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Monday, October 26, 2015

Tools of the Trade...

I have been asked on several, frequent really, occasions how I do this and how I do that and what do you use for this and what for that? I have now been longarming for over three years and seem to be in a routine that is working. I'm going to make an attempt to share what this rookie does to do this and that and what I use along the way to reach a viable and accepted result of my efforts.

I use an Innova 22" Longarm on what I would call an industrial table that is 12' long. I call it industrial because I frequently longarm bare footed and if you happen to stub your toe on one of its doesn't move one iota. I only do hand guided quilting using the pantograph system named Panto Vision. I've done some free motion as well but being about as artistic as a martini stir stick I follow patterns created by those that do have artistic abilities. Over the last several years I have made numerous changes as I progressed. So the tools I will be sharing is what is being used currently based on experience, saves time and two basic systems of reasoning. If it ain't broke, don't fix it and Keep It Simple Stupid (KISS). Both are personal references I acquired from my father and grandfather. Often enforced with a little physical aptitude system to emphasis the point. I will admit that both systems were enhanced by Marine Corps Drill Instructors with an emphasis on Improvise, Adapt and Overcome. All of which were great attributes when it came to working with tension.

It starts here. I will say one of the best things I have made for our quilting needs. Long before a top or back makes it to the longarm it has spent some time on this ironing sufrace, pressing seams, removing loose threads (Irish pennants) and just getting the wrinkles out.

I've said this on other posts...a good steam iron is a gift from the Gods.We use regular water and Best Press when needed. Our home version of Best Press is the standard 8 ounces of water to 1 ounce of vodka. I have seen no appears starch is starch. Currently the thread removal tool, the pink item with the handle and it's sticky surface works well. The window cleaner is for the mirror which is upcoming. Yes the Corgi, Nikee, is a fixture...naturally right where you need to stand.

The table surface is kept as clean and free of everything but the bare essentials. The two clamps, which found their way in from the garage, are used to lock the longarm's movement on the X and or Y axis when needed. The mirror is one of those KISS items I use to view the stitching and check for any wrinkles in the back. I've never used a paper panto but glad this is something that has stayed with the frame. It really does come in hand.

On the right side of the frame is where I locate one of the Red Snapper side clamps, my batting scissors and the small Red Snappers. Also where the tool belt hangs when not in use. Something else that came in from the garage. I don't use it as often as I have in the past, but when I am away from my machine whether working on another machine or teaching it gets filled up with what I consider to be my essentials. You'll notice a small piece of batting lying on the table. I have one at each end where I deposit cut threads and Irish pennants that are trimmed if they were missed on the ironing table. There is also a small trash container (orange) on the right side. Larger debris is deposited here and emptied between quilts. I tried using them for thread at one time. But as you will see I have a fan in the Longarm Room. The circulating air and loose threads were not a good combo

The left side is where I do most of my work. The magnifying glass and mirror are used for checking tension along with the black exceptionally high lumen flashlight that is hooked to the green holder. The holder also has some measuring devices, brush, screwdrivers and pointed hook. I try not to use the pointed hook. It only comes out with the seam ripper and that is never any fun. I also store my 'airbrush' air compressor, magnets, the longer Red Snappers, battery operated rotary cutter and my regular scissors on the left side of the frame. When quilting I clean and oil my hook assembly and reload my bobbins on this side. The gray mats are from Five Below, two for $5. I can assure you they are just what my old knees need. They add several hours a day to the time I can spend quilting.

The left side as we all know from a previous post is where this cabinet ended up. Of course as previously stated it only made sense. Here's where the bobbin winder, Towa Gauge, Sharpies, bobbins, Tru-Cut rotary blade sharpener, oil, some manuals, radio/CD player, miscellaneous tools and items call home. The drawers are full of CD's. Yes I got rid of the eight track.

Yes I have a helper. Animal is there to remind me to measure twice, cut once. He throws a fit if I forget.

Okay...I know this is not where the additional handles are suppose to be mounted. And when Elaine does longarm I have to move them. But for me a perfect place for my tablets touch pen, a Sharpie and "Jack" the seam ripper.

