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Machine Update

Anytime a mechanical device breaks or malfunctions it can be frustrating. Having my longarm quilt machine out of commission is downright heartbreaking. This industrial built machine is supposed to be my workhorse. How can I practice my craft if my machine doesn’t stitch?

I struggle to stay in harmony with my Tin Lizzie. There are so many opportunities for things to go wrong. I recently shared two posts discussing some of my issues. The first one called A Bump In The Road revealed the challenge I experienced with breaking/shredding thread as well as a timing issue. Those items, for the most part, had been tackled.

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My second post named Not Again talked about a machine failure. When I signed off, at the end of my post, I was waiting for the Tin Lizzie corporate office to call. Several days later I did receive a call. After asking a series of questions I was told that my issue would be forwarded to a repairperson. This repairperson would then call to discuss my issue. As of today the repairperson has never called.

After my machine sat idle for days I thought I would try turning on the machine to see if for some reason it would mysteriously work. Much to my surprise the machine successfully completed its start-up routine. With hesitation I pressed the stitch button and away she went. Bingo!

I was so happy to get back to quilting! Who knows what was wrong. All that counts is that my machine is working.

I wonder if the repairperson will ever call? 🙂

Thank you for stopping by!

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P.S. My machine did mysteriously stop working again giving me the same error message as last time. I decided to turn it off and restart just like I did before. This particular time it worked right away. I hope this doesn’t become a regular occurrence because my machine’s warranty expires midway through 2018. ;(

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Not Again!

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Have you ever a screen like this? I have and it wasn’t for a good reason. This lovely display of colors meant I had an issue with my Tin Lizzie quilt machine. If you recall my recent post then you remember that I had struggled with a timing issue on my machine. Thankfully I successfully overcame that. Unfortunately I have run into another road block.

I recently had the privilege of working with a new quilting customer. She asked me to do the stitching on a quilt she was planning to give as a gift. I’ll share more about her quilt in a future post. After finishing her quilt I decided to get busy on some of my own. I had seven that were waiting to be quilted. I breezed through two of them then loaded on the third. After working on it for about six hours I decided to call it a day.

The very next morning I went down into my studio to pickup where I left off. I went through the usual routine of turning on my machine then pressed the button to begin stitching. The machine paused for a moment then displayed this message on the screen.

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I have gotten messages similar to this when my machine has had a thread jam. Naturally I made the assumption that was the case this time as well. The first thing I did was to check the fly wheel to see if it would move. The fly wheel moved freely so I figured that meant a thread jam was not the issue. While I am thankful that I didn’t have to clear the jam and time my machine all over again I was totally baffled as to the cause of the error message.

Since I don’t have a local repairman my only option is to leave a message on Tin Lizzie’s telephone or send a request for service through their website. I chose to send an electronic message. When I didn’t hear anything for 24 hours I sent a message to the person that I bought my machine from to ask for their assistance. I received a reply that indicated they would contact the corporate office to initiate a service request.

Having my longarm quilting machine broken is very upsetting to me. I am totally at the mercy of the corporate office in Utah for service. In the meantime here I sit with a partially quilted project, four more waiting to be quilted and requests from customers for others.

I certainly hope this issue can be solved real soon because I am very sad. ;(

Thank you for listening to me vent again.

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A Bump In The Road

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As you may know I own a longarm quilt machine. I use it to quilt projects for customers, family and myself. Keeping the machine in proper running order often gives me fits. The air inside my studio can at times be filled with rather colorful words.

I am not mechanically inclined. I usually defer those tasks to my hubby. He can turn a job that would take me hours into a simple task. Unfortunately he is not always home when I need him which means I have had to learn how to make repairs on my machine by myself. The distributor of my machine has an online library of helpful how-to videos. I used those videos to help me with my most recent dilemma.

I have been struggling, and I mean struggling, with a capital S with thread issues for months! Slowly I have been moving through the list of possible causes eliminating them one by one. The journey has been a long and trying experience; testing my patience to the limit.

