What an easy set up for quilting on a home sewing machine looks like
Updated: Sep 26, 2020
Many people give their finished quilt tops to long arm quilters because they don´t believe it is possible to quilt a large quilt on a domestic sewing machine. I have done it many times, the largest one I quilted so far was a 100 inches square quilt. If you are a beginner you'd better start with a baby or lap quilt and as your confidence grows you can continue with larger sizes. Success of your quilting depends on 2 main factors : firstly your quilting skills and second your set up for quilting. Never underestimate the latter one! This is what make the whole process more enjoyable and successful.
I have been asked quite a lot of times about my set up. Since I am working on the queen size quilt (89 x 97 inches) at the moment, it is a perfect opportunity to show you what works for me.
1. Large surface for quilting
I don´t have a dedicated sewing space. I quilt in my kitchen, on the round dining table. It is sturdy and doesn´t shake when I quilt. It accommodates well a sewing machine, an extension table and has room for a quilt.
I always have Supreme slider on my extension table. It creates a slippery surface and helps to move quilts easier. I cut a larger hole in it around the feed dogs, so I can see the bobbin area and check on bobbin thread if necessary. As you can see the slider is taped with painter´s tape to the extension table and the machine. I change the tape regularly, the reason for that is as the tape gets older it starts peeling off, getting on the back of your quilt and creating problems with quilting.
2. Foot for quilting
From my experience the 6D dynamic spring foot works the best for free motion quilting on Pfaff sewing machines. I used it with great success on Pfaff Quilt expression 4.2 and Pfaff Quilt expression 720.
Since I do both free motion quilting and ruler work I have been using only Pfaff ruler foot for both in Ruler work mode. It works fabulously, there is no need to change the foot and it gives you opportunities to be more flexible with the choice of quilting designs.
3. How to arrange quilt on the quilting surface
When I just started fmq I tried to search how others arrange quilts on the quilting surface. Some rolled the quilts in a way that you had the roll in the throat space of sewing machine, others put the quilts on the shoulder. None of those worked for me, rolling doesn´t leave much space for quilting and it is really hard to maneuver the quilt in free motion quilting with the roll on the right. If you put a part of the quilt on your shoulder, it makes you hot, uncomfortable and tense when you are supposed to be relaxed doing fmq.
I think the most important thing is that the quilt should be laying on the surface but not hanging down from it. If it hangs It causes dragging and that affects the quality of fmq right away - you will feel that it is getting much harder to maneuver the quilt and get consistent stitches.
This is the front view.
This is the back view.
This is what's happening on the extension table. Even though you have the quilt bunched at the back and on the sides, you need to keep the area you are going to quilt flat. As you can see there is enough room for placing hands and rulers.
Once I get the area quilted, I need to re-adjust the quilt on the surface.
4. Sitting arrangement
It is very important how you sit while quilting. If you sit too low, your shoulders will get tired, if you sit too high you won't see where you are going with quilting.
I am not a tall person, 162 cm. Therefore I always put 3-4 chair cushions, so I can place my hands without any strain in wrists or shoulders on the extension table.
Place the foot pedal right in front of your foot so you don´t need to reach for it too far.
5. Start quilting from the center
Always start quilting from the middle of the quilt and move towards the sides. The center is the most difficult area to quilt, especially on large sizes. You should aim to get a flat area on the extension table that is large enough to place your hands or small ruler. Once you move towards the sides, don't be afraid to rotate the quilt in the way that you always have less bulk on the right (in the throat space) as it would give you more flat space on the extension table for quilting.
There might be some areas when you need to quilt with some quilt bulk on your knees, it is absolutely normal. Just make sure that nothing is hanging to the floor, or at the sides.
Make a small quilt sandwich from the same batting and same weight fabric pieces to test how your machine works once you change bobbin thread or adjust tension. It saves you time ripping fmq if something goes wrong.
There is no universal advice, so try different things and find what works the best for you!