Tag Archives: Stitch Regulator

Eat Your Heart Out Little Green Men

24 Mar

Another UFO shot down without malice. In fact I quite enjoyed quilting this one. When finished I washed it and dried it in the dryer to see the effect. I have always shied away from washing quilts when finished but that was mainly when I did stitch in the ditch. With the amount of quilting on this one it just gets what is known as the ‘antique’ look. Putting it in the dryer enhances the look.  Mind you if you have just spent hours and money on a future  heirloom don’t take my word for it. I have a whole stack of pieced tops on which to experiment. The worst that can happen is that I use it to keep myself warm in the depths of Winter. I would hate to be responsible for a recherché bed for the dog.

The only snag is that a pile of UFOs takes up less room than a pile of finished quilts. ‘Some people are never satisfied’ I hear you say.

This is another  Kookaburra Cottage  pattern, originally pubished as a BOM. The unquilted version and another colourway are in my post  ‘Where’s Goosey Gander When You Want Him’  if you are interested. As I have said before, the  quilting adds that little extra something in the same way as the backstitch on a cross stitch picture.

Now that one is finished I am having a go at using a speed controller instead of the stitch regulator. Initial tests are promising although it would be a bit of a downer to find I preferred it to the stitch regulator when it is a seventh of the price. I have started on a quilt I am not too worried about and it seems quite easy to control, especially where ‘caterpillars’ are concerned.

Here is the control. Not the prettiest thing ever invented but who cares if it does the job.

Yes I do know it’s upside down.

I will keep you apprised of the results of the trials. A very good page to visit if you have a frame and midarm is Piecemeal Quilts it has a list of things to check and adjust and a few tips. I found it very useful.

Now for the advert.

March 30th to April 1st is the Spring Quilt Festival at Westpoint near Exeter. If you are nearby come along. It should be worth it.

The Importance of Being Earnest.

10 Mar

I must remember that irony is something not everyone understands. It doesn’t always travel the length of Britain so I guess I should have known it wouldn’t translate so well round The World. What you have to remember when reading my posts is that my way of getting through life involves a deal of self denegration and a modicum of self mockery. Probably something to do with placating fate but then let’s not get too deeply into that.  Anyway, to cut a long story short, I will not be using my Noah’s Ark quilt as a doormat. I have taken it apart though and will be re- quilting it. The replacement track for my quilting  frame has just arrived and I am letting it reach room temperature before installing it. That way, hopefully it won’t crack. I am still getting advice from various quarters about the standard of quilting and am hoping the new track will help. Everybody is being very helpful so hopefully we will get there.

Meanwhile perhaps you would like to admire my latest creation. I thought it was a bit mediocre before I quilted it but I think it has come up rather well. The quilting had defined it rather like the backstitch on a cross stitch picture. I am hoping my next quilt will be better but crossing ones fingers and manoeuvering the carriage on the frame are not compatible so let’s hope luck doesn’t come into it.

A few details

I tried to do a pastel quilt but  I am afraid this is the nearest I could get using my stash. I just don’t seem to do pastels. I now have much more fabric and so could probably do a paler version but it wouldn’t be me somehow. Anyway, apparently vibrant colurs are better for babies so that is my excuse.

I have spent the day packing panels and fat quarters for the Spring Quilt festival at Westpoint in Exeter. If you are in the area pop in. I wager you won’t be disappointed.

Frustration, Mayhem and the Screaming Heebie-Jeebies

27 Feb

When I decided to replace the machine on my frame they didn’t mention the need for a resident weightlifter to move it on and off the frame. I have the setup as high as possible in order to see under the needle and that makes it even more difficult. Luckily the big cheese used to be a rugby player albeit a long time ago so I have to ask him if I need to move it. Unfortunately he doesn’t like spinach so I’m not sure how long this arrangement might continue. Oh well, I guess at a pinch I could always go for the resident weightlifter.