The problem I have been trying to solve is breaking or fraying thread. So far I had crossed off thread quality, batting and fabric as contributors. I even replaced a couple of parts thinking that they might have had burrs that were damaging my thread. Left on my list were machine timing and the needle. Since I like to tackle the most difficult issue first I decided to address the timing of my machine.

I called up the videos on adjusting the machine timing and watched them over and over again. With each viewing I tweaked the timing ever so slightly. By the time I had finished I had lost count of the number of times I put my machine back together and the number of screwdriver bits I used during the my process.

After getting oil all over my hands and my extension table I finally managed to get the timing properly adjusted. Hopefully I will remember the proper settings for next time because you know there will be a next time.

After conquering that hurdle, cleaning up my hands and my extension table I was so eager to get back to quilting. I rethreaded my machine and started stitching. In no time my patience was once again tested by breaking thread. Argh!!

The only thing left to change was my needle. Thankfully I keep a huge supply on hand. Before selecting the new needle I checked the reference table I have to make certain I was using the correct size. I loaded in my brand new needle, rethreaded my machine and started stitching again. Presto! No more breaking thread! I was back in business! Thank GOODNESS!

I have learned so many valuable lessons. Hopefully my senior mind will remember them for next time. 🙂 Until then I will be stitching along.

Thank you for visiting today! I’m so glad we had this opportunity!

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Blue Screen

Have you ever planned out your day right down to the last-minute only to encounter a blip that throws your whole schedule of kilter? Well of course you have! Not too long ago I had a pile of customer quilts waiting their turn on my long-arm quilt machine. The time allotted was very tight. I was racing against the clock that was ticking down the days and minutes until I would leave for several weeks at my Little Cabin In The Woods. Things were flowing along rather nicely until the day that ruined my plans.

It was early in the morning. My plan was to make major progress on the quilt that was loaded on my machine. When I had closed shop the previous evening everything about my machine was fine. Other than being a bit out of level, all of the bells and whistles were operating smoothly. Expecting everything to be as it was when I walked away the previous evening, I plugged in my machine and flipped on the switch. As is my typical habit I walked from the rear of the machine on around to the front. The control screen sits directly above the handlebars. In order to operate the machine the screen must power up. Once finishing its start-up routine the screen displays a menu listing the available options.

On this very unfortunate day things did not go as usual. The screen on my Tin Lizzie didn’t respond the way it should. Rather than loading the menu I had been accustomed to seeing, the screen displayed vertical columns of blue and red lines.

IMG_0249IMG_0247Never before had I seen anything like it. Unsure what or why I was seeing this I decided to wait a spell in hopes it would somehow miraculously correct itself. When it seemed no further changes would take place I felt the best think to do was turn the machine off, wait a while, then turn it on once again. That’s what we do with computers when they aren’t responding….right? Hopefully this time everything would return to normal.

I repeated my typical routine then waited for my miracle to occur. Unfortunately nothing changed. The same screen filled with lines appeared. This was NOT supposed to happen. Time for equipment failure was not included in the schedule. For a brief moment panic set in. After overcoming the desire to burst out into tears and throw a tantrum I gathered my wits and made a plan.

I had recently made friends on Facebook with the owner of the shop that had sold me my Tin Lizzie. Knowing that an open line of communication was now available between the two of us I thought why not take advantage of that resource. The first thing I did was grab my phone and take a photo of my screen. Next I attached it to a message in the Facebook Messenger app. Once the message was in transit the only thing I could do was wait for her to reply.

To my surprise she responded quite quickly. After trading a few messages back and forth plans were made to meet at the store early the following week. Fortunately for me the screen was covered under warranty. Even if it hadn’t been my machine was worthless without it so I would have needed to expend whatever funds were necessary to get things back in working order.

