Category Archives: Longarms

Indepedence Day Wall Hanging

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Veronica QuiltMy son’s girlfriend loves history. I wanted to make her something that was history-related and could be used to decorate her classroom when she becomes a teacher.

I had a collection of Americana fabric, including a panel which duplicated the Declaration of Independence.

I know that this project does not look like it took a lot of design, but it took me a week or so to figure it out.I wanted to do something fancier, such as incorporate pieces of the Declaration into blocks, but that felt a bit unpatriotic. I had a lot of Americana fabric that I wanted to use, but it made everything too busy.

It ended up that I just used the panel, made a border out of red fabric, and added the upper and lower borders from another panel. The eagle is fused.

I decided to do very simple quilting that didn’t detract from the panel. So I used my star-shaped templates and quilted it on my longarm in a neutral colored thread.

If the design was a problem, the quilting was worse. It should have been denser and the stars ended up being too messy looking.

The “highlight” was sewing a stitch through my fingertip with my longarm. My finger has a couple of puncture wounds, but I’m okay.

This is one of those project that was made with love, but didn’t turn out nearly as well as I hoped. At this point, I’m not sure if I’ll even give it to her.

 

 

The quilt that nobody loved

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Mom1

The scrap quilt project … rejected by me and sewn by my mother.

This is a sad story with a happy ending.

It began at a quilt retreat about 3 years ago. The project was to create a mystery quilt, which turned out to be a scrap quilt. Instead of getting a kit of brand new fabrics, the quilt shop staff had been asked to donate their scraps. Many of these scraps, we all recognized, were from discount shops and not good quality fabric. Since I’m too much of a control freak to enjoy mystery quilts, I hadn’t planned to do the project anyway. So this sad bag of scraps and instructions found its way where most castoff’s do … to my mother’s house.

Now my mom is a great quilter and she did a wonderful job making the top. But I felt guilty asking her to quilt it, so it made the trek (once again) from Canada to the United States, where it waited for 18 months for me to put it on the longarm machine. I was dreading doing the quilting. I’m a pretty funky quilter and my mom is a traditionalist — plus I really hated the quilt — so I had no idea what to do. Finally I settled on a pretty pantograph of maple leafs, which I thought would add some texture to the design.

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Here’s my husband’s first attempt at un-quilting, as he helped me with a 20-hour rip-out project. Thanks, honey!

I was too embarrassed to take pictures of the pantographs. Let’s just say they were a big mistake. I hadn’t used a pantograph for a couple of years and my lines were atrocious. By the time I was one-third of the way through the quilt, I’d determined that I wasn’t getting any better. With my husband’s help, we spent 20 hours ripping out those darn stitches.

The quilt is now finished and it looks fine. I even sort of like it. I used a star template for the larger white blocks and did a freehand loopy design over the rest of the squares. Hopefully someone will love this quilt, because it’s certainly had a tough beginning!

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Here’s the background. Isn’t it perfect for hiding errors? However, trying to pick out black threads on this background was almost impossible. I guess that’s why you’re supposed to do things right the first time!

My book is on Amazon!

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ICOVER‘ve been neglecting my blog recently (sorry, ladies!). However, t have a good reason. And I’m announcing it here first — I’VE WRITTEN A BOOK!  Not surprisingly, it’s about my favorite subject — quilting!

The idea for the book began in 2010, just after I’d purchased my longarm. I attended a machine quilting show and was talking to a longarm repair person. This gentleman mentioned that many women regretted buying their longarm machines. I was shocked. It never dawned on me that someone would spend $15,000 on a longarm machine and not use it, since it seemed like everyone in the quilting world dreamed of owning one. I decided to write a guide that would help women understand the reality of owning a longarm machine, and allow them to make an informed decision.

The book is called: “Longing for a Longarm: Should You Buy a Longarm Quilting Machine?” It is available on Amazon.com for $4.99. Below is the description from Amazon.

If you’re a quilter, you’ve probably considered buying a longarm quilting machine – either for business or pleasure. At the very least, you’ve wondered what it would be like to own such a cool machine. Would it be a great decision or an expensive mistake?

This book, written by a former longarm business owner and fifth generation quilter, is the “real scoop” on longarm ownership.

Written in a humorous manner, “Longing for a Longarm” is packed full of information that will help you decide if a longarm machine will enhance your quilting experience. You’ll learn about the reality of owning a longarm quilting machine, including the amount of space required, the best location for your studio, and how to select the right machine for your needs.

