Monday, June 28, 2010

Lizzie is aliiiiiiiiive! :-)

I've had my (original model) Tin Lizzie since the Spring of 2006. Like others, I've had my share of 'learning experiences' and the need to tweak Lizzie to work properly. Since I've really been serious about quilting with Lizzie, I've done a total of 46 quilts of *all* different sizes .. from doodle cloths for pet cage liners to queen sized quilts.

However, earlier this month, I was experiencing some really weird behavior: I'd be merrily quilting along and all of a sudden, Lizzie would go v-e-r-y s-l-o-w-l-y and I'd need to move the machine head slowly so as to not create toe snagger stitches. Then, the very next minute, she'd move reallyreallyfast and the stitches would be teenytiny so I'd have to move the machine head faster so I wouldn't get excruciatingly small stitches. This went on for a while and was excessively annoying.

I'm on a surge protector but it just seemed as though there weren't enough electrons getting through.

And then Lizzie just stopped. Plain ol' stopped. No power to move although the light was still on. Very puzzling.

I went to the back of the carriage to see if anything obvious would hit me over the head. The first wires to look at were the ones going into the encoder at the back of the carriage. And bingo .. there it was. Something even Capt Obvious could see. :-)

The one of the wires at the connector to the encoder had completely sheared off. Bingo .. no information to or from the encoders. I disconnected the Y-cable, since it was no good anyway, to see if Mr. Pirate could possibly fix it until I could get a replacement. But the connection is *so* tiny, it's a very specialized part .. no one around here stocked anything remotely useable. We could see that the way the cable was connected to the encoders was unprotected and so those poor thin little wires had been subjected to a lot of stress when Lizzie was moving around. This was a flaw with the initial frame set up ... something Utah obviously hadn't anticipated. Newer frames have a different setup so don't have this problem.

I called my "local" dealer, Eddie's Quilting Bee in Sunnyvale, CA (which has been mentioned on this list before). Eddie's is about an hour's drive from my house. I explained the problem and although they didn't have a new Y-cable in stock, they said they would take one off one of their spare machines so I could get going again and order themselves a replacement from Utah. Sounded like a plan to me. BUT .. because I was just so danged eager to finish the loaded quilt (I was on the 10 yard line!), Mr. Pirate & I drove to Eddie's to pick it up. (We also made an Adventure out of the trip, so it wasn't all chores. :-) )

Back home, I plugged in the new Y-cable and ..... nope, it didn't work. All the wires in the new cable seemed to be in the same place as the  pins and wires on the old cable; all the connectors were firmly pushed in as far as they would go but Lizzie had only one speed in the stitch regulated mode. Obviously this was unacceptable.

Phone calls back to Eddie's ensued .. talked with Drew (Eddie's son) & we went through a checklist. All items checked out fine. Drew consulted with Eddie, who had some more check list items. They were all fine. Eddie consulted with Ernie in Utah (who I personally think of as "Uncle Ernie" :-) ) and more check list items were verified. The only thing left was to actually bring Lizzie into Eddie's for an on-site inspection. ::sigh::

Did I mention that Lizzie is 95 lbs.?

Well, Mr. Pirate & I hauled Lizzie over to Eddie's and after much inspection and calls to Utah, it was decided that the Y-cables that the current models (which is NOT my model) use is incompatible with my model. No one knows why .. I'm sure that Utah doesn't manufacturer the computer boards nor the cables that hook up the boards to the encoders but there is obviously a difference between the electronics on the new models and mine; the Y-cables might very well be wired differently too. There just isn't any way to tell.

When Eddie originally talked to Utah and the girl who was in charge of inventory, there was a massive miscommunication as to what kind of Y-cable was needed. I'm thinking that she didn't know there were differences between the current models and the original models, so that current model parts can not be used on original models. However, when Eddie talked with Uncle Ernie, he understood immediately and said that he would pull an old-style Y-cable from his stock and send it out.

In the mean time .... for the *first time* ... I was using my Lizzie in speed regulated mode, which doesn't need the encoders nor cable. I was actually surprised to see that I was creating fairly decent stitches myself, although they weren't as small and uniform as the stitch regulator mode creates. :-) But, in speed regulated mode, I was able to finish the quilt on Lizzie, as well as a charity quilt.

When the new (old stock) Y-cable arrived, I held my breath as we connected it. We also secured the new encoder wires with some tie cables to take any stress, instead of having the connector itself be subjected to stress.  The red arrow points to an eye screw that one tie cable goes through and secures the encoder wire.  The green arrow points to another tie cable securing a different spot of the encoder cable. 

Oh gosh .... what if it didn't work? (Yes, I *do* engage in anticipatory worrying.)

Lizzie was turned on and .... it didn't work. Drats. Double drats and damn, damn, damn. ::stomping of feet::

Then Mr. Pirate got right down at eyeball level and observed the encoder "O" rings ... and saw that one of them was NOT turning. Oh hooray! A problem ... possibly THE problem! We redid the tie cables so they didn't interfere with the encoder rolling and .... ta da! Success!

Oh, sweet success! :-)

Lizzie is now working wonderfully in stitch regulated mode. I have another crisis nursery quilt loaded and is being quilted.

This was a case where I'm very happy with my dealer's help. Both Eddie and Drew worked for quite a while trying to figure out the problem and then finding a resolution to the problem.

Oh .. and did I mention that Eddie's Quilting Bee is the most phenomenal quilting store I've ever seen? They not only have a mountain of fabric bolts but, I swear, every notion, gadget, ruler, template, book, pattern, thread, bobbins, accessories and geegaws ever made, as well as holding classes. My *goodness* ... I think I'm VERY glad he isn't my local quilt store! I think I would be constantly broke!


  1. Glad the diagnosis and prognosis resulted in an oasis of peace and harmony in the Pirate household.

  2. heh ... just in Lizzie's room, I'm afraid. The rest of the household is in its usual state of Chaotic Disarray. :-)

  3. I'm doing a happy dance for you ........ yea!!! Lizzie's up and running.