It took a big chunk of the weekend and professional help, but that massive pile of boxes sitting in the doorway:
Has turned into this:
I’ve named her Lemonade and here’s why: Whatever sour feelings I carry about leaving school, she has turned into something sweet and wonderful. Lemonade. She is a beast of a machine, an engineering marvel, a swaggering, sophisticated longarm quilting machine, with brains. Her computerized capabilities are epic. I named my computerized sewing/embroidery machine the Starship Enterprise, but Lemonade is even more impressive because she is so interactive and intuitive. Her wingspan is twelve feet which takes up a lot of room, as you can imagine. It also provides excellent dog-denning capacity which Monroe and Molly laid claim to before the final screw was even tightened. I was worried about how everyone would fit in the room with me when I was working. I should have known they would figure that out.
Now, I can tell you with clear certainty how totally extravagant this all is. I know it and Gordy knows it and sharing space with that great white frame and sleek machine only confirms that. It reminds me of when Andante stepped off the horse trailer to claim us as her new experience. That horse was and is a work of art, electric with energy and, at the time, promising a ride that was entirely over my head skillwise. It was a situation bordering more on totally and completely nuts.
But you know what? She lifted me up. I became a better rider because of her. Heck, I became a better person because of her and in ways I could not have imagined. There is something to be said for opening the door and letting bigness into your life even when it runs off with you from time to time.
So, back to that machine coolly spanning the long wall of my room. Totally extravagant and I am so dang eager to see what happens; to see how I am shaped and pushed and elevated because it is in my life. I vibrate with the possibilities. The real skill of mastering a longarm machine is reflected in your mastery of its free-motioning capabilities. The machine head sits on a carriage that slides along the frame while the machine itself slides up and down the carriage. This provides a fluid range of motion within the working span of the machine neck, in Lemonade’s case, 26 inches at a time along the twelve foot length.
This enables you to freely “draw” with thread, using the machine head as your pencil. Crazy, right? The feel is smooth enough that you could glide the machine with one finger, but two handle bars are provided for a reason: control. The trick is to create muscle memory in your body–your arms mostly–that generates an act of “drawing” as precise as if you held a finely sharpened pencil in your hand, oh, and were a skilled artist to boot. I can do that (wink).
Actually, I’m not doing too badly at the practice part of making that happen. I play music through noise-deadening headphones, letting the sound create flow in my body, and I watch, strangely mesmerized, as stitches lay themselves down between my hands shaped into the image I am holding in my head …er, more or less.
I am learning, oh how I am learning, what Lemonade likes and I can tell you she is a sensitive girl. She does not like to be flung about. She also does not like it when you are uncertain of your intentions or too quick to change your mind. She likes clear-minded direction and would much rather you pause and consider the consequences of your actions than assume that you would be able to handle whatever happens once you push the gas pedal. Wait a minute. This sounds oddly familiar. There is a reason that Andante came to mind and now I know why. Working with Lemonade is like working with Andante. She is a big expressive girl capable of nuanced response — the single rule is that you must work with her in order to enable all of the beauty inside to come flowing out. Well then, I am already a leg up, every pun intended.
I will think of Andante tonight as I take the handle bars for my evening practice session. It will help me find the lane, the one where I quit thinking about control and let the motion flow. That is all I want right now: to let go of the need for control and let beauty happen, such a sweet and fragile thing. There is no great recognition in this, no title, no medal for saving the world, but in some interior space of my soul a small child with a stub of a pencil in her hand, is delighted to be seen again.