Saturday, March 22, 2014

Quilting or Software Engineering?

I don't know if you've priced a sewing machine recently.  Quilters tend to use high-end sewing machines.  And then there are the quilting machines - they were predominantly displayed by the vendors at the Lancaster Quilt Show.  In fact my first impression as I walked in the door was 'Wow - machines that quilt by themselves!'

This is one of several machines, happily sewing away all by itself, after the salesperson touched a few buttons to activate the software.  My first question for the vendor I talked to was 'Is this still called quilting?'  These machines are absolutely amazing, but I learned  from my wife that quilt shows, at least in Canada, are beginning to exclude quilts completely quilted by computerized machines.

These are 'long-arm' quilting machines, and there were a lot on display.  I'm not sure if the 'long arm' refers to the long bars you can mount a full-size bed quilt on, or to the 'long arm' of the actual sewing machine (what quilters call the 'throat'), which can reach across up to 30" of fabric as it quilts.  We've come a long way from a group of ladies sitting around the dining room table!

Long arm machines like this can be used without a computer, either as a free motion machine (see the handles you can steer it with), or with various guided patterns, but they now also come in computerized versions.  I had an interesting chat with another vendor, learning that the computerized version like this might set you back a cool $25-30,000.00!  That's just a little above our budget! (They only come with one machine; the other is just added for displays.)

And then around the corner I found this eminently sensible much cheaper simple version, made of wood, and only costing $600.00.  You use your own sewing machine here, and the table transforms it into a very simple version of a free motion quilting machine.  I was glad to see someone was designing for lower budgets!

Anyway, that's about it from here for the quilting show.  I want to reassure all you quilters out there that the chauffeur also arranged to take in numerous quilt and fabric shops, many of them out in the Amish countryside east of Lancaster.  You'll be glad to know that my resident quilter is in a 'using-up-my-stash' and 'finishing-old-projects' mode just now, so the damage to the pocket-book was relatively mild.

I'll finish up with the grand prize winning quilt, a full-size brilliantly embroidered bed quilt.  Not my style, but I certainly recognized its beauty.

A little detail; the detail makes all the difference in a prize-winning quilt.  Hope you've enjoyed my totally personal impressions of the quilt show and the quilting art that makes it worthwhile!


  1. Beautiful! I can't even imagine how many hours work went into that quilt!

  2. Sounds like a great Quilt show and visit to Lancaster. I had no idea that they had machines to do quilting.. Thanks for sharing. Have a happy Sunday!

  3. I haven't seen a long arm in person so I enjoyed your photos, for women that sew I suppose they are wonderful. That last quilt is beautiful, but I can just imagine Chance laying in the center of it:)

  4. It's a fascinating looking machine... I didn't know there were machines out there like this, mind you...

  5. Thank you Mr FG., and I'm sure if Mrs FG ever needs to get a new machine, you will realise the value of such a worthy addition. ( Years ago my man needed a new band saw, and when I didn't blink at the price, I commented that one day I might need a new machine, years later I did, my man didn't blink then either!!) Grand prize winner, wouldn't be my favourite either, but I understand the detail, preciseness, and work entailed in this magnificence .Again , so many thanks for sharing all the news, photos, and you views on this particular craft. Cheers from Jean.

  6. I do like the grand prize winner. The long arm refers to the machine itself.

  7. You got off pretty good on the pocket book this time around I would say. Not too fond of the Grand Prize winner myself, but yes I appreciate the work gone into it, should it not have been made with the software *smile*

  8. Wow! That winner is a work of art!