Category Archives: Long Arm Quilting

Dawn Cavanaugh Classes at Sparrow Studioz

ANNOUNCING! Our First Guest Teacher for 2013
We are over the moon with excitement about the Teacher that will be honouring us this June with her passion for quilting.

Dawn Cavanaugh Classes – June 18-21, 2013

Pasted GraphicDawn Cavanaugh – APQS’s National Director of Education – 
Class list at the bottom of this email (Tentative dates of of June 3rd or June 17th) Let us know which works best for you by replying to this email
Since 1994, Dawn Cavanaugh’s custom freehand quilting has been winning awards for clients of her business, Rockin’ Bobbin Quilting, Inc. Her work has appeared in publications such as Century of Quilts, Quilter’s Newsletter Magazine, American Patchwork & Quilting, Leisure Arts, House of White Birches, and Fons and Porter’s Love of Quilting publications and TV shows. Dawn also designs patterns, most recently contributing to 505 Quilt Blocks by Meredith Publishing.
She has taught at Machine Quilter’s Showcase for ten years, plus Longarm University, MQ Innovations, Quilting the Quilt, Quilting on the Waterfront, Canadian Machine Quilters’ Expo, the Australian Machine Quilters Showcase, and several regional guilds. Judging machine-quilted projects in quilt shows has also kept her busy. In addition, Dawn is the National Director of Education for APQS, Carroll, Iowa.
REGISTER TODAY – Classes are filling fast
DAY 1 -AM- Tuesday June 18, 2013 10am-1pm


Machine Quilting Skills for Newbies—Practice Makes Perfect—hands on

DAY 1 -PM- Tuesday June 18, 2013 2pm-5pm


Continuous Curves for Newbies–Hands On

DAY 1 -EVE- Tuesday June 18, 2013 6pm-8pm


2-hour Lecture: Solving Tension Headaches EVENING

DAY 2 -AM- Wednesday June 19, 2013 10am-1pm


Background Gridwork Fillers – Hands On

DAY 2 -PM- Wednesday June 19, 2013 2pm-5pm


Border Designs in Half the Time — Hands On

DAY 3 -AM- Thursday June 20, 2013 10am-1pm


Best Backgrounds Design Collection–Hands On

DAY 3 -PM- Thursday June 20, 2013 2pm-5pm


Stipple No More—Backgrounds Galore — Hands On

DAY 4 -AM- Friday June 21, 2013 9am-3pm


Weave a Quilt on Your Stand Up Machine – Hands On

DAY 4 -PM- Friday June 21, 2013 4pm-7pm


3-hour Hands-on Project
Piecing On Your Stand-Up Machine — Hands On

REGISTER TODAY – Classes are filling fast


Introducing Quilt Path – APQS’s Automated Quilting System


Stacks Image 274
Quilt your masterpiece with ease and professional accuracy using Quilt Path for APQS machines. Enjoy the benefits of an automated quilting system. Quilt Path’s easy to use touch pad makes it simple for you to design and layout your project and let Quilt Path quilt it!
Although I am a freehand quilter and love it ever so much, I have installed my Quilt Path (APQS’s Computerized Quilting Tablet) on my machine and am having tons of fun getting perfect designs with very little effort. Believe me, if I can figure this one out, you’ll have no problem. The most amazing part was the install. It only took me 20 minutes to install this puppy and get it up and running. Quilt Path can be effortlessly installed on any APQS machine except George. I am filming several Quilt Path videos to show you just how easy it is to run. Here are the two quilt path videos I recorded last week showing just how easy it is to install. Come by and experience Quilt Path first hand.
Video #1
Video #2
Say this 10 times really fast… My first computerized machine quilting edge to edge all over Stitch out with my new APQS Quilt Path Stitched with Aurifil’s variegated polyester thread.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Quilt Path is now shipping. New orders ship in 8-10 weeks. Call Matt or Bradie today to put your name in queue 780-463-4242 for your very own Quilt Path.

A new breed of quilter & the cutest Miniature Pinscher Puppy EVER

Is it just me or is there a new breed of quilter emerging? Seems to me that more and more of the clients walking in to Sparrow Studioz to rent our longarms are new quilters. Just a short year ago, we spent most of our time convincing veteran quilters that finishing their quilts on a longarm was not only acceptable but fast and effective too.

