Wednesday, August 20, 2014

Floss Your Bobbin Holder and Other Cleaning Tips

I was cleaning out my bobbin case and it reminded me of a couple tips for all my free motion quilting friends. Actually, this applies to all sewing machine users and technically, I have a bobbin holder, since my machine is a top loading machine.

I love my top loading machines for ease of use and easily seen bobbin. I hate running out of bobbin thread! But one drawback is that the groove that creates the bobbin tension can be difficult to clean.

Getting lint built up in these grooves can really mess with getting good tension on your machine. Here's a video on cleaning these spots:

Make sure you have a good brush to clean the lint out of the bobbin area. One should have come with your machine. You can also get these at any sewing center or place with a good selection of notions.

See the bit of lint I teased out ?

You can "floss" your bobbin holder too with a bit of thread as shown in the video. Running a piece of good thread through the groove can loosen lint and help remove it.

Don't be tempted to disassemble the case/holder as it is likely that you will lose one of the tiny screws or have difficulty getting the tension set back to where it needs to be.

One suggestion quilters are given when having a sudden issue with tension is to re-thread the machine. We all hate to hear this as usually we think it's threaded properly. But there are times that the issue is a wad of lint that has caused the problem and the re-threading process may work it loose. (Plus, there are those times when the thread jumps out of the take up lever!)

You probably already know this, but never thread the machine with the foot down! Put the foot down to thread the needle if need be, but the thread won't settle between the tension discs properly with the foot down as that closes them. For this reason, I always raise the presser foot when adjusting my thread tension too.

I mentioned canned air in the video, don't blow it into the machine! It will send the lint around the gears and shafts. I have seen some machines so full of lint (glitter, sequins, needles, and pins too!) that a wad of lint has felted and become a wedge in the workings and causes them to "freeze up".

So, now that I have a clean machine, I'm off to sew......

Monday, August 18, 2014

Free Motion Monday Week 3

It's Free Motion Monday! It's now the third week of August and the second week of school. I am not into my new groove yet. But I thought I'd share a few quilts from the Charlotte AQS show.

I took a bunch, but because of the regulations about taking and using pictures, I'm only showing a few, and those are watermarked with the maker's name.

Christa Watson's quilt was there! She's a reader of mine and a busy quilty biz gal!

Janet Stone's "A to Z for Ewe and Me". She does great applique and quilting.

Some serious bling by the crystal loving duo of Cheri Meineke-Johnson and Linda Taylor.

I love the exotic mix of Dianne S. Hire's quilts. She had at least two quilts in the show. Stunning applique! She was in one of the lectures I attended and she was fabulous.

Laura Davies from Tanderwen Quilts had her whole cloth in the show too. She was there, but we didn't meet. Bummer. Her blog has several quilts from the show posted too.

I took a bunch, but because of the regulations about taking and using pictures, I'm only showing a few, and those are watermarked with the maker's name.

Not much news here to share anyway, but if you'd like to share with us, please do!

Here are the link up guidelines:
  • Keep your post relevant to this quilt along please. Spammy posts will be deleted.
  • Make sure you link up to the individual post, not your home page as nobody wants to have to search around for the post if they're a little late to the party.
  • Reciprocate! Link back to this post somewhere in your post or use the clickable blog button in your sidebar. You've got to dance with the one who took you to the party, so make sure you link back.
  • Don't be a wall-flower. (Talking to myself here too. In person I am so stinking shy!) Visit the other links, be sociable, and leave comments.
  • Please make sure you leave me a way to contact you if you are a no-reply blogger, especially if you ask a question. 

Saturday, August 16, 2014

Review of the Artistic18SD

Sew Simple, where I work one day a week, got in the Artistic18SD quilter a few weeks ago. I wasn't sure about getting the machine as it was essentially a Tin Lizzy under the Artistic brand, a division of Janome. I had the impression that Tin Lizzie was a very economical brand, but didn't seem to be liked by the long arm quilters I knew and 'visited' with online.

Artistic long arm sit down quilting machine

But there it was, on display and I got to play with it. So play I did.

Orientation- Having learned to quilt well on a sewing machine, I have always found machines that are oriented perpendicular to the quilter to be disorienting. Plus I don't like the idea of pushing my quilt forward to eventually hit the machine. Having the rest of the machine to my right and the entire thread path easily visible and reachable from my seated position is my preference and that is how the Artistic is positioned.

Size of the machine- While the vertical clearance (which I didn't measure) of the long arm is less than many sit-down systems, it has a full eighteen inches to the right of the needle. That's 2 inches more than another popular brand.

