MagnaGlide bobbins! While I was visiting my daughter in Fargo last spring, I had the opportunity to talk to a longarm quilter who recommended two things that I have since tried and love. The first is a thread called "Glide". I looked it up at the IHF in Houston last month (like to never found them--the booth was Fil Tech, the manufacturer.) They gave me a sample to try, a color chart, and lots of talking. Karen McTavish was in the booth, too, and encouraged me to try the MagnaGlide bobbins. You take the backlash spring out of the bobbin case to put the magnetic bobbin in. LOVE IT! I bought several of the colors in cute little bottles of 10 and a box of 100 white. You can send the cores back for credit. The thread has a sheen sort of like rayon and has worked beautifully on the several quilts I've tried it on so far. Now I'm going to try their other products.
The second thing she recommended is to stop using the Top leader. She floats any quilt, any size. Okay, I thought it was worth a try. Before I'd only floated little quilts, crib and smaller. Well, I tried it and WHOOPEE! I can easily square quilts to the backing as I stabilize them before quilting, it's easy to lift up the bottom to smooth and square the batting, and every one (even a wobbly antique hand-sewn top) has been easy to square as I go and at the bottom. Normally I stabilize any quilt I do so I don't have problems rolling up and down (which I find myself doing a lot), but I did a panto this week without stabilizing all the way first, and it worked beautifully.) Also, I have had problems over-tightening the quilt and floating stopped that problem--can't overtighten since there is nothing holding the top. Bonus: now I have three sets of leaders instead of two.
Just thought I'd pass on what a kind quilter told me.
Mel, thanks for this information. I'll definitely be looking into the MagnaGlide bobbins. As to floating the top, I have been afraid to try that technique just yet. However, I would like to ask this question: When you stabilize, you are stabilizing the entire quilt top first, is that right? Or do you stabilize what fits in the working area, quilt, then move on? Do you continue to use the side clamps as you work the quilting, or is the stabilization and bottom roller enough to keep everything (i.e., no tucks) good on the back?
Yes, whether or not I'm floating, I stabilize the whole quilt before quilting.
To stabilize I first make sure my backing is square (usually by tearing the top and bottom edges and checking that the grain is straight on the sides.) I load that, add the batting and sew across the top. I match up the top edge of the quilt to the sewn batting and sew that down. I measure the distance from the edge of the quilt to the edge of the backing on each side (and write it down, 'cause I forget easily.) I don't put the clamps on at this point, but I do tug the backing taut where it's wrapped around the pickup bar to make sure no tucks slip in. Then I sew down the left side, keeping the same measured distance all the way to the belly bar. I repeat on the right side.
Then I clamp and sew around any borders and blocks (or go ahead and panto if that's the chosen pattern.) Remove clamps, advance, smooth batting (by flipping up top), smooth top and make sure it's straight across the belly bar, measure sides, and repeat stitching whatever I need to secure. If it's an all-applique quilt, I just do basting stitches across with speed at around 15% and making about 1" stitches across in 6"-apart rows.
When I finish stabilizing, I just roll back to the top and begin quilting. I like doing this because I can roll up and down at any time; I know it's a bit time consuming, but I prefer doing borders continuous when I can rather than in start/stop (I hate knots). Also, I can unzip the leaders and switch quilts at any time, too. This is a real boon when I have invisible thread on for outlining applique, because I don't have to change thread, bobbin, and tensions. I can do up to three applique quilts with the one thread change. Right now I'm doing three Christmas quilts with red metallic (first, on all three), green, then gold. Just unzip and switch. Much faster than thread changing.
Thanks again. I have a better picture of how you're floating your tops. I have three sets of zippers and don't know how I ever got along without them! I'll let you know how my first attempt at floating the top turns out (on a utility quilt in case I run into issues.) :-)
I use a lot of rulers from Quilter's Rule--I like thier ovals, circles and their Westalee system. BTW, you don't have to purchase the whole Westalee system, you can buy just the ruler you want--and it works without the angled base.
My favorite template tip was from my local longarm guild meeting. A lady told how she goes to wood craft stores and buys those 50 cent wood cutouts. She plops'n'drops the shape (duckies, dragon flies, dinosarus, cars...boats...anything kid-like) in the place where she wants them and uses them as a template. Since they are made of wood, they just need center registration lines drawn onto them for alignment purposes. You can't beat a 50 cent template! If they're too thin, find someone who does woodworking and have them cut a thicker one. This really works well.
my favorite tool, tablet, Huge apple core, Xblock rulers, and fondue to keep my diner warm.. While I sew..
I discovered a new tool at our demos table. A stencil that screws on the shank of your sew machine.. and does same look as longarm machine. It applies to the basic sew machine to the higher end.. Cost in Canada for one is bout $99.00 or it comes in a kit of 3... They are clear templates that the needle goes around, similar to a spirograph wheel..