Room is Finished & a Backwards Quilt Butler Fix

Finally!  My old sewing room is empty and everything has been migrated into the new quilting studio!  It has taken weeks…months.  Here is my new lair.  

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I even did my first attempt at quilting with a pantograph.  Let me tell you, that’s MUCH harder (for me) than it looks.  And I can tell you that it is true what they say, “Practice, practice, practice.”  I used my new long arm for the very first time, and did a pantograph for my very first time, and it turned out…well…really bad.  But that’s OK!  At least I know that the machine works, the laser works, and I don’t know how to align a pantograph. 

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 The quilt that’s on the frame now is actually one I made years ago and I’d originally sandwiched by pinning, and then did some freehand and ruler work on my mid-arm sit-down only to reaffirm what I already knew – that I can’t freehand.  Since this quilt was a UFO, I just took the pins out and rolled all three layers onto this new frame to get in some practice.  But what fun!  Even though I’ve made some newbie mistakes (like forgetting to lower the presser foot resulting in horrendous loops on the backside) and my sewing looks like a 4-year-old did it, I’m so excited to have something for me to work on and get better at.   

UPDATE!  After I began this blog post, my MULTI-TALENTED AND FABULOUS husband fabricated new brackets for the frame and got the robotics to work!  This is the Grace GQ frame, one of their newer models that QuiltEZ, who makes the Butler robotics, haven’t worked the kinks out of yet.  Finally, QuiltEZ fessed-up that their installation videos on YouTube show to install the encoder on the wrong side of the upper carriage resulting in the machine moving backwards when it’s supposed to go forwards.  In the photo below, everything is as how the instructions say to install it.   See that black box?  That’s the Quilt Butler robotics unit on the front of the machine – you can tell it’s the front because the sewing needle is above the box.  Note the black belt that runs on that little wheel on top of the box and it only turns one way.  That’s what moves the machine front-to-back.  And in this case, front-to-bassackwards.  There’s a light gray belt directly behind the box that runs from one end of the frame to the other for side-to-side movement.  Note in the 2nd photo how there is not a place to mount the gray belt on the back side of the frame.  You can see how the gray belt is attached with brackets in front of the machine, but there isn’t an extension to install the bracket off the back of the frame.  Here’s where my husband earned his keep yesterday.  (just kidding!)

 

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20170118_154653 I’ve been at my wit’s end because the front-to-back path line on the tablet went the wrong direction.  When I pulled the machine toward me, it went to the back of the quilt and vice versa.  Then they told me that the Butler really needed to be mounted under the machine vs. on the end of it.  That is NOT what the instructions said and that is NOT what I wanted.  Because if we put the robotics unit under the machine, I wouldn’t be able to do pantographs because I couldn’t install the table shelves that the paper will lay on.  So it was one or the other but of course, I wanted BOTH.  So my husband made brackets that extend the left-to-right belt off the back of the frame vs. underneath it, we moved the little encoder wheel on the top carriage from the right side to the left side and flipped the lower carriage around so the box hangs off the back.  I’m sure this is confusing and I’m sorry.  But the end result is that it WORKS!  I pleaded with him to round the corners on those brackets because I was sure to run into them and cause myself an injury.  He’s such a sweetie!  

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Here’s a video of the robotics in action.

I made his favorite dinner tonight of course!   And I think QuiltEZ owes us some money somehow for figuring out their mess.  Patent pending?  Now, no more excuses.  I have to learn how to use the Quilt Butler and pronto!  My freehand is sooo bad that I really need that help!

December #SewSampler is Here!

It’s like Christmas in January!  My #SewSampler from FatQuarterShop.com came in the mail today and it’s so much fun to open one of these.  Where do I start?

1.  A Birds of Liberty Half Roll Up from Robert Kaufman Fabrics.  2.  Six spools of coordinating 1930’s Aurifil applique thread.  3.  Orange Peel Impressions Quilting Templates to be used for applique.  4.  Round Robin Impressions Quilt Pattern to turn the orange peels into a bright and colorful quilt.  And finally,  5.  Sew Cherry Magnet Set to brighten up my kitchen!

