Monday, May 15, 2017

The Lenni Chronicles

I've spent a week with my APQS Lenni now, and even completed a quilt on her. The first day was horrible, but then things got a lot better. I started to trust that she wasn't going to flip out on me randomly, and she started to behave better with me.

Day 0:

Arrival day was awful. I ran into a multitude of problems (repeated thread breakage, shredding, skipped stitches, loops, threads cut on the bottom), but I've since figured out the cause of almost all of them:

  • The needle wasn't completely facing forward. It was at a slight angle.
  • The bobbin tension was far too loose.
  • The extended ruler base attachment wasn't on properly (I think).
  • The top thread wasn't threaded properly and missed a guide.

    After the dealer left, I collapsed in mental exhaustion. I was terrified that I had gotten a lemon. It would be one thing if the machine just didn't work at all, as that's something I can get replaced under warranty. It's another if it works mostly, but just has little issues here and there that make quilting a lot less fun, but can't be considered truly broken. But I decided to start on a real quilt. When I first started, I was so paranoid I checked the tension on the back of the quilt every 30 seconds (which quickly gave me a headache). After awhile though, I got more confident that she wasn't going to just break randomly.

    Day 1:

    Shortly after I started for the day, my thread broke. I figured it might be a fluke. After rethreading and restarting, things started going badly. Really badly.

    I panicked, but then I remembered the words of Leah Day: "If things were working fine and then started going wrong, think about what you changed." The only thing I "changed" was I rethreaded the needle. I looked at the thread path, and sure enough, when the thread broke the thread jumped out of a guide, and I didn't put it back in the thread guide. I rethreaded it correctly, and after that, things were smooth.

    Day 2:

    Since I couldn't fit my 12-foot Lenni in my sewing room, she's placed in the unfinished storage room in the basement. That means she's far removed from my sewing supplies, so I had to figure out some solutions for storage. Well, the area under the frame is not used at all, so it's the perfect place for some stacking bins!

    I also got a pretty little rolling caddy, which is perfect for holding my seam ripper, my drink, my ruler, and my phone. When not in use, it tucks away perfectly under the frame as well.

    Day 3:

    Today was smooth sailing. I'm having so much fun quilting. Dare I say ... the most fun I've had machine quilting yet? In some ways, my stitching looks better than it did on my midarm, because I don't have funny stitches resulting from dealing with drag. On the other hand, it's harder to control. In my mind, I know where I want to go, but I can't always get the machine to go there. Even though Lenni is one of the lightest machines I test drove, it still has a fair amount of inertia, especially in stitch regulation mode. I know it's something I will be able to control in due course, but it will take time.

    Day 4:

    I decided to float my quilt tops, because really, who needs extra pinning? This means I find the top roller bar wholly unnecessary. One of the features I read about that I should look for in my machine is easy access to batting while quilting, and well, my machine doesn't have that feature. However, with the top roller removed, I'll be able to access it if I need to much more easily.

    So, as soon as I get my Texas Hold'em Bracket (an accessory by APQS for people who remove their top rollers so that the brakes still work) I'm removing the top roller!

    Day 5:

    My eyes hurt. I always knew the storage area where the longarm is kept doesn't have great lighting, but I figured I don't need great lighting because the LED light on the sewing head is strong enough, and I can see exactly where I'm stitching, right?

    Turns out ... the contrast between the strong LED light and the weak overall lighting in the rest of the room is causing some serious eye strain. So ... I'll have to get more lights.

    Day 6:

    On my midarm it's easy to check the back of the quilt ... I just flip the back up. On a longarm, I have to crawl around under the quilt. Doing that too much gets exhausting quick, and it really gives me a headache. I realize the solution is one of those nifty cameras that get attached to the sewing head so it shines on the back of the quilt, and I'll get to see the back of the quilt on a display somewhere. Something like this. However, I do not want to mount a big display on top of my machine, as any weight on the sewing head equals extra momentum I have to manage. So, I'm going to build my own solution.

    Day 7:

    And ... voila, a finished quilt! (minus the binding) I'm pretty happy with it. There are a few issues (varicose veins, sigh) but I learned a lot for my next quilt.


    I can say it now ... I love longarming, and I'm ecstatic I have Lenni now! It is so fun, and so much faster than my midarm, and I'm no longer afraid of doing big quilts. The beds in my house might finally get some quilts!


    1. Wow, that quilt is beautiful!!! Great job!!!

      Another option for seeing the underside is to put a mirror on the panto table. Some people use a full length mirror, but mine is 18" X 24". I still crawling underneath sometimes, which, when you do that, you should put a magazine over the area you're checking, so the light above doesn't give you a false reading.

    2. Way to go Liz, I knew you were meant to be a long armer! It's great when you identify a problem you come up with a solution. Your first quilt is wonderful and I'm looking forward to seeing more,

    3. Liz, I'm so happy things are working out! My machine comes tomorrow, and reading about your experience has been very helpful in keeping my apprehension in check. :) Your quilt looks *beautiful*! I think you did a wonderful job with it.

    4. I'm in the process of making the switch from a mid arm (which I will still have) to a long arm and I'm scared to death. This gives me encouragement to just get up and do it.

    5. I like seeing your first week broken down into days. I'm years from getting a long arm, but it's good to have an idea of what to expect in a transition. Your quilt looks great!

    6. I'm so jealous! Have fun with it!!


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