Monday, September 6, 2010

Loading a quilt with zippered leaders and Tensionology!

I would like to continue a tutorial I started several months ago concerning attaching zippers to leaders on a longarm - this post is going to show you how to load a quilt using these zippered leaders. In addition I am including information on using A1's patented Tensionology - which allows you to keep the tension consistent throughout the quilting process as well as advancing the fabric with a click of a button. Even if you don't have an A1 I hope you will find something beneficial in this post - be sure and at least skip to the bottom to see the finished quilt (grin). If you would like more information on the A1 and Tensionology just visit my website Quilts 'N Kaboodle. AND if you'd like a PDF version of this post or the previous one just send me an email requesting it (use the feedback form on my website). Okay...lets' get started!

Tensionology™ 101: Loading a Quilt with Zippered Leaders

Zippers on your A1 Quilting Machine offer several advantages. If you have not installed zippers please refer to my previous tutorial on how to do so. Regardless of having zippers or not, pinning or using a chain stitch, this tutorial will share how to load a quilt using your Tensionology ™ feature on your A1 Quilting Machine.

Now let’s begin where the last tutorial left off…

Having zippers on your leaders typically means you have at least two sets to be able to switch out quilts with the ease of zipping one off and the other on. In the above photo I’ve shared how I marked my second set of zippers.

I’ve marked my zippered leaders to corespond with the take up rollers. On my machine the take up bar that is at the back of the machine is # 1, it’s easy for me to remember this because it’s a solo bar. The other two are on the front of the machine and may be ‘stacked’ or off-set – either way, the take up roller that is your batting access bar (the one that moves) is #2 and the other one is #3.

This translates to #1 equals the top of the quilt backing, #3 is the bottom of the quilt backing and #2 is the bottom of the quilt top. With Tensionology ™ you do not “float” your tops (you can, of course, but then you lose the purpose of keeping the tension on the entire quilt sandwich which is why you purchased Tensionology™ in the first place!)

For those who do not know what this looks like, here's a photo of an A1 quilting machine with the tall pole being the Tensionology. Tensionology is a patented design by A1 Quilting Machines and Stewart Plank.

On each set of zippered leaders I marked the corresponding center – doing so by actually zipping each one on to it’s proper location and making the mark according to the center that was previously marked on the actual take up roller. By doing all this labeling you have not only greatly reduced any opportunity for confusion as to what part goes where, but you have also guaranteed that your centers will truly be center. In addition I chose to mark one inch incriments with a zero center and going out to 60 on both sides, to save time I just labeled 5,10,15, etc. (See first photo)

With your zippered leaders properly labeled you are now ready to attach the quilt backing and top. This can be done by pinning or using a chain stitch. My photos will show attaching using my Janome Cover Pro, but again, pinning works just as well. For the record, I’ve pinned for 6 years and this is the first quilt done using the chain stitch. The choice is yours! The important thing is that you notice the proper placement of fabric to the leader. By the way, if you are pinning this can be done both at the machine with the leaders already zipped on or unattached as described in the photos.

With a batik backing it’s hard to tell which is the right and wrong side of the fabric in this photos, but it will show up in the next photo when you see a seam (grin), for now, just trust me.

I’ve started with the Quilt Backing Top, which is labeled as #1. For the sake of instruction the side of the zippered leader that is labeled will be called the RIGHT side and the unlabeled side will be noted as the WRONG side. Find the center of your quilt backing and place the RIGHT side of the backing to the WRONG side of the zippered leader, matching centers and working your way from the center out, place pins about every 10 inches in preparation to sew.

My example is a chain stitch from my Cover Pro – you may have a serger or sewing machine that does this. I chose to use two different colors of thread so I’d know which was the top and which the bottom to make it easier to pull out later. Again, you may choose to pin using the pins that came with your machine package, regardless, here’s the list of which side goes where:

Quilt Backing Top: Leader #1 Quilt Backing RIGHT side to WRONG side leader

Quilt Backing Bottom: Leader #3, Quilt Backing RIGHT side to WRONG side leader

Quilt Top Bottom: Leader #2, Quilt Top WRONG side to WRONG side leader

It is important that you predetermine how you will load the quilt top, typically you will attach the bottom of the quilt top to the #2 leader, but on occasion if something is directional you may wish to reverse this. For the sake of the tutorial we will be attaching the BOTTOM of the quilt top to the zippered leader #2. Again, WRONG side of quilt top to WRONG side of zippered leader.

Ta Da, this part is done! Now let’s go to the machine!

Okay, this may look a tad confusing, but let me explain. The top take up roller (#2) is being held up by the batting access lever. I’ve zipped on the #3 zippered leader which holds the Quilt Backing Bottom and have all the fabric draping on the floor. Then I roll it up by hand, very roughly. I know this doesn’t look right, but trust me.

Next attach zipper leader #1 to the solo take up roller #1 at the back of the machine. It too is going to look rather unsettling – hold on, there’s a reason for this.

I know, it looks sorta woppie, but that's okay for this point.

Now it’s time to play with the Tensionology™

I sometimes have technical difficulties with blogger... turn your head.. the pole is suppose to be vertical not horizontal. I'm sorry!

This is the pulley end of the bottom take up roller #3. (Again, take up roller #2 is raised by the batting access lever so it’s not in the photo). Notice the arrow on the pulley near the connection to the bar. (If yours doesn’t have an arrow you can add one with a sharpie). This pulley needs to have the wire wound around counter clockwise. I’m using the wire/weights on the left, which are the back side of the machine or panto side.

Next add weights. I generally find that two weights give me the tension that I desire. Play around and decide what you prefer, 1, 2 or 3 weights realizing it can vary from quilt to quilt. One word of caution – if it is too tight you may experience thread issues during the quilting process.

