Stitch, Rip, Stitch, Rip, Quilt

Loading the first quilt for the California Thomas Fire Quilts project on the longarm, the quilting began. I have had some tension issues with the longarm, and the first row looked OK. But that didn’t last. The stitches on the top of the quilt looked fine on the first pass with one of my new pantographs. This one is called Geisha by Urban Elementz.  It looks a bit like clamshells and the rounded design would look nice against the angular piecing.

California Fire Quilt Project | From My Carolina Home

So far so good, but it would soon become a challenge.

California Fire Quilt Project | From My Carolina Home

On the beginning of the third pass on the pantograph, the backside had these short runs of loops, like the tension on the top was too loose.  It was doing this on the previous quilt as well, but not as bad.  I thought it was handled, but alas, not so.

California Fire Quilts Project | From My Carolina Home

Maddeningly, the top side still looked perfect.  The stitches are nice and even too.

California Fire Quilts Project | From My Carolina Home

Then the stitches on the back would look perfect for quite a stretch.

California Fire Quilts Project | From My Carolina Home

Then for no good reason, would do this.

California Fire Quilts Project | From My Carolina Home

So I took out those stitches and loaded a practice piece next to the quilt on the longarm to work on the issue. A phone call to the outstanding tech guy at A1, Randy, some practice work on the side, and I thought it might be solved. So I did a whole pantograph pass. But, it wasn’t fixed yet. So now I had to take out an entire row of stitching, ugh!! This was done the hard way, one stitch at a time. I couldn’t skin the quilt (see my post here for that explanation) as I couldn’t take the chance that I would damage the backing or the batting. So, using my hemostats, I pull up with gentle pressure on the top thread…

California Fire Quilt Project | From My Carolina Home

then, catch the loop of the bobbin thread coming up to the top with my seam ripper point (or a stiletto), and pull it up and out.

California Fire Quilt Project | From My Carolina Home

Every so often, I cut the bobbin thread tail off at the fabric level…

California Fire Quilt Project | From My Carolina Home

then pull several stitches at once.

California Fire Quilt Project | From My Carolina Home

Yes, this is tedious and time consuming. You can see on this run how the stitches are uneven, indicating a possible issue with the encoders, or the stitch regulator. Some are small and tight, yet others are really long.  Compared to the perfect ones above, it just baffled us as to why it was doing this all of a sudden.

California Fire Quilt Project | From My Carolina Home

My dear husband offered to help with the job of frogging, and I was grateful for that. He was a quick learner, and took out almost half the row by himself. We worked side by side for a while, and managed to get most of it ripped out before the sew day.

California Fire Quilt Project | From My Carolina Home

So, more phone time with Randy, and I had a few more things to try involving the tensions, the bobbin race, and the encoder lines.  We did diagnostics. Reseated the pin connectors. Another adjustment to the tensions on both the bobbin and the top thread.  Rethread.  Change to a larger needle.  Try again.

California Thomas Fire Quilts |

Finally, it seemed to be working well, a bit more twist on the top tension, and I could get busy on quilting.

California Thomas Fire Quilts |

We worked on this problem over the weekend last weekend, again on Monday, then all day Wednesday.  Finally, I was able to get the first Fire Quilt top completely quilted yesterday.

California Thomas Fire Quilts |

Light grey Essentials thread on top, Aurifil light grey in the bobbin, Warm and Natural Batting.

California Thomas Fire Quilts |

Are one of your blocks in this quilt?

California Thomas Fire Quilts |

If you don’t see it in this one, I’ll show you more on Sunday. Maybe it will be there.

California Thomas Fire Quilts |

I really love the way this one turned out, the contrasts in colors and variety of prints is just wonderful.  The jewel tones of the darker prints all seem to work so well together!

California Thomas Fire Quilts |

What are you working on this week?

35 thoughts on “Stitch, Rip, Stitch, Rip, Quilt

  1. lynn bourgeois

    Carole, my heart was with you as I read this post. I have had a similar experience on a number of occasions, and it was both time consuming and discouraging. I am not very experienced with my mid arm, but over time I hope to have lots of fun.

