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Thread: Wow, learning to longarm has a tough tough tough learning curve

  1. #1
    Super Member moonwork42029's Avatar
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    Wow, learning to longarm has a tough tough tough learning curve

    My most wonderful darling husband decided I (meaning he wanted to play on one) a long arm. About a year ago he saw one when we got the embroidery machine and has been itching to get one ever since. Well a few weeks ago, they were on sale (Pfaff Grand Quilter 18.8 with Inspira? frame) so he said to "write it up".

    We were told we could use thread we had on hand (wrong) and that it was easier to learn free hand than to follow a pattern with the laser. (not for the uncreative minded)

    We've now bought several big spools of quilting thread and have been trying the laser out and doing somewhat better than free hand on some practice fabric layered with flannel.

    OMG...it's awful looking! We can't follow a straight line to save our rearends...and the curves....oh the curves look more like rounded off squares a lot of the times.

    It has the auto stitch so it only sews when we move the machine so it's not that problem.

    Maybe in 6 months we can load a "real" top on it but until then, it's just practice.

    Grrrr and we can't seem to keep the thread from breaking so we're biting our nails.

    This too shall pass and we'll laugh at how awful it was...someday.

    Okay, I'll take a big breath and go back in the other room now....Pfaff - look out ...I'm coming back.
    Lisa L.
    Howdies from Possum Trot (yes it does exist)
    My most recent swap - Boomerang 16



  2. #2
    Super Member brushandthimble's Avatar
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    thread breaking, when did you change the needle last? How is the tension?
    Don't forget to breath.... try moving your body like you are dancing, rather then moving only your arms.
    Good luck and soon you will be having fun.
    After 2 years with the same signature I have been requested to remove it. Bye

  3. #3
    Super Member DebraK's Avatar
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    no lessons came with the machine? I actually quilted two charity quilts in the shop on the machine (which I bought used). She gave me another charity quilt to finish at home after setup. When I finally loaded one of my own tops, I was a confident beginner.

  4. #4
    Power Poster Sadiemae's Avatar
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    I do not enjoy following that little laser at all. I do love to Free Motion Quilt. Drawing helps you relax and develop muscle memory which will make it an enjoyable experience. I practice drawing on paper and on a white board until I feel confident with the motions, then I move on to the quilt. I doodle all of the time now.
    Sadiemae

  5. #5
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    If your thread is breaking, maybe you need to use a different brand. I don't have the same machine as you, but I know some machines work best with specific brands of thread. Maybe someone on here with the same machine can advise you better about that.

  6. #6
    Junior Member Sandynorm's Avatar
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    can you get a lesson where you purchased it? doodle, doodle, and doodle some more, and then again. Everytime I sat down in front of the tv I had a kids write on board and wipe clear, again, again, and again. Then offer to do some charity quilts to get practice. It will come to you, but doodle till you do not think that you can doodle any more. I find the laser very difficult to follow.

  7. #7
    Senior Member AndiR's Avatar
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    Oh, yes, I remember thinking I'd made a HUGE mistake when I got my first LA. Keep in mind that, like anything, it WILL take practice. After all, musicians don't just buy an instrument and then be able to play Mozart sonatas - they have to start with scales and simple compositions.

    The suggestions about drawing for practice, and moving your whole body are both good ones. The other thing to remember when following a pattern with a laser is you do NOT have to stay exactly on the line. The lines are there to be a road map. Some people will move very slowly trying to stay precisely on the line, and end up with jerky wobbly lines. Try instead to follow the general direction of the line - look to the next point, and strive to sew smoothly and evenly, rather than exactly.

    Don't give up, one day everything will just click and you will be in heaven!

  8. #8
    Super Member sewbeadit's Avatar
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    You will get the hang of it. I got mine and the first quilt I made after practicing on a few pieces, looked pretty good and the grandson loved it. I am now on my 4th one and each one looks better than the last. I only do the freeform at this time.
    Sewbeadit
    W. Washington

  9. #9
    Super Member leatheflea's Avatar
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    Boy does this sound familar! Hang in there, remember to breathe and relax and little glass of wine might help!LOL!

