myself a long-arm quilt machine- oh and perhaps a big enough home to keep it in.  I think for us weekend quilters, the actual quilting of our projects can sometimes prove the most troublesome part. I personally have spent many an hour tightly rolling my pieced quilt sandwich so that it will fit under the arm of my Janome machine only to end up feeling exhausted and disappointed at the result and sad that I have messed up what had been a  great piece of piecing. So the idea of a "rent by the hour" quilting service is an absolute God send to many of us. To be honest as a hobby quilter the actual investment in a machine of the size and quality available through these services, regardless of the financial consideration, is pretty unrealistic because of its practicality so being able to find somewhere that I can feel at home and relaxed and finish my larger quilts to a high quality has been a great boost to my enjoyment of my stitching.

My local Long-Arm Quilting service is Beechwood Quilting based in the beautiful City of Stirling and the business is run by a very welcoming Carole and Brian. They have a great set up with their Gamill Optimum (this recently replaced the APQ Millennium shown in my pictures) in a spacious and bright studio which they also use for other quilting classes and workshops. I haven't yet had a chance to attend any of their classes as they have always clashed with other commitments for me, but they have a great flexible approach so are happy to organise classes on requested topics if a group can be pulled together. Emily and I are working on a plan at the moment so I will let you know if this comes together. 

As a double act Carole and Brian are a hoot. Carole has the calmness and approach of a great teacher and is wonderful company. I really look forward to catching up with her at each visit and we regularly put the world to rights over a cup of tea mid session. Brian- well Brian is a man with a plan. If an ingenious solution to a problem is required , he is the chap to find it. He is very knowledgeable when it come to his machine and its workings and at the moment he is also working on his piecing skills, so that they match his machine quilting. I am very much looking forward to his next major project and particularly his entry to Loch Lomond next year which appears to be top secret. I would say though that Carole has the patience of a saint and after writing that I think Brian may never speak to me again ..... ha ha.   
Loading the backing

For anyone who hasn't yet tried their hand at Long Arm quilting, I would highly recommend it. The hour of initial tuition can be a lot to take in but I have to say the Gamill Optimum ( or Vicky Plum as she is affectionately known to Brian and Carole) is the easiest and most intuitive machine I have used so far. I started off with lots of quilts looking very similar with "spaghetti" stitching but you very quickly get used to the idea that if you can draw in a long flowing manner then you can create any design you like. Carole is an absolute whizz at this and has had some great ideas to help me along the way. I bet you have never realised how easily you could draw a realistic helicopter in one long sweeping movement have you? Well nor I had I until let loose on Vicky Plum and was prompted into action by my wonderful JB who too has an artistic bent as well as an uncommon knowledge of these "parafin budgies".  

So far I have only completed one piece of custom quilting, on a Block of the Month quilt which I made called "Stitches of the Oregon Trail" , ( bought via Keepsake Quilting many years ago and buried for over 6 years in my finished top stash because of the impossibility of quilting something so large on my Janome). This took me 2 sessions at Beechwood, and a fairly large supply of Carole's wonderful flapjacks. I have 2 more king size quilt tops tucked away which I have been looking at them recently to see what style I can incorporate so again, watch this space for updates of how it goes.

Stitches on the Oregon Trail
Brian and Carole also offer a service where they will quilt for you if you haven't either the time or the inclination to quilt your piecing yourself. They have over 2000 patterns to choose from and a great knowledge of what will suit your work of art so if you are after a whole cloth  and regular pattern they can use their computerised pattern to do this for you. Again I haven't tried this yet, as I get very attached to my work and have an inherent need to do anything all by myself but its a great great service.

If you would like to read about some of the work that has gone on at Beechwood, this link takes you to "Women of Scotland" a project they were involved in, which exhibited earlier this year. 

Also if you are not lucky enough to live close to Beechwood, Carole  and Brian also run a  very lovely Bed And Breakfast called "Kerran Bed and Breakfast"  so you could make a couple of days of your visit and explore the stunning Stirling castle and surrounding areas.

I am off there again on Thursday evening for a quick session which you will hear about in my next blog , oh yes and my fill of flapjacks...that is unless I win the lottery.


  1. Your Oregon Trail is very nice. I wonder if the colors are the same as the one I worked on, mine looks so yellow. I don't remember any more what it was actually like. Thanks for sharing yours.

    1. thanks Eileen. my version had a fair bit of gold in it, but i think they are the same fabrics. I wasn't sure about the border fabric though. i think it was little too busy

  2. Those helicopters are amazing! I would have never thought that they would be easy to do.


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