For some years I have been eyeing up longarm quilting machines, dreaming of having one. I bought a Gracie frame for my domestic sewing machine, with the intention of becoming fairly proficient on it, but the frame soon became buried under pieces of fabric, as I discovered the pitfalls of having a machine that fits snugly into a space – and it is rather heavy to be lifting on and off a frame on a regular basis.

At the first Bloggerati retreat, Sylvia Priest suggested to my husband that he buy me a Simply Sixteen machine. I didn’t think that would happen any time soon, and I’ve been quite happy quilting on my domestic machine – an Elna 7200 Quilter’s Dream – that I bought in 2007.

About 2 months ago I saw an advert on the Quilter’s Destash page, advertising a Sweet Sixteen sit down machine. I didn’t look into it much at the time, as I didn’t think it would be so much of a possibility, even though the seller was in our area. A few weeks later I saw the advert again, and this time the seed of an idea was planted in my mind. I worked out the finances – and yes, I could afford it. I talked about it with my husband – and we worked out where it would go; I had primed him already, and he had just bought a new golf trolley, so the time seemed right…!

I contacted the seller and arranged to go and see it. I got to have a test drive, saw all the different feet, was told about the oiling, how to make sure the tension was set right, it was all very thorough. If truth be told, I knew that I was going to buy it before going to see it! That all happened on a Friday. Monday was a bank holiday – and that is when I collected it. The seller had packed everything up, – the machine was in its original box, and my husband and I were able to pack it all in his car. We had prepared the room ready for it, and once at home we took everything to the quilting room (a little side room, or dressing room off a bedroom).

Table made, machine waiting to go into it

I unpacked it and set it up the following day, but it then took me another day or two to get round to start using it. I was a little nervous – would I be any good at it? How much practise would I need? Would it be just like using my trusted Elna? I had a little practice on a practice piece, and soon I felt comfortable enough to work on a quilt.

All set up!
Practising FMQ
Checking the tension – trying to get it perfect

The first quilting I did on my new machine was some quilt as you go. Some of you may remember that my word for the year is ‘Finish’ – and I’m trying to finish things before starting new projects (just don’t ask me how this is going). The project I chose is the British Patchwork and Quilting Calendar quilt – from this year, the second project was a bock from a BOM with the same name from 2012! These smaller projects were great for me getting used to controlling the new machine and getting used to how it works.

Quilt As You Go
Outlining the hearts and some meandering
Trying a new pattern
New pattern with white thread on white background = difficult to see the pattern

At some point I may look at getting a stand up long arm machine – and it would be ideal if I can use the machine quilting frame I already have. However, at the moment I am quite content with my new machine, as it allows me to make good use of the skills I have been developing over a number of years. What is particularly ideal is that I don’t have to plan my quilting and piecing projects around each other, as the Sweet Sixteen is always set up for quilting, and my trusted Elna is ready for piecing: once I’ve quilted a quilt I can quickly make and attach the binding without having to remember about feed-dogs and changing feet.