The whole quilting frame thing seems to be jinxed. I spent a not so small fortune upgrading the machine and carriage added to which I have a stitch regulator and I still can’t quilt to anything like the standard I would expect. The catch 22 of course is that having spent all the extra money I cannot just abandon it as I did last time and revert to stitch in the ditch. Practice, practice and more practice is in order I suppose. Hopefully in a few months time I will not understand what all the fuss was about. I could of course have thrown the whole lot in the river under my window and jumped in after it. Watch this space.

If you are interested in the setup I have a few pictures.

This is a side view of the new aluminium carriage. It weighs a ton but I expect that added to the weight of the machine it helps keep it on the rails so to speak. It could be what caused the back rail to crack too. I am awaiting a replacement. More expense no doubt.

Back view including new machine.

Side view ditto.

Note ant like handles. It certainly won’t be getting any design awards.

The blue box with the number on it is the switch unit for the stitch regulator and the number is the stitch length setting. The one on the photo below is the control box and one of the sensors. It runs with the wheel on the carriage and sends signals to the control box . This controls the stitch length. It runs backwards and forwards. There is another on the bottom part of the carriage to control the sideways settings this runs on the frame rail.

The frame itself works on three bars. The backing is pinned onto ‘leaders’  fixed  onto the top back and front bars and the wadding laid over the top. Leaders are secured into a groove in the bars and make life much easier. They do not however come with the frame but have to be bought or made.  A row of stitches keep the wadding  in place and also gives a straight line along  which the top is placed to get the straightest possible feed and so most accurate pattern of quilting.

The top is rolled onto the bottom front rail.

I did a whole border and a row of hearts before I looked at the back and realised it was not acceptable. The top tension was too loose and the top thread was looping through. Unfortunately tightening the top thread seems to increase the ‘caterpillar effect’ on the curves which is why I had loosened it. I wouldn’t mind but I had tested and double tested. Still it wouldn’t be a skill of anyone could do it first time would it. By the way the quilt with the animals worked quite well. What was that about going off the rails? It must have been on the way round the bend.

The top is then brought up to the line stitched on the backing/wadding and pinned in place.

The next picture is at a bit of an odd angle owing to the way I took the photograph but it gives the idea. The three layers are now attached ready for quilting.

Each bar is on a rachet system to wind the layers up and down for an evenly tensioned sandwich. Please ignore the badly wound  leaders. They should of course be nice and neat.

Here is the quilt on the frame with the carriage and stitch regulator.

The machine is really for straight stitching so there is no mechanism to drop the feed dogs which is essential in free motion quilting. The compromise is a replacement plate to cover them. It makes the plate slightly raised but seems to work. There is also an optional foot holder for free motion quilting. Not that it is optional if you want to free motion. Luckily it came bundled with my machine. This allows the fitting of a darning or free motion foot. The open toed foot is very useful for seeing what is going on. There is also a foot for following round the edge of templates and appliques.  Maybe one day I will have a go at that but let’s pull ourselves up on the furniture before we try the marathon.

Ironically the actual quilting is therapeutical or at least it would be if I wasn’t always worrying about what the back is going to look like.

I am now going off to have another go. If you don’t hear from me again I really did jump in the river although it’s so shallow that would also probably fail at that too. To save face  perhaps I had better just persevere. If I come across any useful revelations I’ll let you know.

I’ve Been Framed – Tip the Fifth.

9 Jan

I finally bit the bullet and used my quilting frame. If you have been following the blogs you may have gathered that I bought a Grace frame and Brother mid-arm some years ago but have used them very little.  A combination of disappointment at the results and a very low ceiling  and narrow room finished my enthusiasm. I struggled to move round the frame and as I could not raise it high for fear of hitting the beams, I couldn’t even see what I was stitching unless I sat down. Also hitting my head on the sloping ceiling was a given and speeding up and down the frame on a wheeled chair was not really to be recommended. Funnily enough, when I went on a course to learn the tricks and tips, I found I was the only one having that difficulty. Was it a coincidence or are all quilters petite? If so this could be why I failed – genetics.