There are tools that I haven't pictured. Steel rulers, a T Square, some miscellaneous clamps for when I need three hands, a laser unit, extra parts and accessories. We each have developed the use for different tools and whether we think about them or not they are a part of what we do.

I mentioned the fan earlier. I'm one of those that need air circulating. It doesn't make any difference if it's Winter or Summer...the fan is on.

So there is a peek at some of the things I use as I go about my longarming days. Not all inclusive, some you may use, some you may not. Like you I am in a constant state of learning, experimenting, tweaking this and tweaking that. For me I am just striving to 'compliment the piecer's work.' I know there is a saying..."it isn't a quilt until it's quilted." I just feel it's my job to see it as the finished product before it's even loaded on the longarm. To me it's a quilt before I put in one stitch. I've even surprised myself and had them come off the longarm looking better than I imagined.

and like the sign says...

and like we say...
Quilt till you wilt...we do.

Wednesday, August 26, 2015

August...Came and Went.

Where does the time go?
We've most certainly been busy...Awards, meetings, preparing for upcoming events, a trip here and there and even some longarming.

Elaine has spent the last two weeks with our son and grandchildren in PA while I've held down the fort, allowed the dogs to boss me around and kept the longarm humming.

One major announcement for those that attend the Birds of a Feather event. We, Not Forgotten QOV, will be set up during the full event in the Marriott, Newport News City Center, from February 11 through the 14th, 2016. For the locals here in the Hampton Roads area if nothing else stop by to sew with us as we work on Quilts of Valor. We will be located in the Rotunda. As always we will have a QOV Booth up and running. Virginia Longarm has graciously invited us to be part of their annual event and will be providing the space and a Innova Longarm that I will be utilizing to work on Quilts of Valor. For the next several months Not Forgotten QOV will be making kits so that participants and others who want to sew will have readily available materials to work on. This will be the second year that Valerie Schlake, owner of Virginia Longarm and the power source behind The Longarm Network, has invited Not Forgotten QOV to participate in Birds of a Feather. You can find out more at If you are close you won't be disappointed...this is a fantastic event.

Elaine and I are proud as can be to be associated with Valerie. She became an Innova Longarm dealer in 2012. We have the honor of being her first customer as an Innova dealer. We boastfully say that we are the lucky ones. Her support of us both and her support for our passion in Quilts of Valor is testament to her unselfish and generous contributions she has made to the quilting world. You have no idea how grateful we are that our paths crossed.

As I was saying...Elaine has been with the grandkids and our beautiful daughter-in-law and son. Our son, Trent, having retired from the Marine Corps is now working for Siemens. He is one of several technicians that support the Siemens Electric Locomotives, ACS-64, operated by Amtrak. Okay so we are kind of proud. Maybe just a little. So I guess it was only natural they visited the Railroad Museum of Pennsylvania in Strasburg. I guess they had a good time. Nothing but smiles. they say...when the cats away the mice will play. In this case it is the mouse...and that be me. Well one of us has to quilt. Here are some of the latest to fall prey to the Innova.

Let's just say I hate buttons. This was a Navy Career T-Shirt quilt. 

This was a custom piece. I was like really happy the way this one turned out. Fortunately so was the piecer. 

This was a garage sale find. Estimated to be hand sewn in the late 30's early 40's. It had its challenges but came out beautifully.

Commemorating the high school years T. 

Well being a golfer this was a fun piece. Yes they are ties.

If I were to guess...a bird lover.

Some QOV's and some for clients. No idle time here that's for sure. Speaking of idle time. Nikee seems to be confused,,,Is it a pillow or is it a bed? Apparently it can't be both at the same time.

Your guess is as good as mine.

Quilt till you wilt...we do.

Tuesday, July 21, 2015

Binding Bingo & Label Lotto

We completed our second Binding Bingo/Label Lotto last Friday. We had a great day. In all 14 Quilts of Valor got their finishing touches and are now ready for awarding once the laundry task is completed.

Elaine and I would like to thank each and everyone of you for taking time out of your schedules and being a part of Not Forgotten QOV. Without you the awards don't happen.

