Mary S

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  1. I have always done a stitch or two back, then start off in the direction I'm going to be going, as some others have described. I recently read a lot of messages elsewhere from those who knot and bury their threads, though, and one suggestion I got there that I plan to try is to use self-threading needles to speed up the process and bury each thread as you go so you don't end up with a dozen hours' work after you take the quilt off the machine. I'm not advocating this method, because I haven't even tried it yet, but it's another method some use. I don't plan to change my usual way of stopping and starting, but want to try this on a wedding gift I'm giving (it's my test piece for this) in case I might want to do it on anything I plan to enter in a show. Mary Smart Millenium:D Vermillion SD
  2. I just read these again to see anything new since last time I looked. I need one of those many-pocketed aprons. But seeing these suggestions reminded me of one of my other most-loved, have-to-have, small, inexpensive tools. It's my Chacoliner -- small, plastic, lipstick-sized case with powdered chalk that comes out along a rolling metal wheel. It makes a very visible, thin line of chalk, works well marking along a ruler or template, and it's amazing how often it comes in handy -- to mark off repeat spaces, to mark a feather vein, etc. You can refill it with any powdered chalk. I found mine at a quilt shop. One of those little things that makes life easier. Mary Smart Millenium:cool: Vermillion SD
  3. Barb -- I never did get my Hartley extended base to work well. Mine constantly caught one of its plastic edges or corners on the quilt backing and would then release, making jerky stitching lines when I was trying hard for something not jerky, of course. I have been told that it will work correctly if you use some (2-3 or more) big washers to raise the roller heights 1/2" or so. I think the idea is to hold the quilt top higher so it doesn't catch on the pointy corners of that extended base. I hadn't heard that suggested at the time, so I bought a different extended base from Donita Reeves website at To use it, you unscrew the plate the needle goes through and replace it with this extended base. I leave it on all the time. It's metal with a nice, smooth, rounded, beveled edge, so it never catches on the backing. But to use the one you have, you might think about whether raising the rollers would remove the problem you're having. I don't know if it would help or not. Mary Smart Millenium Vermillion SD
  4. Hello -- I absolutely love the Hobbs wool. I got it for myself but as a few customers have asked about it (I have some samples quilted with it), some have switched and they love it, too. It's great if you're quilting a lot on one top -- the quilt top doesn't get as stiff as it sometimes does if you stipple and quilt a lot on the 80/20. My customers and I have used a gob of 80/20, but lately some have complained in various lists online about problems with quality (stinky rolls, grease spots), so I'm considering trying Quilter's Dream 70/30 instead on my next order. Ordering from Hobbs directly you have to get 4 big rolls at a time -- too expensive for me and I don't have enough space for four on top of what I already have in stock -- so I get just what I want by the big roll from other online vendors instead. I haven't ordered QD yet but you can order just one roll or one batt or whatever from them. They have a $25 sample pack available with a craft-size batt of all of their kinds (different thicknesses of poly and 80/20, their new 70/30, black, flame-retardant for kids) if you want to make up samples for customers to see or just check them out yourself -- seems like a nice deal if you're deciding what to carry. Some customers bring their own but most use mine - they pick what they want - I do charge but less than their buying a package that size. For packaged OR off the roll (because that is folded in half before rolled), I toss the piece cut to size in my dryer with a wet washcloth and let bounce around on med-high heat for 15 minutes or so to get out the creases -- works great. Mary Smart Vermillion SD
  5. Barbi -- I was new 16 months ago and my best advice to you starting up is just not to spend too much till you know what your customers want. There is a lot out there, it is all tempting, and it's easy to spend ALL of your profits on stuff -- better to find out what you actually will use. A friend told me about Hobby Lobby -- they have great sales regularly, you can check online, and that's where I find all widths of muslin for backings. Most of my customers bring their own, but I felt the need to have something basic on hand for those who don't -- I have used quite a bit of muslin that way. I have 90" and 108" wide on bolts. You can also get quantity discounts on bolts of muslin from Hancocks-Paducah online or in the catalog. But one bolt of 90" wide will get you going. I also have 90" wide bleached muslin now and have used that, too, when only white will do. Most of my customers get my batting, but I have had someone bring a packaged batt 3-4 times. A big roll of batting takes up a lot of space, so I have 96" wide Hobbs 80/20, Hobbs Wool, Hobbs Polydown, and 120" wide 80/20 for really big quilts (haven't used it yet but have a king coming soon that will). I don't order from Hobbs -- have to get four at a time from them and that's a lot of money when I usually only need one at a time as I use one up. I get it from Kingsmen Quilting Supply -- they'll sell just one and it comes very fast, great customer service. They sell lots of other things, too. If I were just starting, I'd probably get Hobbs Polydown and Hobbs 80/20 (what my customers mostly ask for, what I use up fastest) -- and maybe try Quilter's Dream. The wool is fabulous and I love it, but it costs more and I don't have a lot of quilters who ask for it (I got it for myself really) -- although once they try it for something special, they all have loved it, too, so I expect to sell more of that all the time. I haven't ordered Quilter's Dream batting yet, but they have customer service people rave about and very nice batting -- you can get just one roll at a time from them, but I'm told you should have your state sales tax number in hand when you call to place an order. They have poly and cotton as well as a 70/30 blend (cotton/poly) and flame resistant for kids' quilts and black, too. But I'd still say to start, get poly and cotton or cotton blend, then see what your customers ask for and get that. Have some muslin on hand but probably most will have their own backing. Get some good thread in basic colors, some neutral and some you know you can use (red & green you can use on Christmas items for sure, for example, and Mother Goose goes on more than you think it will - it's a great neutral) -- then order as you need it. You can spend a fortune fast on thread, and there is new wonderful stuff all the time -- don't invest too much till you know what your machine likes and what you like and what your customers color choices tend to be. Once you get a backlog of as little as two weeks, you can order thread to have the right color for every quilt top that comes to you and have it when you need it. Someone told me to get two cones of each color to have one for winding bobbins without having to take the cone off the machine -- but I don't do that -- I'd rather be able to buy more colors than get two of everything, some of which I may never use up. If it's for a wallhanging, I can order spools or small cones instead of large ones. And if you settle on one kind you just love eventually, you can gradually accumulate more and more of it -- but find out if it really is the one for you before investing in lots of it. I like to special order the right colors and type of thread for each top, so I have bought some color cards -- that have real thread of every color in a line. Some are expensive ($17 for Aurifil cotton, $17 for Aurlilux poly, where I got them, $20 for Isacord, a strong poly thread that comes in a huge array of colors), but Superior Threads has lots of color cards with thread for only $3 apiece (and they have great service, too, a guarantee on their thread, and a very useful email newsletter you can sign up for at their website). Good luck on getting started. It's so much fun -- you will love it. Sorry for being so wordy, but this is advice I wish I had had when I was buying my first supplies. Mary Smart Vermillion SD;)
  6. Two of my favorite gadgets cost $5 or less and I wouldn't want to have to get by without them. One is a $5 clip-on cable for the little scissors I use to clip threads (clips to whatever I'm wearing, just pull out the scissors to use then they pull back - got it at a local quilt shop -- in fact I keep buying them when I wear one out because I love using one); the other is a $3.75 finger pincushion from Joann's. When I bought that little pincushion on elastic, I wondered if it would just be goofy thing that ended up in the trash -- but no, it puts the pins right where I need them, next to my fingers as I pin -- even closer than a wrist pin cushion, and yet it holds enough to pin the side of a long quilt. I just load it up before I start. For another little beauty, I love Sherry D. Roger's Dainty Ditcher. It's a small, palm-sized straight edge guide for stitching in the ditch, easy to move along a quilt top. It's great and it was $7.50, so a good price, too. It's wonderful when you find some little handy inexpensive thing that makes life easier, isn't it? Mary Smart Vermillion SD:D
  7. Jean -- Thanks much for that advice. This is something I will try next time I wind bobbins. Some bobbins work very well and I had finally realized lately that it was those that are slightly looser that don't. I hadn't thought of trying batting to make them fit better. It's sure nice to have access to other people's ideas here. Mary Smart Vermillion SD:D
  8. Sherry-- Thank you so much for the information. I will contact APQS to find out about getting the lexon from them -- I never even thought about the table top -- of course that would work. With that I can start training myself to sit down for more of the quilting. Thanks again. Mary
  9. I appreciate the help. Sherry, where did you get your lexon? That is what I need -- I'm on anti-fatigue mats and it's hard to roll sideways on those. And White Rooster -- I found my stool at It is their model ST205-OS -- a padded saddle seat, backless, with pneumatic adjustable height and tilt adjustment. It was $125.07 there -- when I got it there was no charge for shipping. Someone on a longarm list suggested it, and it was just what I wanted. Now to find that lexon so I can move sideways. Thank you SO MUCH for the help. Mary Smart Millenium Vermillion SD
