Longarm Day of My Own

So, yesterday was the big day. I went to Always Quilting and quilted a quilt on my own. The short version: it was good, it was hard and I needed help.

During this foray into the world of longarm quilting I was able to complete the quilting for a quilt and a practice piece. I am thrilled to haven gotten this far on a quilt on my own! It has been awhile since I quilted anything larger than a journal sized quilt.

One experience/feeling I wasn’t expecting was that I felt like I learned a ton! I always feel that it is a good day when I learn something new and this was an even better feeling, because I learned something related to quiltmaking. Neither of these pieces will win any prizes, but I really feel like the experience was successful.

Above are the two finished pieces. They were sewn together to make it easier to get them on to the longarm machine. I cut them apart before I came home. I sewed the top patchwork piece to the quilt (bottom) in order to have a practice piece to work on before I got into the quilt itself. I always warm up when I machine quilt at home and I didn’t think this longarm adventure should be any different.

For the practice piece, I pulled out some old blues and sewed them together. I do like that Nancy Crow leaf fabric, but was never very successful at using it in a quilt.

Two details of the Crazy Test quilt. The line of stitching you see at the bottom (upper photo) is basting and I will need to pull it out. I think the flower stitching on the bottom photo looks ok. It is an all over pattern, but I don’t think it competes with the sashing or the blocks. In the blocks, it is nearly invisible.

Above is a detail of the first bit of quilting that I did. I quickly learned that this kind of fabric has two problems:

  1. I couldn’t see the stitching as I sewed
  2. I still can’t see the stitching

When I have someone else quilt a quilt, I focus on the piecing. I want the quilting to blend in and not take away from the piecing. Thus, I was surprised to find that I wanted to see the stitching. It makes sense to be able to see the stitching as you actually stitch! I found that when I was done with a section, I wanted to be able to see what I had done. Above, I don’t think the stitched flowers, as a design element, look that good on top of the leaves. The two design elements compete with each other.

The stitching in the leaves is the stitching that I also did in the blue and white striped fabric at the top. It shows up a lot better on the black and was a lot easier to see as I stitched over the Nancy Crow fabric. I had planned to use that pattern (from a 1999 Melody Johnson class) in the sashing. I like the way it came out, but if you examine it closely, you will find that the lines are not parallel and the ‘legs’ are different sizes. I think I will have to practice more before I can use that one on a real quilt.

Contrary to the flowers over the leaves that I mentioned above, I don’t mind the parallel lines over the leaves in the photo above.

My general preference when viewing quilts is to see the quilting compliment the elements of the quilt. For example, I usually like to see different quilting in the sashing than I do in the blocks. What I found after yesterday’s session was that those differences in the quilting pattern require lots of practice. Longarming in general requires a lot of practice. If you think you can go and buy a longarm and start quilting for other people, more power to you. After doing some of the math, I fiure that I can quilt 10-12 quilts for less than $500. This means it would take me years to pay off even a Handiquilter, which runs about $8,000.

After realizing that my planned designs were not going to work, Kit suggested a flower pattern. The bottom section is the all over flower pattern that I decided would be fine for my first longarm project. The section in the blue RJR Christopher Columbus fabric (bottom left, above) is the right size. As you can tell from other photos, I stitched smaller and smaller motifs as I moved through the quilt. As a result, the quilting took a lot longer than I anticipated. I think the flowers show up pretty well in the photo above. This was my first attempt at them. Somethings I had to think about while learning this process and trying out a new pattern:

  1. Consistent stitching speed – the more variable your stitching speed the more inconsistent your stitch size would be
  2. Don’t get caught in a place you can’t get out of
  3. Try to stitch within an imaginary triangle

I like the above photo, because it shows the quilt rolled up on the machine. You can also see the flowers pretty well.