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Thursday, October 20, 2016


We have always had the 12' (133") leaders on our Innova. We have always used, and swear by, Red Snappers and Red E Edge to attach the back to the leaders and provide side tension to the back. Always have and don't see that changing in our lifetime. If it ain't broke, don't fix it.

Well that combination, 133" wide leaders and the plastic tube from the Red Snappers that runs through the leaders sleeve, creates a problem, for us anyway, when loading quilt backs. Basically because of the width of the leaders the machine literally gets in the way. We're sure we aren't the first ones to make this determination, nor the first to make this change but I thought is was worth sharing.

We ordered a set of 10' (112") leaders from The Longarm Network, our dealer. I should say kind of a custom order. We use two "Take Up" (40" long) leaders. One on the Take Up Roller and one on the "Belly Roller." We don't use the middle roller so it doesn't have a leader attached. We float 99.9% of our tops. On those rare exceptions we roll the top, batting and back on to the Belly Roller.

The longer leader on the Belly Roller allows us to lay the sleeve with the Red Snapper tube inserted onto the table providing a solid and stable surface to apply pressure to the Snappers when loading the back.

Now with the less narrow 112" leaders we can move the machine completely out of the way, in our case to the left, and the leader lays flat and doesn't get hung up on the machine. Which for me was a real pain in the process. You thought I was going to say something else.

So now it looks like this...

With the new leaders I now have much easier access to the machine when a quilt is loaded. Yes if I get a quilt wider than 112" I'll have to change leaders. I just completed quilt number 547. I've had two quilts wider than 110". One 120" and one 118". I don't think it will be a problem. Currently I have the leaders taped to the roller. If I find myself having to change too frequently you can bet I'll adapt the Velcro, hook and loop, system for attaching the leaders in a heartbeat. 

The leaders are mounted so that I can sew right up to the leaders edge on either side. 

With the longer Take Up leader attached to the Belly Roller I can reach the table and use it to lay the leader flat and have a solid and stable surface to install the Red Snappers to attach the back to the leader. 

As discussed in a previous post there have been some new additions to the longarm room. Namely a Craftsman Tool chest combo to hold a plethora of stuff, thread, tools, scissors, and an ungodly amount of stuff I've collected over the last four years longarming. One whole drawer is filled with templates and rulers. It replaced an old dining room hutch, off to Salvation Army, and an Armoire, Now in what Elaine refers to as the Bungalow. Once a bedroom now it's really just a second sewing, crochet, knitting room. Who knew two were needed.   

Well that opened up some space. Elaine's wheels were turning with the turbo in overdrive. So now we have some new storage shelving in the longarm room that holds almost all of the Quilts of Valor quilts to be finished along with QOV supplies. I did confiscate the top shelf for my CD Player and speakers. The shelving is to the right of the Halloween wall hanging Elaine just finished. I must admit it's kind of spooky. It glows in the dark. Kind of fun to longarm too. 

Speaking of Halloween. We can always tell when its getting close. Mike stops by for a beer.

Getting rid of the old hutch, which took up a lot of room and wall space also provided someplace to display a old "printers tray" that has been in the garage for ages. I had no problem filling it with  trinkets. It also provided a place to hang a poster I had a frame made for that depicts the Marine Corps Units that served in Vietnam. So that was cool. 

Got to tell you I do like the display of the printers tray and stuff. 

I also want to show this Quilt of Valor...It was made by Lisa D., one of the many volunteers that sews with Not Forgotten QOV. It is a beaut. The white and gold stars, as well as the center piece are embroidered. It will be awarded on Veteran's Day to a World War II Vet. We will be awarding five to WWII group on Veterans Day and more to a group associated with the Daughters of the American Revolution who have served the day following. We checked...they didn't serve during the Revolution. And contrary to some, neither did I. 

It was also the first quilt that was loaded onto the new leaders. Wish I had done this long ago.
Well time to get out of here. Till next time...

Quilt till you wilt...we do.

Sunday, September 25, 2016

New and Re-purposed...

