|...And Away We Go!|
It's no fun at all, as you can see...
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 http://smallquiltsanddollquilts.blogspot.com
· Main Crush Monday at Cooking Up Quilts http://www.cookingupquilts.com/
· Monday Making at Love Laugh Quilt http://lovelaughquilt.blogspot.com/