Thursday, April 24, 2014

How to move a Longarm Quilt Machine – DON’T DO IT ALONE!!!

(and don't include alcohol or easily excitable friends!!)

Next came moving day. Like any quilter preparing to begin a new project, I organized. I read article after article about longarms. I prepared with blankets, tools, men (at least 3), trucks, trailer, moving van? I was getting overwhelmed fast. Hopelessly stuck – and here is where quilters are a unique group – one of my friends (a longarmer from Hemet CA) graciously volunteered her husband to organize and help move this behemoth. She said he had moved her Gammill three times and was an expert. Easy Peasy! Right! In my mind I knew with such an expert, this would be no problem. Well – right! Did I have a lot to learn.

So today we moved it. I figured you just picked it up, put it in the truck and drove it home. Popped it in the house, plugged it in and started quilting. Oh was I wrong – soooo very wrong. These machines come delivered from the company in 3 CRATES. YES, CRATES that are 12 feet long. I didn't know that before I took on this – guess I choose not to think about it. Needless to say Baby had to be taken apart to get out of her former home, and then further disassembled to get up my steps and into my house. All the time three men were unbolting, unscrewing, disassembling pipes, bars, plastic, light bars, and anything else they could get their wrenches on. All I could do was stand and pray to God someone would know how to put all the pieces together again. Yes, please let someone say they could put it all back together again.

Well, so far today Baby is inside her new home. Not dropped, scratched, or bent. All the pieces are lying quietly in the living room while the table and the quilting machine ‘head’ is in the den. This is no walk in the park. I don’t know why any quilter would volunteer her husband to help move a longarm. This is a test of patience; finding the right tool when you need it; leverage physics, blankets, balancing, and an awful lot of sweat. I swore if I ever sell my house, it will have to be to a quilter and the Gammill goes with it! Thank God my sons weren't here or there would have been pieces of a very expensive machine all over the pavement. But Baby is in now. Not put together, but inside and safe.

After my friends left, I was so tired, I just wanted to crawl into bed and sleep, but NO – friends and neighbors knew the machine was coming today, so guess what? Just like when you have a new baby at home, everyone has to come by and visit. What does the new baby do? Sleep. So I had the pleasure of showing off Baby unassembled and quite honestly, not as impressive (other than size) as they all thought Baby should be. I had to explain she’s not assembled, which means they will all have to come back and inspect the next phase. That will be tomorrow…maybe. We will have to see if Dave and Nancy have the guts to return to the scene of the crime and if any of us can actually move or bend after yesterday. This was not for the faint of heart. I realized you really have to love this to go through this, notwithstanding using friends to help bear the torture.

It made me wonder about all the longarms I see advertised for sale on the internet in towns all over the country I didn't know existed. How in the world do these things get packed, shipped, and assembled by the totally unsuspecting? Thank you God for quilting friends who just roll up their sleeves and say “we can get this done.” So, what do you think tomorrow will bring? Will we find all the parts? If we do, will any of us senior citizens remember where they go? Don’t know. That is for another day. All I can say is thank you Dave and Nancy, thank you God, and pray for us all. These are the times that try quilter’s souls . . . to be continued . . . 


Well, after 30 years of quilting, piecing, stitch in the ditch[ing], begging quilters to please, please, please, “Do this one quick thing for me by this weekend?” . . . I got a long arm quilting machine. It has taken me a long time to think about it (like 10 years), then there was the ‘discussion’ with other long arm quilters (another 10 years), then I progressed into the ‘I’m actually looking at them phase,’ (another 5 years).  Needless to say, this is nothing I have rushed into. Notwithstanding the number of quilt tops I have sitting in my sewing room waiting to be quilted. I figure if I never quilt for anyone else, I should be busy for years.

I looked at as many longarm brands as possible; high-end, low-end, unknowns, all of them. From day to day, I changed my mind. I finally heard through the grapevine about a cherished Gammill that “may” come available and I thought that would be the way to go. A known quilter’s pride and joy would make a terrific jump into the long arm foray. That was more than a year ago. It took my quilter friend more than a year to finally decide to let her “baby” go and countless conversations on my part trying to convince her that I would be the perfect home for “Baby.”

The last time I spoke with her while she was still undecided was around October or November and she said to wait until after the holidays (which came and went), then there was “the call.” I am telling you it must be like getting the call your new baby was ready for adoption!

