Nostalgic meandering

I’m becoming one of those people.  You know, the ones who talk about the olden days, back when this or that was the norm.

This is not to take anything away from the younger set, of which I was once a member.  We do – as we should – go through different seasons in our lives, each one exposing us to new things and teaching us about the world and about ourselves.  They are necessary seasons.  I can value my own life experience from a my own time and still say “You go for it!  I remember when we could only imagine all the things available to you now.  Make new memories.  Find your own place in the world!”

I don’t ever want to become the old lady who thinks the younger people don’t know anything, that they can’t teach me anything, and that because I’m a certain age, none of them can understand or give me helpful ideas about life.  I’ve learned many things from my own adult children and from the changing world around me and I hope that I remain open so I don’t miss important lessons.

But please permit me this one observation: many things are just not made like they used to be.  I think I can safely say that as a fact without it being just another random generational comparison looking through bifocal lenses from my comfy recliner.

I recently brought my first sewing machine upstairs from the closet where it has been stored nearly four years now; it was carefully packed in its case at the age of 35+ years and moved aside after I bought my new one with all the bells and whistles and a nice big 10″ throat at the start of my free motion quilting journey.  I had no room or need for two machines set up all the time, so storing the old one was the obvious choice.

Earlier that day I had packed up my new machine to leave my house and spend time sewing with a group of ladies – an actual first for me! – and one of them brought an old machine along.  I listened to it hum as she sewed and I found myself missing the way my old one sounded.  When I got home, I felt compelled to take it out, oil it up, and stitch something on it.

Once the case came off, I was actually feeling nostalgic looking at it. I bought it when I was 13 years old, about 4 years after mom taught me how to sew my own clothes.  Because mom had the top of the line Pfaff and I was used to sewing on that, I didn’t want to settle for anything less!  My dad – a banker who taught us to work and pay for things we wanted outside the scope of  basic needs – advised me to apply for a bank loan so I could start working on my credit rating (LOL) and because he knew that even if I saved for months, the price might go up and I wouldn’t catch up.  He co-signed for me, I got my loan, and by working part time in a fabric store owned by my parents I paid off my loan early.

So for me this machine represents various practical and sentimental things and holds many memories. It still works, it still hums, and I love it.  And they DON’T make them like they used to.

Sure, my new one  is all computerized and does a ton of fancy things (many of which I don’t use or need but that 10″ throat got me…! LOL) and it’s a pretty color and all that.  But it’s just not the same.

It’s nobody’s fault; things change, technology advances, manufacturing moves forward, parts get farmed out to keep prices down etc. etc. etc. Sometimes that makes things better, sometimes it doesn’t.  And I guess it all depends on what you want the “thing” – whatever it is – to do for you.

Obviously, my new machine does a lot my old one doesn’t do.  But it doesn’t hum along without vibrating, and it doesn’t have the same stitch quality, and it doesn’t have the power to move me back to my childhood and teen years of sewing all my own clothes and through my married life of sewing for my husband, my children, and my home, and into my first attempt at free motion quilting that opened up a new world to me.

So I’m going to find a place in my world for using this old friend of mine, even if it’s just going to become my take-along-when-I-leave-the-house-to-sew machine.  Yes, it’s heavy.  Yes there are lighter and smaller ones I could get for this purpose.  Yes, maybe one day I will need to consider that if my arms and back get too sore from carrying it.  But for today, in the present moment, I think it will work 🙂

Like me, it has a lot of years left in it to be productive!  And if it could speak, I’m sure it would look at my new one and say something like “Hey there, you’re pretty nice looking and you do a lot of cool stuff and I remember in the olden days when we could only imagine all the features you have now! So you go girl, you shine, make new memories.  I will always have my own place in time.”

Do you have an old machine that you love?  I’d enjoy hearing about it in the comments below!

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Just Stitching – free motion fun

After several days of working on cementing some of the basics of edge to edge computerized quilting in my brain, I was feeling the need to get in some of my favourite hand guided free motion quilting.

