Monday, 24 October 2016

Stitches per minute

Getting a nice line of stitching requires a certain amount of speed

Professional long arm quilting machines are designed for higher speeds to create those beautiful lines of stitching.  Speed puts stress on thread.

So machine quilters using long arms need threads that can cope with high speeds. Lets look at stitches per minute and compare stitch speed across a range of popular quilting machines.

APQS long arm machines can go  up to 3500 stitches per minute

Gammill long arms can so up to 2700 stitches per minute

JUKI's new QVP  goes 2200 stitches per minute.

Innova 22 inch long arm goes 2000 stitches per minute

Avante HandiQuilter runs up to 1800 stitches per minute

JUKI TL98P semi-industrial straight stitch  1500 stitches per minute

JUKI TLQVP Mini semi-industrial straight stitch 1500 stitches per minute

Bernina 820 goes 1100 stitches per minute

Janome Horizon goes 1000 stitches per minute

Most domestic sewing machines go just under 1000 stitches per minute. That's NOT very fast. Most threads will run fine in sewing machine limited to or near the  1000 stitches per minute mark. Even though they have a longer arm the Bernina 820 and Janome Horizon fall into this group. 

Feathers created with 1500 stitch per minute JUKI TL98P
Once you move up to 1500 stitches per minute you need better quality thread. I discovered this when I upgraded from a much beloved old Bernina to the JUKI TL98P. I had all sorts of tension problems and thread breakage.That's when I discovered Superior Threads designed for long arm quilting. The large cross wound cones come in lots of ranges. Some long arms are pickier than others where threads are concerned. If you're having thread problems with your long arm ring me for a consult. Machine Quilter has been selling thread to long arm quilters here in the UK for 10 years. We can help you choose the ideal thread for your machine quilter whatever the speed. 
Ring or email Martha at Machine Quilter for advice about which threads to use with your sewing machine.
01526 553366

Magnifico from Superior Threads Perfect for machine quilting

Tuesday, 4 October 2016

Getting in the Mood

We have a Christmas themed Retreat coming up at the end of October. Here's a post to get us in the mood. During this Retreat most of the participants are going to bring their own frames and sewing machines. We decided that it would give us more quilting-on-the-frame time. Don't worry if you don't have a frame yet or can't bring yours. We'll have an extra frame or two for you.

Here are some ideas for make-in-advance practice pieces. We'll be learning all sorts of designs but there will definitely be lots of Christmas themed line designs. so when you're making up your practice piece for your frame, it might be fun to stitch together some Christmas fabric from your stash. Choose fun fabric and keep the piecing simple. These are just strips sewn together. They'll make a great 'canvas' to draw on with thread and lovely line designs. 

I'd recommend using some plain black fabric too because the Christmas threads look so pretty against the black.

Some people were keen to piece the Christmas Tree table runner so I'm going to give some basic instructions for that here.

I wanted the table runner to fit on my 6 foot frame so I cut my backing fabric about 50 inches long and 18 inches tall. There are 8 trees. Each tree is a bit more than 5 1/2 inches at the base and almost 11 inches tall. I just folded a piece of computer paper long ways and cut a shape that was pleasing to me, I wasn't following any pattern. I wanted the trees to be big enough to be able to play around with various line designs. 

Once I had a shaped that I liked, I traced the shape on the thinnest Vilene (Vilene Easy Fuse Ultra Soft Light | H180 | Empress Mills) and cut roughly around that tree shape, leaving a bit of space around the line. Then I ironed the Vilene tree shapes to the back of the Christmas tree fabrics. The Vilene backing gives the fabric a bit of extra structure and keeps the edges from fraying too much.  I also found it easier to cut a nice straight line when I was cutting through the Vilene backed fabric. I'd chosen a neutral gold spotty background to look like snow. Lastly sitting at my sewing machine, I raw edge appliqued the trees to the background fabric. 

A note about the tree trunks. I wanted them to look chunky so I folded a bit of fabric so that the raw edges were inside, then folded that in half and slipped the ends under the tree and stitched that down. 

Then I flipped the trunks and pinned them up onto the trees so they would be out of the way when I was quilting the background. Once the background was quilted I stitched them down. We'll be doing all the quilting at the retreat. But here are a few ideas to get you thinking. We'll have lots of fun playing with all sorts of different threads and quilting patterns. If you're wanting to quilt the table runner, stitch it to your other practice piece to save time loading the quilt. You'll be able to rotary cut them apart when we take it off the frame later. Have fun making your practice pieces. 

