Monday, May 29, 2017

First Practice Quilt Loaded Onto the Frame (Finally!)

I've had this beautiful APQS Millenium longarm quilting machine on a 12' frame in my studio since April 18th, just sitting there forlornly while I focused my attention on reorganizing my studio, working on my interior design clients' projects, and taking care of my husband following his heart surgery.  My husband was starting to express concerns about whether I was EVER going to turn on the new machine, but you can't do any test sewing on a longarm machine until you get something loaded onto the frame!  I FINALLY got a practice quilt loaded onto my frame yesterday, plugged in the longarm machine for the first time since I got it home over a month ago, and did some doodle quilting!  Woo hoo!!

...And Away We Go!
It's no fun at all, as you can see...

Vroom!  Vroom!
Here is my plan: I bought a King sized package of 80/20 cotton/poly quilt batting from JoAnn's that measures 120" x 120".  I pieced together a 116" x 116" practice quilt top from 3.25 yard lengths of three different fabrics -- a cheerful yellow, hot pink, and a blue-green batik.  Just because I'm practicing doesn't mean I need to be looking at drab, boring fabric.  The backing is plain muslin.  I loaded up this enormous practice quilt on my longarm frame and I am going to spend at least 30 minutes every day until the whole thing is covered in quilt scribbles.  Once that's done, I'm going to put a REAL quilt on the machine, ready or not.

Even with everything else demanding my attention over the past few weeks, I would have loaded something on the machine and started playing sooner, but I was confused about the loading process because I've never actually seen anyone do it before.  When you take a workshop or demo a machine at a quilt show, they already have the quilt loaded on the frame when you get there.  The photos in the APQS manual are small and low resolution so it's difficult to see exactly what you're supposed to be doing and how things are oriented.  I ended up watching a few APQS videos on YouTube as well as reading through the partial float quilt loading instructions in my manual, but there are so many different methods out there...  Zipper systems, grippers with dowels sewn into the leaders... 

My APQS dealer suggested that I start out loading quilts with pins, but even in the vastness of the Internet and YouTube it was difficult to find a tutorial with clear visuals for this "old school" method.   Not sure if I did it correctly, and I still have questions about how tightly I'm supposed to be wrapping the fabric around the rollers, etc., but at least now I have something on the frame so I can start playing, one month and ten days after the beast first arrived in my home!  I still have my full day of training with my APQS dealer that I'll schedule once school is out, so I'm starting a list of questions to bring with me to training.  Meanwhile, it's play time!

Pinning On the Backing with Flower Head Pins
Pinning the quilt onto the rollers took a LONG time, by the way, so I can see why quilters enjoy the zippered leaders and Red Snappers that expedite the process.  In the photo above you can see how I pinned my plain muslin backing to the Backing Roller with flower head pins, and in the photo below, I'm pinning my practice quilt top to the Quilt Top Roller the same way.  

Pinning the Quilt Top to the Canvas Leader
I did the "partial float" method this time, so only the backing was pinned to the Pickup Roller at the back of the frame.  The top edge of the quilt top was basted in place through the batting and backing just below the bottom edge of the canvas leader.

My First Quilted Scribbles!
OH HOW FUN!!!!!  I started out with a white Glide thread on my yellow fabric, and although that's what I'd like if this was a real quilt, it wasn't showing up very well in my pictures.  So I switched to a cotton variegated machine quilting thread, but that was ugly and wanted tension adjustments that I didn't feel like bothering with for ugly thread, so I switched back to Glide thread in a spring green shade.  

Glide Longarm Quilting Thread
My Millie machine isn't brand-new; she's a dealer demo, and those little batting scraps that you see in the photo above were already tucked into that first thread guide when we unpacked the machine.  I'm sure that's adding some drag to the thread, but I'm getting pretty nice stitches right now so I'll leave the batting where it is and ask about it when I get up to Hendersonville for my training.

Lousy Swirls, But Half Decent Stipple Meandering
A longarm machine has two sets of wheels for horizontal and vertical motion and both sets of wheels are involved for movement on the diagonal.  The first thing I notice going from free-motion quilting on a domestic sewing machine to the longarm is that straight lines, especially horizontal or vertical straight lines, are much easier to achieve on the longarm machine, but rounded shapes want to come out kind of square.  You can see that in the swirls I attempted in the photo above.  And that's what I need to learn on this practice piece, how to anticipate and compensate for that slight difference in how the machine moves on its X and Y axes versus how it moves on the diagonal, so that my stitches land exactly where I want them, just like I was drawing with a pen on a piece of paper.  So I abandoned the swirls for now and spent some time doing stippling or meandering or whatever you want to call it, focusing on creating smooth curves.

And then, of course, I was so excited that I needed to show someone else how much fun it was to play with the longarm machine, so I called my sixteen-year-old son Lars into my studio and let him give it a go:

My Teenager, Quilting His Name
Well, this is a long enough post for today.  I'm ready for another cup of coffee, a late breakfast, the gym, and then some more time up in the studio.  Happy Memorial Day Weekend, everyone!  I'm linking up with:

·       Design Wall Monday at Small Quilts and Doll Quilts  
·       Main Crush Monday at Cooking Up Quilts
·       Monday Making at Love Laugh Quilt

Tuesday, May 23, 2017

I'm Sew In Love With Craig's List!! Check Out My New Serger/Featherweight Desk!

