Friday, January 31, 2014

Technology and the New Longarmer

Part of becoming a new longarm quilter is figuring out how to learn all you need to know. I've joined Facebook groups, Yahoo groups, read hundreds of online article & blogs, and even taken classes.  Probably the advice that keeps popping up more than anything is the age old adage, practice makes perfect.  But I'm not a fast piecer & I must get sidetracked fairly often since I make my unfinished project list and I quickly filled a notecard with all the projects I have in the house that are in various states of unfinished-ness.
A lady I follow on Facebook has a unique way of practicing her longarming skills. She buys unfinished quilt tops off of eBay and then finishes them by quilting them. I've shown a previous Christmas quilt top that I acquired through eBay and finished. A couple of weeks ago I became the proud bidder and winner of three very similar quilt tops by the same woman. They measure approximately 60"x 70" and all were under $12 a piece. Her only request in her listing was that the person who bought them would report back to her about them. I wasn't sure what type of information she was wanting reported back but for that price I could write an email letting her know I'd quilted them and send a quick picture.
The three quilt tops I purchased from the same lady off of eBay.
When the quilts arrived I had just started back to work after Christmas break. I kept practicing on my sheets of fabric I had stretched on the frame. I'm finally feeling confident in my leaf pattern and loopy flower pattern these days. I have two Quilts of Valor that I'm needing to quilt in the near future and decided I wanted to practice my quilting skills from start to finish one more time.  So I loaded the yellow flower quilt Wednesday night. I took a class after I got my machine and learned several good tricks for loading a quilt effectively so I put to use my new skills.
The quilt I loaded to practice on the frame. After it was already loaded and I took the picture I thought maybe I should have ironed it. But then I reconsidered and decided it was fine.
Thursday after I came home from a meeting I went to the quilting studio (as I like to refer to it) and got started immediately. I chose to use my loopy flower pantogram.
My first row of flowers started. You can see my basting stitches holding the quilt down so it wont shift as I quilt.
 I quilted across one row and ended up with my back so tight I thought I would break out into spasms.  I decided I might do better if I had an adult beverage to loosen my muscles.  (A tip I picked up from a new longarming friend on Facebook.)
A small adult beverage to loosen up.
I also changed into my flip flops as I think they make me a better quilter. Or I am desperate for warmer weather.
I went back to work and I quilted and quilted. I quilted for 1 1/2 hours until dinner was ready. I had a quick dinner break and then back to the grind. I found I quilt like I drive, with the radio up loud and me performing my own concert.  I really don't know how I don't have a recording contract because I really am quite good.
I'm leaning in this one. I'm still learning how to run the machine and keep my body moving at the same time.  I find I lean instead of walking to the side as I go.
After another  1 1/2 hours of quilting I finally finished my quilt top.  I quickly pulled it off the frame, trimmed up the edges, and took some pictures. I went and emailed them to the lady I had purchased them from eBay. I let her know it quilted up nicely and looked really nice finished.
I make wonderful faces as I quilt. I often have my tongue sticking out.
I was very pleased that I finally feel as if I'm progressing in my skills. I was able to consistently keep my patterns consistent in each flower.  I practiced lining up my patterns after each time I rolled the quilt up without any mistakes. I was finally able to keep my batting from shifting by tacking down the quilt top each time I rolled the quilt to the new fabric that was ready to be quilted.  I've also been able to notice when I put in a new full bobbin how the machine feels "heavier" than when I get towards the end of the bobbin and the machine is much "lighter" to move. I also can feel it when I run out of bobbin thread these days instead of keeping quilting another +10".  I'm getting the feel for my machine that my research on longarming said would come if I put in the practice.  I'm not sure what people did before the internet when they wanted to learn something new. I appreciate the help I've gotten when I've posted questions on the message boarrds. I pick up new techniques or ideas as I'm reading others' blogs. When I need to see how to do something I can pull up a YouTube video and get a demonstration.  In the case of learning my longarm quilting social media has been extra valuable.
A close up of the loopy flower pattern.

The finished quilt off the frame. I think the lady I purchased it from should feel quite proud as it turned out well.

Sunday, January 19, 2014

What a Week

It was quite a week here at the hacienda.  Thursday morning I went to the dentist for a mild pain in my front tooth. The tooth had been knocked out & hanging on by a thread back in HS (1996) but they were able to save the tooth and put it back.  At that time they had said at some point I'd need a root canal.  Well that time came Thursday morning. After the root canal I came home and slept for 3 1/2 hours.
Afterwards I was feeling as good as new (that could be a stretch). I got up and put another of the cheater quilts my sister-in-law gave me to practice. I had gotten a new toy, a ruler, earlier in the week and I was eager to start practicing. My new ruler has a straight edge and curve edge.  So incorporated both into my quilt.  I don't have any pictures of me quilting, I had a root canal that morning for crying out loud. I wasn't taking any photos of myself and I was just out of it enough to forget to take any while it was on the frame. :)  I went back to work on Friday as good as new.  The kids always like a good story so during writing time I drew my picture for my story with lots of embellishments for their benefit, minus the needles of course!
My new ruler for making straight and
curve lines.
I used the curved side of the ruler to
 make the border here.
The finished quilt. It's the same design
as the previous one.
I used the ruler to stitch in the ditch for
 these blocks.

