Do I need to hire a quilter who has a long arm to do it? Or could I do it with my own little machine?
i wouldnt try it with a little machine, get some help from a pro
Topstitching is tricky on a large piece but can be done on the right machine but you have to bunch it up and you could make a mistake. I would suggest doing your topstitching before you put large blocks together and just stick with a pattern that is confined to the large block. Amish women stretch the quilt over a frame similar to a needlepoint frame and then a bunch of them sit around together and do it by hand. I've seen it done in person.
I machine quilt with an ordinary domestic machine, but it does need a good bit of practise! You would need to lengthen the stitch quite a bit and possibly loosen the bobbin tension. Roll the quilt up into two long tubes (from each side) and fix them with 'bicycle clips' to stop them unrolling and just sew along a small flat bit inbetween the two tubes (it's a bit hard to explain). I have to say that if it is your first quilt it may be good practise to hand quilt it as has been done for hundreds of years. But I think longarm quilting rates start at fairly reasonable rates (quilting magazines usually have small ads). Whatever you do, good luck.
You will need a "walking foot" for your machine. The walking foot has feed dogs on the bottom of the foot so that your quilt will feed evenly between the foot and the feed dogs on the machine. This keeps your backing from puckering and bunching up. You could also try "free motion" quilting with a darning foot. The feed dogs are put down on the machine and you move the quilt to obtain the desired design.
There are many books and magazines that describe both processes as well as classes at your local quilt shop. I would try both on a small sample "sandwich" before investing your time and energy on a larger quilt.
I am a professional long-arm quilter. You do not need to have a professional quilt your quilt, however there are some advantages. You will not need to baste your quilt. You simple bring all three layers (top, batting and backing) to your quilter and they return it ready to bind. Be sure to find out what your quilter requires as far as proper preparation of your quilt top and back and what batting s/he prefers to use. Many of us sell batting for your convenience.
Hiring a professional is not cheap. Be prepared to pay $0.015 to $0.02 per square inch for simple all over quilting. Please keep in mind - this is our livelihood. We have spent a lot of money for our machine, training, and supplies! Contact your local quilt shop to find a quality quilter.
Hope this helps!
The only thing I would add to the answers here is, if you are going to make a go with your regular machine, I would practice on paper first. Or practice quilting straight lines first and work up to more complicated patterns.
If you are going to practice on paper, get some Kraft paper so you have a lot of room to draw...take a fat pen and hold it in your fist. Then start drawing your pattern but, here is the trick...do keep your wrist stiff and draw the pattern using your entire arm, so big arm movements, I mean from the shoulder...the reason for this is...quilting on a smaller machine with bicycle clips does require some muscle, your arms will get sore. Also if you practice your pattern in this manner then your big muscles that you will be using with your machine can develop some muscle memory and it will be easier to execute your pattern because your arms will know what to do.
You can handstitch with a quilting frame or machine stitch with a quilting hoop.
by hand, you put the quilt on a frame with rollers, as you complete a section of the quilt, you roll the quilt on the frame, and it moves up to a new spot.
with No quilt frame, you get the largest embroidery hoop you can find, hoop the quilt, stitch, then move the hoop, until you have stitched the whole quilt.
with a machine, you can do quite a bit by folding the quilt. put the feed dogs down on your machine, this will allow you to sew in every direction to create a pattern.