Tips for Quilting the Big Quilt-Open Line Friday


Quilting the Double Wedding Ring, Kennedy


Good Morning, Quilters!

It’s Open Line Friday–Everyone Asks…and EVERYONE ANSWERS!

We need to bring our collective heads together to answer the BIG QUESTION on every quilter’s mind…

How do I quilt that BIG QUILT on my LITTLE machine?


I have written about Quilting the Big Quilt HERE and HERE

Today, let’s focus on managing the bulk of the quilt.

Machine Quilting, Basket Quilt

First a few pointers:

Remember, it can be done!  This is critical–don’t give up.  Persevere!

Also, quilting a big quilt, takes time–25-50 hours is not unusual (Read More HERE)   Plan for that time–if you are rushed, the quilting will be more difficult!

Double Wedding Ring Quilting, LKennedy

Quilt from the center out.  That means you will only need to fit 1/2 the quilt into the harp space at a time.  But that also means you will have to stitch some of your motifs upside down or sideways.  Plan for that too.  Choose motifs that can be stitched in any direction or plan to draw the motif and follow the lines.

Provide as much support as possible to your quilt.  Place tables and ironing boards all around your sewing table to support the weight of the quilt.

If possible, place your sewing table in a corner of your room.  The walls will help keep the quilt from falling off the edge –which creates tugging while you are stitching.

Use your elbows.  When stitching a big quilt, place your hands in the normal position, and use your left elbow to help move the weight of the quilt and to keep the quilt from tugging.

Stabilize the long axes.  Stitching from the center out, stitch from the top of the quilt to the bottom of the quilt along the seam-lines to stabilize the long axes of the quilt.  Then go back and do the same along the horizontal axes.  Once this is complete, you can stitch anywhere in your quilt in any order without worrying that the quilt will be twisted.

Small motifs on big quilts.  It is difficult to stitch large, sweeping movements when you have to slide a queen size quilt.  Keep the motifs fairly small for best results.

Take frequent breaks.  Stitching a big quilt can be physically challenging.  Take frequent breaks to release the stress in your shoulders, neck and wrists.

Lori Kennedy, Craftsy, Doodle to Design

Have fun while you are quilting.  Don’t take yourself too seriously.  If there are mistakes–put a pin in it and decide later if you want to go back to correct it.  Often a mistake in machine quilting won’t be noticeable once the entire quilt is complete.

Remember–personality is more important than perfection when it comes to quilting…(and maybe in life?!)

What about YOU?

Do YOU have some tips for quilting the big quilt YOU can share?!

If it works for YOU it will probable help someone else…

We’d LOVE to hear!


PS…All tutorials, images and information are the property of Lori Kennedy at The Inbox Jaunt and are intended for personal use only.  Feel free to re-blog, pin or share with attribution to The Inbox Jaunt.  For all other purposes, please contact me at  Thanks!


122 thoughts on “Tips for Quilting the Big Quilt-Open Line Friday

  1. You always have such great tips. As much as I do love to FMQ on my domestic Janome and the results are always pleasing to me, it does intimidate me still. I seem to have great plans about what I want to quilt on it when I am piecing but in the end I sometimes just do swirls and circles or straight lines or hatching with the even feed foot. It always looks nice but I always worry that if I try to get more creative it will ruin the quilt I have spent so much time piecing. I use stencils in the borders still and can only dream to get as skilled as you! Love your blog!

  2. I’ve only quilted one large quilt on my small machine. At the time, I thought the whole process was a nightmare and the quilting looked ugly. But, when I went back and looked at it (a few months later), it wasn’t bad for a first time. My biggest problem was the thread shredding and breaking. I don’t have that problem with smaller quilts. Was that because of the way I was pulling and tugging it??

    • It could be – I find I have less breakage when I remember to *lift* the quilt when I need to rearrange it, rather than try to slide it.

    • Mary, i had the same problems with my thread shredding until I changed out the needle. I think I may have bent the needle just a bit as I moved the quilt around. The new needle worked fine.

