First of all I should explain that this is review part 1 because I’m not actually done yet, but that was entirely my fault for wanting to do a ginormous 90″ square quilt with a complex quilting design!  Anyway, on with the review…

I’d been given a heads up about there being ‘a place in Bridge Of Allan where you can hire a long arm’ last January from one of Nikki’s friends, but this was the first time I felt I actually had something that needed to be long armed.  So, a bit of googling later and I found Beechwood Quilting, which is actually in Stirling, not Bridge Of Allan, but let’s not split hairs!

From the Beechwood Quilting site

The studio, run by Carole and Brian, is at the bottom of the garden of the Kerrann B&B on Causewayhead Road (which they also own, they haven’t been encroaching on other people’s gardens ;o) )  Funnily enough though, given the snow and wind of yesterday, we weren’t quilting with the doors open yesterday, but the heater kept us lovely and warm, and there was tea and coffee, plus jaffa cakes, to keep our strength up, and even soup for lunch (although I’d brought me own lunch, so didn’t indulge in that, it looked really nice though).

I went for the Β£25 hour-long introductory session before getting down to my quilt, having never used a long arm before, and for this I got a practice calico to play on, plus instructions on how to use the machine.  First though, we actually took out my quilt (the elusive Madrona Corners) and looked at what I wanted to do quilting wise.  I had an idea in mind which involved a geometric pattern in the patterned fabric pieces (what Angela Waters refers to as a geometric allover, if you have her book), and a pebble pattern in the solid pieces.  We discussed if it was possible, and what sort of effect to think about, then we took to the calico.  I’d heard that the geometric look was really difficult to do with all the straight lines involved, so the first exercise was to write my name, since it has a combination of straight lines, and also the curves I’d need for the pebbles.  Of course you’ll all have to call me Kaly now, as I forgot to cross the ‘T’, but we’ll gloss over that ;o)

Happy that I could handle both, Carole gave me a quick demo on how to get a clean geometric look, and off I went, first with smaller squares, then moving on to a larger scale.  As it turns out, in quilting size matters… :oD  Pleased with how that turned out, it was time to move onto the pebbles.  Now I didn’t really want pebbles as much as cobblestones, to give a kind of road effect (in my mind the geometric part was a road network, while the cobbles simulated an actual road for Madrona Road, just work with me here ;o) ).  The challenge was to work out how to make it not look to samey, so given the large expanse of white in some areas of my quilt, the first step was being able to navigate across the entire width of the calico in either direction, working on the sizes of the cobbles as I went to find the right scale.

Now I had to admit to Carole that this quilt was going to be my entry for the British Quilt & Stitch Village, so she decided that I needed to challenge myself (‘cos, you know, long-arming for the first time wasn’t challenging enough ;o) )  Consequently we ended up trying to work a pattern into the cobbles, so I had a couple of goes at that (I think the first go would have been fine, but somehow in moving the machine a thread had jumped out and all the tension had gone, although it wasn’t as obvious as on a domestic machine, it gave a cool effect on the back though!)

Here’s what my practice session produced (sorry, I forgot to take the pic before the tension and things had been removed)  The star in the top left is not mine BTW!

 And here’s the cool back of the funny tension bit, talk about eyelashes:

It probably took about 2 hours to get to this point, so having started at 10:30, we decided to load up my quilt, then break for lunch.  The good thing is, that when you book in to use the machine, you basically have the day to yourself, so you can take as long as you like without other people pounding on the door to get in for their turn, in fact they were telling me at lunchtime about one lady that started at 8:30 am and finished at 10:30 pm one time!

Tune in tomorrow for part 2…