Today I headed out to my neighborhood quilting shop- Jigglestitch, where I had scheduled a lesson on their giant sewing machine, the HQ Sixteen. Talk about intimidating- compared to this thing, my little home Janome is teeny tiny.
The lesson started with about an hour of cleaning the machine, threading the machine, and setting up the three layers of my quilt. I know it was all necessary- but imagine the anticipation, by the time we turned it on, I was really chomping at the bit!!
Its different then normal machines in that you lay your quilt material out, and then move the actual sewing machine around it, instead of vice versa. Its steered using two handles (an upper or lower set, depending on what kind of design you're doing). The whole thing just sort of floats along, and its kind of disconcerting at first- but I got it after a short while. You can set up a laser-pointer on top of the machine and use it to trace out designs, or you can use a special set of plates and a kind of stylus that moves within grooves in the plates. I also know the computer part mounted on top of the machine can do a number of automatic things- but they weren't covered in my lesson.
I was concerned at first that all the real "hands on" things I love about sewing would be too automated with this machine. For that reason- I sort of really dislike the plate & computer methods. I like to work directly on my quilt- not on plates, or worse, let the computer do everything for me. So unsurprisingly, I really took to the free motion quilting. It was very similar to quilting on my home machine. Just much, much easier.
My first attempts at free motion quilting were all about getting a feel for the weight and movement of the machine.
My doodling skills were put to great use here...
I couldn't get over how much freedom of movement I had!!
I took to meandering (or stippling) really quickly... and it was my favorite thing to do, both in practice and results. It was sort of zen, just doodling around and around, making loops and lines... and I think it really looks great! I can't wait to try it on a real quilt.
This was some more random practice- trying to make some really tiny designs using the lower handles on the machine.
And here is my full finished practice quilt (five hours of work!). I'm feeling pretty proud of myself, I may even give this monstrosity a binding and hang it up on my wall for the sake of posterity. Besides, it sort of makes me giggle!