Just to catch up...the research phase of purchasing a longarm quilting machine went on for several years. No really. Elaine tactfully suggested that I go to numerous quilt shows and different stores that were longarm vendors. While there we would view, touch, test drive and discuss longarms. Not that I was really paying any attention. I may be slow...but not stupid. I did it all with a smile on my face, love in my heart for the greatest thing that ever happened to me, knowing that her final decision would add to her love and pleasure she had found in quilting. Just another avenue in her crafting journey. It would also provide her with the ability to be more productive in her commitment to Quilts of Valor. She would add the ability to longarm QOV's in house and not have to search for a longarmer and deal with the necessary delays and shipping associated with sending them out to be quilted and waiting for their return.

It would all come to fruition at the Mancuso Mid-Atlantic Quilt Fest in February 2012. A Virginia quilt shop longarm dealer made the switch form Gammill to Innova. Innova, parented by ABM International, a pioneer in commercial machine quilting since the late 1940,s. They had been in the home longarm market now for several years. They had also just released PanotVision. This changed my outlook on longarm quilting. Until PV you were a free motion quilter or you were a pantograph quilter if you used a longarm. PV moved the pantograph operator from the back of the machine to the front. I can't tell you what that meant. Having worked with power tools, chop saws, table saws, lathes, radial arm saws and numerous power hand tools for decades, longarming suddenly made sense. It placed you on the correct position of your work project, in the front. The longarm was now and to me will always be a "power tool."  

With more than two years of research Elaine had it narrowed down to Gammill and Innova. I'm a longarmer today because she chose Innova. There are some sub plots...Heidi, from ABM, Valerie Schlake the dealer at then Virginia Longarm, now The Longarm Network with facilities here in Virginia and South Carolina. Their flawless customer service and an abundant amount of time shared with us before the purchase only complimented the product that was manufactured by ABM. That brings us to today.

A man's work place deserves the best accoutrements. I have finally completed my quest to compliment my love of quilting, power tools and a well equipped work space. In this case it's not the garage but the longarm room. Although you may see some similarities. Introducing this longarmer's dream for organizing the storage of equipment, spare parts, tools, and supplies associated with longarming. Please raise a glass...or thread a needle...whatever fits your fancy.

It doesn't get any better than this. 

Well that's the the re-purposed. Elaine and I have decided to donate all of our DVD's to the library. Well that left us with the DVD Cabinet. I guess one might think a trip to Salvation Army would be the next step. Oh how wrong that would be. to the sewing room you go...

Wouldn't you know it...a perfect fit...

Good bye DVD's. Hello Fat Quarters.Welcome to the world of quilting.

Well time for me to hit the showers. Need to go do some grocery shopping and then get busy on a quilt. If for no other reason than to spend some time with my new tool chest and one of the greatest power tools ever manufactured. Innova and Craftsman...not two names often used in the same sentence. Till now.

In case your wondering...what will he be quilting? Oh I don't know, how about a QOV...

Quilt till you wilt...we do.

Thursday, September 22, 2016

A Wet & Wild Julia...

Well we can vouch for the wet...I'm guessing based on some of the news channels and social medias some will vouch for the wild. According to the local weather reports our area got 13.5 inches in the last two and a half days. This time we missed everything but the wet. Well and one golf day. Other than that business as usual, quilting, hair cut for me, perm for Elaine, some shopping and a little more Netflix and Amazon Prime than usual.

The last longarm phase wasn't the usual.

They are not always new quilts. This one belongs to a friend. A friendship that developed when he was our contractor during our remodel in 2007 and 2008. We recently had him over to redo our front porch railing. It was apparently new in 1974 when the house was originally constructed. To say it needed replacing would be one of those understatement things.
The quilt was made by his grandmother in the early fifties. Machine pieced and quilted. Elaine appliqued several pieces of material over ones that were, well let's say well loved and worn. Then I loaded it on the ever dependable Innova and restitched those areas where the stitching used to be. Not as simple as it sounded when I said, "No problem." Now don't repeat this, I'll deny it. Don't what anyone getting the idea I'm a soft touch. As I worked on the quilt it became very clear that it was a labor of love. Apparently she made one for all of the grandchildren. That sounds very familiar.

