I recently interviewed friend and colleague Heather Kinion about her experience with a mid-arm quilting machine. We’re fond of BabyLock over here at Quilty; I talked to Heather about the Tiara and she dished on her experience.
M: Hi, Heather.
M: You’re a big fan of the Tiara. In fact, the first one you’ve tried is the one I have, right?
M: What do you like about it?
H: The Tiara is designed for free-motion quilting and it a mid-arm makes it so so so easy to do. It even makes quilting easy on big quilts that seem like they would be impossible to free-motion without a straight up long arm that would never fit into a corner of my guest bedroom in the city that still has a queen-sized bed in it!
M: The first time you sat down at the Tiara, what took you a minute to get the hang of?
H: The bobbin tension. It’s so important — but weird on any quilting machine, mid-arm or longarm. My domestic machine has a drop-in bobbin that doesn’t require constant attention like a mid-arm does. It isn’t hard to do exactly, but if you don’t check it, you can end up really wrecking it.
Honestly, I’d done almost zero free-motion quilting when I met the Tiara, so I was kind of terrified of the whole thing, although being able to sit down like I was at my domestic was a little less terrifying. I didn’t take a class with a dealer and I should have. In fact, that’s my biggest tip: for the love of the quilting gods, buy this from a dealer and take a class unless you really really hate doing hard things the easy way! And practice so you get the hang of free-motion. I used tips from Quilty web episodes, blogs, and and episode of Fons and Porter’s Love of Quilting that happened onto my DVR when I most needed it to get some basic strategies down. It just got better and easier with every project that I quilted. I would say that I still need to keep practicing that.
M: How does free-motion quilting differ from using your walking foot on your domestic machine?
H: When using my walking foot, I get things lined up and settled and I just power through the long stitches. I often push my pedal to the max. I cannot imagine doing that on the Tiara! It can go way faster than I can and even with the stitch regulator on. I also find that as a straight line quilter I tend to be rather minimalist and favor loose quilting, but when I’m on the Tiara I often find I’m drawn to making rather dense quilting even though sometime that’s not intentional but a result of the point of focus tending to draw me into a very small part of the quilt.
M: Got some tips for folks who have a new Tiara?
H: Always have a test quilt sandwich handy to check your tensions and don’t be afraid to adjust them. Keep the manual handy to make sure the adjustments you are making are the ones you want. Practice practice practice! When I’m getting ready to do a bigger more significant project, I quilt either a practice sandwich or a doll quilt for my nieces using the motif, so I am not starting out on the big deal project-my nieces are not particular on the quilting on their doll quilts, they just like wrapping their dollies and stuffed animals in them. And one of the longer-armers in my guild (the Chicago Modern Quilt Guild) always coaches me to take a deep breath and relax. And take the dealer class, it will be so worth it.
M: If someone’s thinking about getting one, what encouragement might you give them?
Well, I was worried I wouldn’t use it enough, and I don’t always use it every day or week or month even but I finish so many more quilts with it than I did without it. I don’t have to send so many quilts out to be long armed (although I still sometimes do). Even in quilts I would’ve straight-line quilted before, the Tiara is way faster. I’ve quilted an entire lap quilt in less than three hours! I think it’s taken me nearly that long to pin baste it. On top of that, it really opened up my mind to using quilting more as a design element in quilting and to the amount and types of projects that I can do. It’s expanded my quilting horizons so much in less than a year.
M: Heather, you’re great. But you know that.
H: Aw, shucks.