Tuesday, August 11, 2020

LAL#2: The One Where Thoroughly Modern Millie Gets a Little Work Done

It's Tuesday again, and time for another round of Long Arm Learning.  We had thirteen quilters linking up with us last week for our very first linky party, quilters ranging from brand-new beginners to seasoned professional long arm quilters, just as I'd hoped.  I enjoyed checking out each one of your links, and I'm looking forward to seeing what you have to share again this week.  Remember that the Long Arm Learning linky party stays open from Tuesday morning all the way through midnight on Friday, so if your post isn't ready just yet, you still have time.  We'll wait for you!  (The link up is all the way down at the end of the blog post; click on "Read More" if you don't see it!).

I've quilted absolutely nothing in the last week, because I decided to schedule Thoroughly Modern Millie (my 2013 APQS Millennium) for some exciting elective surgery!  My husband has the perfect combination of skill sets to be my in-house Tech Support, because he works in information technology and electrical engineering, but one of his hobbies is tinkering with classic cars, taking them apart, swapping out parts, and making them work better.  Whether it's mechanical, electrical, or computerized, this man of mine can take ANYTHING apart and put it back together again, better than it was before!  

First Elective Procedure: Retrofit Millie to Accept New & Improved Quick Change Hopping Feet

So, why did I want my machine taken apart in the first place?  One of the reasons I was thinking of selling this machine was how difficult it was for me to change the hopping feet.  I know that sounds nuts, but hear me out.  I had purchased the set of three different hopping feet for my Millie machine, feet designed for maximum visibility when quilting tiny background fills, or for getting close to appliqué for stitching in the ditch, or for gliding over bumpy seam allowances.  Ideally, one should be able to quickly switch between hopping feet throughout the process of quilting a single quilt, using whichever foot is most ideal for the task at hand.  However, the two screws at the back of my 2013 Millennium's hopping foot were SO tiny that I struggled to get them back in every time I tried to change the foot -- struggled for 15-20 minutes, panicking that I would never get the foot back on at all, dropping the tiny screws, crawling around looking for them with a flashlight...  The photo below shows the "Legacy" style hopping foot that came on my machine:

To make matters worse, the ankle shaft on the foot that came on my Millennium was a slightly different length from the three accessory feet that were purchased separately, which meant I couldn't switch from that foot to another foot without also raising or lowering the hopping foot height itself -- not something that it's practical to do while a quilt is in progress on the frame.  Major disappointment!  So I resigned myself to just leaving the ruler foot on the machine all the time and not even attempting to use any of those other feet.  These are the other feet I'd purchased for my machine but had given up on trying to use:

And then, I discovered that APQS has a parts kit available for converting older model machines like mine to accept the new Quick-Change interchangeable hopping feet that were introduced in 2019.  I had wanted a True Quarter Inch hopping foot anyway (similar to the ruler foot I'm using in the photo above, except that the ankle shaft would not interfere with the ruler at the back of the foot the way this one does), and that foot is included with the upgrade kit, so it was only about $40 more to get the new style True Quarter Inch foot along with the parts kit than it would have been to get the old style True Quarter Inch foot alone.  After a few emails back and forth with APQS Tech Support to find out what was involved, I showed my husband the PDF instructions for the upgrade and, bless his heart, he agreed to do it for me.  APQS gave us 37 pages of instructions with clear, full color photos.

No way would I have attempted this myself, as it was a 2-day procedure involving taking the machine off the frame, removing the side covers, removing the tension assembly and hook, smacking the old hopping foot shaft with a hammer(!!) to knock it loose, precise application of LocTite glue and turning the shaft every few minutes to ensure glue didn't get where it didn't belong and lock up the machine...  Then, once the new shaft was in place and the glue had cured overnight, the tension assembly and hook needed to be reinstalled, hook retimed, hopping foot height adjusted, and finally the needle positioner speed had to be adjusted, probably because the new bushings fit more snugly to the shaft.  After all of that, I nervously threaded up the machine for some post-op test stitching:

YAY!!!  Beautiful stitching!  Ignore the ugly orange quilting in the upper left corner; this is an old class sample that I threw on the machine for my test stitching.  The pale lavender Glide stitches to the center and right are my first stitches after Humpty Dumpty was put back together again, and I was very relieved to see beautiful stitches again!  Notice the difference between my new Quick Change True Quarter Inch foot and the ruler foot I had on my machine previously.  I have the exact same 1/4" clearance from the needle on all sides of the foot now, and the new feet have much less side-to-side play than the old style feet.  This was definitely a worthwhile upgrade, and I'm glad we did it.  Now I'm ready to quilt Baptist Fans with my circle templates!  I also purchased all four additional Quick Change hopping feet.  There's the set of three (Open toe ruler "Clog Foot," beveled low profile "Flip Flop" foot, and beveled low profile "Sneaker" foot for getting close to appliqué for SID):

And I also got a Scoop Foot, that I could not have gotten for my machine without doing the upgrade because APQS is sold out of the Legacy style Scoop feet and is not planning to manufacture more of them:

The Scoop foot is designed especially for pantograph quilting, either following paper patterns from the back of the machine or computerized edge to edge patterns, with a bowl shape that glides across bulky seam allowances with ease and can float on and off the edges of the quilt top without flipping the raw edge backwards.  It would also be handy for stitching something like an allover meander across a quilt top that had a lot of bulky seam intersections where one of the other hopping feet might get hung up.  And, although my initial attempts with pantograph quilting were disappointing, I'm planning to give that another go soon!

