Working with My Bernina Q20 Sitdown Longarm

As I’ve said before, I really love my Bernina Q20, Fritz, that I have set up as a sitdown longarm. I belong to a couple of Facebook groups, and one in particular, for sharing things about this machine. I decided I would write a blog (with a bit of humility and a lot of experimenting behind me) about how I set my machine up for quilting, because there are a lot of new quilters out there with this machine who seem to have a lot of questions.  Please understand this is how I work best with MY machine, but I thought it might still be of some value to the newer Q20 owners anyway.

Just so we are all singing from the same page, I have attached a pdf of the manual for reference:

036-0625-2-04_2015-06_Manual_Q20-Q24_EN_GZD_Online

To me, the greatest thing about this is how much control I have of the stitching. There are quite a few things that make an impact on that…the thread, the needle, the bobbin thread, the bobbin setup, and all the neat settings provided on the machine, and then there is the wonderful kickstart.  If you haven’t done the upgrade and don’t yet have your kickstart, I hope you will do so right away.

I had my machine for about a month before I realized it has programs where you can set up all your top tensions, speeds, and stitch lengths for all the modes and save it (see pages 73-74). I have mine programed for different weights of threads. 40 wt polyester, 100 wt silk, and 12 weight cotton. The fourth one is the default settings, so really there are only three you can set and save, but that seems enough to me. I felt pretty dumb when I found this out, because I was resetting everything every time I turned it on.  I have worked out a chart of settings for my own use, so I thought I’d share.  First see pages 29-31 in the manual for a discussion of how they see threads and needles, then see my personal preferences chart

chart for Q20

I have all the attachments available for the Q20, but there aren’t many (thank goodness). I already had the feet that work with my Q20 (see page 22 in the manual), mostly because I collected them while I was learning to FMQ on my Bernina 830 LE, and they fit.  I even have the double needle stitch plate (see page 46 through 49 for threading for double needle stitching)  and the horizontal spool pin necessary for straight wound spools (see page 23).

Here are some good tutorials:

Threading for twin needle work

Bobbin tension check

Preparing to stitch (you probably know most of this, but it’s a good reminder)

Stitching with and without the BSR

One of my many practice pieces. This one shows different thread weights and a little bit of yarn couching.

 

Do I use the BSRs?

Yes, I do use my BSRs and love them (read pages 75-78 for a discussion of the various BSR modes). I have the BSR attachment for my 830 LE, but it is slow and a little cumbersome compared to the fabulous BSRs on the Q20. I use BSR1 for most of my free motion, BSR2 for my ruler work, and manual sometimes for really tiny tiny fmq and some special threadwork, and even if I spray baste a quilt, I thread baste it with BSR 3..so fast, so handy, gives that little bit of extra security.  After years of using a BSR on my Bernina 830LE and now my Q20, I find the manual comes pretty naturally, but I still prefer the BSRs for most things.

It is true that good results from the various modes take practice both to learn what YOU like and to get the best benefits from the different modes.  I think, in fact, that you need to practice as if you are learning a musical instrument…frequently and for at least a half hour at a time, and every now and then a long period of practice. I periodically make a bunch of 20 inch or so practice sandwiches…marking some with grids, some with stencils, and nothing on some.  I use solid colors for the practice sandwich tops so I can really see what I’m doing, but it’s a good way to use up that ugly fabric you wonder why you ever bought on the back of your practice sandwiches, and I use joined pieces of leftover batting for my practice sandwiches too.

A practice piece using, surprisingly, polyester satin with wool batting.

Working with the kickstart:

The kickstart lets you stitch without your foot on the pedal, but is very easy to start, pause, and stop. By doing this, you don’t have an uneven feed of power going to the stitching.  Here’s their guide addendum for the manual for the kickstart:

Zusatzblatt_Kick-Start_EN_13-12-2016_GZD

And here’s a link to a youtube tutorial on using it:  kickstart tutorial

When using just the pedal to make it go, it is unlike a regular sewing machine, or the gas pedal on your car. The pedal on the Q20 sitdown does not make the stitching go faster or slower. The pedal is on or off. Pushed down all the way, you get it fully on. Slightly up, sometimes it skips stitches. If your foot slips off your pedal or you lose concentration, it makes it skip or unevenly stitch. Without the kickstart you have to spend part of your concentrated effort making sure you have that pedal fully and evenly compressed all the time you are stitching. So the kickstart is absolutely the most even way to stitch because it is on at full power, paused, or stopped. It may sound a little intimidating to think of turning on the stitching all the time, but you really are still in complete control. You can still kickstart the pedal and make it pause, or you can press the front of the pedal to exit the kickstart program instantly.  I hope you will try it if you haven’t already.

