Sunday, February 24, 2008

Quilting "Kisses"

I decided to quilt my "Kisses" quilt on my "machina-ma-thing." I'm not really sure what to call this homemade long arm quilt frame my husband built for me. Sometimes I call it my "dorky homemade Gammill" or my "machine-on-a-stick." I only use this machine when I'm doing a simple fill pattern, because I don't have as much control on it as I do my Bernina. It's not built for precision, it's built for getting 'er DONE.

My sweet husband is amazing. I showed him a picture of a Gammill in a magazine one day and he went out and got all the supplies to build me this version. I can quilt a king size bedspread on it! It cost less than a hundred dollars to build and I've been using it happily for over ten years now. It's made of wood, angle irons, sprinkler pipe, and mattress ticking. It rolls very smoothly in all directions, and it works just fine for me. I love it.

I pin both edges to the ticking flaps, making sure my quilt is centered.

My quilt is already pin basted. I pin baste my quilts on a big table using notebook clamps for the edges. My favorite batting is Hobbs Heirloom. I safety pin about one spread hand width apart. Before I quilt a row, I take the pins out of that row only. My favorite thread to quilt with is Mettler Metrolene, but I have to mail order it. Superior Thread's Bottom line is great too, and readily available. I use it both on top and in the bobbin. I like a thin, strong thread for quilting. A thin strong polyester thread gives me lots of texture and doesn't show mistakes like thicker thread does. I used to always use cotton thread for everything, but for quilting, I'm a poly convert. Less breakage, lots of texture.

Elastic and tent clamps help tension the sides.
A long view.
My machine is a Brother PQ1500S. It has a longer arm than a regular sewing machine, but is lightweight and meant for home use. It was relatively inexpensive (under $1000) and has everything I need to quilt, including an automatic thread cutter, which is very handy. It only does straight stitch, both with the feed dogs up and down. To quilt on this machine, I lower the feed dogs. On my Bernina, I leave them up while I'm doing free motion quilting.

I bought the Handi-handles separately. The numbered dial is the speed and the red button is stop and go. These handles take the place of the foot pedal, which I used to have mounted up on top of the machine to control the speed. It was awkward trying to control the speed with my hand and quilt at the same time. With the handles, my hands are freer and I can quilt at a constant speed.

Ready to take off!

This is a little pattern I like to doodle--it reminds me of chicken heads. Flowery chicken heads. Don't ask me what that means--as I keep telling you, I am not an artist. I can't do chickens or flowers, but I can do flowery chicken heads.

I usually quilt one row, then go do something else for a while, come back and do another. My maximum is four rows a day because I become so immersed in it that my head and shoulders get stiff. It's impossible to think about relaxing and sewing on this machine. My shoulders end up somewhere north of my chin every time. So I do a row and relax. Do a row and relax. Repeat until quilt is finished.

I want to give you some machine quilting pointers while we're quilting this quilt. What I tell you doesn't just apply to my long arm set-up here, it applies to quilting you do on your regular machine, too.

My pointer for today is something that I learned from Harriet Hargrave when she came to teach on Kauai back in the early 90's. I think of this tip every time I quilt and I will paraphrase her here:

When machine quilting, many quilters stare at their needle as they move the quilt through it. That's really funny when you think about it. Where do you think the needle is going? No matter how much you stare, that needle is just going to go up and down! When you drive, do you stare at your steering wheel? No! You look at the road and see what's coming up. Your steering wheel is not going anywhere; it's the road you have to watch!

So quilters, watch the road. Watch where you're heading with the needle. Stare at the path you want your needle to take--watch the quilt "road" ahead. Yes, that needle going up and down is hypnotic, but watching it is not going to help you quilt. Keep your eyes on your quilt, not the needle. I think that this is great advice, but I still catch myself staring transfixedly at the needle sometimes.

By the way, the green stuff on the ice cream in yesterday's post was green beans! I wrote that post late last night and couldn't find a picture of food in my own files I wanted to use, so I googled "weird food" and that picture popped up. I should have given the author/photographer credit, so here is the site I found it on: Darren's Diatribe. I didn't read the rest of his blog, but it there are some interesting food items on it that he encountered in China. There are some truly alarming pictures on his page, but as you know now, I would try just about anything. I thought it was jalapeno salsa on that ice cream--and it actually looked pretty good to me!

