Hey Creative Friends, in my previous post, I promised to tell you how my initial attempts at beginner longarm quilting went. So here it is.
I got a visit from my local Handi Quilter reps –That’s Sew Debbie – the day after installation. Jessica came over to complete the installation – attach the leaders and then teach me how to get started.
Beginner Longarm Training on the Moxie
First we started with how to wind a bobbin on the standalone bobbin winder. It’s not much different from the way the bobbin winder on my domestic machine works. The only thing is that, it’s stand alone, which means I have to make a separate trip to the bobbin winder each time I run out of bobbin thread.
I don’t quite like that especially since I match my bobbin thread to the top thread. It means every time, I ran out of bobbin thread, I have to take the top thread off to go fill up my bobbin. What I do like about the bobbins though is that they’re Class M bobbins which are larger, so it takes longer to ran out of bobbin thread.
The next step in my beginner longarm training was to learn to thread the machine, get the bobbin in its case, and check the bobbin tension. During this section, I missed my thread cutter and auto threader on my domestic machine. Also, working the bobbin case meant I had to go under the machine. I had visions of spending a lot of time under my longarm machine loading bobbins or troubleshooting problems.
Although there’s no automatic threader on the Moxie, threading it is relatively easy. The needle is shaped in such a way that when you run the thread along the front groove it easily slips into the eye. Even withoutI my eye glasses I easily threaded the needle. So, that’s really awesome.
The next stop on my beginner longarm training was changing the needle and swaping out feet. That was pretty simple. We also went through the on screen menus. That takes a little getting used to. But there aren’t that many options on the menus, so the learning curve is not that steep.
Did someone say loading a quilt on the longarm for the first time?
Then, the next major stop on the beginner longarm training was loading a quilt on the frame. This was the most stressful part of the entire training for me. It’s totally opposite to what I’m used. I’m used to fusing my layers together before I start quilting. Here, I don’t have to hold the layers together before loading them onto the sewing machine. Each layer goes on separately and onto a separate pole.
After I was taught how to do it, I became anxious. I was anxious that when I did it on my own, I’ll make a mistake. I worried that I’ll pin the wrong side of the fabric to the leaders when I’m loading my work onto the machine. That left me feeling out of sorts.
Moving along, when we got through pinning, I finally got to practice on the longarm for the very first time.
Oh, the speed! I love the speed! It’s so fast.
It’s like 10x the feeling you get using a power tool to do something. I remember the first time I used an electric saw to cut wood to make stretcher bars for my work. The speed of that saw pales in comparison to the speed of the Moxie. It can go as fast as 1800 stitches per minute. But no worries. The Handi Quilter Moxie, has speed controls so you can adjust it to you comfort level.
I had to turn down the speed so that I could control it. Otherwise, it was getting away from me. When I slowed down, I felt more comfortable. When I started stitching, the first thing I noticed was that small movements of the handle bars result in big movement on the fabric, I practiced my thread shading method and saw that I could do that well on the longarm. I tried curves and I wasn’t successful in drawing small circles. The more I practiced, the smaller I could make the circles. However, by the end of the first day, I was still struggling to stitch small smooth circles.
All in all, my day ended with mixed emotions. My fears and insecurities about getting a longarm machine came to the fore front. At that point, I was more unsure about my decision to get a long arm than I’d ever been.
Rolled Up My Sleeves and Got to Work
The next day, I couldn’t leave it be. I went into my studio bright and early and decided to do the things which had scared me the previous day during my beginner longarm training.
I unloaded the practice sandwich Jessica had brought me and tried to figure out how to load my own fabrics. Jessica had brought me beautiful batik-like fabrics to practice on. But I couldn’t see how well or badly I was stitching on that fabric. I wanted to be able to see my stitches clearly – good or bad. So, I decided to use solid black fabrics for both the top and bottom. Then, I turned my iPad on, queued the Handi Quilter training video on Youtube and started figuring out how to load a quilt all by myself. By the time I was through loading the quilt top, batting and backing, I felt better about my future abilities to load another quilt on the longarm.
Now, it was time to go to town with the machine.
I played on it for a long while. I experimented with dense straight line stitching, which I love to do on my domestic machine. And I also tried my hands at pebbles again. My circles were getting smaller than the original ones for sure. But they were still no where near how small I can get them on the domestic. I’ve got a long way to go. To play some more, I signed my name several times. My first attempts were ginormous. Subsequent ones were a little better. Additionally, I drew a tea cup. I still need work on my fine detail skills on the longarm.
By the end of the day, I was in a great mood. I’d conquered my first two major hurdles. I recognize that I have a long ways to go to become as good on the longarm as I am on my domestic. However, I’ve got confidence that with time and practice, I’ll improve.
I was in such a good mood that I called my 11-year old son over to come try his hands at driving the longarm. He loved it. I think the longarm is more intuitive for a beginner to draw with than the sit down machine. He drew his name and some geometric shapes without me coaching him. It was a good day.
That’s it for now, friend.
If you’re enjoying these candid, behind the scenes look at my transition to a longarm machine, please let me know in the comments and consider sharing it with a friend.
PS: Find all the other posts in this series here – My Moxie and Me