Thursday, May 3, 2018


I have toyed with the idea of adding a computer to my long arm for a long time. I was never serious about it because it's a ton of money and I didn't figure I would do enough with it. The more I saw what other long arm quilters were doing with their computers, I scraped money together to buy the computer. Marilyn and Thomas were the two biggest influencers of this purchase which happened back in November at Quilt Market in Houston. Thanks to Jean for helping with the negotiations.

Much angst over getting the machine to the factory so they could do the upgrade. The upgrade had to be rescheduled once and that was because of me. A number of other things happened along the way like the factory forgot that they were to add the computer! A slight issue that was quickly resolved and I had deadlines both before the machine went away and when it came back.

There was the issue of reinstalling all the bits and pieces and would I be able to do that. The factory provides a very user-friendly installation guide. So I managed to get the long arm up and running so I could use it manually and met the deadline for one quilt, but yesterday was time for the big test. Did the computer work and would I be able to figure it out?

Step one was to load a quilt. Since nothing changed there, that step was easy. Then I watched a few videos on YouTube to understand the software a wee bit more. And while I'm operating one tablet on the long arm, I have another tablet tuned to YouTube. Don't ask how many tablets I have because they were not all used in the learning of the software.

Watching videos and following along
OK - that didn't seem to be so bad. The software is fairly intuitive. No, I'm lying. While it's not that difficult, there are steps that need to be followed and if you don't follow them in the right order, the system isn't going to work. Even turning on the three buttons to make everything work - there's a sequence and if you don't follow the sequence, it won't work!

You have to set a "safe zone" for the long arm to operate in. I tried several times (OK - more than several) and it wouldn't register. Aha - I figured out (on my own) that the little clamps need to be engaged in order for that function to work. Yep - I was right! OK - won't make that mistake again.

But when I pulled up the pattern on the tablet, I couldn't get the long arm to recognize the safe zone. GRRRRRR.  Finally, I called the support people and spoke to a wonderfully patient lady. We had a 15-minute conversation which didn't start well as she is asking me where I am? I've no idea - I'm in my studio but in the software? No clue!  But all was good and she gave me a couple of tips and I was merrily on my way. Measure the quilt using the software and the safe zone is now working. Another lesson learned - let's not forget that one. Use the ruler on the tablet to measure the quilt and make the safe zone a wee bit bigger - that was easy!

All lined up, use the computer to pull up the bobbin. I'm so not used to this - it's totally foreign and I'm freaking out a wee bit. Then hit SEW. The computer is working!!!  It's stitching out all on its own. I DID IT!!!!

Stitching on its own
That was easy! NOT!!!  It did take a wee bit longer than usual to stitch this quilt. And I had a few issues along the way.  By the way - did you read that post I mentioned the other day. It was about making mistakes and should we rip them out or not. The person posting was talking about knitting. If you haven't read it, you should go back and read it. It's long and it takes a bit of concentration but well worth the read. Here's the link again. But here's the bottom line - we learn by making mistakes. Our kids learn by making mistakes (that's my line). If we don't allow ourselves to play around and practice and make mistakes, we'll never learn anything. The big question is if we make a mistake, should we fix it and if so how? More learning experiences in learning how to fix the mistake. Most of what I've learned over the years was by making mistakes and learning to fix it or live with it. My students seem to think that I never make mistakes - oh - if they could only see what has happened over the past 20 years!

All that to say that there are mistakes in this quilt. I'm NOT ripping them out. This is a community projects quilt - I have 17 of them that were pieced years ago and waiting to be quilted. So I'm quilting them now! Not all of them, but enough to get an idea what I'm doing.

I didn't do myself any favors when the backing was almost too short for the quilt. But it worked out.

Almost not enough backing!

Here's the quilt. I think someone is going to be more offended by those colors than by the two "mistakes" on the quilt!!

Community projects quilt - DONE

The first mistake is the pattern. I hate the big gap between the swirls. I knew before I got started that this was going to happen. I could have changed it - I simply had to move the even rows slightly to the right or the left (and it's easy to do on the software), but I was too excited (anxious) to get started. It's not a big deal and I don't really consider that a mistake.