Table- There's no point quilting on even the best machine if the table it is on is hopping around, so the table is important. My first impression is the table is a bit wiggly, but when I used the machine there was no hopping or excessive vibration. The table has a huge leaf to the rear to support large quilts. I didn't lift the leaf up in the shop while testing it out. The table is quite large and I think that the leaf is overkill, given that there is not a lot of space to the left of the needle. IMHO, the rear leaf should be half the size and there should be a leaf to the left, or even just a leaf to the left and no leaf to the rear. Setting a table to the left at the same height would be an easy fix. The surface of the table was a bit of a disappointment. It is slightly textured instead of perfectly smooth. Smoother is better!

Visibility- One of the biggest advantages I feel a long arm system has over quilting on a domestic machine besides the extra harp space is visibility. A sit-down long arm doesn't let you see as much of the quilt at a glance as a frame system does, but you can definitely see more of the area immediately around the needle. I think there may be less visibility than some other systems, but it is adequate.

It has a large lamp with CFL bulb on a flexible arm mounted to the machine to put light where you need it. I think does a fine job, but I might would opt to buy an after-market LED light strip to mount under the arm.

Foot- This may be the thing I like least about the machine. It's a hopping style foot with a presser foot lever (they call it a tension lever), this means that you have to raise the presser foot just like with a sewing machine when you remove the project or want to move to another area to quilt. The other long arm systems I have seen do not have such a lever. My Janome 6600 and all the other bigger Janome sewing machines have a wonderful knee lift mechanism for the presser foot. This means I keep forgetting to lift the lever, which I need to do if I want to pull on the top thread like I do when I stop and start.

The frame mounted machines in this line have a ruler toe available, but Janome does not have one available for the sit-down model yet. I am told that it is available through Tin Lizzy and will be available soon. You know I have got to have a ruler toe! I will be waiting to see what it looks like as the current open toe really isn't suitable for ruler work.

The height of the hopping foot may need to be adjusted depending on the thickness of the quilt sandwich, but it's very easy to do.

Tension and Threading- Like all long arm systems it has a vertical bobbin, which takes a little getting used to if you usually use a drop-in. The top tension, like most, if not all long arm systems is more complicated than a sewing machine but pretty straightforward. There are no thread-break sensors which is a plus to me. Nothing extra to go wrong and I have eyes for spotting thread breaks. I was able to easily get good tension and stitch formation with a few adjustments of the tension dial. Once when I was quilting on it, the thread broke after about 24 inches and I was a bit peeved until I noticed someone had threaded an old spool of rayon on the machine. Rayon is delicate and I don't think it's suited to such use.

Electronic features- This machine has two electronic features that I feel a sit-down machine really needs and nothing else. Once you have needle up/down and a maximum speed control, anything else is an extra- sometimes an expensive extra! (I show the controls in the video) These are very basic but functional controls. I did see a different, very economical (cheapest price for a sit-down long arm I have ever seen), basic machine at the Charlotte show that had no electronics-- not even needle up/down. The maker assured me that I didn't need one and that it meant there were fewer things to break down. He was mistaken. While I appreciate a basic machine at a basic price (about $2000 less than the Artistic), his was too basic (not to mention looking like Frankenstein).

Foot Control- The variable speed foot control was a bit on the small side, but pretty responsive. Working in conjunction with the speed control, it should serve the purpose.

Bobbin Winder- There's a built in bobbin winder which is nice. Who needs extra clutter? It will wind while you quilt. If you want to wind bobbins when not quilting, the needles still sews--- so remove your project and unthread the needle.

Operation- It's a bit noisy, some of which I will attribute to the size 18 needle, which is a bit large. I could easily put a smaller needle in it and reduce some of the noise. but since it's being test-driven in the shop by quilters of all skill levels, a bigger needle is better. Long arm machines are definitely noisier than sewing machines, so I don't find this problematic. It was easy to quilt on and there were no confusing keypad options to make sense of before I could quilt on it.  Note that in the video, I had no trouble quilting with only one hand!

I have heard some complaints about the lower-priced long arm machines in general, and I have to wonder if sometimes it has to do with the skill level of the quilter and the willingness to adjust things to get the best out of each machine and thread combination. I think this applies to sewing machines as well. (To be fair, when it comes to long arms on a frame system, there are a lot more factors to consider, many of them a function of the frame and carriage--this isn't a factor with the sit-down machines.)

Oiling- Most of the long arm machines need additional oiling than sewing machines do. This machine has only 2 spots where it needs oil and has an internal oil reserve. That means you don't have to oil the hook itself.

Price- Since I work for a Janome dealer and Janome is a bit of a stickler about posting pricing info online for certain machines, I'm going to play it safe and not give the actual price. There will be variations among dealers on the price and you are free to search out the cheapest price possible and have this machine shipped to you, but I've got to say that buying a machine from the dealer that you will use for training, servicing, repair or parts is really important. For most folks that means using the dealer who is closest to you.

