Wednesday, June 23, 2021

Free-Motion Quilting with My New, Snazzy Quilt Beast: Meet the Bernina Q24!

Now that the vintage Corn & Beans quilt has been repaired and returned to its owner, I finally had a chance to start playing with my new Bernina Q24 long arm machine yesterday.  I am in Quilting Heaven!

First Free-Motion Stitches on my New Q24

This is a preprinted practice panel that I bought from Lisa Calle when I took her long arm quilting workshop in Paducah in 2019.  My Q24 was delivered with a full bobbin's worth of orange thread, so I threaded her up with a cone of So Fine thread, color Orange Julius in the needle for the maiden voyage.  I haven't done any free motion quilting at all for nearly a year, having been so focused on learning that IntelliQuilter computerized quilting system, so I'm a bit rusty -- but I just love how  this machine handles for free motion work.

Ruler Work is Easier with One Handle Out of the Way

I popped the ruler base on the machine, switched out the hopping foot, and tried a little ruler work, too.  I love that the handles on the Bernina Q24 move and adjust independently, so when I'm driving the machine with my right hand and holding my ruler with my left hand, I can move that left handle bar completely up and out of my way so it doesn't bump into my hand.

Q24 Handles Adjust Independently

Interestingly, the bobbin case was set way too tight initially -- around 300 on the tension gauge, whereas the Q24 owner's manual tells you to set it at 220 for best results.  When I loosened the bobbin tension to 220, my tension was pretty darned perfect with the default upper tension and no further adjustments needed.

Zooming In On Those Backing Stitches to Check Tension

I monitor my tension balance a couple different ways.  I can see whether the bobbin thread is pulling up to the top from the right side of the quilt, obviously.  I run my fingernail along the stitches on the back of the quilt periodically to make sure my nail doesn't catch on little thread bumps (which would be top thread pulling to the backing side), and I also will occasionally crawl under the frame and take a zoomed-in photo of the back of the quilt so I can examine the stitches in the photo.  This only works if I lay a few sheets of paper on top of the quilt; otherwise, the light shining through the needle holes makes it impossible to see the thread.  However, that's another thing I immediately noticed and love about my new machine -- the Q24 uses domestic needles in a much wider variety of sizes than my previous APQS machine.  Even though the larger industrial needle holes do close up when the quilt is washed, I think the smaller needle holes make for a much more attractive stitch right out of the gate, especially with a slender thread like So Fine.

Adjustable Height Saddle Stool for Seated Frame Quilting

By the way, I know that some quilters choose sit-down mid arm quilting machines over a long arm on a frame because they don't feel that they could stand for long hours at a quilting frame, but I was able to sit at my Q24 frame very comfortably with my adjustable height saddle stool.  That bar on the bottom is recessed just enough that it doesn't get in the way of my knees, and it's nice to be able to tuck the loose batting behind that bar so that I wouldn't roll over it with the stool if this was a large bed quilt rather than a small practice sandwich.

Still Need Overhead Lighting

We're still in the process of tweaking my studio to accommodate the new machine.  My previous APQS machine was on a 12' frame, but I ordered the largest 13' frame for my Bernina and that meant that I had to remove a pair of storage cabinets that had been up against that wall on the right.  I love how much more open my room looks now, and added bonus -- I can now open the plantation shutter on the window to the left of my frame.  We also moved a book case, relocated my ruler racks, and Bernie is in the process of making me some custom floating shelving for my ever-growing collection of quilting threads.  I'll show those to you when they're finished.  He is also repairing some dings and nail holes in the drywall (those are the white smears on the wall) that will be painted over after they've been sanded smooth.  

Meanwhile, Although the Q24 has ample LED lighting down the entire length of the throat of the machine, I am immediately missing the custom light bar I had that illuminated the entire length of my APQS frame.  When I'm quilting a digital design on a customer's quilt, I don't just need to see the part of the quilt where the machine is currently stitching.  I need to be able to inspect the area ahead of where the machine is stitching, to check for stray threads or open seams or any areas of fullness that I want to massage in when the machine gets there, and I want to be able to inspect the area that has already been quilted to look for things like skipped stitches that indicate it's time to change my needle.  We're going to try some low voltage LED cable track lights suspended from the sloped ceiling above the frame this time instead of a light bar mounting directly to the frame.  

Low Voltage Cable Track Lighting, available on Amazon here

I'm really hoping this solution pans out.  When my husband found this kit and told me to order it, he thought it was a 100 watt max system with five 20 watt LED bulbs, but after researching them further this morning, I'm pretty sure they are just 20 watt halogen bulbs.  I've ordered these MR16 LED replacement bulbs that are only 7 watts each, but 50 watt equivalent light output.  They were listed on Amazon as "often purchased with" the lighting kit we ordered, and I'm hoping that means that these LED bulbs will work with these lights.  I really don't want to be working under hot halogen bulbs, especially in the summer, and the LED bulbs should put out 2.5x as much light as the dinky little halogen accents.  20 watt standard bulbs are like under cabinet lighting or night lights, not task lighting!   Fingers crossed that this will work!

