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Category: Midarm Quilting Machines

Spring Clean Your Studio Blog Hop

Hello, and welcome to the Spring Clean Your Studio Blog Hop, hosted by the vivacious Cheryl Sleboda! I’m so glad you’re here. Right now, my studio is an explosion of quilt market preparations, a  t-shirt quilt, and an applique quilt UFO from my grandmother. While I thrive in creative mess, this was getting out of hand.  So I’ve been spending a lot of time procrastinating (read: playing online video games) instead of creating. Yea for blog hop motivation!

Here’s a before picture of the studio.  Not much like the lovely clean-up that I posted about in January, is it? (oh, dear. . .actually it looks a LOT like January’s before picture!)


Cleaning Tasks

I tend to cover horizontal spaces (like the floor, and my midarm table) when I’m working through projects.  One of my big goals is to keep the midarm table free for basted quilts ONLY. Because when a project is sitting where it belongs, I keep working on it.  When the table is buried in projects, I don’t quilt much.

My second major cleaning task was piecing the t-shirt quilt. Yea for clear floors!

As I was cleaning, I found two of my daughters’ dresses in a pile, needing mending.  So I sat down, mended them, and put them away where they belonged.

Finally, I cleared my cutting table.

So, two days of clean-up (one to piece the t-shirt quilt, and one to wander around, tidying and vacuuming), and now my studio looks like this:


Keep it Clean!

Ahh.  Much better. Putting a quilt on the midarm table served two purposes:  a reminder to keep other stuff off the table, and an incentive to quilt that blue quilt, because I need those pins to baste the t-shirt quilt.  Hah!

Confession: behind this camera angle of a neat and tidy studio is an ironing board, piled high with two Quilt Market projects, the t-shirt quilt top with border and backing fabric, and the applique quilt pieces. Fortunately, Cheryl said it was perfectly okay if the entire studio wasn’t cleaned. At least now enough of my workspaces are clear enough for me to get back to work and make some good progress.

Thank you so much for tagging along with my little spring cleaning.  If you’d like tips on how to organize a studio space, be sure to check out the January clean-up post I mentioned earlier.  That included my sources for fabric folding solutions, a great way to hang rulers, and some fun tricks to help motivate you to organize your sewing space. If you’re new to the Caffeinated Quilter, please join in with all my adventures by subscribing to the blog, and/or following me on FacebookInstagram and Pinterest. Finally, be sure to check out all the other stops on the Spring Clean Your Studio Blog tour listed below. What’s your favorite tip for keeping a clean studio?

Happy Stitching!







May 1 – Teri Lucas – www.terificreations.com
May 2 – Tammy Silvers – www.tamarinis.typepad.com
May 3 – Emily Breclaw – www.thecaffeinatedquilter.com (You are here!)
May 4 – Amalia Morusiewicz – www.FUNfromAtoZ.com
May 5 – John Kubiniec – www.bigrigquilting.com/blog/
May 6 – Debby Brown – www.higheredhands.blogspot.com
May 7 – Melissa Marie Collins – www.melissamariecollins.blogspot.com
May 8 – Delve MIY – www.fronddesignstudios.wordpress.com
May 9 – Misty Cole – www.mistycole.com
May 10 – Sam Hunter – www.huntersdesignstudio.com/blog
May 11 – Dale Ashera-Davis – www.dalead.wordpress.com
May 12 – Sara Mika – www.mockpiestudio.blogspot.com
May 13 – Sarah Trumpp – www.Wonderstrumpet.com
May 14 – Carma Halterman – www.beanstrings.blogspot.com
May 15 – Jessica Darling – www.jessicakdarling.com
May 16 – Lisa Chin – www.lisachinartist.com
May 17 – Sally Johnson – www.sallysquiltingcorner.blogspot.com
May 18 – Mandy Leins – www.mandalei.com/blog
May 19 – Shruti Dandekar – www.13woodhouseroad.com
May 20 – Jane Davila – www.janedavila.com
May 21 – Ebony Love – www.lovebugstudios.com
May 22 – Cheryl Sleboda – blog.muppin.com

New Page for Janome Artistic Quilter Information!