I loaded up a practice quilt sandwich, lowered the belts, and spent some time playing on my new Gammill, did a bit of ruler work and, of course, some spirals!  It brought me a lot of enjoyment and peace to just go with the flow and stitch randomly whatever came to mind 🙂

Longarm Quilting: easing in fullness

While I was working on a client quilt this week, I recorded a short video showing how I used my hands while my Gammill Statler was stitching out a digital design, to manipulate the quilt top and ease in any bits of fullness to avoid getting unwanted pleats and tucks.  I got the idea from a video Linda Taylor did for the Best of Both Worlds series for Gammill Quilting (look for that great set of tutorials on Youtube!) and it was definitely beneficial for me, and in the end for my client who ended up with a lovely finish on her quilt.

There is soooooooo much to learn in this computerized quilting arena!  But I just try to focus on a little bit at a time so my brain won’t explode! LOL  Of course, I want to try ALL THE THINGS!

First a few photos, then the video at the bottom.  All are posted with permission 🙂

Have a great weekend!

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Custom Computerized Quilting on my Gammill

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After practicing some edge to edge designs on a few quilts this past week, I went ahead and tried some custom work using computerized patterns.

This quilt has a lot of wide open space, but it is pieced together in rows so, for the most part, I chose designs for each row.  When I got to the blocks with text, I fit the designs around them.

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This was so much fun!  LOTS to learn and every day there’s something I have to tripe check as I go, but it’s gradually getting more comfortable.  Check out the video below for an idea of how it all came together 🙂

My Gammill is Here!

I would like to introduce you to my new Gammill Statler Stitcher (fondly referred to for now as my “personal assistant” until I can come up with just the right name for it! LOL)  It arrived a week ago, has upped the decor level in my quilting room by several points, and is performing like a rock star.

I’m spending time right now getting used to the process of computerized quilting; it is a huge learning curve, but I’m gradually getting the hang of it, and since I was without a machine for just over a month after the old one sold, I had time to piece together a few quilt tops to have ready for practice.  I’m testing out different ways of getting the patterns onto the quilt, some edge to edge as well as some customized work, choosing different patterns to fill specific spaces.

This machine purrs like a kitten and is a pleasure to drive (“She’s got a competition clutch with the four on the floor and she purrs like a kitten ’till the lake pipes roar, and if that ain’t enough to make you flip your lid…” OK I’ll stop!)

Everything here is solid as a rock and it’s clear this is no lightweight piece of equipment.  I was slightly intimidated the first time I turned it on myself the day after Mr. Bentley, my dealer/delivery man left.  I had to stand back a minute, take it all in, and show some respect.  Even moving the rollers – smoothly as a hot knife through butter – gives me pause to be grateful.

I wanted to share with you some of the things I’m working on, just to keep you posted and stay in touch while I’m learning 🙂  I have three completed quilts with edge to edge patterns on them and am currently working on a custom one – mostly computerized, some ruler work – and all will be available in my Etsy Shop in the next couple of weeks or so.

Once I’m confident with the basics, I’ll be opening up my computerized quilting services to clients in addition to the hand guided work I’ve been doing thus far and continue to enjoy very much!  For now, here are a few peeks into the fun I’ve been having.  I’m trying a new techie system of embedding these from my Instagram feed, so be sure to follow me over there – annwalshquilting – to see regular day to day updates that don’t always make it into a longer post here 🙂  For those of you who aren’t familiar with Instagram, the notations you see under these photos go along with the Instagram posts, and it’s all about the hashtags over there!

Longarm machine comparison

I’ll bet from the title of this post that you’re expecting me to give you a chart of some kind, with various brands and features, and present myself as an expert on the subject!  That’s not happening.

First of all, I’m no expert on anything other than my own opinion. Secondly, writers of blogs choose post titles carefully so they can easily be found, and calling this “If you’re in the market for a longarm you might want to check out some of these suggestions” would register as TOO LONG AND BORING! LOL

However, if you ARE in the market for a longarm you might want to check out some of these suggestions:

  1. Don’t be hasty.
  2. Do your research and make comparisons very carefully.
  3. Try various brands even if you have to travel a bit of distance.

DON’T BE HASTY

If you’re looking at buying a longarm machine, you could potentially be investing as much money as you would to buy a new car, or perhaps a small house, depending on where you live!  Now, not everyone is buying the biggest, fanciest machine with all the expensive technology, but the point is that this is no minor purchase and just as you would weigh the pros and cons of buying an economy vehicle next to those of buying a luxury sedan, based on your needs and your budget, you need to consider a lot of different things in order to make the best decision FOR YOU.

