Library Quilt & Birds

I've finished quilting and binding the guild quilt.  The pattern is Heather Givans' Personal Library, and most of the print fabrics are various lines of Heather's as well.  My guild mates made the quilt top and I quilted and bound it.  This quilt will be a fundraiser for the local Dolly Parton Imagination Library.  It measures approximately 57" x 62".  I did a full custom quilting job on this one and had fun trying all sorts of patterns and techniques on it.  I hid eight book titles in the quilting too.

I'm currently quilting an all-over pattern on my #sewcialbeesampler quilt.  I'll be working on a fully hand-pieced quilt for a customer next week.  Do you have a top that needs to be quilted?  Check out my long arm quilting tab for more information and pricing.  I'd love to help you finish your quilt.  Use the contact form to send me a message.

Yesterday I noticed we had a Baltimore Oriole on the feeder.  That's the first one I've seen this spring. We now have the jelly feeder out and I put out a hummingbird feeder, figuring that if orioles are here, hummingbirds should be too.  While we haven't seen a hummingbird land on the feeder yet, we did get buzzed by one last night.

While I was waiting to get a good shot of the oriole, I had fun taking pictures of a few other visitors.
Blue Jay
Male and Female Downy Woodpeckers
Blue Jay

Red Bellied Woodpecker

Spring in Indiana is so pretty for a few weeks while the redbuds, dogwoods, and other flowering trees are showing off.  It's also big pollen season.  We take the good with the bad, right?

I have one iris blooming.  Funny, but I don't remember planting this one!
Most of my daffodils are done now, but I have one pretty clump still.
The peas and baby bok choy are sprouting, but still no signs of the lettuce.  I'll likely need to replant that.  I did use pretty old seeds.  Next time I'll use some newer ones.
bok choy
snap peas
My husband is finishing off his master's degree this week.  We are so happy to have it complete! 

Anyone headed to Paducah this week?

A Little of This, a Little of That

I feel like I've been in kind of a slump lately.  Nothing seems quite right.  I've had a hard time concentrating on working on just one thing.  I did finish going through all my quilting magazines and patterns and I feel like I have those pretty well organized now.  I have a book box full of magazines, books, and patterns to sell or recycle. There's still so much to go through. Baby steps, I guess. And I'm trying to be really mindful of not buying so much stuff since I can't keep up with what I have already.  It's not so fun, but then again, neither is seeing all the stuff I have that I'm not using.
I finished quilting the guild quilt last Thursday.  This will be a fundraiser for the local Dolly Parton Imagination Library.  The pattern and most of the fabrics are Heather Givans/Crimson Tate.  I spent two and a half full days quilting it.  I was kinda hoping someone else would want to do the binding, but I'm on that task too.  I was pleased that I was able to make the binding using just fabric cut from the edges of the backing--didn't have to cut into the extra yardage.  I'm about halfway done with the binding right now.  Here are a few pictures of the quilting.

I bought this month's Primrose Cottage Quilting mini kit and have been very slowly (absurdly slowly) working on it.
Here is a pile of stuff that I still need to work on.  I need to fix the binding on the quilt since I nipped off too many points for my liking.  I need to press all the Cupcake Mix pieces and remove all the paper.  I need to sew the top together on the Sewcial Bee Sampler quilt, though I'm hoping for my design wall to be installed soon so that I have somewhere to lay out the top.
I also need to bind my Coral Queen of the Seas quilt.  I showed some pictures of that last week.  What I didn't mention about it is that I apparently forgot to measure to correctly attach the borders, so I had spent several days ripping off the borders (and remember, this quilt is huge at 90 x 104) and reattaching them at the mathematically correct length.  Then as I was quilting, the batting developed a huge fold.  The fold ended up running diagonally for about 45" down the quilt.  I wasn't really sure what to do other than to cut along the fold and overlap the batting.  I hated to do that, but it was a lot better than just quilting over the giant hump.  Although the batting was a nice brand, I don't think I'll be using it again because my experience with it hasn't been very positive.  I'm so disappointed.  I prefer either batting yardage or one that has been folded flat rather than rolled in a bag.
This is what I cut off the borders that was in excess.

We got our fused glass artwork back.  They said that no one else had ever turned the triangle sideways like my son did on his.  One of a kind, huh?
We also planted part of our vegetable garden over the weekend.  We put in lettuce, snap peas, and baby bok choy.  Nothing has sprouted yet, so I didn't photo it.  I didn't figure a picture of dirt would be real exciting.

