The evolution of machine quilting has produced some wondrous features that early quilters could only dream about. The concept of every stitch falling perfectly in line with the next, and having the exact same number from one inch to the next seemed likea fairy tale just a few short years ago.
Then lo and behold, stitch regulation suddenly became possible! No more long, straggly stitches when you lurched a little or moved too quickly, and no more stitches so microscopic one could only remove them with a scalpel. The technology behind creating stitch regulation for longarms varies greatly from company to company. But savvy APQS quilters know that consistent, precise stitches with clean direction changes and balanced tension are critical and only found in top quality machines.
For these quilters, the perfect stitch regulator is simply a “given.” What isn’t so easily mastered is knowing when to actually USE the stitch regulator as opposed to knowing when to turn it off! Many quilters visit with APQS staffers at trade shows and quilt shows and announce that they have never, ever used their machine in manual mode!
These quilters are missing the boat. Each operating mode offers advantages and disadvantages, but to live in only one mode means you’re only half living! Stitch regulation provides comfort and security knowing that no matter how fast you quilt, your stitches will at least be consistent (even if your curves are not). However, several techniques are actually easier without the regulator, including tight background quilting, cross hatch that is interrupted by another design or applique, and even some echo quilting motions.
If you are a regulator junkie, try breaking the habit on a small practice piece and see what happens. Set your motor speed to a medium speed, imagine you are dancing across the quilt, turn on the sewing motor and GO! Glide around the dance floor, flowing smoothly with your partner (your longarm machine) as you go. For now, don’t worry about stitch length but instead concentrate on smooth curves and graceful lines.
As you and your “partner” become accustomed to one another, you’ll be surprised at how quickly you’ll be able to dance with each other no matter what music is playing! Try the manual sewing mode for stitching in the ditch and for couching, too. You may be glad you chose to see “how the other half lives” for a moment