Sunshine Quilts

Thursday, March 02, 2006

My First "Longarm" Machine

To understand this story, you have to know that we don't do debt. We don't even consider buying something if we can't pay for it. I may complain about Vince being a penny pincher but I so much appreciate that he is frugal and we'll never have to worry about paying our bills. We're blessed that Vince has a good job and neither of us are very materialistic. I'd rather do almost anything than go shopping and that includes car shopping, clothes shopping . . just about everything except fabric shopping! But when we moved to Kentucky in 1997, I left behind my longarm quilter, Martha, in Sulphur, Louisiana. I kept making quilt tops and after about a year decided I'd better find a longarm quilter locally. Found one but she only did pantos. Didn't want that. Found another one and she only used poly batting. Didn't want that. What's a girl to do? So, I began looking at that 26 x 28 family room in the basement and thinking how a longarm might fit in there. I didn't have a clue how much they cost at the time but I planned out my most convincing speech for Vince, knowing they weren't cheap and doubting he'd see the use in getting something that size for my hobby. He thought it was a great idea! So, we ordered the info from Gammill, who was really the only name that came to my mind since I knew little about longarms. The packet arrived and oh, those machines looked so nice. They sent a video so we sat down and watched it together. Vince thought it was a pretty neat setup. Then he saw the price. WHAT?? No way. So, he decided we'd find a used machine. At this point, he took over the research and figured out there's a short arm machine and it doesn't cost so much. He suggested I start out with a short arm and see if I like machine quilting. It's a lot of standing, it takes a certain amount of commitment. Ok, sounded reasonable. Then, he called Mr. Murphy, the local sewing machine guru, to see what he recommended. So happens that Mr. Murphy has a used machine in his warehouse and if we want it, we can have it for $500. WHAT?? We've been looking at spending $15,000 or more and we can get one for $500? We'll be right there. So, we hop in the 1986 Ford pickup truck, and go down to Murphy's. This was the ugliest machine I had ever seen. I'm standing there shaking my head NO! Vince says "we'll take it!" I was so upset. The wooden table had vinyl with cigarette burns, it had an on/off switch. No speed control, no front handles. Everything had to be done from the back at full speed. It was NOT what I wanted. Vince wasn't being frugal, he was being cheap and I was not happy. Well, Mr. Engineer came home and took everything apart. I was kinda happy because I figured he'd never get it back together again and I could go back to the original plan for a new longarm. He changed out the vinyl on the table and put a nice black and white remnant that we got for $5 from the floor covering store. He put a speed control so I could go slow or fast or in between. He had his friend who makes stuff make front handles. We figured out that the "wheels" ran on rollers from sliding glass doors so we ordered new rollers. What a difference! It worked and I kinda liked it. I didn't have a lot of quilting space because it was a short arm machine but I had my own machine and it was paid for and I had fun! Eventually friends started to hear that I had a "longarm" and they asked me to quilt for them so Sunshine Quilts was born. Here's a quilt I did for June in Baltimore. She wanted "echo" quilting. Heck, I didn't even know what echo quilting was. Not even sure how I figured it out but it surely came out pretty. This quilt won at the MD State Fair and then I just kept getting more and more contacts. This was in 1998 of 1999 and the business hasn't slacked since then. After a couple of years, I couldn't keep up so I discussed with Vince getting another machine. I had done my research and knew I wanted an APQS Ult. I. I really wanted a Millennium but didn't have the cash. I had been saving $$ from the quilting I had been doing and wasn't going to spend more than I had saved so we found a used Ult. I that APQS had and it came with a warranty. I sold the old short arm and ordered the Ult. I. I used the Ult. I for 2 or 3 years and continued to save some of my quilting income and then, in the spring, 2004, I finally had enough to get the Millennium. So that I wouldn't have to be without a machine for any amount of time, I traded the Ult. I in on the new machine and was able to keep it til the Millennium arrived. And here's the Millennium, quite different from the machine I started with, huh? Judy L.


  • Aaaah, maybe someday ...
    but first I need that huge room!

