Tips From A New Grace Cutie Frame Owner
My love for sewing is a constant in my life. I never get bored and I am certain it is because of my evolution. When I look back at my early blogs and YouTube videos, I am amazed at how far I have come. I try not to compare myself to others who will always be farther ahead and you shouldn't either. We are always exactly where we are supposed to be and we move forward when it is time. Now I will say that I have had to put effort into my sewing craft by taking classes, going to conventions and purchasing upgraded tools as I have become more proficient. My latest tool is a Grace Cutie Frame.
The Grace Company has many different solutions if you are interested in quilting. Most people I have spoken to at quilt shows love the idea of having a Long Arm Quilting machine but there are always hurdles to overcome. Usually size of your sewing space and the price tag will hold most people back. If you have followed my blog or watched my videos, you will know that my space is not very large. I am set up in our dining room and I have several different machines and a large cutting table that I don't want to give up. So this Grace Cutie Frame helped me move forward with my quilting journey while fitting into my space. The price tag was much more comfortable as well. My plan was to use my Babylock Destiny 2 that has the largest throat space in my machine collection.
Setting up the Cutie frame took a couple of hours. It was not difficult as everything was very well labeled. It's amazing how many things fit into that box.
When I researched the Cutie Frame, I wasn't sure if my machine would fit on the carriage because of the large screen on the right side. You can see in the picture that it does fit and is able to lock down securely. It has 11 inches of throat space. That means there is 11 inches between the needle and the right side of the machine. That sewing area will be reduced by several inches once on the frame. So keep that in mind if you are thinking of purchasing a frame. My vertical sewing space winds up being 7 1/2 inches. That doesn't bother me because I am used to doing machine embroidery and being defined by hoop size. The horizontal or side to side sewing space is roughly 30 inches with my machine on the frame. So it is like sewing with a large embroidery hoop that is 7 1/2 x 30 inches. Compared to a 4x4, 5x7 or even a 6x10, it is quite a different feeling.
I have seen many longarm machines and frames at quilt shows, but I was not familiar with the mechanics. Working with this smaller frame, I now have a better understanding of how they work and where all of the wires need to go. I was concerned that my cords would get caught once the carriage started moving. There are plenty of places to tuck everything close to the machine so it stays safe.
The way I set up my frame and my electrical outlet situation caused some head scratching. I did move my battery back up so I could plug in my machine. You can see my cord draped across my table here. I also purchased an extra extension cable for my sewing pedal. There are several in the Cutie Box but you can see my table doesn't have legs so my cable machine placement for the pedal was challenging.
My plug for the sewing pedal has a standard audio cord end so I was able to visit my local Best Buy and purchase an extension cord about 6 feet long. My pedal had plenty of extra reach room to move around on the floor but I did improve on that a little more once I began my quilting.
This diagram shows how you accomplish your quilting with a standard sewing pedal. As you sew, you are standing on one foot working your pedal. Your hands guide the sewing machine back and forth, side to side with the carriage. You are looking at your quilt, trying to follow whatever quilting design and as you move balanced on one foot, you get tired. My best fix was to move from right to left foot with my pedal. I also found that I was rushing to get areas quilted because I was not comfortable. Needless to say, my stitches were not even at all. Now this isn't the frame's fault. It worked great, but with my machine set up, I knew I could improve on my situation.
My machine came with a large pedal and I looked up replacement options. I found I already had a smaller pedal from a Brother sewing machine that was perfect to use. I measured it and went shopping.
My local Wal Mart has a nice bike section and they carry this cell phone bike mount that worked perfectly.
