Longarm Lessons

Or things I have learned since owning a longarm quilting machine. Or, adventures in learning to longarm. Or all the things I never thought of about longarms.

I’ve owned my new-to-me HQ Simply Sixteen machine and table for just over 4 months now, and there are some lessons that I should write down to remember, and maybe help someone else. Mostly, because we all need a good laugh these days, and some of them are funny.

1. Longarm machines take different thread than domestic machines. To all you experts out there, I’m sure you’re going, “Uh, duh?” But it’s just not something I realized or thought of before. Now, I’m sure longarm thread would probably work in a domestic machine, but so far, in my albeit limited experiments, the same thread doesn’t play nicely on both machines. But, hey, maybe now I can join the Aurifil fan club? It never did work out for my Juki….

2. Check the tension discs. No seriously. Domestic machines open up the tension discs when you lift the foot up… you can’t lift the foot up on the longarm, so you have to make sure you really pull the thread into the tension discs. I wish I could forget how many times I’ve forgotten this, or (gulp) quilted nearly an entire quilt only to rip it all out.


3. Pinning the quilt back isn’t that much of a time saver over floor basting. But – it is interruptible. No worries about the dog “helping” or tape residue (or spray residue!) on the floor. No un-safety pins (as my husband calls them) to go scattering across the floor when you tip over the jar. Or the dog tips over the jar. So overall, still a plus!

4. You have to think about quilting designs differently. You can’t just wind you’re way willy nilly through the quilting. All over designs can look very linear if you’re not careful. Also, big giant feathers at a weird angle through the middle of the quilt? Umm, not without some serious gymnastics and mental fortitude.


5. You can’t start another project until you’re done. Seriously, I underestimated my attention span. On the one hand, quilting goes faster (no stopping to remove pins), but you can’t just pull a project off the sewing machine, change the thread, and move onto the next one. Well, I suppose you could, but then you’d have to redo all that pinning and rolling, so it falls into that “Only if you absolutely HAVE to” camp. Bonus though — more quilts can linger in the To-Bind pile!

6. Check the tension discs. Nope, seriously, it bears repeating. Even now, after only two months, this has entered my (and my husband’s) vernacular as a “Did you check the most basic assumption?”. Did you check the tension discs?

7. Youtube is my friend. Yes, yes, I know, I’m late on this bandwagon (is it even a bandwagon anymore? Or just a concrete aspect of our culture?). Before owning the longarm, I never really saw the point of youtube… I don’t like watching crazy science experiment videos, or whatever else normal people watch on youtube. But, a video of how to thread the HQ Sixteen was invaluable. As was the video on pinning the quilt to the leaders (I choose to do it my lazier way, but it’s close)

8. Standing and quilting takes a whole different set of muscles than sitting and quilting. My shoulders almost never hurt, but my hips and triceps, man. According to observers (husband, Hardie still doesn’t speak), I keep all my weight on one leg while quilting, occassionally shifting to the other. Might explain the hip pain.

9. Lighting is crucial. On a domestic machine, you’re about 3-5″ away from what you’re quilting. Well, if you hunch like I do. With a longarm, you could try hunching (no, really don’t. It hurts), or you’re about 12-15″ away. Much, much harder to see white thread on white fabric. Or really anything but super contrasting. Light gray on navy blue? No problem. Cream on a busy, light colored print? Heaven help me. I actually at one point, took my headlamp and wrapped it around one of the  handles so it was shining at about 45 degrees. Worked great. Though, I felt too silly to take a picture. I should probably figure out something less hokey, but it worked. As did changing out normal light bulbs for daylight LED bulbs in the basement light fixtures. (The basement being the only place long enough to fit the machine. Well, easily. I probably could have squeezed it in the master. Ha!) (Since first writing this, Hubby has installed a giant daylight LED fixture right above the machine! Works brilliantly!!)

10. I don’t actually have a tenth. So — check the tension discs! It bears repeating, thrice.

Any questions you’d like to ask an extreme longarm newbie? Any tidbits to share with me?

