I come from a long line of sign writers and am happiest with a brush and some paint! Add
paint to fabric and I get really excited!!

Thursday, February 14, 2013

Longarming Logic

Life has been altered in many ways of late and I have found using my longarm machine meditative and therapeutic. My parents were very excited for me when I purchased my Millennium and I had hoped to be able to give them hands on demonstrations eventually. Both Mom and Dad had always been supportive of new technology and equipment that made the job easier, more manageable, was more cutting edge. Dad was one of the first sign shops owners to embrace computer signwriting equipment. We still talk about the business’s first calculator that cost 2500.00 and took years to pay off. He ordered cutting edge engraving equipment, the newest of boom trucks, had a car phone in 1973, and he bought Mom a beautiful top of the line Bernina sewing machine as soon as they became available in Canada. He embraced technology, all with Mom’s blessing and full support. Yet, never has there been a bigger history buff and the car of choice for many years has been a 1963 VW Bug. A study of contrasts? You bet! With a love and appreciation for what came before, Dad loves to envision and work toward what new incorporating tools and technology can accomplish in conjunction with the skills already in place.

So you can bet he is enthusiastic when I show him what I am creating on my longarm!

In our family, we call doing some things as doing them the “George way". That means the instructional booklet that comes with a new piece of equipment is meant to be read as a final resort, if at all. Now, I tend to read those booklets; I actually pour over them, make numerous copies and post them near my work space, write notes in the margins. Yet still, my Dad’s way has taught me to be resourceful, use the booklets as guidelines and figure out ways to make things work for me. As I have been learning to use this wonderful new machine, I have been relying on the “George way” when I need to fine tune something I am working on.

For example, I know I am supposed to have an additional 3 - 4 inches of backing when I load a quilt. Well, several times I have discovered I just don’t have the extra fabric required and I need what I have to work. I found the clamps on the sides were getting in my way, so I decided I needed to elevate the clamps a bit from my work so that they wouldn’t catch on the bed of the machine. A piece of dowel on each side holding the clamps and straps up about 1/2 an inch allows me that little bit of space I need to keep the clamps up and away. This allows me to quilt to the edge of my top even though I may only have an inch or two of backing grace on each side.

Then I decided to try to eliminate the clamps entirely. Using the heavily quilted piece of fabric that was used to test run my machine before I received it, I cut pieces 4 x 5 inches, folded them in half and pinned them to the other end of the straps. Then I flipped the straps over the side rail and pinned them to the backing/batting and top. This is allowing me to quilt the entire piece of fabric I have loaded almost completely edge to edge.

The piece I have on the machine now is for a specific project and is the smallest quilting design I have done to date. It is slow and I discovered sitting while quilting would be a grand idea - much easier on my back. Rather than repeatedly hopping off my chair, but wanting to see how my quilting was on the reverse side, I used my iPhone to reach under and take a photo of just how things were going. You have to tap the reverse photo feature for this.

While working on several pieces, I also noticed I was able to control bounce of the top if I added a bit of weight to my top. I have found a Magic Bag works great for this and it also provides a safe reseting spot for my scissors, which tend to never be where I think I last put them. I am able to manage the bounce and the weight by positioning the bag over the roller bar.

Frustration over my last pantograph and a Type A personality ( it’s an official medical diagnosis....try living with that...) led me to adding a piece of painter’s tape over the laser light. I can’t take credit for this but I thought it was ingenious when I saw it somewhere online. Once you put the tape on, you poke a pin hole in the tape and then you have a very small point of light allowing for more accuracy when following your pantograph pattern. I am sure it isn’t necessary for all patterns, but it was useful on that particularly detailed one I was trying to stitch.

I have to admit, with the exception of my brother, I am probably the slowest in my family at thinking outside the box. As my husband says, I need to think more logically. I miss my Mom’s daily tips on how to solve whatever problem is plaguing me; she could always be counted on to come up with something ingenious to help me out and make life easier. I try to follow Dad’s methods, use my husband’s advice and channel my Mom’s ingenuity every day as I strive towards becoming a prolific longarmer. 

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