In the past 30 days, this old dog has learned new tricks. A plethora of info pumped in from my longarm dealer, pinterest, and the old addage, if at first you don’t succeed, try, try again!”
Pieced backings on a dsm, are no big deal. On the longarm it is. The direction of the seams can create slack or too much tension near the seam. If piecing a backing, I will keep it to a minimum as you also have to run the seam parralell to your roller bars. If I ever start doing this for other people, if they have pieced the dickens out of a backing I will turn them away. Perhaps in time I will change my mind.
The tension dragon…..most new longarmers have this issue. What you are not told, every thread is different. So if you have the same brand threads, not all will have the tension screw the same. I have learned for each thread brand, it is a good idea to have a bobbin case specifically set for that brand. That way tension is just a minor adjustment. Bobbins may also vary as well. I now have a bobbin that is my favorite and am going to try to keep it empty for use on all future quilts. Some bobbins are made defective. The center hoke can be too large and so after filling halfway, it will just spin on the spindle.
The mechanics why longarm machine work better than a dsm? The placement of the bobbin. If you dsm has drop in bobbins and not a hook/race/babbin case, you will probably have tension issues. Longarms are designed like the old mechanical singers with every thing to the side. A featherweight would be great inlarged to a longarm. PS, you can quilt on a featherweight with no walking foot. Your throat space is the only real issue. The placement of hook/raceand bobbin case to the side are best, and all longarms have this setup.
Towa gauge is useless unless you use it as a refernce in your own machine. I have used much of my mother goose thread. This thread I have had good success. I know when installing this thread on/in the machine it is usually a small adjustment on the top tension. I am going to start making a notebook of thread brand/color and tension setting. In other words, once I figure out tension on the quilt, I would then place the bobbin in the towa gauge and record the number in my notebook. Without a speedometer, you are running in the blind. Gauge your stitches.
Batting, for years I have used 100% cotton. This worked well in my dsm. On my longarm it presents a problem of possible stretch. To keep my batting from pooling on the floor i used clothes pins to tack it like an accordion. This keeps the batting from picking up threads, as well as me stepping on it. In leaving it clothespinned overnight, the batting stretched. Stretched batting is impossible to quilt without problems, of the puckering kind. So pooling batting until I use the cotton stuff up.
My local longarmer always had polyester batting. Polyester batting will act as a brillo pad rubbing the cotton and over time, will wear through. This always peeved me and you could not bring in your own. She never charged for batting, which was a missed opportunity for her and more money. I don’t think she was good at math so she left it easy for herself. Also, by running the same batting on the machine, she would not have to worry about setting different tension, so in that regard she was smart. So a combination of poly/cotton is the way to go and in the future will provide the batting as a surcharge.
The direction of the batting is important. The needle felted side should go up. In looking at the batting you will be able to tell the felted side, it usually is flat with a pattern of bumps. In using bambo, if you place it wrong side up, you run the risk of pushing the batting through the backing with a dull needle (this did not happen to me, but was able to troubleshoot this for someone else).
In rolling the backing of the quilt on the roller, as you are rolling, you can start with an extremely wrinkled piece of cloth. If you spray mist as you roll, it acts as an iron as it dries. You can use straight water i your mister, pr you can run a water vodka mix. The good thing about vodka, it evaporates quicker, and if you get to frustrated you can mist some right in the mouth to take the edge of quilting off HA! Ensure that the backing has square/true edges. If not square them up then install them on your leaders.
Spray mist can also be done for the quilt front provided you are not floating the quilt. I floated all my jelly roll race quilts, and then tried a pieced quilt rolled up on the roller (to keep it off the floor as it was black and would have picked up cement dust from the floor). I will probably start rolling all my quilts. Doing this also gives a good indication of if the quilt is square. If the top is not square, this assists is keeping it true vs sweeping to the left or right.
My upper rails make coonection for my encoders, so just swiffering my rails is not good enought I have to actually wipe them down for good electrical connection.
Oiling the bobbin area…..you cannot over oil. Jamie Walen has a very good video on youtube showing how to oil lots, and how to remove excess oil.
My machine being in a garage, has to be warmed up. So while winding my bobbins and loading the quilt top, the heater is turned on full blast right under the machine. The bobbins and bobbin case are kept in my pocket. In keeping this part warm, it actually assists in even tension. Running the machine, allows the metals in the machine to warm up and expand. Less wear on the machine if all is warm.
Stable electricity. I purchased an uninteruptable power supply that keeps voltage constant. So if there is a surge, the hit is taken by the $50 device. If the electricity drops, this device also equalizes the electricity to keep less wear off your motor. Dirty electricity can cause this device to buck, which defeats the purpose. So the cleaner the electricity the better. I would also recomment having a special breaker just for your machine. This will cost, but again piece of mind.
Traveling while quilting. This is something that will take lots of practice. First you will have to figure out a continuous line for you quilt, also known as Free Motion Quilting. As I quilted my between king and queen sized top, I would forget segements and have to back and reclip threads start in a new area which is not smart. The saying is work smarter not harder. Don’t be too hard on yourself as this just takes practice. Here is my example of continuous. My account does not allow video, so here is time lapse drawing of my continuous line. I hope this helps you. Notice my drawn lines are not perfect. Neither is my quilting LOL. Finished is better than perfect!
Free motion quilting will take practice. Building your skill set is important. Learning feathers/flowers is great practice. It will show you where you are swinging to wide to fast. Slow down, and ease the grip on the handle. Let the weight of the machine do most of the work. Do not get frustrated if it is mot perfect. Most of the pictures you have studied/seen on pinterest are professionals who have been doing this for years and have mastery. Those years for you will come if you stay at it. If it would help to get the memory of movement by doing pantographs, do some stipple quilting, or loop de loops with that method. You will learn from that and be able to apply those same movements on the opposite side of the machine.
What pattern to quilt. Be inspired by texture. You are surrounded by it. It is free.
If purchasing a longarm, have some tops lined up that have very little time, money, or effort in. That way you can practice and if it is not perfect, you are already aware it was not meant to be a masterpiece. When learning to drive a car, your parents did not go out and purchase a brand new cadillac for you to learn on, that would/could have been an expensive mistake. Start out cheap, just two pieces of ugly fabric or a cheapo purchase. And then…..practice….practice….practice.
In quilting my jewel box flambe I got lots of practice that I can carry with me to the next quilt, or a quilt years from now.
I think starting out free motion quilting on your current machine is a great idea. You will learn many things before graduating to the price of a longarm. Do some math. For instance, the jewel box flambe was 90 by 110. I loaded these dimensions into MSQC and it gave me a price of $300.00. If you have 10 quilts this size, that is $3,000. Which can be put towards the cost of the machine. Next, if you quilt for the public, this is good money towards an asset you will have for years. Once paid off, it becomes 100% proffit. To avoid sales tax, write it up as a labor charge.
I know I have forgotten stuff. Your longarm journey will be fun! It is NOT for everyone. Think of learning a new band instument in school. Each week you would learn a new rhythm or chord. After a few baby steps, you can play a few lines. In a year, you can play with the rest of the orchestra. Sounding pretty good, but only because of practice.
I have failed to do any sewing for the Good Fortune Mystery quilt. The clue has left me scratching my head, so when in doubt….wait. I am itching to sew, but do not want to start another project. I am excited as tomorrow may be the reveal and then it will be mega sewing as I have sewn a fraction each week. Have you checked out the others in the linked up mystery quilt of Good Fortune? If you haven’t you should, pretty neat details, all in the fabrics.
Thanks for reading my blog!