Going Social

If you think back ten or more years, we weren’t very social.  Yes, we had email, but that was about it.  Facebook was an infant, there was no Snap chat, no Pinterest, no YouTube, no Instagram, and what about Yahoo groups and texting?  How did we get along?

Good and Bad

With these “advances” in technology we are able to communicate almost instantly.  If social media delightful quilting and sewingwe want to know something, we can easily Google on the internet, or post a question on a Yahoo or Facebook group.  Almost everyone has an opinion.  It is great to get feedback, pats on he back for our awesome posts, and find answers.  But, is everything out in cyber space reliable?  And, what about the time?  How much time is “social” stealing from us every day.  How much time is texting our friends with meaningless and random thoughts taking from our life?  Would we spend that much time talking on a land line phone every day?

The “Old” Days

I come from a generation of rotary phones.  In fact, my grandparents didn’t even have a phone, or even electricity for many years.  Yes, they were progressive and did get those as soon as they were available in the country, about 1938.  They farmed and when electric became available, it was a wonderful day when they could milk the cows with a milking machine and not by hand any more.

rotary phone delightful quilting and sewing

Rotary phone of the 1960’s.

When I was in college I met my future husband, Ron, at a farm auction.  He had just graduated from another college and was working on the family farm.  We dated once every other weekend (he only lived 30 miles away), he never called me except maybe two times, but we did write letters (stamps cost 5 cents).  Phone calls were out of the question, it was long distance which cost extra, although not nearly as much as what most cell phone plans cost today.  Phone calls were for business, emergencies, quickly pass along important information, but for our families, never just for talking.  In fact, when I was a kid we had a crank phone and our

crank phone delightful quilting and sewing

Crank phone of the 1950’s.

phone line was a party line with four other homes on the same line.  You had to pick up the phone carefully to see if anyone else was talking before cranking the phone to call the operator.  Yes, that also meant you could listen to someone else’s conversation.  So, word to the wise, be careful what you said on the phone as the neighborhood gossip might be listening.

Times Have Changed!

social media delightful quilting and sewing

Social media channels.

Today we have instant communication with our cell phones and texts and access to all kinds of information without going to the library, looking through a card catalog, and searching the stacks.  Today’s technology all comes with a price.  If we aren’t careful, it can steal our time, a lot of time.  And, the privacy we once enjoyed in our lives we no longer seem to covet as we post everything from our adventures, brushing our teeth, and family gatherings to what’s for dinner on Facebook and other social media.

One of the most challenging things with such easy access to information is sorting fact from fiction, weeding out bad advice from good advice.  Everything posted on social media, YouTube, Yahoo, and found in Google searches is not he best information.  In fact, there may be a lot of misinformation.  From medical information to fixing the refrigerator, or solving a longarm quilting problem, there is good information and there is bad information.

Know The Source

Just like years ago when we recognized reliable sources in the library, it is important to check the source online.  Today, everyone has an opinion, and many think they are experts, but they are not.  Before accepting and using advice offered online, check out who is making the post.  Questions to ask about the post:

  1. Who placed the post?  Are they an expert in the field or respected author on the subject?  What is their background, education, or training relating to the information.
  2. Can the information be substantiated in other posts or other websites?
  3. Does the information violate well documented principles, standard accepted practices, or break the law?
  4. Will the information be a compromise that might not even work?
  5. Does it sound logical, practical, or seem odd, outlandish, or ridiculous?

Longarm Application and Online Advice

As a Nolting longarm dealer that has been factory trained, dealer for two computer guided systems, and an author of a book for longarm guilting with Nolting machines, “Guide to Quilting with Your Nolting,” I am amazed at the poor, but well intentioned, suggestions relating to longarm quilting offered on social media channels.  Just because some weird thing happened to “solve” a problem doesn’t mean it is the correct solution.  Believe me, I have heard of some very interesting solutions, even using water bottles to take care of fullness on a loaded quilt.  Rarely do these suggestions address the root cause of the problem.  There are better solutions and solving or addressing the root issue is always the best.

Whether seeking info from a friend, YouTube, Yahoo group, Facebook, or any other social media source, sift the information well.  Make sure it comes from a reliable source, one that has both experience and knowledge, and that it addresses the root problem and isn’t a bandage.

