Category Archives: Long Arm Love

Everything you need to know about the long-arm quilting machines. Ask us your questions.

Shhhh!!! Don’t tell Karen!


Shhhh!  Don’t tell Karen, but I snuck onto her blog because I just had to share pictures from my visit yesterday to Quilt Expressions!  Up until I started my full time job this past August as a school secretary, I had the pleasure of working at Quilt Expressions.  Imagine spending your day working with fabulous customers and coworkers, beautiful samples, and, of course, the best fabric collection anywhere!  Needless to say, I miss that daily dose of creativity and inspiration.


As a customer, there’s nothing better than stepping into a store and immediately stopping because, well, you just have to!  Fabric, notions, samples, and beautiful displays from floor to ceiling catch your eye.  You wonder where you should start…and then decide to just dive in!  Ever since my first visit about five years ago, it’s been my experience that I have to travel around the store at least three times in order to see everything.  And Quilt Expressions never disappoints!


Every quilt sample in the store has been pieced by talented Quilt Expressions’ employees and quilted on the long arm.  There’s a pattern, and often a kit, available for every sample in the store.  Take a peek here to view the patterns that are available online.  Many of them are Quilt Expressions’ originals.  Click here for kits that are available for online purchase.

Looking for a great way to boost your stash while saving money?  Dig through the Sweet Rolls basket for end-of-the-bolt pieces; the price on the tag reflects the 20% discount from the original yardage price.

Modern…traditional…Batik…cuddle…Kaffe…baby…themed…I could go on and on.  I love knowing that, when I have a particular project in mind, I’m only going to have to make one stop.  Karen and Kat have done a fantastic job ensuring that all types of fabric are well represented in the store.


 See that gorgeous swirl quilting pattern on the quilt in the left photo?  (Click on photo for a larger view.) When not helping customers, Rodi and Tracy spend their time in the store quilting customer quilts and store samples.  Are you interested in learning how to use the long arm machines?  Ask one of the employees, and they’ll be happy to give you the details.  It’s quite satisfying to complete a quilt from start to finish all on your own.


My favorite quilts to make are baby quilts.  They are fast, easy and always loved by the recipient.  Luckily, my friends keep having babies, which gives me plenty of opportunity to buy baby fabric.  Quilt Expressions has a huge selection of nursery prints, flannel and cuddle.  Cuddle makes fabulous backing for baby quilts…it’s soft, 60″ wide (no piecing!) and the quilt patterns show up beautifully.  If you’ve never used it for a back, ask one of the employees to show you a quilt with cuddle backing…I guarantee you’ll love it!


Thanks for joining me on this little tour of Quilt Expressions.  These photos represent only a portion of the store…stop in soon for a full tour (don’t forget….three times around the store!).  If you’re not in the area, visit the website.  Most of the fabric, patterns, kits, notions, precuts, quilts for sale and gift certificates are available online.


Let’s Take a Walk

You know how, sometimes when you enter a store, you have to walk through it three or four times to make sure you’ve seen everything?  No, not like at the grocery store when you’ve forgotten your list…or is that just me?  I haven’t been to Quilt Expressions for about a month. An extreme case of withdrawal was taking hold, so I knew it was time for a fabric fix.  When I walked in, I discovered that Karen had moved the store around!  And new products?  Everywhere!  I pulled out my camera and started snapping away.   Three trips around the store later, here are a few of my favorite new items and projects.

(Click on any photo to enlarge.)


Quilt Expressions’ Row By Row: a celebration of our gorgeous Boise River.

If you’ve been spending time on social media, you’re aware of the Row By Row Experience 2015.  Imagine a nationwide shop hop that lasts several months.  Yeah, it’s kinda awesome.  Participating stores have each designed a 9-1/2″ by 36-1/2″ row using this year’s water theme.  Patterns are available for free at participating store for walk-in customers only until September 8, 2015.  Many shops are also offering kits for in-store purchase.  On November 1st, the stores have the option of selling the patterns and kits online.  Once you’ve collected eight patterns from eight different stores, you can make a quilt and possibly win a prize!  Click here for more information, rules and a list of all participating stores.


