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Stitch Regulators

by : Marcia Stevens

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Let me first explain a stitch regulator. The concept of a stitch regulator is that the quilting machine will automatically speed up or slow down based on the quilters movement of the machine in order to achieve the chosen stitch length. The quilter initially sets the machine at the specific stitch length they desire; 4, 6, 8, 10 or 12 stitches per inch (length settings vary with each model of quilting machine, ie. Nustyle, Proto, APQS, IntelliStitch). The quilter would then push the start button. The quilting machine will not make a stitch until the machine is moved. As it is moved, the machine will stitch the even stitches based on how fast the machine is moved to achieve the desired stitch length.

I had two opportunities in 1999 to work on quilting machines with the IntelliStitch. The first machine was a Nolting in Pennsylvania. As I quilted and taught on Judy Clare's Nolting I was a bit disappointed with the stitch length. It was not as even as I expected it would be. Since this was my first opportunity to use the IntelliStitch, Judy informed me that I was not moving the machine properly. Because I have spent fifteen years operating a quilting machine without a stitch regulator, I start a quilting line very quickly in order to obtain and maintain even stitch length at higher speeds. I took off so quickly, the IntelliStitch was not able to respond so consequently my first stitch was quite large in comparison to the rest. As I moved smoothly, the stitches were very, very consistent. Only when I jerked the machine did I get the uneven stitches. The IntelliStitch allows you to move at a normal pace, slow or fast, giving you consistent stitch length. Having learned that, I began to quilt, completely disregarding concentration on how fast I was moving. I could devote my full attention to the pattern I was trying to follow or the freehand stitches I was creating. I realized it was not necessary to make my quick starts and stops. I could start leisurely and coast to a stop whenever I wanted to.

The IntelliStitch is programmed to stop with the needle in the up position. This safety feature will not allow the quilter to suddenly bump the machine and perhaps tear the quilt or bend the needle. As the quilter comes to the end of quilting line, she/he can push the button again to turn the machine off or the IntelliStitch will automatically shut off the machine if it is not moved within about a 5 second time period, another safety feature. The operator must then push the start button again to turn the machine on. When the IntelliStitch automatically turns the machine off, it makes a "beep" sound to let the operator know that it has turned off the power.

The on/off switch is in the right handle on both the front and back of the machine. The left handle switch operates the "firing" stitch. When this button is pushed, the needle will make a full revolution - one stitch. This can be used to make individual stitches, perhaps at the start or end of a line of quilting.

My next opportunity to use the IntelliStitch was at Quilt Pros in Janesville, Wisconsin. Terry and Jane Donaldson are going to be the installers of the IntelliStitch on Gammill machines. This particular IntelliStitch had been installed on a Gammill Optimum. While I was teaching in their shop, I had the chance to meet Zoltan Kasa, the designer of the IntelliStitch. This gave me the opportunity to ask questions about the various options of the IntelliStitch. I questioned him about long starting stitch. His response was much the same as Judy's. The IntelliStitch is designed to be programmed for the number of stitches per inch. As soon as the machine moves the given distance to obtain the correct stitch length it "fires" a stitch. If I start off too fast or have very jerky movements, the IntelliStitch cannot keep up. Computers are not perfect! If a quilter were to set the IntelliStitch for 6 stitches per inch that would not make the needle move slower but instead it would "fire" a stitch at 1/6th inch intervals. This feature eliminates dragging of the needle when moving at slow speeds.

I did notice that as I spent more time on the Gammill Optimum, the needle occasionally did stop down if I stopped moving the machine at just the right instant.

I found it very exciting to be able to do freehand quilting and not have to be concerned about how fast or slow I was moving the machine at any given time. The stitch length was taken care of for me. I could concentrate on the direction I was going and not worry about a hesitation - you know that senior moment when a person loses their train of thought? I loved it! Like anything, it would take a little time for me to get used to but it would be well worth that short retraining. Anyone who has never used a quilting machine before should have no problem quilting with this device.

The quilter always has the option of turning the IntelliStitch off and moving it in the free motion mode if they so desire. When the IntelliStitch is put on a Gammill machine that already has a Needle Positioner, the IntelliStitch replaces that feature on the front of the machine. The Channel Lock feature remains.

You get the best of both worlds. Think about it, if you are stitching in the ditch, outlining, pattern quilting, etc., with the IntelliStitch you never have to worry about your stitch length again. Mr. Kasa informed me that even my old quilting machine can be retrofit with the IntelliStitch.