A couple of months ago, my local quilt shop was having a season clearance and they had an entire bolt of “cheater cloth” up for grabs. Not only was it on clearance, I talked the owner into another 10% off the sale price if I bought the entire bolt because I’m pretty sure I’m making her car payment. Cheater cloth’s sole purpose in life is to help new longarm quilters such as myself, gain the necessary motor skills for following a pantograph. It is pre-printed with a quilting design that washes away in the laundry. I bought my longarm last November and up to this point, I’ve been making quilts using the Quilt Butler that is an auto-stitching computer. All I have to do on the Butler is set the stitching boundary box, choose a pattern, make sure the needle is threaded right, and press start. Well…there’s a little more to it…but not much.
My main reason for the cheater cloth was to become more familiar with the mechanics of the quilting process itself. Since I began longarming, I have suffered numerous newbie mistakes (still am), and the machine still intimidates me. After I got it, I remember staring at my Baby Lock Ellegante 2 sewing & embroidery machine (which I whiz around on) and thinking, “I can’t wait until I feel as comfortable on the longarm as I do on this.” In my corner of the world as a quilter/seamstress, I love the zen feel with my machines that I “know” them. We know each other. I know how they behave, what type of thread they like, how they perform on different fabrics, and most importantly, what to do when something goes wonky. Maybe that all sounds silly, but I believe it’s the same as how a mechanic feels about his/her car. You know how it’s supposed to sound, it shouldn’t “chug” as my dad used to say, and know just what makes it purr. Same goes with my machines.
Well, the only way to get comfortable with the longarm was to use the dang thing. I watched video after video on how to load a quilt, videos on longarm tips and tricks, and pretty much anything else I could do to
procrastinate learn as much as possible. Finally, the purchase of the cheater cloth pushed me over the edge to actually load it and get going on it. I think I figured the cheater cloth allowed me to make mistakes which I knew I would do without spending an arm and a leg on fabric or ruining a preciously pieced quilt top.
For the backing, the Fat Quarter Shop had one of their daily sales months ago where they were selling 5 yards of dark star fabric from a Moda Christmas line for like $5 or something stupid cheap like that. I have no idea what that weird purple filter is on the left of this pic.
First off, watching the video in the link below by Jamie Wallen made a collossal improvement in my quilting. Correct tension – just that simple. Someone on a blog somewhere mentioned this video so of course I had to check it out. Jamie locked down the video so I can’t imbed it to my blog, but here is the link. Changed my world. I intentionally used black thread on the back of this project to see how the tension was doing. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Q1mRhcquZTM
So how did it go with the cheater cloth? Good thing I don’t drive like I quilt or I’d be arrested on the spot for a suspected DWI. At the bottom of this pic, you can see the tension improved.
I had another newbie mistake moment where I forgot to lower the presser foot. Look what the back looks like when THAT happens! Yikes! My sewing machine doesn’t do that on the back. In fact, it never allows me to do that because it beeps at me when I forget to lower the foot. Love technology. Wups.
After two rows of using the cheater cloth lines, I opted to go to the back of the machine for some pantograph action. Not much better but I did improve as I went. My goal is to get the rounds to be actually round without flat sides. This will take me some time. I’m still working on the body mechanics of “do I use one hand or two?”, how best to stand or do I sit on a chair? The smoothness of the designs will come with practice…or so I have been told by every professional quilter from here to the internet. My goal is to be as good as Alice as my local quilt shop. She knocks out 2-3 quilts a day at work. She’s awesome.
In a Whut the ??? moment when I tried to remove the quilt from the frame, it wouldn’t come off the top bar. Then I noticed that somehow I got the top end of the batting in between the top and backing and managed to sew the quilt together around the back bar! LOL I had to cut it out to get the quilt off the frame. Good grief! LOL
I put in about a total of 4 hours of practice on this particular piece. I’m not sure I got better as time went on (which is why I have the Butler) but I really do enjoy the task of the pantograph. I can already tell that at 5’9”, I need hubs to raise the frame 4-6” to prevent my now aching back.
Ugly though it may be, it passed quality inspection by my Australian Cattle Dog, Blue. And my husband said, “Aren’t you going to put the ends [binding] around it?” I literally laughed at him.
I’m going to look for more clearance backing fabric this week to get back at it.