I still pinch myself that I get to longarm quilt every day, anytime I want to! As many of you know I have been long arm quilting for nearly a year at a local dealer by renting time and have been fortunate to have quilted all of my patterns as we finished piecing them. Having experience prior to getting my long arm I thought there would be no difference having it in my actual house ... noooo! It took me a couple of days to actually work up the nerve to use it. It's so different having used it in a store where there are other people to maintain the machine and all you have to do is go in, load your quilt and leave ... voila! How great! But when it's your own responsibility, there's more to it ... oiling every day, figuring out tension issues on your own, etc.
For these reasons and more, I was so fortunate to have picked up two amazing books along with a stack of Machine Quilting Unlimited. The first few days I read the books and the Gammill manual. While the manual for your machine may not be the most tantalizing read, it is an absolute must to read before you work on your machine. The reason for this is even if you aren't a technical person, you'll become more familiar with the jargon, and most importantly you'll know what's actually covered in the manual so if you do run into a problem, you'll know whether or not to turn the quilting machine on.
The first book is The Ultimate Guide to Lonagrm Machine Quilting by Linda V. Taylor and the second is the ABCs of Longarm Quilting, 2nd Edition by Patricia C. Barry. I can't recommend these two books enough. They are written in different styles and while there is some overlap in material, each author gives their own unique perspective and ideas. Each book starts with an overview of longarm quilting machines - their parts; maintenance; loading a quilt; etc.
One of the greatest takeaways from Taylor's book includes her chapter on Freehand Techniques where she gives a sample quilt to design for showcasing your own longarm quilting skills to potential clients. Another chapter unique to Taylor's book is her chapter on longarm body care. Having ridden horses growing up I find longarm quilting similar in that just as a horse can feel when you're tense, so, too, can your longarm machine. It is important to not only stretch before beginning but take stretching breaks throughout your time at the machine.
I thoroughly enjoyed reading Barry's book and loved how she separated definitions in the introductory part of the book into "artistic" definitions and "technical" definitions. What I mean by this is as she's going through different components of the machine she gives a definition that a more artistically inclined person would understand followed by one a more technically inclined person (loosely, big picture versus detail oriented). As she states we all tend to be a mix of these two "types" of people and I found myself sometimes understanding one definition over another and vice versa at other times. The other part I loved about Barry's book is her business section. She gave me things to think about that I had never considered and also has some clever ideas included for promoting your business.
All in all, I feel very fortunate to have stumbled upon these two books. They were the only two general longarm quilting books at my dealer and it just so happened that they both happened to be great! From here, I don't think I'll be buying any more general books, but instead looking more towards specialized books. If you are thinking about buying machine, are new to having a machine I would definitely recommend these books and if you've had a machine for awhile but never looked at generalized books I would recommend going back and looking over these. You never know you may learn something you didn't know!! I know I sure did!
I hope you found some of this information useful! I am looking forward to sharing information with you along the way as we (my mom is giving her hand at longarm quilting, too!) venture further into longarm quilting!