I've backed most of my practice pieces with Fleece but you can use backing fabric and wadding if you like. To save time you could pin the layers on the fabric poles before you come. If not we'll all be helping each other to load on the day.We're so looking forward to seeing you all at the Retreat! It will be here before we know it. Martha, Emily and Jackie xxx

Thursday, 4 August 2016

Inferior Threads

There is a secret ingredient that makes all these frames work,  The secret ingredient is thread! Thread that is actually designed for machine quilting at high speeds.

The JUKI QVP2200 long arm goes 2200 stitches-per-minute.
The Handi-Quilter Avante goes 1800 stitches-per-minute
The NEW JUKI TL QVP Mini that we use on our smaller machine quilting frames goes 1500 stitches-per-minute
Most ordinary domestic sewing machines go almost 1000 stitches-per-minute.

Many machine quilters really struggle with thread breaking and shredding. Often it comes down to the thread. People are using inferior thread. The high speeds of long arm quilting machines put a lot of stress on the thread. Poor quality thread will shred and break at higher speeds. Inferior threads are fine for slower domestic machines. But fast machines like long and mid arm quilting machines need Superior Threads.
Image result for superior Threads logo
Superior Threads are designed to flow smoothly through your long and mid-arm quilting machines without shredding or breaking whether you're stitching at 2200 stitches-per-minute or almost 1000. Using the right needle is important too.

This year at the 2015 Festival of Quilts our long arm and mid-arm machines were all threaded with various ranges from Superior Threads. We especially like the Magnifico and Fantastico light reflecting tri-lobal polyester threads because they are beautiful AND strong. Designed for long-arm quilting machines, they are happy to stitch at high speeds without shredding or breaking. This makes for happy quilters with less down time.

Our cat Tipsy thinks that this cone of Fantastico is a purrfect match!
 Fantastico comes in variegated colours with a one inch colour change. This creates gorgeous layers of stitching where the colours are evenly spread out through out your quilt.

Fantastico is available on 2,000 yd cones here in the UK from Machine Quilter for £13.45

Magnifico comes in plain colours on 3,000 yd cones for £9.95. That's a lot of joy for under a tenner!

This quilt used 2 different cones of Fantastico; # 5024 and #5025 to match the flowers in the border fabric.

Don't forget the BACK!

Image result for superior Threads logo
Here's the quilt back. Isn't the texture lovely! We used Bottom Line pre-wounds #607 Light Purple for the back. Also available here in the UK from Machine Quilter.

Finally, here's the finished quilt on show at our stand at the Festival of Quilts 2015. It's looking lovely with the back peeking through in the bottom right hand corner. We kept the piecing simple to show that gorgeous quilting is all about the threads.

Wednesday, 27 July 2016

Stays Square

Reason number 5: I love machine quilting frames because they keep your quilt nice and flat and square. I could have called this post beginning as you mean to go on. Basically, if you quilt it flat and square it stays flat and square. If you wrestle a quilt under the arm of the sewing machine, it bothers more than your neck and shoulder muscles. Yanking and pulling the quilt sandwich every which way under the arm of the machine can cause distortion.

Machine quilting with a JUKI TL98P on my Machine Quilter frame

 Drag it out of the arm of your sewing machine and it looks all wonky like it's been through the wars. You get the added job of blocking it to get it to lie flat and straight again. Quilting frames save you that hassle. When I take a quilt off the frame I've never needed to block it.

Hearts and loops quilted in Rainbows  #803 Northern Lights from Superior Threads
It went on the frame nice and straight, I quilted it nice and flat, so it comes off just the way I quilted it. It has great texture, but it lays flat. When I take it off the frame, I slice off my side sashings and square it up with the rotary cutter. Then I'm ready for the binding. Square and straight, sweet and simple. No fuss, no blocking. THE END.

This school quilt has a fun stripy back

Wednesday, 20 July 2016

Eye Hand Coordination

Following on with  5 reasons why I love machine quilting frames. Here's reason # 4: Machine quilting frames help you see what you're quilting. FMQ wherever you do it, requires a certain amount of eye hand coordination. Drawing the right way round is a huge advantage. So is being able to see what you're doing!

So this 4th reason that I love machine quilting on a frame, has to do with visibility. Our Machine Quilter frames are designed to give you the best view of what you're quilting.When you're free motion quilting sitting at the sewing machine you are working on a relatively small section of your quilt, maybe 5 by 7 inches. In contrast, a machine quilting frame lets you see a whole slice of your quilt. This really opens up your view. On a frame you can see where you've been, where you are and where you're going. This helps you keep your stitching consistent. Being able to see what you're doing makes you a better quilter. 

Our Nifty Grip speed control handles replace your foot pedal, so you don't have to do one thing with your foot and another with your hands. The Nifty Grips mean that you don't have to kick your foot pedal across the floor, or squeeze it with your hand at the same time as you're trying to guide the sewing machine. 

