June 24, 2015

Feelin' Groovy

"Slow down, you're movin' too fast..."

Quilting with a longarm is loads of fun, but it's a lot more challenging than I thought it would be. I've played around with free-motion quilting and have had some success, but, oh my it's not easy.  I'm finding that when I do free-motion, my stitches are a bit too close together, causing the quilt to be a bit stiff.  I'll have to work on that.

But there's help for awkward stitchers like me: Groovy Boards!

Groovy boards are panels made of a plastic (PVC?) with a stitching pattern carved into one side.They are approx 24"x10". Here are a couple of the boards I purchased:

Groovy board with "Baptist Fan" pattern.

The pattern on this one is called "Blustery Breeze"
They work by providing a pattern channel which you follow with a "stylus" attached to the back of the machine.  Here's a photo of the stylus on my machine. You just drop one end of the stylus into the groove and then guide the machine by following the groove.
The pattern on the above board is "Simply Stipple".
In the photo below you can see the stylus on the side of the machine, and groovy boards laid out on a shelf underneath. The boards have a gripping surface on the back, but it's too easy to accidentally shift them while I'm working, so I've used painters' tape to secure them:
The stylus remains tightly held to the side of the machine.
 Here's a closeup of the groovy board pattern:
Notice exactly where the stylus is sitting in the pattern. At the point
this photo was taken, I was moving down and to the left with
the stylus.
 And below is what the stitching looks like in the quilt, taken at the same point as the photo above.
Here you can see the pattern on the groovy board is
exactly replicated in the stitching.
The boards lock together end-to-end. You buy them separately, but Handi-Quilter recommends getting at least two so that you don't have to stop and reposition when you reach the end.  I opted to get 3 of each design - which gives me 6 feet. It was a bit expensive (the boards aren't cheap by anyone's reckoning) but now that I've done a couple of quilts with them, I'm really glad I did that. It makes a huge difference to be able to go from one edge to the other without stopping.

Results? Well, I just finished a 50"x50" baby quilt with the board you see in these photos - and it took me 2 hours and 15 minutes. That's FAST!!!!  And as I go along, I'm getting faster.

There's a bit of a learning curve here. 

One of the things I've found is that the grooves are wider than the stylus point. That bit of "play" is a bit problematic, as giggling from side to side in the groove interrupts the smooth flow of the stitching. Gradually I'm learning to hug one side or the other of the groove as I go along. With the "Simply Stipple" pattern, it's not too noticeable, but those smooth lines in "Baptist Fan" will look horrible if I slip and end up with out-of-line stitches.

I'm finding it very difficult it is to advance the quilt and keep the spacing between the rows even. It's harder than you think. But, again, with the stippling board, the variations aren't horribly obvious. Clearly "Baptist Fan" will be more challenging.

I've had the thread break twice in mid-stream. Oh my - what a pain to reload and get back into the correct position. I've had the bobbin run out on me a few times, too - and again, not fun to reload and reposition. But I'm getting much better at estimating how far I can go on a single bobbin.

So, with a nod to Simon and Garfunkel - I'm lookin' for fun and feelin groovy!

No comments:

Post a Comment