Just wanted to create a quick post to let you know about a new page on my website.  Midarm quilting continues to be one of the most popular categories here at the Caffeinated Quilter, so I’ve built a page to corral all the wonderful information about the Janome Artistic Sit Down machine in one easy-to-find place.  Please let me know if I’m missing important information. Y’all have chimed in with lots of great tips and tricks in the comments of blog posts, and I want to make sure those tips are accessible to others as well.

And if you’d like to be part of a new facebook group I’m starting for Janome Artistic SD Quilter owners, e-mail me and I’ll add you to the beta list!  It’s going to be a great place to share ideas, help each other troubleshoot problems, and share quilting pictures.

What do you think of the new page? And the overall website changes lately?

Happy Stitching!


Winding Bobbins for the Janome Artistic Quilter SD


Ahhh, bobbins.  I never gave them much thought until I bought my Janome Artistic SD. The saleslady assured me that the built-in bobbin winder was fantastic– even threaded your bobbin as you stitched!

So how exactly does that work in truth?  For me, abysmally.  For one thing, winding a bobbin as you stitch means you need two spools of thread- one for quilting and one for bobbin winding.  And I typically do not have that.  For another thing, free-motion quilting demands my whole attention.  Evidently, bobbin winding does too.  It is no fun to pause in your stitching, and look up to see that the thread didn’t catch on the bobbin.

So for me, the bobbin winder on the Artistic is just not a valid option.  Even when I focus entirely on bobbin winding, I can’t get a good, smooth wind on that machine to save my life. Maybe I’m doing something wrong. I’ve watched the Tin Lizzie videos on bobbin winding a dozen times- my thread just won’t stay put like theirs does.

For a while, I gave up on bobbin winding, and started buying Magna Glide prewound bobbins.  They are fantastic, and work wonderfully.  See my previous post here about taking out your anti-backlash spring so these bobbins work correctly.  And if your LQS doesn’t sell prewound bobbins, you can buy them online here.


prewound bobbins


However, those prewound bobbins can be pricey, and it limits me to just using Glide. So I started searching for separate bobbin winders.



Several people online recommended the Side Winder, even for the large class M bobbins.  You can buy one at JoAnn’s with your 40% coupon.  But it doesn’t work with M bobbins.  (See the pink bobbin in the top picture?) Evidently there’s a deluxe version out there somewhere that will wind M ones, but this basic one does not do well with that.  Fortunately, my daughters love pink, so this bobbin winder found a lovely new home on the girls’ side of the studio, and I kept searching.








I found this Easy Winder online, and decided to give it a go.  Here’s a picture of it straight out of the box. I was impressed that they included a wound bobbin to show you the thread path.

Universal winder1






Now I’m all set up and ready to roll.


The first bobbin wound was a disappointment.  Then I read through their instructions again, and saw they had a different thread path for slippery threads, so I tried that with the glide.

Glide wound successfully



And we have success!!! Some other features of this winder that I really, really like are it’s small size and how quietly it runs.  I can wind bobbins during naptime, and no little heads come peeking out to see what’s causing all the commotion.

Now I need to get some other thread types to try out.  What’s your favorite quilting thread?

Happy Stitching!


Working with the Ruler Foot for the Janome Artistic SD

Happy New Year, Y’all!  This was supposed to be a Christmasy post, but I kinda got swept up in all the craziness with the holidays, and suddenly we’re over a week into January.

One of my diversions over the break was an overwhelming urge to make a Christmas tree skirt.  I used a quilt around the tree this year, but I’m ready for something round.  I found this cute tutorial, and plowed through my stash of favorite Christmas prints.  The tutorial was straightforward, and had good explanations of cutting pieces longer than a 24” ruler.  My skirt came out a little shy of a full circle, though.  I added an extra strip, and probably should have added two.


Then, I started quilting.  I FINALLY got a ruler foot for the Janome Artistic SD. Amy Johnson came to my rescue and special ordered it for me (you can find the listing in her shop).  I also had a wonderful hexagon star ruler from Top Anchor Quilting tools that I have been wanting to play with for over a year.

I was very worried about visibility with the ruler foot, because it’s made for the regular Artistic machines.  (Simply put, that means the little notch cut out of the foot for better visibility is on the left-hand side of the foot when you’re quilting on the SD, and it does not help much). However, even with the limited visibility, I was able to quilt inside my stars without too much trouble.








