Tuesday, July 16, 2019

To Do On Tuesday: Longarm Quilting Practice!

Time keeps on slippin', slippin', slippin', into the future...  It's Tuesday again!  My schedule was pretty chaotic last week, considering this is summer "vacation" -- bee meeting, guild meeting, workshops, shopping for everything my son will need when he heads to college (in FOUR AND A HALF WEEKS!), and lots of time spent helping both boys conduct a long overdue Deep Purge of old toys and outgrown books that were taking up too much space and collecting unhealthy quantities of dust in their bedrooms.  

Well-Read, Well-Loved, and Ready for Donation
Don't worry -- there are still PLENTY of books to read in my house, plus hundreds of digital titles in our family's Kindle library, and everyone has a library card.  No one in my house is suffering for lack of a book to read!  We donated 200+ Young Reader and Young Adult titles, mostly, to the Middle School library of the Metrolina Regional Scholars Academy, a charter school for intellectually gifted students that my boys both attended for several years.  It makes me happy to know that other children are going to enjoy reading these books as much as we did.

Not surprisingly, I didn't get much sewing accomplished last week outside of my bee meeting, where I worked on needle-turn appliqué  and my two full-day workshops.  Time to take a look at last week's goals again:
  1. Piece Farmer's Wife Block 7 Augusta
  2. Pick out fabrics & gather supplies for Karen Kay Buckley workshops
  3. Fire up the longarm machine and do some experimental/practice quilting. 
Not bad, actually!  I DID piece that block, and I did get my stuff packed for the workshops.  I even unpacked some of it when I got home.  What I didn't get to was the longarm machine -- again.  When your free time is limited, it's so much easier to choose to work on something that is going smoothly than it is to work on something that is giving you grief, don't you agree?  And Thoroughly Modern Millie (my longarm machine) has definitely been giving me grief!

Thoroughly Modern Millie, Midway Through Quilting Mission Impossible
I've scheduled my 2013 APQS Millennium machine for a factory "Spa Visit" in the middle of August.  I bought this machine in 2017 from a dealer who had been using it as a rental machine in her shop, and I've begun to suspect that there may be some worn parts and/or things that are out of adjustment that are hampering my learning curve with the machine.  The "Spa Visit" is actually a refurbishing wherein every part that is subject to wear and tear is automatically replaced, everything is tested and adjusted, and the machine will be shipped back to me in good-as-new condition, as if I was purchasing a brand-new machine. It's pricey, and it's unusual for a machine as "young" as mine to require this service.  APQS Technical Support is wonderful and willing to walk owners through just about any trouble shooting or adjustment over the phone.  

The trouble is, this is my first longarm machine and I don't have the experience to know what it feels like/looks like/sounds like when the machine is performing optimally.  My guild friend who owns the same machine came over to help me trouble shoot and get set up to quilt Mission Impossible, and she was perplexed that 1. My machine is bouncing around and vibrating a lot more than hers, 2. We could not get the tension consistent with any thread besides Glide, and 3. My stitch regulator/motor speed does not match what we're setting it to, and 4. My single stitch function, used for basting, takes one and a half stitches instead of one full stitch.  Now, could APQS Tech Support walk me through all of these issues at home?  Absolutely!  They are SO kind and helpful, and they already helped me with a couple of other issues I was having with the machine.  But I am at the point where there are too many glitches, I don't know what is normal for my machine, and I feel overwhelmed by the idea of dismantling the darned thing with a screwdriver while I'm talking to someone on the phone.  This is my Scientific Method approach -- right now I have too many variables to contend with.  Is something not right with my machine, or am I having trouble because I'm doing something wrong?  Once my machine gets its Spa Treatment refurbishing, I can stop wasting so much time on technical trouble-shooting and focus on quilting with my machine.  Ironically, one of the reasons I chose APQS was that their machines are supposed to be so reliable and easy to use that their slogan is "Be a quilter, not a mechanic!"  So I've decided to suck it up, pay for the spa visit, and let the mechanics at APQS sort these issues out for me, so I can focus on being a quilter when Miss Millie comes home.  They even suggested that, if there are specific threads I want to use with my machine besides the basics, I should include a cone of each of them so the technicians can test my machine with those threads and make sure they play nice together.  I'll definitely be including a cone of Superior Metallic and a cone of King Tut.