Advertisements

Fall? Already?

Every week I have these great plans of sitting down and writing up a dozen blog posts, editing a whole bunch of pictures, and sharing them with everyone. Best laid plans… Every week, instead, I get distracted by the siren call of fabric. And the more siren, less call of dishes, laundry, and my favorite part – playing with the puppy.

So what’s new in Smilesland? Well, I have a longarm now! A friend was selling hers to upgrade, so I jumped in to save her from Craigslist hell, because that’s what good friends do. Wink wink.

It’s an HQ Sixteen, and I’m still getting the hang of it, but I’ve managed to successfully quilt two baby quilts, finish a fix of my husbands favorite quilt from long ago, a throw quilt, and a Christmas tree skirt I started two years ago. More productivity in the last two months than all of last year really.

 

 

There is definitely a learning curve to the longarm, and it will take me awhile to get back to the level of detail I was accomplishing with the Juki, but for me, it’s absolutely worth it.  I’ve had a stack of quilt tops for awhile that needed quilting. Not complicated over the moon outstanding quilting. Just, hold the layers together quilting. Which has always been my least favorite type, especially on the Juki. It took so long, it got boring. Now with the long arm, it’s done in a day. Maybe two if I stop to play frisbee with Hardie, and watch a movie with hubby.

Also, as a result of recent discussions with friends, I’ve decided my pictures here don’t need to be perfect. It’s a quilting blog, not a photography blog afterall.  We all know that “finished is better than perfect”. I’m amending that — Finished, and shared, is better than perfect. Right now, we all need more pretty things, happy things, in our lives, and shared amongst our little community of quilters. And that’s as close to discussing politics as I’ll get.

Here’s to more puppy pictures, more cats on quilts, more quilts, more smiles.

Do you hear crickets?

I’ve not been as present here as I had hoped of late. Actual sewing has been consuming the precious extra minutes of everyday rather than talking about sewing, I know you understand.

Calvin and Hobbes inspired baby quilt by Smiles Too Loudly

I still have a few completely finished quilts to share with you, one from as far back as October 2016. That will wait a few more days, or let’s be honest, weeks. Today I just want to share a little slice of what’s going on.

Our german shepherd puppy, Hardie, is 10 months old. She alternates between using her enormous intelligence for good and chaos. Most days its for good, though the TV remote would beg to differ.  She takes up a lot of my free time, but puppy snuggles are the best.

A friend of a friend is collecting baby quilts for local refugees, so I’ve been working on a few of those. Finishing up an embarrassingly old do.Good stitches quilt and making a few quick to assemble baby quilt tops.

Finally starting to paint the house in more me friendly colors. Manila folders is not a good color, just sayin’. I’m going to try and squeeze in a little more unpacking too. A few friends have recently moved and are 100% unpacked. I moved a year ago, and am, maybe 40% unpacked…. Competition is a great motivator, right? Maybe there will even be some sewing room organization happening?

How’s your summer shaping up?

A “Man Color” Quilt

A few years ago, I started a quilt for my father-in-law. I inquired of my husband what colors to make it in — uhhh, man colors? That was interpreted as brown, black, cream, with a splash of red, which worked really well with the Penny Patch pattern from Stitched in Color.

Both of these shots were taken at the quilts original inception. In 2014. Yup, I finally finished a long term WIP. Cue confetti. 🙂

In the works….

Last fall I decided to finish it up in time to give as a Christmas present. I got it done in plenty of time, but the weather and life weren’t cooperating for pictures. A few weeks ago we visited my inlaws and I took the opportunity to photograph the quilt. Lucky me, they had recently acquired a slightly rusty tractor, which makes a great photodrop.

Manly Penny Patch by Smiles Too Loudly

All that snow is gone and it was 90F yesterday… clearly there’s a lag in my photoediting and blogging time. You don’t mind, right?

