The One with a Real Longarm in the House

Last weekend I enjoyed two full days of training on my Innova 18.  Virginia Longarm Network (VLN) did a great job with the schedule, and the pace, and the mix of sitting versus standing activities.  I learned so much that I was able to fix a problem that occurred on the first day my longarm was in the house.

My machine was delivered on Thursday, September 8th.  My delivery and installation was performed by Greg from VLN.  We joked about him being more popular than Santa Claus when he shows up to deliver these quilting machines.  He patiently answered my questions and let me watch him for about 4 hours while he set everything up.  Then he put a test sandwich together and showed me very basically how to run the machine.  But, he warned me that they don’t usually like to deliver machines before the training because the customer runs into a problem and calls the shop in a panic that very first day.  I assured Greg that I had some shopping to do and since my new owner’s class would start the very next day, I would not mess with the machine.  That was a bold-faced lie!


After he left, I really did go shopping.  I swear!  I bought a white board for my longarm studio, and some little waste baskets, and some Velcro to attach my channel lock remote control to the top of my machine, plus I bought some clothes.  By the time I got done, it was time to fix dinner.  The plan was to make Mongolian Beef in the new Instant Pot.  While I was out and about, I strongly considered stopping to buy Chinese take-out, but I would have gotten home with it too early, so I forced myself to “be good” and go home and cook.  Big Mistake!  The pot wouldn’t seal so there was no pressure cooking going on and we had to cook the old fashioned way on the stove.  (By the way, we tried the pot again on Sunday and it worked fine so we chalked it up to user error).

Well, by about 7 pm I was just itching to go up to the studio and try my hand at making some designs.  I did a few straight and curvy lines until it started getting late (my bedtime is 9 o’clock, so I really hadn’t been working that long).  I tried to make a feather and broke my thread.  I re-threaded the needle and tried again.  Two stitches—broken thread.  Well, this went on for nearly an hour!  So I decided to go to bed, and hope that I would learn the secret in my class for new owners.

In training on Friday, we got a list of must-haves and should-haves for our quilting rooms.  We learned some ergonomic tips, and then we learned how to thread our machines.  We practiced.  We learned how to fill a bobbin and test the tension.  We practiced.  We learned how to adjust the upper tension and we practiced.  We learned how to use zippers to attach our quilts to our leaders.  By the end of the day, we were quilting just a little but we were capable of threading the machine, by golly.  I was worn out, so I decided that rather than try messing with my machine that night, I would get up early on Saturday to do it.

Saturday morning I was awake by 4 am just waiting to go up to that room and thread that machine.  I got up at 5, had some coffee and breakfast, and by 6:30 am I had that machine purring.  Now, I don’t know about your sewing and quilting machines, but I have found that mine works best if you thread the take-up lever!  Here’s what happened:  the first time my thread snapped, it popped out of the take-up lever.  I was threading all the thread guides but missing the lever, so of course I could only go a stitch or two before breaking thread.

Fresh from my success in threading my machine, I headed back to class for Saturday’s session.  We learned many different patterns to try quilting, and we practiced.  We threaded our machines and set the tension again.  We were challenged to go home and quilt real quilts, not practice sandwiches on muslin.  Before Greg arrived on Thursday to install my machine, I spent my time making big muslin squares for practice, and making some frankenbatting (old pieces of batting stuck together with fusible tape).  All that time wasted!

I woke up on Sunday with one objective:  to be able to load a small quilt and start quilting it.  There were two obstacles in my way. First, I didn’t have a small quilt ready, and second, I needed to sew the zippers onto my leaders.  I tackled the first obstacle by using some cute flannel animal print as a whole cloth crib quilt.

The second obstacle was a bit more complicated.  Using zippers on your leaders makes a lot of sense.  You can pin the zipper to the top and bottom of your backing, and then quickly zip it to the longarm.  If you need to take one quilt off and put another one on, you just unzip (this presumes you have more than one set of zippers so I will need another set soon).  Since my leaders didn’t come with the zippers attached, I had to find a You Tube video showing me how to do it.

What you do is pin your leaders together so they can be pulled taut. Then you use the longarm machine just like a sewing machine to stitch down your zipper, after you have centered it on the leader.  You stitch one zipper to the take up leader and one zipper to the bottom leader.  But, you only stitch ½ of the zipper, so that the other half can be zipped off to attach to your quilt bottom.

My problem will come as no shock to people who have seen me holding up my hands with thumb and forefinger to figure out which way is left (your left hand makes an “L”).  Yes, that’s right, I have no sense of direction, and no clue when it comes to making physical things match up.  So, I sewed the zipper to the leader on the take-up bar just fine.  Then on the lower bar, I attached the top of the zipper instead of the bottom.

The quilt is up here


I sewed this part of the zipper to the leader


This is the part I should have attached


Fortunately, I realized that it would be relatively easy to stitch the part of the zipper that I should have stitched, if I did it before I got out my seam ripper to remove the unwanted stitches.  So, I managed to get the zippers sewn on correctly and load my little baby quilt.


There’s a lot more fun in store for me now as I continue to practice!

And today, Karl attached my cranks to make it easier to roll the quilt forward and back.








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