What really makes this foot worthwhile is the amount of space it provides to the right and behind the needle.  I could not get my ruler in those spaces with the regular foot, it just comes down too low, as you can see in this comparison picture.  The normal open-toe foot is on the right, the ruler foot is on the left.

foot comparison







Also over the break, I treated myself to Amy’s ruler work class on Craftsy.  I’ve been following her blog for over a year now, and learned so much from that.  But seeing her demonstrate the rulers in the videos really helped me get the hang of where to place my hands, and how to line up the rulers.  And it also made me realize how many more rulers I would like to add to my collection someday. . .If you’re interested in learning how to use longarm rulers with your domestic sewing machine, this class is well-worth your time.

Amy’s having a ruler work blog party in the next couple of weeks, which is motivating me to keep working on this project.  I’m baffled about what to quilt around the stars.  I really want them to stand out, but need more quilting to hold it all together.  Any suggestions?

Happy Stitching!


An Update on My Janome Artistic SD

Midarm quilting machines must be a hot topic right now.  I’ve been getting lots of e-mails from people asking about how I like mine.  So I’ve been thinking about a blog post update for a couple of weeks now.

I wanted to write about how much fun it is to sew on.  I was going to compile a list of tips I’ve discovered that help prevent thread breakage.  I was going to blog about the crazy cool effect I got when I combined orange and blue thread in the needle for some current secret sewing.

All of this was running through my head this morning.  First, though, I had to finish some secret sewing (with the aforementioned blue and orange threads).  End in sight, all I have left to quilt is the last side of the borders..  . . .


Whoa.  My machine never goes KACHUNK.  What just happened? The lever for the presser foot BROKE.  As in, the lever does not engage with the presser foot.  The lever swings freely.  The foot stays down.

In a panic, I called my Janome dealer.  Did I mention that this secret sewing needs to be in the mail tomorrow morning?!  She calmly listened to the situation, and said she’d get back to me.

She called back a few minutes later. She asked for my address so they could send me a new machine. But they don’t have any in stock, so she can’t say when I’ll get it.

It is 23 days until Quilt Market.  I have two wonderful Little House on the Prairie quilts that need to get quilted ASAP.

And I am without a midarm.  Because the machine I bought a mere 8 months ago is irreparably broken.

Thankfully, I was able to finish up that last border with the presser foot down.  I just had to avoid bulky seams, and manually separate the tension disks when I needed pressure off the thread.

Here’s a last picture of my sweet Artistic.  You can see the presser foot lever is not even close to where it should be.

broken artistic

Do I still love the Artistic?  Honestly, right now I’m not sure.  I’ll let you know once the new one arrives.

Until then, I’m off to work on hand quilting.  And praying that your sewing machine never goes KACHUNK.


UPDATE:  I called my dealer back this afternoon to find out when the replacement would arrive.  The dealer walked me and my husband through the steps to removing the front of the machine. . . . AND WE FIXED IT!! It works perfectly.  I know a LOT more about my sewing machine than I did four hours ago. Oh, happy camper!!! Now, back to frantic market-prep quilting!!!

Happy Stitching!



Magna Glide Delight Bobbins and the Artistic SD Machine

When I first bought my Janome Artistic longarm, the demo machine was running on Magna Glide delight bobbins.  I’ve been a huge fan of Glide thread for years now, as it makes the most beautiful quilting stitches of any thread I’ve tried on either my domestic or longarm machine.

So I bought some of the prewound bobbins, just to see how that worked.  One thing I do not like about the Artistic is winding bobbins.  It usually takes me several tries to get it right.  It reminds me of trying to wind a yo-yo as a child.  The string would just go round and round, never quite catching.  Same thing with winding bobbins.

Long story short, it took a while for me to get these bobbins to work out right. After some online research and a note to the great folks at Glide threads, I finally figured out why the thread was breaking so often.

First of all, these bobbins don’t have sides to them.  So you have to remove the little anti-backlash spring in the bobbin case, or it will fray your bobbin thread.  It looks like this:

remove check spring

And yes, I promise you can put it back in when you’re done- just hold it with a pair of tweezers and gently press it back into the case.  Then run the tweezers along the side of the spring to lock it in.