 

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It Isn’t Always What It Seems

Have you ever jumped to a conclusion only to later, sometimes much later, discover your conclusion was very wrong?

Years ago I learned a valuable lesson relating to this that I have tried to apply in most situations, but recently forgetting to be careful in jumping to conclusion I spent needless time and effort going in the wrong direction.

About the Lesson I Learned

Years ago early in the year of my first year of teaching 7th grade science, I had a boy who was constantly causing an undercurrent of a disruption in class by leaning over to talk with first one neighbor, then another and another.  This happened nearly every day in spite of my warnings.  Finally I had enough of it and sternly told him to see me after class.  By the time the class ended he was in tears.  Trying to understand why he didn’t comply with my “no talking in class” rule, through tears he told me he was only trying to find out what I had written on the board. He simply could not see the board clearly and was trying to keep up with the class notes.  At this point I felt terrible for him.  I had pegged him as a trouble maker, but he was only trying to keep up.

Immediately he was assigned to a front row seat.  I contacted the school nurse to perform an eye test, and I also called his mother to let her know what had happened and that he probably would need a professional eye exam.  I was sure his situation and behavior in other classes was probably the same.  About a week later he showed up with glasses and he became a very good student.  What a lesson for a new teacher to learn about never assuming what you think based on appearances, but to get to the root cause so that there could be a positive outcome.

Summer Adventures and Wrong Assumptions

This past summer was hot and humid.  Had I been more diligent in trouble shooting these issue, I could have spent more time enjoying my sewing and quilting instead of being frustrated.

Experience #1 – My Home Sewing Machine

star blocks delightful quilting and sewing

Star blocks made from Alaskan theme fabric.

Because of the heat, I set up my travel sewing machine in our air conditioned first floor.  For a couple of hours on several days I happily stitched patches together making sub-units for star blocks.  At first the stitching was OK, but then seemed to erode.  The machine just didn’t seem to work as well.  The patches were getting caught under the presser foot, sometimes being pushed down in the needle hole.  It couldn’t be the humidity, that was taken care of by the AC unit.  I thought it must be the machine.  It is not an expensive machine, just one for travel.  I began thinking that I had made a poor purchase decision and because it wasn’t a top of the line machine, it was failing already and wasn’t going to last.

One afternoon after discovering a LOT of lint impacted in the feed dogs of my very nice machine, I decided to clean it.  I also discovered lint below and behind the hook and in bobbin area.  Working with cotton fabric, cotton thread, and quilts is a linty job.  I cleaned, oiled, and replaced the needle.  Since I was cleaning that one, I decided to take a look at my travel machine.  Very little lint, but I cleaned anyway, oiled where needed, and replaced the needle.

The next day when I worked on the star block sub-units using the travel machine, I was totally surprised.  The machine stitched beautifully.  You would think I would have thought to change the needle at the first sign of stitching problems, but I didn’t.  Yes, such a simple thing as a new, sharp needle made all the difference.  A good lesson refreshed in my mind.  Next time at the first sign of stitching problems, I will be changing the needle first.

Experience #2  – My Longarm Quilting Machine

As a Nolting longarm dealer, both my husband and I are factory trained to make some repairs on Nolting Longarm machines, as well as make adjustments, such as timing the machine.

Awhile back I began having trouble with the screw that holds the needle in the longarm and discovered that the threads in the needle bar had gotten stripped.  After talking with Nolting tech, we decided to replace the needle bar.  This is not difficult to do.  The needle plate comes off and the hook assembly is removed so that the old needle bar can be removed pulling it down and out through the open space in the throat of the machine.   Replacing he needle bar is the opposite procedure with timing the machine the final step.  When replacing the throat plate we noticed a little needle prick and smoothed that off, too.

I have timed many machines over the years.  Once you get the feel for it, it isn’t difficult.

damaged throat plates delightful quilting and sewing

Damaged throat plates – pricks and burrs from needle flex.

