STUCK in the MIDDLE

You ever have a situation where you feel like you are just STUCK IN THE MIDDLE with no where to go? That’s what the last week has been like for me!

The week started out fairly well. I finally got the courage TRY again to quilt on the frame, with the Janome-1600P, that has been taking up 12 feet of space in my sewing room. (If the setup is unfamiliar, the frame has rollers for the quilt, the machine moves back and forth and left to right on a platform that glides the length of the frame. You are moving the machine while quilting, not moving the quilt. ) This set up enables you to quilt something large fairly easily using a domestic sewing machine. It is a scaled down version of what long arm quilters use, at a “scaled down” price.

time to practice
Quilt frame and practice piece

Backstory – the frame came from a friend who lacked space, I added the Janome 1600 P machine ….and it sat. I bought the machine used for $500, and it was serviced before it was shipped. This was a great price, as a brand new one was over $1300 at the time.

Two or 3 years ago, two friends came over and helped me “trial load” a practice piece, and then it sat. Things got in my way, mostly fear of screwing up a quilt, so I did nothing. At some point, I “unplugged” the Janome 1600P, maybe during a thunderstorm.

In 2018 I did some quilting on a long arm machine and gained some courage. My sister-in-law, Carolyn, allowed me the opportunity to use her brand new Gammill long arm quilting machine, Greta. Of course, that required a trip to the other side of the country to do that! I had a lot of fun working on my Grandma’s Kitchen quilt.

Quilting at Carolyn's on Greta the Gammill
Quilting at Carolyn’s

Still, the frame at home with the Janome 1600P machine sat. Quilt tops (LARGE) continued to be made, and hung on hangers in my sewing room. I did order some LED lights last year, because my excuse was it was “too dark” to quilt on it. My dearest friend often pokes fun at me for not using it!

I decided in 2020 with all the “extra” time I had due to COVID-19, that I would start finishing things I started. I cleared up a couple of UFO’s and was determined not to create any MORE UFO’s. Small projects got finished, a couple of older things got finished.

I recently put borders on my Autumn Jubilee 2020 quilt https://stitchinggrandma.wordpress.com/2020/11/15/autumn-jubilee-2020-quilt-along-update/, and I made the backing for the quilt. I decided last week, I was going to tackle this machine on the frame come one way or another.

I cleared off all the “stuff” that got stored on the top shelf, my husband added two rows of LED lights under the shelf to give me better lighting of the quilt, and I loaded the thread that I intended to use on my quilt top. (I even dusted the machine and vacuumed all around it!). I played with the practice piece for 2 or 3 hours, until I felt comfortable with my stitches, speed, tension etc. Then, I took photos of the “set up” of the practice piece so I could “unload it” and load my quilt.

I have to say, that taking those pictures was a “smart” thing to do. I had to look through the photos two or 3 different times so I did the loading properly. I am sure that experienced long arm quilters will laugh, but this is only the 2nd time I loaded anything.

My hubby was a HUGE help getting this process done. I remembered things Carolyn had told me, and that my friends had explained, and he helped me get the backing on squarely and pinned to the “take up” leader.

loading the backing

Eventually, I got the batting on and anchored, and the quilt top got loaded.

Pinning the top

That process, the practice and the loading took care of Sunday and Monday! That process was NERVE WRACKING to say the least.

By Tuesday, I was convinced I could start quilting and had a joyful time! I was confident with loops and swirls!

Getting started with quilting

The first couple of rows seemed to go along nicely. Then to my horror, I rolled the quilt forward to do the next row and saw this —

tension trouble
TENSION TROUBLE – EYELASHES and more

It seems that I was having a huge tension problem….SIGH….what was going on??? I started trouble shooting and low and behold….somebody forgot to put the pressure foot down……SIGH…..another learning curve. (Am I getting too old to learn new tricks?)

Quick message to Carolyn gave me good advice on how to “rip out those stitches” . It was decided I should carry on, and go back to them after the rest of the quilt was done. Since this is all free hand guided quilting, I should be able to fill in as I need to. Sigh….. I made a mental reminder to LOWER the pressure foot. (Note; whenever I need to advance the quilt, I slide the machine to the far left, off of the quilt. I have to unclip the side clips to move the machine. When I bring the machine back onto the quilt, I have to raise the foot to get the 3 layers from the edge, UNDER the foot.) And, even with a mental note, I did that more than once, and not realize until I advanced the quilt. I think I have about 3 rows to “unstitch”.

With my brain engaged, I continued stitching through Tuesday afternoon and Wednesday afternoon until suddenly the machine absolutely FROZE. I was 3/4 of the way down the length of the quilt, stitching like a happy girl, and it just seized up. The handwheel would not even turn. PANIC ensued. I was grateful that the problem happened when I was at the far end of the row and and inch from the edge.

I looked at everything and could not determine what the heck was going on. On Thursday my husband helped me “disengage” the machine from the frame. He has great mechanical skills, and started taking things apart, looking for where the machine was “bound up”, and looking for the giant ball of thread wrapped around inside of gears etc. NOTHING ….that machine was clean as a whistle.