Secondly, there’s a right and a wrong way to load the bobbin.  You want the magnetic side to go into the case first, and the blue plastic side to show once the bobbin is in.  Like so:

metal in first






plastic to outside






If you don’t do it this way, your bobbin will stick inside the machine instead of inside the bobbin case.  Not fun.

Now I’m back to happily quilting away on the Artistic.  I think my machine loves Glide threads as much as I do!!

Happy Stitching!



Adjusting Tension on the Artistic SD

It is so difficult to tear myself away from the studio and type at the computer instead!  But I love you guys, and want to share more of my new adventures in sit-down longarm quilting!

Last week I *hinted* at some problems I had after the factory bobbin ran out.  To be honest, it was not the machine’s fault.  I got all excited, loaded up some shiny (and slippery!) Glide thread, and tried to wind my first bobbin.  That didn’t work so well.  The bobbin came out rather sloppy. Let’s make a long story short and say I went a little overboard turning tension knobs on my machine to try and fix the problem.  Somewhere along the way, I kinda forgot whether I was supposed to go “righty tighty” or “lefty loosey.”

I started looking up YouTube videos for help.  By the way, if you want to know more about the Artistic sit down and can’t find stuff, look at the Tin Lizzie youtube channel.  Same machine, and lots of good information. While I was on youtube, I came across a Jamie Wallen video, and the lightbulb went off.  The lady I talked to at Quiltcon had mentioned Jamie Wallen!! His video on bobbin tension ROCKS.  If you have tension issues, check it out here.  Once I knew my bobbin was good, my husband and I sat down at the machine to fix the top tension.  Then I did something that gives me heeby-jeebies when my kids do it to my domestic machine– I turned the tension knob TWO FULL TURNS. Yes.  Evidently, that’s how a longarm rolls.  Finally, we got the tension back to awesome, and I have been merrily stitching away ever since.

After watching the Jamie Wallen tension video, I saw that he had a series on swirls, so I watched those too.  Before my swirls looked like this:

old swirls








I love swirling, but the space between always looks weird.  His videos were another “aha!” moment, and now my swirls don’t have the funky spaces between them:

new swirls







This is such a fun design to stitch!!!!  I did a whole baby quilt with it:

practice quilt







You can see the swirls better from the back side:

back of quilt







Over the past week, I’ve made a BUNCH of practice quilt sandwiches. I cut them all the same size, because I wanted to turn them into fabric buckets.  These are working much, much better than the paper tote bags I had been using to store scraps.  When the bucket gets full, I can unfold the top for more space.  And it’s a great visual reminder to start using the scraps from the unfolded buckets.

Scrap bins







So that’s my world at the moment.  I am absolutely thrilled silly with this machine.  It’s sort of like riding your bike without training wheels.  I press the foot pedal and the quilt flies.  I don’t have to worry about shuffling the quilt, or adjusting my hands every couple of moments.  It’s exhilarating.

What’s new with you?  Are you enjoying spring sunshine from your studio, or outside making the most of this welcome change from dreary winter?

Happy Stitching!


Setting up a Janome Artistic SD

My new midarm finally arrived!  Here’s a peek inside the box as I opened it up:

peek in the box






Yep, I bought a Janome Artistic Sit Down machine.  And I can’t wait to tell you all about it, so this post may run a bit longer than usual!!

If you’re buying a machine like this one, may I recommend a few things while you’re waiting for it to arrive?

1- Buy a surge protector.  You void the warranty if you plug this straight into a wall outlet.  Which means I couldn’t even turn mine on when we set it up late at night.  I bought one rated for 2000 Joules, based on a website I found that recommended the rating for Gammill longarms.

2- Make a pile of quilt sandwiches from scrap fabrics so you have lots of opportunities to play around with stitches and tension once you’re set-up.

Speaking of set-up, I wanted to walk you through how we put mine together.  The table is easy and quick to set-up.  The directions are well illustrated with photographs.

Then comes the machine set-up.  Be prepared to spend some time on this.  I was expecting something along the lines of a domestic machine, where you fit it into the table, plug it in and start sewing. This one requires a bit more work, but the manual does a good job of walking you through most of it.