Now take the fob that came with your Tensionology™ and advance the fabric to the top take up roller #1 by pressing B on the fob – I remember it as “B for back” because I am generally working from the front of the machine - although that line of thinking doesn’t work totally logically because you’d think “A for advance” and B actually advances … SO just think B to go BACK on to take up roller #1. Whatever works for you (grin). Again, this is a rough roll, it looks strange but don’t be overly concerned how the fabric is rolling. After all the backing is on take up roller #1 you will press A on the fob and now rewind to have all the fabric on take up roller #3 slowly, carefully, smoothing as you go until it’s all neat and proper. This technique is especially helpful with pieced backings. During this process the weights will go up and down as the wire is being wound/unwound on the pulley.

Photo above shows the fabric beginning to wind around take up roller #1. Photo below shows it advanced all the way around take up roller #1

Now it's time to re-roll it back where it belongs on take up roller #3, making sure it's smooth.

Now it’s time to load the batting and baste it to the top. I’ve not given you photo documentation on this as it was covered during your set up/training. For reference here’s a simplified explanation. With the batting access bar still holding take up roller #2 in the upward position, place the batting along the top edge of the quilt backing. Smooth out by hand; release the batting access lever to lower take up roller #2. Adjust the quilt by advancing or backing up the Tensionology™ to where the back of your backing and batting come to an area where you can push the machine to its further most point to create a channel lock and then stitch down the batting to the backing with a straight line – this will be your reference point to line up the top of the pieced quilt. (If this isn’t clear, refer back to the Attaching Zippers blog/You Tube to demonstrate how to create a channel lock). Some prefer to stitch from the center out to each side; I generally go from left to right. Again, personal preference.

Once the batting is in place it’s time to attach the quilt top. Zip the zipper leader #2 containing the bottom of the quilt top to the take up roller #2, taking care to spread the quilt top over take up roller #1.

If you notice in this photo I’ve begun to roll the quilt top onto take up roller #2. It is most critical that you take your time and roll smoothly. There’s no ‘back and forth’ process as we did on the backing. This is where you will want to make any slight adjustments due to fullness in the piecing, always maintaining a good horizontal placement of the quilt top, easing in fullness as needed. Once complete, baste the top of the quilt to the backing/batting. It is most important to do this step before adding Tensionology ™ weights (ask me how I know!)

Again, baste the top of the quilt to the backing/batting sandwich.

This is the most important photo out of the entire tutorial on loading a quilt with Tensionology™

The top pulley is connected to take up roller #2 ,the one that holds the quilt top; by the way, this photo shows the rollers in the “stacked” position, if you have the Horizon or don’t have your rollers stacked they will be slightly off-set, however, the placement of the pulleys and wires is the same. Take up roller #2 wraps clockwise using the wire on the front side of the machine and take up roller # 3 wraps counterclockwise using the wire from the panto side of the machine.

Add weights and you are done!

Again, the photo is taken from the front of the machine with the Tensionology ™ on the right hand side. Looking at the photo the weights on the left correspond to take up roller #3 (Quilt Backing Bottom) and the weights on the right attach to take up roller #2 (Quilt Top).

And good ole blogger is making me humble again...can't seem to make the photo go the right direction, but you guys are smart and can kindly turn your head to understand the proper orientation (grin)

On this particular quilt I wanted to stabilize it by doing all the continuous curve stitching in the double wedding ring "ring" before going back and quilting in the blue background. The photo below shows my take up leader #2 released from the quilt sandwich, which I will describe how to do...

It is MOST important when you get to the bottom of the quilt and the zippered leader #2 is exposed to take the time to remove the tension by removing the weights BEFORE unpinning or removing the quilt top from the zippered leader - otherwise once the tension is released by the removal of the pins the weights are going to come crashing down - not a good thing if you have a cute puppy in the room - poor Pixxie was scared out of her wits when I discovered this error (grin). If you think about it, it makes perfect sense, but it you are like me and you are quilting in the moment...well...enough said.

On the same token, once you have completed the entire quilt you will want to remove the weights from take up leader #3.

I can't tell you how much I love this A1 innovation! Having a fabric advance is wonderful, especially when you are trying to complete a design element and need just a little more throat space. Click of a button and the quilt advances to allow more room, click again and you can bring it back to where you were all the while keeping PERFECT tension on the quilt sandwich! No more puckers on the back from rolling or rerolling! If you don't already have one, I highly recommend adding it to your A1 - and if you don't have an A1, I can tell you how to get one!

Hopefully this tutorial has helped demonstrate how to load a quilt with zippered leaders, and that you have seen the value of rolling and rerolling the quilt backing to ease out any fullness.
As always, after a few quilts you'll be a pro at this - but if you are still new to longarm quilting, and perhaps Tensionology, you may find it helpful to print this out and have by your machine. Just visit my website and on the contact us page fill out the feedback form to request a PDF version of this tutorial and/or the one on attaching zippers. It's my thoughts that us quilters have to stick together and help one another!

If you've held on this long I want to share with you the completed quilt!

Double Wedding Ring, pieced by Dena
On display with the assistance of my Professional Quilt Model, Pixxie

The backing was pieced and had some beautiful batiks - I think the quilting really shows up more so from the back than the front.

Here's a close up of the front.

The wide border on the side had feather-like ferns that formed a heart shape as they came together.

Here's the border design element from the back.

Thanks for joining me in this continued adventure of longarm quilting.

Karen O in Texas


Muddling Through said...

Karen, Gorgeous quilt, gorgeous quilting and very informative post. One of these days when my ship comes in....

mary said...

Thanks ! I really am confused how to do it, but I dont have the zippered ones yet...I really would make my own if i were to get a good understanding, so i am grateful that people like you are willing to share your knowledge...and yes beautiful everything! Thank you again!