High Tech/Low Tech

>> Sunday, March 6, 2011

I spend most of my work day in the archives right now, seeking out sources and material for my dissertation. (Except on Friday, when I was felled by a stomach bug. But that's enough about that.) Researching in the archives mean a lot of flipping through documents and skimming or scouring them for relevant information. It also means taking a lot of pictures. One of the benefits of the digital age is the possibility (in some, though not all archives) of photographing material which saves money (photocopies are expensive -- in archives, they often run from 25-40 cents a page) and time (I don't transcribe everything right there and can return to the original document later). This also means I set my camera on a table while flipping carefully turning pages. And sometimes I look up and catch a random, abstract image that just looks cool. And might be an interesting idea for a quilt. Like the image above. We'll see.

I've spent the past couple of weeks quilting my sister's wedding quilt. Yes, weeks. In the process, I've probably ripped out 1/2 - 2/3 of the stitches because they had gaping loops on the back. I expected a transition, shall we say, from my old machine to my new one, but I thought free-motion quilting would be easier: I have a better foot (more metal, less plastic), the feed dogs drop, and the automatic tension setter worked great for piecing. Ha. I was wrong. But I couldn't figure out why I was having so much trouble.

Until today, when I finally figured out that the problem was not the tension or the type of needle but an unforeseen consequence of dropped rather than covered feed dogs. My new machine has all sorts of metal, which is generally a good thing as it's more durable than plastic. But the sharp metal edges of the area where the feed dogs lie is a problem (that's the area right behind the see-through bobbin and right below the foot/needle in the picture above). As I moved the quilt, stitches were getting caught in the metal edges and messing up pretty much everything. Not only was the quilt getting caught far too frequently, but the caught section often yielded knots on the quilt and random threads getting pulled out.

I created the most low-tech solution possible by taping a piece of paper, actually a piece of a used envelope, over the feed dog area. This solved the problem. I finished quilting the last 1/5 of the quilt in 1 hour. I do know how to free motion quilt after all! But quick solution notwithstanding, I'm not sure why this is an issue. Janome is a reputable manufacturer so there's no reason for this type of nonsense (that said, I continue to really love my machine). I'm now awaiting some fabric to bind the quilt; hopefully I'll be able to show the whole thing soon. I also have multiple baby quilts in the work for friends' offspring due over the next few months as well as a doll quilt for DQS10 to complete, so lots to do.

But first I'm off to find myself a chocolate-chip muffin, or the ingredients to make some...


Karissa March 6, 2011 at 5:24 PM  

I have a Viking Sapphire which tends to also have problems with dropping the feed dogs (namely, on my machine, the dropped feed dogs wouldn't stay dropped, and for others would cause all kinds of snagging and catching, similar to what you experienced). I actually free-motion quilt with my feed dogs up, which doesn't hinder my ability to maneuver the quilt around--the free-motion foot is the only thing that's key. Congrats on getting it figured out, and can't wait to see the finished project!

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