If you’re an impulsive shopper – STOP IT! This isn’t something you want to buy in a hurry, or on a whim like when you’re at a big quilt show and you want All. The. Things. This is one of those items to go gather information about and then go home and think about, not one to load up in your truck alongside all the bags of fabric and kits and gadgets you don’t really need but just had to have…)

“But there’s a special deal on today!” Come on, we’ve all been around the block (quilt pun intended) enough times to know that there will always be some kind of deal if we are just patient and wait for it.  Getting a special deal on something you will later regret buying is NOT a special deal.  And next month’s special deal might be even more special anyway, so just stop and think.  There should be a mantra for this, like stop, drop and roll.  Maybe “stitch, stop, and sleep on it.”

DO YOUR RESEARCH

Talk to dealers about everything you can think of with regard to their machines.

Ask about warranties, what they cover, what they don’t, and which circumstances have limitations.

Ask about service and regular maintenance:

  • Who does it, you or the dealer?
  • Where is it done, in your home or somewhere you have to take your machine?
  • How often does it need to be done and how much does it cost?
  • Does the price include training?  Where will that happen?

Find out if the people selling the machines are also USING the machines.  Are the dealers/owners actually longarm quilters themselves or are they sales people?  Do they have hands on personal experience and insight to share with you and help you make your decision?  If not, think about whether or not that difference matters to you.

MAKE COMPARISONS CAREFULLY

This is a very tricky area.  You won’t be comparing apples with apples while comparing longarm machine brands.  You’ll be comparing apples, oranges, bananas and passion fruit.  I threw that last one in there because there’s a little part of each of us that is enticed by the “extras” we might or might not actually need to do the job we want to do.  But they might be fun, or allow us to grow more in our skills, or make something easier.

Because direct comparison can rarely be made, you need to look at various things on each machine to find out what the features do, why they’re helpful (or not really), if they’re things you need to have or not, things you will grow into, things you want to afford or things you don’t.  Notice I said “want to afford”.  Sometimes we’re looking at items we CAN afford but choose not to.  Each person must decide for themselves which features and prices suit them, but having said that, again I stress that your comparisons should be CAREFUL ones.

I would suggest not using price alone to determine your final choice, unless all other things have first been considered and price is the only significant difference.  Budget is important of course, but keeping in mind that you aren’t comparing apples with apples, sometimes the price can be deceiving.  A machine that appears to be cheaper, might in the long run end up costing nearly the same as another once you decide to accessorize it – either at the time of purchase of later on – with features that already come standard on the initially more expensive option.

Sometimes what you think is a convenience ends up being a sacrifice.  For example, if you like the idea of portability, you’ll likely be sacrificing weight and sturdiness, whether we’re talking about longarm machines, sewing machines, or other bigger items you use around the house.  Lighter weight versions might have more vibration causing louder volume during use.  If the DIY setup/install appeals to you (it’s usually cheaper), you might be sacrificing quality and materials that would be heavier and more difficult to break down in the item that must be delivered and assembled by a professional.  It is, of course, our own choice to sacrifice or not according to our own situations.  The important thing is to consider the possible trade offs in both directions and not ignore them.

If there are features available that you aren’t familiar with, watch some videos on YouTube to find out how others are using them and why they might be advantageous to you, remembering that until you actually have a machine in your house and use it regularly, you can’t always be certain what you will and will not use.

TRY VARIOUS BRANDS

Unless you have owned a longarm before or used one extensively you won’t necessarily know which one is a good fit for you.  Depending on were you live, it might be difficult to access a variety of brands and try them out, unless you can get to a trade show or quilt show where dealers will be demonstrating their machines.  If this is the case, I do suggest giving yourself a chance to try a few different ones.  Even if you already know of a couple you do not want, give them a try at a show where you can also try others on the same day so you can make some direct comparisons as to the weight, the smoothness of operation, the sound, vibrations etc.

