Getting started with longarm quilting can be fun, intimidating, exciting, and scary all at once. There is a LOT to learn. Even if you have been sewing and using sewing machines all your life, there’s something a bit different when it comes to quilting.

My friend and colleague, Diane Harris, is the brand ambassador for HQ Stitch, Handi Quilter‘s line of domestic sewing machines. (Yes! Handi Quilter has sewing machines too!) There are 3 models for all kinds of sewists. You can check them out here. I do my piecing on a HQ Stitch 510 machine. I thought I was a good piecer before I got this machine, but it has made a marked improvement in my piecing. It sews SO straight and FAST!

Diane and I have had lots of conversations about quilting. She has struggled with machine quilting on domestic machines, with all the usual complaints: hard to maneuver a quilt in a small throat space, hard to keep stitches consistent, etc. I have finally convinced her to join the ranks of longarm quilters. She wanted a stationary machine, so the HQ Capri was perfect for her. Diane writes the blog over at and she will be sharing her adventures in longarm quilting on her blog. I thought it would be fun to share some of her posts here. If you’re new to quilting you can empathize with her learning curve and if you’re more experienced you can share your tips with Diane.


Drinking From A Fire Hose by Diane Harris

For the past few years, I’ve been using Handi Quilter’s HQ Stitch sewing machines, and loving every minute. I share what I learn, make and explore with you here and on other social platforms. It’s always great fun.

Now I’m adding another Handi Quilter tool to my studio: The HQ Capri stationary longarm. I’ve only had it for a few weeks and I am learning so much. It feels like I’m drinking from a fire hose.

HQ Capri

I am new to longarm quilting, so I have all the questions that any beginner would have. Together in this space we will answer those questions. We’ll learn from experience and also from seasoned Handi Quilter educators. I’m excited about both.

We’ll get into the nuts and bolts of machine setup and getting started in another post, but today I want to whet your appetite with the quilts I’ve worked on.

My Christmas Album by Diane Harris

My Christmas Album is a Tina Curran design on which I used fusible raw-edge applique because I wanted it done quickly. The patch edges are secured with a machine straight stitch and matching or neutral thread. I used my HQ Stitch 710 and it was especially handy because I could automatically secure the beginning and ending stitches—a great timesaver.

Everything went smoothly—until I got to the quilting—a couple of years back. I couldn’t figure out what to quilt around all that applique.

I’ve had machine quilting on this quilt no fewer than three times, and I ripped it out each time. I was pretty frustrated with it, and it’s been sitting in timeout for a long while.

Lesson #1

Learning what to quilt is as challenging and as important
as learning how to quilt it.

What to quilt has been the stumbling block for My Christmas Album. I’ve rarely done applique and I didn’t have many ideas for how to quilt it. We’ll talk more about this in an upcoming post.

Wild Garden by Diane Harris

Now I’ve moved on to quilting Wild Garden. I started this quilt at a retreat with Mary Lou Weidman. We learned improvisational piecing techniques and it was so much fun. Later I added more flowers and leaves with fusible applique.

detail of Wild Garden by Diane Harris

Are you getting excited to learn with me all about machine quilting and the HQ Capri? I have a hundred questions, have run into a few roadblocks, and I’ve made some major mess-ups.

Diane Harris ooops

You just haven’t lived until you’ve quilted a corner of the quilt to the back of the quilt by accident.


Lesson #2

Check regularly to be sure there is nothing extra under the needle.

In addition to the many lessons I’m learning, I’m going to start a list of

Things I Love

1. 18″ of throat space  (Note from Mary Beth: I TOLD you!)


It is such a luxury to have this much room for the quilt. I knew it would be more generous than a domestic sewing machine, but I am blown away every day by how roomy that throat space actually is.

HQ Capri in table

Read more about the HQ Capri stationary longarm. I’ll be back soon.

Diane Harris, HQ Stitch AmbassadorDiane