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There’s also a Block 9 recipe but I’m not making that quilt.  On the back of the contents card is a nice 2017 Quilt Resolutions form where you can look back at your successes for 2016 and then list your goals for 2017.  I think I’m going to add “Master my new longarm!”  ha  We’ll see about that…

Quilt Butler Install & Spider Man Quilt

The 3-room transition is finally taking shape.  For my new blog followers, we enclosed a back patio to become a quilt studio for my new longarm and frame.  My old sewing room is 90% moved into the studio, hubs is moving his custom fishing rod hobby into my old sewing room, and then we can get our game room back because he has 7-foot fishing poles all over the pool table.  I’m still in the process of moving everything that is not sewing related out of the quilt studio.  Baby steps my friends.  The wagon is full of tools needed to install the windows and doors and put everything all together but we’re getting closer.

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I purchased my longarm, the King Quilter 18″ Special Edition, the Grace GQ frame, and the QuiltEZ Butler from Sewing Machines Plus .com.  This has been a real experience y’all.  Long story short, they ended up sending me an entire new machine and tablet last week.  It’s been nothing but problems, problems, problems and I still haven’t quilted on it yet.  SMP has done everything they can in a timely fashion to make it right, but it’s just the entire process that’s been a pain.  They are a middle-man between Grace Frames (zero problems with the frame so Grace is still in my… well…good Graces  lol), Tin Lizzie who makes the machine, and QuiltEZ who makes the robotics. 

First QuiltEZ sent the wrong hardware to mount the Quilt Butler robotics unit to my frame so I shipped the wrong hardware back and received new.  Then the tablet died and wouldn’t reboot so we swapped tablets.  Then it was still the wrong bracket for the robotics so a third bracket was sent.  Then the encoders were faulty – they are the little wheels on the carriage that tell the tablet where the machine is on the frame – so I got new encoders.  The new encoders seemed to work, the tablet worked, but the precision stitch (stitch regulator) on the machine wouldn’t work and the machine would freeze.  This was a real issue because the robotics in the Quilt Butler uses the precision stitch.  Fortunately, I’m tech savvy enough to upload videos of the problem to YouTube and SMP could see the problem immediately and determine that it wasn’t user error.  They immediately sent out an entire new machine, tablet (3rd tablet), encoders, and all.  SMP promised me they would test the new machine for two hours before sending it to me.  It got here, I set it all up and it and everything works fine.  Finally, hubs went to install the robotics yesterday and the 3rd mounting bracket is still the wrong one!   Fortunately, he’s got the ability to make it work and asked me if I wanted him to retro-fit the new bracket which would mean drilling additional holes into it.  I told him to go ahead – what do we have to lose at this point.  If it still doesn’t work, then we’ll send it back again but I really want this baby up and running you know?  He did some minor fabrication and the robotics unit is mounted.  That’s as far as we got last night.  Those two silver Phillip’s head screws are in the new holes he made.

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Today he’ll work on installing the belts that move the carriage around on the frame.  So I bought this on Nov 3rd and today is January 16th.  I’m about to make my second payment on my 0% interest 4-year plan and I still haven’t been able to use it.   Actually, at this point, I just shrug my shoulders and laugh at the situation.  It’s that or get pissed enough to raise my blood pressure and it just isn’t worth that.  To SMP’s credit, they are letting me have a clear plastic grid for the pantographs ($79) and a $300 box of Madiera embroidery thread both for $100.  We tried for free, but couldn’t make that happen.

So there you have it.  The only comfort in this for me, is that misery loves company.  I follow another blogger and she just dropped $10k on the Quilt Path for her APQS and still can’t get it to work right either.  So much for a private dealer right?  Still, I don’t know if the Butler works properly yet or not until we get it all hooked up.  I found a video on YouTube where QuiltEZ is going to have 4 live webinars on how to use the Quilt Butler from start to finish to include different patterns in different blocks and how to do the borders.  In the video they recommended we make up a quilt top to use for the class with sectional blocks, sashing, and a border.  I finished a UFO Spider Man quilt from Villa Rosa designs that I’ve had in the works for my oldest grandson (5) for the last year or so.  I have a horrible cold right now and I’m heavily medicated so I wasn’t paying attention to row placement as I put it together.  But hey, “Finished is Better than Perfect” right?  I’m sure my grandson won’t even notice.

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#stitchingsanta Reveal

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My #stitchingsanta was so much fun this year courtesy of Sheila from sewchet.com.  My secret #stitchingsanta was Claire MacPherson from #craftblogclub.  She wrapped all my gifts individually in happy Christmas paper and I was so excited to tear into them!