 

Here are some rulers I used to stitch this border piece (stitched, painted, then pieced into the top, then quilted with monopoly and 100 wt silk)

This spiral galaxy quilt is a whole cloth quilt stitched in its entirety on my Q20 (except for the binding and rod pocket, of course).

Sew with all these settings in mind, I hope you will find your own personal settings…make a chart yourself if you want…and then find that working with your Q20 is just as wonderful as I have.

Pendragon
34 x 45

New Design from an Artist Wizard

I think I’m a little nuts. I spotted a picture that I thought would make a fabulous quilt. It just seems magical and it’s by Joel Christopher Payne, a really wonderful artist.  So, since we have been FB friends for a while, I really just wanted to tell him how much I liked his piece and, unable to keep my trap shut about it, I mentioned how I thought it would make a great design inspiration for an art quilt. And, just curious, you see, I asked if he ever gave or sold permission to use his art in such a way.

He told me he had never considered the idea, and that he had a standard price for the rights to most of his work and mentioned what it was.  I told him that was probably appropriate, but my little micro-business could not manage that. Well, he then wanted to know what I would do with it, and I explained a little more and he asked for pictures of my work.  I provided a link to my website so he could see some.

In the end, he came substantially down on the price for the rights to his piece, since I was only going to use it one time for a quilt, and also, I think he was a little intrigued by the idea. He came down enough that I felt it would be well worth it, and so, I now have a new quilt project for an exciting piece.

Yesterday, he sent me the permission and a high-res jpg and I spent most of the day analyzing the colors and figuring out how I would approach this project. I made a little guide with the colors, using my various drawing softwares so I could hunt for the appropriate fabrics.

I had fun this afternoon pulling out fabrics from my stash and have found that I have what I believe to be all the right fabrics, colors, and even a rather large collection of wood-print fabrics (there is a fair amount of wood in the picture), which will require piecing and shading with inks or fabric crayons to make it work.

I just restocked my battings last week, and I even have a piece I can use for the backing. We all know my thread collection is taking over my fabric stash…so there you are.

Let the fun begin! (Sorry, I am not going to be able to share pictures until the project is complete). My goal is to complete it by June to enter it into AQS Virginia Beach 2018. I have two other show quilts in the works too. Exciting time in the old studio.

Sew happy everyone!  NEVER use someones art for your design inspiration that you don’t ask first.  Sometimes it works, sometimes you just have to walk away and find something else.  This is important.

Take care all of you folks caught in the horrible storm and floods.  My thoughts and prayers are with you.

Space and Quilts

The Heavens declare the glory of God…(Psalm 19:1) 

Wow!  This week with the eclipse and spending that time with my 14 year-old grandson Kevin was soooo special!  We had eighty-five percent of the eclipse in a pure clear sky with the birds and the noisy cicadas in the woods behind us.  His parents, who are serious astronomy hobbyists, headed down to Tennessee to get in a total eclipse area, but he did not want to spend that long in the car.  The traffic for them was aweful and they had to spend an extra night in a motel on the way home, so he clearly made the right choice for him and it gave me and his uncle David a real special time together with Kevin even though it was not total here.  I am told Ken got some photos to process of the eclipse.  I am looking forward to seeing them.

This comes at an interesting time in my quilting life, because I am trying to line up a couple of new deep space quilts to fill out my space series inspired by the fabulous photos found in the NASA gallery.  The pictures have to be copyright free for me.  I have tried a couple of times to get in touch with the astronomers whose pictures NASA sometimes shows that are copyrighted and they simply ignore my inquiries.  But there are many many magnificent copyright free photos available to use for the basis of new quilts.  I will probably also include a couple of space quilts that may use other techniques inspired by Ken’s (oldest son, Kevin’s Dad) and Beth’s (his wife) photography and ideas.  I am planning on writing about making space quilts and including all of these in the book.  This will probably be a part of my ongoing project of Art Quilt Basics:  Surface Design and Embellishment that I hope to get published this year.  These quilts are practically all surface design and embellishment with organic, but well planned, quilting.  They are very hard to photograph because of all the light reflection, but I leave that to Ken, who does a credible job on it.

Spiral Galaxy No. 3: See this quilt in the upcoming MQX Midwest show!

So I am currently on the hunt for my next deep space quilt photo inspirations.  If you have a favorite, let me know in a comment  but do it soon, because I’m going to start working on this next space quilt very soon. 😄

I hope you are all having fun with your art, sewing, or quilting.  I’m busy drawing up a couple of new ideas and making sampler quiltlets to include in my book project Art Quilt Basics:  Machine Quilting for Art Quilters (this book starts with the very basics for machine quilting (both feed dogs up and free motion) and moves through the process ending with a discussion and ideas specific for art quilters.

Sew happy everyone!  Make yourselves a stack of small quilt sandwiches and play.  You’ll be surprised how much fun it is…use all your machines.  You will benefit by improving your skills and having a lot of fun too.  Cheers.