Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Some photoshopped fun

Just for fun ... hours and HOURS of fun ... some old black-and-white photos I have prettified with some "hand-tinting" techniques in Photoshop Elements.  These are some pictures from my parents' stash ... I don't think they are family; probably children of friends, back in the '40's and '50's.

Original photograph, ca 1940's.
I could have removed the crinkled fold-marks,
but decided that I like them in this case.

Colorized in Photoshop Elements -- "hand-tinted" look.

with my "crinkled paper" texture added.

Original photo, probably from the 1940's.

"Hand-tinted" look, via Photoshop Elements.
with "Golden" texture (by Kim Klassen) added.

New Grace machine quilting frame

Many of you know that when I moved from Houston to San Antonio last year I had to sell my beloved "Piglet", the A1 longarm quilting machine.  I really thought I'd "get over it" after a while, but I found myself missing the longarming experience more and more.

After months and months of researching on-line (and not wanting to wait until the next Houston Quilt Festival to try some mid-arm arrangements) I finally took the plunge and bought the Grace Start-Right frame, to use with my Juki TL-98E sewing machine, which has a 9" harp (or "throat", as it's sometimes called).

Not only was I concerned about which frame was the best for me, but also which dealer to buy from.  After much sturm und drang, I finally settled on Kathy Quilts, on-line.  There are no local dealers for the Grace frame in San Antonio, and this one seemed to have the best service.

back view of Juki on Grace frame.
I called and spoke to Lynn, co-owner of Kathy Quilts, and he answered all my questions to my satisfaction, so I placed the order through their on-line ordering page.  In very short order, stuff started arriving on my doorstep!

Sharon to the rescue!
Now, who among us can boast the kind of friend who will travel 3 hours from Houston to San Antonio, just to help you set up your new quilting frame?  Me, that's who!  My dear friend Sharon Dixon made the drive last week, and we spent a whole hilarious day setting up the frame.  Of course, then we had to reward ourselves with Mexican food and wine that night, and a whole day of just goofing off the next.

How about a little review of the Grace Start-Right frame?  First of all, I purchased the 5' long frame ("crib size"), because I really don't quilt bed quilts anymore (I have my buddy Sharon to do that for me!), plus I don't have the space for the queen-sized frame, which is the only other size the Start-Right frame comes in.

I wanted this model over the other Grace machine quilting frames, because it is steel instead of wood or aluminum.  It also came with a Power/Speed Control, which works quite well with my Juki.

Tongue firmly clamped between teeth, I started quilting.
A couple of things ... some of the table parts arrived bent, and so were hard to put together with the supplied nuts and bolts.  It's kind of amazing to me how this can have happened, because the steel is impossible to bend with bare hands and a hammer.  Nevertheless, with some elbow grease and some ingenuity, we finally got it done.

The back "table" part of the setup is evidently being manufactured in a different place than their original, so it was actually defective in some aspects.  Nevertheless, once again we were able to overcome these little obstacles and get everything together and working properly.

The only other drawback ... actually the major one ... is that the Power/Speed Control does not have a "needle up/down" capability, which I consider to be of supreme importance when longarming.  (I keep using that phrase ... longarming ... because this is essentially a "short" longarm setup.  The machine head moves over the quilt sandwich, instead of moving the quilt underneath a stationary machine head.)

Now for the good points.  This thing is made like a tank, and is not going anywhere!  Once it is set up, it's still light-weight enough to shift around a bit if I want to, but it is extremely stable, with no bounce.  Each foot has a leveler on it which is very easy to use with a small hand-held wrench.  My machine is perfectly balanced on the frame, which I never seemed able to quite achieve with my longarm!

And the movement of the machine on the frame is truly incredible.  It is as smooth and floaty over the quilt top as my A1 ever was ... and that's saying a lot.  The wheels are set up differently on the tracks, which seems to make a big difference ... take a look at the website if you're curious.

All set up and actually quilting (well, "scribbling" is more like it.)
(Note: I ultimately moved the Power/Speed Control to the right handle.)
I did not want or need the "extras", such as the Sure Stitch Regulator, Quilt CAD program, or laser lights for following pantographs, so I basically got the "bare bones" unit, saving quite a bit of money in the process.

And here's the BEST part of all:  my dealer, Kathy Quilts, was extremely responsive to all my questions and concerns (even my complaints) AFTER the sale, as well as before.  These days, that seems to be almost unheard of.  Lynn was especially concerned about the issues I had with the back half of the table being properly fitted.  He forwarded my detailed letter directly to the Grace Company, so hopefully they will be making corrections right away.

If you decide the Grace frame (of any size) is for you, I can't recommend Kathy Quilts highly enough.  Their main goal and focus seems to be customer service, and that goes a long way with me.  Check out their videos on their website and on YouTube.   (WARNING!  Turn your volume way down before starting the videos, then you can turn it back up ... there seems to be a big discrepancy in volume from the intro to the body of the video.)

This is a commercial picture of the Grace Start-Right frame,
lifted directly from the Kathy Quilts website.
And ... holy cow! ... I just looked at their list of 6 videos on YouTube, and see that Lynn wasn't kidding when he said he would make a new video of how to install the lamp on the frame.  I had asked him about it, and he said he would go ahead and get one going.  (This was just a few days ago!)  Looking at their videos made a huge difference to Sharon and me in getting set up.

I'm looking forward to quilting more, now that I have my "longarming" experience back in my grasp.  (I don't do big, looping designs anyway ... all my freehand quilting tends to be tiny and detailed, so this is perfect for me.  Plus, I have the option of upgrading my machine to a deeper harp, one of these days!)