As I sent an email out to our list this morning, I realized that many of our clients are eager new quilters. They don’t need to be convinced that saving time is a good thing. That seems to be the first lesson they learn when taking our beginner longarm class.

I thought I should share that email with all my blog readers in case you were wondering what I’ve been up to when I’m not quilting.

Here goes Nothing.

No, I’m not talking about the fact that I bought my daughter a puppy & Bradie is going to kill me!

Here’s the scoop. In our last newsletter I announced that our pre-paid (silver & gold) packages come with a (brand new) FREE class.

I made the

Miniature Pinscher Puppy Pic
Miniature Doberman Pinscher Puppy Pic

mistake of limiting it to two classes and have been turning people away left right and center. We have been overwhelmed with sign-ups and although we had originally only scheduled two classes, we are extending this sale and booking several more Freestyle Quilting Classes to accommodate everyone that is interested.

This is the perfect class to learn how to disguise troubled piecing. As many of you know, no quilt is perfect and there are NO quilt police at Sparrow Studioz. We honor the time and love you put into every quilt. We are here to help you effortlessly finish your quilts, without judgement. Did you know that many of our renters finish 3-4 small quilts in a single session. No kidding!

Here is another look at the free class…

FreeStyle Quilting – 3 hours $150 Experience the front of the machine like never before. Let me show you how to choose fast, simple designs that add texture and character to those quilts that require a quick little something to get them on and off the frame in no time at all. Learn how to get in and out of corners without hesitation. Move from one side of the quilt to the other in no time flat! Let me show you the difference between pantograph and freestyle quilting. You will love the amount of control you gain by looking down at your quilt instead of at the pantograph.

Here is a look at the pre-paid packages…

Save BIG with our Prepaid Packages – Reg price is $20/hr
Bronze $250 – Save 10% (Hourly rate is $18) 14 hours of quilting time.
Silver $500 – Save 20% (Hourly rate is $16) 31.25 hours of quilting time.
Gold $1000 – Save 30% (Hourly rate is $14) 71.5 hours of quilting time.
SPECIAL ANNOUNCEMENT – You can share the Gold Package with a friend!


While I have you here let me make a couple announcements…

Bradie just ordered TWELVE bolts of Hobbs 80/20 Heirloom batting. I said TWO bolts not TWELVE I yelled! To be quite honest, I would prefer to sell you guys batting at $22/M. Bradie on the other hand actually likes saving you guys money. She is pre-selling the first ten bolts for $299/ea. That works out to less than $10/yrd. Call her soon to reserve your bolt.

Bradie also ordered the entire line of GLIDE thread. That’s 180 magnificent colors. AND I get first dibs 😛


Claudia Pfeil’s Quilts now on display as her August classes quickly approach. Have you signed up yet?

Not sure how to quilt your top? The design possibilities are endless. Bring your quilt tops and notebooks to class and let Claudia dissect your quilt block by block giving you tons of ideas and inspiration. You may never look at quilts the same again.
Check out all her funtabulous classes here


Did I tell you about the sale that APQS just announced on their top of the line Millennium & Freedom Quilting Machines?

$3400 Cash Discount on new Millennium & Freedom models which include Motorized Feed and QuiltGlide.
Download our Machine Brochure here

You could be quilting in your Pajamas or less while watching TV! Just sayin…

All The Wonderful Things Karen Taught Me…

… That McTavishing is just the foundation of a style that will soon become your own. She even suggested that McSparrowing has a nice ring to it. ;). I still call it McTavishing though!


… That APQS makes the best Longarm on the planet backed up by unrivaled customer service.


That quilty tattoos are far more common than you could ever imagine.

That bringing a world famous longarm quilter to Canada to teach will be a huge success.

Just over a week from now, me and my iPhone will be at the airport with my live stream running as Karen walks out of customs with a giant army duffle bag full of hand quilting stencils. Be sure to Join us throughout the week for candid little updates and photos of all the fun that is going to be had.