More quilting tomorrow! I'm really happy to have gotten some quilting done today! I didn't get much email done, though. And guess what? More email came today, just like yesterday. It kills me not to answer it promptly, but a girl's gotta quilt, right?

17 comments:

Andrea said...

Lisa - you should put a copyright on that quilting pattern - flowery chicken heads - it would sell like a dream - LOL ! I love this quilt ! I printed out the directions and am itching to use up some scraps. Soon ...

The Calico Cat said...

Love that purple with white polka dots - that is the perfect shade of purple/lavendar...

(Oh, & I recognize a few of the other prints... giggle.)

Su Bee said...

Your hubby is a ROCK STAR!!!! What a great, imaginative setup - WTG!
Super little tute on machine quilting, especially the "don't stare at the needle" too true and soo funny!

QuilterSal said...

Thanks so much for the tutorial on machine quilting. I had heard the 'staring at the needle' part, but it's always a good thing to hear repeated! I must try to get brave enough to start quilting my own quilts. Hand quilting takes so long and I'd really like to see the finished product in my own lifetime so I generally don't hand quilt. And it can get quite costly to send them out for quilting, especially since I piece so darned many of them each year.
I've been looking at the Brother 1500S for several years...might just have to invest in it soon. Thanks again, Lisa.

Mar said...

great advice! I just finished quilting the turtles, wish I would have had your set up, I could have flown through it!

Elaine Adair said...

I'll repeat all of the above comments. AND kudus to DH for his total support!

Gnat said...

That is amazing!! I want to learn more about quilting. My only quilt has been a t-shirt quilt and it was rough!

happy zombie said...

I love your DHG - Dorky Homemade Gammill! I want one! My DH doesn't know it, yet, but he'll want you to write & sells plans for the DHG2000! I love that quilt you have on it too. Yummy happy.

PS... Would a machine-on-a-stick have to be deep fried?

Dawn said...

Okay, the check is in the mail--I am going to/already owe you a TON of money for all of the things you are teaching me about quilting.

Nettie said...

Love the colors on this quilt. So fresh and cheerful. i'm forwarding this post to my longarming friend, who btw is new to blogland and wd probably love a visit: desertrosequilter.blogspot.com

cinnamongirl93 said...

Your hubby did a real nice job on your almost Gammill. It does resemble mine! Happy quiilting to you! I hope the e-mails get under control for you!

Mary Anne said...

What a sweet quilt!! (I'm a sucker for gingham and polka dots ---- must be the Ellie Mae Clampet recessive gene in me ....)

...and don't you have the Handy Dandy Hubby making you that homemade Gammill ...... "it slices, it dices, it makes flowered chicken heads on your quilts .... AND it walks your dog ....." I'll have to show that to Kid #2 .... he needs an idea for a Wood Shop project ..... but maybe not .... I think he's still trying to perfect matching bookends.....

.....oh, and I also took that class with Harriet Hargrave (but it was in California in 1986 , I think) --- anyhow, her "driving "tip is the major thing I remember from her class ..... works with cars too!

Acornbud said...

What an interesting thing a ma jig! The quilt is really turning out nicely! I enjoyed reading your 7 things. I understand now why your crafting areas are so clean;)

Mrs. Goodneedle said...

Well done, I love your version of a longarm. The String X is very, very pretty.

Kristin said...

Thanks for the tips - I have the Brother 1500 S as well - it's a great workhorse of a machine, isn't it? Now I just need a DHG2000 to go with it! ;)

I thought it was jalapeno on the ice cream, too. .

~Joan said...

How do you see where you're quilting if you're behind the machine? I have a little Gracie frame and I quilt from the needle side. I'm dying to know how you can see what you're doing!

~Joan

Fiona @ Dragonfly-Crafts said...

OMG. This is so great. What a great idea your husband made you, from your instructions I presume.
Love the quilt too.