Familiar pattern and very period fabric.

According to my stitch counter...16K. Well loved, well worn and plenty of missing stitches.

Not uncommon to see this. It is well loved, well used and well cherished.

This one is a monster...It took almost every bit of usable space on the longarm at 110'x110". It was in fact the second largest I've done and certainly the most difficult. Four quilting patterns, two thread colors and I lost count of tie offs. It is a pattern from Fons and Porter designed by Julie Popa. As I recall published around 2008. The pattern can be downloaded via the Fons and Porter website. I found it on their site under Two Color Quilts. 

Of course I worked on a couple of Quilts of Valor, made numerous awards since the last post and with Veteran's Day rapidly approaching getting ready for more.

Yes the last one is a QOV. We, Not Forgotten QOV, work with Serendipity Quilt Shop in Dagsboro, DE. They handle the supply and distribution for Quilts of Valor to the Joint Personal Effects Depot. These are the personnel that handle the necessary duties for our war casualties. At the completion of their tour they are awarded Quilts of Valor. This is one of those instances where the typical patriotic materials and patterns vary. Some of the recipients would prefer more traditional colors and patterns. Considering the commitment and sacrifice they make to our country and to those that have paid the ultimate price in defense of our nation we provide several different type quilts when ever possible. We believe it is the least we can do considering how these individuals have been 'touched by war.'

Update...Lighting Stitch...everything it is advertised to be and so much more. I can't even tell you how much it has improved the quality of what I do. No more skipped stitches and the tie off feature is worth it's weight. Huge improvement to my Innova. 

The flag like a champ. Yes, no matter what...I stand. 

So throw in a couple of friends quilts and it's been a pretty productive period since the last entry. 

I know...Christmas already. 

So until I get around to posting they say...

Quilt till you wilt...we do.

Sunday, August 7, 2016


I'm not sure how long I've wanted a flagpole. It's been a long time. I've had the company, Uncommon USA, Inc. bookmarked for at least the last 7-8 years. I lost count how many times I've visited the site just to daydream. So as I mentioned on Facebook, Elaine and I went to PA to visit with our son and his family last month. On the way home we took a slight detour to stop at the Delaware State Fair.

Well lo and behold...One of the vendors was Uncommon USA, Inc. Had Elaine not been with me I would still be wanting a flag pole. Like so many times before she was there urging me to just do it. So, I did it. I made the purchase and arrangements for it to be shipped.

It arrived while my son and his family were here. I only mention that because I thought he would take pity on his old man and dig the 16x30" hole required to set the receiving sleeve in concrete. I was wrong of course. So the day they left I got out the post hole digger that was out in the shed. Once I got through the cob webs I ventured into the front yard and picked just the right spot.

I'm here to tell you that physical labor is way overrated. Now there was a time, many years ago, that I worked for a fencing company. and digging post holes was an almost everyday occurrence. But let me assure you those days are long gone. I will admit to a tremendous amount of optimism as I started digging. For about 8" the rain soaked ground was like putty in my hands. My confidence swelled, I still had it! That was of course before I hit the clay that remained for the next 22". To say it was as hard as a rock is only a slight exaggeration. As my arms, back, shoulders and several other hundred or so muscles reminded me that I was 70 and not 25 I reached China. Well it seemed like it anyway. I was ready to call it a day. But now I had this 16x30" hole in my front yard. Knowing full well if I didn't get it filled one of those individuals that come through the neighborhood to leave flyers or charity bags at my front door would step in it and I'd be calling Allstate to check on my homeowners' policy. So out came the wheelbarrow, shovel (more cobwebs) and concrete. Now the instructions called for 3-5 60 lb bags. So I bought four. I went back for the fifth after finishing off the four with 6" of hole still vacant.

Well, after numerous breaks, about a gallon of water, an electrolyte drink and several words commonly reference with a Marine Corps Drill Instructor the job was done. Damn fine job too I might add. I did still have it. It took  a little longer to get it, but I had it.

After two days of letting the cement set it was time to put it up. Finally I have a flag pole. Only two flags are allowed on a pole so the decision as to which two flags I would fly was a tough one. NOT.

