Saturday, May 10, 2014

Mount Everest

I feel as if I have been clawing my way up this learning curve with the Bailey 17Pro on the GMQ Frame.  There are times when I am happy; other times, not so much.  There are so many variables to consider when using a domestic machine on a quilt frame.

First of all, we are asking the machine to do something that it isn't designed to do. Domestic machines are designed to sew in one direction, forward.  True if you remove the feed dogs you have make the machine go anyway you want it to, but the design remains the same.  It is a forward stitching machine.  So the stitch quality changes when you move the machine backward and sideways.  If you are FMQ on a table, you are moving the fabric and the machine continues in its forward stitching.  Fewer variables.  But try to move a big quilt around on a table, it isn't that easy.  Bulk gets in the way.  I have FMQ a queen sized quilt.  It wasn't an enjoyable experience. 
 I have quilted  on a smaller frame,  I used a Jeans machine (class 15 front loader).I liked that. 
 But not a lot of space between needle bar and pillar.  Not a big deal.  The quilt I made was small

Tension tweaking was the biggest problem and once I had the tension right, I had a blast. 

I put a Singer 66 on that same, smaller frame and found that it worked well, too.  The 66 offers a bit more room but still, not a lot.

It worked very well and again, only tension tweaking was needed.  I did not have a stitch speed regulator on either machines.  I had no problems.  HMMMMM.

I wanted a larger frame and I found one used.  I wanted a larger machine and I found one at a price I could afford.  The Bailey

We  have many variables to consider when running a domestic  machine on a frame: needle flex, fabric flex, stitch speed, top thread tension, bobbin tension, fabric tension on the frame, take up bar height,  backing bar height, quilt top bar height.  I don't recall having nearly the issues with the smaller frames, that I have been having with the larger frame and the Bailey.  But maybe I have just forgotten.  Seems like all I had to do was tweak tension on the smaller machines and I was good to go. 

Since I started this process I have damaged 10 or 12 needles. All due to jamming the needle.  At 85 cents a piece, this is expensive education.  The manufacturer (Chuck Bailey) recommends using Organ Titanium PD 100/16 large eye needles.   I found two  packages of 10 in my Bailey stuff.  I have about 6 needles left.  One package had four faulty needles; burrs on the points.  GRRRRRR.  I have now switched to Schmetz Jeans Needles size 100/16.  I tried a 90/14.  Needle jam.  I think there was too much flex with the 90. 

Thread, of course is important.  I am using Signature long staple cotton machine quilting thread.  I am happy with it. Some Bailey users report thread breakage.  I have not had that problem.  I run out of bobbin thread pretty quickly.  The class 15 doesn't hold a heck of a lot of thread.   I wind several bobbins at a time.  It is important to obtain a consistent tension on the bobbin.  Tighter is better.  I have yet to find, among my many machines, a perfect bobbin winder.  The search isn't over.  The 15-91 is up next to audition.    I have heard that some quilters use prewound bobbins.  Color choice is limited.  But it may be worth it.

I practiced on a single piece of fabric and an old sheet before I started working on this quilt.   I had hoped to produce something more polished but it isn't going to turn out that way.  That's ok.  I am still learning.  I think I will go back to practicing on plan fabric before I attempt another real quilt.

There is a bit of play in the Bailey handles.  I have a carriage with handles but it is designed for a smaller machine.  The handles are just IN THE WAY.  I rigged up some metal strapping tonight to help stabilize the handles in hopes I could reduce the flex and increase the responsiveness of the machine.  It seems to have helped.  I didn't jam the needle and managed to quilt quite consistently with the new rig. 

Oh Yeah, I was using a blue that almost matched because I wanted the fabric to show, not the quilting.  I gave up on that when I decided this was going to be practice.  Once I could see the thread, I could see what I was doing and was then able to improve the designs. 

Like I said, Mount Everest. 


  1. Good luck with the learning curve. FYI, I routinely take burrs off of needles with emery paper. I'm a cheapskate and have never believed the "change your needle every five minutes" crowd. I change them when they DIE.

    1. Right. I have done that. But one would think that brand new out of the package needles would be sharp.

  2. I read a positive review a while ago of a special little machine just for winding bobbins (Sidewinder), perhaps that would be an option for consistent bobbins. Not very cheap though.

  3. Has anyone tried the portable bobbin winder machines? Also the 15-91 sews and winds bobbins at the same time, but not much harp space for big projects.

    1. I never knew that the 15-91 wound a bobbin at the same time it sews! I should think that would wind it unevenly with all the starts and stops of regular sewing.