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Long Arm Quilting Machine


  • Innova M20 with Lightning Stitch Regulator
  • Purchased new: December 3rd, 2022, Installed at Milwaukee Makerspace December 4th, 2022
  • Area champion: M Anderson
  • Trainers: Faith Flinfrock, Sarah Hapto, Kathy Luglio
  • Location: Lenox craft lab

Training Information and Reference

Important Information before you start


Training on the long-arm is free, loading a quilt onto the long-arm is free, running the long-arm is not. The current pricing on the long-arm is $12 an hour, prorated per minute. The rental includes run time on the machine and usage of the provided omni thread. You must use the provided thread. Do not fob into the long-arm until your quilt is loaded and you are ready to begin sewing. Refunds will be issued entirely at area-champion discretion. Using the long-arm constitutes agreement to usage pricing, and pricing is subject to change without prior notification. Rental includes run time of the machine and Omni Thread.

Own Your Risk

Each quilter quilts at their own risk. We do our best to maintain the machine in good working order, but there may come a time when either you don't quilt perfectly or the machine doesn't work perfectly. It's a machine and problems do occur. Quilters are all human and mistakes happen. Quilters assume all risk when using the long-arm machine.

Reserving Time

Please reserve time on the long-arm using the calendar reservation system here #TODO: add reservation system. This is for a four hour reservation. If a quilt is left on the long-arm outside of reserved time it may be removed without warning by the next user. If a quilt is on the frame when you arrive for your reservation, document the removal on the message board and respectfully remove it. Quilts take hours, handle other’s work with care.

Preparing your quilt for long-arming

Regardless of what you use, best results will occur when your quilt top, backing, and bottom are ironed, because it will make them easier to load.The practice of ironing decreases “surprises” that may need to be ripped out.

Assembling your quilt sandwich

Do not bring your quilt top, batting, and backing pre-basted, either with spray basting or pin basting. The quilt “sandwich” is assembled on the machine.

Quilt size

There is no minimum quilt size. Maximum quilt size is 12 feet wide, which is as long as the rollers will accommodate. For best results, the quilt backing and batting should be a minimum of 8 inches longer and wider (4 inches on all sides) than the quilt top to allow room for attaching the quilt to the frame and edge to edge quilting. Remember shift happens. This also gives a margin to practice design and check tensions.

Approved materials

Standard quilting materials can be run on the long-arm without prior approval. These materials include:

Quilt tops materials:

  • Quilting cottons (EX. Kona cottons)
  • Lightweight garment fabrics (Ex. lawn cottons or cotton poplins, such as what would be used for collared buttondowns, T-shirts jersey)
  • Reclaimed bedding materials without fill, such as empty duvet covers and bed sheets

Batting materials:

High quality, 100% cotton batting is available for sale in the craft lab at $4.25 for one foot of 120 inch wide batting (The batting is Quilter’s Dream 100% cotton in select loft, it’s lovely). The initial roll of batting has been purchased by Anderson, so all payments for batting usage will be on honor system to her.

The machine handles “franken” batting well (meaning, batting constructed from overlapping scraps), and so with a one foot section of 120 inch wide batting it would be possible for construct a 3 foot by 3 foot quilt by overlapping the material. Please place any scraps of batting in the batting scrap bin for use during training and for smaller projects.

You may also provide your own batting. Allowed battings include:

  • All prepackaged quilting batting in polyester, wool, or cotton
  • Thinsulate batting.
  • Batting with extra loft, such as Mountain Mist, is allowed, but may make a sloppy sandwich so it is best to avoid for your first projects.

Backing materials:

  • Minky, flannel, or cotton backings.
  • Any material which is also under approved quilt tops

Approved garment materials:

You may run up to three layers of garment fabric which is no heavier than canvas (meaning, you may quilt together three canvas layers)

Materials which require pre-approval

To run any other material, or more than 3 layers of the above materials, please contact a trainer first. We will help you to adjust the machine tension, or select a more appropriate needle.

Forbidden materials

  • No pins, mini clips, etc.
  • No embellishments that could catch the long-arm are allowed with pantograph quilting. Examples include buttons, baby rattles, sequins, snaps, etc. If you are free motion quilting from the front of the machine, you are responsible for avoiding needle breakage against such embellishments.
  • TLDR: don’t run silly shit without talking to a trainer first.


Quilters must use the thread available on the thread rack at Lenox. No thread should be brought in. Thread is Omni brand. If you would like to request an additional color, or if a color appears to be running low (when 1/4“ left on cone), please contact Anderson.


