Sunday, July 22, 2007

Longarm v domestic machine

You may remember that a fortnight ago I went to use Chris Marriage's long arm machine. It turns out I was lucky because I am the very last 'lady' she is going to take on as someone who can rent her machine like that - and even then it is only if she has a space in her diary. She did it when she first got the machine to make some extra money but now, the good news is that she is busy enough with quilts coming in for her to quilt.

She did my maple leaf quilt and a very good job it was too - I will definately send stuff to her I don't want to quilt myself for time reasons. But do I now crave a long arm machine of my own?
As it happens I spent some of this week quilting a quilt I thought I had already quilted - this African Ladies 1 quilt. I had stitched in some of the ditches but it just wasn't enough and the lady blocks were puffing up. So I echo quilted them. Then the background seemed to want to be stippled. And of course you have to quilt with similar density all over so I decided to treat it as a free motion learning party, assigning certain patterns to certain blocks and changing the color of threads. Then I was left with the black borders which I had intended to bead. But that looked lame so I decided to just 'thread scribble' on them and see what I could come up with. The whole point of this quilt is that it was naive and imprecise so I just had fun.... see the photos throughout ths post. ( Sorry about the fuzzy ones but my battery has just gone!)

It gave me plenty of time to consider whether I preferred longarm or domestic quilting. Here are my thoughts:

Longarm advantages as they appeared to me:

1. No basting - it gets stretched taut on the frame

2. Using a pantogram ( which I did not do) seems to be the best way to get a regular overall pattern without tedious marking. ( I say tedious - I've never marked a whole quilt becuase the very thought of it makes me go to sleep but perhaps its restful and soothing rather than tedious?!)

3. The stitches are perfectly regular.

4. The quilt did not lose its shape in the quilting so there was no need for major blocking session.

Long arm disadvantages:

1. You stand up to do it - for six hours! Achey knees and feet.

2. I was suprised that it didn't go faster. I was only doing stippling and assumed I could wizz right along but I was told that the thread would break If I didn't keep it at slower speed.

3. I was also warned that it didn't like to quilt 'backwards' (by which she meant right to left) very well. In fact it was fine for me but I was told that on occasions it can be tempremental and break the thread.

4. The hardest thing you can do is straight lines which on a domestic is easy peasy. So stitch in the ditch is a major job by all accounts.

5. The machine cost £10,000 and needs a room all of its own.

6 (A minor one this). You don't touch the quilt as you do it so you lose the tactile quality of the quilting process.

All in all my longing for a longarm has waned. My longing for a stitch regulator has increased - for a novice I think my free motion is OK but its not perfect. Of course at present that means the Bernina Aurora 440QE. But for me the disadvantage of that is that it does not have the extra throat space of the Janome Memory craft which ( combined with a large table) has made quilting large quilts no problem at all. I hope to test the Aurora sometime - the School of Stitched Textiles has one on loan- but unless I find it worth its £1000 plus just for the stitch regulator I'm going to stick with practising even free motion and giving Chris business when I want to focus on piecing not quilting or when I want to say I have done the whole quilt myself but need perfectly regular stitches.

No blog tomorrow becuase I am off to Brixton in London to hunt out shops selling African and sari fabrcis. Some are on Electric Avenue as in the Eddie Grant song.


Helen said...

Yep, I agree. The biggest disadvantage is the cost. I'd have to quilt a mighty number of quilts to "cover" the cost. A friend has a Juki on a domestic frame. It is not a long arm like the big commercial ones but has more space than a Bernina. The quilting space becomes narrower as the quilting progresses. If I bought a machine I would want a true long arm and there is no way in the world I can justify the price, not even to myself.

Jenni @ Fairybread said...

Yes it's lot to think about. I thought I wanted a 440, but I've decided I would still have to struggle with the quilt getting it through the machine, and my back kills me. I can't afford a proper longarm nor do I have anywhere I could leave it set up. At a recent craft show I tried a frame that you attach to your domestic machine to, and you could sit on a stool. I had a go, and I would be pretty happy with that sort of set up I think. Perhaps in that case the 440 might be useful, but I probably wouldn't buy both. I am at the stage where I have decided not to quilt any more big quilts at home - I will just have to wait until I can have them done professionally until I could get a frame. But then it is pretty far down the priority list at the moment, so I tell myself "you can't have everything you want". Sad isn't it?