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Thursday, October 23, 2008

!%&!!@$%! TENSION!!!!!

grumble grumble grumble....

I bought a quilting machine several years ago, when I first hung up my shingle as a machine quilter...

From that time to this, the %#^$#&$%# thing has NEVER had proper tension.

First, I brought it into the shop to be adjusted. Didn't work. Then they sent me a new bobbin case. That was better than the OLD bobbin case, but it still didn't solve the tension problem. Then I took it in to be adjusted again.

Same old same old. Stitches look fine on the top, but turn the work over and it's an ugly mess. Enough to make me swear loudly and profusely. Enough to get me throwing things around the room. Enough for my poor hubby to slip me a sleeping pill, but that story is for another day!

So, yesterday, there I was in tears AGAIN over the #$*@##$! tension on this machine, and hubby decided to risk his life. He came into the room and politely tried to help me. He stood over the machine, I was sitting. He said "your tension is set at 2. Why don't you put it to 3 or 4?" I told him (loudly) that he was nuts, that the tension was at 3 already. I moved it in the "increase tension" direction according to the marker I could see. There followed a few more sharp exchanges between us before we both realized, at the same moment, that we were looking a two different parts of the tension dial. He grabbed the knob and spun it all the way around about five times in a row, whereupon I exploded, since I was sure he'd just BROKEN the knob....

And then I learned something. My machine has a tension adjustment that can go around in complete circles. Eight of them, to be specific.

Hitherto, every single machine I'd ever worked with had exactly 180 degrees of movement for the tension to go from "non at all" to "last stop". Or, in layman's terms, from 9 o'clock to 3 o'clock, end of story.

So, for three years, I'd been using about 1/32nd of the adjustment possible on this machine. Holy cripes! No WONDER none of my adjustments ever worked!

In no time at all, I had it working perfectly. And hubby looked at the other machine and exclaimed loudly "Holy Cripes! This one only moves 180 degrees!"

A few minutes later we were sitting together, me in his lap, sobbing about all those wasted years...

I mean, I'm the one who yells at HIM to read the manual! But I didn't need to read the manual about adjusting the tension on this machine, did I? I mean, who doesn't know how to adjust @^#@&#!! tension!?

All those awful quilts with loops on their undersides!

All the anger and frustration at a perfectly good machine!

All the wasted hours!

Geez, you'd think the manufacturers could have put a sticker on it, or something! "Hello! You can spin THIS tension dial 4-EVER!" Something to like, draw attention to the fact that it's different from EVERY OTHER MACHINE ON THE PLANET!

Hopefully, this time I've learned - there's is no simple operation that a machine performs that cannot be f***d-up by some geek who makes a new one. There is no such thing as "I don't need to read how this machine performs that function."

Not even to adjust tension.

I wish I could adjust MY tension...

Once more unto the BEACH...

Four years ago, I had a dream... a "Mariner's Compass" quilt, with a big, bold, and beautiful Compass Rose AMIDSHIP, surrounded by an artist's simulation of the ocean, and around the edges...

Ah! Those beautiful quilt blocks! With the names "Ocean Waves", "Wild Waves", "Storm-at-Sea", "Beacon Light", and "North Star."

In the beginning, it was going to be a wall hanging. (It very nearly turned into a SCUTTLING... but I digress...)

In order to get all those border squares in the sequence I wanted them, they had to have a finished size of 4 inches. Four inches square. I did my first one by machine. It not only did not finish at 4 inches, it could by no means be called square, even by someone with severe astigmatism! At this point Hubby suggested a working title of THREE SHEETS TO THE WIND.

ALL AHEAD FULL, I did the next square by hand. Results - worse.

I enlarged the finished size to six inches and tried again. At which point my Quilting Pal and chief explainer-of-what-I'm-doing-wrong came over and said "HOW SMALL?! ARE YOU NUTS?!"

So I was persuaded to make 12" blocks... and the quilt would now be a bed cover. AYE-AYE!! I started my first block. It, too, was somewhat... dare I say WAVY...

So another Quilting Pal of mine reached a deal with me. In exchange for HER doing all my difficult patterned blocks, I'd quilt something for her, everybody wins.

In two weeks flat she handed me back the borders, all enthusiasm, ready to SET SAIL, as it were....

BUOYED by her optimism, I entered the quilt in the Salon 2008 and it was accepted. At my winter quilting retreat I made myself a deadline: make the ocean center, and get all 4 borders attached, or the Mariner's Compass quilt would be AWASH. I worked like a SEA-DOG. AHEAD FULL. Ripped strips, added here, pinched there... And by the end of that retreat, all 4 borders were indeed attached to the (mostly) square center.

As it hung from a frame at home, dutiful Hubby helped me get it to hang straight. Well, straighter...

I began to put the Compass itself together, and proceeded to satin-stitch it to the quilt. The center rose like a TSUNAMI. Three and one-half inches high, it was soon obvious that FULL ASTERN was required.

I made a second Compass, with better basting and heavy stabilizer LASHED to the back. This time, the Compass only rose two inches high. DROP ANCHOR. Hubby and I conferred (argued) for hours. Days. The ship was ADRIFT.

At this point we were also trying to come up with names for the project. "Full Seam Ahead" very nearly won! "Titanic - the Quilt", "The Quilt of the Edmund Fitzgerald," "Anchors A-Weigh", "Wavy Navy", "Bismark", "The Good Ship Start 'n Stop", "Quilt Overboard", "The SS Minnow", "Leviathan's Net" ... and many others. Please feel free to add your own!

A third, and final version, a thread-painting of a Compass EMERGED from the DEPTHS, with only a slight LIST to STARBOARD. Once more UNDERWAY, I had my surgery, and took a week off because I could get it, needing the time to get the quilt top finished so I could put it on my machine and get it quilted. T minus 3 weeks. 21 days to delivery.

At T minus 15 days, I realized what dutiful FIRST MATE (Hubby) had been carefully not saying, in tender PRESERVATION of his life: namely, that the quilt did not sit flat, and if I didn't fix it, we may as well ABANDON SHIP.

I had the brilliant idea to stuff the extra bits, creating three-dimensional waves gently rolling over the surface of the quilt. This caused the entire project to twist like a vortex. We were LOST AT SEA. Working title now became "SOS."

So I took it all apart. Undid all the quilting, detached the borders, started over...

T minus 13 days, it's back in one piece, considerably improved, and I EMBARKED once more upon the quilting machine...

It was such a rough ride, I was SEASICK. This was the period wherein I discovered how I SHOULD have been adjusting the tension on the machine..(see blog of May 6.) T minus 3 days, FIRST MATE makes my continuous bias for me, because I'm terrible at geometry...

(Yes. I'm a quilter. And I'm terrible at geometry. "Why, you ask, did I pick this particular form of..." Shut up.)

T minus 2 days. I start to do the binding. And make the "sleeve" the thing has to hang from. And the labels, for this quilt and for the other one, which is also not finished...FIRST MATE attached the binding from one end, I from the other, approaching, dare I say, like TWO SHIPS IN THE NIGHT?

By the time I handed it in, I'd been up for 40 consecutive hours feeling like I'd been LASHED, and tottering in on not-quite SEA-WORTHY legs.

In the end, we called it "SAFE PASSAGE", because that's what we all needed.