This day it did not go as well.  Every time I tried stitching after adjusting the timing, the thread would break. Several times I adjusted with the same results.  Finally my husband suggested replacing the throat plate with a new one.  Yes, something I should have through of right away, but didn’t.  Guess what?  It stitched perfectly.  My timing was perfect and not causing the thread breakage. Someplace in the needle hole of the throat place there was a sharp spot or burr that was catching the thread and causing it to break.  Again, a fresh reminder to me that it isn’t always what it seems to be.

Problem Solving

  1. Take a good look at the problem.
  2. Think about the possible causes.
  3. Don’t jump to a conclusion.
  4. Check out each of the possibilities starting with the most likely and easiest to fix, like changing the needle or replacing the throat plate.
  5. If the easiest fix doesn’t work, move on to the next possibility in the list until the solution is found.

Having an organized system for looking at a problem and checking out each possibility systematically can save time and long hours of frustration.  Because these situations are frustrating anyway and taking us away from what we want to do, we must step back, clear our thoughts, and look at the issue with fresh “eyes” and use systematic problem solving techniques.

For help trouble shooting longarm problems, “Guide to Quilting with Your Nolting” is available for Nolting longarm owners and may be an excellent resource for other longarm brands.  The book includes a trouble shooting chart with possible solutions and references pages in the books for help.

 

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It’s the Weather

rain clipartI know it sounds like a lame excuse because, regardless of what it is, the weather gets blamed for many things.  “My shoulder hurts every time it rains.”  “My hair gets frizzy when it is humid.”  “Mom, I failed my test.  It was too hot to think!”

Can the Weather Be Blamed for Poor Longarm Stitch Quality?

While there may be some justification and truth to the above statements, to blame poor stitch quality, tension problems, and the machine “doesn’t like me today,” on the weather does sound like a lame excuse.  But, not so fast.  Before we dismiss this as a lame excuse, let’s examine the facts and the science behind it.

A few weeks ago one of our longarm customers contacted me by email wanting help with her Nolting Pro machine.  It normally stitched beautifully without any problems with stitch quality and tension, but had developed problems.  The tension could not be adjusted satisfactorily, and once adjusted, it didn’t stay and within a few inches was bad again.  I replied with the standard list of things to try such as, change the needle, check the thread path, make sure the bobbin area is clean and oiled.  Along with a few other suggestions, Sue did her best, but after several days of trying, nothing worked and we scheduled a time to go check out her “Miss Daisy.”

terrible quilt tension

Really terrible tension!

We arrived on a warm humid afternoon and went to her beautiful new studio.  Armed with all of the tools we might need we checked the tension assembly and decided that the tension spring seemed a little weak and might need adjusting or replacing.  Sue had already purchased a few replacement parts and had one on hand (we had more in our spare parts), so we decided to replace the tension spring.  This repair is easy to do and instructions are found in our book, Guide to Quilting with Your Nolting.  The repair, however, did not completely solve the problem.  Because she complained of a bigger tension problem stitching in one direction, we had her demonstrate.  Immediately I knew it was needle flex, so we also adjusted the timing.  Although there was some improvement, neither of these fixes solved the problem tension issues.  At that point we began talking about the weather.

About the time Sue’s problems started, the weather turned quite hot and humid, and there was a heavy rainfall which even seeped into their basement.  The studio is not in the basement, however, it is in a converted garage.  The floor is raised above the original ground level floor, but in years past, the garage floor would take on moisture.  Having done all we could do and after giving Miss Daisy a checkup, we knew that mechanically she was perfect.  Our prescription was to purchase a dehumidifier.

As Paul Harvey would say, “The Rest of The Story”

We do not like leaving a customer with an unsolved issue because it looks like we haven’t done our job.  But, in this case, there was nothing more we could do.  A few days later Sue purchased a dehumidifier.  She called me about three days after starting the dehumidifier running to give me a thumbs-up report.  She was back to quilting and Miss Daisy was working perfectly without making any adjustments.  In fact, the dehumidifier bin had filled several times and she dumped many, many quarts of water pulled out of the air in her studio.  The humidity in the studio the day she started running the dehumidifier was 78% and was now down to about 50%.  The best news, of course, was that she was back to quilting without any problems, without making any adjustments, and could finally work on her customer’s quiet.