Second Elective Procedure: Remove Lower Thread Cutter to Reduce Weight of Machine

One more, much less involved procedure that Millie underwent while she was "under the knife" this weekend was having her lower thread cutter removed.  I prefer to bring the bobbin thread up and clip both threads by hand, and I've never used my lower thread cutter -- not even once.  My dealer told me that it leaves very short thread tails all over the back of the quilt that I'd want to trim away after quilting, which doesn't sound very appealing to me!  When I test drove both the 26" Millie and the 26" Lucey before buying my machine, I found the Lucey (which has the same body as the Millie, but no automatic lower thread cutter) to be easier to move for free motion quilting.  I went with the Millie to get the electronic horizontal and vertical channel locks, which aren't available on the Lucey model, and my dealer mentioned that some owners just take the lower thread cutter off the machine if they aren't using it.  I should have taken this anchor off my machine when I first brought it home, you guys -- once we got it off and I put it on a scale, this sucker weighed in at over 3 POUNDS of extra weight I'd been dragging around while I was quilting!

That whole big metal box is gone now, packed carefully away so I can find it if/when I ever sell this machine to a new owner.  The wires are capped off and neatly secured so they don't get caught on anything under the quilts, and I am just awaiting my new ruler base now since I didn't think to order that at the same time as the hopping foot upgrade kit.  

So, not only is my machine 3 pounds lighter than it was before, but its weight is now centered better on the carriage -- those extra 3 pounds had been attached off to the left side at the front of the machine.  When I struggled with pantographs in the past, I had the hardest time following long, sweeping curved lines in the patterns because the weight of the machine + inertia meant that this object wanted to keep going straight when I was trying to make it turn.  Of course, if I had a computer robotics package on the machine, the belts and motors of the robotics would produce those designs flawlessly, and maybe the automatic thread cutter would be useful in an edge-to-edge quilting business when all of those thread trims are happening just off the edge of the quilt top rather than all throughout the quilt, as they would be with custom quilting.

...And Now, It's Linky Party Time!

Anyway, one thing I really do like about APQS is that there are so many ways that I've been able to tweak and customize my machine to fit the type of quilting I want to do and how I want to use it.  We've been able to change the hook from the smaller L size "smart bobbin" to the larger M size, remove the quilt top roller bar that was in my way for ruler work by replacing it with the Texas Hold 'Em bracket, add custom LED work lighting, upgrade the hopping foot system to the brand new Quick Change system, and now without the thread cutter, my Millie moves like a Lucey but still has the Millennium-only bells and whistles to which I've grown so accustomed.  Hopefully I'll have some actual quilting to show for myself next week!

Meanwhile, what have YOU been machine quilting lately?  Remember that domestic machine quilters are welcome to link up as well as long armers, and if you don't have a brand-new blog post or Instagram post with machine quilting in it, you can link up any older machine quilting post that you haven't shared here before.  I can't wait to see what's under your needle!

You are invited to the Inlinkz link party!

Click here to enter


Carole @ From My Carolina Home said...

Wow, that was quite a procedure, but great that you have more usability now. Have fun with your now-new feet! In house tech support is wonderful, I have one of those too.

Karin said...

Wow...what an amazing undertaking. Not sure I would have been game enough to do this. So glad everything worked out great...those new feet look very handy.

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

congratulations to Bernie for being a master fixer! I had ordered a new tension assembly for my featherweight as my hubby said of course he could fix it - well - lets say it is not fixed and if I want it to be fixed I will now have to take it someplace and have someone else unfix all that he did and fix it!!

Denise @fortheloveofgeese said...

It's amazing what we learn when the other option is digging into our pocketbook and all work coming to a halt until a repairman can find time to get to ours. Creating this linky party for longarmers was genius. Thank you

Nancy @ Grace and Peace Quilting said...

Two day procedure?! Wowey zowey!!! You have one handy DH! I think I'll be happy with my original foot, as that would never get done at my home. Great that you could lose weight by removing the thread cutter, too. I'm doing computerized E2E these days and I much prefer pulling bobbin and cutting my own tails.

Home Sewn By Us said...

Hi Rebecca! Fascinating. I'm glad Millie survived her elective surgeries. WOW - that first procedure sounds complicated. I never in a million years would have been able to do that. I would have nervously been pacing - trying to stay out of the way, but wanting to know how it was going. The stitching looks great and yippee for removing 3#. It's like minor liposuction. ~smile~ Roseanne

Cheree @ The Morning Latte said...

I've never had that option on mine so I guess I don't know what I'm missing but I'm happy to just pull up my thread as I've always done. Bet it's nice to have that extra weight off. Always wondered what those different-looking feet were were when I saw them on videos--now I know! I should have been using one all along--makes sense because it really can cause a problem hitting a thick seam. I currently have mine raised as much as possible (while still being "down") and that seems to avoid most of it; I'm also more careful to avoid the bulk in my piecing. Not sure I'll get my link-up post done in time--if not, it'll be ready nice and early for next week!

dq said...

I hope you enjoy your new foot. I think it was brilliant of you to take the heavy lower thread cutter off. I don't use mine anyway. Mine leaves short little threads on the back, which I hate. Instead, I always bring up the lower thread and cut it from the top. I'm sure you do too.

I am excited about your linky party because I need the encouragement to get tons of my tops quilted. My personal goal is to machine quilt a minimum of 15 minutes a day. Usually that turns into more. Anyway, I have found that setting blogger goals and posting often keeps me motivated for some reason.

Carole @ Fresh off the Frame said...

I'm so glad you talked about feet. I've been wanting to upgrade to a true quarter inch foot on my Freedom for some time, and now I feel better informed of the options. Thanks!

Pam said...

Thanks for that info on making nice corners-I have a 50% average on that and now I can see a path to doing better.