Monday, May 29, 2017

First Practice Quilt Loaded Onto the Frame (Finally!)

I've had this beautiful APQS Millenium longarm quilting machine on a 12' frame in my studio since April 18th, just sitting there forlornly while I focused my attention on reorganizing my studio, working on my interior design clients' projects, and taking care of my husband following his heart surgery.  My husband was starting to express concerns about whether I was EVER going to turn on the new machine, but you can't do any test sewing on a longarm machine until you get something loaded onto the frame!  I FINALLY got a practice quilt loaded onto my frame yesterday, plugged in the longarm machine for the first time since I got it home over a month ago, and did some doodle quilting!  Woo hoo!!

...And Away We Go!
It's no fun at all, as you can see...

Vroom!  Vroom!
Here is my plan: I bought a King sized package of 80/20 cotton/poly quilt batting from JoAnn's that measures 120" x 120".  I pieced together a 116" x 116" practice quilt top from 3.25 yard lengths of three different fabrics -- a cheerful yellow, hot pink, and a blue-green batik.  Just because I'm practicing doesn't mean I need to be looking at drab, boring fabric.  The backing is plain muslin.  I loaded up this enormous practice quilt on my longarm frame and I am going to spend at least 30 minutes every day until the whole thing is covered in quilt scribbles.  Once that's done, I'm going to put a REAL quilt on the machine, ready or not.

Even with everything else demanding my attention over the past few weeks, I would have loaded something on the machine and started playing sooner, but I was confused about the loading process because I've never actually seen anyone do it before.  When you take a workshop or demo a machine at a quilt show, they already have the quilt loaded on the frame when you get there.  The photos in the APQS manual are small and low resolution so it's difficult to see exactly what you're supposed to be doing and how things are oriented.  I ended up watching a few APQS videos on YouTube as well as reading through the partial float quilt loading instructions in my manual, but there are so many different methods out there...  Zipper systems, grippers with dowels sewn into the leaders... 

My APQS dealer suggested that I start out loading quilts with pins, but even in the vastness of the Internet and YouTube it was difficult to find a tutorial with clear visuals for this "old school" method.   Not sure if I did it correctly, and I still have questions about how tightly I'm supposed to be wrapping the fabric around the rollers, etc., but at least now I have something on the frame so I can start playing, one month and ten days after the beast first arrived in my home!  I still have my full day of training with my APQS dealer that I'll schedule once school is out, so I'm starting a list of questions to bring with me to training.  Meanwhile, it's play time!

Pinning On the Backing with Flower Head Pins
Pinning the quilt onto the rollers took a LONG time, by the way, so I can see why quilters enjoy the zippered leaders and Red Snappers that expedite the process.  In the photo above you can see how I pinned my plain muslin backing to the Backing Roller with flower head pins, and in the photo below, I'm pinning my practice quilt top to the Quilt Top Roller the same way.  

Pinning the Quilt Top to the Canvas Leader
I did the "partial float" method this time, so only the backing was pinned to the Pickup Roller at the back of the frame.  The top edge of the quilt top was basted in place through the batting and backing just below the bottom edge of the canvas leader.

My First Quilted Scribbles!
OH HOW FUN!!!!!  I started out with a white Glide thread on my yellow fabric, and although that's what I'd like if this was a real quilt, it wasn't showing up very well in my pictures.  So I switched to a cotton variegated machine quilting thread, but that was ugly and wanted tension adjustments that I didn't feel like bothering with for ugly thread, so I switched back to Glide thread in a spring green shade.  

Glide Longarm Quilting Thread
My Millie machine isn't brand-new; she's a dealer demo, and those little batting scraps that you see in the photo above were already tucked into that first thread guide when we unpacked the machine.  I'm sure that's adding some drag to the thread, but I'm getting pretty nice stitches right now so I'll leave the batting where it is and ask about it when I get up to Hendersonville for my training.

Lousy Swirls, But Half Decent Stipple Meandering
A longarm machine has two sets of wheels for horizontal and vertical motion and both sets of wheels are involved for movement on the diagonal.  The first thing I notice going from free-motion quilting on a domestic sewing machine to the longarm is that straight lines, especially horizontal or vertical straight lines, are much easier to achieve on the longarm machine, but rounded shapes want to come out kind of square.  You can see that in the swirls I attempted in the photo above.  And that's what I need to learn on this practice piece, how to anticipate and compensate for that slight difference in how the machine moves on its X and Y axes versus how it moves on the diagonal, so that my stitches land exactly where I want them, just like I was drawing with a pen on a piece of paper.  So I abandoned the swirls for now and spent some time doing stippling or meandering or whatever you want to call it, focusing on creating smooth curves.

