The only Juan for me.

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Juan is a Statler 26 longarm quilting machine from Gammill, Inc. This is our first day together.

This is Juan and I on the first day we met.  My husband said I couldn’t name him, but I couldn’t resist.  There is an awful lot of machismo packed in this thing, in all the right ways.  Plus for some reason I keep thinking of a radio commercial from several years ago where one of the voices said something like, “Hello.  My name is Juan, and today I will be your cabana boy.”  It made me giggle.  Every. Single. Time.

So, what have Juan and I been up to during this first week of our relationship?  Well, you may start humming “Getting to know you, getting to know all about you…”

First of all, there are a lot of bars on this thing.  And while I have actually loaded a number of quilts in my time, and Pat from Pat’s Calico Cottage did a great job of training me, I still had a little trouble the first time I loaded by myself.  Thankfully I followed Regina Carter’s advice and got zipper leaders, which meant when I had the quilt back wrapped around the wrong bar, I just unzipped the leader and moved it around the bar rather than having to pin it all over again.  This was especially helpful when I loaded it wrong twice.

I know it is really hard to see what’s going on in these pics, but bear with me and I will explain.  I wanted to try floating the quilt top rather than loading it in all the way, as a number of longarmers I know do it this way.  I got towards the end of the quilt and everything was so loosey-goosey that I thought I must not be ready for floating a quilt top.  Then I went to advance the quilt and realized that maybe it was actually because I forgot to lock down the bar holding the quilt backing.  Yup.  That’ll do it.

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And then there was this.  Yes, there is a reason that longarmers require that backing is a full 4″ larger than the quilt top- all the way around.  At least it was just in the basting seam.

It’s been about a year and a half since I was last on a longarm machine, and I have never used a computerized program before.  This made me a little cautious about the first quilt I loaded on Juan.  I decided to do what was familiar just to get a feel for how the machine moves, and to build my confidence back up again.  I just did an allover loopy pattern, which for me is the easiest hand-guided way to quilt.  Overall it went well, and it was very much like riding a bike after a long hiatus.  Not perfectly smooth, but certainly a reminder that it is totally doable.

Since I have a pretty serious stack of quilt tops that need to be finished, it wasn’t too difficult to find my next project to load on the machine.  I decided this time that I’d better practice using the computer before I forgot everything that Pat taught me.  I chose variegated thread, a busy quilt top, and a busy quilting pattern.  All so that my mistakes might not be so obvious.  I didn’t have a lot of trouble with it, and even managed through a couple of thread breaks in the middle of the pattern without a lot of issues.  It’s about 46″x60″, and it took right about 3 1/2 hours from load to unload, which I felt like was pretty good considering I had never done it before.  Guessing that number will improve over time.

I am really excited about the prospect of manipulating the computer program for more custom quilting, as well as becoming more proficient at hand-guided work.  I have been reading several machine quilting books lately, which is unusual for me as I don’t actually read instructions unless forced!  Kind of like putting a bike together on Christmas day- who needs to read the instructions?  I do.  But only after one of the bike pedals is installed where the seat is supposed to be.  But not this time.  I want to read machine quilting books and manuals the same way I wanted to read every single Anne of Green Gables book when I was a kid.  Over and over again.

Obsessed.

3 thoughts on “The only Juan for me.

  1. I’ve known Hannibal for nearly a week. He is a Gammill Optimum 30″ with Statler stitcher. I’m helping out at a local quilt shop and have been learning that reading the manual really helps. Totally agree with your comment about loading the quilt. Good grief it is complicated. Looking forward to seeing your work. Pam in Texas

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