  2. Lisa C.

    What’s even more maddening is all the trouble you are having on a charitable project. Where are the quilting guardian angels when you need them most? Such a simple block but I love the “movement” to it when rows are added. Made me smile to see one of my blocks kind of front and center both in your postings of yesterday and today.

  3. I can relate to all that misery, so frustrating. I have had the same issue and it always seemed to be a tension issue for some reason. Did you pinpoint the problem to one issue or were there more than one? So glad you got it running smoothly again. The quilt is beautiful!

  4. Oh Carole, all that goodness in your heart to do these beautiful quilts only to be frustrated by mechanical stuff. I have no patience for “mechanical stuff”. My sister-in-law (oneblockwonderwoman) had angst last night with her long arm, and I could feel her frustration over the “text messages” from California. Your husband is a dear to sit with you and help “rip” stitches. Thank you for sharing, even when things aren’t perfect. It helps those of use who often encounter frustrations to know that we are not rippin’ stitches alone. Yes, I saw a couple of my blocks and so happy to see how they all worked out together.

  5. Patricia Evans

    So sorry you are having tension issues, especially when you are trying to do something for a good cause and sort of on deadline. One of my blocks was front and center in the ripping photos, the green with pink. That was a fabric I found on clearance in a shop in FL. Hope you have solved the problem and the rest of the quilts go smoothly.

  6. I plan on working on a fun and varied strip quilt; however, I have a technical issue of my own. I have fallen in love with the Glide Foot for my Handi Quilter machine. When running pantographs, this foot assures me that there will be no folding of the edges as I go on and off the quilt. Unfortunately, the foot snapped and broke over the weekend. The manufacturer was super helpful and is sending out a replacement saying “yours was a bit older – we now make them out of a much more durable material”. I am so sorry to hear about your tension issues but am glad to know you are back up and running. I am not a fan of picking stitches!

  7. Oh so sorry this happened. At least you know how to repair the stitches. Thank you for the useful info on how to fix those. The quilt is looking gorgeous.

  8. Carolyn

    Oh my, you are patient to figure how to fix those issues and not give up! Thanks again for those endeavors. I was excited to find a block!

  9. Sorry for all the frustration. Our machines sometimes have minds of their own. Your patience is amazing to work from the topside like that to rip. Glad you got things moving along a gain. It looks good!

  10. Loris Mills

    Arrggh! That is a lot of frogging! I know that frustration. Kudos to your hubby for helping!
    I’m curious about what was going on. I have an A-1 as well. Randy is such a huge help!
    What are the pin connectors you mention? I’m finally getting to quilt sometime soon and will be trying out my new bobbin tension tool.

  11. Frogging is never fun, but I can’t really imagine how difficult it must be for a longarmer. I’m trying to visualize not only how one rips out all that work, but how one can line it back up to re-sew. I guess that must be why you need to rip out an entire “row” vs area. So sorry. But sounds like you now have the tension setting perfected. I hope only happy stitching for you going forward. Really beautiful quilts and I do think the quilting design you picked out is perfect for these quilts. Great job.


  12. Oh, so frustrating!! The only thing that ever works for me is to switch back to the thread that I know works. Why that “fixes” the problem is a mystery. Glad you were able to finish this beautiful and loving quilt!

  13. kathyinozarks

    oh wow such a bummer time wise and very frustrating I have had to do that tedious taking threads out when I tried to quilt with my regular sewing machine-never again so nice your husband helped you

  14. Nancy Daugherty

    You had the pattern once on here and would like to make some to send to Calif. Would you be so kind as to where it was or which pattern it was. This is beautiful and creative to have all these blocks working together just like quilters. We got snow here in Alaska finally and it is 0 degrees this morning. BRRR.