And then, of course, I was so excited that I needed to show someone else how much fun it was to play with the longarm machine, so I called my sixteen-year-old son Lars into my studio and let him give it a go:

My Teenager, Quilting His Name
Well, this is a long enough post for today.  I'm ready for another cup of coffee, a late breakfast, the gym, and then some more time up in the studio.  Happy Memorial Day Weekend, everyone!  I'm linking up with:

·       Design Wall Monday at Small Quilts and Doll Quilts  
·       Main Crush Monday at Cooking Up Quilts
·       Monday Making at Love Laugh Quilt


Beth @ Cooking Up Quilts said...

Woohoo!! She's loaded and ready to play! I'm so excited for you Rebecca. Getting those curves right is something I'm struggling with too but it will get better with practice. Loading a king size practice quilt is smart - it gives you plenty of room to work with. Have fun playing!

Home Sewn By Us said...

Hi Rebecca,
I love reading this! I am on the fence about getting a mid-arm/long-arm, so I find this fascinating. I love that your son gave it a try. How did he like it? Might as well get 'em hooked young. ~smile~

Ramona said...

It will be fun to watch your progress on your new long-arm. I'm taking lessons at a local shop that rents machines and go again on Wednesday. I was surprised at how loose the quilting process feels. After machine quilting on my domestic machine, I knew there wouldn't be the drag of the quilt on the long-arm, but I didn't expect the arm to move so easily. Have fun and Quilt On!!

Linda @ kokaquilts said...

I enjoyed reading about your progress with this, very interesting! Do you have to stand? I'm sure, like most things, it's a case of lots of pracitise, but it looks like you are having fun

Connie said...

HI, congrats on getting a Millennium. I'm a former owner of Millenniums, having had one. I sold it last year when we moved out of state and no longer had space for the machine. They are excellent machines and I enjoyed quilting with it.

Karen - Quilts...etc. said...

getting a quilt loaded on a 3 roller hand quilting frame is a lot the same and once you get used to it it doesn't take a lot of time. I use T-pins on mine for all three layers you want it rolled tight enough so you don't have wrinkles on the back but then I loosen it a little before I start to quilt so the needle goes through easily - don't know if that is the same for doing by machine. Glad you will have an instruction day - you might have a lot of questions by then - I hope you have no tension issues I have heard that is one thing people complain about.
By the way it looks like you are having too much fun :)

Sherry said...

I started with a Juki short arm and took a class with Wenda, I think her last name is Coburn. She had a book that she wrote about using a short arm quilting machine.

Even though we upgraded to a Nolting Fun Quilter I still refer back to her book for loading info.

I learned by quilting on donation quilts. I did mostly pattern boards......using a stylus in the grooves to create the designs. Now I prefer free motion...but I plan on going back to the pattern boards for some very simple quilts I want to make.

Good luck with your practicing.

Lynn said...

That looks like such fun. Our craft group of around 10 women had a go on a long arm recently at a craft fair. Now we're working out ways to fun raise to get one so we can do charity quilts. A wonderful adventure in store for you - and you haven't even had a lesson yet! Wonderful.

Katie said...

Wow. Looks like you are going to have so much fun with your machine. :-)

Sue Daurio said...

Oh how very exciting!! I remember the transition from DSM to long arm with free motion quilting, some things are so much easier to control on a domestic machine. But that's only for the first few months. You are going to have so much fun! I always have the little bit of batting on the thread hook above the spool. It really helps slow things down coming off the spool. Pretty soon, you'll be going slow then fast all so quickly. If you don't have the little batting, you might get more thread breaks as the thread gets jerked around a bit without it. Good stitches are all that matters. Can't wait to see what you do in the coming weeks.

Chris said...

Yay for you!! It looks like you're a natural!

Julie said...

Not surprising, loading my first quilt to practice on was also a dilemma. I also had to resort to YouTube for help, but machines are slightly different. That ought to be a big HELLO to the manufacturers! And don't be shocked if even after a couple years you stand in front of it loading a quilt, and still have one of those moments where your brain tries to make sense of it. It still happens here on occasion. I thought your doodles looked stellar, btw, and was glad to see your son give it a spin. I hope this Millie gal brings you loads of quilting joy!

Preeti said...

Oh my goodness, your smile says it all. I am sure you will have many joyful hours with your new toy.

Miaismine said...

I'm so sorry you're not enjoying your new longarm machine! Hee-hee! :) I'm sure you'll enjoy many happy hours quilting away! :)

Janice Holton said...

Oh boyoboyoboy! I am so excited to see how your quilting progresses! I shall have to live vicariously through you for a while. Looks like a lot of fun! So glad you finally got to do a practice quilt. :)

Val's Quilting Studio said...

Great idea to just jump in and start as you have! In the beginning I also quilted for project Linus,.,.love the Lars jumped in too. Oh keep going girl!!

Vicki in MN said...

Your post brought back memories for me starting out frame quilting. I know your excitement and joy! It will all come together the more you practice. It really is different than DSM quilting, but I think longarm is soooo much easier. I love my Funquilter.