Longarm Class 1/9/2009

I want this to be a year of creativity. I can’t say that this is on my to do list, but it is in the back of my mind. One way to do that is to sew as much as possible.

To that end, I took the longarm certification course at Always Quilting on January 9, 2009. As a result, I am now a certified longarmer at Always Quilting. Don’t be too impressed as this certification only gives me the privilege of renting their longarm to quilt my quilts. Still: YAY!

After seeing the demo in November with the CQFA team, I signed up for the class. I was curious about the whole longarm process and because I wanted to see how I could incorporate the longarm as a tool into my repertoire.

That being said, I learned a few things about longarming:

  1. Using the machine takes practice and people who machine quilt well should be admired greatly
  2. There is much more to learn
  3. I will never be Colleen. I also don’t want to be her and will still use her fabulous services for some of my quilts
  4. I am not going to quilt all of my quilts myself
  5. Using a pantograph is hard
  6. Taking the class will improve the quilts I prepare for someone else to quilt

I really enjoyed the class. It was an expanded version of what we learned at the demo. It was great to hear some of the same information again as it helps to cement it into my mind. Some of the information she gave about preparing quilts, especially, applies to the computerized machine they use to quilt quilts for customers. It is a large computerized machine.

One thing I learned was that the longarm professionals vary, but if you understand some of the background and the way the process works, you can work with your longarm professional of choice much more effectively.

Always Quilting wants you to have square corners. No lopped off edges or strangely shaped corners, because you use the corners to pin the quilt to the machine. Oh! Now I get it. Better fix that I Spy quilt.

Kit also suggested practicing good pressing habits in order to reduce bulk where seams meet. The centers of pinwheels and 8 pointed stars can be a challenge for the machine. I was surprised to learn that the machines have a hard time going through selvedges! I’ll have to look at some of the quilts that Colleen has quilted for me to see what she does in this circumstance.

  • The Always Quilting staff wants the backs 6″ wider than the quilt and had several suggestions for the back. The back needs to be longer than the top, but they don’t care how long.
  • It is ok to piece the back, but they don’t encourage it and the same rules about bulk and bulky seams apply.
  • Kit suggested using large pieces of fabric rather than piecing a second top for the back.
  • She also said to consider pressing seams open on the back and using a larger seam allowance to help reduce bulk.
  • Both top and back should be square and FLAT. Kit reiterated that quilting does not cure all evils. She gave some tips about measuring the top before one cuts and attaches borders that were really interesting, especially to make sure that there isn’t more fabric in your border than in the quilt top.

Always Quilting prefers batting such as Hobbs Natural and Warm & Natural, both of which they carry. A quiltmaker can bring her own batting but they reserve the right to not allow you to use it. Apparently, batting with scrim works best. As you know, Colleen has quilted my quilts using Hobbs Organic for awhile with no problem, so I am not sure what I am going to do about that.

Kit said that they want a quiltmaker to use the shop thread, because of the way it interacts with the machine. Again, you can bring your own, but they reserve the right to not let you use it. They use Signature, King Tut by Superior and Permacore, which is their preference. The Permacore is polyester wrapped in cotton. Bad thread can incapacitate the machine, which is why they encourage quiltmakers to use the shop thread. They have hundreds of colors.

To put the quilt on the machine:

  1. Put the back on first, right side DOWN. You could put a quilt on the machine sideways. This orientation works well for row quilts because it is easier to quilt different things in rows.
  2. Find the center of the back by folding it in half.
  3. Pin the back to the leader about 1/4″ down from the edge of the leader. There are notes in Sharpie on what attaches to what leader. There is a black mark in the center. Pin from the center out.
  4. Ask your helper if the machine has been oiled
  5. Brush the lint out of the bobbin area. There is a very important disk in the bobbin. Hold on to it when changing or cleaning the bobbin.
  6. Line up batting on backing right below the pins on the leader.
  7. Use a single stitch to baste the batting to the backing.
  8. Baste top to batting, lining it up just under the batting.

I have found it important to doodle a bit before going to class. It seems to train your brain to sew a continuous line. It helps with practicing for achieving a smooth, continuous line. I assume this would be rule for going to quilt as well. It gears up your muscles for the quilting motion. Above are doodles I made during class. They are my own variations inspired by designs from the various books the shop had. I wasn’t able to try them all out on the machine.

One of the books we were able to look at was one by Trillium House Designs. They have a set of three books called Pocket Guides to Freehanding containing a multitude of quilting designs. Kit said Always Quilting didn’t carry them, because books 2&3 were too advanced and the company did not sell book 1 separately. The price for the set is also $55, which is a bit steep.

I think that there are a lot of continuous quilting designs out there you can use as a guide for your own quilting. It would pay off to start collecting some of those designs and practicing them with pencil and paper before renting the longarm.

My section of free motion quilting loops. This is the pattern they encourage their students to use for most quilting project. They also encourage people to use this size of pattern when quilting.

My attempts at using the pantograph (above). It was very hard to get the shapes smooth and I thought I would have an easier time posting the design on the wall and following it with my eyes, rather than trying to trace it using the laser.

I am scheduled to quilt one of my own quilts on February 6. I am planning to quilt the Crazy Test. I was planning to quilt the hexagon/I Spy quilt, but decided to do something I didn’t care about much before quilting something I did care about. I do have to make the back before I can quilt it. The longarm doesn’t work very well without a back!

I was really pleased with this class. I thought it was well run and thorough.