There are bobbins available at Lenox. You may wish to purchase some bobbins for your own use. Bobbins are Size M bobbins, and only metal bobbins should be used. A size M bobbin holds approximately 210 yards of thread: if using MMS bobbins, we ask that you load no more than 2 bobbins at a time to insure free bobbins are available for others at the end of your quilting time. These bobbins must be left at the space.

Users are not required to match the top and bobbin thread color, but beginners may achieve better results this way. If the tensions between the top and bobbin thread is not perfectly even, matching top and bobbin thread will disguise this, making a better finished product. Curves and sharp turns are more likely to reveal any tension mismatch issues, causing the top or bobbin thread to poke through to the other side.

Oil the bobbin case with every new bobbin. A picture of where to oil the bobbin case is near the bobbin winder. Please refer to it.

Additional training materials

There is a gold key (a golden USB drive) filled with all of the training videos for the machine, including basic operation (like threading), and maintenance. It can be viewed by plugging it into a windows machine and running the videos from its executable. Backups of all of the videos are available in the maker vault under the long-arm folder. Please refer to this key for reinforcement of all provided training documents.

Step by Step: Quilting

Preparing the machine

Gold key reference video on cleaning the bobbin: “Silver > All Maintenance” > “Machine Basic” > “Maintenance ~ Bobbin Case”
Gold key reference video on oiling machine hook assembly: “Silver > All Maintenance” > “Machine Basic” > “Maintenance ~ Bobbin Case”

Upon arriving for a reservation, take the time to dust the machine and remove any lint from the bobbin case area. Lightly oil the bobbin case area. You will oil this area every time you change the bobbin. Check for any damage to the machine before beginning.

Threading the machine

Gold key reference video on threading the machine: “Silver > Load a quilt” > “Threading: Machine Head” > “Threading Innova Machine Head”

The easiest way to thread the machine is like a serger: just tie the new thread on and pull through.

This is not a fool-proof method. Before adjusting any tension on the machine, always try rethreading first. Particularly with multiple users, you are trusting the threading job of the previous user if you just pull their thread through.

The way people screw up the threading is around the tensioning disks. You need to go around the disk 2.5 times: .5 is the exit through the check spring. Refer to the golden key for reference.

Winding and inserting a bobbin

Gold key reference video on threading bobbin case: “Silver > Load a quilt” > “Threading: Machine Head” > “Threading Bobbin Winder … Standard”

Use the provided bobbin winder next to the thread. The threading diagram is laminated above the bobbin winder. When you put the bobbin in the bobbin case, you should check the bobbin tension by holding it up like a yo yo by the thread. If you shake the thread, the bobbin should easily release more thread. But if you hold it by the string, you should be able to fully pick up the bobbin case by the thread. Please do this over a table! Ask a trainer to demonstrate this idea. Tip: Anderson will be very sad if you drop our bobbin case on the floor.

When you insert the bobbin into the machine, it needs to click. If you don’t get it in all the way, you’ll break your needle.

Loading your quilt

Gold key reference video on loading your quilt: “Silver > Load a quilt” > “Threading: Machine Head” > “Loading-a-quilt ~ Country Loft ~ With Leader Grips or Red Snappers”

All of the techniques provided here are only suggestions, feel free to experiment with what works for you. These instructions are for floating your quilt top, where you do not secure your quilt top onto the top bar, instead allowing your top and batting to hang while quilting.

Best results will occur when your quilt top, backing, and batting are all ironed or steamed, because it will make them easier to load.

Load your back

During these steps: the machine should be off, so that you are not being charged.

  1. Fold your quilt backing in half and mark the center of your backing with a water soluble marker or pen.
  2. For your quilt top in half and mark the center of your quilt with a water soluble marker or pen.
  3. Place your quilt back onto the belly bar, with the right side of the quilt back facing the floor.
  4. Attach the bottom of the quilt back to the belly bar using a small red snapper, aligning the center point of the backing with the center mark on the canvas of the belly bar.
  5. Attach each corner of the backing to the belly bar using small red snappers, keeping tension across the width of the quilt.
  6. Add the large red snappers, removing the small red snappers as you go. Tip: the larger red snappers are easier to attach the more bent they are
  7. Move to the back of the machine, pulling your backing to the back of the machine underneath the leveler bar.
  8. Attach the top of the backing to the take up roller, once again aligning the center points and starting with smaller red snappers first.
  9. Return to the front of the machine. Roll the backing up onto the take-up bar, smoothing the quilt top as you go, always smoothing from the center out.
  10. Roll the backing back onto the belly bar, once again smoothing out any creases from the center out. Tip: Any creases in the backing material will be sewn in place while long-arming, and you will not be able to see the backing while using the machine, so smoothing is very important.
  11. Final check: is the right side of your backing facing the ground? Is the backing free of creases, with gentle tension between the belly bar and top bar? Is the backing underneath the leveler bar?

