Saturday, January 14, 2017

Long Arm Class

At the long-arm store in December
I don't know if I mentioned it, but I went to a Christmas open house at a long-arm quilting machine shop in December. I felt I was getting close enough to needing to rent a long-arm machine to finish some quilts that I should research the possibilities.

There was a local quilt shop that offered this service the last time I checked, but I couldn't figure out which shop it was. I am assuming they no longer offer the service. While doing my online research, I discovered a shop that had opened recently. They have a store in Tennessee and this is their second location. And they were having an open house the following week.

Even though it was a bit of a drive, I decided I should go check them out. I found the store, took a look around, talked to a couple people and then asked about classes. (You have to take a class before you can rent time on a machine.) They didn't have any class times scheduled so they asked when I was available. Well, wow. So we set it up for this past Friday. There ended up being three of us in the class which was about right.

It's a three hour class and they teach you how to load your quilt parts onto the machine. (The top, back and batting are all loaded separately. They don't come together until you start quilting.) You use the machine to baste the parts together around the edges and then you sew so you can see how the machine feels.

These machines all have stitch regulators which means when you tell it you want 11 stitches per inch, that's what it does whether you move the machine fast or slow. The faster you move it, the faster the needle goes (up to 3,200 stitches per minute). If you move slowly, it will make stitches less often but all your stitches will be the same size. Really nice.

Here I am pulling up the bobbin thread before I start stitching so that it won't get knotted on the back:
Then, make sure your settings are right on the touchscreen:
Hit the button on the right handle and start to sew!
This is what I started with:
That's a bobbin sitting on the quilt surface. I had a couple
minutes to take a picture while waiting for them to fix
the machine.
Top left, a square spiral where I stitched to the center and then back out. Beside it I tried a round spiral. It looks a little squarish. I noticed the machine prefers to stitch straight side to side and straight forward and back so it's hard to get a nice curve. I tried a few more spirals and then my name which is what they recommend to get used to curves. (Everyone has very deep muscle memory of writing their name!) Then my thread broke.

I had a lot of trouble with the machine--actually two of them. You can see in the picture below that there were actually two machines set up on my table:
So when the one wasn't working right, they got me going on the other one! But then it started to have thread issues as well. I didn't lose too much time and I really got a lot of practice threading the machine and getting the stitching started! (Apparently the staff had been learning to make different adjustments on the machines earlier and not everything got set back how it should be.)

Once we had some time working on the machines from the front where we were looking at the quilt top, we moved to the back and worked with pantographs.
There's some table space at the back of the machine where you can lay out a long printed design and follow it with a laser light. As you look at the light and design and move the machine, it is stitching the pattern on the quilt while you're not looking!

By the end of the class, I had this sample of quilting (about the size of a crib quilt):
Here is a closer shot of the pantograph I did:
Can you see the horizontal rows of alternating roses and leaves?
I think the curves on my roses are still a little square but I could sense improvement even in this little bit of practice.

When I was done two passes of the pantograph design, I had 10 minutes left in class and a few more inches of the quilt so I tried some flame patterns (yuck) and some medium stipling (pretty good). I didn't like the smaller stiple stitch as much,
and then I decided to fill the last corner with a free hand elephant (can you see it?)
and some echo quilting around it (not great).

It was a really good experience! Now I have two free hours of rental time (included with the class fee) and I am trying to finish a quilt top as soon as possible to get back!!

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