Frequently Asked Questions

I have created this page to help answer some of the more frequent questions that are emailed to me on a regular basis.  I am always happy to answer questions you may have though due to the high volume of email I receive topped with my work load I do have to prioritize my time and it may take me a few days to respond.  In the mean time, have a look here and see if I may have already provided the answer to your burning curiosity!  ;) 

Happy Quilting!

- Valerie

Updated April 2015

"What sewing machine do you use?"

I am a sewing machine hoarder collector.  ;)  While I have upwards of 20 machines both vintage and modern, for the majority of my quilt piecing I either use my Juki TL 2010Q.

I very rarely do any garment sewing, but when I do I generally use my Brother SQ9050.

"What long arm are you quilting on?"

I do all of the long arm quilting for my business on my 2000 APQS Millennium.

"When not quilting on your long arm, what machine do you quilt on?"

While I am a passionate long arm quilter, I also love to free motion quilt.  I have free motion quilted on a number of different machines, but my favorite and first choice is my Juki TL 2010Q.

"Where did you  purchase your sewing machine?"

My Husband ordered my Juki from Ken's Sewing Center in Alabama through an online listing.  He handled all of the dealings with them and from what I understand they were wonderful.  I do not know anyone from Kens Sewing Center (though I found out after buying the machine that an online blogging friend of mine used to work for them - her Husband still does) and I am not affiliated with them in any way.  I would purchase a machine from them again.  :)

"Why did you choose your sewing machine?"

I had never heard of Juki sewing machines in all honesty until I watched a video by Sharon Schamber a number of years ago discussing the functions of her Juki TL 98.  Sharon is my all time favorite quilter and biggest idol on the face of the quilting planet.  I like to say - "If Sharon told me dancing with a pickle on my head would make me a better quilter, I would probably do it."  :)  Before that I was completely content with my Simplicity Quilters Classic.  However, I have sewn on my Mothers Pfaff for years and I know the difference in feel between a higher end machine and my tiny Simplicity.  The Juki was not a necessity for great quilting but it truly is an advantage.  You can quilt on anything with the ability to drop or cover the feed - but if you haven't tried quilting on an all metal machine...you need to!  The stitch is reliable and consistent, the motor is FAST, almost as fast as my long arm, and the tension is very very easy to set and maintain.  There isn't the fiddling and going back and forth with tension as I have on my other machines.  Also it was very important to me that this machine is semi-industrial so that it can handle my heavy workload as well as NON-COMPUTERIZED because my main use for the machine is quilting.  What is the first thing to go on a modern machine?  The computer.  That doesn't mean computers are bad - but for my purposes they offer little to no advantage for my work and without one I have confidence that my machine if cared for properly will outlive me.

Now - Juki does make computerized machines, but for me, the TL 2010Q was the best machine they offer for free motion quilting.  To date - the Juki has lived up to its reputaiton and I am still thrilled with my purchase.

"How long have you been quilting?"

I have been quilting for over a decade.  I began when I was 23 after growing up daughter to an avid garment sewer.  I knew how to use a sewing machine when I began quilting but beyond that I didn't know much else!  I am primarily self taught through reading books and connecting with other quilters.  I have taken a handful of classes but learned quickly on that not all teachers are created equal.  I have had some wonderful class experiences and some less than wonderful class experiences.

"How long have you been free motion quilting?"

I began experimenting with free motion quilting within weeks of learning to piece a quilt - so,  you could say for more than ten years.  However, that first experience with what I now know is called free motion quilting I at the time had no idea the name for.  I left my feed up, used a straight stitch foot, and nearly burned out my sewing machine motor jerking my quilt sandwhich back and forth for several hours to create a sort of pulse line zig zagged quilting design.  If you want to call it that!  I was terribly proud of the result - certain that I had seen this very same technique performed by Nancy Zeiman on Sewing With Nancy once before.  Maybe not my exact technique.  In any case that was the jumping off point for what now could be considered my one passion greater than piecing a quilt...quilting the quilt.

"How long have you been long arm machine quilting?"

I purchased my APQS long arm quilting machine in January of 2013.  With the extreme trust and kindness of a few quilting friends I have made through blogging, I launched my small long arm business shortly after in March of 2013.  Since I have grown leaps and bounds in my ability to design and execute quilting designs that I never imagined I would be able to attach my own name to creating.  Years of free motion quilting on a domestic sit down machine as well as an artistic background definitely contributed to the quick growth - but also many many hours of study and practice.

"Where did you purchase your long arm - and where might I find one for a good price?"