  10. I know some longarm quilters have figured out how to adjust their machines so they can quilt sitting, and I think that I need to find out how to do the same. I bought a saddle stool I can adjust so it allows me to sit at the same height as if I were standing, but I can't move it sideways very well when going along quilting a border or sashing horizontally across a quilt. I don't know if the hydraulic lift would help, because it doesn't look as if my table can be lowered enough to make much difference. But I'm having a lot of knee problems lately, due to worsening arthritis, and I have to admit, after months of denial, that it is beginning to cut into my quilting time. I work a 40-hour a week office job, too -- and after a year of being able to do both happily, I'm beginning to think that I can't come home after work and quilt evenings while standing long enough hours without some changes. I need to find some better ways to adjust myself to the machine or it to me. Any suggestions or ideas will be hugely appreciated. I do LOVE quilting on my Millenium and I don't want to even slow down if I can find a way to keep on keeping on. Mary Smart Vermillion SD:(
  11. Jamie & Bert -- I haven't had trouble with my wheels but I have read other things from people about how much they love their edgerider wheels. Since you both have them, did you get them for a Millenium or some other machine? Can they be put on a Millenium with the stitch regulator? Just curious. Mary Smart Vermillion SD
  12. Just wanted to throw in my 2 cents here, because one of the things I could not quilt without is my Illuminator. It's a snake-neck light that clamps on the top of my machine. Got it from Donita Reeves at I have overhead fluorescent lights with full spectrum bulbs and don't always need the Illuminator, but having a light that is cast sideways across the stitching means you can really see very well where you have been and where you need to go. Much of the time I don't really need to have the Illuminator on, although I'm learning to appreciate it and use it more often. But when you're sewing dark or very light thread on a matching background, it makes the difference between being able to see what you're doing -- and have already done -- and not seeing well at all. So whether you get the Illuminator or not, find a way to get light that goes sideways across the stitching. Even if you don't always need it, when you DO need it, you really need it to see -- especially when you're moving fast. Mary Smart Millenium Vermillion SD
  13. Nita asked about why have index cards. A friend in the business three years before I started suggested I keep a book from the beginning and list each quilt separately -- name of customer, size, what I did, color of thread, name of pattern, price charged, etc -- and number each one. Then I have an index card for each customer, too, and I list each one I do for them on their card, too -- list the # from my book and the date I finished it and the price. The reason? As my friend warned me, just in case in two years Jane Doe comes in and wants her quilt done like Sarah Moe's quilt -- I can look up Sarah Moe, find the quilt's number and look it up in my book. Lots easier than looking up every quilt in the book. I've only been doing customer work for a year, and I have a full-time office job, too, and I am up to 105 quilts so far. So there are lots of ways to go about this, but find a system that lets you look up quilts somehow. I also take 3 digital photos of each one -- whole front, closeup, back -- and have those on my computer so I can look at any of the quilts, too, if I want to for any reason -- like doing the same thing for someone else or just to see something I remember and think might work on some other quilt. Mary Smart Vermillion SD:)
  14. I have had good luck with Rheingold metallic gold thread and I've used silver with no trouble (but don't know the brand of that), in both cases running them just like any other thread except loosening the tension a little on top and using Bottom Line in the bobbin for a smooth bobbin thread that won't break it. I have read, though, that if you have trouble with the metallic thread breaking, you can help it along by running it with polyester invisible thread -- both threads through the same needle hole. I've done that, too, and it worked fine and only the gold showed. Mary Smart Vermillion SD:D
  15. I have never done an Irish Chain on my longarm, but I did long diagonal lines on my domestic sewing machine on a Burgoyne Surrounded years ago, and the warning about long stitching lines breaking is a good one. Every time we used that quilt, we could hear thread breaking whenever we pulled it up and even when I was making the bed. When I got my longarm, I loaded that finished quilt up and redid it entirely with circles and other designs, because it was so full of broken threads. A long stitching line across the diagonal is on the quilt's bias, which stretches, and it will break. So it is better, even with stops and starts, to have it made up of a number of separate stitching lines. Mary Smart Vermillion SD