I will say that this machine seems to be around $2000 less than the Handi-quilter Sweet 16 and its variants. It is around $2000 less also than the APQS George (Which I will tell you is my absolutely preferred sit-down machine). It is about half the price of the Gammill Charm, which is a fabulous machine with a great table, but has more features than I need or am willing to pay for.

Summary- The Artistic18SD is a perfectly functional sit-down long arm machine. It's not pretty, there are no extra features and that helps to keep the price down. I'd call this a great, basic, "Git 'er done" kind of machine. I like it; I'm a "Git 'er done" kinda person. I won't be buying it as it isn't in my budget and I'm quite happy for now with the 9 inches of throat on my Janome 6600, and if I want to move up to a larger machine, I might only move to  a Janome sewing machine with 11 inches. If I could afford it or the George, it would be a bit of a toss up for me and I might just go with the Artistic since I'd save about $2000 and the dealer is local to me, though George lacks the annoying tension lever which is a vote in its favor.

There you have it. I hope you found this review helpful. I wasn't paid in any way for this review, other than I was on the clock at the shop while quilting on it. You'll note that I am not horribly motivated to switch from a large sewing machine to a sit-down long arm machine as I think fabulous quilting can be done on a sewing machine with needle up/down, speed control, a good free motion foot, a large flat surface, and preferably with a few inches more than the basic sewing machine.

Thursday, August 14, 2014

Roll Call for the Ruler Toe

Today I don't have much for you, dear reader, but I hope you have something for me. I should have been keeping better notes as I shared my ruler work techniques and which machines could use what combination of Janome Convertible Free Motion foot sets whether the low shank (202002004), high shank (202001003), or 1600P version (767433004).

If you have been using the any Janome foot set above with the ruler toe (one half of the Janome Frame Quilting Feet Set part #767-434-005) on a machine that is not a Janome, please answer this "roll call" in the comments with the particular combination you are using.

If by chance you have found a foot/toe for ruler work other than those from Janome, please let me know what you are using also.

In order to sweeten the pot, any comments on this post (even if you don't have this info to share) will qualify you for a drawing to get a ruler from Accents in Design at my expense (must live in the US, sorry). I will randomly draw a name from these comments September 1st.

Roll call, sound off!

(You guys are the best!)

Wednesday, August 13, 2014

Quilting Plan

As I shared on Monday, I haven't been doing any free motion quilting lately. But I've got plenty of projects in the works. Whenever it's time to quilt, you need a plan and that's what I'm blogging about today.

Now, I'd love to talk time management plans and how to get all those quilts in your mind done. But I am the least qualified to talk about that!

Most quilters tend to make a top without thinking too much about the quilting until the top is done. So the first thing to do is study that top. What type of quilting is it wanting? Traditional, simple, complex, or maybe even pictoral? How will the quilt be used? Are there construction issues that need to be addressed like wavy borders, fullness in a block, or missing points? Sometimes these can be "quilted out".

Hang your quilt up on a design wall if you've got one big enough to get the full view of it. I have a large design wall where I used to have my sewing space. Now it's the wall behind my bed. (We tend to play a room version of musical chairs in our house, switching things around according to the needs of our family.)

studying a quilt on my wall

 I hung a customer quilt on it this week to plan my quilting. This lovely quilt actually belongs to one of my blog readers and when she asked me about doing some quilting for her, this one spoke to me right away. She included this cute card in which she gave me full rein to quilt it as I saw fit. Words to cheer any quilter!

Sometimes just looking at the quilt will give you the obvious plan for your quilt. Sometimes you need to do some testing of designs. Since this quilt is symmetrical, I really only need to focus on the center and one quadrant of it.

dresden plate quilting plan

You can use Plexiglas or clear vinyl and an eraseable marker to draw designs in place on the quilt. This will really help with planning the scale of quilting too.

Pictures of the quilt can be handy for planning your quilting also. Take the picture and print it out so that you can draw on the picture. Or use the picture in a graphics program (paint is available to most folks and works for this) and draw on it electronically. More advanced graphics programs can really help with this, but unless you're very skilled with them, it can use as much time as getting hooked on Pinterest!

I play around with several different graphics programs; mainly because I'm too cheap to buy Adobe Illustrator. All of them are better suited to different things. File compatibility is a royal pain. I know a few long arm quilters who use a tablet and stylus (like a Wacom or Bamboo brand) so they can draw on the computer more naturally than using a mouse and more efficiently than using a ton of graphic elements to create the design.

I now know from looking at the quilt that I want to quilt that border around the central block as a unit. It could be quilted like a double border, quilting the lines of strips individually, but I'd rather quilt them together as a single border. I haven't settled on a design yet. Size-wise, this is a good spot for feathers, but the quilt doesn't quite look like it wants them.

