Sunday, December 29, 2013

My First Real Quilt

So my awesome sister-in-law's mom used to work at JoAnn's thus her stash is filled with amazing amounts of fabric. While my SIL was visiting over the holidays she went through her mom's stash and brought home some cheater quilts, mostly baby themed, for me to practice my quilting skills. This is a win-win. I get much needed practice longarm quilting and my SIL gets baby quilts ready to gift when her friends and family have babies. 
My first real quilt loaded on the frame. My system has been to load the quilt the night before then quilt it the next day.
I practiced my star pattern until I felt comfortable with it. I then loaded the backing onto the quilt frame.  The challenge of loading this quilt was that my backing was virtually the same size as the quilt top.  Normally when you send your quilt off to the quilter s/he requires your backing be 4+ inches wider than the top. The reason I assume is so s/he has plenty of room to work. This quilt wasn't that large so it wasn't as important to have the play in it to have more room on each side. It was so strenuous I had to have a protein shake before I could continue on. 
We live in Wildcat country so my shelf in my quilting room is purple as is my protein shaker bottle.
I started by choosing my pattern and entering my quilt size into my Pantovision program. I had accidently removed my star pattern already sized to what I wanted so I had to use my memory to reenter it.  This was not a good idea.  I doubled the size of my star pattern and I realized it after my first star was complete. So I stopped and decided I wanted to rip it out instead of using the larger star pattern. The only problem ended up being that before Christmas I had broken all three of my seam rippers' points off when I was making pot holders for gifts.  So I ended up having to run into town to get a new seam ripper to pull out my stitching.  I had sewn just enough that it was going to take a long time to pick it out with small scissors so I decided I needed to give in and get new a new seam ripper. I came home with three new seam rippers.
The three seam rippers I purchased. The one on the far right is more like a razor blade and I'm really liking it for ripping out stitches when I need to pull out stitches and I can't access the back or a seam easily.
After I ripped out the stitching and resized the pattern back down to size I was ready to begin again. The star pattern is one that I feel very comfortable doing. However, once I started quilting on my first real project my arms froze up and my motion became rather rigid.  I had to remind myself over and over my SIL wasn't expecting perfection she had kindly gotten these quilts for me to practice my work. I finally got into the groove and started moving faster. 
The upper left corner where I started my quilting.
This is what the screen on my tablet look like when I am running Pantovision. If you look closely there is a small dot. That dot is what is supposed to stay on the lines as you move across your quilt.
I decided early on in my practicing that it would be easier on smaller quilts if I could learn to do the quilting both left to right and then left to right it would be much quicker than trimming my thread and starting back over on the left again.  So I did that with this quilt.  It took me just over an hour to complete the baby quilt.  I decided overall I'm the most judgmental of my work so it wasn't terrible for my first real quilting job. I'm happy I'm done and now can say I did my first quilt job. I'm not ready to start charging people for my services yet but I am really enjoying the learning process.
A close up of some of quilting.
The back of the finished quilt.
My finished quilt top.

Friday, December 27, 2013

Let the Playing Begin

Part of getting a new technologically advanced toy is being will to just play with it. One of my biggest gripes is people who get a new iToy or such and then won't touch it or use it because they are afraid they might break it. You can't break it by hitting the wrong button.  I was born on the cusp of technology being available to everyone in their home. I've used a typewriter to write papers and then in college began using computer word processors to do them.  I've known both worlds.  So there are times when I'm hanging out in my online quilting groups when I find it rather frustrating to read about people who have a small problem but either 1. won't try looking under different menus to see if they can find what they are looking for or get themselves "unstuck" or 2. won't call the help number.  The Lord helps those who help themselves. The same goes for our new quilting technology. You can only get better by putting in the time with the machine, pushing various buttons to see what they do or don't do, and making the mistakes that take you sitting down with the manual for an hour to undo what you just did. Or in my case, my husband sits down with the manual and I go watch an episode of Big Bang Theory. Just keepin' it real here, folks.
What I'm getting at is you don't have to have expert skills to get started with your new longarm. I didn't get mine with the idea that I would sit down and be an amazing quilter from the start. I also may have been over ambitious in the amount of time I thought it would take me to learn how to use it. But I started and I didn't look back. 
Picture taken from the back of the machine. I'm practicing on some material I bought and then didn't use.
When I got started I went into it like I do most things, with a bull in a china closet type of enthusiasm. Dustan who happens to be more analytical did slow me down to measure when putting my first material onto the frame.  I started by free playing and drawing whatever came to mind. It was freeing and fun.
I sign my name better in quilting than I do with a pen and paper!
After a while I realized I was going to need to get to work on using my Pantovision patterns since that will be the bread and butter of this little operation.  Pantovision is a program that comes with my Innova that replaces the old way of putting patterns on quilts. In the old days a longarm quilter would have a paper pattern she'd tape down to the tabletop on her frame and follow it with a stylus to make the quilting design.  It required the quilter to stand behind the quilt frame and quilt from the back unable to see the quilting s/he was doing.  Pantovision is a program loaded onto a small tablet that is mounted on the front of my Innova that allows me to resize my pattern, change it, and repeat it as needed. Then you follow the pattern on the tablet by moving the quilting machine. The machine communicates with the program with encoders on the rolling cage of the quilting machine. 

