Setting up my HQ16

My new sewing studio was finished and now had 5 large boxes full of my brand new quilting machine. This machine was developed for home users and came with a video and instruction books on how to set it up. Word of advise for anyone setting up this system – the video is packed with the machine! We went through every box trying to find it.  

TABLE: I had read that banquet tables could be used for the frame so we had decided not to purchase the table from

. Probably a mistake as we’ve spent almost as much trying to make something work. I had a cabinet shop make me 2 tops – 96″ x 30″ x 1.25″ and 48″ x 30″ x 1.25″ – made to be doweled together on site as 96″ was the largest size we could get around the corners to get into the room. Unfortunately, the largest top was bowed and the shorter piece was cupped so it didn’t fit together to well. We re-cut the shorter piece to 36″ and my husband re-doweled it so they would line up properly. We bought 4 adjustable heavy duty table legs at $60 a pair and attached them to the underside of the tops. That helped straighten out the bowed top but not enough. We ended up putting long metal ‘L’ bracketing underneath and that seemed to do the trick.  

SIZE: We went back and forth deciding if we should go ahead and set it up as wide as we could (120″) or use the 96″ top and just add the smaller table and move the frame whenever I had a wider top to do. We decided on the full size and I’m so thankful that we did. Although this system is designed to be taken down and moved it isn’t something I want to be doing very often! I usually only made lap sized quilts because they were easier to quilt on a domestic machine but now I’m finding my quilts are increasing in size!!

TRACK: The system comes with sticky tabs to hold down the one track. We used them but once I started quilting I found that I seemed to be going over hills and valleys and no matter how often I practiced I couldn’t make even circles or even straight lines because the machine seemed to get away from me. I thought that perhaps the table wasn’t level so I was continually having my husband adjust the legs while I moved the machine around. I finally realized that these hills and valleys were where the tapes were so we tried adding more tabs but it didn’t work. Off came the frame again and we removed all the tabs, scrubbed the residue off and put down a full length of 3m double sided tape. 100% improvement!

BARS: There has been some talk about the bars with the Handiquilter frame being flimsy. The only concern I had was that the idler bar rubbed the machine when it was at the centre point of the frame. I posted my concern on the HQ16 yahoo group and had many responses from changing out the bars to raising the bar to it doesn’t matter if it rubs! I wrote to HandiQuilter and they also said that the idler bar being low is not as important because once you load the quilt the tension of the sandwich being pulled up to the take-up bar lifts it up. Still, I didn’t like the idea of it rubbing so my husband took the bar apart at the centre and put some duct tape around it and put it back together. Simple fix and no more rubbing!

LEADERS: There has also been much discussion about HQ’s leaders. Truthfully I find them a bit flimsy. They are a light-weight muslin with one side of 1/2″ Velcro attached. You are supplied with the other side of the 1/2″ Velcro that you must attach to the bars. While easy enough to do you must be very, very careful to put it on straight. They tell you to follow the machining lines on the bars but some are very hard to spot. The adhesive on the Velcro has only a short time before it sticks permanently so you must take your time to put it on right the first time! Personally, I think HandiQuilter should but the Velcro on the polls at the factory to ensure straightness. If the Velcro is not straight your leader won’t be straight (at least not without some adjusting 

while loading and 1/2″ isn’t very much to play with) and your top and backing will not load straight.  

I found that pinning the sections onto the leaders very hard on my back so I purchased zippers that are made for long arms where half of the zipper is sewn onto the leaders. I tried basting the sections onto the other half of the zippers with Vanish Extra (water soluble thread) but I found that my domestic machine doesn’t feed even enough and ends up stretching the top or backing while it sews it down. Don’t have that problem any other time but it doesn’t like the zipper tape I guess. So, I pin the zipper onto the top and back but at least I can sit down to do it and my back thanks me. After that they just ‘zip’ right onto the bars and makes unloading so much easier.

TIPS: Here are a few tips I learned from the various yahoo groups. Thanks to those that shared – I’m sorry I don’t remember who you are!

Pant hangers
– those old style pant hangers are great if you want a bit 
more side-to-side stability or don’t like the single clamps that come with the machine. Attach the pant hanger to your backing and the clamp onto the curved part of the hanger and adjust.
Hair clips
– This tip was a great one. I use them to attach my practice sandwich, keep the leaders
tidy if I’m doing a small project – clip them around the poll and the leaders wont tangle up on you, and they even keep the latches up and out of the way when I’m trying to roll the quilt.  


Lint Rollers
– This tip came from my friend Deb that had come to quilt a large top she had finished. Her cat had left a few stray hairs behind so she had brought along a lint roller to brush the top before loading it onto the frame. It was soon realized that it was a very handy thing to have around to pick up any loose threads or anything else you would rather not quilt down!

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