After reading “Longing for a Longarm,” you will know why some quilters give up and abandon their longarms. You’ll understand the physical demands of longarm quilting, as well as challenges longarm quilters face when quilting for customers. You’ll also understand some of the stresses and issues that make longarm machine quilting challenging.

By the end of the book, you will know the pros and cons of longarm ownership, as well as the commitment required to be a successful longarm quilter. You will also have a great list of resources to help you become a better quilter.

Longing for my Longarm Skills

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This is how little longarming I’ve done in the last few months … I had not even changed the needle since July, when we moved the longarm machine from our living room into our basement. In the course of the move, I buried misplaced  my instruction manual and the packet of needles that worked best. Two weeks ago, I spent 3 hours (no kidding — THREE HOURS OF MY LIFE) trying to find the correct needle and to keep the thread from breaking. I was beyond frustrated.

All I wanted to do was make some Christmas stockings. I had panel yardage and I had loaded 3 yards (which worked out to six Christmas stockings) on my machine. I learned to quilt using panels and I love them, because they are interesting and fun to do. Plus non-quilters think you are a genius!

Yesterday, I finally got the thread issue resolved. I think I might have been putting the needle in backwards. I’m not sure. But I tried again and it worked. And, if I quilted slowly and evenly, the thread stopped breaking.

Back to quilting the panels. Let me rescind my previous statement and say that panels used to be easy and fun to do. They actually require a lot of accuracy and some major planning skills. In addition to feeling clumsy with the longarm, I did a really horrible job of planning my quilting. I had problems exactly tracing the lines and my fill stitches were uneven. I quickly decided that the first panel would be a learning piece. I’m embarrassed to post photos, so you’ll have to use your imagination.

Today’s lesson is: Practice makes perfect, while lack of practice makes you feel like crap. My longarming muscles are clearly out of shape. However I’m in a lot better position today than I was last week, now that I’ve got my threading issues resolved.

There is one more issue. Unless my quilting skills return with lightening speed, there’s no way I’m going to be happy with those Christmas stockings. Now I need to figure out new gifts for the people on my list

Sunday Sewing Day Totally Sucked!

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For the past several weeks, I have been taking a weekly wellness course at our local hospital. The basis of the course is that our lives need to be in balance. We were asked to set goals in the following areas of our lives: relationships, career/finance, health/fitness, spirituality and mental/emotional. Let’s just say that I’ve been focusing almost totally on my new career, with a bit of time carved out for exercise. I wasn’t the class model of a balanced life!

Yesterday, I came up with the idea of designating Sunday for recreation. (I believe I am the first person to declare Sunday as a day of rest!!!!!) So I admitted to a couple of friends that I was rededicating myself to quilting. After a wonderful morning walking in one of Long Island’s beautiful parks, I came home excited to sew.

Since you’ve already read the headline, it should come as no surprise that yesterday did not go well. I had decided to quilt a few Christmas stocking panels on my longarm. (You may recall that, over the summer, we moved my longarm from our living room into the basement.) First of all, the fabric I’d chosen wasn’t stored as neatly as it could have been — and it all needed ironing. Then I spent 90 minutes trying to keep the thread from breaking, because I couldn’t remember what kind of needle worked best, I couldn’t find my notes in the piles of yet-to-be-put-away papers that related to my longarm, and I seemed to have forgotten the precise needle placement tricks that I knew a year ago. By 4:00 PM, I was done with Sunday Sewing Day and ready to go back to work!

Instead, I forced myself to watch a 3 hour DVD called Andrew Lloyd Webber: The Royal Albert Hall Celebration. I opened some mail and did a little bit of housework.

So this morning my back is sore from a combination of  a long walk and too much time bent over the longarm machine. But I definitely feel refreshed and excited to get back to work. Even though my step toward quilting wasn’t very productive, it was a step in the right direction.

 

Closing Doors, Opening Windows

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I fully admit that I fell in love with quilting. It brought together my love for fabric, passion for design, and ability to sew. Moreover, it gave me the opportunity to learn new skills, to meet interesting women, and to travel to shows. Quilting quickly became a big part of my life.

I have been lucky enough to home school my children, so have not worked outside the home for 10 years. However, as the kids became older — and college tuition loomed — opening a longarm business seemed to be a great fit for our family. We renovated our home and made our living room into a lovely longarm studio. I purchased my longarm in July 2010 and had it delivered in October.