To blog or not to blog? That is the question!

If you look back at my last blog post, you will see that this is far from a regular gig. Even with all the knowledge I possess about the power of blogging, I find myself constantly procrastinating when it comes to keeping my blog current. It’s not like I don’t have anything to say. Even the most uneventful days offer valuable lessons in parenting, longarm quilting, running a new business, being a positive influence, and the list goes on…

Moving forward, I am going to adopt the following motto!

Better brief than nothing at all.

That is how I am going to approach blogging from now on. It may come across as a bunch of little rants, but that’s how I roll. Maybe that’s why I love Facebook so much. It feels more natural to blurt out random thoughts in my status on fb than it does to waste an entire post on my blog.

When I look back at the conversations I’ve started on my wall, I sometimes wish I would have blogged them instead. Then, at the very least they would be ‘searchable’ and wouldn’t feel like they were slowly pushed off my wall And forgotten. Isn’t the whole point of creating content on the web to ‘create a timeless resource for years to come? That’s how I look at it anywayz.

I have decided the best way to keep my blog current is to force myself to blog every day for a month. That is my goal for December. That and not ‘eating out’. Shit! Where did that come from? I love eating out! but seeing as I am not getting any taller yet keep gaining weight, it’s time to take a few precautions to ensure that I don’t hit 250lbs any time soon. That might have the reverse effect as I will now cook bucket loads of food on Sundays and freeze it for the studio throughout the week. Mmmm, can’t wait to start planning recipes.

What’s your favorite festive recipe? crockpot ideas would be greatly appreciated!

Tickle My Quilt With Feathers – by Sue Patten

Sue Patten Class
Tickle-My-Quilt with Feathers

SUE PATTEN Classes in Edmonton, AB, Canada – MARCH 09-10-11-12-13, 2011
Great News… I have booked Sue Patten to teach in my Studio early next year. I will continue to book world renowned machine quilting teachers. I am so proud to be able to offer Sue’s classes to my Canadian friends!

Click here to sign up for Sue’s classes.

This is a class for the wild at heart!! This class will take your tradition feather techniques to a whole new level in design and texture. This free motion class explores the feather in all sizes and covers everything from traditional to a full out feather frenzy!! If you have ever wanted to take your feathers to the next level or offer new and exciting feather designs to your clients for that cutting edge, then this is the class for you. We will explore design ideas that will help you create a flourish of unique feathers that can be used for borders, blocks, sashings of all sizes, and yes even background fillers. This class includes tricks and tips for the left handed quilter, thread options to add that extra punch of WOW! And how the batting we use affects the texture of our feather designs. So put away those pantos, stencils, and marking tools and come free motion your way into an all out feather frenzy!!

Heidi Loves the Simplicity of the APQS Lenni

Yesterday, I had a local quilter visit me in my home studio to test drive my APQS Millennium.

She expressed interest in a Lenni so I wanted to point out the differences between the Millennium and The Lenni before we got started.

I sat my client down before the test drive and let her watch Heidi Kaisand’s video I have posted on my website (The Simplicity of The Lenni) so she would have a better Idea of what the handles look like on the Lenni as oppose to my Millennium. I watched her face as she watched Heidi’s video (I know, that sounds so creepy) and even though the video was only a minute long, a couple points really seemed to strike home for her.

Particularly Heidi says…
“I like long arm quilting but I’m very new at it, and one of the things that I really like is the simplicity of our Lenni” That’s a very powerful statement!

I hear from new Long Arm quilters all the time how overwhelmed they feel when they first get their machines set up.

The APQS Lenni definitely addresses this issue. It’s two simple buttons make it very easy for a new longarm quilter to become comfortable with their new machine.

My reasons for choosing an APQS Longarm Quilting System over all the competition.

Here is a few of the many questions about Longarm Quilting I get in my email. I thought you all might be interested in the answers to ~Lori’s~ questions.

Hi Matt,
I’m thinking of getting a Long-Arm and have begun researching the various machines.  Recently I’ve found LongArm University online, they provide a list of 11 different manufacturers and the websites.  It’s still confusing!

