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Each year we see new models of machines on the market.

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The trend seems to be going toward speed, automatic stitch regulators, and machine-on-a-frame quilting systems. Machines that were designed to be stationary on a table are often put on frames and suddenly become mobile. Some work well in this mode; some don't. There are some factors which should be considered when using a mobile machine.

1. Thread delivery system. If the machine is a newer model, it might have a cone holder attached. These machines are designed to use thread wound on a cone rather than a spool. Thread on a cone is intended to come off over the top of the cone, tension-free, and is not hindered by a flange on the top or end of a typical machine spool. Thread on a cone should NOT feed off from the side. That adds too much drag to the thread. If you use a regular machine spool, it is best to position it in a way so that the thread unwinds straight from the side of the spool, with the spool rotating, rather than over the end of the spool. It does not matter if the thread unwinds from the front side or the back side of the spool. Most machines have a vertical adapter which accommodates this.

2. If the machine has an automatic stitch regulator, it compensates for our uneven movements. As a result, we tend to go faster, placing more stress on the thread. There are some "workhorse" spun polyester threads which will work in almost any situation. They get the job done but they are usually plain and don't enhance the project. Some are quite linty. If you like the look of decorative threads, we give up a little in the strength department but gain everything in the beauty department. The key is to slow down. Some longarm machines have a speedometer which indicates the percentage of maximum speed. The safe speed limit for sensitive threads such as metallics is 30-35% of maximum.

3. If you use a semi-industrial or high-speed industrial machine, that machine was engineered to do high speed straight stitching with a tough, spun polyester thread on a stationary table. When we put the machine on a movable frame, select decorative threads, and hit the gas pedal, we're operating outside the intended use. It will work, but the key is to SLOW DOWN. Start out slowly and increase the speed to the point where the machine, thread, and movement work well together. When stopping, slowly ease to a stop.

Any machine should run a decent-quality-or-higher decorative thread. Remember to have the right needle size (usually a 90/14 or 100/16 on home machines), loosen the upper tension, and slow down.

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By: Bob Purcell