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.
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.