Manly Penny Patch by Smiles Too Loudly

This was a pretty easy quilt to make; I’m not sure why I took so long to finish it. Maybe the lack of bright colors?

Manly Penny Patch by Smiles Too Loudly

I backed it in a small plaid flannel and quilted it with a topography-esque style of FMQ. This was also the first quilt I ever spray basted, and I’m definitely a fan.  I used the Dritz spray basting spray, 505 was a little much for my nose/allergies.

Manly Penny Patch by Smiles Too Loudly

I tried to use several fabrics that would have meaning to my father-in-law: French script (the family’s French-Canadian), barcodes and software, glasses, coffee text, maps, a great print with visual instructions on how to build a campfire (he was a scoutmaster for several years), bicycles, and several ‘manly’ blenders.

Manly Penny Patch by Smiles Too Loudly

Manly Penny Patch by Smiles Too Loudly

Manly Penny Patch by Smiles Too Loudly

 

Would you believe that this still isn’t my oldest WIP? It’s not… maybe someday I’ll finish all of them? Ha!

Sunnyside of Charms

Hello! Today I’m sharing a quilt top I’m very excited about. It’s yellow!!

Recently, I was lamenting to my wonderfully patient husband that I wasn’t feeling inspired to finish any of my current projects. He, in a brilliant bout of wisdom said “Just go grab some fabric and make something”. Duh!

So I grabbed a charm pack of Acreage that I received at Sew Boston last fall, some coordinating solids I happened to have, and a big chunk of yellow. Because everyone keeps 2+ yard cuts of yellow on hand, right? No? Hmmm. You should. It’s very pretty and helpful.

This layout was completely, utterly inspired/derived from Crazy Mom Quilts quilt, found here.

Oddly, I didn’t have enough yellow to completely finish the quilt top — at least not at the size I wanted (it’s a healthy twin). So, I broke into my teeny tiny stash of yellow prints, and chose some tonal ones to fill in where the solid was lacking. I think this might be my favorite part!!!

For the back, I just picked up a pretty vintage sheet in all the right colors. Soooooo soft.  Now the trick is just to baste it and quilt it up. Maybe even this year! Ha!

What project has you excited these days? Are you making your own sunshine on a dreary day?

Design Wall Wednesday, the first.

Hello there! I thought that I would try something new. I finally got a design wall “hung” up in my sewing room. Insert happy dance!

So in an effort to blog more regularly and keep track of my sewing progress I’m going to share a snapshot of my design wall every Wednesday.  Some days there may be a long winded explanation and discussion, some days it might just be the snapshot. We’ll just have to see how it goes!

rainbow-design-wall

 

This week, I’ve resurrected the Rainbow Friendship Supernova quilt from three-ish years ago. Let’s see if I can stay focused and finish it up!!!

What are you working on this week?

Cloudy Skies Baby Quilt

Hello! A few months ago I got the chance to make a baby quilt for a coworker of mine. He and his wife are a little more on the conservative side and the nursery was painted with gray and white stripes, so my normal over the top color wouldn’t have really worked.

full-on

One afternoon I just had this flash of using squares and rectangles, with measurements all multiples of 4. The smallest squares measure 4″ square, finished. The largest are 16″ x 16″ and 12″ x 20″.

in-the-breeze

Then, to add a little color, I added the stitch and flip corners. Originally, they were just going to be royal blue, but it looked a little blah. Rainbows to the rescue!!

in-the-wind

I tried really, really hard to force free motion quilting onto this quilt — it just wasn’t going to work.  1/2″ spaced straight lines won out. Boring for me, but great for the quilt.

rolled-up

I backed it in a great Lotta Jansdotter print I’ve had for more than few years, and bound it in a great Karen Lewis print.

close-up-of-lambs

With some of my favorite prints, its no wonder I really wanted to keep this one. Those little sheep are just to die for, and when you combine that with glasses, Architextures, and the cutest paw print, just, ah. Love this quilt.

thumb_dsc_1499_1024

against-the-trees