Big gaps to be avoided in future

Nope - the big mistake was that I didn't line up this row properly. HEY - it was worse and I managed to reduce the distance between the rows. Not before the quilt was almost punctured several times in a not so friendly way. I'm trying to hit that big STOP button on the tablet and it's saying, "Please wait for the command to work before pressing more buttons" or something to that effect! No panicking!!!

This was the first advance I did on my own. Guess what - I made a mistake but I won't be making that mistake again!  I marked the new stitching box, but not in the right spot!!! DUH!!!!

A wee gap between rows

Yes - it's a mistake, but not one that is worth ripping out so I just proceeded ahead. I thought I was going to have a bigger issue at the end of the quilt because you do all the calculations ahead of time as far as how many rows to stitch out. It worked in my favor which was good because I had no idea how to fix the number of rows. Phew!!!  Luck (certainly not skill) was on my side after all.

But lots was learned - LOTS. The next quilt is loaded on the long arm (also a community projects) quilt and I'm ready to try a new pattern today. By the way - that pattern is technically made by me. The spiral was in the pattern catalog but I sized it according to the quilt and how big and small I wanted it to be.

I was terrified of running out of bobbin and how would I restart, etc once I filled the bobbin. The first couple of rows I made sure there was loads of bobbin thread. But then I said - I have to learn how to do this so I let the bobbin run out. I stopped the machine - hitting the STOP button only ONCE.  I wound a new bobbin and put it back in the machine. I hit the "repair stitching" button and I was able to figure out how to go back and restart. You can't see where the bobbin ran out. I was jumping around with excitement on that one. Yeah ME!!!!

There is only one HUGE problem with all this. What am I supposed to do while the machine is stitching on its own??  If I knew the bobbin was full for the row, I actually left the machine (all edges were basted down so babysitting the machine wasn't an issue). I was putting stuff away in the studio, I was searching for that darn missing circular ruler. On the row that I knew the bobbin would run out, I stayed with the machine and fixed it.

Hey - I might just fire up the embroidery machine and I could easily run from one to the other. I could get tons more done!!!  Hey - I've got two embroidery machines and a third on the way - I could embroider a LOT! Anyone need/want some embroidery done??  That's a whole other learning curve on that side of the studio. I know how to embroider, but not on the PFAFF.

I did NOT find the curved ruler so I ordered a new one. I need it for a class. DRAT - it's not a cheap ruler. And you know that I'm going to find it later today. I just feel it. But that's OK - when I teach a class on curved piecing, it's nice to have a second ruler.

I got a lot of paperwork done in the morning so that was good, but I'm nowhere near catching up. Yikes - it's crazy - where do all these tasks come from? And the e-mails?  HUGE these days or so it seems. And the door was like a revolving door - packages were arriving (only two) and they got flung onto the kitchen table with the rest of the stuff that I could easily put away. I might set the long arm to run and then pop upstairs to deal with this mess between bobbin chances and quilt advances. Hmm - this might work after all!

The kitchen table is a MESS

Good thing I'm on my own this week or I'd be hearing some complaints. Matter of fact, it was hilarious yesterday as I received photos from both DH and M. Both were on a plane (different continents) and sent me pictures of landing or taking off. Meanwhile, I'm stuck at home with the girls. I'm OK with that - I'm having way too much fun to be on a plane.

Here's another link for you to peruse. Should your quilt be custom quilted or quilted with an overall design?  I totally agree with everything in this post so why rewrite it out for you. Check it out and make decisions for your next quilt.

The only thing missing from the long arm is a monitor for our smartphones. The embroidery machine that is on its way has a monitor. You set the embroidery machine to run and via an app (yes the machine connects to the internet), you get a notification on your phone that the machine has run out of thread or needs a thread change. Now wouldn't that be nice if the long arm did the same thing?  It's coming - just not today!!!  I've already e-mailed them about this. Maybe it exists and I don't know?

On that note, I'm out of here. Loads of paperwork to get done this morning and I had better make another stab at it.

Have a super day!!!!


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