Six weeks later, I was in a serious car accident and herniated all the disks in my neck.

Since then, I have been walking a tightrope between working to build my business, and being held back because the actual work hurt my neck. I survived by heating and icing my neck, taking medication, and working with a medical team — including physical therapy, massage therapy, osteopath, and pain management. Whatever I tried, there was no way I could longarm without pain, despite how much I loved quilting for other people.

In December, I realized that I could no longer fight this battle. I had to find another way to earn a living. It truly broke my heart to close down my business. I have not done quilting of any kind for almost two months.

As you know from previous blog posts, I also had major abdominal surgery 3 weeks ago. In the weeks since, I’ve been considering some new opportunities. I am truly hoping that the words  — “When God Closes a Door, He Opens a Window” — are going to hold true in my life.

Jamie Wallen rescued me

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I have a new man in my life — and please don’t tell my husband of 28 years! His name is Jamie Wallen and he saved me this week. Let me explain …

Since I’ve had my A1 longarm, I’ve been fortunate not to re-time my machine. However on Monday afternoon, I broke a needle. It was obvious that it was time to re-time!

Now I had prepared for this day. I’d taken 2 courses on longarm maintenance and watched the process demonstrated. I had my A1 maintenance manual. I followed the directions. I was clueless and pretty much screwed. After my husband came home from work, we spent almost 2 hours trying to figure out what we were doing wrong — until I had the brilliant suggestion of checking for Youtube videos. Thankfully, Jamie Wallen had posted a wonderfully clear video on the subject. After about 30 seconds my hubby had an “ah ha” moment and knew what we (he by this point) were doing wrong. My timing was complete! My machine was now working beautifully again.

Here’s the link, along with my sincere gratitude to Jamie for creating and posting such a valuable video.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RhnvSYo1VpU

Turns out, Jamie is more than an A1 mechanic. He also creates incredible, beautiful quilts. His website provides some serious eye candy. I hope you’ll appreciate him as much as I have!

http://www.jamiewallenfineartquilting.com/jamiewallenfineartquilting/Gallery.html#grid

The Truth About Titanium

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I first heard about titanium needles from Bob Purcell at Superior Threads. I totally trust Bob, who sells only the highest quality of products. Bob said that titanium needles had been used in the garment industry for years, so it was only logical that they would make the transition into the quilt world. They are 3 to 10 times stronger than regular needles, so need to be changed less, and they have a proven history of sewing through tough fabrics used in upholstery, making blue jeans, and the automobile industry. The strength and durability of titanium needles made using them on my longarm a no-brainer. Until …

I talked to an A1 rep and she discouraged me, saying that titanium needles may require me to re-time my machine. That was enough to discourage me from EVER trying titanium needles, despite their apparent advantages. At the recent MQX conference, I asked a national educator — who sells a different brand of longarm — to explain why they don’t recommend titanium needles. She explained that needles break at their weakest part, which in traditional needles is the eye. However the stronger titanium needles tend to break at the top of the shaft, which means you have 2″ of needle that can get stuck in your hook assembly. The result is costly damage to your machine. Yikes! Another strike against titanium needles!

But I started thinking about it. If titanium needles are used successfully in commercial sewing machines, surely the titanium needles are not breaking and causing sewing machines to be repaired. Why would they use them? Groz Beckert titanium needles have been used in the sewing industry since 1980. Common sense tells me that these titanium needles would not be have lasted 30+ years if there was any problem with them.

I talked to my friend Vicki. She’d used titanium needles on her domestic machine with great success. When it broke, it broke at the eye and she had no problems.

Vicki volunteered to do some research on titanium needles. It turns out that there is very little information on the Internet.( I’m guessing that sewing shops are fairly low-tech and, unlike quilters, don’t feel the need to discuss their machinery online.)  I’ve listed some of the resources below.

I’m going to go ahead and use titanium needles on my longarm. From my research, it seems like this is the smart choice and that the “will damage hook assembly” problem is a myth. However I’d like everyone to make up their own mind, so please have a look at these websites before you make a decision.

I’ll report back on my experiences at a later time. I’d love to hear what you think!

