Monday 15 July 2019

Bits and Pieces

As you're unpacking your new Machine Quilter frame, you'll find some mysterious metal bits. They're bubble wrapped to the underneath of the bottom carriage with the G-clamps. You'll use the G-Clamps to clamp your side arms to your table. In this post we'll explain what to do with the other metal bits.
Every one of our frames comes with these three metal bits pictured in the photo above. The elbow shaped bit is a stylus for pantographs. The other two bits fit into a rounded triangular piece of wood to make a thread stand which you can use on or off the frame.

The Stylus

This elbow shaped metal piece is a stylus for following pantographs. It fits into a hole in the top carriage. The simple metal stylus allows frame users to follow a pantograph pattern just like longarm quilters. There is a  high tech laser stylus available. It does exactly the same job as the simple low tech metal stylus that comes free with your Machine Quilter frame. We think that simple is better.

 A pantograph stylus allows you to copy the design on the pantograph design that's laid onto the frame table. As you trace the pantograph design with the stylus, which is attached to the carriage,  the sewing machine needle will draw the same design on your quilt fabric. It sounds like magic. But using a pantograph has it's own set of challenges. The carriage movement needs to be smooth. If you move the stylus in a jerky way, the line of quilting will be jerky too.  Treat the pantograph pattern just like a Free Motion Quilting line design. Turn off your sewing machine and trace the  panto pattern over and over again with the stylus on the carriage.  Your brain and muscles will remember the pattern and be able to create a smooth and flowing line with a pantograph.

I would strongly recommend waiting, and doing pantograph patterns later. Initially, it is better to focus  on creating overall lines designs yourself. This requires a bit of letting go and loosening up so you can and make mistakes and learn from them. Trying to do the perfect pantograph interferes with this process. First, learn to relax and draw your own lines. It takes a few quilts and lots of practice to gain fluency with free motion designs. Once you're able to guide the carriage where you want it to go for your own designs, you be able to tighten up to do the panto designs. 

The Thread Stand

The other two bits of metal also fit onto the top carriage. These remaining 2 bits make a thread stand so that older sewing machines, without extend-able thread guides, can still use the larger cross-wound thread cones. Once the thread goes through the eye of the thread guide, you simply thread your sewing machine as normal.

Many of the newer sewing machines, like my JUKI TL98P come with extend-able thread guides already built in. But these bits and pieces are included with our frames to make sure that any sewing machine can take advantage of the more economical cross-wound cones. 

The MQ frame has an integral thread stand

Now you know what the metal bits are for. Most people using our Machine Quilter frames invest in the Juki TL QVP Mini straight stitch sewing machine to use on the frame. The Juki TL QVP Mini comes with its own extendable thread guide so the bits are unnecessary. 

Instead we provide a triangular wooden base so that you can still use the bits OFF the frame.  Put the short bit in the bigger hole in the middle. Put the long thin bit with the loop on the end in the smaller hole to the side. Now you have an extendable thread guide that allows you to use the larger, more economical cross wound cones on your ordinary sewing machine. It's just a little gift from us to you.

using the thread stand off the frame
Simply place the cone on the thread stand, pass the thread through the metal loop and thread your sewing machine as normal.

 Now you can use the larger cross wound cones with any sewing machine, no matter how old. 

Saturday 13 July 2019

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 TL straight stitch sewing machine 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

Friday 12 July 2019

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 11 July 2019

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 9 July 2019

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 2017 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!'

Monday 8 July 2019

Perfectly Tensioned Layers

Reason Number 1: A machine quilting frame perfectly tensions the layers of your quilt so you NEVER have to baste, pin, glue or tack again. Ever! When I was machine quilting sitting at the sewing machine, I hated trying to get all the layers of the quilt sandwich to stay together, steady enough to machine quilt without shifting while I was stitching. No matter how many hours I spent on my hands and knees and no matter how many safety pins I used, it was never quite right. Despite my best efforts, there were always some rucks and wrinkles on the back.

Our Machine Quilting frames tension each layer of the quilt separately so that the quilt sandwich is perfectly tensioned without all that hassle. No more hours pinning or tacking, no clouds of asphyxiating spray glue, no money wasted on gadgets that punch price tag plastic through your quilt. No more hours of doing something I really hate! A machine quilting frame is worth every penny just for this!

Brit Flag Quilt on our frame with the JUKI TL98 straight stitch
Loading the quilt on the frame just takes 20 minutes and when I'm finished, I know the layers will be perfectly tensioned and the back of the quilt will look gorgeous when I take it off the frame, with no rucks or wrinkles - even the first time! I hated the pinning part. My Machine Quilter frame lets me skip it!  By taking care of the parts I hate, machine quilting frames let me focus on the parts that I love...that would be the quilting!

If you're still wondering just how a frame tensions the layers of a quilt sandwich have a look at these links.
Come see for yourself at the Festival of Quilts. Read all about us in the online Show Guide. You'll find Machine Quilter at STAND D17  right next to the Juki stand.

p.s. I just found this pie graph and I had to add it to the post. It's a response to an American quilter's survey. I'm happy to say that I'm in the blue on this one! Having a quilting frame is brilliant because I never have to baste or pin or glue. EVER! Get happy and join the blue team!

How do you baste your quilts? Poll results

Sunday 7 July 2019

The Big 5

We're busy getting ready for the Festival of Quilts. We love the show! The fun of preparations, ordering the threads and completing the display quilts, the buzz when we get there on the Wednesday and greet the familiar faces of the other stall holders and show staff. Then it's all go as we unload the car, find the stand and set up the frames and hang up the quilts and arrange the threads. Everyone all around us is busy creating order from all the jolly chaos as one by one the stands are finished and the Festival of Quilts gets ready to open the doors for yet another year. There's nothing quite like it. 

Suddenly it's Thursday morning and the bell rings and thousands of people pour into the Halls to participate in the biggest Quilt Show in Europe. From the minute the doors open on Thursday morning until the Show closes on Sunday afternoon, we at Machine Quilter are busy answering two big questions:

"What's so great about machine quilting on a frame?"  

"How do our Machine Quilter frames and JUKI sewing machines give you more value for your money?"

Bob Purcell, Paul Hayes and Martha Milne
We've been demonstrating machine quilting frames ever since the very first Festival of Quilts in the summer of 2003. Sixteen years of personal experience and the responses of  thousands of people trying a frame for the first time, all  boils down to 5 reasons.

Five Reasons Why machine quilting on a frame is so great!
Come and test drive the NEW JUKI on our frame
You can read all about it in the next few posts.

Better yet, come visit our stand listed under
 Machine Quilter Company D17 and test drive it yourself!