Longarm Ladies Enjoying Spa Treatments at APQS
Added bonus: Since one of the things that gets routinely replaced during a Spa Visit is the entire hook system, I'm going to have them change my machine over from the Smart L-Bobbin to the jumbo M size bobbin, at no additional cost -- and without having to retime the machine myself, like I'd have to do if I just ordered the parts and tried to do this at home.  The L bobbin that my machine uses currently is like a regular sewing machine bobbin, like the kind my Featherweights and older Berninas used to have.  I am super spoiled by the ginormous bobbins in my current Berninas (750QE and 475QE) and it REALLY bothers me to have such an itty bitty bobbin in my longarm machine that I can only quilt one full row of a pantograph before it runs out of thread!

LONG STORY SHORT: There are so many things I'd LIKE to sew this week.  I'd like to keep working on the machine applique project from Karen Kay Buckley's workshop.  I'd like to make the next block for Anders' Beware the Ishmaelites quilt.  I'd like to monogram Lars's sheets and towels to reduce the chance of them disappearing in the college dorm's laundry room.  But my one and only quilting goal for this week is the thing I feel like doing the least.  I need to spend some time with my longarm machine, for two reasons:

1. To reassure my wavering mind that yes, scheduling the Spa Visit is warranted and not a huge waste of money.

2. To practice and reinforce what I learned in Lisa Calle's and Judi Madsen's longarm quilting workshops back in April.

There is a danger in taking too many classes and workshops, I think, if you don't allow enough time after each class to review your notes and practice what you did in class before moving on to the next workshop.  What with shipping back and forth from North Carolina to Iowa, I'll probably be without my longarm machine for three weeks, most of August.  So my baby clam shell quilt, Anders' sampler, and the applique projects can all wait until Millie is away at the spa.

Have a great week, everyone, and happy quilting!  I'm linking up with To-Do Tuesday at Stitch ALL the Things: http://stitchallthethings.com.  


Ramona said...

A spa day sounds really good right about now! Too bad you can't join Millie and have your own fun while she's getting tuned up and brought back to like-new status. Looking forward to seeing what you create with her soon.

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

with your machine being gone for 3 weeks that will certainly give you time to work on other things and get your son ready for college. The first one to leave the nest is hard but you adjust after a few months - trust me - been there and done that.
I think it is a great idea - pricey yes - but it sounds like your machine needs work on it. I can never get machines to work properly it seems and a big thing like that would frightened me to death LOL - I feel I would mess it up for sure.

Joyce said...

love the quilt loaded on your long arm! Good luck with the machine spa day - hope all goes well and she's good as new when all is done.

Frédérique - Quilting Patchwork Appliqué said...

Busy time! That's a lot of books indeed, and it's great they will have a second life. Enjoy your Guild end of week rendez-vous!

dq said...

That is a gorgeous quilt you have on the long arm! I hope your sick longarm baby gets feeling better soon so you can finish it! How good of your new guild friend to try and help.

Christine Slaughter said...

It always seems that "summer vacation" tends to be anything but! I like the way you're thinking about getting the technical glitches taken care of and out of the way of your learning time. Completely logical and reasonable! Makes perfect sense to have spent some more time focusing on the machine this week to ensure it's the right decision. I'm sorry such a new longarm is giving you grief, but being that it's former life was a rental I can see how parts may have worn out earlier. Sadly, people tend to not be as careful when items aren't their property. Not to say that people were abusive to the machine, but when it's not yours... being a little rougher on it isn't exactly a worry. I do hope that Millie enjoys her spa time!