I had an opportunity recently to quilt on a long arm quilting machine. For the uninitiated, a long arm quilting machine is an oversized sewing machine of sorts that is made for the express purpose of quilting quilts. It takes a process that can easily takes months by hand, or even several days on a regular sewing machine, and reduces the time to perhaps even as little as one hour. It has REVOLUTIONIZED quilting!
Frequently, you will find an individual or a business (such as a local quilt shop) which offers long arm quilting services. You take or send your finished quilt top to the person, along with your backing fabric, and after a period of time, your finished quilt is returned to you. The exact details differ from service to service, and according to what you would like to have done, but generally, you will then finish and bind the edges yourself.
This method has a couple of drawbacks. First of all, it is not inexpensive. If you have already invested quite a bit of resources in the fabric, thread, batting, pattern, tools, etc., then it is not easy to give a long arm quilter another large sum of money. It could cost as much to have the quilt quilted as it did to purchase all of the materials. Or perhaps more. The second drawback is that it takes a long time. My LQS has a wait time of four months! Most have a six-week turnaround time. Another drawback, if it could be called such, is that part of your quilt will not be completed by you.
Another option, although it is much harder to find, is that of renting time on a long arm quilting machine. All rental services are different, of course, but generally speaking, you are introduced to the machine, and then you use it to quilt your quilts for a designated period of time. The only drawback in my opinion is that you are not an expert, so you quilts may not turn out perfectly. But the advantages far outweigh this, in my opinion. For a two-hour rental, I completed two quilt tops, and it cost me less than it would have to send one quilt top to a long arm quilter to have it done for me. And I completed it in less than three weeks!
Personally, I am quite pleased; I will be doing this again.