Learning the Longarm….. A Date With Jack

Not long ago I bought myself the most wonderful Christmas gift….. a ‘new to me’ Nolting 18″ longarm quilting machine with a 10′ frame! YAY! I have wanted a longarm for years….. my stack of UFO’s and pieced quilt tops, in storage and patiently awaiting their turn to be quilted….. are rejoicing.

Anyone that has ever tried out a longarm, tried FMQ (free motion quilting) on a domestic machine or has hand quilted knows that each way of quilting requires practice… and some more practice…. and maybe a bit of practice!

Of course I have some experience with each, most quilters graduate from one to the next to the next. After all, most of us love a new challenge!

The learning curve can be steep though, especially when your stored tops have more patience than the quilter! Which is definitely my case.

I started with a little practice swatch, about 36″ square. Once that was filled up I swapped it out for a baby quilt panel. No seams but lots of things to outline and background space to fill.

All the while, I was building my skill set. Loading the frame, advancing the rollers, learning the machines reach, how to get from one area to the next and try not to get backed into a corner, how to slow down to get smoother flow for corners…… all going marvelously! Until……. top thread breaks, loopy nests on the back and broken needles. Sighs….

So started the inevitable date with Jack….

Meet Jack…. he may be pocket sized but he loves to let ‘er rip!

As I had already  ‘graduated’ to a full sized quilt, hand pieced 50+ years ago by my neighbour and her mother (both passed long ago) which was already sandwiched and basted…. when my troubles began.

About 1/3 of the way through quilting I had to wind a new bobbin. Not thinking much if it I zipped it onto the winder and let ‘er fly! Turns out bobbin winding needs a wee bit more attention than that! It ended up too loose and uneven, Messing up my tension and causing the aforementioned horrors.

Just in the nick of time the Towa bobbin tension gauge I ordered arrived!

After taking the time to watch several YouTube videos of bobbin winding and tension adjusting, setting up a new practice patch on the frame and about 4 hours of fiddling around with bobbin and then setting the top tension….. I achieved successful stitching! YAY!

At this point a new dilemma. Do I finish what I can while the quilt is loaded or take it off to have my date with Jack before reloading and proceeding? As I was on the last row of blocks I opted to keep going while the going was good! I finished quilting as much of the top as I could as I had removed the basting stitched before noticing the nests.

After completing what I could, I added a few pins to the areas that needed to be undone,  removed the quilt from the frame and sat down for a long date night with Jack and Netflix.

If you have never picked out longarm stitching, take my word for it, it’s a tedious job at best!

After the picking and ripping and maybe just a little cursing….. the front and back looked like my Chinny-chin-chin! Tweezers were a great help in getting all the little thread hairs out… but now there are holes.

What’s a Quilter to do with that you ask? I asked the same question, didn’t have an immediate answer and put it all aside. I did however put some more marker pins in so I could see the spots needing attention before picking it up again. Sometimes the brain needs to percolate a solution.

As I was doing laundry the next day it occurred to me! I use a Conair Garment Steamer for my work shirts instead of ironing. (Ironing is only for patchwork, right?) so I thought I’d give it a whirl on the quilt top.

What a marvelous breakthrough, not only did it remove 95% of the stitch marks it also dealt with the wrinkles! To pull this off I draped the quilt over the shower rod and steadied with one band while steaming with the other. My bathroom also has the best light in the house, which made it easier to see the white thread on white background.

My next job will be to reload the quilt and get all the blank spaces done…… though it may need to wait a few days, there is already another quilt on the frame….. eeps!

So the links in my story… they take you to Amazon.ca where you can purchase the same items that I have used and trust. I always search out the best deals at the time and I love passing them on. If you do purchase something from my link I earn asmall commission on thesale, which costs you nothing! Win win huh?