A view from the longarm room. Did I mention selecting the right spot. 

You'll notice the ball at the top of the pole. Well it was shipped damaged. Well we all know how difficult dealing with customer service can be. So I sent an email with a picture of the damaged container and ball to Uncommon USA along with the request about how should I handle getting it replaced. Two days later a new ball was delivered. No questions, no comments, no inquiry has to how or why. They just sent me a new ball. Not only is the quality of their product above reproach, so is their customer service. If your in the market for a flagpole look no further than Uncommon USA. 

As I posted on Facebook we also had a caricature done while at the fair. I share it here as well. We told the artist that we quilted together. We think she did a fabulous job. It now hangs in the longarm room. 

May your travels be safe, you bobbin full and remember...long will it wave!!!

Quilt till you wilt...we do. 

Friday, July 8, 2016

A (St)itchin First Impression

After over 500 quilts with the Standard Stitch Regulator that came with our Innova we finally made the upgrade to Lightning Stitch.

At the time the cost, over $4000.00 after some sales tax, was just out of reach.We were fortunate to be able to buy our 22"/12', with some added accoutrements, outright and LS just wasn't in the budget. For nearly four years the Standard did what it was ask and provided good stitch quality for the skill and experience of the operator...that would be me. It is here where I will mention, while chewing on some crow, that $4000 seemed like a tremendous amount of money to have a fancy touch screen mounted on the front of the machine so one could change a setting without going back to the control panel of the Standard regulator. Swallow, chew some more. Don't get me wrong, it's still a lot of money. But it's not just a fancy control panel. Far from it. Chew, swallow.

Surprisingly I got better, more efficient, and faster. When I did the Standard did everything it was designed to do without failing. But it couldn't keep up with the speed I had acquired and most noticeably when changing direction. Enter the 'long stitch.' In most instances they were only noticed by me. But as my customer base grew I found quilts I had done were being entered in shows and getting costly appraisals. My longarming goal is to compliment the quilt. It doesn't make any difference to me if it is a charity quilt, a Quilt of Valor or one for a paying customer, show or no show. They all deserve the best I can provide. The Standard Stitch Regulator no longer offered me the compliment I was striving for. Enter Lightning Stitch.

I have to give credit where credit is due. First ABM International for designing and manufacturing LS. Then they came up with the no interest for 36 months via Wells Fargo. Lastly, but never least, Valerie Schlake and The Longarm Network. In this case, Carol, Melissa and Greg. When I first inquired about the financing it was being advertised as a benefit obtainable by purchasing a 'complete' system. When I called that was confirmed. I had laid to rest this opportunity. As is often the case, Valerie didn't. She did some digging and was able to establish that the financing option would be made available to other ABM options for the Innova, such as Lighting Stitch. We were back in business. Following direction we applied online for a line of credit with Wells. That took about 90 seconds. They hold the paper on our house, the last three to be exact, our checking, two IRA's and savings Once approved we were put on the schedule for installation.

Installation was yesterday. I think it has been established that $4000 is a lot of money. But, another serving of crow here, not for Lightning Stitch. Greg arrived about 1230, a little late, but when traffic on I 64 in Hampton Roads gets bogged down, it gets bogged down. I think at one point he covered three miles in about an hour. What I witnessed while the installation was being completed is what changed my outlook on the cost of LS. In case your wondering...yes I made the choice to have a professional do the installation. I may be stubborn at times but I'm not stupid.

It wasn't pretty. My Innova was gutted. Circuit boards, wiring, wiring harnesses, a drive belt, the motor, the Standard Stitch Regulator, every thing. The only thing that went back in was the little blue box that allows PantoVision and the machine to talk to each other. Yes it was somewhat of a scare seeing it all laid out with nothing left but the frame work. Okay maybe more than somewhat.

This is where the cost of LS quickly becomes defined. It's not just a fancy touch control screen on the front of the machine. Thinking back to when we first purchased the machine that's what we saw. I guess that's what we all see. It's way more than that. It's everything inside. Different wiring, different circuit boards, different motor and well the touch screen is a little more than that as well. It in itself is a computer. Maybe not one that you can check your Facebook Page on or run Windows, but it is a computer.