So – where do you start with the whole longarm migration situation? What do you do first? Well, money was probably the first thing I thought about. We had to ‘do a deal,’ and I have to say, it must have been like negotiating to buy a child . . . not that I would know, mine were delivered to me. So, I asked the most difficult question: “Do you deliver?” I was really, really, hoping there was some magical method to transport a 1,000 pound machine that I didn't want to have deal with. NOPE, not going to happen. Talk about scared to death.

Since I didn't just wake up one day and decide I would like to become a longarmer, I had to decide where I was going to put it. That was no small task. It is sitting in the middle of my den as I write this simply because I still don’t know where it is going to finally reside. Who knows, it may stay there forever. As a classically trained quilter (is there such a thing?), I immediately cut out a “template” from paper using the dimensions of the machine. My friends and I drug that stinker from one room to the other, considered everything from moving out of my bedroom, giving the living room up to the ‘monster,’ dining room, den, spare room, back porch. You name it.  I tried to think of what that room would look like with a monster sewing machine located there. I was exhausted just moving the machine back and forth in my head! Anyway, I decided to practice what all quilters do; put it in the middle of the house, walk past it for a few weeks, or thereabouts, and hope that inspiration would tell me what to do! I loved that because I didn't have to make any decision at all, just keep walking past it for a while or so like we do with a indecisive quilt in progress.

Too tired to post tonight…going to sleep to dream about where to put Baby…..

Friday, March 14, 2014


This has happened to all of us.  We know there are a couple things we can do - but we refuse to believe that we COULD have threaded the machine wrong, put in the bobbin backwards, or possibly have a dull or bent needle in. Like, we know we just put a new one in! Right. 
The THRILLING THREADS ladies have come up with a no-fail method to walk you through the right steps to take in order to get that machine up and running again. I have to say that I still walk up to a student and ask, "did you re-thread it?" No. Did you take the bobbin out? No. When was the last time you changed the needle? I don't know. What size needle is in your machine? Don't know. What size thread are you using? Dunno, green thread, I guess. It's things like this that keep a lot of service people in business. Easy fixes for them - expensive for you. So, here are the four (4) steps to run through every time your machine stops sewing:

REMOVE AND RE-THREAD the TOP and BOBBIN thread delivery.  Believe it or not, the number (1) problem experienced with machines is that the machine is threaded WRONG.  Sometimes the thread does not get placed correctly in the tension disk or take-up lever, or while sewing, it can jump out.  Take the time to remove the thread (correctly: cut the top thread and remove the needle thread through the needle) and re thread the upper thread with the presser foot raised.  Then, pull the bobbin out and check to see if there are any little "bits" of thread or fuzz in the bobbin case.  Replace the bobbin, making sure to have the bobbin in correctly (and facing the right direction for the machine).  Try running the machine again to see if this was the problem.  
IF NOT, then . . .

TENSION:Check the thread reference or a Thread Journal for that particular thread.  If no reference, DROP the tension to number (1) and sew a few stitches.  Take time to look at the sample, front and back. If the machine is sewing, but the stitches are wonky, continue adjusting the tension up in small increments. Don’t keep moving tension UP THEN DOWN and UP AND DOWN.  Starting with (1) on the dial and moving tension up is the best way to adjust the correct tension.  

CHANGE NEEDLE: Size does matter!! Using the wrong size needle with a particular thread counts for a lot. If the needle is too small for the thread there will be shredding and breaking. If the stitch is still wonky, the needle is too large for the thread. How to test a needle for the right thread? Cut a length of thread about 12” long, take the needle out of the machine and thread it on the piece of thread. Tilt the thread so the needle slides from one end to the other.  If the needle does not slide easily from end to end, the needle is obviously too small. If the needle goes WAY TOO FAST, it is probably too large. Change the needle to a correct size.
AND . . .

CHANGE NEEDLE if it has been in for a long, long time . . . you know who you are – just want to get one more project out of that poor needle! DON’T!! Figure the cost of a needle – this is the cheapest fix on a sewing machine.  Using a needle that is either dull or bent (and the eye cannot perceive either all the time) can ruin the timing on your machine; not to mention a good project.

BALANCE THE THREADS: Make sure the size of the top thread (needle thread) is GREATER OR EQUAL to the size of the bobbin thread. Using a larger size thread in the bobbin than in the needle makes wonky stitches. Balance the two threads by using a larger size thread on the top than in the bobbin. If that doesn’t work, use the SAME THREAD in the bobbin as on the top. IF THIS STILL HAS NOT FIXED THE PROBLEM - - - change to a different thread! Don’t let thread be frustrating. Switch and see if that fixes the problem. (That’s why we have a thread stash!)