I am still waiting on the hydraulic lift for my quilting frame and, last but DEFINITELY not least, I am waiting on my Q-Matic computer robotics to be installed on the new machine so I can get back to digital quilting!  My Bernina dealer thinks he'll have that for me by the end of June, and it can't get here soon enough because I have got some beautiful customer quilt tops that are waiting in the wings for digital quilting, both edge to edge designs as well as custom.  I'm using this down time to get comfortable with the basics of loading, threading, and operating my new machine, as well as scouring the Bernina web site and YouTube for every morsel of Q-Matic education and training material I can find.  Plenty to keep me busy!

I'm linking up today's post with the following linky parties:


Midweek Makers at Quilt Fabrication

Wednesday Wait Loss at The Inquiring Quilter


Needle and Thread Thursday at My Quilt Infatuation  

Free Motion Mavericks with Muv and Andree

Sew and Tell Thursday (on BerninaLand


Whoop Whoop Fridays at Confessions of a Fabric Addict

Peacock Party at Wendy’s Quilts and More

Finished or Not Friday at Alycia Quilts

Off the Wall Friday at Nina Marie Sayre


Gretchen Weaver said...

The practice stitching looks wonderful! Looks like you're having a lot of fun!

Nancy @ Grace and Peace Quilting said...

Sounds like you're taking to your new machine like duck to water!!! Great! And that Bernie sure is a handy guy.

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

I know I must have missed it with being gone close to two weeks but did you sell the other long arm or is it still sitting in your dining room? Hope you had luck. The practice piece looks great! Show your sit down stool sometime would love to see how it works

Jennifer Fulton Inquiring Quilter said...

You certainly don't look rusty at free motion quilting! Congratulations on the new longarm. Thanks for sharing on Wednesday Wait Loss.

Vicki in MN said...

Congrats on the new arrival. It looks like you jumped right back into the saddle with free motion quilting, not rusty at all!

MissPat said...

Well, I should envy you for the new longarm, but since I have neither the room nor the budget for one, I'll save my emotional energy. What I seriously envy, is your in-house engineer/handyman who works diligently meeting your every need. Lucky you. And it looks like your FMQ skills haven't suffered at all.

Sandy said...

Huge congratulations on your new Q24! It looks like your plan is coming together beautifully -- matching your gorgeous quilting! said...

I'm glad you are having such great bonding sessions and are happy with your new "friend!"

Brenda @ Songbird Designs said...

What fun you are going to have. I love that you can adjust the bobbin tension on the machine. I'm glad you have her and are now playing with her! And I really love that track lighting. I added some for my HQ but could always use more!! I use an adjustable height task chair with mine that I can scoot around on. Since my knees are bad, I can't handle standing for long periods of time. I tried one of those stools but could not get used to it!! Have fun!

Darlene S said...

Congratulations on your Q24. Truly a beautiful dream machine. We are still looking to buy a forever home, with the expectation DH will benefit by a 3 car garage (vs 2) and I'll benefit by way of more sewing space. Funny, but those are our deal breakers (plus a few more) to purchase a new home. I have a Bernina 830e, which I love, even though she is a picky machine by design. I'm in the early stages of researching, but began looking at sitdown machines (eg. Q20), but have concluded I want to jump in to longarm quilting with the Q24. I plan to continue to do more research, but this is where I'm leaning so long as we can get space for such in our future home. In the meantime I'm dreaming, but really happy you now have a Q24. Good to know and I appreciate you sharing tips of what you like (vs don't like) about this machine, as well as ease (not easy) to work with her. Great post. Thank you.

LA Paylor said...

whew! I love how excited you are about this new big machine. I'd be deer in headlights with it! How wonderful to make studio changes too... moving things around and finding new solutions to space is exciting

JustGail said...

Beast is right! I'm sure once the rest of the room improvements are done it will be a pleasure to use. Or should I say even more of a pleasure. I *sort* of envy the space to put that large of frame, OTOH not having room totally removes any temptation to even look at them.

Andree G. Faubert said...

Hi Rebecca, that's a great little practice piece on that huge machine! I'm glad that it's going well so far and that the rest of it should be installed soon. It sounds fabulous! Thanks for linking up to Free Motion Mavericks. Take care.

Karin said...

Congrats…so exciting! Your stitching looks awesome

Gwyned Trefethen said...

Looks like you have been quilting on this machine for years. Your work is perfection from the get go. I really enjoyed reading all the various positives and the why behind them, such as the ability not to use finer needles.

Sylvia said...

Looks like you are having a great time getting to know your new machine! The stitches look great.

Alycia~Quiltygirl said...

Go you!! your *practice* piece looks like you should use it!!! ;-)