Our Nifty Grips are designed to make machine quilting much much easier. They're also designed so you can see what you're stitching. They're low for comfort, and being low they won't block your vision. Machine quilting frames create the perfect platform to foster eye-hand coordination so that the ideas in your mind's eye can flow out your fingers.

Thursday, 14 July 2016

No Pain

 Here's my third reason for loving machine quilting on a frame:  It's easy on your body.   Real quilting is personal.  Good tools are designed to fit the person using them. Good tools are designed to be comfortable.
Machine quilting on a frame is much much kinder to your body. 

Sitting hunched over the sewing machine, wrestling the quilt under the arm while trying to tension the layers and draw backwards IS hard on your body. That kind of stitching places many physical demands on your neck and arms and back not to mention your brain. I've always found it, literally,  a pain in the neck.

By tensioning the quilt layers for you, a machine quilting frame provides instant relief. Being able to move with your whole body as you quilt relieves the tension in your neck and back. Drawing the right way round is simply easier so that you don't get so tense. And if you get stressed, you can leave the needle down and walk away. There's nothing quite like a little break to clear your mind and relax your body. While you have a nice cup of tea, the frame will hold your project steady for you. It will be ready for you to pick up again right where you left off. 

Anyone with muscle or joint pain will find machine quilting on a frame pure joy. The sewing machine glides  effortlessly with just the touch of a finger. Guiding the sewing machine is much easier than holding a needle or even a pencil. So much so that people who have given up hand quilting due to muscle or joint pain, discover that machine quilting on a frame enables them to keep on quilting. Machine quilting frames gives back what the years have taken.

Our Machine Quilter frames are designed for comfort and custom made to fit the height and quilt project preferences of each customer. Our frames clamp to any table and we can recommend the perfect height so each person is able to work at their personal ideal height for comfort and visibility. The right table height lets you quilt comfortably without stretching up or bending over. The right height  makes sure that you can see what you're stitching too. Our speed control handles are much easier than kicking the foot pedal across the floor and they're ergonomically designed to be comfortable.

Look at the photos above and below. Notice how my arms are level with my elbow as I hold the frame handles. Our Nifty Grip handles are at elbow level so you won't have to lift your arms to use them because lifting your arms puts a strain on your shoulder and back muscles. Our lower handles are also out of your line of vision so they won't block your view. 

Our Machine Quilter frames are designed to fit the person using them so they're comfortable to use. Because we think machine quilting should be a joy not a pain!

Tuesday, 12 July 2016

Line Dancing

Fred & Ginger in Swing Time
"Ginger Rogers did everything that Fred Astaire did, and she did it backwards and in high heels!"
What a brilliant line! It makes me smile. It also brings to mind the second reason why I love machine quilting on a frame:

A machine quilting frame lets you draw with your needle.

I think, perhaps the coolest feature of a machine quilting frame is the carriage that rides on a set of tracks. Sit your sewing machine on this carriage and you can glide your sewing machine effortlessly every-which-way across the top of your perfectly tensioned quilt.This is the feature that you need to see to believe. No matter how much research you do ahead of time, this easy gliding of the sewing machine will astonish you. It's like magic. The carriage transforms your needle into a pen and anything you can draw, you can quilt.

Most people hate wrestling a quilt under the arm of a sewing machine, and then trying to tension the layers while drawing backwards. Trying to FMQ while sitting at the sewing machine is counter-intuitive because the needle is stationary and the quilt is moving. That's like trying to write or draw by holding the pencil still and moving the paper. No wonder so many of us find this difficult! It requires a whole new set of skills - some people seem to manage this but I never could. My stitches were jerky and uneven while my neck and shoulders just got more and more tense. Machine quilting sitting at the sewing machine was a pain in the neck!

Using a machine quilting frame changes all this. There is no wrestling the quilt under the arm of the machine. The frame perfectly tensions the layers of the quilt creating a still and steady 'canvas' for you to draw on. The easy movement of the carriage enables you to draw with your needle just the way you have been writing and doodling and drawing all your life. And since you're moving the 'pen' the way you always have, you're good at it right from the start.

I love to hear people comment when they try our frame for the first time;

"Wow! I can do this!" 
"Look at this beautiful line of stitching!"
"I just wrote my name! "
"This is so easy!" 
"I Could do this all day!"  

But don't take my word for it. Come visit us and try it for yourself. We offer free Demonstrations at our Lincolnshire studio or come and visit us at the 2016 Festival of Quilts we're at stand A46 with the JUKI guys. Some people say that free-motion-quilting is like taking a line for a walk. But with our machine quilting frame it's more like taking a line for a glide. That's why we call it 'Line Dancing!'