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!