The Joy of Longarm Quilting

Why do we quilt?Sampler Quilt

Because we want to be creative?  Because we want to make a keepsake for someone we love?  Because we want to cut something whole into little pieces to make a new “whole”?  Sometimes I wonder….

My job is to help people finish their quits.  Usually I receive a quilt top and I know how I want to quilt it.  Lots of times I love the pattern and the fabrics grab my eye.  Other times I’m at a loss for pattern ideas.  And still other times I’m not sure if I can quilt a top.img_2824-1

Even seam allowances, seams that are stitched well (without holes), clipped threads, pressed blocks – these are all things that make longarm quilting a joy, but is that the only joy in this profession?

Sometimes tops are given to me that are challenging.  See my post “Sometimes Quilts Need to Relax” to view one challenging quilt.  Tackling every quilt gives me a feeling of accomplishment when it’s completed.  This is why I love to longarm quilt.  Every quilt is a challenge of sorts.  Possibly thread color choice is a challenge or maybe I’ve quilted 55 Yellow Brick Road quilts and how can I make number 56 different and special?  Or maybe the quilt doesn’t lay on the machine well and my concern is can I quilt the top and make it look great for the customer.

It is not my job as a professional longarm quilter to critique someone’s ability in making quilts, choice of fabrics, or taste in colors, etc.  It is my job to do the best I can with what I’ve been given.  Following is the journey I took with a challenging quilt.

Sampler QuiltThis picture shows the quilt on my Gammill longarm machine.


I was concerned when I saw uneven sashings between blocks.Holey Quilt

And holes in the quilt…Scrappy Quilt

And pleats on the front of the quilt…Quilt SashingAnd a raw edge seam on the front of the quilt…

Raw Edge QuiltingHere’s a close-up of that seam.

My thought process in working on this quilt went something like this:  Freehand feathers for the borders and sashings was the best way to avoid making more pucks, tucks, and pleats in the quilt by giving me more control.  When freehand quilting, I can use one hand to maneuver my machine while to other pats and smooths the fabric.Freemotion Quilting

Because this quilt was not square, each block was quilted with a free motion design.Free motion filler quilting

Following are more hand-guided blocks.Hand guided quilting

Gammill Quilting

Each block was not quilted as densely as what I typically do, but I had fun coming up with designs.Drunkards Path

And here’s a shot of the back.  The quilt was folded after completion which caused some wrinkling.  No worries – they won’t be there when the quilt is lovingly placed on someone’s bed!Hand-guided free motion quilting

I was able to add a little whimsy in some blocks.  Notice the bee buzzing around?Quilted Bee

This quilt was challenging in many way, and it gave me opportunity to question why I quilt.  The answer: JOY.  I have joy in picking designs, creating new designs, tackling challenging quilts, FINISHING challenging quilts, and passing that joy on to others.

Now if I told you the piecer of this quilt is in her 90s, wouldn’t you say she did a fantastic job?!  I’m hopeful when I’m 90 I’ll still take needle to cloth and create a masterpiece such as this!





  1. Leeanna Brunsell says:

    God bless you, Emily, for your kind patience and making this dear woman’s quilt even more beautiful. Pretty darn big quilt for her to handle, I’d say. She stitched it with love and so did you.


    • Leeanna, thank you for the compliment. It is a big quilt, and I wonder who will receive it! If I could follow the journey of quilts when they leave me, that would be icing on the cake, so to speak!

  2. Emily, What a wonderful post, both for the journey you shared to honor this quilter and for your self-reflection about the wondrous work you do and why! I can only step back and honor you both. I am so glad to know you and share your love of quilting. Dianne

  3. You did a great job on a difficult quilt and made it a treasure for someone in her family. Your comments speak well of your commitment and your love for people.

  4. I am always so happy when someone shows that a quilter’s job is not all perfect 90 degree angles, fabulous feathers and a totally flat surface. Honestly, there are probably more “imperfect” quilts than ones that come close to the mark. Your ability to assess and finish this project with love will never go un-noticed.

    Thank you for sharing!

  5. Bless you for not refusing the quilt, and taking the time to guide your long arm over what look to be very challenging situations.

  6. Very, very nice work! Thank you for sharing!

  7. Thank you for sharing this. I also have a customer who is in her 90’s and is still making quilts. Not all are perfectly pieced but she still is enjoying what she loves.

  8. Thank you for sharing this story. I have had several customers come to me after being refused by other longarmers, and some aren’t even that challenging. I am also getting more and more non-quilters bringinging me tops a relative pieced but never finished, even a stack of blocks that i will turn into a quilt. I think “there is a reason grandma never quilted this, it was probably her first shot and she knew it wasn’t her best work”. But I too find joy in the challenge and being able to present my customer with something precious to them.

    • Yes, yes, yes, Melissa! At the end of the day after completing a challenging quilt, aren’t you glad you did? We must be “Super Women” who can quilt what others can’t/won’t!

  9. I agree as well, it’s not my job to critique the ability of the piecer, but to help them finish the quilt as best I can.

  10. Yes, I have had the same joy in quilting for someone like you, only her problem was a severe shaking disorder. Years ago she did beautiful hand quilting. She was so appreciative that someone would take on her quilt with irregular seam widths, puckers, places with holes, blocks of different sizes, which looked very much like this quilt.

    • Joyce, I’d love to see photos, but I’m guessing you don’t have any. I’m a believer that anyone who wants to quilt SHOULD! There truly are no rules in how to quilt, what to use, etc. Gone are the days of using grain bags and scraps of old fabric (minus t-shirt quilts 😉 I guess). The purpose of quilts is so varied now compared to when they were made for warmth! Happy stitching!

  11. Jlee Zasoek says:

    I am just seeing this post, and the timing is great. I just finished two “quilts from hell” back to back. Your positive attitude is just what I needed. When you are alone quilting a challenged quilt, it’s easy to question why you put yourself through this. It is because quilting brings us joy. Thanks for renewing my joy.

    • Jlee, I appreciate you sharing and I’m glad your two quilts from he** are behind you. Gives you a feeling of accomplishment, doesn’t it? Kinda like we should wear super power capes or something? Happy quilting and may all your seams be sewn to perfection!!

  12. I love your attitude toward this quilt and towards its maker. You did a great job on it and you are a true professional!

    • Thank you, Rebecca. I will never forget my Mom’s unending patience with me. “Do unto others…” Have a happy day!


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