My husband has a week and a half left of his last master's class.  We can't wait for him to be done.  And we had to order a new computer, which should be arriving today.  I was really hoping to get another year out of our current one, which is eight years old, but no go.  I'll be taking the current one down to my sewing room. It should be fine for surfing the web and listening to music.

What's new in your world this week?

Linking with Sew Fresh Quilts and My Quilt Infatuation.

Spring Quilting

I finished up the quilting on my very large (around 90" x 104") Coral Queen of the Sea quilt.  I'm pretty pleased with how the pattern looks.  I haven't started sewing down the binding yet.  
I'd been having issues with the frame of the long arm after we expanded up to the 12 foot frame.  The silver parts that the machine runs along were different thicknesses so the machine just didn't run smoothly along the rails.  So my husband tore apart part of the frame and worked on it more and reassembled it.  So far it seems better.  It's just frustrating that I should even have had any issues.  You'd think the parts would be manufactured at a consistent size.

I also started quilting a guild quilt.  This will be a fundraiser for the local Dolly Parton Imagination Library program.  I wasn't sure how I wanted to approach it and I want it to look great, so I've been procrastinating and thinking on it.  Since guild is Friday night, it's time.  I am quilting bead board in the outer border, E and L loops in the light border/bookcase, and I will be doing individual patterns in each of the books.  The pattern is by Heather Givens from Crimson Tate, as is the fabric.
Over the weekend, we went to the local glass studio to try glass fusing.  We weren't really sure what to expect.  We got to choose a base shape and then various colored bits and then glue them on using an Elmer's glue mix.  We then paid and left them to be fired.  We can pick them up tonight, so it will be interesting to see what they look like when they are finished.  Can you tell which one is mine?

All my daffodils are blooming, as is our weeping cherry tree.  The weather has been pretty nice.  I love spring!

35 Things to Consider When Purchasing a Long Arm Quilting Machine
Today I am sharing a list of things I wish I'd known before purchasing a long arm.  This list is based on my personal experience, conversations with others, classes with several nationally known teachers, reading forums, and research. 

1.  Before you go shopping, think about how you plan to use the machine.  

  • Are you looking for a sit down machine or one on a frame? 
  • Are you going to work from the front of the machine doing free hand quilting?  
  • Are you planning to use rulers?  Do you want to work from the back of the machine doing pantographs?  
  • Do you want the machine to quilt for you (using a computer program).  
  • Do you plan to quilt for others or just for yourself?  
  • How much time do you realistically have to devote to learning your machine and actually using it?
  • Will any of these things possibly change in the future? 

2.  How much space do you have?  How much space does the machine and frame require?  Remember that you need additional space to move around the machine beyond just the frame size.  Is there a chance you may move in the future?  Will the machine you select be easy to move?  

3.  Speaking of size, what size projects do you make?  If you want to make a king size quilt, you are going to need a 12 foot frame.  The actual available quilting space is less than the actual width of the frame.  The width of the machine factors in to the available quilting space on the frame.  

4. What is your budget?  How are you paying for the machine?  Does the company offer financing?  What is the cost of the financing? Most people are not ready to quilt for others right off the bat, so do not plan on experimenting/practicing on other people's quilts in order to make your payments.  Be realistic and do not spend more than you can afford to pay.

5.  Look for online forums or groups (such as on Facebook) specific to the machines you might be interested in, request membership and do a lot of reading.  Ask questions of those who already have the machines.  

6.  Once you have determined your space and budgetary needs, it's time to go try machines.  The most important thing you can do is actually try all different brands of machines.  What works for some will not work for others.  Sometimes something looks great on paper or online, but you actually really dislike it when you try it. 

The easiest way to try lots of machines at once is to visit a large quilting show or convention.  Keep in mind that often vendors will try to sell you lots of bells and whistles that you may not actually need.  I find that many of them are trying hard to sell the computer software and that is what they will be demonstrating. Don't be afraid to ask them to try the machine without the computer.  

My strategy would be to do the exact same sample stitching on every machine brand at the show, evaluate the quality of the stitches, decide which ones looked and felt the best, then go back to your favorites and go through the rest of the steps below.

