September 6, 2017

Introducing "Bernie" (new longarm)

I went to the Australasian Quilt Convention in April of 2015 determined to buy a longarm quilting machine.  I found a great machine at the Handi Quilter kiosk - and was delighted that they had a great discount going on some machines they'd used in a longarm workshop in Sydney.  And so on Mothers' Day that year, "Matilda" (HQ's 18" Avante machine) was delivered.

I've loved that machine, but have to admit that what I really wanted was a Bernina machine.  Even knowing as little as I did back in 2015, I could tell it's just superior.  But the room I've been using for my quilt room isn't large enough for the 12 foot frame, and Bernina didn't have a smaller option.  Handi Quilter, on the other hand, can be set up at 8 feet, which just fits my space.  So the decision was made.

My circumstances have changed - and I now have space for a 12 footer.  And because my long-awaited inheritance came to me last year, I had the money... last April I splurged big-time and bought a Bernina 24" longarm.

I couldn't take delivery until our renovation was over - so it was a long, long wait since April - but finally on July 21st she arrived!

Boy, and I thought Matilda was big!

Bernie's frame is 12 feet x 4 feet - so she takes up about half of the room.  Of course with a longarm, you really need to be able to get to both the front and back of the machine, so Bernie takes "her half" out of the middle.

I splurged on a few extras, such as the pantograph kit (which includes a stylus for groovy boards), chanel locks, casters and a hydraulic lift.

The chanel locks are attached to the machine - which is great because that way, I never have to go looking for them.
The one on the left is down- you can see the black rubber foot is firmly pressing on the track.  The one on the right is up. 

The casters are just a godsend; I can shift the entire frame Bernie is on with ease:
And, of course, there's a lock on the caster so once the machine is in place, it doesn't go wandering while I'm working on it.  Shelly, the dealer I bought Bernie from, told me that if I ever decide to add the computerized quilting unit, the casters will have to come off, as even when locked the machine can move very slightly - not enough to disturb me, but more than enough to throw off the computer.  No worries.  I don't foresee wanting the computer stitching unit; I'm happy with groovy boards, pantographs and free motion quilting.

The hydraulic lift is just so cool!
You don't really notice the device - it's just connected to the legs of the frame - with the up and down switch on the far right of the machine. Being able to adjust the height of the fram is just fantastic.  When I'm working for long periods of time, it will give my back a break.  Fine work will be even easier to do, lifting the quilt so that I see without having to bend way over.

And the bobbin gage - what a great idea!
You pop the bobbin into the case - whip the threads around the two white nobs - and the gage tells you what the exact tension of the bobbin case is.  Up to now, I've used the "dangle" test to check the tension (just pulling the bobbin case up by the thread) - and that's fine as far as it goes, but I like the idea of being able to get an exact reading.

Other features I really like include:
  • You wind bobbins right on the machine (no need for a separate winding device) - and you can wind bobbins while you are quilting
  • There's a hand-wheel for the needle on the front AND back of the machine (the Handi Quilter has this on the back only)
  • Instructions and even how-to videos for many tasks (such as threading, cleaning and oiling) are inside the machine and can be viewed with the operator panels on the front and back.  This is great, because it frees you from having to dig out the user manual
  • Special sensors can be turned on to alert you when the bobbin or top thread run out
  • It's super easy to change the position of the handlebars 
  • The head has task lighting in it, illuminating the area immediately around the needle - but also along the throat of the machine, so more of the project is well-lit.
The machine itself runs soooo smoothly.  It's so smooth that I find I work faster.  I haven't checked the actual maximum speed, but I did find myself "speeding" when I was working on my first project.  Bernie flashed to warn I was going too fast! 

Matilda has a 18" throat.  Bernie's is 24".  That means I can work longer without having to advance the machine - and WOW!  Without having to stop and advance, quilts get done faster!  My first project would have taken just over 3 hours to complete on Matilda.  On Bernie it got done in about 2.5 hours.

And, of course, with a 12' frame, I can now do Queen and King bedspreads (and I've got 3 king sized tops ready now!)

So far, there's only one thing I've found that I don't like.  For free-motion quilting, I prefer to use the stitching mode where the machine stops quilting when you stop moving the head.  Both Matilda and Bernie have this feature.  But on Bernie, when you stop, the machine continues with "tie off" stitches.  I can control how many stitches it makes, but I can't turn it off completely (2 stitches is the minimum).  

So now I'm a woman with two longarms - and I love them both.

September 2, 2017

Where Did August Go?

OK  - so I have been a bit distracted with the renovation of our home.  But the bulk of that project is done now, with just a few things for the builders to finish and fix up.  I did pretty much stop quilting there for a bit, but I'm back to it again.

Matilda - my Handi Quilter longarm, which I damaged in July by accidentally running over a lucite ruler - is fixed now.  The repair required the replacement of the casing that holds the needle in place - and I'm happy to report the bill for that wasn't terrible.  But I do want to say that I'm a bit surprised that the machine isn't a bit tougher.  I understand that the needle would break (and it sure did - into 3 pieces!), but that it would actually damage the machine seems a bit "much".  But there you go.  You can bet I'm a LOT more careful now.

Matilda has competition for my attention now, as I made the momentous decision last April to acquire another longarm...   ...stay tuned for details!