The things we learn as we go eh? What scenario plays out at my house is going to be completely different than what goes on anywhere else. This post is a secondary post to help new longarm quilters with issues they may have.
In my last post I covered quilt scootch and keeping the top true. Today I will discuss some more tidbits that helped me tremendously.
The above quilt was on my longarm about a year ago. I took several videos of how a quilted this beast and uploaded those to youtube. One thing led to another, and this photo is probably my first photo missing one of my belly bars.
Last year for my birthday, my mom and dad purchased red snappers for my leaders. A huge amount of time can be just pining quilt tops and backs to the three bars. The two bars in the picture above both have red snappers installed. It takes me about half as much time to load a quilt. A red snapper is a plastic channel that feeds through the leader cloth which is attached to the bars. Then there are grove pieces that you just push on over the fabrics when loading the backing. The way my frame is different from many of yours, my belly bar that the quilt top is supposed to roll up on would be laying just above the half square triangle edge in the photo. I learned that if I had the red snappers installed on one of the bars, I could not install it on the second belly bar. The bars would come into a bind when progressing the quilt. They would touch. So I stopped attaching my quilt tops to that bar and just floated them from that point on.
A quick note to help trueness when loading a quilt, do it using the burrito method. This works and keeps stuff off the garage floor where I quilt
This got me to thinking, at the time I watched oodles of videos by Natalia Bonner and noticed even though she had a different frame/machine, she did not have this secondary belly bar in view. And then when I started making a few quilting videos, that bar was really in the way of the camera if I had the camera on the tripod making a movie. So I just TOOK THE BAR OFF. I later called the dealer and asked if I took the bar off, if it would hurt anything in my set up. She informed me, she (has the same frame and machine as I have) took her bar off years ago and was glad she did. (I do now question why some machines have this bar below the belly bar. I would find this impossible to get to your bobbin area to change your bobbin??)
That extra bar that I could not use was in the way for the camera. It was in the way for loading the batting. It was in the way for ruler work. So that bar now resides on the floor below the machine. Problem solved. I have never regretted this new and improved set up for me. There are those who would never float a top. I on the other hand found this a shortcut for time. For those of you who earn a living with your machine, this was a huge time saver for me.
Two more things that can help your top stay taught especially when you get to the point there is very little gravity holding the quilt taught when you float.
Here is another quilt quilted before I removed the front belly bar. If you do use the bar and do not float or even if you do float, there are two tools that can help you keep things from getting wonky or to keep stability and trueness when quilting.
One you can purchase the snap on devices that help cinch the quilt top a little tighter.
I have a set of these, and my poles are too big for either size. Downer, these were also a birthday present and I am sick that I cannot use them. If anyone is interested, I can get the info for you if you would like to buy them at a discount.
Anyway, these would certainly help out any of us who longarm quilt. Great invention! But I cannot use it, so to improvise…..go to the hardware store and find long tool magnets. And just install them at points on your belly bar and cinch them to make the job a little tighter. These are relatively inexpensive if you purchase them from the right place. You can buy them from quilt shops and pay an inflated price. Or you can go to the hardware store and get these magnetic tool bars which work great for about 6 dollars.
You can get these from home depot or Harbor Freight. And they work great on the longarm and are very budget friendly from these stores.
And then there is the tip about tension. I cannot tell you about tension on your machine. I know I struggled with this for many months even with the Towa tension gauge.
The way tension works, it is either too loose or too tight.
When your stitches are too loopy on the bottom, it means you need to tighten the top tension. If you basically have lines with the bottom stitches coming to the top that means it is too tight on the top, so loosen on the top.
After playing around with my own stuff and doodling out off to the side of my quilt always checking tension, I figured out it was cheapo batting. That was a downer. When I figured this out, I had two and half rolls of 20 yards each. What was my solution to save time and quit fiddling with my tension so much? I doubled my batting. Yup, that is right. I think this is something the famous quilters like Natalia Bonner and Judy Madsen do not tell you. This gives great texture and it really pops.
For any of you who have played and doodled your quilts to death, it really flattens out standard cotton batting. And this creates a very flat quilt. Doubling your batting is twice as expensive, do what is right for you. This is a time saver for me, and at the price I paid for the cotton Toasty batting, I can afford this. Most of my tension is just a smidge out between bobbins. No ripping of quilting, very little adjustment, win win!
Here is a picture of my first quilt with double batting, wowsa!
This leads me to discuss bobbins. I was buying bobbins from my dealer at $30 for ten, and then I came across the brand Cutex. I could buy a box of 100 for that price. So I tried it out, and by golly they worked. Do not feel compelled to throw money at your hobby for fear of a bobbin not fitting. For longarm quilting machines, most are either L bobbins, or M bobbins. This is a standard. If your dealer says your machine is an L bobbin, you can venture out and try bobbins they may look different than yours but are still L size for a better bargain.
Here is a link for all different prices of M bobbins on Amazon. Way cheaper than the $30 for ten.
If there is something you would like to see as a tutorial on the longarm, just leave a comment and I will do my best to help out this lovely community!
Onto the project side of things. I have my Millefiori quilt book out. I am waiting for the paper pieces to be in the mailbox.
I have some fabrics on the drying rack pressed and ready to be a rosette. I have an old wooden clothes dryer that I picked up from the thrift store. This is a great place to starch and press the fabrics before I can get to them. I have used this method for about 4 years. There are a few occasions that this was a mess more than a help. But those instances will probably not repeat themselves and probably not worth mentioning.
I am looking forward to learning this process called La Passacaglia. You pronounce this will the G being silent. La Passacaglia is defined as “an instrumental musical composition consisting of variations usually on a ground bass in moderately slow triple time“
Or…”an old dance performed to a passacaglia“
So this new project that will be starting soon is all about the dance of fabrics and the melody in the cogs. That is my definition. I am looking forward to the play and direction of fabric and where it will take me while making these rosettes pictured on the book’s cover.
The migraine is almost gone, that one was a doozy. I will enjoy each day for what it is worth, and hope you enjoyed my post. Thank you for reading my blog!