Craig's List Score!
I'm not just excited, folks -- I'm GIDDY.  But let me back up: Unless you're brand-new to my little corner of the Internet, you know that an APQS Millenium longarm quilting machine on a 12' frame followed me home last month, and I've been working on purging and reorganizing my studio not just to make room for the longarm machine but to create a new setup that works for me both visually and functionally.  I need to maximize space without piling up so much furniture that I feel like I'm working in a storage closet.

In addition to my new longarm machine, I've got 'Nina the Diva (the Bernina 750QEE that is my main machine for sewing, piecing, and machine embroidery; predecessor to the current B 770QEE), a Bernina 1300MDC serger named Sergei, and a Juki MCS1500 coverstitch machine named... Juki.  The coverstitch machine is just for garment sewing, but I use my serger for garments, home dec sewing, finishing the edges of applique blocks so they don't fray while I'm stitching them, and serging the edges of my Minky backed baby quilts to make it easier to attach satin binding (and to help the quilt survive the inevitable satin binding replacement once the baby becomes a toddler who drags the quilt everywhere he or she goes).  I've also got two vintage Singer Featherweight 221 sewing machines, the 1951 machine named Judy that Anders uses occasionally as well as the 1935 machine named Bette that I like to use for really fiddly piecing, like the tight curves on my Rose Dream sampler block, or for Y-seams, partial seams, and things like that.  If I'm going to do any patchwork sewing away from home, I'll grab one of the Featherweights because they are so much lighter and easier to schlepp around than the Big 'Nina.

My Studio Back in February.  Green Chair was my Secondary Workstation.
So I don't need to have ALL of my machines out at once, but most of my projects do involve switching back and forth between two machines.  The problem is that the ugly but serviceable desk I was previously using for my "secondary machines" (see above photo) had to move to make room for the longarm frame, and it really didn't fit anywhere else in my studio.  I've only got 51" of wall space to the right of the window where I want to be able to use these machines (one at a time, not all at once), and the yucky desk that probably came from Staples was 60" long with zero storage. 

Old Desk Moved to Wall, Blocking Window, NOT Working!
Yet my "handy" husband, who built my red sewing cabinet for 'Nina and my giant cutting table, is recovering from a recent heart surgery and will not be doing heavy carpentry for awhile, so I knew that no custom Featherweight/Serger cabinet was going to materialize in our garage any time soon. 

I looked at Ikea first, because I know a lot of crafty folk have found great options for sewing rooms and craft spaces at reasonable prices by way of "Ikea hacks."  But I just didn't LOVE anything I found there that was the right size, primarily because their desks looked so flimsy and sewing machines working at high speed create a lot of vibration.  I don't want to put them on a dainty little desk that turns into a trampoline when I switch the machine on and sends my sewbabies bouncing off the desk and onto the floor!

Briefly Considered IKEA Alex Desk
I though of looking at the Habitat Restore and Goodwill for a used desk in the right size with a drawer or two, but I drive a little convertible now (VROOM!) and Bernie's car is a sedan -- even if I found something, I'd have to rent a truck to get it home.  Big hunt, big hassle, and no instant gratification.

Same deal with Craig's list, right?  Except not this time!  Something compelled me to check Craig's list anyway, and the second listing that came up was this lovely solid wood desk that the seller described as "early 19th century." 

Bette the Featherweight is On the New Desk, Sergei the Serger is on the Cutting Table...
It looks more early 20th century to me, but I could really care less what year it was made.  It fits perfectly against the wall where my ironing board used to live, and I can keep all my Featherweight accessories, serger accessories, and all kinds of other goodies in those fabulous DRAWERS!  I didn't even bother to go look at the desk in person.  I could tell from the photo that it was heavy, sturdy, and that any rough edges that might have snagged a delicate fabric have long since been worn smooth by the passage of time.  Best of all, the nice man selling it offered to DELIVER it to me tomorrow for an extra $25! 

...And Judy the Featherweight and Juki the Coverstitch Machine are Over Here
The drawers are the best part:
Paper Pantograph Patterns for Longarm Machine Go in This Drawer

Accessories for Serger and Coverstitch Machines Go in this Drawer

Featherweight Accessories Go in This Drawer

Temporary Fabric Markers, Tailor's Chalk, etc. in This Drawer

Accuquilt GO! Baby Cutter and Dies Go in This Drawer
Reworking my studio for the longarm machine was a much bigger project than I originally realized, but I'm so glad now that it's done.  My new setup makes much more efficient use of space, with tools and supplies stored neatly out of sight near the locations where they are used most often.  The smaller desk and elimination of clutter has actually made my creative workspace feel larger and more spacious than it did before the longarm machine arrived!

So now, FINALLY, I'm ready for some sewing again.  I'm all caught up on my clients' interior design projects and business paperwork and the laundry is done, so I'm headed up to the studio for at least a couple of hours today.  My goals for today are:
  • Piece together a King sized practice quilt and load it onto the longarm frame
  • Add borders to Butterfly Bear Paw quilt and set aside
  • Start a new pineapple log cabin block
  • Pin the last two petals on my hand applique project

Happy Tuesday, everyone!
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