On the weekend I picked up a new toy that I purchased on Trade Me (the NZ equivalent of eBay). For those of you that read about my experimentation with the borrowed Handi Quilter a month ago, you will know that I had some problems. So, I went looking for a better (I hope) solution.
This solution comprises a NZ made Swiftquilter frame, a Juki TL98 machine, and integrated handles and speed controls. You may be aware that I recently took over the agency for Juki domestic machines - the man who was the agent designed and manufactured the Swiftquilter as well. We may be adding it to our product line, so I wanted one to play with.
I enlisted my hubby to put it all together. This turned out to be quite straight forward. The frame goes together easily and sits on top of a trestle table. With the help of a spirit level and some bits of wood and cardboard, DH had it leveled and ready to go within 45 minutes (trestle tables and old floors are never straight).
I decided that it would be prudent to create a test quilt made up of a scrap of batting and some unbleached muslin (calico) that I had lying around. I also used 'any-old' thread (maybe not such a great idea - I had some breakages).
Loading the quilt layers is a little fiddly, but I had to remind myself that pin basting even a small quilt can be very time consuming and the results are rarely perfectly smooth. Once loaded, it was ready to go.
Having two sets of handles - one on each side of the machine - made it possible to stand on either side of the table. The controls can be used to switch on/off the machine or I can hold down a button to run it. There is also a speed setting on the controls. This means I don't have to use the foot pedal which was pretty tricky to do the last time I tried this.
The Juki TL98 is a domestic version of an industrial machine - it is heavy, fast, and only goes straight. An ideal machine for this application because FMQ is seriously hard on sewing machines. The speed is a bit daunting (it goes twice as fast as any normal domestic machine). At first I shied away from the speed, but after practicing for a few minutes I cranked it up and found that the stitches were much more even at higher speeds.
This setup, like any similar setup (including a 'true' longarm) does limit your quilting designs. I suspect that I will eventually sort out what works best and perhaps use a combination of the frame and my usual FMQ techniques to customise my quilting. It is obvious to me though, that if I want a repeated all-over design, this setup would allow me to do that in a fraction of the time it usually takes me.
One drawback - my living room is now a quilting studio. My daughter was away this weekend, but when she came back she complained that she could not hear Adventure Time on Cartoon Network over the machine. Heaven forbid she misses out on the intelligent commentary of Jake the dog!