She admitted not knowing what to get a quilter but she sure got it right!  Everything from marking pens to cute little fabric for a baby quilt that is in the queue.  I absolutely love the sewing art that will make its home in my new quilting studio and she thoughtfully made a couple of zipper bags which I always can use when I travel back and forth between home and our coast house.  She even included five little hand stitching and crochet kits.  I’ve been wanting to learn how to crochet and have spent a lot of time in the aisle at Wal-Mart staring at yarn and hooks wondering what to buy and where to start.  In the end, I’ve always put everything back and left without buying anything because it would probably be a waste of money since I’d buy the wrong things.  These little kits even include the correct hooks so it’s all there for me to start and learn.  I’m so excited to try them!  The bendable ruler is a gem.  It can help to make sure scalloped edges on my quilts are all symmetrical.  I’ve always wanted one but it’s one of those extravagances that I talk myself out of in the store because I always use a tape measure.  Of course, a tape measure isn’t designed to stand on its edge like this ruler so it’s always flopping over and I cross my fingers that the measurement is right.  No more!  This ruler is sturdy enough to stand on its side.  Isn’t that the best kind of gift?  One that you wouldn’t splurge on for yourself but are delighted when you get it as a gift!

Happy New Year my friends and Thank You Claire!

 

 

My #StitchingSanta is Here!

Y’ALL!  “Brown” (UPS) just dropped off an Amazon box addressed to me and I thought, “Huh, I don’t recall ordering anything from Amazon (to be delivered here) recently.”  I opened it and YIPPEE!!  I jumped up and down in my Crocs and clapped my hands with glee like a little girl.  It’s HERE It’s HERE!!  My #StitchingSanta is here!  My sender fooled me with the box.  ha ha  Good one Claire.  🙂20161222_135338

I’m SO stinkin’ excited to open these on Christmas morning.  I can’t wait!

What is #StitchingSanta ?  My favorite Brit Sheila, from sewchet.com runs a sewing version of Secret Santa.  You contact her before the end of Oct with your name, address, and sewing preferences and she will match you up with another participant in the same country to be their #stitchingsanta .  The gift limit is $10 US but you can gift from your stash or personally made items all you want.  This is SO much fun!  I had as much fun putting my gift together to give as I have had in a long time.  If you participate, you agree to blog about your experience in the process.

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Merry Christmas Everyone!!  May God bless you and yours.

Buying Online & Quilting Studio Remodel Update

I’m going to start this post by saying that buying online requires certain traits from the buyer. Do you learn easily from videos on YouTube? Do you have the necessary skills, tools, or friend/spouse needed to put something together without assistance from a professional? Can you make your way through an instruction paper or booklet to get it up and running?  Do you have the patience you’ll ultimately need so you and your spouse don’t kill each other during the build?

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I’m not judging; I’m just saying. Be honest with yourself and if this isn’t you, then pay the extra cost for your local dealer to deliver, install, and get you set up because that part of it is worth every penny if you need it. If this IS you, then the cost savings of buying online might be worth the loss in personalized customer service on the front end.

I recently purchased a King Quilter 18″ Longarm machine with a 10″ tablet, a Grace GQ Frame with Luminess overhead lights, and Quilt EZ Butler robotics from SewingMachinesPlus.com for $13,365.

While $13k sounds like a lot, it’s about half of what I would have paid from a local retailer or dealer.  SMP is a middle-man sales distributor between Tin Lizzie (maker of the King Quilter), Grace Frames, and QuiltEZ who manufactures the robotics. Now, I say “recently” but I actually made the purchase over the phone during the weekend of the Houston Quilt Festival on Nov 4, 2016.  I already have a mid-arm Tin Lizzie and I love her so I’m very familiar with the machine.  Buy USA!…Tin Lizzie is made in Utah and Grace is in Colorado.  I’ve done an enormous amount of homework both online and in-person to determine which machine and set up were right for me.  When you get down to it, a machine is a machine but Tin Lizzie offers more bells and whistles for the price.  I’m certainly not knocking you APQS or Gammill fans, to each his own, but the sticker shock of those brands gave me the willies.  The boxes arrived on-time within 10 days. 

