Saturday, 30 June 2018

My HQ Sweet 16 Journey

Its time to write about my experience with the HQ Sweet 16. I bought the machine about a year ago. I had been looking at the machine for some years however was not sure whether I actually really needed it. I was by that stage proficient in my FMQ and was quite content with how things were travelling. However, doing mainly Wholecloth quilts I felt some kind of boredom as I was essentially doing the same thing over and over again. I then quilted this beast

 All was well until I realised that my marking of my framework was out by sometimes as much as 1/4in and more and I realised that I needed to use a ruler to set the framework down in order to straighten this up. The first problem was that I did not actually have a large ruler that would allow me to do this and I ended up using a normal quilting ruler to stitch my frame around the motif. This was hellish, to say the least...not because of the quilting ruler, but because I could not see behind the foot of the machine. I spent a good 10 min to align the ruler each time I wanted to stitch, making sure it would not slip and then stitched in absolute snail pace against the ruler. I think it took about four attempts to get that first frame around the motif and that definitely got me thinking that I had reached the limit of my Pfaff machine. I did use a smaller ruler to quilt the Orange Peel design in one of the borders and thoroughly enjoyed looking at the stitches I thought then that it looked so much more refined then if I had drawn the design in and then stitched it freehand. Well, this got me thinking about the Sweet 16 (again!)...then doing some more research on the machine I also was somewhat horrified how much they had gone up in price over here and I decided...its now or never! I had to decide whether this is something I wanted or not. If I waited any longer I would just have to pay more and more and with the Quilt Show coming up there would be a Special on offer on the machine.
So the journey began...I decided to buy the machine.
I had watched all of the instructional videos, had read other quilters' introduction to the machine and started initial reaction was one of utter confusion. The machine was very different to what I was used to and I also realised how much I had sat in my comfort zone. The machine had a different noise, rhythm and speed and the different set up, i.e. the larger room around the machine was utterly confusing. I would take a quilt and scrunch it up to quilt and the quilt would just unroll itself in front of my eyes and lie flat. While this was a good thing, this completely threw me!
Initially I had only minor issues in setting the tension on the machine. I successfully quilted 2 baby quilts with Aurifil 40/2 at some speed. All went well and I managed to quilt a nice meander all over, noting that this was incredibly fast, possibly because I hardly needed to shift and re-arrange the quilt.
At the same time I started the Handiquilter Ruler of the Month club with our local HQ group
Stitching more deliberate and slowly and now using my familiar Aurifil 50/2 in both bobbin and top, tension issues started to appear. In addition, I found that starting off gave me issues as I could not reach the hand wheel to position the needle where I wanted it to go. The more I tried with the tension the more difficult it became...also realised that I had only ever FMQ with Aurifil 50/2. As I had received a gift pack of thread with my purchase I started to experiment with all sorts of thread combinations, fiddled with tension and got incredibly frustrated in the process (see post where I was just about to loose the plot). It felt as if I was starting all over again.
I watched untold videos re tension issues, went on forums, web sites etc to find the answers...
It was my worst nightmare which continued for several months. In addition, I could not manage the speed, i.e. how slowly did I quilt before ? The fastest I could do on the Sweet 16 was 10% and as time went by I seriously started to doubt my purchase and started to hate my FMQ. I became increasingly annoyed with hearing 'you will get the feel for it' or you 'feel' when the tension is right. I was definitely not getting the feeling and definitely not loving it. At that stage it would have been 3 - 4 months into my purchase and I was starting to wonder whether I needed to sell the machine!

So, what helped me in this?
- Jamie Wallen's comment in one of his videos re sticking with one thread initially (at least for 6 months) and how to clean your machine properly (very important!)
- decided to follow my intuition and sense what I thought right tension feels like; the only advice I can give re this is that my tension works when I test the bobbin in my palm and set it so that the bobbin lifts up in your palm but will not leave your palm, however just about wants to leave your palm...just at that point; also got a Towa guide to note down the number which I now use as a bit of a starting point to set my bobbin; I am still stitching with Aurifil 50/2 in top and bobbin, however also have successfully stitched with 60 wt Bottomline in the bobbin and tried the Decobobs 80wt prewounds (really like them); each of those needs a different bobbin setting and I am managing this without any major dramas.
- I continue to stitch rather slowly and decided not to focus on that, i.e. one issue at a time
- I don't blame the machine every time something does not work; as I found out the hard way there are a number of factors at play like batting, thread, bobbin winder...

Since then there has been a definite change in my attitude to the machine and towards the end of last year I started to really enjoying quilting on it. The tension adjustments seemed so much easier; the speed, sound and rhythm started to feel more familiar and I could really appreciate the potential that this machine has:
- ruler work - love ruler work and all that it brings to my quilting; not great at it yet, but getting better all the time
- pantographs - have stitched out a pantograph design on a small baby quilt; while time consuming this got me very excited as I was getting really bored with my overall designs; also managed to stitch out a Baptist fan design on a smaller quilt recently - something I have wanted to do for a very long time
- larger scale designs - all I have to do is to crank up the speed and I will naturally make wider movements
- definitely faster process as I use the machine to baste the quilt (and stitch down the edges) and also have continued to use rulers to stitch-in-the-ditch (I use Invisafil for this which strangely enough has worked for me since I got the machine).

So, I am feeling that I am back to 'normal' with my quilting however if you look at it, this has taken me a good 9 months to get there. This is in contrast to some quilters who get these machines and are just loving it and do not seem to have any issues from the word 'go'. I tend to think that I was too stuck in my comfort zone with my DSM which made it difficult to accept any changes...who knows! Still have a lot of work to do...I got a whole box full of thread from Superior Threads that I have never used before, but at least now I do not feel so intimidated by that.



  1. Liebe Karin,

    Dein HQ Sweet 16 Quilt sieht einfach wunderschön aus...ich bewundere solche Arbeiten sehr. Daran habe ich mich noch nicht gewagt.

    Liebe Grüße aus Germany,

    1. Vielen Dank schlimm ist das nicht, braucht man nur sehr viel Geduld. Du könntest mit einem wreath in der Mitte anfangen und dann nur ein paar fillers rund rum Quilten und schon hast du eine Wholecloth.

  2. Your work has been, and always will be, so perfect! I think there is always going to be time needed to get used to new machines. I feel your adjustment period wasn't very long. I love keeping up with you and your projects.

    1. Thanks Rosemary...don’t know what I expected but obviously was not prepared for the change. Glad I did it though, this is really pushing me to try different things


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