Hey Creative Friend,
If you’ve been in this community for a while you probably know that my thread painting machine is a domestic sewing machine. I’ve enjoyed several years of work on my beloved sewing machine. It’s a workhorse. It’s been kind to me and has served me so well, I really have nothing but great things to say about it.
I learned to quilt and thread paint on my first sewing machine which was an embroidery machine – a Babylock. Then I upgraded to the current one I have – a Juki 2010Q. And boy was there a marked difference in speed, quality of stitches and durability. I sewed for 10 hours plus several days in a row without any worries that my sewing machine will not be able to hold up.
I continually thank God for the day I decided to buy my Juki. In all the years I’ve owned it I’ve put it through constant rigorous stitching with very little downtime. Yet through all the years, I’ve only had an issue with my Juki just once. And as soon as I found a qualified repair man, I was back in business in no time.
When I was in the market to upgrade my first sewing machine, the Babylock, I did a lot of research. I wanted to be sure that whatever I got will serve the purpose that I needed it for. I must say, all that research turned out to be worth it, when you look at how well my Juki has performed over the years.
However, at the start of this year, I started thinking about upgrading my Juki. As I’ve just explained, I love my Juki. There’s nothing wrong with it. It’s in great condition and it’s not giving me any problems. Which if you really think about it, is a testament to how versatile this machine is. Because truth be told, I put this machine through the wringer.
Reason for Upgrading My Thread Painting Machine
However, my circumstances have changed. I’m not in the same place I was several years ago when I was just starting out learning how to do free motion quilting and then later thread painting. Now, I’ve mastered those skills and more than that, I’ve gotten to the place where I want to explore more as a result of this growth. As I alluded to earlier, in the beginning of the year, I started thinking about expanding my work by creating larger portraits. And this is the reason I decided to upgrade my machine.
As much as I love my Juki, it wasn’t built to grow with me into my new adventures into large scale portraits. The throat space for the Juki 2010Q is only 8.5 inches. Which means working on large pieces like Amandla – The Empowered Woman and I am a Child is a real challenge. Pushing that size of work through the small throat space is a big strain on my shoulders. After hours of sewing, my shoulders are sore and I need a good massage. Secondly, pushing the work back and forth through the Juki inadvertently results in the quilt layers shifting. What this means is that it’s very easy to have puckering and uneven feeding of the layers through the machine. So, this is why I needed to upgrade my beloved machine.
Searching for a Thread Painting Machine
Just like I did before buying my Juki, I’ve spent a lot of time doing a thorough research on what will be the next best machine to buy for thread painting my large-sized portraits.
At the end of my research, I concluded that it had to be a sit-down longarm machine. There are many types of these machines in the market right now. They’ve been around for a while but they seem to be getting more and more attention recently. If you’re wondering what they are, here’s the cliff notes on sit-down longarm machines.
What is a Sit-Down Longarm Machine
Sit-down longarm machines are different from regular sewing machines in that they have larger throat spaces. That is the area between the needle and the vertical part of the sewing machine. Basically, it’s the area within which you can maneuver your quilt through. As I said, my machine has only 8.5 inches for me to work with. Sit-down quilting machines, which are also called mid-arm machines have anywhere between 15 – 20 inches of throat space for you to work with.
As you can see there’s no comparison.
The larger throat space means less stress on your shoulders and upper body as you don’t have to struggle with moving heavier quilts through a tiny space as much as you do on a domestic machine. Also, these machines have larger motors and are therefore faster. This makes the sit-downs perfect as thread painting machines. This is why I decided to go with a sit-down (aka mid-arms). After doing my research, I decided I wanted a Handi Quilter Capri. I felt it was the one which will serve me best, I liked the quality, the features, and more especially the customer service and community around it.
Then, just when I’d finalized my decision to go with a Handi Quilter Capri, something interesting happened.
At the time, I was working on a large thread painting piece, This piece involved a great amount of thread work and I struggled with keeping it flat. The problems I experienced in trying to prevent the layers from shifting as I was sewing on my domestic machine and trying to make sure the piece didn’t get distorted got me thinking. I realized that if I wanted to create works that are larger than the one I was currently working on, which I do, then, I may not totally solve the uneven feeding of the different layers of my work with a sit-down machine. Because I’ll still be pushing and pulling the work through the machine. Say what?
My Decision to Switch from a Sit-Down Longarm Machine
Yep. I did an about face on my decision to get a sit-down long arm.
The thing is, I was very sure if I wanted to do thread painting on medium to large sized pieces, my best choice will be the Handi Quilter Capri – hands down. I had no doubt about that. It’s a great machine. However, at the time, I suddenly started to think of a large scale project (several feet wide) that I’ve designed in my sketch book. I started wondering if I could realistically thread paint that piece on a mid arm. I wasn’t very sure about that. So, I changed my mind.
Yes. Just like that.
I chose to go with a longarm machine instead. It was a hard decision to make. I haven’t used a long arm before. I couldn’t find anyone who used a longarm as a thread painting machine to do very detailed thread work like I do. It didn’t make sense to go with this choice. But that’s what I did. I was scared I was making the wrong decision. There were many times when I wanted to change my mind and stick with the Capri because it’s the safe choice. It’s been tested. Many people use it for thread painting and it does an excellent job at that. But I stopped myself from stepping on my own feet. I stuck with my decision to get a long arm machine for creating very large-sized thread-painted portraits.
I was fully aware that it was a risky decision and one that may not give me the results I wanted. But I was willing to take the risk. I’ll tell you more in my next post.
Until then, make time, create your best work and share with the world.
Here’s a journal, where you can find all the entries I make about my relationship with my new Handi Quilter Moxie. Go check it out. My Moxie and Me Journal
Also published on Medium.