So Monday (almost two weeks ago now), I decided with two weeks before I went on vacation, I could afford the time to take a day off (and use up some of my comp hours that are burning a hole in my pocket). I called the quilt shop to see if any days were better than others to rent time or if some days were definitely out before I proposed a particular day to take off to my boss. I was very concerned that I may not get the whole thing done in one day, so I also asked what day could I get the maximum time in.
It turned out that Friday was out because they had a class, but some of them usually worked late one day and, even though the shop wasn't official open, I could continue quilting while they were there. That day turned out to be Tuesday. As in "tomorrow" when I was talking to them.
So long story short, I politely let my boss know that there was an opportunity at the quilt store I had to take advantage of the next day and I would be out. He took it gracefully. (He knows as well as I do how many hours he owes me, so what can he say?)
Tuesday dawns. I pack up the quilt top and backing into a suitcase and head to the store. I get there around 9:30. They gave me a lot of help setting up the quilt on the machine, basically walking me through all the steps again. I chose wool batting. (They sell it there--how convenient! Even better is that they pass on the wholesale price.)
The highest bar, in the back, is called the take up roller because it takes up the quilt after you are done quilting each section. The arm of the sewing machine runs over this one.
The lowest bar, at the front of the frame, is the quilt top roller. As you can see, it holds the part of the quilt top that you haven't quilted yet. You can use it to keep the right tension on the quilt top, although apparently some people quilt with the top not in tension at all. In that case, you can let it hang down, or roll it up to keep it out of the way, but not pull it tight.
Just above the quilt top roller is the payout roller. (The one with the red stick on it.) It's also called the belly bar because that's the one your belly is always hitting as you lean over. :) This is the roller that holds the section of quilt backing that hasn't been quilted yet. It also maintains the tension of that layer.
And in between these two layers lies the batting. It isn't held in tension at all and you can see that it is just hanging down. When you're just starting, there's a lot more batting which piles up on the floor and gets in the way. If you look closely, you can see some purple fabric hanging behind it. They call it a hammock and it is tied to both sides of the frame. You stuff the batting in there to keep it out of the way until you need it. Low tech, but effective.
Once we had it on the frame, we chose a thread colour. I knew I wanted red (what else?) but didn't want a bright take-control red. We ended up going with a dusty rose colour and it worked really well. It was not one of the colours that I could just buy what I needed (they charge by the size of the quilt--they don't actually measure what you use) so I ended up buying a whole cone. So now I have a lot of dusty rose thread to use.
I love how much texture is added as soon as you do some quilting. I think you can see how the closer squares in this picture are flat, but the ones further back look like little hills.
After the first couple times you've filled the area with quilting and rolled the quilt on the take up bar, you can see the design on the back of the quilt. This is from the front of the frame:
Then, 10 hours after I arrived, I had a quilt completely quilted:
I thought ahead enough to pack a lunch and snacks. I knew they had water in a fridge there that I could purchase. I tried to take a break every two hours but honestly spent most of the time quilting. I was very determined to get it done. (I did do some yoga cat/cow in the bathroom at some point. That helped my back a lot!)
For most of the day, it was very uncertain that I would get it done, but after about half way things started clicking. I had many fewer thread breakages and just had to deal with the bobbin running out. (I went through 7 or 8 bobbins in the project.) I also got into a groove with the quilting and got faster. I think the first half took me until about 4:30 and I did the second half in the next three hours. (My best guess.)
As for the quilting, I certainly wouldn't be happy if someone charged me and I ended up with these results, but since I did it myself and it's my first one, I was certainly happy enough. Right from the beginning, it was obvious that the quilting wouldn't be "perfect". And apparently it didn't bother me because I caught myself almost laughing every time I did a wild curve or really missed the mark. (Like "ha ha...that was a good one!") And when you step back, you still get the idea of the pattern.
I'm looking forward to getting some of my other tops ready to quilt. I think they'll need a little more custom quilting than this one did and I'm going to make sure I have two days in a row available so I won't have to drive myself quite so hard!
As for this quilt, I need to find a place where I can trim the edges (it's a little overwhelming how big this thing really is) and then can apply the binding. I've got some crazy plans for that too...something I've never seen done before. (Oooh...the suspense!)
Bonus footage: Here is a short video of their bobbin winder, a truly slick little machine.