October 03, 2010

Quilting shouldn't be a drag

Here's a post that's about a month overdue. It's time to talk about how to optimize your sewing space for no-drag free motion quilting. You could make simple, free adjustments to your machine and table, or you could make quite a spendy project out of it. I know more about the first approach because I am knee deep in student loans and I am by nature a total cheapskate.

If you notice a big difference between the quality of quilting on your practice pad and your quilt, you may be battling some drag on your quilt. You can decrease drag by making your quilting space as flat and slippery as possible. The more your quilt can just glide across the surface of your machine and table, the more control you will have over your stitching. You will have less wrinkles on the back of your quilt and you will be able to quilt longer because you are not getting all worn out struggling with your quilt.

First, let's figure out how to support all the quilt that you're not working on. Having your quilt hang off the edge of your table is not ideal. Try and keep it supported at all times.  A biggish table would be nice. Some people use an ironing board at the height of their sewing table to support the quilt.You could try this if  your table isn't large enough. If there is a wall against the left and back edges of the table even better - the quilt can't fall off that side of the table.


Now let's get your machine involved. If you could have the machine farther to the right of the table, there will be more room on the left for your quilt to lay while you're working. Now, it's a lot easier to manipulate your quilt top if your hands always have support underneath while you're moving them around. Unless you have a table that lets your machine drop into it, you will want to extend the working area of your machine with an extension table. Most machines have their own extension table. If your machine doesn't have an extension table, or you want an even bigger flat space than your machine's table, you could order a custom fit plexiglass table. Or maybe you'd rather whip up your own. How about this idea of making one from a cardboard box?


Now, let's get your work surfaces nice and slick. I know about a few ways to do this. Over on the Flickr group Leah suggested rubbing waxed paper on the machine bed to make it slicker. Kathy recommended silicone spray, which can be applied to both the machine and the table.  There are also sheets, such as the Sew Slip and the Free Motion Slider, that are designed to lay on top of your machine bed (and/or cardboard box, wink wink!) to make it slicker so your quilt slides easier. I have a little more to share about the Sew Slip in an upcoming post.

Are there adjustments you could make to your quilting space? Whatever your budget, there's probably some changes you can make to reduce drag on your quilt!

12 comments:

Debbie said...

Car wax works well too, on the table and machine bed. Can't say enough about how important reducing drag is to improve your quilting. Great job on all this info...one more thing I use is music! I was first taught to sing "She'll be coming round the mountain" to myself to get my initial motion/speed going. LOL, now I listen to classic blues and old show tunes. Works for me.

Elsa said...

I ended up moving my machine and table out of the corner and it's been the best thing I ever did sewing wise! I don't seem to have a dragging problem with my machine or table. My sewing area seems to be the place I spend most of my time and it's become a focal area in the house ~ not exactly what I wanted, but due to a small space, it's what I've got!

Dora, the Quilter said...

Like Debbie, I'd suggest carnauba wax for the machine bed. For wooden table behind the machine or beside the sewist (for large quilts I use a foldable wooden to my left in front of the machine), I recommend Howard's Wax 'n' Feed, a beeswax and orange oil combination that is free of less than healthy chemicals.
Lack of "support space" can be a real handicap.
I sooooo enjoy your blog.

Suzan said...

I don't know if you have seen this but here is a link to a woman that posted several YouTube videos on making a custom sewing table for quilting. Pretty clever!

http://www.squidoo.com/sewingtable

Hillbilly Handiworks said...

I have been wanting one for so long...the cardboard box, now that I CAN afford!!!

Linda said...

As I was quilting last night I felt the quilt dragging so I grabbed a stack of magazines as they were right there, (quilting ones of course - because I must have about 50 of those!) and stacked them around my sewing machine. It was easy to get it exact height of the machine and they are slick. It worked great.

quilthexle said...

How really really true - it is amazing what an enourmous impact even a slight dragging might have. I've learnt (the hard way ... why didn't you post this earlier ??? ) that I need to stop quilting immediately even if I only have a slight feeling of "there might be some blocking on my quilt". Since I learnt to listen to that tiny voice and check what might be the reason for it piping up, I have much more fun when quilting !

Beth said...

just found your blog via a comment on randi's "I have to say" blog. i LOVE it!!! very good info for quilters - i have been reading back for about 20 min. already. thank you!

Stray Stitches said...

Recently I was able to buy a new sewing machine table with an hydrolic lift that allows my machine top to sit level with the table top. What a difference it has made when quilting. Quilt moves easier and I don't sew with my shoulders all hunched up!

SewLindaAnn said...

I would love to try something that helps with the sliding. As a new person to machine quilting I practice a lot and keep trying all the recommended notions I read about. I'm looking forward to what more you have to say about it. In the meanwhile, on to the wax paper.

terryt1955 said...

Just found your blog and am so greatful. I'm new to quilting and have had anxiety attacks about trying FMQ. But I've learned so much in 30 minutes I amactually not holding my breath anymore. I do have a question about all the ideas to reduce drag when using the sprays and waxes. Won't htey get on the quilt and soil it?

Sandra Sharpe said...

I bought a flexible cutting mat at the dollar store and cut a hole for the needle to go through. I also use masking tape to tape the mat to the sewing area. Cheap fix that works wonders!

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