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?

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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?

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?

Long time no see…

So, it’s been a while. Life got in the way and the decision came between using limited free time to sew, or to blog. You can guess what I chose, right?

head-shot

This cute “little” chaos monster is the biggest life change — Her name is Hardie. Currently a 4 month old German Shepherd. Who thinks I’m the most awesome thing in the world and therefore must play with her every. waking. minute. We’re slowly getting her to understand that she is not the center of the universe, but the emphasis is on slowly….

so-pretty

I have managed some sewing time over the last few months. All of which I’ll post in more detail, but here’s a quick glossy overview.

Finished this baby quilt for a coworker.

with-the-sky-and-leaves

 

Finished this baby quilt for a friend.

Version 2

Finished this heart quilt for the Quilt for Pulse drive, but not in time for the deadline. (So if you know of any local charities…)

Woody loves yellow

Finished this quilt for my Father in Law (only 3+ years in the making…)

 

In the works....
In the works….

Started this quilt just for me

thumb_dsc_1465_1024

As today is the last day of 2016, I’ll leave you with the happiest, most fabric filled wishes for 2017!!!

 

 

Real Life in the way

Do you ever have those days, weeks, months where real life and all it’s responsibilities get in the way of what you really want to do? That’s the kind of summer I’ve been having. Hubby and I have both been working 60+ hours a week, for the last [I’ve lost count] weeks. It makes it difficult to make time to sew, to say the least.

But! I have managed to sneak little bits here and there in.

Woody loves yellow

A few heart blocks for Orlando.

purple heart

A curtain for my new kitchen.

curtain

A few blocks here and there on my Icy Waters quilt (started in a class with Amy Garro herself!).

Icy Waters

I am desperately hoping that when fall arrives, everything will slow down a little, so I can enjoy all my favorite bits (pumpkin bread! gingersnaps! hot cocoa!)

Use what you’ve got!

I’m sure this is not news to anyone, but moving is stressful! And quilting is a great stress relief (well, most of the time) — except the first few weeks of living here in the new house, I had no idea where any of my current WIPs were. So, I could spend my limited sewing time hunting for current projects, or just grab what I could find and start something new. I don’t think any of us are surprised with my decision, are we?

Trimming with Coffee

Unpacking can wait!!!

Trimmins

I won a fat quarter bundle of Best. Day. Ever! by April Rosenthal awhile ago (year+) and that was on the top of a box. Digging around to pull out my iron, cutting mat, ruler, thread, etc, I found a great selection of low volume fabrics. Done. Let’s get sewing!

Donkeys

I love these donkey’s from Laurie Wisbrun’s Jack and Jenny.

In pieces

I’ve loved this pattern from QuiltDad for awhile, and it works perfectly with fat quarters. Unfortunately, it’s a little on the small side for me. You may have noticed I have a propensity for larger quilts… So, I wanted to add a few simple squares.

Overall

With some assistance from the official Quilt Helper, I got it all sewed together… and it was still a little small. It’s currently at about 55 x 70 (I had a few cutting mishaps). I’m sure that’s a great size for quite a few people, just not me. So, back to the think tank.

My helper

It’s currently being unconstructed, strategically. I’m thinking that adding a few more flying arrows, in different sizes, and a bit more blank space. And more fabric, because I used up every bit of the fat quarters. It may be all the recent practice, but I’m thinking hot pink. Yellow would be the predictable, safe choice, afterall. Quilts shouldn’t be too predictable.

Soft kitty

Have you ever taken apart a quilt? Or been dissatisfied with the outcome? Did it eventually work out for you?

All the busy

I think I’ve mentioned a few times that I’ve been busy – and some of you already know why: we bought a house! That exclamation point conveys so much doesn’t it? Excitement, frustration, exhaustion, worry… we’ve been cycling through all of it, almost on a daily basis. Organizing, packing, labelling, moving, organizing (again), unpacking… Ugh, my back hurts more just thinking about it all. We’re still not very unpacked, but we’ll get there.

Stack of Boxes

Those are my scrap buckets. What I thought was all of my scraps. Umm, yeah, that’s not all of them. The sheer amount of fabric I unearthed from every crack and crevice of that apartment is just astounding. Why were there scraps in the kitchen/bathroom/office closet/box with video games? Expect to see several dozen scrap quilts at some point in the future. After I find them again that is.

Woody in a box

Except for the day we had to put him in the carrier and drive to the new place, Woody has loved this whole process. Boxes everywhere!! His current favorite napping spot is a half unpacked box of fabric. Fabric in a box! When he’s not there, he’s on a window sill monitoring the local wildlife.

On the window sill

And boy, are there a lot of window sills for him to choose from. Our apartment had three windows. Total. Let me just let that sink in. The new house – well, I haven’t done an official count, but even the smallest bedroom has two windows. There’s somewhere around 10 in the living room. I think it’s safe to say, Woody is loving the house. And I’m loving all the natural light.

Version 2

I’m slowly finding projects to work on. This quilt top is a baby quilt for a friend of my husband. I finished it in the apartment, just before the mad dash to pack started. That cart underneath has any and all small, random craft related things shoved in it. Ribbon, buttons, some thread (but not all), a few templates, and yes, more scraps. If I get my act together, I’ll be basting it this afternoon. That’s the other thing! I now have giant open floors for basting. No more pushing all of the furniture to the side. I think I may be more excited about that then the washer and dryer coming on Wednesday (no more laundromats!).

Lilac

Since we saw, and bought, the house long before spring brought everything to life, it was a pleasant surprise to find we had two lilac bushes. In the three weeks we’ve lived here, I’ve added a hydrangea, a rose, and several annuals. You may not be aware of this, but I love to dig in the dirt and plant pretty flowers. Yesterday, I planted a few tomatoes for the first time ever. It was a very exciting day. And in a few weeks I’ll be able to say that I’ve eaten a tomato I grew!

Baller in Entry

It wouldn’t be home without a quilt hanging on the wall, right? This is a mini quilt my dear friend Stephanie made me. Isn’t it awesome and perfect? I actually brought it to the closing, so I could hang it up right after. We haven’t hung up any other art, or quilts, but we have the best one in the entryway, next to the stairs, so I can see it everyday. (Yes, that wall is yellow. Most of the downstairs is yellow, but it’s not going to stay that way. It’s the wrong shade of yellow to go with that much brown. Trust me on this.)

Backyard, with Machine

This is the view from my sewing machine currently. Not too shabby, hunh? I’m testing out sewing rooms. We have three extra bedrooms, so one of them will be my sewing room, I just have to decide which. The other window in this room looks over the neighbor’s pool… not quite as picturesque. The other major contender is currently painted a deep, deep, Tardis blue. It’s a little overwhelming. After it’s painted, it’ll probably be my sewing room. Until then, I’ll just float from room to room.

Trimming with Coffee

I have found a little time for sewing. I couldn’t find any of my current projects in the mass of boxes, so I started a new one. I went with what I found in the two boxes that contained my rotary cutter, rulers, and thread. I think it turned out pretty cute. Slightly smaller than behemoth husband would prefer, but that just means I don’t have to share.

What’s keeping you busy this summer? Kids on vacation? Trips to the pool? Travels to exotic locations? Locked in next to the AC with your sewing machine? Inquiring minds need to know!!!