After returning home with my brand new part I went through the procedures to install it and bring the software up to date. With very little effort my Tin Lizzie was back in operating order and I was once again off and running. The equipment failure had set me way behind in my schedule so very little time was wasted. I focused all of my attention on conquering the tasks I had set before me. After working diligently, with barely a break to breathe, I finished the last quilt just in time. Phone calls were made to the respective customers and arrangements were made for them to pick their quilts up. By the time the last customer walked out the door, grinning from ear to ear, with her quilt snug beneath her arms, I had only hours left to pack and get ready to leave.

The wonders of the internet had saved the day!! Hurray!

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Friday Favorites: Curtain Rods

IMG_7639_ffYou might be wondering if I am “off my rocker?”  Yes, curtain rods are actually the topic of this edition of Friday Favorites.

To those that claim sewing as their hobby, occupation, love or whatever the case may be, you are very much aware that gadgets can and do make our craft easier and much more enjoyable.  In fact some of the items are down-right near impossible to live without.  Curtain rods just happen to be one of my necessities.

Let Me Explain

As the name of my blog suggests, I am a quilter.  I love bringing together bits and pieces of fabric to create quilts, wall hangings, etc.  I also enjoy quilting those items with my Tin Lizzie long-arm quilter.  Utilized while quilting are various tools.  The obvious assistants would be my retractable scissors, a seam ripper, rulers, chalk, disappearing ink markers, a lint roller, among others.  Not mentioned above is a pair of curtain rods.  Now you might be wondering how I could possibly use curtain rods Before I can explain how I think I it would be best to tell you a little bit about my long-arm quilting machine itself.

Tin Lizzie Long-Arm Quilter

The Tin Lizzie Long-Arm Quilter is basically an over sized sewing machine.  There are two very obvious differences between a long-arm machine and a conventional sewing machine.  The first is the throat or distance between the guts of the machine and the needle.  The long-arm machine has a much greater distance.  The extra length allows the quilter to quilt with greater ease.

The other significant difference is that the conventional machine is stationary while the long-arm machine is mounted on a moveable platform.  The platform has wheels underneath its surface.  The wheels glide along on rails.  The ability to glide the machine effortlessly from one edge of the project to the other, as well as from top to bottom, gives the operator tremendous flexibility.  Eliminated is the frustration of maneuvering a bulky pile of fabric and batting through the tiny arm of a conventional sewing machine.  There are other advantages to a long-arm machine vs. a conventional machine but these are the ones important to today’s conversation.

Utilizing the Curtain Rods

When a quilt is loaded on a long-arm quilting machine the backing fabric is pinned and rolled on to two rollers.  The quilt top is pinned to a single roller and basted along the top edge.  The batting lays sandwiched between the two layers.  The sides of the quilt top and quilt backing are not pinned to rollers; they hang free.  To provide tension and stability to the edges clamps are attached.

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These clamps are attached to the long-arm quilt frame by elastic ropes.  While the clamps are necessary for a favorable outcome they can obstruct the movement of the long-arm quilting machine.  This is where the curtain rods come in handy.

To allow for smoother movement I lay plain old curtain rods across the rollers directly beneath the elastic ropes.

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Pictured here is a curtain rod laying across two of the rods.  The clamps have not been attached to the quilt yet.

By placing them there I elevate the elastic ropes and the clamps to a height that eliminates the obstruction, thereby providing for smoother movement.

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This is a close-up of the elastic ropes laying on top of the curtain rod.

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Here’s a side view of the clamps attached to the quilt with the curtain rods laying beneath the elastic ropes.

I learned this handy tip from one of my fellow quilters.  When I first heard of it I was surprised that there could be such a simple yet unique answer to the problem.  At my very first opportunity I tried out the remedy and was immediately sold.  Since then I never use my Tin Lizzie Long-Arm Quilter without my handy-dandy curtain rods.

Who Knew?

Well there you have it; a very unusual application for an everyday household item.  I bet the inventor of the curtain rod never imagined them being used in this application.

That’s all for this edition of Friday Favorites.  Come on back next Friday to learn about another one of my favorites. Oh and, if you have time, let me know you were here by leaving a comment. Thanks so much!

Cindy Anderson of In A Stitch Quilting