Moving forward from its initial use on warm blankets, quilting has found its way into newer and broader product categories involving wall hangings, table cloths, covering for couches, handbags and apparels. This extended scope of quilted products is also the reason for the manufacturers as well as designers of quilted goods to gain bigger market space. Another reason that has added on to the growth of the quilting industry is the fact that the equipments and machines used for making these products have undergone massive improvements making it possible for manufacturers to supply high-quality products in much less time. Team StitchWorld with Ramita Bali, a student of Masters of Fashion Technology – NIFT, Delhi, discusses different levels of technology solutions available for a quilting operation, the makes and models of machine and equipments available in the market and also the return on investment on the basic and highest levels of technology.
Technology Levels for Quilted Apparels
Quilting involves sewing through three layers of material, namely the top fabric layer usually of cotton or polyester; the middle layer of batting or wadding in felt, wrap or a roll form usually of cotton, polyester or wool fibres; and finally the backing which is the bottom fabric layer. All the three layers are placed one above the other to form a quilt sandwich, which is then basted together to hold them securely for better and accurate quilting.
There are many options available for quilting, from very basic stitching technology to advanced computerized versions. Each version has its advantages and while the basic technology requires hand basting, in case of automatic quilting machines, the layers to be quilted are placed on a special frame keeping the layers together without the need for basting or pinning. Each technology is suited to the needs of different companies with distinct requirements.
Basic Level of Technology: Single Needle Lockstitch Machine with Long Arm
The introduction of single needle lockstitch machine with long arm bed revolutionized the whole process of quilting as it replaced the earlier cumbersome method of hand quilting. The operator places the quilt sandwich under the pressure foot, and starts quilting from the centre in an outward direction to avoid any gathering of layers, ensuring a neat product. Though the long arm helps in accommodating larger pieces, it requires constant manoeuvring by the operator while stitching. The machine comes with a quilting guide and a drop feed. The operator moves the fabric as per the design to obtain quilting.
An auxiliary table is provided as standard to extend the work area to 23 inches and allow for even larger pieces to be quilted with ease.
Usually the sewing speed is 1500 SPM, producing a stitch of 6 mm length. Pfaff 1222E, Keestar GSC8BL20 and Juki TL98Q are among best examples of a single needle lockstitch machine with long arm.
Intermediate level: Single-head quilting machine and cam controlled multi needle quilting machines
Single-head quilting machine:
Though the advent of single needle sewing machines has revolutionized the process of quilting, most of the operations are still being done by an operator and thus output is dependent on the efficiency of the sewing operator. The method of basting the layers before quilting continues to remain very time consuming, while the working area on a long arm bed is not enough to manage the bigger pieces of cloth meant for quilting bed spreads or wall hangings etc.
To deal with this limitation, machine manufacturers introduced single head single needle lockstitch quilting machine with a bigger sewing area and the major difference in sewing method was that instead of fabric movement, now it is the sewing head which moves all over the fabric placed on a frame, eliminating the need of basting the layers. This change not only removed the problem of material handling but also increased the productivity of the...
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