Load the batting

Before loading your batting, your backing should be loaded. Please refer to the final checks of the above step.

  1. Optional: mark the center of the batting as you did with the backing.
  2. Roll the backing between the top and belly bar so that the majority of the backing is loaded onto the belly bar, and the top of the backing is accessible.
  3. Place your batting onto the backing, squaring it to the top the red snappers and aligning the center. Smooth it in place.
  4. Check the bobbin case is free of lint, clean if necessary. Oil the bobbin case if you have not already. Ensure the bobbin case is fully clicked into the machine. Ensure the top thread is correctly threaded. Fob into the machine at the fob box. Turn on the long-arm by pressing the power button; it is on the same side of the machine as the threading mechanism. Once you have fobbed into the long-arm, you will begin to be charged. You cannot run the machine without fobbing in
  5. With the machine set to a basting stitch, baste the batting onto the back, starting from the center of the top of the batting and working outwards. Baste down the edges of the side of the quilt as far as you can without advancing the quilt.
  6. Attach the side tension clips to the backing and batting, setting the yard sticks underneath them but over the leveler bar and belly bar.
  7. Final check: Is the batting smooth on the quilt backing? Is it draped over the belly bar? Are the side clips attached?

Load the quilt top

Before loading the top, your backing and batting should be loaded. Please refer to the final checks of the above step.

  1. Align your quilt top’s center to the center of the backing and batting.
  2. Smooth the quilt top over the backing and batting.
  3. Baste the quilt top onto the backing and batting as you did with the batting, from the center of the top working outwards and down the edges. Baste along the edges of the quilt as close to the belly bar as possible: this line of basting will serve as a guide for advancing the quilt later.
  4. Switch the machine from basting stitch to normal stitch
  5. Optional: Once your quilt top is loaded, you can use the edges of the quilt backing and batting where the quilt top does not overlap them to troubleshoot any tensioning issues. Look at the back of your quilt to ensure the tension is correct.


Gold key reference video on machine basting: “Silver > Hand Guided ~ Ruler Work” > “Machine Basting”
Gold key reference video on starting and stopping: “Silver > Hand Guided ~ Ruler Work” > “Starting and stopping”

Before quilting, your quilt should be loaded onto the machine. The bobbin should be in place, clicked into the machine. The bobbin case should have been oiled. Your top thread should be threaded.

Beginning sewing

Before you start sewing, you may wish to consider the direction you intend to primarily quilt in. Always quilting in one direction (EX. from left to right, or from the center out) may improve the overall tensioning of your quilt and avoid puckers. If you prefer complete freedom of motion, you will likely need to use your hand to smooth the top as you move across the top.

  1. Pull up your bobbin thread. Do this by pulling free about 4 inches of tail of your top thread. Hold this tail in one hand. Make a single stitch using the left hand white button of the long arm. Pull the tail of top thread, bringing up the bobbin thread. Pull free about 4 inches of the bobbin thread tail.
  2. Holding both the top and bobbin thread tails in one hand, pulling gently, tie off the start of your quilting (akin to backstitching in sewing). Do this by either pressing the tie button on the touchscreen, or repeatedly making single stitches using the white one-stitch button (3-4 stitches)
  3. Ensure the machine is set to your preferred stitch type: for most people this will be standard regulated stitching.
  4. Turn on stitching by pressing the green button. Only one tap, and the machine will show a “Machine running” screen and you can move the sew-head from there. The machine will keep up with you.
  5. Tip: You may wish to check the tension on your stitching after running a short section, and you should check it from both sides.
  6. Have fun!

Ending a line of sewing

  1. Press the green button again to stop sewing.
  2. Bring up your bobbin thread. Do so by bringing up the needle, moving the sew-head several inches away from where you stopped sewing (approx. 4), and making one stitch. Use this stitch to bring up the bobbin thread by pulling on the length of top thread.
  3. Once both the top and bobbin thread are on top, cut them. You must cut the bobbin thread before moving to a new section, because the bobbin thread will drag underneath the quilt and get caught in future passes if you do not.
  4. If you are done sewing for the day, turn off the long-arm fob reader to stop charges and turn off the long-arm machine at the top right hand side of machine. End charges by pressing “0” on the keypad. You can still be charged for time with the long-arm turned off: you must also fob out.