Quilts, quilts everywhere!  The talented ladies at the store have been busy designing new patterns and making new quilt samples.  Every sample is quilted on our Statler long arm machine and bound by one of our experienced employees.

Each time I visit, I always spend some time admiring the wool display.  We have a large selection of patterns, along with everything needed to complete the projects.  I have yet to work with wool, which is probably why I admire the hand work so much.  Wool is on my someday “to-do” list, though.

New customers, and sometimes even returning customers, often take one step inside the door, stop and just look around.  The front display (which is changed often), new fabric collections, quilts hanging around the perimeter of the entire store and on many other surfaces, our original patterns and samples….it’s a feast for the eyes!


If you’re a fan of Kaffe Fassett, Brandon Mably, and Phillip Jacobs, this part of the store is like a candy store for a three-year-old!  The gorgeous fabrics are enough to grab your attention, but add to that the beautiful samples and books available, and you’ll soon be saying, “Oh, I need that…and that…and that!”


With the hot summer we’ve had here in Boise, it’s hard to start thinking about the holidays.   However, if you like to give handcrafted gifts, you know it’s best to start early!  Stop in or look online at our Halloween and winter holiday collections.

Did you know that Quilt Expressions’ creates and sells original patterns?  Click here for our online selection.  Stop by the store to see an even larger selection.

We’ve been carrying the Reisenthel Market Baskets for quite a while now.  They are the perfect carrier for all of your crafting needs.  We’ve tried to carry Doctor Bags (shown in photo above), but they sell out as soon as they go on display.  Karen placed a large order recently, and, if you hurry, you’ll find the Doctor Bags in stock and at great prices.  These bags aren’t available through our online store….just in-store.

I hope you’ve enjoyed this short photo tour through the store.  Stop in and see us soon!

{One Hundred}


When you work at a quilt store, your customers become like family.  They share with you the projects they are working on, tell the stories behind the quilts, and you learn when and why they started quilting.  The employees at Quilt Expressions are often asked for their opinion on which quilt pattern to use, help finding fabrics that work best together and help determine which quilting design will work best with the quilt top.  We have the honor of admiring their finished projects before they are wrapped up for gift giving.

This morning, we had the privilege of recognizing a milestone with one of our friends, Phyllis.  Phyllis is a familiar face at Quilt Expressions, spending the majority of her time on the long arm side of the store.  New customers often take a peek at what our long arm customers are working on, and Phyllis always greets them with a smile and is willing to answer any questions they might have.

Like many of us, Phyllis started sewing when she was in the seventh grade in her school’s Home Economics class.  As an adult, she sewed most of her three daughters’ clothes and created handcrafted gifts from the scraps.  In 2008, after retiring, she was able to dedicate more of her time to making quilt tops.  She sent a couple of tops in to Quilt Expressions for us to quilt.  In 2012, her daughter gave her a gift certificate and told her that it was to be used for our long arm class.  Phyllis took the class in August 2012 and came in to quilt her first quilt top one month later.

Today, 26 months after taking the class, she quilted her 100th quilt.  That in itself is an accomplishment.  However, what makes her story so inspiring is what she does with her quilts.  Most of her quilts are either donated or given away as gifts.  Last year, Phyllis donated 45 quilts, and she already has 25 completed quilts in her donate pile for 2015.

Donating quilts to those in need is an endeavor that is dear to Phyllis’ heart.  When her daughter was just twenty five years old, she was diagnosed with cancer.  She was treated by and later passed away at St. Luke’s Children’s hospital.  A good majority of the quilts that Phyllis donates are to the hospital.  She makes lap-sized quilts for the older boys and girls, from 9 – 23 years of age.  As she makes each one, she thinks of her daughter.  Sewn into each quilt is the generosity and care of a mother’s love, with the hope that the recipient will find comfort beneath it’s folds.