It’s great to hear that you are doing the research. This is a huge decision for you, like it is for most quilters thinking about taking that giant leap into the unknown. What I like about LongArm University, at least what I hope is that they are not affiliated with any one machine manufacturer. That makes it the perfect starting place for your research. I see that you are already on to step two which is contacting someone knowledgeable with each specific brand. As an APQS sales rep, I have to admit that I can only answer specifics about that brand of machine. I strongly advise you to seek reps for other longarm companies to ask specific questions about their machines.

What kind of computerized program is available for the APQS, like the Statler Stitcher for Gammill?

The two most popular brands of computer for APQS Machines are CQ (Compuquilter) and IQ (Intelliquilter). I have seen in a few online forums that Statler Stitchers(normally for Gammill Machines) have been retro-fitted to run on an APQS Millennium. My opinion is that you are best to buy the computer that has the most tried and tested users with your particular brand of long arm quilting machine. That way the trouble shooting that has been done relates directly to your machine. Check out their websites for user forums to get a better idea of problems that owners have encountered and more importantly how the company responds to and resolves said problems.

Do you use it?

I am a die-hard hand-guided or freehand quilter. I enjoy the freedom to create designs on the fly and work best creatively from the front of the machine. Don’t get me wrong there is nothing wrong with computerized quilting, in fact I have to admit to feeling intimidated by the ‘perfect stitching’ and the ‘intricate designs’ on many occasions that only a computer guided system can consistently turn out. I often tell potential buyers to ask themselves a few important questions before making the decision of ‘Computer’ or ‘Not’.

1. Do you have any machine embroidery experience? And do you enjoy it?

If they answer ‘yes’ it’s an indication that they would be very happy and more importantly very comfortable using a computerized quilting system. You see, The skill set involved with operating a computer guided longarm quilting machine is very similar to that of machine embroidery. It’s a similar CAD system and plotting the design on your quilt will be much easier and familiar to an embroiderer than someone who has never touched an embroidery machine. An important thing to consider is the learning curve involved in becoming competent with a new skill. The quicker you become comfortable with your machine (computerized or not), the faster you will be able to start taking customer quilts and recouping your investment. If you already have years of experience with machine embroidery, that’s some pretty valuable time under your belt that will drastically decrease the learning curve involved with owning and operating a computerized long arm quilting system.

2. Does your market require or will it allow another Computerized Quilter?

When making any investment of this size, it’s so important to evaluate your local market to be sure that you can squeeze in with ‘your niche’.

It’s ultimately all about how you are comfortable quilting. You will need to try out every machine you can get your hands on. Spend as many hours on them as you can. Either find a local rep and go and try their machine, visit the local dealer and get some hands on time or better yet travel to a big quilt expo that has all the brands available in one convenient place. The last thing you want to do is regret your decision shortly after making it. Get your hands on as many long arm quilting machines as humanly possible. Try them from the front doing hand-guided designs, get behind and try the laser on on a panto, and fire up the computer and stitch out a few designs. Find out where you feel most comfortable because you will be spending a lot of time there.

What was the reason you decided to go with the APQS?

I owned an HQ-16 Mid-Arm Quilting Machine for a year and a half and quilted over 200 quilts on it (probably closer to 300). In that time I out grew the stitch regulator and it simply couldn’t keep up with my fast quilting style. In April of ’08 I flew down to MQX(Machine Quilters Exposition) for the debut of Handi-Quilters new 24″ Fusion. I was very excited to get my hands on this larger machine and return home to make my purchase. While I was in Manchester, NH at the expo, I had the opportunity to try the Fusion as well as a number of other long-arm quilting machines.
Long story short, I fell in love with the APQS Millennium. I made so many little comparisons between the longarm machines while I was there and the Millie out performed in every way. First I looked at the reaction time of the stitch regulator. I admit that almost every machine I tried out performed my HQ-16 and had less trouble keeping up with me. But upon closer examination to the stitches, everywhere I changed directions most of the machines showed a small variation in stitch length both going into and coming out of the point. The smallest variation was found on the APQS Freedom SR. Next was the Millennium then the Nolting. The Fusion came in a distant fourth and still couldn’t keep up to me in those direction changes.