  10. #10
    Senior Member kat112000's Avatar
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    The needle has a lot to do with breaking thread! I had one package that wouldn't work at all, about drove me nuts! I finally pulled out a new package and thread didn't break once! The needles must have been made on a Friday!
    Kathy

  11. #11
    Super Member moonwork42029's Avatar
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    Thanks for the great suggestions... dancing mmmm, that could be a royal treat -- no Youtube videos please. The glass of wine might be the best suggestion. The needle is new as we watched them take it out of the package and put it in the machine while we were there.

    It was the floor model and our instructions consisted of several staffers offering suggestions and saying to call them if there were problems. We'll have to talk with them some more but that weekend (when we picked it up) was awful as my Dad was in hospital from having a stroke and we picked it up in a super fast hurry. Dad is staying with us for a short time so I haven't gotten to play as much as I would like.

    The tension has been adjusted several different times and I think we may have that fixed. The thread is what they said they always used in those machines.

    We have a couple charity quilts to practice on but I'd be embarrassed to tears if we did the work on them like we're seeing right now. I know we can do this because my DH & I can do anything we put our minds to do. Now where oh where did we put our minds?
    Lisa L.
    Howdies from Possum Trot (yes it does exist)
    My most recent swap - Boomerang 16



  12. #12
    Super Member Christine-'s Avatar
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    Oh no... I'm shooting myself in the foot reading this post I just know it! I'm impatiently waiting for my drywall to be finished in my quilting room. My machine is sitting on the dining room table for the moment. I fully expect to have the same 'trouble' you do... so I'm definitely going to refer to the many helpful posts on this thread. You guys make a great cheering section!
    Bernina 640, Singer 201-3, Singer Centennial 15-91, Tin Lizzie 26" long arm

  13. #13
    Super Member Gramie bj's Avatar
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    Keep working on it, don't give up, I rather do free hand than use a lazer, I took a LA class on patterns and the first thing our instructer told us was buy a dry erase board to practice on. practice your patern on it over and over to teach your brain how to do it. Then try it on a quilt sandwitch. It really works well. I tryed to make feathers for over a year and never got them right, after using the board for about a week, about an hour a day I can make feathers, 4 kinds of leafs. all kinds of ropes, vines, flowers, and a lot more odds and ends, They are not show quality but I'm not ashamed to show off my quilts now.

  14. #14
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    The tension also breaks thread. I can't sew a straight line either, I laser pantographs all the time.
    SueDor

  15. #15
    Senior Member jeank's Avatar
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    This video was put out by a different long arm company, but explains needles, thread and tension very well. This would be good for any machine you own, all the important things to know to stop breakage, loops, eyelashing, etc

    http://www.handiquilter.com/videos/?id=188
    Jean in MI

  16. #16
    Member badaisie's Avatar
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    I had a mega quilter and a inspira frame. I went through everything you are talking about. Very furstrating. I finaly got the hang of it and everything just fell into place. Just keep playing with it. They have videos on utube that may help. I don't have it anymore, decided it took up too much room and sold it on ebay. After all that...

  17. #17
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    OK. Relax. You are right. There is a learning curve. Tension varies according to the thread and bobbin thread. It is easy to adjust once you get past the mind-set of a DSM where a little alteration goes a long way. On the top, turn at least 90 degrees to expect to see any change. Problem (eg, eyelashes) showing on the top? bobbin. Problem on the bottom? top thread tension. The quilt is not to be loaded too tight. You should be able to poke the quilt from the bottom and still squeeze your finger from the top (I know, clear as mud). Keep your elbows tucked into your body and keep your knees somewhat bent, not locked in position. And play. what looks awful to you will still be loved by someone if it's a charity quilt. To help with straight lines, use a ruler made for LA machine quilting. Check out the gadget girls' website, for rulers. Check out Superior Threads for threads as well as lots of information about the threads for LA quilting. Don't be afraid to practice, practice, practice.