Here are some things to look at when you are trying different machines:

7.  How helpful and knowledgeable is the vendor?  How long has the company been making long arm machines?  

8.  Examine the frame.  How well is it built?  Is it adjustable? Is everything smooth?  Check the joins on the rails or bars--are they smooth?  Ideally the bars and rails would be seam-free.  If the vendor does not have a full-size set up, ask if the pieces are seamed or not when the frame is set up at a larger size.  Does it change when going from 10' to 12' to larger?

9.  Does the machine use encoders for stitch regulation?  Ask to see how they work.  Some are flimsier than others.

10.  Does the machine have adjustable or customizable handlebars?  Are rear handlebars included or is there an additional fee to have them included?

11.  Check the machine for vibration while stitching.  If you're planning to stitch pantographs from the back of the machine, ask to try the rear handlebars too.  Look at how the table space is from the back.

12.  Does the machine come with channel locks (for straight line stitching) or can they be added?  Ask for more details if you're interested in this feature.

13.  Is there a low bobbin indicator?

14.  Is there a stitch count or time indicator?

15.  Check the button placement on the handlebars to see if it is intuitive for you.  Can the buttons be customized?

16.  How do you load the quilt onto the frame?

17.  Check the stitch quality by stitching a series of clamshells/half circles. Look for longer stitches coming out of the points.  You don't want longer stitches.  All stitches should be equal.

18.  Ask to see how to thread the machine. Is the bobbin easy to get to?

19.  What size bobbin does the machine use, L or M?  M is larger.  Is the bobbin winder built in or do you need a separate winder?  Is it included in the cost of the machine?

20.  How do you set the tension?  (I would recommend buying a tension gauge; Towa is a common brand.  Ask what the bobbin tension should be set at for optimal stitching.)

21.  What needles does the machine use?  How often do they need to be changed?

22.  Does the ruler base come with the machine or is it a separate charge?

23.  What feet come with the machine?  How much do additional feet cost?  At a minimum you will want a cup foot and a ruler foot.  Check to see if the ruler actually fits under the ruler foot properly.  (Juki's does not, the other machines I've used in classrooms do.)

24.  How does the machine glide across the table?  Is it heavy, smooth, does it drag?  Can you easily move it and can you reach front to back (throat space) easily?  You don't want a machine that goes back farther than you can reach.

25.  How does the stitch look when sewing over bulky seams?  Try hard to get a demo.  Most of the time the vendors are stitching on a plain length of solid yardage with no seams.  This makes everything look good.  Try hard to see how it looks stitching over seams.  Is there a way to adjust the foot in order to accommodate bulkier seams?

26.  Some frames offer the option to flip up the top in order to inspect the batting.  In hindsight, I would have looked hard for this feature.

27.  What accessories come with the machine?  What additional accessories are available and what is their cost?  What about leaders?

28.  Will the machine require upgrading in the future?  What is included and what will incur additional cost?

29.  If you're interested in computerizing the machine, does it have to be a certain software?  Can you add it later?  What is the cost difference of starting with it up front versus adding it later?  It seems that the computer costs a minimum of $5000, with most being in the $10,000+ range.  That's in addition to the cost of the machine.

30.  What service and/or maintenance is required on the machine?  How and where do you get said service? What are you expected to perform and what requires a trip to a service provider?  

31.  How often does the machine need to have the timing adjusted?

32.  What is covered under warranty and for how long?

33.  How easy is it to get help?  Having a good dealer is important.  Do they offer training?  Is it included or does it incur additional cost?  Where is the training located?  How often is it offered?

34.  How easy is it to get parts?  Common parts are extra bobbins (generally need to be brand name ones), extra bobbin case, I've heard of people requiring new tension assemblies, needles specific to the machine, sometimes people need to have the entire screen and electronics or handles replaced.

35.  Maybe purchasing a demo machine or a used machine is a good fit for you.  If buying used, I'd consider going through a dealer so that there is some recourse available in case the machine isn't as described. That being said, don't be scared to buy used from an individual, especially if you can try out the machine. Buying used is a great way to try out long arm quilting without having to spend as much money up front. It's easy to get caught up in all the bells and whistles when they may not really be all that important to you once you are using the machine.

All long arm machines have a steep learning curve.  Many times new users (even 3-4 years in sometimes) are the cause of issues, not the actual machine.  Do your research.

Is this list helpful?  What things would you add to this list?  Comment below and let me know!