Other Similar Experiences

This was not the first time the humidity has been a problem.  Several years ago one of our Canadian customers contacted me with a similar list of complaints.  Yesterday it quilted perfectly, today, nothing but tension problems.  Although she did have a dehumidifier in her basement studio, her husband had turned it off to save on the electric.  They had been having a spell of very hot, humid weather.  I recommended that the dehumidifier be turned back on.  She did and  emailed me several days later that her Nolting machine was stitching perfectly again.

I have also experienced similar issues.  Prior to having my nice studio, my studio was located in the second floor of our Cape Cod house.  There was very little ventilation and it gets quite hot.  Summers here can be humid, too.  On a number of occasions I simply had to quit quilting for awhile until the weather changed.  Nothing I did mechanically or with adjustments corrected the tension problems.  When the weather became more normal, cooler and much less humid, I could go back to quilting with no problem.  (solving other tension problems)

The Science Behind This Type of Tension Problem

Let’s talk about the science now.  Quilts are made of cotton fabric, both the top and the backing.  Often the batting is cotton or a blend of cotton and poly, and very often the thread is cotton.  Cotton is a natural fiber and does take on moisture.  Think of what happens when you are wearing a cotton t-shirt when you are working outside on a hot, humid day.  The t-shirt gets wet from perspiration.  If you hang your laundry outside on a humid day, you will also realize it takes a very long time for it to dry.  The facts are that cotton can take on and hold 40% its weight in water.

OK, but the quilt isn’t wet, or is it?  Science lesson #1.  (I was a high school science teacher – sorry)  Things (like moisture) always move from where there is more of it (the air with high humidity) to where there is less of it (the quilt, batting, thread).  Remember studying osmosis in biology?  Well, probably not.  Never the less, although not osmosis, this is a similar physical phenomena that is happening.  And, even if you are using poly thread, the moisture taken on by the quilt sandwich causes uneven drag on the thread resulting in tension issues.

Science lesson #2.  This transfer (of moisture) will continue to take place until equilibrium is met.  Eventually both the air and quilt would be the same humidity.  This is not likely to happen as it would take a very long time because the body of air is so much larger than the quilt.  However, as long as the quilt is in the humid environment, there will be a subtle increase in the moisture in the quilt sandwich which cause adverse affects on stitch quality.  The illustration below shows how with time the particles in the left side will migrate to the right side until equilibrium is reached with he same number of particles in both sides.

Science lesson #3.  Warm air holds more moisture than cooler air.  As a result, when the temps go up in the summer, that air will be able to hold more moisture.  The relative humidity of 78% at 90 degrees holds much more moisture than the relative humidity of 78% at 70 degrees.  Stated another way, at 90 degrees and 78% humidity, the air is holding 78% or what it could at that temperature.  The key phrase is “at that temperature.”  The higher the temperature, the more moisture it can hold making hot, humid summer days very uncomfortable. The higher the actual level of moisture in the air (because of higher temp) the more moisture transferred to the quilt sandwich.

Solutions to the problem

  1. Forget quilting when the weather is hot and humid, or even normal temperature, but humid.  It is the changing  weather, upper trending temps and humidity that are the problem.
  2. Run the air conditioning making sure it is also dehumidifying the air.
  3. Get a dehumidifier and run it during humid weather.  We always recommend using a dehumidifier in a basement studio.  Basements, regardless of how well they are made will usually be higher humidity.

Conclusion

heat and humidity

If you are uncomfortable with heat and humidity, likely your quiet sandwich is too!!!

Yes, it can be the weather.  Higher humidity conditions can cause poor stitch quality and tension issues.  The tech staff at Nolting Longarm are now realizing that humidity can be a contributing factor.  If you are uncomfortable because of the weather, more than likely your quiet sandwich is too.   As frustrating as it seems, once the quilt sandwich takes on moisture, even though it doesn’t feel wet, quilting may not work and you will simply be frustrated because nothing you do will solve the poor stitch quality.  My best suggestion is to just walk away.  Get a dehumidifier going to pull the excess moisture out of the air, the quilt sandwich and thread.  When the humidity levels return to normal in the studio and quilt, go back to quilting.  Think of the time off from quilting as a mini vacation.  You now have time to go to the beach, visit the museum or park, or, piece another quilt.

 

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