To be perfectly honest the designs it is possible to produce on this frame are also a bit limited. If you are quilting a large quilt the throat space will gradually reduce as it rolls round the top rail until, if it is large enough it will be impossible to do anything. Luckily I don’t do anything too large, although even the single bed size I have on the frame at the moment may yet prove to be a challenge. The secret is to choose a pattern that does not require a large area at once or break up the pattern into thinner segments. I dare say that eventually I will come to know how big a pattern is possible on a particular size of quilt.

Anyway, as I said, I finally got back to quilting on the frame. The first thing to do was move it to a bigger area. The ceiling is slightly higher and flat which helps and so I can raise the legs to the highest setting.

There is no doubt about it you need a lot of room.

I struggle a bit with the start and finish and not getting a knot underneath and it does not seem to matter whether I let the machine start on its own or pull up the bobbin thread myself, I still get knots. Planning the stitching helps so that as many starts and stops as possible are hidden in the side seam when the quilt is finished. There are still places this cannot be done though so I shall just have to keep working on it. Methinks I need to develop some cunning

I think I may actually enjoy the quilting and the finished quilt so maybe I will work out some of the idiosyncracies and conquer all.

Here is a picture of a bit of the first practice quilt I did. I gave a whole load of unfinished tops to Project Linus but I kept a few back to practise on and will pass those on later.

As you can see, a lot of random meandering. Random meandering is about the safest thing to tackle but it looks pretty. I would usually stitch in the ditch for a quilt like this, mainly because I have no chance of hoiking a large quilt under the throat of my machine and quilting it successfully. The frame gets over this problem although stitch in the ditch could be a challenge.

The other problem I had originally was that the needle  was still controlled from a foot pedal. This was mounted on a platform on the top of the carriage carrying the machine. There was a levered contraption that pressed on the pedal when the lever was squeezed. Even before my right hand started protesting about overuse this was very difficult to control. Now I wouldn’t even be able to squeeze the handle.

The pedal would be on top at the back with a lever going along the handle line.

When I went on a course at The Cotton Patch I was introduced to the stitch regulator. This is a clever little gizmo that allows control of the meandering purely by movement. The needle is controlled from a switch box for choosing stitch length and turning on and off. Do not be fooled, unlike a sewing machine  the bigger the number the smaller the stitch. This is not stitch length so much as stitches per inch. It is not exactly that as it depends on your machine but that is the idea.


This is wired into a control box that does the clever stuff. There are two controllers, one on the top carriage and one on the bottom. These monitor the speed and movement and are supposed to regulate stitch length. They do to a certain extent but at the moment it is not foolproof. I suspect even travel at the same speed over the quilt is the secret. I am hoping that will come with time.

The Control Box

Don’t be put off by the amount of wiring. One day I will tidy it all up and make it neat.

The Big Cheese tells me it is a very clever piece of kit. That would be when I was bemoaning the price. However, I did save a bit by discovering I didn’t need to upgrade to a newer carriage as I had thought. The new one is probably lighter but then considering the main weight is the sewing machine, this is not too relevant.

I have progressed to all-over meandering on a larger quilt. How exciting is that.

Here is a picture of the quilt attached to the machine. This is another future Linus I think.

Meandering Big Time.

One of the suggestions on the course was to stitch down each side as you go, so holding the sandwich in place. I have decided not to do that as quilting moves layers and I can see it could become a problem and cause puckering.

If you want trouble free quilting you might do better to stick to the thinner waddings too. ‘Dream Blend’ was recommended on the course and it seems better in use than the thicker ‘Dream Puff’ I tried to use at first. Experiment. experiment as with all my tips I recommend you  try out ways of doing things, practise and see what suits you best.

All in all I think I may enjoy getting back to the quilting. To be honest I should get good at it as I can’t do much else until I have cleared the pile of tops so that I can move the frame. Where to I am not at the moment sure. If you have a frame in the cupboard get it out and try it. You may have to rent an industrial space to use it but  it’s not as scary as it looks.