  18. #18
    Super Member moonwork42029's Avatar
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    nyc... I understood exactly what you meant about finger poking...that is scary lol. Gadget girls website is pretty cool..thanks for that info too.

    Too bad I have to work full time or I'd probably be good (or at least gooder ) by now.

    Thanks again for the suggestions...keep'm coming too please
    Lisa L.
    Howdies from Possum Trot (yes it does exist)
    My most recent swap - Boomerang 16



  19. #19
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    Friend and I took lessons and now rent time to use long arm machines. My mentor is still in the room whenever something goes wrong. I still do a lot of swirls. It has gotten better with time. I've got a couple of tops to do where I'm planning to expand my skills. Going to put pen to paper to practice what I want on the quilt.

  20. #20
    Senior Member Christine27's Avatar
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    Yep. Been there and still doing that! I'm still struggling with tension and thread and even something as simple as.bringing up the bobbin thread. Straight lines are what DSM and rulers were made for so they cause me too much stress, especially if I can just avoid having to stitch a straight line! I started last fall without a laser or pantographs. I tried the laser a few months ago and detested it, but quilting is not one size fits all, so if it works for you, keep at it. And doodle, doodle, doodle! I was never a doodler although I always liked to draw. Now I draw in notebooks, large tablets, on whiteboards, and on my niece's Magnadoodle.

    Good luck and keep at it!

  21. #21
    Super Member Cindy60545's Avatar
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    You've gotten so excellent advice from everyone. Just keep doodling, practicing & remember to breathe! We've all gone thru those beginning stages where we forgot to breathe! Don't be so hard on yourself! Practice makes perfect, and I'm sure not perfect! With each quilt you'll get better & better. Believe me, one day the light bulb moment will happen & all of a sudden you'll be doing spectacular quilts!

  22. #22
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    I did the same thing, my long arm sat for a week before I touched it. When you are quilting don't hold your machine
    to tight. .....relax your hands. Thread breaking could be needle or tension. Work at it all machines are different, Just
    put fabric on there and play , You will get it. Good Luck

  23. #23
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    3 1/2 years ago, I bought the Pfaff GrandQuilter (9") w/Next Generation frame. My LQS gave me a 2 hr class long after I bought the machine. By then, I had joined the PfaffGrandQuilter yahoo group. My suggestion is that you join them. They have people w/both the 9" like I had and the 18". The moderator of the group has the 18". They are a friendly group willing to help. Anything that you experience, someone on that group has had the same problem and figured it out. I belong to several different groups on yahoo (related to embroidery, quilting, etc.) and find them very helpful.
    Dolly in MI

  24. #24
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    Practice practice practice.....
    Dealing with breaking thread? Hell on a frame.Could be the needle, thread, tension, how tight is the quilt on the frame, could just be gremlins. So many variables but when you get it all together it will be a joy.
    Good luck

  25. #25
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    Be patient with yourself........there are on-line videos you can watch to get some very useful hints......and a free lesson or two offered by the dealer would be good......but it will all come together IN TIME......try not to listen to the motor of the machine...that will want to make you "speed" and you will break thread, needles........try to keep an even speed, just like driving on a road, don't watch the needle or the laser, keep your eye just ahead of it, again like driving........and vertical and horizontal lines are easy, it's the diagonal ones that cause wiggles.....go to a local glass cutting place and have them cut you a piece of 1/4" plexi the width of a ruler and about 8" long....that is what I use for diagonal lining and I have been doing this for over 10yrs.... when you pick a panto, choose one that is busy and allows for fudging.....no one will ever know if you stayed right on those lines...they are only there to keep you in the vicinity......and like someone else said....dance with the machine, not just using your arms-get sore shoulders, back from that.......stick with poly wrapped thread to begin with....ALWAYS keep the bobbin area clear of lint....that is your new 4 letter word........use a nylon painting brush or a piece of lamb's wool on a stick to get in there.....there is a place somewhere on line for those wonderful lamb sticks, that wool really does get the lint out well...I also use a small air compressor and before each project "blow" everything clean........
    Last edited by Geri B; 05-22-2012 at 04:51 AM.

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