Sunday, August 31, 2014

Bye Bye Hartley

When I bought my Millie, she came with Hartley drive micro handles. These are supposed to be really helpful for precision work. I tried to use both hands on these handles, but it felt very awkward and constricting. Then I saw a Jamie Wallen You Tube video and he only had one hand on the micro handles and one on the main handles.

I started putting my left hand on the micro drive handle and my right on the main. I've been told I was doing it opposite. Since I'm right handed, I should have had my hands the other way. But all my controls are on the right side of the main handles, so I wanted my right hand there for easy stopping and starting. That seemed better, but it still felt a little strange and my back didn't much care for it over time. See, I'm short. 5'2" is pushing it. My Millie has a 26" throat, so when I'm working toward the back of that space, it isn't very comfortable to be reaching that far. I know there is a sweet spot for quilting, but I'm practical. If I have the space, I want to be able to use as much of it as I can.

I have been practicing using the main handles. I figure if Judi Madsen can do it, why can't I?

The latest quilt I have finished was chock full of applique, you know, leaves, stems, little berries, that sort of thing. I tossed my applique ruler back in the drawer. It seems like a good idea, but as you may have noticed, applique is not flat. Every time I got near a bulky layered applique (or thick seam for that matter) it would either get caught or lift up a little, threatening to break a needle. I wanted to be able to control the machine without having to worry about this.

So I've stripped Millie nekkid and set to work Schamber slow.

I've been missing the freedom of just freely stitching around applique. You have do to this by hand on a domestic. There's no fussing with rulers and handles. It was slow going, but not nearly as difficult as I imagined. I have loads more visibility without the micro drives, and I don't have to keep flipping them up and down. Up for ruler work, down for precision. Now I can do it all at the same time. And don't let anyone tell you that you can't free hand straight lines on a longarm. I agree that it is easier with a ruler on long stretches, but 6 inch (or even longer maybe) straight lines are perfectly attainable if you don't rush yourself. I feel like I've gained much more control over my machine this way, and my back is thanking me for not leaning over.

I also found another nifty tool. My studio flashlight, essential for checking tension under the frame, seems to be the only workable one left in the house. It keeps getting 'borrowed'. I found this one at Tractor Supply for a whopping $5. It has a hook, so I can hang it off the light bar for accessibility. I was always scrounging around my table for the old one.

It has a LED panel on the side and a small one on the end, like a regular flashlight. Every time you push the red button, it alternates. I'm loving it. I highly recommend it.


  1. Wish I had a long arm machine, but I'm happy using my Juki sewing machine for my free motion quilting. What I will be purchasing is the flash light. Luv it.

  2. It seems that you are finding great ways to make the machine work better for you in all kinds of way. Cool light.

  3. That's great to know about working around applique... I have to admit, at first I thought that Sundance looked so strange being "nekkid"... but I do understand what you're talking about from a visibility standpoint. You are a super problem solver; good for you! I love that light.