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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!

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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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.

Printed Pattern Storage Solution

Downloadable patterns are all the rage.  While they are a pain to print and tape together, not to mention all the wrangling it feels like you have to do just to move it once taped (it literally flaps around), I’ll buy a downloadable pattern every time because my need for instantaneous gratification is fulfilled when I click the Download button.  That kind of trumps all the negatives.  However, they are also a pain to store.  For one, printer paper is bulky, cumbersome, and heavy.  And trying to store those cut pieces?  Ha!  What a mess.
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What I’ve started doing is laying tracing velum on top of the printed pattern so I cut the velum, pattern, and fabric all at once.  Fabric weights are great for this.  Then before I remove the velum, I use a pencil to transfer all the markings and manufacturer/pattern info onto the velum.   The velum is MUCH easier to work with because I can erase inevitable mistakes and it folds up lighter and tighter than the printer paper.  Once I’ve traced the pattern, I toss the printed version.  I’ve saved it to my laptop anyway so if I need to reprint, I can.
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There are always cheap plastic zip bags to keep pattern pieces in and I’ve done that for years, but I saw a YouTube video awhile back where a lady had used clear Mylar bags for pattern storage.  They were the kind with the reusable adhesive strip for the flap to cling to.  This lady actually put her store bought patterns in them too.  I’m a bit of an organization freak so I was all over this.  The lady recommended an online site (I can’t recall it now) and they seemed fairly reasonable for the price of the bags but the shipping was $15!  WHAT?  Ha…no.

So I went poking around the websites of local stores and hit pay dirt at Hobby Lobby.  Their website didn’t have the sizes I needed so I went to the store the next day.  I had to go searching in the Art Supply department vs. Crafts or Sewing to find the right kind of bags in the size needed for patterns.  I wouldn’t call them inexpensive – 25 bags for $4.49 for the smaller ones and $5.99 for the bigger ones.  But HL always has that 40% off coupon so strategic shopping can pay off.

These things are awesome!  The Mylar is very structured so nothing floppy here like zip bags.  I bought the store out on the smaller size for my regular patterns and only bought one package of the larger size.  They are absolutely perfect for the larger Vogue store-bought patterns and anything I might print.

I’ve found my pattern storage box all of a sudden became very neat and tidy.  The 8.5” x 11” printed patterns I haven’t put together yet are now protected from dog ears or being inadvertently scrunched or having single pages sliding under the others as I go pattern hunting.  The Mylar allows the patterns to slide smoothly against one another and as I go digging, the pattern envelope flaps don’t get that freshly-dug, half open/torn off look.

 

If a downloaded pattern doesn’t have a cover page with a color photo of the garment or project, I’ll grab a screen shot and copy/paste it to a Word document and print.  Then I cut it out and voila’!  Now my downloaded, printed, and cut pattern fits perfectly alongside its store-bought counterparts!