I finally had a chance to work on my Juki table-mounted long arm that I purchased at Paducah in April of 2015.
Previously, I had only quilted a table runner and was not happy with it. I just couldn't get the tension right. Then, a long-arm machine owner friend of mine came to visit me in December. She had NO fear of my machine and immediately unthreaded it. I nearly had heart failure! The manual that comes with the machine is really crappy, and I had only threaded the machine once or twice. Anyway...long story short...she got the tension issue fixed and marked threading instructions directly on machine. She MADE me thread the machine, wind a bobbin, and load the bobbin many times.
Here is what I found out. I was running the machine WAY too fast. The top of my work looked good, but the bottom thread didn't. When she slowed the machine down and had me stitch slower, I had a MUCH better looking stitch (both top and bottom). I also found my work to be more accurate with the slower stitching. Everything was looking good, and I felt much more confident.
Then, life happened and I didn't get back to stitching till now (May 2016). I practiced threading the machine, winding the bobbin, and stitching. I felt confident enough to start quilting again. It just so happens I had a Chinese Coins top basted and ready to quilt. (My daughter had put in a request for a replacement Chinese Coins quilt since my grandson has worn out the one he is currently using. She tells me it look "really bad.") I figured this is a perfect quilt for me to practice on. My grandson isn't going to critique my machine quilting expertise; he will love the quilt no matter what.
Things are going smoothly so far. I'm using a variegated thread for the top and a neutral thread in the bobbin. I started by anchoring the quilt by machine quilting "in the ditch" of each vertical row. This did a nice job of stabilizing the batting and backing and allowed me to remove several basting pins. Next, I quilted a loopy design in the "coins" part of the quilt. That went pretty smoothly, so I thought I was ready to tackle the solid part of the quilt (where the stitches would show). I loosely drew my quilting design and went to work. I'm very happy with it so far, and I'm learning a lot.
This is what I've learned so far...
- Slow down
- Take lots of breaks (to save your back and neck)
- Don't worry about perfection
- Stop and reposition your hands (and the quilt) often
- PRACTICE, PRACTICE, PRACTICE