Thank you, Phyllis, for your inspiring spirit of giving.

Let’s get to know Rodi…


If you’ve been in Quilt Expressions, you’ve heard the gentle, continual hum that comes from the long arm side of the store.  We have four Gammill Long Arm quilting machines that are available to rent by those who have taken our long-arm class and a Statler Stitcher that is operated by staff only.  Keeping this beehive of activity operating smoothly is a team of talented quilters…..Rodi and Tracey.    Let’s get to know Rodi a little better.  (Tracey, you’re next!)

How did you learn to sew?

I lived with my grandparents during the summer months from when I was seven until I was fifteen years old.  In our cherished spare time, my grandma taught me and my sister how to make templates out of cardboard, then draw around them on the fabric.  Next, we’d cut out the quilt pieces with scissors.  Finally came the sewing machine and teaching us how to sew a straight line.  If my grandmother were alive today, she would love the rotary cutters and the hours they save.

My life outside of Quilt Expressions:

I am married to a great guy named Brett, and we have two wonderful children.  Brandon (soon to be 20) and Ali (who is 16…some of you have probably seen her in the store on the first Saturday of the month).  My family is the most important thing in my life.  In my limited spare time, of course, I piece and long arm quilt.  I also love to travel and spend time with good friends.  I love to read, even though I don’t seem to have much time for it anymore.  I love to play Sudoku and put together puzzles when time allows.  I also like to work on home projects.  Something about me that might surprise you is that I used to compete in triathlons.

My long arm quilting history:

I have been working at Quilt Expressions for seven years.  I took the second long arm class that Karen offered when she had the store over on Broadway a little over seven years ago.  I was hooked!  I couldn’t get enough of it.

Do you enjoy quilting others’ quilts?

Yes, absolutely!  I love seeing the different colors and patterns that people use in their quilts.  We are all so different with the colors we use.  Every day I get to see (and touch) a new quilt.  How much better can it get than that?!

What is your favorite type of fabric and your favorite pattern?

I definitely go for the bold and brights, most of the time.  And so far, my favorite pattern is “Spin Cycle.”  My second favorite quilt pattern is not really a pattern but a wonky way of creating blocks so every quilt is different.

What inspires you?

I was inspired on a recent trip to Seattle when we went to the Chihuly showroom.  His colorful glass works of art inspired me to try to make a “Chihuly” quilt.  I am still working on how to do it, but someday I will.  Also, the modern quilts inspire me and makes me want to both design and sew a few.

5 things I’d like to tell you as a long arm quilter:

1.  Make sure both the quilt top and back are square.

2.  Your quilt back and batting need to be at least 4″ larger than your top on all sides.

3.  It helps if your borders aren’t wavy and full.  If you need help on how to put on borders, we will definitely help you!

4.  Make sure your seams are as flat as possible and well-pressed.

5.  Be sure to remove all of your selvage before using your fabric.  The selvage is woven much tighter than your fabric and won’t shrink at the same rate.

Long Arm Love

Long Arm 1

I’ve been quilting for just a couple of years, mostly small lap-sized pieces.  I’ve been pretty successful at quilting them on my regular sewing machine.  Several larger items, though, became a source of entertainment in our house while I was not so successfully quilting them.  This summer, I was wrestling a heavy, twin-sized quilt through my machine at my kitchen table.  My husband always seemed to come in as I was trying to force the quilt into that tiny space to the right of my needle, most of it thrown over my shoulder, squinting as I tried to see where I was going and trying very hard to avoid sewing my finger to the quilt.  He enjoyed the entertainment.  Oh yeah, it was fun!!

If you’ve ever been inside the store, you’ve likely heard the hum of at least one and usually most of the five long-arm machines.  I love to walk by and admire the quilts that are stretched across the machines.  I’ve envied those that come in, work for several hours (without a quilt thrown over their shoulder!) and leave with a completed, beautiful quilt with just the binding left to do.  It’s been a goal of mine to learn how to use the machines.