So after several hours of diligent, calculated, persistent and technical professionalism the job was complete and Greg powered up our longarm. Okay I was a little worried when he hit the power switch. Hey, an hour and a half ago it was pieces laying all over the place. He covered some of the basics and we loaded a practice sandwich. At this point please forgive me...HOLY SHIT!!!

No, seriously...I can't go fast enough to get a 'long stitch.' I can't change direction fast or slow to get a long stitch. Slow, fast, really fast does not make one bit of difference. Not to mention features like Pick Up, Tie Off, Basting, which now can be set to one stitch per inch, A Bobbin gauge, Timer and the list goes on. I haven't even worked on establishing what will be the settings that give me the most accurate, quality and cosmetically aesthetic results I strive for when longarming. My goal to compliment a quilt just got a whole lot easier. More crow here. Not to mention LS has added a level of professionalism I could never have imagined. Of course at one time, not that long ago, I never imagined I would be a longarmer. Let alone Thee Leatherneck Kilted Quilter.

So First Impressions are off the chart. Maybe because I have gained experience. Maybe because I completed over 500 quilts that with only minor inconsistencies with the quality that was afforded me with the Standard Stitch Regulator. Maybe because at the time all I saw was a touch screen with a $4000 price tag and yes maybe because I was a little stubborn...I know, more crow.

Yes, Elaine is enjoying this. Yes,Valerie has every right to say "I told you so." Apparently it was quite the conversation when I called in and wanted to get Lightning Stitch. And yes, I can imagine why. Did I mention Elaine is enjoying this.

For those that have an Innova without your nickles, save your dimes and take the leap. If you are in the market for a longarm and Innova becomes your choice, not that that's a hard choice, do whatever you have to so that you can include Lightning Stitch in your initial purchase. Learning to longarm has a tough enough learning curve, comes with several frustrations along the way as you gain experience and knowledge you might as well make it easier with Lightning Stitch. Believe me. I learned the hard way.

Once again, thanks goes out to Carol, Melissa, Greg for helping out along the way with courtesy, professionalism and commitment to outstanding customer service which is the foundation of The Longarm Network. And Valerie...I don't have the words for your tolerance, patience and unwavering faith and support for your craft, your business and your customers. Even though on occasion one might turn a hair or two grey.

Quilt till you wilt...we do.

Wednesday, June 15, 2016

Flag Day...

You might be asking yourself, and then again you might not, but I'll tell you anyway. I honestly have no recollection of not celebrating June 14th, Flag Day. No it is not Christmas, nor Thanksgiving, not a special someone's birthday or a day to celebrate our independence...but simply the day that in 1916, by proclamation from the President established June 14th as Flag Day to commemorate the adoption of the flag of the United States on June 14, 1777. So in some form I celebrate this day in honor of all of those that believe in what it stands for, for those that have defended it and on this day are defending it, and for those that believe with all heart and soul what it stands for. This year was no different. Well maybe a little. I never thought I would ever celebrate it quilting. I mean really, like who knew? Long will it wave.

The back is loaded, getting ready to cut the backing...

The top is pressed and ready to load...

Stitched up the test block to check the tension...

The sandwich is complete and ready to quilt...

Basting down the left side...

Basting down the right...all ready to quilt.

The finished product. Oh did I mention it is a Quilt of Valor? But I'm guessing you knew that already. What else would I be quilting on Flag Day?

I hope you enjoyed Flag Day as much as I did. It may not be a major holiday, it doesn't get you a day off and I don't recall any Flag Day sales of anything. But rest assured it is one that I don't forget. It represents a lot of dedication, sacrifice, patriotism, strength, courage, commitment and freedoms that should not be taken for granted. Semper Fi. Thee Leatherneck Kilted Quilter...

To answer the question about Santa Claus sitting on top of our longarm. Well we own an Innova from ABM International in Texas. And if you own an Innova, everyday is Christmas.

Oh yeah, quilt till you wilt...we do...