I purchased my long arm second hand through a private seller listed on the House of Hanson website (www.houseofhanson.com).  I cannot guarantee the validity of any of the advertisers there but I can tell you that from my understanding they do pay a fee to post and the web site is pretty well known among long arm machine quilters.  So in that respect, I felt like it was a legitimate place to look for a used long arm.  You can also look on the brand name forums or message boards (such as the APQS forum) for postings of used long arms.  Most of the big companies will also have used or refurbished machines available - you may have to call to find out what is available as I have found these are harder to find out about online.  (February, 2014)

**Update**  April 2015 -  I have since upgraded my machine to a certified used 2000 APQS Millennium.  After now experiencing the best of both worlds - buying independently and buying directly from the manufacturer...I would highly recommend checking the used machines available through APQS (if new is not an option for you) before anything else.  My machine came with a 3 year warranty and has been through rigorous testing to ensure that all parts are working properly.  The reason I push for this not only is for the warranty, but because all of those little trouble parts that frequently go on the older machines have been replaced!  This will save you SO much time and frustration...trying to diagnose and repair problems.  ALL long arms require maintenance of some sort...things wear with use.  Truly, maintenance is minimal...but small things like tension assemblies go after many years of use, bobbin cases, even bobbins...and what is causing your issues can be difficult and time consuming to diagnose.  It just saves you a LOT of stress!

What long arm do you recommend?

Well, I have an APQS.  Granted, my machine is over a decade old, but it runs like I bought it yesterday.  So, while I have tested other machines and listened to the comments of other machine owners, this is the one I have the most knowledge and experience with.  I cannot recommend to purchase or avoid any of the other brands, truthfully I feel that any of the major long arm names - such as Gammill, Nolting, and APQS - even Handi Quilter - I feel are reputable and reliable.  I can tell you that I would buy my APQS over and over again every time if given the choice to go back and choose again.  It was truly by chance I ended up with the machine as I had been looking at a Handi Quilter Avante - but I absolutely could not be happier with what I bought.

Do you lecture or teach classes?

I do teach beginner free motion quilting and lecture on occasion but do not currently have a schedule available.  If such an event should be scheduled you will find the information here.  I am actively developing several new class concepts and as they progress you can look here on my blog for further information.

What camera do you use?

I have a Nikkon Coolpix.  It is purple and 16 megapixels - and it has a touch screen.  That is pretty much ALL I know about cameras!  LOL!  I also know if I push the little button that looks like a cam corder I can take video - and I upload those just the same way as I upload photograhs.  I do my video editing in Windows Movie Maker.  Nothing fancy, no smoke and mirrors here.  I am a quilter and not much of a videographer!  :)  I also have a Samsung Galaxy S2 that has an 8 megapixel camera in it - and many of my photographs come from that camera.  Usually those are the photos you see posted on Facebook or Instagram that have been taken with my phone.

What thread do you use and/or recommend?

All of it!  I am not a thread snob and will use just about any thread - I love to experiment.  Out of practicality I use mainly Glide by Fil Tec and Omni by Superior Threads for E2E customer quilts.  Both are reputable, high quality threads that seem to give me consistently good results.  For heirloom quilting I am a fan of Invisafil by Wonderfil Threads though most frequently I use Bottom Line by Superior Threads or Bobbin Line by Fil-Tec.  There are MANY wonderful threads out there and I encourage piecers and quilters alike to experiment - though these three brands are my favorite for their great selection, consistent quality, and ease of ordering.

What batting do you use and/or recommend?

I have yet to find a batting that I truly wouldn't recommend.  My top favorites are Hobbs Heirloom 80/20 for its great drape, ease of care, and because it quilts up beautifully.  I also am a fan of Hobbs Tuscany Wool.  For 100% polyester batting I really like Quilters Dream - especially used in two layers.

Do you prewash your fabric?

Yes.  Yes, yes, yes!  I am a religious prewasher.  Does that mean you have to be?  No, of course not.  My mother was a religious prewasher, so in some ways the habit comes from her.  I spent many hours helping my mother press and fold newly washed fabric to be put away into her stash.  It is important to know though - there ARE benefits to prewashing your fabric.  I was never so aware of this until I became a machine quilter.  Fabric without all of the chemicals and sizing on it that are used mainly for manufacturing and packaging purposes quilt up differently - and in my opinion, more easily and smoothly than unwashed fabric.  The biggest troubles seem to arise from very dark backing fabrics where the thread fibers seem to be literally so stiff from chemicals that they burst or split when stitched through by an industrial long arm needle - causing unsightly light or white tracks to appear on the back (and sometimes the front too) of the quilt.  This is not a problem solved by black batting and there are times a spritz of water is simply not enough to prevent it.  Prewashing just seems to be the very best remedy and preventative measure that can be taken to not only prevent future color bleeding, but these fiber bursts as well.

