Saturday, 23 February 2013

The beast in the room: my long-arm quilter

My long-arm quilting machine, a Handi Quilter 18 Avante, has been feeling poorly. I'm not sure when I started thinking of it as "the Beast", but I suppose it's the horns. Then I began wondering exactly what sort of Beast it is. As it comes from Utah - I imagine wide open plains, with cattle and wild animals, although I've never been there - it's probably a bison or buffalo. It's big and a bit frightening: I pat it on the nose or flank as I walk past, but I wouldn't want it to turn on me and get nasty. True, most of the time it is kept in check within its frame. But when I have to take it off its tracks I need a fellow wrangler to help me control it.

So, what is wrong with it? The thread keeps breaking, and recently an electronic message flashed up saying "Needle sensor failure while walking". Well, it wasn't the Beast that was doing the walking, it was me. When I first bought it and had it installed by Alan, the wonderful engineer from Cotton Patch in Birmingham, I naively assumed it would do all the work for me and at the press of a button all my quilting stitches and designs would magically take care of themselves. Yes, in many ways it is magical, but it's still me that does the hard work and my legs often ache after six hours of standing or walking from one end of the 12-foot frame to the other.

After a week or so of trying to adopt the characteristic of another creature - an ostrich - the Beast took a turn for the worse today with a broken needle and the dreaded diagnosis: "The timing is out." Reluctantly I have packed it up to send it for repairs - and like my cat going to the vet it struggled as I shoved it into its box by the bottom. I love my Beast. I hope it is better soon.

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