Here are some photos from setting up to the piling up of the finished products. Can't wait for the next one. Elaine will keep you all posted via email. Good food, fun games and time with friends. I've been told that just goes along with hanging out with quilters. Must be true.











There was a Grand Prize as well, me. Well not really me but my longarm services. I know the winner was a happy quilter. She showed up for Binding Bingo with quilt in hand for me to longarm. Well it's all done. And I still owe her a few bucks.

So until next time the Family Room is once again a Family Room. Well in all honesty even when it's full of tables and chairs it's still a Family Room. And we are happy to be a small part of this family of Quilts of Valor Volunteers.

Quilt till you wilt...we do.

Monday, July 13, 2015

Confessions of a Longarmer...AKA the Leatherneck Kilted Quilter

Before I confess to anything a little background.
Apparently John Paul Jones refused to sail without a compliment of Marines...riflemen they were, it turns out a valuable commodity in battle aboard the Bon Homme Richard in 1779 and other vessels he commanded. Well John Paul was a Scottish American and that was enough of a Scottish association for the Leatherneck Tartan to be registered with the Scottish Tartan Society.

Finding out through a friend and fellow Quilt of Valor Volunteer quilter and member of the Scottish American Military Society, SAMS, that there was such a thing as the Leatherneck Tartan and Elaine and I help with a QOV Booth at the Frederick Celtic Festival, it made perfectly good sense to me to become a Kilted needed to sound a lot tougher than that for me to wear a the Leatherneck Kilted Quilter was born.

So every now and then he shows up, here and there. One of the there's is at the Binding Bingo/Label Lotto events as the Bingo Caller and Chief Cook, as well as any Celtic Festivals we may attend. Which are a tremendous amount of fun and frolic I might add. 

It really is a lot of fun. It's not really Bingo...It's QUILT-O. Instead of numbers 'quilting terms' are used in each box. Like...'binding' / '9-Patch' / or 'Seam Ripper.' you get the idea. We have a really good time. Not to mention we get some quilts bound and labeled.

I don't think I'm that bad of a cook.
Or someone is throwing out a lot of
food when I'm not looking.          

So that is how the Leatherneck Kilted Quilter came about.

Now I'll make some confessions. They are my confessions/observations...I most certainly can't speak for any other longarmer. Whether computerized, free motion, hand guided like myself or whether they stand in front or back or use a stool. Whether they use paper pantos or a computerized pattern device like the Panto Vision system I use. My guess is as many longarm machines as there are, there are that many ways of doing the same thing. My confessions and observations are based on my experiences over the last several years and having completed nearly four hundred quilts, wall hangings, bags, purses or whatever I could load. In some ways we are all like Frank Sinatra...We do it our way. I know...I just aged myself. You didn't see the hair???

I confess...
There is no such thing as "too square."
There is no such thing as "too tight" when loading a quilt. 
Needles can't be "too sharp."
I've never used a thread that didn't develop lint. Regardless of what the manufacturer says. 
I have my favorite piecers/toppers. IMHO if a longarmer claims this isn't true don't trust them. 
A good steam iron is, no matter how it got to your house/studio, a gift from a higher power. 
Ironing boards were not created by a quilter...make your own. 