I must have expressed this desire loud enough and in the presence of the right person because my  name was added to the class list for one of the August sessions of Introduction to Long Arm Quilting.   When I showed up to class, I was an equal mixture of nerves and excitement.  Why nerves?  I’ve always been afraid I’d break one of them!  And the excitement?  I’d no longer be such a source of entertainment at home.

Long arm 2

Our class consisted of myself and seven lovely ladies, all eager to learn how to long-arm quilt their own quilts.  One of them mentioned that she’d completed one quilt top and had promised herself that she’d completely finish it before she started another.  Another told us that she had a pile of quilt tops just waiting for her to complete this class.  Our teachers were Rodi and Tracey; both of them have been  long-arm quilting at Quilt Expressions for many years.  We were paired off and loaded two quilts per machine.  While one ran the machine, the other watched and assisted in trying to remember the steps in the right order.

Long arm 4

We each had the opportunity to both free-hand quilt and quilt using a pantograph.  I’m not sure which I like best…free-hand quilting is a lot of fun.  You can just about quilt any design you can think of.  However, I do love the uniformity that comes from using the pantograph.  Can you pick out the star in the photo on the left and my name (Katie) in the photo on the right?

Long arm 3

What’s a pantograph?  A pantograph is a continuous design that is printed on a long sheet of paper.  A laser attached to the machine is lined up on the pantograph.  Standing at the back of machine, you simply follow the design with the laser.  It sounds easy…and it really is!  Quilt Expressions has many pantographs to choose from.  Each of the rolls in the photo on the right is a different design.  The hardest part is choosing which one to use.

Long arm 5

Once you’ve completed the class, you’re able to rent the machines by the hour.  On the back wall near the machines is a wall covered with a delicious array of colorful thread.  You can choose any color on the wall for your quilting, and the cost of the thread is included in your fee.


Hard at work!


Well, we did it!  We survived the eight hour class….and enjoyed it!  Now, the most important thing to do is practice, practice, practice.   It’s definitely a technique that will be forgotten without use.  Luckily, either Rodi or Tracey are always available for questions and assistance while we’re using the long-arm machines.  My first real test of how well I retained everything I learned will be when I quilt my Super Six, once it’s completed.

I’d love to find out what experience our readers have with long-arm quilting.  Have you taken the class?  Do you rent our machines regularly?  Do you own  your own long-arm machine?  Do you use the valet service?  Have you tried the zippers?  Do you drop your quilts off at the store to be quilted by us?  Do you use your regular machine to quilt and love it?  Please leave a comment and let me know!

What to Quilt on Your Quilt

March’s session of our popular free seminar covered what to quilt on your quilt. Karen has been a professional free-motion quilter for years and she covers a range of topics from specific quilting techniques to choosing a back and thread color.

Take a look at the seminar video for great tips and tricks on free-motion quilting.

New Quilting Toys

I’ve got  a brand new “toy!”  plus a new quilting technique I thought I’d share. The toy isn’t meant for quilting; it’s actually an applique template that you’re supposed to use to cut perfect, flowing leaves. But, I bought it just to make perfect flowing feather spines. I love it!

Marking a feather spine

This past week I finished quilting a custom quilt, and my new toy made it so easy to mark the spines with a nice curve–all I had to do was then fill in the feathers.  My favorite marking tool for light fabrics is a blue “mark b-gone” water erase pen.

On the white cream borders, I tried a new idea I saw a while ago on another quilt. Of course my memory was a little foggy, so I was making some of it up as I went along!  This technique worked so well I had several folks ask me if it was trapunto when they saw the finished quilt–and no, it isn’t!

I used a template to mark a rose  with my blue pen, then made a first pass through the border stitching on the lines from the template. Next I outlined the design with a 1/2″ echo. And then the fun began! I “scribble” stitched a back and forth line, filling in the echo. A little water squirt took out the marking, and I had a gorgeous border design. It came out pretty well, if I do say so myself!

Here’s one more photo of the border without the marking:


Posted by Karen