**Edited to add - after quilting client quilts for the past two years I do recommend to all my customers that they prewash batik or hand dyed fabrics in Retayne and/or Synthrapol.  (Retayne fixes dyes while Synthrapol removes excess dyes.)  This not only removes the chemicals used in manufacturing, prevents bleeding (think - when I spray  lightly with water to remove markings used for quilting) but also can soften up the notoriously tight weave of batik and hand dyed fabrics that so often create tension issues with quilting.  Another issue this can alleviate is the thread breakage that often happens with new tightly woven batik fabric...for some batiks it can almost be impossible to find a thread that won't break while quilting it.

**As a rule of thumb if you've pieced a beautiful batik top I suggest NOT using batik for the backing.


Flsky51 said...

Love your blog! I just purchased thr Juki 2010q for free motion quilting. I can't seem to get the tension adjustment correct. The underside has loops or " eye lashes". I have even turned the tension on my top thread all the way up. Do you have a video showing all the correct adjustments to make on the Juki to get the correct results. Since I just got the machine, I want to make sure the problem is me and not my new baby. Your videos are wonderful. Thank you for sharing your talents. Sharon Y.

Flsky51 said...

Thank you

Valerie the Pumpkin Patch Quilter said...

Hi there! You are showing as a "no-reply" blogger Sharon so I will try to answer your question here! :) Your tension is off somewhere and that is usually what causes loops or eye lashes on the underside of your quilting. When you see eye lashes on the underside - that means your bobbin tension is tighter than your top tension. What I would do first is clean out all areas under your bobbin and double check the top thread path. Be sure there is no lint or debris. Also be sure that your top thread is going between the two metal tension discs and properly adding tension to your top thread. To me it sounds as if the top tensioner is either not threaded correctly or may very possibly have a defect, but sight unseen I cannot know for sure. If you have done both of those things - you can then move to your bobbin tension. Use a run of the mill 40 wt. thread in both the top and bobbin - set your top tension to a midpoint setting. Test tension that you still see eye lashing on the bottom. Take out the bobbin and ever so slightly loosen the bobbin tension. Each time you loosen the tension check to see if the result is better - be sure your turns of the bobbin tension screw are very small - only 1/4 of a full turn is all you need to see results. :) If all else fails I would see if you can take your machine to the place that you purchased it from, or give them a call to see if there is any further help they can offer! :) Good luck!!! I hope you will update me and let me know how it goes for you!

Ellen Putman said...

Hi Valerie...I would love to get on the schedule for 2015...I will be making a quilt for a co-worker that is retiring in early 2016. It will be a queen sized quilt. In looking at the website, I could not find where to contact you to get on the schedule. I hope this works Can't wait to hear from you

Ellen Putman

Valerie the Pumpkin Patch Quilter said...

Hi Ellen! I believe since you posted this we have been in contact and you are currently on the schedule - but for anyone else reading (this comment was stuck in moderation) - you can contact me at pumpkin patch quilter (all one word) at yahoo dot com. I do not post it altogether because I get an incredible amount of spam from this blog unfortunately! I always try to respond to comments, so that is another great way to contact me. I work from home so I mainly work by email and keep my home phone and address private for safety reasons. Thank you for contacting me Ellen! I am looking forward to quilting for you! :)

CoffeeWineConversation said...

Thank you for all the knowledge you share regarding quilting and the machines you use.

While doing a search for Juki 2010Q tension problems, I clicked a link to your blog. I read the great info you gave Fisky51, and I'm hoping you may be able to help me as well. My problem is opposite: my bobbin stitches look perfect while my top stitches are laying on top of the fabric with a bit of bobbin thread showing. Almost as if I had couched the thread on top. I have read the manual and searched and searched the internet and have tried many suggestions, but cannot get good top tension. It was perfect out of the box (a mere 24 hours ago), but after trying a bit of FMQ, then returning to regular straight stitching, I can no longer get a balanced stitch. I don't want to take my machine back.... but I don't know what else to do at this point.

Is it possible that you can post a photo of the tension dial on your machine so that I can see if my settings are like yours? Also, when I look at the tension disks from the side, they are very far apart. Is that correct. Thank you for any guidance you may be able to give.