Not done with a longarm

Today I’d like to interrupt my ongoing, insanely dull series of posts about shows, new work, and publications to make an announcement: I haven’t been using a longarm machine.

When I encounter people at shows, they will often ask me this question: “Have you been using a longarm?” No. I have not. From time to time, I’ll see a comment on a blog or a discussion list which will state that thus-and-such piece of work was created using a longarm. No. It was not. I’ve been using a fairly standard domestic machine, a Bernina 440QE. It’s a very nice machine, the nicest I’ve had in my life. However – not a longarm. It has about an 8 1/2″ throat, I think.

To continue in this vein:

Flooded – not stitched with a longarm.

A Gift from Earth – not stitched with a longarm.

Siesta – Also not stitched with a longarm.

Anything else I’ve ever created? Also not stitched with a longarm. It has just been me and my flagon of espresso, shoving the danged work back and forth under the Bernina, trying to not make my thoracic outlet syndrome flare up.

I’m not sure why people want to believe that I’ve been using a longarm. One possibility is that they suspect a sane person wouldn’t try to densely stitch largish pieces on a standard domestic machine. (They are correct.) Another possibility – and I base this on the panicked expressions on people’s faces when I say “actually, you can thread paint with whatever machine you have” – is that they lack confidence. Maybe there’s something they’d like to do or try, but they’re afraid of “failure”. If something was done with a high end machine, it means it’s out of their reach and they don’t have to risk that “failure”.

My experience is, there’s no substitute for sitting down with a cup of coffee and giving something a try. I’ve made many a cleaning rag when painting fabric, and had to start over – a set of teeth which resembled Chicklets come to mind. “Failure” just isn’t a big deal. The only people who don’t “fail” are the ones who don’t try to do anything.

That said, I will make a confession – I’m tired of flirting with the thoracic outlet syndrome and setting a timer for a break every 15 minutes. I do have a crib-sized machine quilting frame and a Bailey 13″ on order. I’m going to give them a try to see if they’ll make certain tasks easier. However, I don’t NEED this stuff. I can create without it – and so can you.

4 Responses to “Not done with a longarm”

  1. Maria Elkins says:

    Actually, if they believe you did it on a longarm, it gives them a reason why they haven’t made amazing quilts like yours. The reasoning goes, they don’t own a longarm, so of course, they can’t. It lets them off the hook, so to speak. Never mind that they put themselves “on the hook.” For the record, none of mine have been made on a longarm either :) That said, I did buy a George which has an extended throat (compared to a standard machine) recently, so I expect some of my quilts in the future will entail less wrestling. Not a bad thing.

  2. Martha Ginn says:

    Tanya, I so admire your thread-painting, and particularly your encouragement of others who need a little push to find out that they can do it. Not like yours, but they have to start somewhere and put in the dedication and practice. Keep up the beautiful work!

  3. Peggy says:

    Thanks for making this pondering public! I am a newbie with a few tops trying to find the key to “thread tension.” I had a breakthrough the other day because I went beyond my limits. I have a quilt that I want to get back to becasue the tension went awry ;)….Tops I have galore because I refuse to send them to the local lady for long arm stippling when I know that I have it in me to do it on my machine ;)….no fancy smangle for me until a few of my quilt tops are done!

  4. Isabelle says:

    Goodness, well done you. You are a wonder. I love your artwork (and I enjoyed the story of the dog).