My wife had gotten into quilting in a big way and when she started paying someone $100 - $150 per queen size quilt to be quilted, I though it would be a good idea to buy her a quilting machine of her very own. So, I ordered a Little Grace II Frame with a Gracie Stitch Regulator and 1600P machine.
After setting it up, she used it a couple of times, but when she found out that it took a lot of time by hand to do it, and her hands were not up to the constant machine moving, she stopped finishing her quilts.
Not wanting it to sit and collect dust, I went looking for a computerized solution. WOW ! It was $4500 for the hardware... minimum... and then another $1000 for software to create the patterns. So, $5500 to computerize a $1600 system seemed ridiculous.
Being a computer design engineer, I decided to tackle creating an automation system myself. I needed something that was flexible, safe and easy to use, since it was my goal to have my wife create her own patterns and run them on the machine. The software had to be easy to use, since my wife and her friends are not the most computer savvy people around.
What I came up with was an easy to install, belt driven stepper motor drive train that can be easily adapted to ANY quilting frame, a simple electronics box and a tape recorder like software program.
In a nutshell, mount the horizontal Stepper assembly (X), the vertical Stepper assembly (Y), the belt holders, tighten the belts, connect the electronics box to the steppers (simple plugs) and then the USB cable to your computer, load the software (one step installation, complete with samples) and you're off and running.
The software works much like a tape player. You can setup a workspace consisting of all of the passes you want to run. Select a pass, play the pass. Rewind and continue. If you need to stop and re-thread because the thread broke, you can pause the play, manually move the machine (Using a mouse, keyboard or wireless XBox360 controller), fix the issue, then hit restore to return to where you paused the play, make adjustments to where you want to continue from and then continue the play. When the play is complete, move the machine off the fabric, change the bobbin and then rewind back to the original starting point. It's that simple. And the pattern just played is marked as completed, so you always know what passes you've already played.
In addition, I've created a simple to use quilt design program that allows a user to trace a bitmap/jpg pattern, etc. and save as a simple pattern. These patterns can then be strung together into a full pass that can consist of many different patterns into a single pass. These passes are what the player will execute with the ACCQuilter software. The pattern creation program will also allow you to create an entire quilt, displaying the individual passes that you can fine tune. So once you have created all of the individual passes for the quilt, you can print a marking guide that will tell you for each pass where to place the machine needle from the left and either the top of the quilt or from the last pass point, so you know where to mark each pass for pattern play execution.
The pattern creation program is complete, though enhancements will always be under way. The ACCQuilter software will also accept any file in the PC Quilter format. There are a number of creation programs out there. Some are expensive and some are less so. There is a restriction on the ACCQuilter though. The pattern MUST ALWAYS start at the top left corner and can contain a single jump from that point or not.
Currently a stitch regulator is required (which in itself is a $500 cost), but I'm in the process of testing something that will remove that requirement.
My price plans for the CC Quilter automation add-on is to sell it below $1200, with a target of $1195. If I'm successful in eliminating the stitch regulator, customers could save the $500 cost of the stitch regulator and put it towards the computerization, which means you can have the same quilting frame that I bought for only $499 more and it's fully automated.
The patterns that I have run as passes for my wife have taken anywhere from 5 - 15 minutes to run. At 15 - 19 passes per quilt, that's 45 - 285 minutes per quilt that I can be doing something else. I don't know about you, but quilting for 4 hours by hand doesn't sound like fun to me.
It was worth it for me... how about you ?
I have made the CC Quilter software available as a free download and it include some sample passes and utilities (line square, circle, etc) . If there is no machine connected, it will run in simulation mode. This way you can see how easy it is to setup and run a quilt pattern. You can even connect an XBox360 wireless controller to it and run it to see how it works.
See a video demonstration of the the ACCQuilter software at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9YQnuxs_3xU
See an early installation video of how to install the system at
Download a copy of the ACCQuilter software which will run without the hardware in simulation mode from https://drive.google.com/file/d/0B_JGMz7LTzpwSUpVSkZsRGgwQWM/view?usp=sharing
Download an early copy of the ACCQuilter Design program from https://drive.google.com/open?id=0B_JGMz7LTzpwRUZ1ZXN4TnU0aEE