    By Blogger Jeanne, at 3/02/2006 08:11:00 AM  

  • Neat story! I am with Jeanne, I need a bigger house before I have room for a long arm, but I sure would like one some day!

    By Blogger Laurie Ann, at 3/02/2006 08:43:00 AM  

  • Judy,
    I've heard that story before but it is still a good one! Thanks for sharing!

    By Blogger Laurie, at 3/02/2006 08:54:00 AM  

  • Wonderful story, Judy. You knew what you liked to do, knew what you wanted to get, and stuck to it until you reached that goal!!! You do beautiful work!

    By Blogger Vicky, at 3/02/2006 09:01:00 AM  

  • I second Jeanne's comment - only I need the house first!

    By Blogger The Calico Cat, at 3/02/2006 09:50:00 AM  

  • Judy - I love this story, and obviously you are extremely talented!!! Thanks for sharing!

    By Blogger Laura, at 3/02/2006 09:54:00 AM  

  • Great story Judy! Thank you for sharing your long arm machine journey.

    I also agree with you about not going into debt, especially over a machine. So I may have to save for many, many, many, many years, but I want one and I'll keep on working to get one.

    Of course... like the other gals, I need room too. So first thing would be to buy a house... :P

    By Blogger Leah S, at 3/02/2006 11:45:00 AM  

  • Thanks for sharing that story, Judy. I enjoyed reading about how you got started.

    I went to a meeting of the San Antonio longarmers this morning. That is always fun, informative and inspiring!

    By Blogger Deb Geyer, at 3/02/2006 12:00:00 PM  

  • I have the room! But, like you, we aren't going into debt for a longarm, so I'm still saving the bucks! Thanks for info!

    By Blogger Joanne, at 3/02/2006 04:41:00 PM  

  • great story and I am a firm believer that some things are just meant to happen and it seems you were meant to have that first machine and meant to have the new one ! You do such great work

    By Blogger Patty, at 3/02/2006 06:09:00 PM  

  • what a great story many, I don't have the room nor the money either. maybe one day!

    By Blogger cher, at 3/03/2006 08:58:00 AM  

  • WOW! what a story... So cool that you finally havethe one you love, but that first one makes a great tale, and it looks lke you did amazing work on it!

    As for the no debt, you're my hero!

    By Anonymous Samantha, at 3/03/2006 11:02:00 AM  

  • Loved seeing the pic of your first quilting machine....funny story! You've come a long way baby :c)


    By Blogger Bonnie, at 3/03/2006 12:51:00 PM  

  • What a great story! I have been contemplating doing some "quilting" on my little sewing machine, but I don't even know where to start. I need to look it up on the internet. I would like to be able to do smaller projects here at home.

    My dream machine, right now, is a Bernina!

    By Blogger deputyswife, at 3/03/2006 02:21:00 PM  

  • I am sure you love that Millienium that much more - seeing you started out with that... Beast of a little machine!!! But, it looks like from the start you had a wonderful gift of quilting, even with what you had. I see machines for sale sometimes where the person bought top of the line to begin with and then found out they didn't like it! Yikes! So, if you liked the little machine (after some adjustments!), I am sure you just LOVE that Millenium!



    By Blogger Evelyn aka Starfishy, at 3/03/2006 10:42:00 PM  

  • Oh Judy, what a nice story, the other day I was also thinking I would may be one day like to start long-arm machine quilting myself, the only brand I knew was apqs - I asked the information and actually it is double price that I thought it would be, so I will wait :o) a bit... I also do not like to make debts and it is such a commitment to buy st so expensive, that I have to be pretty sure to like quilting before I buy it...
    You did a wonderfull job on that quilt you are posting - what a beauty... Loads of inspiration...

    By Blogger Alena, at 3/03/2006 11:49:00 PM  

  • Great story! Thanks for the chuckle. LOVE your new 'baby'...I'm SO jealous! :)

    *sigh* Someday...

    By Blogger France, at 3/07/2006 03:13:00 PM  

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