Not bad for a fat girl

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I Did It; Now I’m a Longarmer

If you have any idea what that means you’re probably either a quilter, or you read my last post. If not, let me explain. A longarmer is a person who uses a longarm quilting machine (think giant sewing machine on a frame – there’s a picture in my last post). Well, I bit the bullet and purchased the Moxie longarm from Handiquilter. I got an 8 foot loft frame, which means that an entire room of my house holds that, the dog’s kennel (she’s too old for change now), and a bookcase. Yeah, it’s big.

There’s definitely a learning curve, but after just a few tries I’m way better at longarming than I have ever been at quilting on my domestic (i.e. regular) sewing machine. Moving the machine is so much easier than moving the quilt, and the longarm regulates the stitches so they’re nice and even. That’s something I’ve always struggled with on the domestic machine. It’s a great sewing machine, but I’m not a great machine quilter.

Now that the Moxie is up, I think it needs a name. It hasn’t come to me yet, but it will.

So far I’ve quilted up the sample gridded fabric that came with the machine (for practice), and a quilt top that had been just waiting to be finished. Since the learning curve means that my first several projects won’t be stellar (and I’m okay with that) I want them to be things that are useful, but not too near and dear to my heart. I’m also improving my machine binding skills, since hand-stitching binding is tedious, and my wrists will only tolerate a small amount of hand sewing at a time. This pink, white, and chocolate baby quilt was a perfect place to start.

I bought the printed fabrics as a jelly roll (precut 2.5 inch strips), then added in the white and solid pink. I wasn’t super happy with the result, and the workmanship is pretty awful if you care to look closely. I’m not sure why matching seams all of a sudden seemed impossible on that quilt, but it is what it is. The back is pieced from scraps and a very cute nursery rhyme fabric (which my sweetheart has proclaimed terrifying, go figure). I’m actually pleased with how it turned out. Now that it’s been washed and dried it looks like a timeworn and well loved quilt. It’s time to send if off to become just that for some little kid who needs it.

I have quite a lot on my plate for now (my submissions for National Board certification are due in a couple of weeks, and we have several weeks of school left), so I’m not playing with the new machine too much. There’s a colorful braid quilt in the works, and so many tops that need quilting just waiting for me. I ordered a bolt of batting and I hit the discount fabric store for large pieces to use as backings. It’s beautiful fabric, and at about $6 a yard instead of $12, it’s worth the trip and the hunt to find what I want. Just a few more weeks, and I will have the time to practice, practice, practice. I can’t wait!

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Is it Worth the Money?

That’s a phrase that comes to mind when I think about possibly buying a quilting machine. I wouldn’t get the biggest one, or the fanciest one, but it’s still pretty pricey. I did the math, and I would have to quilt at least 50 quilts (of my own) on it to break even. I took the average that I pay my incredible friend to machine quilt my tops, and came up with that figure. I don’t have 50 quilt tops. Yet.

I actually have 34 tops ready to be quilted. Some are quite large, and others are quite small. Those should be easy to do on my home machine, it’s just a matter of doing them. The bigger ones, however, have me at a standstill. Wrestling with a big quilt on a regular home sewing machine is something that I’m just not that good at, and frankly I don’t enjoy it. I feel as though I can’t achieve the quality of quilting each project deserves. Why spend all that time (yes, and money) putting together a top, only to have it look awful with poor quilting? That’s where my wonderful friend comes in.

I’m very fortunate to have a talented friend with her own quilting machine and the time to take in my quilts. She is delightful, and I’ve loved how each quilt that she’s done has turned out. Still, I would like to try my hand at doing my own. There’s something about putting every stitch into a quilt that’s very satisfying. Besides, at some point my friend will fully retire from her quilting business, and then what?

I’ve poked around on the internet some, and tested out the machine I’m leaning toward at my local sewing center. I’ve tried it out on 2 separate occasions, and man is it satisfying! It’s an entirely different experience than quilting on a home sewing machine. On one of those you move the quilt under a stationary needle. With the quilting machine the quilt is stationary and the needle moves across the surface. The first is like trying to write by holding the pen still and moving the paper, the second is so much more intuitive, and allows for so much more freedom in design (at least from my limited perspective). It also has a feature that keeps all of your stitches the same length. Yes, please! I found that after 10 seconds I could achieve beautiful quilting with the machine, which I haven’t been able to do on my home machine with years of practice and several classes under my belt.

So maybe I don’t have 50 tops, yet, but I do have a lot. I also have the space in my home, now that my son is grown. And the money? Well, I can make it happen, if I make a few sacrifices. Truthfully, I’m not worried about quilting 50 quilts to “get my money’s worth.” Finding the joy in this part of quiltmaking is something I’m looking forward to. It sounds as though I’ve just made up my mind.

I’ve got my eye on one of these beauties.