    • It may be–but usually shredding and breaking are a sign that your needle is damaged (which may be a result of tugging and pulling). Another cause can be damage to your throat plate or just a bad spool of thread. Support your quilt more-change your needle as soon as you see thread breakage and then look to your needle plate–which may require a trip to the sewing machine dealer.

      • Thanks for all the wonderful comments!!! I’ve gained so much knowledge from this blog. My quilting has definitely improved. I tried changing the needle and the thread, and also the bobbin thread (I was desperate). I’ll try “lifting” instead of pulling and tugging. Thanks for all the replys!!!

    • I was frustrated recently with my thread breaking frequently. I tried 5 different types and sizes of needles, but nothing helped. Finally, I changed the quilting foot to a plastic circle the size of a quarter instead of the smaller quilting foot. That did the trick!

  3. Thanks so much for putting all these tips in one place! And thanks for all your encouragement that we (I) CAN quilt these big quilts on our small machines!

  4. I quilt one block at a time, and then I force myself to walk away. (Even if it is just to change the laundry!) Otherwise, I can get tired and frustrated. And, my spacing isn’t natural. The process becomes work and not fun. Planned breaks before they are needed is my tip!

  5. I divide the batting into three sections and quilt the center first and add the batting back on the right side. Quilt the right side and then add the batting back and quilt the last section upside down.

      • Brilliant! Do you overlap the edges of each piece of batting? Do you whipstitch the edges of the batting together on each side of the center piece, or do you rely on the quilting to prevent a gap? Does this add any challenges basting the sandwich, and, if so, how do you handle them?

    • me too – first 2 sections were so simple, the third is the only part were there is a lot of weight on the left side of your machine. Since I am using a digitized pattern, I had to devise a way to keep the weight off the embroidery arm of my machine. My free motion will take place along the 2 borders. Almost done!!!! Yeah!!!

    • So if I understand you correctly, you have your entire front & back when you start quilting. Then when you add the right & left sections of batting, do you connect them somehow to the center section of batting? Also Do you ever have problems/ challenges with lining everything up when you add the left & right batting sections?

  6. Lori’s tips are perfect – and from experience, I can tell you they work!

    If you are quilting long stretches of the same motif (borders, lattice), start at the *bottom* of the column, not the top (as you quilt, you will be moving the quilt toward you, not away). That way, you know the area behind the needle (the part you can’t really see) is as yet unquilted. No worrying about running over a previously quilted line that way.

  7. This is so helpful. Some are tips I’ve forgotten; others are new to me. As always, thank you for sharing your skills so we can improve ours.

  8. I use quilt gloves that made a huge difference to control and less fatigue. I used to hand quilt or stitch in the ditch but you have challenged my creativity Lori. Thank you for sharing!

  9. Thanks so much for your emails- you have given me the courage to try quilting with my sewing machine and with enough practice, it’s getting better. I am quilting a log cabin quilt one strip at a time. I started with the farthest left strip, then added the top, batting & back of the next strip to the right and just finished quilting that strip. The bulk of the quilt stays to the left and easier to handle.

  10. I have done lots of LARGE quilts and agree with you, Lori, that you need to take frequent breaks. Didn’t on my 1st and a very sore shoulder put off quilting for several days. Learned the hard way! Also, concentrate on small area at a time. Worry about the rest when you get there! Enjoy, not work.

  11. AArrrgh. I just threw in the towel last night and decided to pay someone to do it long arm style..Well. I want the thing stabilized somehow by long arm and then let me do the particular designs on my machine. A teacher that came to our guild a couple years ago highly suggested we sew all outer borders in the ditch as the very first seam…to stabilize it. I have allowed 2 quilts to get too large for me to handle. I think my problem is never getting the layers of my sandwich smoothed out enough.I smooth and smooth and pin and re-pin. There is still quilt top that rises up as I get to the end of a seam and makes a pucker..big one !! LOL I was going to try the basting spray and then chickened out, after reading the directions, due to allergies. Even when I try to sew around a 3 inch square’s sides, the 4th side will make a pucker as it proceeds to join Side 1’s corner. The other problem is the backing may begin oriented north and south, the batting nice in between and when I finish some seams, the quilt top has shifted and is oriented northeast and southwest on top of the batting and backing. I don’t mind holding the rolled quilt sides on my left shoulder while
    sewing.And I do have the practice of lifting the quilt as I sew. I promise not to make anything larger than 48 inches in future..LOL

    • Marta, I had the same problem of tucks on the back until I began pin basting more closely–about 3″ apart. That seems to help. Also, are you using a walking foot for straight line stitching and are you lowering the feed dogs when Free Motion quilting? If not, these things will help.