First of all, the manual tells you to install the plastic belt guard over the belts on the far right of the machine.  My belt guard did not fit at first.  Fortunately, my husband and father-in-law were both on hand to assess the situation, and realized that they could move the belt plate over to the left just a little.  Once that was done, the belt cover fit better.

Next, the manual tells you to install the thread holder.  I did that all by myself!  Easy peasy.  Then I went back to the pile of stuff that came in the machine box and found a large plastic rectangle.  The manual didn’t say where it went, but I figured out pretty quickly that it covers the area behind the needle.  If you’ve already installed the thread holder, you have to take that back off to put on the rectangular cover.  Oops.

behind the needle open






protecting behind needle






Here’s a full view of my machine almost all set up.  I still need to install the lamp.  It comes with a long cord that you have to trim and insert into the plug. I want to get some little hooks to keep the cord from dangling into my workspace. In the meantime, my trusty Ott light is working fine.

all set up






The machine comes with a pack of ten needles, and five large M bobbins.  One of those is prewound from the factory, so I used that one for these initial test pieces.

first stitching





Not too bad, huh?  I’ll be posting a follow-up to this about my experiences after the bobbin ran out. Let’s just say I learned a WHOLE lot about how longarm tension is different from a domestic machine.  After a couple of days, I got it all sorted out and I’m now happily stitching along again.

Last but not least, I wanted to share a couple of pictures with you to illustrate the difference in harp space between a domestic and sit down longarm machine.  It drives me a little crazy that all the sit down longarm advertisements show a placemat or tiny quilt sandwich under the needle.  I want to know what a REAL quilt is going to do under that needle.  So here’s a comparison for you.  The quilt is a version of my Pinwheel Jam pattern, measuring about 62 by 72 inches.  I picked a point smack in the center of the quilt, and put it under the needle on both my 6600 (with about 9 inches of harp space), and on the new Artistic (with 18 inches of harp space).

Pinwheel jam on 6600






Pinwheel jam on Artistic






Yep, so far I’m as pleased as punch with this new machine.  Now I’m off to practice on some more little sandwiches.  Soon I’ll be quilting that Pinwheel Jam quilt!

Happy Stitching!



More on Midarm Quilting Machines

Back in December, I posted about my quest to learn more about midarm, or sit-down longarm quilting machines.  This past weekend, I had the opportunity to learn more about several machines at Quiltcon.

I spoke with the kind folks at the Innova booth for quite a while, and watched a quilter demonstrate some gorgeous free-motion feathers.  Several features of the Innova sit down machine appealed to me.  First and foremost, if you ever decide to go from a mid-arm to a full-fledged longarm, you can take the Innova machine and put it on a frame.  The Innova also has stitch regulation capabilities.  Instead of a little doohickey to attach to your quilt (like on the Pfaff and Handiquilter machines), the sensors on the Innova are built into the machine, right under the needle.  I’m not a fan of stitch regulation of any sort, but this seemed like a very smart way to go if you want regulation. The quilter also pointed out that the Innova has a tall, narrow shaft holding the needle, to give more visibility behind your needle.  For more information and pictures about this machine, check out the Innova website.

Then I had a chance to test drive the Martelli Bella Sedere. This machine had some interesting bells and whistles.  The table is designed such that you have a large cutting surface behind the machine, for a kind of “all-in-one” sewing workstation.  What’s cool about it is that you can raise and lower the entire table with the push of a button, so you can cut (or quilt) sitting or standing. You can even raise only one side of the table, if you wanted to quilt at an angle (think drafting table).  The workstation comes with a huge range of Martelli tools, including their rotary cutter (which I blogged about here). For more information on the machine, check out the Martelli catalog.

I can’t remember either machine’s price exactly, but they were definitely in the $9,000 range.

Finally, I tried out one other midarm machine. . . The saleslady was a hoot and a half.  She showed me all kinds of gorgeous quilting on it, and even pulled out a ruler and did some ruler work in the demonstration.  Then she sat me down at the machine and walked away so I could play around.  It was lovely.  When she came back, I wistfully asked her the price on it.

And just about fell out of my chair when she answered.

