If you are in the Kansas City area next weekend and are interested in taking classes to learn Longarm strategies, learn how to maintain a featherweight sewing machine, or how to start a quilting business, check out the Longarm-a-Palooza at Quilted Memeories. I’ll be teaching the business class. Here’s a link for the classes: Longarm-a-Palooza
I thought I’d share a few pictures of my longarm quilting machine and explain a couple of differences between a longarm and a domestic machine. This first shot is of part of the machine. You can see how it sits on rollers and it has a bigger arm/throat space than a domestic machine. Mine has 19″ to work with. Domestic machines sit without moving. You have to move the fabric around on a domestic machine to do the quilting. You can also drop the feed dogs on your sewing machine to do free-motion quilting. When you do that, you get the sensation of what it is like for a longarm quilter to quilt.
Here is a shot of more of the machine’s frame. You can see the the machine floats around on a frame that has several roller bars for the fabric to roll along. Longarm quilting machines… as big as a car and costs as much, too!
If you look closely at the hopping foot (as opposed to the presser foot), you will see that it does not sit down on the base of the machine. It hovers across the fabric. That is why it is so difficult to draw a straight line. We use a straight edge ruler for this, which takes a LOT longer to do, since you are manipulating the machine with one hand while holding the ruler with the other hand. It takes a lot of patience to get that line even close to straight, which is why custom work like this costs our customers so much more.
When we use rulers and templates, we need to add an extended base for the templates to rest upon. Do you notice how much more it sticks out than the attached base?
I took a ruler to see how much further the extended base sticks out on each side. As you can see, it adds an extra 5 1/2 – 6 inches on each side. Beyond that, I add clamps to the backing fabric to make sure it is taught. They add another 2 inches to each side. This is the reason why I like to have an extra 8 inches of backing fabric on each side of the quilt top. Otherwise, custom quilting is next to impossible to do.
This last picture will probably end up in another post as it relates to the lighting – see those LED lights reflected on the Plexiglas? To be continued…
Longarm Quilters like for their customers to provide extra batting and backing for many reasons. One of the reasons is because our quilting foot hits the grippers holding the sides of the quilts, so it is very difficult to stitch within 3+ inches of those grippers. However, for me, the biggest reason we like extra fabric is because the backing and batting draw up during the quilting process. Another reason is so that we can accurately provide good stitch quality and tension for your quilt. Longarm machines are so finicky when it comes to tension; much, much, much more so than a domestic machine, that it can be difficult to achieve good tension and good stitches. So, most of us will test out the tension and stitching on a side piece before we add it to the quilt. If you look closely at this picture, you will see the side border of the quilt I was working on. There is about 6 inches of extra backing and batting. I added a 3″ wide piece of fabric at the side of the border and tested my stitches there with each thread change before stitching on the actual quilt.
This has been a particularly rough week. I’ve been working my tail off this week, doing volunteer stuff for 2 quilting guilds. By Friday night, I was nearly in tears. I was so dog gone tired and my body hurt all over. So, in spite of how busy I know I am right now, I decided to take a break.
I used to live in a small town in Indiana. I loved living in the small town, away from the hustle and bustle and rat race of busy city life. We moved to the Kansas City area 3 years ago to be near family, and we moved into a house that is far enough out from the city for me to be okay and close enough in to the city for my husband to be okay. So… my way of taking a break yesterday was to get far enough away from the city to feel like I am in another world.
Have you ever been to Quilting on the Square in Holton, Kansas? I have been meaning to get there, but never had. Yesterday I got there. Quilting on the Square is a quilt store that is located on the corner of Holton’s town square. Holton is a charming little town that is like being in fairy tale world of days gone past. It’s close enough to Topeka, but it is far enough out to have that small town feel.
Mark and Mary Pfeiler, Quilting on the Square’s owners, took me on a tour of their newly extended store. They also showed off their new room for their longarm quilting machine and business – I was envious! For whatever reason, I was transported into another world as I gazed open-mouth like a child in a candy store at their fabrics, etc. They have it all arranged so colorfully well, that you feel like you are having an out of body experience as you put bolt of bolt of fabric on the counter to be cut and taken home. There were so many fabrics that I love. I don’t know what happened, but I left there with more fabric than I think I’ve bought in the last year. But, you know what? As I drove home, I was at peace. I was at peace with what I’d spent, and I was at peace with the shared experience with Mary, Mark, and their assistants. If you haven’t been there, you need to go!!! I warn you, though, to take your SUV, van or truck, your debit card and credit card and all the cash you can stash. You’ll be glad you did.