Another example of my stitch in the ditch. Basically I just sewed where the seams would be.

The weekend was filled with family. For Christmas we gave both of our families tickets to a K-State basketball game against West Virginia for this Saturday.  We had a few extra tickets so we also had some friends join us in the fun at the game.  My friend, Meaghan, who is a West Virginia fan went with us in her West Viriginia gear.  She is currently a student at K-State so really it was a win-win for her because she was going to be happy no matter who won! My bicycling friend of 10 years, Don, who is a KU fan also went along. He bought a K-State t-shirt just for the occasion which he promptly gave to me as soon as the game was over. I'm going to hold onto it for him in case he goes with us next year. My parents and brother went from my family. Dustan's parents, 2 of his brothers and grandma went from his side.  K-State won easily. We've found it is easier when we have family in that is easier for us to make meals here at the house instead of trying to seat that many people at a restaurant.  So for dinner on Saturday night we had chili and chicken noodle soup. We had veggie pizza and mini fruit pizzas. For fun I had set up the longarm machine with practice fabric and let the family and friends give longarming a try! What a hoot!  I really should have taken more pictures but I didn't.  Good times!
My dad trying out the new longarm machine.

Dustan's brothers tried out the gecko design on Pantovision. They both are really good at using the tablet to quilt the designs. They caught on quickly.

Monday, January 6, 2014

Not Like I'd Planned It!

I had been itching since my Innova arrived to get started quilting "real quilts" not just leftover pieces of fabric I had lying around.  I started with my sister-in-law's baby quilt which quilted up quickly and I was feeling confident.
At the beginning of Christmas break I'd been perusing eBay in hopes of finding some quilt tops to work on. I found more than a few! EBay is a goldmine for unfinished quilt tops. I bid on a Christmas top and won it Christmas Eve for about $12 + s&h. It arrived a few days later and I was so excited. I had to fix a few seams due to misalignment and pleats but I was ready to tackle this baby!
I loaded her up on my frame one evening, decided I would float this top since it had worked so well for me on my one previous practice quilt, and tacked her down using 3 stitches per inch with my Innova.
My first eBay quilt loaded and ready!
Needless, to say this quilt did not go how I planned from the start.  When I first started I sized my pattern too small and the normal size of stars I was used to quilting were much smaller giving me fits. I did 3 passes across then stopped and took 2 days deciding what I was going to do. I could rip out all my quilting I'd done thus far and start over or I could enlarge my pattern and continue on from where I was currently. I chose the second option, enlarging my pattern and continuing on without looking back. After I put in my first pass of the larger pattern I went back and freehand quilted in some loopty loos and stars to bridge the gap.
Throughout I was having problems getting uniform stars. I would concentrate. I would relax. I would go fast. I would go slow. Whatever it was, I was struggling.  I struggled right down to the very last row I quilted.
An example of my rather wonky stars.
A particularly unattractive star.  Good grief!
Now  here is a good star, but of course, you don't notice it because it is on a solid piece of red fabric.
At some point I decided my shoes were the problem and I changed into my flip-flops in the midst of the coldest spell of weather our area has known in the last 20 years. That actually did seem to help and I am reconsidering naming my little enterprise The Flip Flop Quilter instead of Three Dog Night Quilting Co.
I took a picture of my flip flops. 
I tried smiling while I quilted. At one point I found myself leaning completely over the machine mere inches from the screen.  
I was never so happy as when I finally rolled the last of the quilt up and I had the end in sight.  I finished it off and pulled it off the frame as fast as I could.
Finally at the end.
So here is what it looks like on the front:
Looking at this now, this is a terrible photo. 
Here is the back:
Far away.
Up close.
Here are three things I learned this time around:
1. When you are aware you have a wonk-ily pieced quilt (as I should have realized when I was fixing the few seams I did) you really need to take the time to measure it out and see how square it is. Then make adjustments from there.
2. Related to number 1; wonky quilts shouldn't be floated. The really need to be attached securely to the quilt frame and rolled tightly just like the backing. I read this on a quilting blog about halfway through my project. Lesson learned.
3. I learned how to save a pattern on my Pantovision program so I don't have to try to remember the dimensions each time I go back to start another project.
I have 3 more quilts arriving from eBay any day now. I can't wait to try again!
I was cutting it close on thread at the end!