Inspiring Quilters, Stitch by Stitch
You are among many who start out under the impression that having a frame setup for quilting will save you tons of time.
Some dealers press that fact, but it's not really true. What it will do is make the end result better, at least depending on what quilt design you want to use, it will.
Loading a quilt takes as much time in the beginning as hand basting, probably more. You do get faster over time. I have learned how to limit the amount of time spent loading a quilt, but that is due to doing a lot of quilts & becoming more at ease with the machine/frame.
I have a TL18LS & a Grace made wooden TL frame. This is my second longarm machine, the first, an older Nustyle taught me a lot, including patience!
I can now load a king size quilt in about an hour. I pin the backing on to the takeup and belly bars...I lay the batting onto the rolled backing, put in about 4 or 5 pins to hold the batting in place temporarily. Next, I lay the top edge of the quilt top onto the batting & backing...and pin...taking a measurement from the leader (where the backing is pinned to) to the top edge of the quilt..smoothing as I go. I pin about an inch down from the top edge. I then put several pins in the left side..again measuring from the outside edge of the backing to the side edge of the quilt...this should cause the quilt to line up square. I then baste 1/8" from the top edge across...then down the left side. I then remove all the pins from the quilt top..smooth the quilt if needed...and baste the right side down...again checking the distance from the side edge of the quilt to the side edge of the backing...I ease in or tug a bit to keep the measurement the same. I don't secure the bottom of the quilt top, nor do I roll it or the batting... This is a semi float. Took some time to get used to the top and batting floating freely, but I now won't do it any other way.
Frame quilting is not for everyone..it does take time, but if you are wanting to do feathers, or other intricate designs, it's the way to go.
You could add velcro to your leaders (rough side to the leaders on the machine...and make up a stip as long as the leader is wide... and put the soft side of the velcro to one long edge of the new (not real deep...maybe a foot) leader. Sew the side of the new leader (large basting stitch, hardly any tension so it pulls out when done)...and then use the velcro to attach to the leaders on the machine. You could do several sizes if you do a lot of different size quilts...you could make leaders for the most often used widths...and just attach to the leader on the machine leaving part of that long leader unused.
This would make attaching much quicker.
Check Sharon Schamers videos on Youtube...she shows how she made & uses hers.
Part of my problem is that I can do all sorts of fancy quilitng with my machine on a table, but when I try doing feathers and such on the frame I can't seem to manuever it very well. My husband has a steady hand with it and I begged him to learn how to quilt my quilts for me, but he won't! He just tells me I need to keep practicing and I'll be as good on the frame as off. My thing is that I really want to do pantographs and without the frame that's not gonna happen.
About batting...do you frequent a local quilt shop regularly? My quilt shop orders my batting by the roll and charges me her cost only so long as I pick it up as soon as it comes in (she has a small shop). I used to wait for Joann coupons when they have 50% off and buy 6 yards at a time ($30). I never buy packaged batting. As far as backing fabric goes, I rarely buy it. I heard that when you piece a backing for a frame you're supposed to use long stitches so it won't bunch up. I don't know if that's true or not, since I'm lacking experience with the frame!
Hint from Linda V Taylor... put your elbows to your sides, hands on the handles (I use one hand most of the time)...move your body to move the quilt, not your hands/wrists...sway along to quilt...
It really helps. Think of the machine as a pencil...practice like you would to improve your handwriting.
I hope you keep trying... you don't have to load a new practice piece every time...leave the old one on the machine...roll back to the start...pin on a new layer of fabric, or just change the color of the thread you use. This won't help you get more used to loading the quilt..but will make practicing easier.
That's a good idea. I could use some practice with the quilting...I wanted the frame so I could do pantographs and it's harder to follow the lines than I thought it would be. I'm so used to my way of quilting that it's hard to make a change. It's so much different using the frame compared to sitting in front of my machine. I already have a practice piece on there, but I haven't used the frame in a few years now. So it's like starting from scratch. Thanks for the tips!