Sunday, 5 February 2012

A very quilty week

warning: picture-heavy and garrulous

It is far too long since I used my lovely longarm machine, so long that self-doubt and lack of confidence had moved in and taken over; could I still do this, would I be able to quilt to a standard which I was happy with? Thankfully, although my old skills are definitely a little rusty, the basic knowledge still seems to be buried somewhere in the grey matter and much has been produced this week.

After cleaning the Millennium, oiling, warming up and general TLC, much of Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday morning was taken up with quilting a large whole-cloth for sister-in-law. This was promised as a 25th wedding anniversary present 2½ years ago. Unfortunately that date coincided with Ollie's death and a complete absence of desire or ability to create anything ever since. Many hours of trimming and binding still to be done, but hopefully the gift will be well received (I know it is still wanted).



Then I was able to move onto the table runners and mats made recently from scraps and left-over blocks. Most have no planned home or destination, although the little pumpkin mats turned out way better than I could have expected so I think they will stay in the Bag End Kitchen.





Somewhere between Wednesday and Friday I threw a hissy fit with the motorised fabric advance which comes fitted as standard to an APQS frame. I hate the bloody thing with a passion, have done even since it was delivered. Details are unimportant because the rest of the quilting world seems to think it's as wonderful as sliced bread. A quick phone call to the ever-helpful Mark in Des Moines gave me a clue as to how to stabilise the take-up roller once the motor was removed; the usual problem-solving input from Management when he got home and half an hour at the shed with some power tools and I have a working prototype. It's not pretty but for a first attempt it's doing exactly what I need*.



The side clamps got some essential modification too - I took them off and dumped them in the shed where they might be useful. Silly things which are far too heavy, drag down the sides of the quilt back and get caught on the machine. Quickly replaced with fabric ends that can be renewed when worn out, can easily be pinned to the fabric sandwich and I've sewn Velcro on the back of the elasticated tape to make them really easy to move when necessary.



Without blowing my own trumpet too loudly, I was one of the first people in England ever to import and use a longarm machine (a Gammill) and I used to be quite good at it. This was years ago and there was not the support or internet forums which exist today. Much of the time we made it up as we went along, and if you had a problem you worked out your own way of solving it. My modifications are in no way a criticism of how APQS design their longarm quilting systems, far from it; their machines are quite brilliant and that's why I changed from the Gammill. However, more than 12 years on I have my own methods and like to work a certain way and all I'm doing is tweaking the system frame to suit myself, it's unlikely that anyone else buying an APQS machine would need to do the same.

This little mat and its twin became victims for some much needed practise using rulers and templates. The Millennium handles very differently to my old, heavy Gammill and I need to put a few more yards under the needle before I set loose on a real quilt which needs this sort of quilting.



This one is wild and whacky and not at all what I originally planned to do with these blocks, but a special little baby in Gloucester needs a quilt. Not a posh quilt which his parents are too worried to use, but a changing mat, play quilt, something which can be pee'd on, dribbled over and probably puked on too. Quilted with one of my favourite patterns, Feathered Curls.



I teamed this migraine-inducing top with a plain red backing and will always remember a well-known and particularly opinionated longarm quilter who told me you should never use a plain backing because "it shows all your stitching and gives you nowhere to hide". It didn't go down too well when I suggested the solution might be to "quilt better then". No surprise that I'm not on her Christmas card list any more, funnily enough, she's not on mine either Guess she'd have a conniption fit with this one, I used lime green thread on the back and you can see the mistakes and a stop/start where the bobbin thread ran out and had to be changed.



I had loaded more red backing and batting than necessary, so when the baby quilt was done I popped this nursery fabric on and quilted it as a wholecloth. There is manner in my madness ...



I think that will do for now, there is much binding to be done and I want to get this baby quilt off to its new owner sooner rather than later.




* Need a drum sander attachment for version 2.0; a Hobbit cannot have too many tools in the shed!

19 comments:

  1. Oh how I wish your camera could take videos so you could show us that monster quilting machine in action. I'm amazed at what it must be able to do! What lovely lengths of colorful stuff. You are one talented lady. :-D

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    1. Kris, I have the video camera, what I don't have is software to process the files so I can upload them. Another thing on "the list" which I never get to.

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    2. I spent a little time on youtube yesterday and watched several vids of setting up and using the Millennium. Good grief you need a large room to set up a 12 or 14 foot unit. How long have you been quilting?

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    3. Kris, this machine is "only" 10 foot (although my last one was 12 foot). Started quilting in the last 90's, so been at this lark quite a few years. Lots of video here http://www.youtube.com/user/APQSQuilting

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  2. Fabulous results. My longarm is cunningly disguised as a clothes horse at the moment. We have a Linus day coming up soon though and I have offered to do all the quilting rather than piece so I think I will have to have a sort out!!!!

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    1. Amanda, in my previous sewing room the longarm was a prime dumping zone, I think it is their fate! Hope your Linus day goes well.

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  3. I've never seen one of these before - really interesting and lovely to see what you can create :)

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    1. Mo, they're still not really that common, glad you liked the post.

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  4. Crikey, I know you told me what you'd been doing this week, but actually reading, it seems much, much more. Have you slept at all, or just worked 24hour days?

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    1. Hi Sue, don't worry - it surprised me too when I wrote it all down.

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  5. Wow, amazing progress, when a Hobbit does something, she does it properly LOL! Hope you had a fun week, it's certainly the weather for quilting.

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    1. Thanks Ali, yes it was fun. Think it might be a week for getting outside too, beautiful views today and looks like the cloud is burning off as the sun gets higher.

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  6. Fabulous Bilbo, I love looking at your quilting almost as much as I enjoy looking at your garden. I can almost feel your sense of satisfaction :-)

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    1. Thanks Jill, I'm glad you enjoyed this. Next time you come over we'll have to make time for some quilt stroking.

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  7. Coincidental spam blocker ,,,, "acheav"!!!

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  8. Impressed! I am afraid the technical bits lost me very quickly - but very impressive results. You won't be suprised to hear I love the farmyard material! Glad you've got back into it, it would be an awful waste of a room, not to mention the machinery if it didn't get any use.

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    1. CB, I thought the farmyard stuff would be too bright and 'in your face' for you but if you love it then it's yours (I have been promising you a table runner for an awful long time!)

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  9. Well the technical bits lost me quite quickly too, CB - and I'm supposed to know a bit about this stuff! Although I can imagine that the setting up of machine/bed/quilts takes ages (to get right) so I can see why you did so much in one sitting.

    I'm sure that N&G (and new addition) will be delighted with the quilt (and your comments about quilting quality made me laugh - there's is nothing wrong with 'raising the bar' to gain competence!)

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    1. Well Hazel, if you'd get your petite derrière up to Cumbria for a holiday i could show you the technical bits and then you wouldn't be lost.

      Thanks for the chuckle that you gave me by identifying the Gloucester baby! Don't think N & G have much time for blogging at present.

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So there I am, chuntering on to myself, but it would be lovely to hear from you. Thanks to all who take the time to comment - it makes my day :)

and I always delete spam - my blog, my rules :-}