The Festival of Quilts is a great time to shop around. If you are considering getting a machine quilting frame, this Birmingham show is a perfect opportunity to test drive all the frames on the market. I'm going to devote the next few posts to considering what makes a great frame. What important features should you consider when you're shopping around for a frame? Let's consider visibility. First and foremost, while we're machine quilting it's vital to be able to see what we are doing!
One of the assets of machine quilting on a frame is the viability. Machine Quilting while sitting at the sewing machine limits what you can see to the 6 X 8 inch rectangle of quilt sandwich between your hands. Upgrading to a machine quilting frame immediately opens up your field of vision. Now instead of a little rectangle you can see an entire section of your quilt, which is really helpful in executing a design. Being able to see where you've been and where you are going makes a big difference in the quality of your quilting.
There are many things that can get in the way and block our vision while quilting. One culprit is the structure of the frame itself. Sometimes the handles get in the way, the scaffolding can make it difficult to see what you're doing. Sometimes the frame is designed so that your own arms block your vision as you move the carriage. This is particularly true if you are working from the front of a frame. So as you try the various frames at the show, ask yourself "Can I see what I'm doing?"
Another culprit is vibration. This is perhaps the most frequent problem. The up and down movement of the needle on the sewing machine creates vibration. A good sewing machine is designed to limit the vibration. But no matter how good the sewing machine, there is still going to be a certain amount of vibration. The question to ask is, "Is the vibration interfering with my vision?" A good table will limit the vibration as will a good frame. The materials a frame is made of will affect the level of vibration. Wood dampens vibration while metal amplifies it. So when you try the frames think about the vibration. Some frames vibrate so much that you just can't see what you're quilting. So while you test drive the frames next week make sure that you consider the vibration and make sure that you can see what you're doing.