Tuesday, January 17, 2012

My sewing machine, quilting and I

I am a dedicated and convinced hand quilter. Unfortunately, my normal days only have 24 hours, and that is by far not enought to deal with all the quilts I want to make by hand. Add to that the fact that I have seen many modern quilts during the last years which were expertly machine quilted, which did contribute to my caving in – I can say these days that machine quilting indeed has its merits for modern quilts. (Still not so sure about those made in a traditional pattern/style, but that’s a different story.) Even for mine! Accordingly, I did decide that it was necessary to improve my machine quilting capacity. The first attempts a few years ago were rather tedious, partly because I stupidly started out with rather huge pieces, on a plain home machine, using my walking foot. Both of these quilts measure more than 180 cm across either way:
Play of Lines VIII -
machine quilted by a beginner, size 185 by 188 cm

Play of Lines X, machine quilted by a beginner, size 203 by 188 cm

For Play of Lines VIII I chose parallel lines all across, which went very well with the three-part-partition of the composition. Play of Lines X was even more of a challenge because I decided on varying patterns in different areas. So I had to deal with figuring out tension issues in free motion quilting. Certainly a huge challenge for my veteran home machine, together we reached our limits, although we did make it. Both of these pieces have been traveling with “Color Improvisations”.
A few smaller quilts followed, with me mostly relying on those parallel lines, which my machine could handle.

But when I began to tire of parallel lines I was a bit at a loss, because of the limitations of my machine. Every time it came to subjecting a finished top to quilting I would fret to myself “well, how I am going to quilt that thing?” When I tried out other patterns than the parallel lines while still using the walking foot, I usually ended up with a lot more threads to sink than I actually cared for. 

At that point I even pondered buying a longarm machine, perhaps taking in commissions to quilt other people’s quilts in order to pay it off. Even went to a business start-up workshop to figure out the necessary business details for such an undertaking. Needless to say, the coach could not even fathom that this might be a possible way (of course, he had never heard of quilting before anyway) and seriously doubted that there would be any possibilities of obtaining a loan to pay for the machine to begin with.... Add to that the fact that around the same time we realized my son would need a room in the house for his drum set, and I certainly did not want to take the risk and start renting additional rooms where I could install a longarm machine which would even have added to the costs.
So I took advantage of the offer for the new Janome Horizon which was launched at the German Quilters’ Guild’s Patchwork Meeting in Dortmund in 2010. Teachers of workshops got an even better offer than the world-launch-offer for visitors of the festival, and it has since become my quilting machine.
Nevertheless, first attempts at free motion quilting offered rather unsatisfying results, again, tension problems. Machine quilting was not liking me – and I was beginning to return to not liking it either.
Meanwhile my Janome and I have been on a wellness-tour together when I took it to the dealer in the Bavarian Forest, about a two-hour drive from here. There the tension was readjusted, and I bought a special bobbin for free motion quilting.
Now that the hardware seems to have been optimized as much as possible, I was totally motivated and decided to start yet another major effort with at my machine quilting by practising practising practising. First, I want to sort of follow the 365-day-free motion filler quilting design project by Leah Day.
I’ll keep you posted on how that goes.

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