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nokidsdammit in cf_crafts

Skittles Quilt

I've had quilt blocks hanging around my work room for months now, unable to spend time to get any further on the projects until finally this week I shirked every other activity and devoted myself to it. Part of the rush was the artificial deadline I gave myself (providing it for a raffle, though I did not offer it to the event organizers until the quilt was 98% done) and part was wanting to try out my new gadget.

I like just about everything about quilting EXCEPT the quilting. Meaning I like fabric, cutting, constructing blocks, and don't mind stacking or binding. It's the damn stitching of the layers to keep them in place -- the action that is quilting -- that I detest. I mostly dislike it because it is so awkward to manage all that thick fabric in the minimal space available in a standard machine.

I don't have money or space for a long-arm machine, so that's not an option. I can't afford to hire someone to do it, especially since I give the things away. I don't know of any to rent time on. I can't afford a new all-purpose sewing machine with a bigger opening. Hand quilting is out of the question. I haven't found a quilt-as-you-go strategy that works as well as I'd like, and it isn't always appropriate for every quilt.

So I got one of these a few months ago as an interim solution. http://flynnquilt.danemcoweb.com/shop/product/flynn-multi-frame/ I had to modify the use -- normally it feeds the three layers in separately without needing basting, but I have fusible batting so I pre-fused all the layers and used the frame solely for the tensioning.


I tried taking some pictures of the stitching, but I only used echo quilting in the chevrons, and the part I wanted to show was the stipple quilting in the diamonds and borders but the matching thread on the dark background was impossible to show.

The quilting frame worked pretty well. I'm still disappointed in how little area can be reached, especially an issue since I was doing motif-ish quilting and every single area was bigger than could be accommodated without constant repositioning, but for all-over quilting designs I think it would be great.

I need to practice my free-motion a lot more because I was having a lot of stitch quality problems, but since I was using a thread that matched the background very well it's not going to be noticed. Besides, they're getting it for free. :-P

I like using it with the fusible batting. I will try it sometime with separate layers but it will be a while as I have 3 other quilts already fused and waiting to be quilted.

The lightweight fiberglass rods it came with are 4 feet long. They performed beautifully for putting a lot of tension on the quilt without bowing and were pretty easy to maneuver. It was sometimes difficult to quilt near the very edges, but that was because the quilt was so close to the actual frame. More space between the quilt edge and the frame sides is easier to handle.

Since I have quilts ready to go that are bigger than the rods that came with the frame I did as recommended and got some EMT from the hardware store. I'm a little concerned that they might not be as easy to manage, not only because of the additional length but because the metal tubes are a lot heavier. We'll see. I don't know if bowing under tension will be any sort of issue. Plastic tubing would definitely have bowed.

Flynn Frame review:

The muslin leader strips that are used to baste the quilt to the tubing are great. Just on a hunch I put the selvege side of the muslin toward the quilt and the cut edge on the tubing, sticking both part of the cut edge and the 'fold' where the muslin came around the tube to the tape holding the muslin to the tube. That made it just the tiniest bit short of getting quite to the edge of the quilt in the machine, but the binding covered any gaps. And the selvege was definitely strong enough to securely hold the basted edge whereas the cut edge might be iffy. I think that for the longer tubes I will also use the selvege or stitch a secure hem to reinforced that edge. I had thought about making a sleeve for the tube instead of using the tape, but then the sleeve would spin around the tube rather than being stuck in place.

The side tension via 3 pinned ribbons on each side worked fabulously to maintain horizontal tension in addition to the vertical tension from the tubes. Unfortunately, because I had to adjust the stitching area *so* often it became a pain to deal with. I finally just left it alone since I had already fused the layers, occasionally pinning one or another ribbon if it looked like it needed it or holding an area by hand. I would like to try to think of another option, though, that would be easier to use. Like strong elastic for the frame slots and sharp hooks to dig into the edge, or into a basted-on mesh or something.

The tension knobs worked very well. With all the adjusting I did it got really tedious. It might not be so bad with less adjusting. A latch fastener would have been nice, but I don't know if it would have been possible to use such a thing. The knobs are reliable and easy to grasp. On occasion I got the whole thing kind of warped, usually when I was trying to adjust while the frame was not supported by both rollers, but it was usually easy to fix by loosening and adjusting the knobs.

The side tubes are just a smidgen shorter than my sewing surface which caused an occasional hiccup but really wasn't a problem.

Trying to deal with bobbin issues or to get to the lower quilt surface was a problem, only slightly more difficult than trying to do so with a full size quilt just heaped around. As the frame is, obviously, rigid there was a little less play in trying to do anything. When I had some thread nastiness happen I had to try to do what I could with everything in place, though twice I resorted to taking the frame apart enough so that I could take it off the machine.

This frame needs an appropriate workspace. Emphasis on SPACE. You have to have a table that is wide enough to handle the support rollers at a reasonable distance on either side of the machine. It has to be the right size to allow the machine to sit at 90 degrees from normal, hold the quilt, and still allow the power cord and foot pedal to work comfortably. It needs the space on either side of the machine to accommodate the entire length of the rods so the quilting can be done side to side. This could be a serious problem with bed size quilts. Quilting in sections might be the only option for a king size, for instance. I'm a little concerned about how my slightly longer rods are going to work, already.

Operating the frame while stitching is fairly smooth. On occasion I had to stop to adjust the support rollers or straighten things out but it generally glided around smoothly. I don't know if the heavier rods will cause a problem with that or not. I was doing free motion and had some trouble with stitch quality, though that might be as much practice as anything else. I did not try any stitching that used the feed dogs (e.g. linear stitching or embroidery) so I do not know how the frame does with that.

The instruction pamphlet is a little sparse on details in places though the illustrations are pretty good. The DVD is very good (not scintillating, but thorough) and has more information, but it's a mini-DVD and I'm afraid to put it in a non-drawer DVD player for fear it would get jammed or lost in the player.

I think it's a good value for the money. It isn't easy to get production costs down on such an item because it doesn't have the biggest market, but if you do even just one or two quilts a year it might be a worthwhile purchase for easier machine quilting.

The kit itself shipped very compactly and is relatively easy to store as all the components fit inside the stacked side rollers, though there is nothing to 'cork' the bottom or hold the two rollers together. I'll probably end up making a fabric sleeve to contain everything, possibly even the new tubing as well.



October 2011

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