      • Usually my pins are about 4 inches apart. I can surely do them closer ! I use my walking foot..actually don’t take it off. And yes I think I always remember to lower dogs..I will write a check list and go by it to make sure. I don’t seem to have puckers with the FM designs that are no larger than 4-5 inches.Thank you Barbara for the advice ! ….appreciate it.

      • I found a local quilt shop with a long arm that will pin baste the quilt on their longarm frame. Saved me so much time not to mention my knees as the floor was the only place large enough for the king sized quilt. It took me a while but i got it done on my regular machine. I now use the spray basting and love it. i have found that different brands are very different when it comes to fumes. I was traveling and picked some up at a chain fabric store. I works well and does not overpower me with the fumes. I didn’t realize how good it was until I finally emptied the can and had to finish a project with the stuff I usually use.

      • This is actually a reply to Pam Raney, but can work for lots of others as well … to get your knees off the floor while pinning, try to get your hands on an old pingpong table, the kind that folds up. A friend moved, and she donated hers to me for quilt pinning. It’s surface is 5’x8′, which accommodates lap quilts well, and if I’m doing something bigger, I add a plastic-topped folding table (from Costco) to the side and hike it up to the right height using bits of 2″x4″. I’ve accommodated up to a queen-sized quilt this way. And when done, the table folds up and rolls into a corner of the garage, which is where I pin. Roll out a car, and you have the room to accommodate it. Another idea I saw at our annual charity bee is to use two of the plastic-topped folding tables side-by-side, with their legs jacked up with pieces of PVC pipe, making it a more generous height for your back.

    • Your free motion foot may be resting too heavily on your quilt top. If your foot height is adjustable, try raising it just a bit. If yours cannot be adjusted, there is an inexpensive generic called Clarity that fits many brands of machines and is adjustable. There may be others or one specific for your machine.

    • I starch the quilt top and backing HEAVILY with homemade starch. The quilt glides much more smoothly and I don’t get as many puckers. I have read about basting with diluted Elmer’s School Glue, but haven’t tried it yet. Leah Day also suggests stabilizing with YLI Water Soluble Thread, which is the next thing I am going to try.

    • I have had the same problem with puckers on the top of my quilt, so I either lower the pressure on my walking foot, or change to a regular foot. The regular foot doesn’t push down as hard on the quilt top, so it reduces the drag

    • What batting are you using? A friend uses the puffy polyester and has lots of trouble with “tucks” and shifting. The newer, Dream brand polyester, seems to work great, but is more expensive than the Warm brand, which is 85% cotton, 15% polyester, and what I usually use with no complaint.

      • Always have used 100% cotton..Warm and Natural, low loft. I have even used 100% cotton flannel for lap quilts. Haven’t tried polyester.

    • I saw a tutorial once where it was suggested to tape the quilt back to the floor or table first then layer batting and the quilt top, then pin. I have tried this and it does make a nice smooth, no puckers surface. The hard thing is having a large enough space to spread out the quilt.

  12. Thanks so much for these tutorials on quilting large quilts, which is what I mostly make. I’ve managed to quilt even king sized quilts on my domestic, pretty much by trial and error. Reading over your ideas has already helped me out as I prepare to quilt my next king sized quilt. I think this one will go a bit smoother than the others have!

  13. I’ve quilted many large quilts with my domestic… some better than others…. but was happy with most of them. The last big quilt I quilted I did as a quilt-as-you-go. I’m not sure I’ll ever make a big quilt any other way.

  14. I prefer using a much lighter-weight, poly batting the larger the quilt gets. Cotton gets heavy! I haven’t experimented with other batting fibers yet. Maybe that’s my 2017 resolution!