The screen I'm looking at in the tablet loaded with my Pantovision.
I chose Pantovision over the old paper pattern way and I could easily see it as a way to quickly get up and running. I like the ability to adjust patterns in any manner that I choose. It allowed for neat storage for all  my patterns versus needing to find a storage system for the paper ones.  It was also a good choice since the room I have my Innova in has no space on the sides of the frame to walk behind. If I need to access the back of the machine I'm crawling under and through the frame. 

Thus I started working with my Pantovision. I found out real quick that following a pattern wasn't going to be quite as easy as I first told myself. I also found that the pre-loaded patterns that the Pantovision come with aren't all the friendliest to use for new quilters.  Some of them aren't very practical either. I why do I need two different versions of a gecko?  I put out a plea on my Yahoo group soliciting suggestions for easy to use patterns to practice to get the hang of this longarm quilting thing.  Luckily, the folks there are very nice and I had many helpful tips along with suggestions for easy to follow patterns within 24 hours. The best tip I received was practicing the leaf pattern due to the fact it had both curves and points. Another great tip was to stop when you came to a corner or point before proceeding around it.  All good things to know. 
Look at those wonky stars and meandering!
So I beg of you get in there and start pushing buttons. You have no idea what you might discover. 

Dustan decided since he built it, he should get to try it out.

Wednesday, December 25, 2013

The Adventure Begins

Saturday, December 7th, was the first real adventure for my new endeavor.  In October we put down a down payment on a new Innova longarm quilting machine.  Right before Thanksgiving I got the call that it was ready to be picked up.  Unfortunately, I had to wait until this weekend to get it because we were out of town over Thanksgiving.  We drove to Kansas City on Friday night and went to a delightful dinner theatre production at Grandview Park Presbyterian Church called, Christmas at Lennys.  We stayed with my folks and got up early the next morning to trek across the state line into Missouri to Hunter Heirloom Quilting to pick up my machine where we had been 6 weeks earlier looking at longarms.  Dustan and the owner loaded all the parts to my machine into the truck while I wrote out the largest check I have ever penned.
Dustan adding a red flag to the part of the frame sticking out the back of the truck.
Into the back of the truck went the rails to an quilting frame that was 11 feet long.  A 22 inch throat Innova longarm quilting machine in a big wooden box, reminiscent of the one that Joey made Chandler do penence in one Thanksgiving for stealing his girlfriend. I ordered my machine with Lightning Stitch and Pantovision.  The back of the truck was filled with additional boxes with various other goodies. With my purchase I also got 10 free spools of thread and some Renae Red Snappers.  I consider the snappers a major bonus!
After saying our goodbyes and exchanging phone numbers in case we needed to text pictures back to get help setting up we were on our way home.
We had conveniently parked under the store sign so I figured a picture was in order.
Dustan spent all day Sunday after church setting up my machine.  I decorated and cleaned for Christmas as my contribution to the whole set up.  He had it finished by bedtime ready for the next day after I got off of work.  Yes, he's amazing!

Dustan getting started.

The frame is assembled.

The amount of space between the frame and the wall. One finger's worth on both ends.

Dustan got the machine up on the frame.

The completed project.