Don’t rule out a particular brand because it’s hard to get to a demo.  It might be the right one for you, and Murphy’s Law states that you will find that out precisely two months later when you do get to a show after you’ve purchased the one you thought was a good idea for valid reasons at the time, and end up kicking yourself for it.  Especially when some people who know you pretty well suggested you should wait and get the other one.  And one of them even offered to drive you four hours away to see it in person but you still didn’t go. But I digress…

My point is that when you are new to anything, there’s a lot of stuff you don’t know.  There’s a lot of stuff you don’t even know you don’t know.  So ask questions, read reviews, find out why prices are what they are, what’s included and why, and make an informed decision, not a hasty one, not an impulsive one.  All we can do is make the best possible decision at the time with what we know.  Make sure you know as much as you can, about the machines you’re looking at, and about yourself!

In the words of a smart guy I know, “It’s cheaper to buy one longarm machine than to buy two.”

 

 

 

 

Changing plans for a New year!

As we approach the end of the year, I want to share with you some changes that I’m looking forward to in the coming months.  As with any journey in life, my quilting journey has taken yet another turn, and I’ve made the decision to sell my HQ Amara and purchase a Gammill Statler Stitcher.

Just thought I’d get that out right in the first paragraph and then give you a bit of information! LOL

I’ve made a video that you can link to below, explaining about the changes, and also expressing the importance for me of telling people who follow my blog, Facebook page, or Youtube channel, that my decision was based on personal needs and preference, and not on any bad experience with my HQ dealer.  There was nothing wrong with my machine itself, it just turned out to not be the best fit for me.

Perhaps in future I will share some hints that might be helpful for others in choosing a machine of their own, but for now I’m just wanting to get the update out there, because we’re on the internet following each other and watching projects, tools, listening to suggestions etc. While I can’t control how everyone receives my news, I can at least be up front about my decision!  That’s how I roll 🙂

I’ll be very happy to get my new longarm machine in January and get started on learning how to combine the computerized stitching with my own for a special kind of custom result!  As well, I will now be able to offer edge to edge quilting services for clients who prefer that option.  It’s another “open door” for me (we’ve talked about this type of thing before!) and I’m jumping through.  At the very least, it will challenge my brain going forward and give me lots of opportunity for growth, while allowing me to continue to design my own custom work and do hand guided quilting.

I’d like to take this moment to wish you all a very Merry Christmas and thank you for reading, following, and commenting to let me know you are there.  Bye for now!

My mom is a celebrity!

Well guess what?  When I did my interview with Leah Day and she found out my mom has been a hand quilter since 1981 – when she made her first quilt as a gift for her brother – Leah wanted to chat with my mom about her perspective on the evolution of quilting over the years.  So my mom is on Leah’s podcast this week!  She was pretty thrilled to get a chance to talk to Leah personally as she has followed her a long time, and it was my mom who first pointed out Leah’s web site to me when I started free motion quilting 🙂

I remember mom making that first quilt, having it spread out over the ping pong table in our basement while she appliquéd all the pieces to create a turkey dinner table setting complete with cutlery and wine glasses (my uncle made his own wine), and desserts in each corner.  Unfortunately, the photo doesn’t do it justice – it was a polaroid instant camera photo from 37 years ago so the details are kind of cloudy, and I no longer have access to the quilt to get a better one! – I tried to photoshop it into 2018, but there’s only so much you can do with those things 🙂  The borders look black and they are actually brown gingham (it’s important to mom that you know that).

I wanted to share this with all of you because it was my mom who taught me to sew when I was a child and it has been one of the best skills she passed on to me (I did not inherit her interest in cooking!).  I’ve used it extensively and happily throughout my life and of course it eventually led me to where I am now, machine quilting.

This also ties in with Leah’s new book, Mally the Maker, which she wrote as quilt fiction with the hope that it would inspire readers of all ages to appreciate the value of learning to sew/quilt and passing that on to others.

Thanks, Mom!

Check out their chat at the link below!

Interviewed by Leah Day

I had a super fun time being interviewed by Leah Day on her Quilting Friends podcast last week, and it went public today so I wanted to share the link and the experience with you!  We had a great conversation about quilting, creativity, passion and balancing things in our crafty lives.  Some of it was practical and some of it was philosophical.  All of it was a surreal experience for me 🙂  She is just as sweet in person (well, on video call!) as she appears to be and I’m happy to have met her and made a new quilting friend!

You can go straight to the podcast on her Youtube channel by clicking the image below, and you can read more about the podcast in the show notes here: Be Open to Your Creativity