  15. The quilt looks great, but doesn’t tension trouble make you want to scream?! I hope it is permanently solved now, whatever it was! I spent two hours cutting for a certain mystery quilt early this morning, and now have a nice pile of grays, Browns and reds, next up greens and yellows, then purples and blues. 😄 however, my stash doesn’t seem to be shrinking much…

  16. Deb W

    Boy, did my heart go out to you having all those problems! I’m not new to long-arming but I’m new to owning my own longarm and I’ve recently run into problems like this. Now, instead of having the owner of the machine figure out these problems, I’m the owner and I need to figure them out – yikes! I hope you were able to the problem fixed once and for all. The quilt is beautiful and I love the pantograph!

  17. Yes, I see mine in there. Also, tension problems reduce me to tears. I have had non stop ones for a while and I believe it is the bobbins. I have one or two that always work, not all the others. I use TOWA gauge to check the tension on every bobbin. Finally, I broke down and got some Magna Soft bobbins from FilTec (maker of Glide). The magnetic bobbins worked flawlessly. Now I have to go back and use regular bobbins and figure out the issue. I am going to take the whole thing- bobbin winder, bobbins, gauge to her when I get time to drive 1 1/2 hours away.
    What you have done looks fabulous! Love the jewel tones.

  18. sandi wall

    Carole, thank you so much for the article on skinning a quilt. I have had to do that a couple of times and wish I had read your article sooner. I do have a longarm and can easily visualize how using my frame would make it so much easier. I really enjoy your posts and will be following along with you.

  19. debdevo

    I feel your pain! Similar loops on the back suddenly showed up on my quilt….it just kills my back when I have to rip. Normally I rip from the back, but I have fleece on the back, so from the front I went. Sometimes it is maddening how this suddenly starts happening when I NEVER have to touch the tension on my regular sewing/piecing machine. Oh well…..glad you got it all out and hope it is totally fixed for the future.

  20. Leslie Williams

    Good morning Carole, I just want to drop you a short note to tell you how impressed I am with your many activities. I just recently found your website — wrote a short comment as such a few weeks ago — but I want to say again how impressed I am with the quality of your blog content and with your expertise. You seem to be contributing in many ways to your community online and in your area.  Good job! Thank you for being such a noble example of staying involved in a positive, excellent way. Now I have a question:  How do you organize the decorator items for your tablescapes and seasonal touches?  This may seem like a simple question, but I have trouble finding the right teapot or tablecloth when I need it. My storage space is spread out around the house but I think if I devised a system I could “get with the program.” Just wondering if you had a secret system.  I don’t expect you to answer directly — I know you have a full schedule.  But maybe this would be a good topic for a blog post . . . or did you already cover this and I missed it? Thank you again . . . have a blessed day,Leslie Williams

  21. Kristi

    Wow. Good for you for persevering!! I have a short arm (sewing machine). My tension issues were all solved by using a bigger needle and cleaning the machine religiously. Hope you don’t have any more issues!! I got a laser light and a couple pantographs for Christmas, I’m hoping to get set up this weekend! I’m a little worried because I have to sew from the back of the setup to use a pantograph, but I’m going to be brave and set out of my comfort zone!

  22. Phyllis Smith

    Hello from Ga. This has a familiar look to it. Finally took my machine to the repair shop at one of the quilting shops where the worker worked on the Husqvarna brand and got it fixed. That was back in Nov. now there seems to be another problem with something keeping the top thread from pulling up the bobbin and stopping in that position, don’t know if its something I did or not. Machine was working fine after he worked on it earlier. If it’s not one thing it will be another, right? Started cleaning out my master bedroom closet, found lots of treasures I didn’t know I had, one being some animal scraps I can use on other projects, sometimes it pays to clean doesn’t it? Have a great day and don’t forget to smile and count out Blessings.

  23. Linda Garcia

    Thank you for blogging about your tension issues and your method for ripping while the quilt is still on the longarm frame. I am new to owning and using my longarm. I have had my issues with tension and ripping stitches. It is amazing how fast you can put them in with the longarm and how much longer it takes to rip them out. I have learned much from your blog about techniques on the long arm. Thank you for sharing.

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