Advancing the quilt top

  1. Set the needle down into the quilt top. The needle will not break with the force of advancing the quilt top.
  2. Unclip the side tension clips.
  3. Move to the rollers on the side of the machine.
  4. Release the lock gears on the top bar and belly roller.
  5. Unroll the front belly roller by a few inches, then take it up with the top bar. Repeat this process until you have advanced the quilt to expose a new section, using where your basting ends on the side as a guide for how far you can advance the quilt.
  6. Set the rollers’ lock gear again.
  7. Reclip the side tension clips.
  8. Baste down the sides of the newly exposed section, once again basting as close to the belly bar as you can. If you have reached the bottom of the quilt, also baste the bottom of the quilt.
  9. Follow the begin sewing steps again to restart sewing.

Unloading the quilt, leaving the area

Quilts cannot be left on the machine after your sewing time.

  1. Ensure your stitches are tied off and that the long-arm is off.
  2. Unclip the red snappers from the bottom of the quilt.
  3. Unroll the quilt from the top roller.
  4. Remove your quilt from the machine.
  5. Clean any lint from the bobbin case, the frame track, and sweep any stray threads / batting beard from underneath the machine.
  6. Remove and replace all rulers, templates, pantographs and red snappers to their storage areas.
  7. Come again soon!


  1. Mark the left and right sides of the pantograph with post-it notes or painter’s tape, coordinating with the left and right sides of your quilt top.
  2. Position your needle in the top right corner of the quilt, and put your needle down about 1⁄2-1 inch outside of the fabric. Your laser will be synchronized to the bottom left corner of the pantograph.
  3. Bring your bobbin thread to the top.
  4. Start stitching, following the pantograph design with the laser light. For best results, continue stitching just off the edge of your quilt.
  5. At the end of the row, bring your bobbin thread to the top. Cut the threads.
  6. Position the machine in the center of the quilt at a top point of the pantograph design. Put your needle down, but do not take a stitch. Unlatch the brake levers for all three bars.
  7. Roll the Take Up bar WITH the needle down, watching the laser light. Stop rolling when the laser light meets the same point in the design with the dotted lines.
  8. Relatch the brake levers. Bring your needle up.
  9. Stitch a basting line 1⁄4 inch from the side edge of the quilt top.
  10. Position the laser light at the bottom left of the pantograph design. You are ready to stitch your next pass.


This section is provided primarily as reference for the trainers. Do not attempt any of the steps described in troubleshooting without approval from a trainer

Adjusting tension

Gold key reference video on adjusting tension: “Silver > Load a quilt” > “Threading: Machine Head” > “Tension Adjustments”

Generally, you should not have to adjust the machine tension when doing standard quilting. Never touch the tension without pre-approval by a trainer, never touch the tension without rethreading the machine first.

If your top looks bad (loopy), your bobbin tension is at fault. If your back looks bad (loopy), your top tension is at fault.

The bobbin case should be adjusted by the tension screw. Adjust this screw in 5 minute (as if the screw were a clock-face) increments: tiny adjustments only.

The top tension dial should only be adjusted in half turns at a time.

To reiterate: person by person we are all using the same thread. It is more likely to be a threading issue than a tension issue so check there first.


Gold key reference video on replacing the needle: “Silver > All maintenance” > “Machine Basic” > “Install new needle”

When a needle needs replacement due to breakage or wear, a MMS trainer must install the new needle. Users are not allowed to replace needles themselves. Trainers will log the replacement and reason the old needle failed to track consumables in the area.

  • Needles can and do go in backwards. Even experienced quilters will do this because the needles have no flat side. The needles should be loaded “belly-to-belly”, meaning the bump-out on the needle should face your stomach when you're in front of the machine. Alternatively, the side of the needle with the groove faces towards you, the user.
  • For almost everything a 4.0 / size 18 needle is appropriate. This is what almost all standard users should use. For leather (or something equivalent) a bigger needle could be appropriate

If you’re hearing a “popping” sound when quilting, that could mean a dull needle: contact a trainer.

areas/longarm.txt · Last modified: 2023/03/08 03:03 by wildapricot-anderson_margaret