Imagine if your car had one speed: 65 mph. You grab the steering wheel, turn the key and ZOOM! Sounds scary, right? Well, up until right around the turn of the 21st century, all longarm quilting machines had one speed … ON! (Just like our fictitious car.) The quilter would grab the handles of the machine, turn the machine on and ZOOM! The machine would spring to life immediately and the quilter started quilting.
That is how a longarm machine operates in manual mode. Hit the “on” switch and the machine roars to life as the motor fires the needle at a continuous rate of speed. Sure, the motor can be adjusted up or down so that the needle cycles up and down at a slower or faster rate. But once the motor is turned on, it is all systems GO!
The actual stitch length is controlled by how fast or slow your body moves the machine down the table. If you move the machine over the fabric slowly, the stitches get teensy tiny. If you run with the machine down the table at a high rate of speed, your stitches will become giant toenail catchers. In order to keep all the stitches the same length when operating a longarm machine in manual mode, the quilter must move the machine at a continuous rate of speed – without slowing down or speeding up. As you might imagine, this can be quite challenging and before stitch regulators were invented it presented a lot of folks with a steep learning curve.
When the APQS Millennium, or Mille, longarm quilting machine was introduced to the quilting world in 1999, everyone was mesmerized because it came equipped with a new feature called a Stitch Regulator.
This ground breaking invention controlled the rate at which the motor fired the needle based on how fast or slow the quilter moved the machine over the fabric. Every stitch was the same length every time the machine was used. What freedom that offered to the quilter! Finally, we could focus on the design and the pattern without having to think about our stitches at all. Stitch regulation was born and the quilting world rejoiced.
But how does it work? Well, when quilting in stitch regulation mode, the motor dynamically changes how fast or slow it fires the needle to match how fast or slow you are moving the machine over the fabric.
To do this there are small encoder wheels that sit in the horizontal wheels on an APQS machine. These encoder wheels move with the machine and send a signal to the internal computer in our machines. The internal computer monitors the speed those encoders are turning and adjusts the speed of the motor to match it so the needle goes up and down at the appropriate speed to keep all of your stitches identical in length.
Sounds complicated, right? The beauty of the APQS Stitch Regulator is that it allows you to forget about the machine entirely. All you have to do is quilt. Let the machine worry about your stitch length. Let the machine change the speed of the needle. You get to focus on your design and just enjoy the quilting process. Your APQS Stitch Regulator will monitor the speed you are moving the machine and it will adjust the motor to match it so you get perfect stitches every time! How awesome is that?
Of course, if you’d like to go old school on our machines and stitch with the machine in manual mode, you certainly can. Just turn the stitch regulator off. Be ready, though. When you turn on the machine it will ON! In fact, our Millie, Freddie and Lucey house a motor that fires at an industry leading 3500 stitches per minute. That is FAST!