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We didn’t set it all up right away because we were waiting for custom windows to arrive from Lowe’s so we could convert the screened-in back patio into an enclosed quilting studio.  They took two weeks over the Thanksgiving holiday to arrive.  Here we are loading up the trailer with 8 new windows and 2 doors.  That’s hubs managing the tie down straps.  His over 4,000 hours as a Loadmaster on Air Force C-130’s comes in VERY handy in our lives!  Do you see why I love that man?  No, that’s not my Audi darn it.

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Today is Dec 18 and I’m still not quilting. So I’m six weeks into this and I’ve already received my first monthly bill on the 0% interest for a 4-year installment plan ($278 a month) and my intent to quilt for others to pay for it isn’t possible yet. Fortunately I have a day job so I’m not relying solely on the quilting business. That is the idea though. I eventually want to finish quilts for customers so it pays for itself and then gives me some pocket money for new fabric after I retire-retire.  It took my husband and I about 6 hours to build to the frame – it took 30 minutes just to unpack it all and inventory the pieces.  All present and/or accounted for here. 

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Then another 5.5 hours watching and re-watching YouTube videos and twisting the direction sheets back and forth to make heads or tails out of them.

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When we got to the part of installing the robotics unit and mounting it to the bottom of the carriage, we ran into a major snag. My top carriage wheels sit at a 45 degree angle to the bottom half of the carriage but the mounting brackets fit a top carriage with wheels at a 90 degree angle. We received the wrong carriage hardware for the frame.

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It took a dozen calls and emails over several days to figure out the problem and there were a couple hours of frustration and more than one pissing match between hubs and I trying to figure out why it wouldn’t fit. That robotics unit was around $5,000 so I didn’t want to screw it up, ya know?   My “Tim the Tool Man” husband was all, “Give me my drill.  I’ll make that #$%* fit.”  ACK!  NO!  I had to remind him this was a finely tuned piece of equipment that needs precise fitting to operate properly.

In the middle of all this, my SMP customer service rep was off for a couple of days (more delay) and then I discovered that the Luminess lights had never been shipped to me so that was another two emails. The lights actually arrived before the right mounting hardware made it in from QuiltEZ. Now the lights are up and oh goodness what a difference! It’s like pure daylight in that room now.  Love the new windows?  I measured the one in the corner too narrow so hubs had to trim it up.  That thrilled him no end.  lol  Paying the extra $35 per window for tan frames vs. white was totally worth it.  I usually don’t skimp on things I’m going to have to live with for years and years.

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Due to family obligations over the holidays, working full time, and no daylight after work, the machine still isn’t on the frame.  We went to a niece’s wedding in Arizona (that’s hubs performing the ceremony and no, he’s not a rabbi), went to two funerals (one for a neighbor’s infant and one for a retired veteran), hosted visiting family at the coast one weekend (cold as all get-out on that water), lost a bull to pneumonia so we had to quick immunize the rest of the herd before we lost any others (so far so good), and did a Santa hayride run with friends through a local poor neighborhood to spread cheer to impoverished children.  So we’ve been kinda busy.  Never a dull moment my friends.

Would I have had less trouble if I’d made the 3 hour drive to Houston to purchase all this from a dealer?  I’m not sure. I’ve heard horror stories from customers of dealers too. The hardware SNAFU  was from the wrong frame being listed on the invoice sheet that went to QuiltEZ. That could have happened locally too.  The customer service from SMP has been exceptional and they have been very quick to make every attempt to assist me.  Even during the absence of my main customer service rep, a stand-in provided support.  I do know that I saved thousands buy purchasing from them and overall the process has been fun and exciting even if it has been a bit frustrating here and there. Did I mention that patience is another virtue for buying online?

Once I get this all up and running, I’ll post about the experience of the machine install and room remodel finish. Hubs promises it will be today.  Right now I’m just trying to teach the dogs the new doggie door set up. My old dogs are having a tough time learning new tricks.  I had to cover the clear glass on the sides with some fabric temporarily until they get the hang of going through the center panel.  More to come!

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Design Ideas Needed-Patio Retrofit for a Quilt Studio

OK guys, I did it.  I completely lost my mind and went whole hog and invested in the King Quilter 18″ Special Edition long arm quilting machine with a 10″ Android tablet, the Grace GQ Frame, and the Quilt Butler robotics.   The whole mess was on sale and came with free Luminess lighting to go over the frame.