Groz-Beckert’s info on titanium needles: http://www.groz-beckert.com/website/media/en/media_master_367_low.pdf

Organ’s information on titanium needles: http://www.superiorthreads.com/media/uploads/2011/02/03/files/2_Organ_Needle_Co._Titanium_Nitride_PDF.pdf

Superior Threads’ info on titanium needles: http://www.superiorthreads.com/education/needles/why-use-titanium-coated-needles

Class Review: “Solving Tension Headaches” with Dawn Cavanaugh

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I took 10 classes at MQX East and learned a great deal from each one of them. This class, however, was the hands-down winner for practical tips.

Getting that perfect stitch is not a one-size-fits-all proposition. Many, many things affect your tension. Basically you are doing a juggling act between a lot of different factors and trying to come up with the best solution.

The class began with a discussion of the factors that affect tension. These include the types of fabric, fabric thread count, and whether the fabric is washed.  Some fabrics (such as batiks or Tshirts with raised lettering) are harder to quilt through. Don’t forget that backing fabric (such as a sheet, Minky or flannel) will also affect tension. Finally, batting also has an impact on tension. It is much easier to quilt through a lighter, more airy batting (say a high loft polyester) than a dense cotton batting.

Thread choice can also impact tension. Metallic threads and invisible threads can be difficult. Cotton thread can cause drag on the fabric, whereas a polyester thread will glide through.

To add to our problems, environmental factors such as dryness and humidity will impact our quilting.

Whew … we hadn’t even gotten to the quilting part and I already felt doomed to tension hell.

This class was very interactive — apparently there are a lot of us with tension problems. It was 2 hours of “I didn’t know that” and I am NOT a novice longarmer. Here are a few things that are worth repeating:

1. Thicker threads require thicker needles. It never hurts to go up a needle size.

2. Quilts should not be drum-skin tight on our longarms. A little slack will improve tension.

3. Threads have a twist. The goal of the thread guides is to untwist your thread. Look at how it is coming off the bobbin and thread accordingly. Most of us have a gauge that looks like a stop light (3 vertical holes). This can be threaded from top to bottom, or bottom to top, depending on the twist of the thread. (Oops. I was threading the wrong way.)

4. Most of us know that the longarm functions better when the needle moves  from left to right, and from top to bottom. What I did not realize is that this direction is from the freehand side of the machine (the size closest to the needle). I was always careful to go from right to left — EVEN ON the pantograph side of the machine. That’s right … I was not accounting for the fact that I was facing the wrong direction. Oops.

5. Polyester thread has less drag. I did not know this. (Guess who bought some Polyester thread at the quilt show?)

6. You can use mono poly thread on both the top and bottom of the longarm. Years ago, I was told that this could not be done. Dawn does it all the time, so I’m going to try it.

I can’t say enough good things about this class. Dawn is a funny, engaging, knowledgeable teacher. I can see why her classes are so popular and am excited to take more classes from her. Dawn is Director of Education for APQS (a longarm manufacturer). You can find a schedule of her classes at http://dawncavanaugh.com/.

When good quilting goes bad …

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This weekend, I gave a presentation to my guild in NYC. I talked about lessons I’d learned as a longarmer. In the lecture, I like to show some of my less-than-perfect quilts so that people can learn from my mistakes.

I made this quilt about a year ago. It took a great deal of time. Look at the number of tiny flying geese and you’ll get an idea of the number of pieces and the hours involved in making this quilt.

Since I had a longarm, I knew the perfect pantograph. It was a stars (of various sizes) joined together by loops. I knew it would be perfect and proceeded to longarm the quilt in a short period of time. Voila! My masterpiece was done!

From the moment I took it off the longarm, I knew I’d made a mistake. One of the guidelines in quilting is to match the time spent quilting with the time you spent making the quilt top. The pantograph would have been perfect for an easy child’s quilt, but the effort in this quilt demanded custom quilting. However I decided not to rip it out (my ripping skills were not as practiced back then!) and to bind the quilt. And I have hated it ever since.

This weekend, I took the quilt with me to the presentation. I explained that this quilt demanded a much better job of quilting. As I was showing it to people (who agreed), I made the decision to rip out the quilting and start again. Re-quilting will not be that easy. I’ll have to sew muslin around the four sides of my quilt so it will be ready for the longarm. I’ll also have to save my binding, since I don’t have any fabric left. But I don’t care. This quilt demands custom quilting and it will get it.

For now, I have a nice ripping project for those cold nights in front of the TV! I will post the quilt when I get it finished.

(If the full quilt photos aren’t visible, please visit my blog at quiltnotes.wordpress.com)

Shadow Stars Quilt

 

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