There will be stitch-in-the-ditch between the blades of the Dresden plates and continuous curves around the edges. Some sort of fill in the cream. There's not quite enough background area to make me think I'll quilt a motif in the corners, but I won't rule it out. I'm not sure about the rest of it yet, but I think it's going to be fun!

Once you've got the designs figured out for the most part, do yourself a favor and take some time to figure out the order of quilting. Does the quilt need stabilized along the main piecing lines? Will an over-all design work best? That's one design or design group worked across the quilt regardless of piecing. How can you quilt your planned designs with as little back-tracking or stops and starts as possible?

I hope that's given you some ideas for planning your quilting. Have you got any tips to share?

Monday, August 11, 2014

Free Motion Monday: August, Week 2

This post could also be called Free Motion Monday Mish-Mash. But enough alliteration......

This month I am taking a break from featuring a specific design, but I encourage you to link up a post from your own free motion quilting adventures.

I have quilted nothing all week! But I have gotten my kids ready to start school. They've been homeschooled so far and now they are off to the local elementary school for 3rd and 4th grades. Today is their first day, so I nervously await their return in less than 3 hours. I haven't shed a tear so far today, but it's been hard to let them go.

 But my goal is to get more quilting done along with some other side jobs. (Not to mention keep the 4yo out of trouble and do some preschool activities with him.) Today I prioritized several projects and gave myself some deadlines. One of which is some quilting for one of my blog readers! More on that in another post.

I had to do some hemming of the new school clothes for my rather short and stocky kids. Have you hemmed jeans with this technique? Works great and preserves the original hem. Once the pants are on a wiggly child, no one notices the seam. I didn't trim the excess since I imagine these kids of mine will need the hem lowered in a few months. I used the blind stitch to sew the folded fabric up inside the pants leg so they don't snag their toes on it or end up with the fold peeking out from under the hem.

My Janome 6600P doesn't have a free arm so I got out my smaller machine, a Janome 3160.

So dirty! We won't tell John at Sew Simple (where I work part-time) who does the service and cleaning about this! Cleaned it all up with a scrap of batting. (Batting scraps are great dusters. You can even use a big piece on a Swiffer mop.)

I set up a folding table in my sewing room for it and plan to keep it out for my daughter to use. Unfortunately, that means there's not enough room for my recliner now. It's just as well, as the chair had become a dumping ground for assorted projects, material, and such. (What the Fly Lady would call a clutter hot spot!)

So there's my less-than-exciting news for today. If you've been doing some free motion quilting, link it up and share. Let's go a-visitin'!

Here are the link up guidelines:
  • Keep your post relevant to this quilt along please. Spammy posts will be deleted.
  • Make sure you link up to the individual post, not your home page as nobody wants to have to search around for the post if they're a little late to the party.
  • Reciprocate! Link back to this post somewhere in your post or use the clickable blog button in your sidebar. You've got to dance with the one who took you to the party, so make sure you link back.
  • Don't be a wall-flower. (Talking to myself here too. In person I am so stinking shy!) Visit the other links, be sociable, and leave comments.
  • Please make sure you leave me a way to contact you if you are a no-reply blogger, especially if you ask a question. 
Now I'm off to have some homemade cookies ready when the kids get off the bus.

Wednesday, August 6, 2014

Bobbin Quilting Fun!

I was so happy to take Michele Scott's Bobbin Quilting Fun class at the Charlotte AQS show. I had been wanting to do bobbin work for a long time. Leslie's posts and projects at Marveles Art Studios had inspired me to try it maybe 2 years ago.

Here are two of my samples from the class. I laid a single strand of Isacord (a 40wt thread) on top of the sample for scale. Theses threads would never work on the needle side of the machine!

bobbin quilting free motion

I had even bought a fairly large stash of thick threads to use for bobbin work too! I am a thread addict after all. But I just hadn't done any.

silk and rayon flower

Above is a sample where I needed to tighten the needle thread (top tension). This is also a great time to use invisible thread, which Michele encouraged us to use.

Michele took me from thinking, to actually doing. It was so easy, I don't know why I had waited so long.

Here's the 'top' of my piece, which is really the backside. Flip it over and viola! (There's that piece of Isacord for scale.

In case you're not familiar with the technique, bobbin work takes a lovely decorative thread and puts it in the bobbin. You quilt (or stitch, it doesn't have to be a quilting project) with your project upside down. This keeps extra thick or delicate fibers in the bobbin where they are subject to less tensioning and friction, not to mention, they don't have to go through the eye of the needle.

In the class, the Janome 8900 machines we used already had the bobbin case loosened to accommodate the thicker threads in the bobbin. Using my extra bobbin case at home, I reduced the bobbin tension screw a quarter turn and all was ready.

If you get a chance to take a class with Michele, do it! She's a riot. Bobbin work: another tool in my quilting tool box. Can't wait to use this in another project!