Monday, May 14, 2012

HMQS Classes and Long Arm Research

Saturday at HMQS I took three classes, from 8:00 until 3:30 with only a half hour break.  It was crazy busy, but so fun! 

My first class was from Sue Patten about freehand free motion.  She was vibrant and dynamic, and very inspiring.  She had excellent handouts and talked a lot about training your muscle memory so you really own specific designs.  Once you own those, you can change them to fit what you need without learning a whole new design.  It's all about making your skills work in various ways.

My second class was from Mindy Wylie and was about custom quilting.  I wasn't sure what to expect from this one, and it was all about using templates, tools, and rulers to accomplish specific patterns.  I can see that this is going to be really fun and useful information.  The hopping foot on my machine right now is not the right shape to use templates and rulers, so I'm going to have to check if such a thing is available for my machine, but it will definitely be fun to do (with gorgeous results) when I do get my longarm, if not before then. 

My third class was from Suzanne Michelle Hyland and was called "Sew Fast, Sew Precise Machine Binding."  It was a great class and she taught us a very useful method for binding that is very precise.  This was a hands-on class and we were supposed to bring a mini quilt to practice the method on.  I haven't finished my bargello yet, so I took the sampler I made at my first day of HMQS in Linda Taylor's class and bound that.  The method is almost exactly the same as what I am currently doing, but it adds the step of using a couching foot and water soluble thread to zig-zag a strand of cotton yard to the center of the binding strip before you fold it in half, then when you topstitch in the ditch from the front using a stitch-in-the-ditch presser foot, a metal guide going through the center of the foot pushes the yarn to the side and you stitch in the right place every time.  Then when you wash the quilt the water soluble thread dissolves and goes away!  The yarn stays there, but isn't really noticeable and is very soft.  This method does take longer than standard binding, but is consistently accurate.  It doesn't take nearly as long as hand-stitching binding, but takes longer than standard machine stitched binding, so I don't think I'll use it very often.  I think I will use it when I want my  binding super accurate but don't want to take the time to hand-stitch.  I feel like I'm getting very good results with the method I'm currently using, so I don't think it's worth the time and cost in extra materials to do it this way every time.  I will be using at least one of her tips, and possibly two.  She recommended using monofilament thread on the top of the quilt for topstitching in the ditch, and it is almost invisible!  I love that.  she also recommended using the water soluble thread to make tailor's tacks on the corners to hold the binding corners in place much more accurately than pins while you are sewing around.  This worked really well. 

Here's my finished binding:
You can see the tailor's tacks and the zig-zagging.  I actually decided to use regular thread for the zig-zag on this one and save the water soluble thread for another project in the future.  I LOVE how invisible the stitching is from the front, and it is so even and accurate from the back.  It was an interesting method to learn.

Backing up a day, I spend Friday going through the vendor booths and looking at some of the beautiful quilts.  One of my good friends came with me and we had a good time!  I have done a lot of research online about different longarm manufacturers, and I got to test drive five different brands at the show.  Two of them I immediately crossed off my list because the stitches didn't look the same length even with a stitch regulator.  With the other three, I changed my mind with every machine I tried!  They were all great in different ways, but I'm pretty sure that I have decided on APQS.  The machine handles so smoothly and is really easy to manage, and has gorgeous stitches.  I'm probably going to get the Lucey model, which has fewer bells and whistles but all the features I need and want, and still has a 26" throat space.  It is also very comparable in price, even less expensive than similar sized models in other brands.  I also like that the APQS is designed to be easy to service and maintain yourself.  I've been very impressed with what I've seen online too.  I was able to run back in quickly on Saturday after my classes were over and before the show closed to do a quick comparison again of how my top two choices felt while using them, and APQS is it.  What a wonderful machine.

Now I only wish I could get one right away!

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