I say “invested” because I could buy a new car for what I paid for this thing.  Hubs said, “Are you going to get another job to pay for this?”  I said, “This IS the other job!”  We’re still not finished with the install because the wrong carriage hardware was sent.  The new will be here next week sometime.  This is about 5 hours of labor here and it took 45 minutes just to unpack the frame.  It’s 10 feet long and in this image it’s still not finished.

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“So what is that thing?”  I’ve had so many non-quilters ask me that.  In layman’s terms, this is the frame and machine that sandwiches together a quilt top, the fluffy batting in the middle, and the backing together into a one-piece blanket with fancy stitching designs.  The robotics will do the sewing for me automatically – I simply tell it where the four corners are, choose a design, and press Go.  When it’s finished, I manually roll the quilt forward to the next blank space and repeat until the quilt is finished.  I should be able to finish a quilt in a day.  And believe me, with the recent explosion in home quilting, there’s a ton of work out there.  I have 5-6 quilt tops myself that need finished and it would cost me anywhere between $150 and $300 each to send them out to have them quilted.  The nearest quilt shop has 30+ quilts in the queue and it’s 25 miles away.  There’s a demand for this and I’m here now to support it.

The room that will become my new quilting/sewing studio and will house my 9 (yes, nine…as in 1 less than 10) machines, has been affectionately named The Sweat Shop by a Hispanic coworker (ha ha – thanks Juan!), and is a screened-in porch – like what some call a Florida room.  We like to sit outside in the evenings, so in 2008 we enlarged our back patio to 15′ x 20′ and fully enclosed it to include extending the roof line of our house.  From above, you cannot tell there was an addition.  The point then was not to have windows but instead have a bug free outdoor zone to hang out in.  Well, that never happened.  Hubs moved further outside to the new uncovered back patio extension and the screened-in patio became a glorified dog room.  A little story…there’s a storm door between the original house and the back patio with a doggie door in it.  There are two screen doors on the back patio and I’ve taped over the latches so they don’t latch.  One door can be pushed out and the other door can be pushed in.  Some coaxing with a leash and bologna, and the dogs learned the in/out process and now I never have to let them out.  They have a full-360 degree run.  THAT’s what I call Master Sergeant thinking!  lol

In 2011 when my first grandchild arrived, I began quilting in earnest.  I modified a rarely used guest bedroom into my sewing room and designated the RV as our guest house.  As my power tool arsenal expanded, I moved my 18″ sit down quilt machine into the game room.  I tried to get hubs to allow me to take over the game room completely (the pool table was perfect for cutting out fabric), but he wasn’t having it.  Then HE started making custom fishing rods and took over the pool table in the game room himself.  Our hobbies (and my future retirement home business) had us bursting at the seams.  The thread on that stand is not for sewing, it’s to wrap guides onto fishing poles.  This is his mess, not mine.  There’s a pool table under there somewhere.

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Then it hit me.  Why not retrofit the back patio into a quilting studio, hubs can have my old sewing room for his fishing poles, and we can get our game room back?  WIN!!  The next stop was to Lowe’s to order custom windows and real storm doors for the Sweat Shop.  They will be here Dec 14th.  In consideration for the dogs, the new doors have doggie doors in them.  This also allows me another exterior entrance into the Sweat Shop for customers to drop off quilt tops.  I love that.  I will strategically place floor pillows for the dogs away from the quilting area – I’m obsessed about not having dog fur everywhere.  We also are going to duct air conditioning & heat into the room.  The sun screens will be taken down with the new windows so the light into the room will be much brighter too.  I’m so sick of the dark, but in a very hot South Texas you have to sacrifice light to save on the electric bill which was usually upwards of $400 a month in the summer.  Hopefully, the new AC we installed this year will help with that too.

I need help with decorating ideas for shelving and fabric storage for the Sweat Shop.  I don’t want to block the light from the windows with big cabinets and I have very limited wall space because of the brick.  We’re not opposed to mounting things on the brick, but I want to maintain the brick look.  Possibly paint it a brighter color?  Hmmm.  The TV is staying.  I don’t want it to look half-assed thrown together, but instead a happy professional looking studio where quilters want to be.  Any suggestions are appreciated.