Compared to everything else I’ve seen on midarms, it was very reasonable. And the show special price was even better.  Sooo. . . we bought a midarm!  To hear more about it, you’ll just have to check back in a couple of weeks when it arrives 🙂  I promise, there will be plenty of unboxing pictures, and a full review of how easy/hard it is to set up.  I’ll even share my first attempts at quilting on it, no matter how embarrassing they are.  Until then, I’ll be rearranging my studio to make room for this lovely.

Happy Stitching!


Midarm Quilting Machine Comparison

Have you ever heard of a midarm quilting machine?  It’s a hybrid between a domestic sewing machine and a longarm quilting machine.  These seem to be growing in popularity, and the variety of machines available is staggering.

Here’s a little overview of what I’ve learned about midarms so far.  First, you typically sit down to quilt on a mid-arm (just like a home sewing machine).  Depending on the manufacturer, the machine is either oriented to the side of the needle (also like a home machine), or behind the needle (which sits you in front, just like on a longarm). You move the quilt around a table, and need to baste the quilt before starting to quilt. (Unlike longarms, where you move the machine, and the quilt is set up on a frame without basting first.)

Midarm quilting machines have two bobbin options.  The first is an L-size bobbin, same as a domestic machine, and apparently better suited to detail work.  The second is an M-size bobbin, which holds three times more thread than the L-size (and is commonly found on longarm machines).  Because of the larger size, M-size bobbins tend to have varying tension depending upon the amount of thread left on the bobbin as you sew.  One of the COOLEST things I’ve learned about midarm machines is that the bobbin holder is UNDER the table.  That means you don’t have to take your quilt off the table and lose your place to change a bobbin.  (If I had the money, I’d buy a midarm for that alone!)








At Quilt Market, I tried out four different midarms.  The first was the Gammill Charm.  This is the priciest of the midarms on my list (around $8-$10,000) , but it was a beautiful, quiet machine.  Sewing on it was very intuitive, as it’s set up just like a domestic machine.  The Charm comes in two sizes, 18″ or 22″ of throat space.  It also has a ton of features, like a mounted tablet, an attached laser pointer, and stitch regulation.








The second machine I tried was the APQS George.  No bells and frills, 20″ of throat space, and very easy to use.  It retails for about $6,500.  I really, really liked the simplicity of this machine, and every review I’ve read about it online has glowed.  It seems like the only reason people get rid of their George is to upgrade to a full-fledged longarm. When you purchase a George, you have the option to configure it for L or M sized bobbins.

I did stop by the HandiQuilter booth and sat at a Sweet Sixteen for a few minutes, but I didn’t get to really experience the machine. This one has 16″ of throat space (thus the name).  The friendly salesman was trying to explain to me why I should go for a longarm instead. Having the machine perpendicular to the traditional domestic set-up was a little disorienting to me, as was the stitch regulator. This machine has M-sized bobbins.






Finally, I tried out the Pfaff Powerquilter 16.0.  This one is also perpendicular like the HQ, ad has 16″ throat space.  What I really liked about this set-up was that the table was completely adjustable.  As in, I test drove it standing up!  And it was surprisingly comfortable.  I really liked the idea of being able to vary your position easily when quilting for days on end. The Powerquilter uses M-size bobbins.

Neither the Handiquilter nor the Powerquilter list prices on their website, and the salespeople weren’t very forthcoming on prices either, but I think they each run somewhere around $5,000.

Now that I’ve tried a couple of machines, and learned a TON, I want to go back and try out all four again.  I’ve decided I’m not crazy about the stitch regulators.  After free-motion quilting on my home machine for years, I’ve learned to “quilt by ear”, and I vary my hand speed based on the sound of the motor speed.  So the machines with the stitch regulation kind of rev up unpredictably, and that threw me off when I was trying to sew on them. I’m sure I could get used to that with a lot of practice, but it seems simpler to skip the stitch regulation (especially since it costs about $1000 extra!)

I’m also trying to get more information on the Martelli Bella Sedere, and the Innova sitdown machine.  So I’ll definitely be keeping you posted as I learn more about the incredibly diverse world of midarms.

How about you?  Do you quilt on a midarm? Longarm?  Or are you shaking your head at the pure insanity of spending a small fortune on a sewing machine?

Happy Stitching!