It is spring loaded on the sides so the sewing pedal fits securely and then I could attach it to the handle bars. Since it has 360 degrees of motion, I can move it any direction I need to. Now I can use my hands to squeeze the pedal as I quilt. It has been much easier to control my stitches and keep them more regulated. This could be put on the left side also if you are left handed. It gets all of the cords off the floor so they don't get tangled. I was afraid I would accidentally step on my pedal while advancing my quilt and cause some damage to the machine or quilt. As long as I have strength in my hands I can use this option. I have also read that a lighter spring can be installed in pedals to make them easier to press. I would get a technician to help with that if possible. Another upgrade would be to install some kind of small block to the pedal so it stops at a certain point like a governor on an engine. Then you could fully depress the pedal to a certain stopping point while moving the carriage. I find that if I place my machine speed at the highest setting, my hand operation goes very quickly and evenly. In the beginning I was moving slowly and my stitching was not consistent. Again, lack of comfort played a big role in that.
This might look like a mess, but it has really helped me to install two tape measures across the frame top. I have a hard time judging space and once I got started quilting, I would get excited. Before you knew it, I was out of sewing area and wasn't in great spots to advance my quilt. These two tape measures keep me focused so I can look ahead and judge how much space I have left or go back to areas I have missed. They are installed with magnets so nothing is permanent. I used L brackets from Lowe's and put ceramic magnets between the frame and the brackets. Harbor Freight also had magnetic tool bars. That is the black metal bar you see running across the brackets. Then the small clips holding the tape are magnetic also. Bungee cords keep everything secure so it doesn't move around. I also added a small paper bag with a spring loaded clamp for my thread clippings. You can see it hanging from the table edge.
The tape measures really define my sewing area. It reminds me so much of doing embroidery and helps my expectations. Since I know my sewing area size, I can do some simple math and calculate how many times I will be able to move my quilt side to side and advance forward. This helps me figure out time to complete. This and moving that sewing pedal up were game changers. Once I had the pedal upright, I was able to move forward standing on both feet while completely balanced. The tape measures can be loosened when advancing the quilt or moving it side to side.
Another view of my small thread bag. Harbor Freight has so many options for magnets and clamps. I love browsing there.
Now this tip is something I realized once I started quilting. I installed a large 90/14 needle in my machine and broke two of them. Once that happened, I used one of these Top Stitch 110/16 needles and was able to finish my quilt. There is a lot of needle deflection as you move the material in doing free motion quilting. You may even see your needle bend. This is probably my fault because I did get excited once everything started working better and my movements were fast. So try to keep your movements in time with your sewing pedal and smooth. A larger needle may help you avoid breaking but it will put larger needles holes in your quilt so keep that in mind. As you practice it will get easier and your technique will improve. I just wanted to quilt so I had to keep reminding myself that I needed to hold back a bit.
My first quilt was a panel. I did free motion quilting all over it. My hope is that I will keep learning new ways to quilt including some ruler work. I did buy a ruler foot and some Westalee rulers. My advice to you is to keep your first quilt simple. I tried doing straight lines and following shapes before I did this quilt and I got frustrated. Not at the Cutie quilt frame but at myself because it is a new task. So don't put that perfectly pieced quilt on your frame for your first try. Pick plain easy things that you can use for practice. Get your Cutie Frame set up as best you can for comfort. It was hard work doing the quilting, watching my movements and advancing the quilt. I got a great upper and lower body workout and slept like a log that night; with a smile on my face I might add.
My finished quilt is roughly 45 x 45 inches so just about right for a lap throw. It took me an afternoon to finish the quilting and I did the binding the next day. I do have a video you can watch below that shows all of my set up ideas and where I purchased everything. So far I have had fun using my Grace Cutie Frame and I am glad I made the decision to purchase. I have several new quilts in mind and a special one ready to quilt as soon as I am comfortable in my skill level. Remember you can visit my You tube channel by clicking on the video below. I hope you have enjoyed this post, share what you learn and are generous with what you create. Someone will appreciate your hard work.
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Lagniappe Peddler believes that the process of working with our hands can be one of the best forms of healing the hurts in our lives and welcomes all who visit this safe little corner of the world.
What is a Lagniappe Peddler?
ˌlanˈyap,ˈlanˌyap - something given as a bonus or extra gift
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