I admit that I was moving the machines faster than I would if I was working on a quilt and there are many other factors that play a role in the variation in stitch length. I’m no scientist but I know that for me to make  n accurate comparison of stitch regulation, I would have to be sure that a lot of the factors that influenced my little experiment were identical or at the very least similar in each instance. I wasn’t about to wind bobbins all at the same tension, use the same needle thread combo on every machine or ensure that I was moving the heads at the exact speed. Now that I look back, an perfectly accurate comparison would be nearly impossible. So instead of trying to talk myself out of the machine that I saw with my own eyes perform to my high expectations, I instead looked for the reasons that might have made the difference in my little experiment.
It didn’t take long to learn about all the little things that APQS does to their machines to ensure a better ride and therefore a better experience altogether for the longarm quilter. What I learned explained perfectly the three major reasons I was blown away by the superior experience of using the APQS machines.
  1. As opposed to the digital stitch-regulators commonly used in our competitors machines and limited to only yes-no decisions,  APQS’s PerfectStitch uses “fuzzy logic” to create a range of values,  producing stitches of consistent length – even as you change quilting speed or direction – and makes perfect star points and squares with crisply defined corners… Read more about APQS Stitch Regulators
  2. The Smart Bobbin – In summary – during high speed longarm quilting, APQS’s SmartBobbin has the advantage of less mass. Less mass means less tension is required to overcome and control the inertia. Herein lies the secret to our beautiful stitch.
  3. APQS’s horizontal wheels and track system are another example of the superior design found on APQS long arm quilting machines. Their innovative guiding system absorbs residual vibration while allowing the head to move effortlessly.

How long was your learning curve until you were ready to work on customer quilts?  Was that working on quilts everyday?

These two questions truly belong together and I’m glad you asked them in the same breath. It took me about six months to develop the confidence and skill to brave a customer quilt. Luckily, I learned right out gate that if I took even one day off of practicing that my skills seemed to disappear and I found myself right back at square one. After a couple weeks of this I found that I had made very little progress. I decided there and then If I was going to make a go of this I had to improve by leaps and bounds to stand a chance in my local market. I devoted 10-14 hrs a day/ 7 days a week to practicing. A few short months of dedication and I was feeling very confident.

Was it important to have a Dealer nearby?

Yes! Or at least I thought. The number one reason I bought the HQ-16 was because the dealer was 10 minutes from my house and I knew that if anything went wrong with my machine it could be serviced locally. OK maybe I’m lying a little, me being the CHEAP guy that I am maybe POOR was a more accurate description. LOL!  The number one reason was actually price. The HandiQuilter was by far the cheapest option for me at that time. Back to the second reason, the dealer was local. It turned out that I blew my needle bushings and the part needed to be shipped to Utah anyway for servicing for which I had to pay the shipping and service charge to have the part removed and re-installed. Turned out to be no advantage to have a local dealer.
As I considered upgrading to a bigger long-arm quilting machine, I felt it necessary to go down to NH to talk with actual quilters about their machines as another problem I was having with the local dealer was that none of them were quilters. They were all salespeople. I had questions that only a quilter could answer. I’ll admit that the fact that the APQS booth was manned by actual quilters, Sue Patten, Karen McTavish and Dawn Cavanaugh to be exact played a big part in my decision to buy from American Professional Quilting Systems.

What about repairs?

As a longarm quilter, you will want to learn to time your own machine and that is the most common service you will encounter. Other than that, you will receive a manual with complete maintenance instructions that will help you get to know your machine inside and out. This is another opportunity for you to go to the owner forums of each machine and see first hand how many problems each machine has on average. I found far less complaints about APQS machines than any other brand.

Is that why you became a dealer?

My now sales manager Heidi Kaisand emailed me about a week after my machine arrived and offered to waive the year of ownership usually required to become a rep and to tell you the truth until that very moment I had never even considered becoming an APQS sales representative. It was for many reasons too good of deal to turn down but more than anything I loved the product and it’s not hard to sell something you love.

Thank you for sharing you experiences and insight.

You are very welcome, that is by far the best part of my job. Thank you for allowing me to post your question on my blog to answer.