Inside the Janome 1600P
Under the 1600P

I could not understand why it seized up. We “read” the owners manual, and I about fainted when I read the part about OILING it daily.

Oh my goodness, maybe I ruined it. I have had this machine sitting for 3-5 years at least, and had forgotten this MAJOR detail.(My two other Janome machines have NO place for the consumer to oil, and I honestly didn’t think about it when I got started on Sunday.)

I got out the oil, and the lube, and hubby oiled and lubed, and tried to free it up. He went to the computer, and studied parts diagrams that I downloaded, and tried again on Friday. He “isolated” areas that were working and determined it was the bearing on the main shaft of the machine that might be seized up or “galled”. (He tried to explain that but…phew…basically ruined). He was shocked that the oil wicks were completely dry again when he was looking at it on Friday afternoon. More oil went in the appropriate spots. LOTS more oil. The decision finally was made to put it “back together tomorrow” and pray that the “authorized” Janome service center could order parts and get it working. (He could fix it, but Janome won’t sell parts to the consumer). So, sadly, I looked at my unfinished quilt and started thinking about how to move forward.

I called the shop and inquired about business hours next week and talked about the 2 week turn around due to the holiday etc. I decide I would take it up on Monday. I didn’t need to bring the foot pedal or the power cord, which was great by me. We have the foot pedal, but don’t use it on the frame. The power cord is “zip tied” to another cord and a big pain to undo, so we have been “testing” using the power cord from my Janome 8900.

Friday evening I decided to go out to the sewing room and do SOMETHING. I was depressed that this quilt I worked on so hard was stuck on the rails, the machine was dead. I dug out another UFO, and decided to work on something fun. But first, I needed my power cord. I unplugged it from the broken J-1600, and while I was doing that, I thought I would just try to give the handwheel a spin. IT MOVED!!!!! I was in shock!! It had been absolutely seized up early in the day. I plugged it back in, turned it on and it RAN! FAST!!! And didn’t seize. I was amazed to say the least. I messaged my hubby, and knew that since it was apart all over my cutting table, to leave it alone until he could have another look on Saturday. I went ahead and unplugged it, so I could sew on my J-8900. I gave it a parting shot of MORE oil, 5-7 drops more, in every spot.

Fast forward to Saturday night, and this is what happened.

Reassembly time
Reassembly of the Janome-1600P
TECH SKILLS

It seems that this machine forgave me the abuse I rendered, and through the grace of half a bottle of sewing machine oil, it is functional and working again. It took us about half an hour to get it set up again on the frame, get all the poles holding the quilt reattached and straighten the quilt up again!

Ready to stitch again
Ready to resume quilting.

Three quarters of the way finished with this quilt, the machine is functional and I am no longer feeling “stuck in the middle” with no where to go!

Moving forward, I will finish the quilting, and then roll back to the places with the tension problems and do some “unstitching”. Carolyn sent me to You Tube to watch a video on how to “efficiently unstitch” – https://youtu.be/3cmSC0BxsrQ Natalia Bonner, a nationally known quilter & author gives great explanations of the process, and I can tell you, it WORKED for me in a couple of areas I tackled already.

Also on You Tube, LEAH DAY has a great video tutorial on “How to clean and oil the Janome -1600” – https://youtu.be/gXyB1SO-ZJE

So; ready to move forward and get this quilt finished. Hopefully, with all the pitfalls of this week, I will have the courage to “quilt again” on the frame. My hope is that I will improve over time, and graduate from Loops and swirls to more sophisticated looking quilting as I learn. The downfalls of this machine and frame is the very limited space for quilting. The throat of the machine and the space that the take up reel uses limits you to about 6″ for actual quilting. The upside is, you only have to man-handle the quilt to load it, and advance it as a row is complete. The quilting itself is fairly easy with the quality frame moving at the slightest touch while I work my way from left to right across the quilt!

Wish me luck! It’s a new week! (And the optimist that I am, I have the fabric picked out for the binding!) I did that while the machine was off the frame.

I also decided to iron another wide piece (104″) of backing for another quilt while the hubby was tearing things apart. I think this backing will go on my Scrap Happy Stars Quilt. More about that quilt on this post – https://stitchinggrandma.wordpress.com/2020/07/12/scrap-happy-and-allietare-updates/

(Look for the one with the orange borders!)

IRON to distraction
Do you iron when you are stressed?

And I did get something done on that other UFO I mentioned! I got out my bin of VINTAGE CHRISTMAS QUILT blocks (Book by Lori Holt) and worked on the Candy Cane block –

Candy Cane block
Vintage Christmas Quilt book by Lori Holt.

I have 3 more blocks cut out and ready to stitch. This has been languishing since MAY! More about the project here – https://stitchinggrandma.wordpress.com/2020/05/09/a-little-bit-of-fun-with-the-twist-and-vintage-christmas-quilt-along/