Saturday, January 12, 2013

Small Necessities Close at Hand

How could I keep track of so many little thingies?
Spending almost as much time looking for a small tool or part as I spend on quilting can be very frustrating! 
Some things as so important I just had to have some way of keeping them close at hand. It's frustrating to go looking for some small thing that I need and can't for the life of me find!  "But I just had the darn thing!" Sound familiar?
The solution was actually quite simple and only took a couple of pieces of self-stick velcro and two small disposable plastic lunch containers.
The top of my longarm machine is flat and these containers fit perfectly. The one in front holds markers, allen wrenches, tiny screw drivers, snippers, check spring, pack of new needles, and any other tiny thing that is needed often.
The container in back serves as a tiny waste basket for all those short thread tails and other small pieces of rubbish. Having it close at hand saves taking extra steps to reach the large waste basket on the other side of the room or (like I saw one person do) throw all those thread tails on the floor to be swept up later.
The velcro pieces are mounted on the top of my longarm machine and the corresponding part of the velcro tape is mounted to the bottoms of the containers. The containers can easily be removed, and easily pushed back into place as needed.
This was very easy to install, easy to use, and best of all - really cheap!
Happy Stitching!

Wednesday, January 9, 2013

Magnets to the Rescue

What a surprise and what a pain where you sit when you are in the middle of binding a quilt and discover that you missed some of the quilting stitches. What to do now?

I had several options:  stitch by hand (wouldn't match), sew on domestic sewing machine (stitching too different), or remount in the quilting frame. The last was my best option because the longarm was still had the same top and bobbin thread, as well as the same stitching length.

The 18" bar magnets were my lifesaver. These magnets are very strong and held the quilt in place on both bars long enough for me to finishing the quilting. This is a baby quilt, but the magnets also work with all other sized quilts.

Stitching is missing from the two squares behind and on either side of the hopping foot
The powder on the hopping foot is chalk from the stencil pouncer
This is the strong side that is put against the metal bar. The opposite side (without markings) has no magnetic pull.
One end of the quilt was wrapped under the belly bar and behind/over the top bar, and was held in place with one magnet.

The front end of the quilt was simply laid over the front bar and held in place with another magnet. The magnets can be moved as needed and hold long enough for me to finish the quilting.

These magnets are great for holding the top in place to float it. They're meant to be screwed to a wall to hold metal tools. I heard about them from another quilter, and it just so happened that Harbor Freight had them on sale super cheap. I'm sure they are also available in other places. I have five magnets now, but plan on ordering more because they are so darned handy.

Be careful with the magnets and keep them away from your electronics. Mine stay on the bars and are usually only lifted off the bars when I move them. The bars are so strong it's almost impossible to lift one straight up off the bars, so I give it a 1/4 turn to make a cross and that breaks most of the magnetic hold.

Couldn't resist the temptation to show you my 9 month old beagle Dixie. Batting Eater. Bad doggie!
Don't forget you have until
midnight on January 31 to enter the
Create-a-Wreath Contest!
Happy Stitching!

Monday, January 7, 2013

Top Down or Bottom Up?

What is the best direction to stitch a Baptist Fan pattern when using the EZ Arc quilting tool?
Way back in the last century, I learned the Baptist Fan pattern when I first did hand quilting with experienced quilters.

To draw the first fan, a string was pinned to the bottom right corner and a pencil on the other end of the string was moved in a wide arc to mark different sized arcs. The pin/pencil/string was then moved to the bottom of the outside line and the arcs of another fan were drawn. With fans drawn completely across the quilt, several of us could quilt at the same time.

We sat in front of the frame with one hand under the quilt and the other hand on top with the needle and thread. We buried our knot at the one end of a line, stitched the arc, and tied the knot at the other end, then cut the thread and started again on the next line, continuing until a fan was completed.  We stitched one row, and then rolled the quilt and stitched another row above the first.

Sewing from upper right and down to the left is the natural sweep of the arm for right-handed folks (the opposite is true for lefties), so that pattern was very easy for me to do right to left, and that is still the most comfortable movement for me today.

We worked from the bottom of the quilt up to the top, which is the normal way of stitching most of the quilts rolled on these handmade frames.  With a longarm, my favorite way to quilt is to work from the top down, and that is completely different from what I was used to doing for the Baptist Fan. No problem! 

You can easily start at the top with the fans swinging down because the EZ Arc quilting tool lets you stitch in any direction. In fact, you could start at the top right and work to the left if you want. Use the method that has the most natural movement for you.

What I usually do is load the fabric, batting and quilt top and sew across the top, then baste lines about 8" apart with large stitches back and forth across the quilt all the way down to the bottom, rolling the quilt on the back or upper bar as I go. I start stitching the Baptist Fan pattern at the bottom and work my way back up the quilt the way we always did when hand quilting in a frame, removing the basting stitches before quilting the fans. 

That's what works best for me even with the EZ Arc quilting tool, and you will find what works best for you as you continue to use the tool.

The EZ Arc tool can be fastened anywhere on your quilt and the fans stitched in any direction you want. Practice moving the tool to see which way is more comfortable and works best for you.

With this new tool, we are no longer limited by the swing of the arm the way we were when hand quilting, so just try different positions and movements until you find your favorite, then stitch away.

The answer to the question, 'Top Down or Bottom Up?' is 'Any Direction!'

Whatever works, I say. No problem!

Happy Stitching!


PS - remember to watch for Feather Wreath Contest details on January 15!