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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.