There are many variations of a 'quarter inch.' How many piecers/toppers are there?
The difference in a back that is four inches longer and wider than the top instead of four inches longer on top and bottom and four inches wider on each side of the top is like the difference between the depth of a golf hole and the Grand Canyon. In other words "huge." 
I confess...I ask for ten inches longer and wider than the top.
Seam rippers are necessary and evil. Mine is called "Jack." I think all would agree Jack was mean and evil. 
I have never pinned a quilt to a longarm leader...and never will. 
Red Snappers (Renae Haddadin) came from the same place as the good steam iron.
I am an Innovian...I use a Innova Longarm...That doesn't make it better than or worse than any other manufacturer's equipment. It is the one Elaine chose...and when Elaine is happy I'm happy. I'm not sure though if I would have become a longarmer if she had chosen another brand. I'd still be happy she was happy...but I honestly don't think I would have ever longarmed a quilt. 
I confess...I subscribe to "If it ain't broke, don't fix it."
I am pushing three years on this machine...still using same everything that it came with except needles. Everything. With the exception of the back handles and start/stop buttons.
I've never used a paper panto or quilted from the back of the machine. 
I have always considered the longarm to be a power tool. I have never shied away from a power tool.
I haven't adjusted the tension on the machine in over six months, then it was only a half turn. I make almost all adjustments on the bobbin case and those rarely. 
I stitch a tension check on a scrap of fabric off the quilt top before every quilt.
When I find something that works...I stick with it. 
According to the manufacturer's instructions I load the bobbin into the bobbin case has always worked.
I use synthetic oil in my hook assembly. If it makes an automobile run better and last longer why not a hook assembly.
I clean and oil the hook assembly at every bobbin change. 
I use an air compressor with a moisture collector built in...It doesn't leave brush bristles stuck in my hook assembly and unlike canned air it is dry. No moisture.
I confess...I'm stubborn. This can be substantiated. A list of names, starting with Elaine, can be supplied for verification. 
Just because the manufacturer recommends it, makes it and sells it as an accessory doesn't mean it is the only thing that will do the job. 
I confess...I am constantly looking for less expensive alternatives. 
I've only done one quilt that I didn't float the top.
I use magnets across the quilt as I go instead of basting. Helps eliminate the 'bottom frown' and saves time.

I see, know and will always remember my mistakes...usually only made once. I will never point out others mistakes...they know where they are. I said usually. 
Every quilt has its challenges...some are just more challenging than others. 
I have never longarmed an ugly quilt and never will. 
I do three things that eliminate the need for a, ride a motorcycle and longarm. I'm not saying I don't have mental disorders...I golf, ride motorcycles and longarm. 
Things I know for certain...
Love conquers all.
I live in the greatest country on the planet...period...faults and all.
I will always be a Marine.
I have been called a lot of names...dear, daddy and gramps really stand out. 
Honesty is the best policy.
You never have to remember the truth. It is what it is. 
Like the tattoo says...I will "NEVER FORGET."

I'm sure there are other things I could confess to but why open a Pandora's Box. Some things are left better unsaid. 

Quilt till you wilt...we do. 


My Father told me one time to enjoy each day as they come because they come fast and leave quicker. I thought he was full of it. I was wrong. 

So here we are in July already. I swear I haven't neglected the blog it just hasn't been high on the radar. So to kind of catch up here goes. 

When I last posted, late April, we had just completed our first Binding Bingo. We will be having our second one on Friday, 17 July. We've changed the name to Binding Bingo and Label Lotto. The Not Forgotten QOV participants will be binding and labeling Quilts of Valor from 10 AM until 2 +/- PM while earning a drawing ticket for each quilt side completed and label attached. Elaine has been making and gathering gifts for the last week or so for the drawings. I'll again be in attendance as the Leatherneck Kilted Quilter and calling the Bingo game and acting as the Chief Cook. The menu will include my 53 Chili, five bean, three meat and Loaded Cauliflower and Loaded Broccoli. I made the cauliflower dish in April and it went over pretty well. I guess there are a lot of folks that like sour cream, bacon and cheese with their veggies. 

We have been busy with Quilts of Valor, making awards as well as quilts. Below some of the awards.




Geraldine and Cesar


Just to shout out a few. 

To say the longarm has been getting a work out would be an understatement. It has been kept very busy. Speaking of 'longarm'. My next entry will be "Confessions of a Longarmer." AKA the Leatherneck Kilted Quilter. 








I hope you can forgive me for going so long between posts. With so much going on and time actually moving faster than my Father's prediction I don't get to the blog as often as I'd like. Life is like that...ya just don't get everything you'd like. Now there's a surprise. Later...

I am very happy to report Elaine hasn't moved one piece of furniture since the last remodel. 

But with every thing going on I don't think she has had a moment to think about it. For the last several weeks she has been so busy with organizing and selling off a huge donation of fabric she hasn't had time to breath. The garage has looked more like a fabric store than a garage. 

So busy we've been and busy we like to be...time's going by fast might as well be doing something. 

Quilt till you wilt...we do.