    • Quilter dream washable wool batting is awesome. It is light and so easy to quilt through and move around , washes beautifully. I’ve tried other brands and Quilters Dream is so soft and consistent in the fiber coverage where other brands tend to be thick and thin.

  15. I’m working on a large quilt (approx 96″ x 96″) on my domestic machine which has a throat size of 7 1/2″. Not fun! What would you say is the minimum throat size for enjoyable machine quilting large quilts?

  16. I use an ironing board at the back and a small table to the left of my sewing table to the hold some of the bulk of the quilt.

  17. I’ve quilted a few big quilts on my domestic machine and agree with all the comments about breaks, etc. etc. The only new thing I would add is to choose a quilting design with smaller motifs and preferably straight lines. I also use my walking foot which seems to help with puckers. I will also say I’ve become pretty good at “smoushing” the whole quilt thru the throat — although it did cost me an LED under-throat light set!

  18. Quilting a large quilt is definitely a challenge, but as you mentioned : take it slow; work a small section at a time and rest frequently. Also, pour a glass of wine; put on your favorite music or audio book; use good quality needles and thread, needle in ‘down’ position and make sure your tension is set properly, by practicing before starting your project.
    My tip is to cut 2 little, 3″ x 3″ squares from a piece of the waffle foam that keeps throw rugs from skidding. You will place them on either side of the pressure foot, on
    your project, and place your hands on them. This helps as a gripper, instead of gloves. It’s easier to remove pins and you can move the foam squares around easily. Plus they aren’t hot like gloves.
    Thank you Lori, for all of your helpful hints. Look forward, everyday for your blog.

  19. I’m kind of “vintage” & so are most of my tips. I use a single CD player and when the music os over it’s time to stretch those shoulders. I have found food, drinks, tv get forgotten while I’m piecing or quilting so I just indulge while I’m stretching. I started “domestic machine” quilting in the late 70’s. Economics dominated,but if all the wonderful tools now available were in place back then I probably couldn’t have bought them. That being said your blog has made a BIG difference to many, not just me. Lori,
    I’m always saying thank you but today alsoa big thank you to all.

  20. I just have some words of encouragement. Be patient, you can do it if I can. My right (dominante) hand is paralyzed and I have a greatly reduced range of motion in my right arm and shoulder from nerve cancer surgery in my shoulder 11 years ago. I actually took up quilting about five years ago and have quilted many queen and king sized quilts on my domestic machine. I try to keep the sandwich fluffed and loose in front of me and just shove and scrunch it to get it where I need it. I do spray baste and then reinforce with scattered pins but do pin the perimeter. I haven’t had an issue with things shifting. I have to credit my great friends/instructors and fellow members of St Louis Modern Quilt Guild for all their encouragement.

    • OK, I am all inspired again to go try these tips and hints.. I use large quilting pins ( the bent ones ) and small ones answer a question up above. I am puzzled how yall do the spraying, The can I bought is full of cautions and warnings.. I really don’t want to lay my quilt sandwiches down in the grass..very unlevel and full of stuff to be cleaned off later. I cannot get on my knees anymore LOL..Thanks, Folks!

      • My knees had started to bother me, too, so I bought knee pads like gardeners and carpet layers use: no more knee pain! I got a pair that strap on for less than $10 at Menards. Using an old, flat queen-sized sheet took care of the problems with spray residue on carpet or tile floors. I was using a large sheet of Visqueen, but that can’t be put into the washing machine…

      • I spray baste in my garage as there is always overspray and odor. I have an old 6 ft table (one of those very heavy ones) that has a thin enough lip that I can use the large binder clips to secure my three layers. I have PVC pipe leg extenders to save my back. The spray baste isn’t cheap, but so much easier than pinning. I also have a quilting friend and we spray baste together. It seems to be a two person job.

  21. I’d have to say the quilt I just finished has a lot of “personality” in it. I figure once it has been washed, any mistakes will be overlooked. Thanks for your tips.

  22. I have done about 3 large quilts and I’m working on no.4. I found that lots of pins help keep it flat, stitching in the ditch as much as possible is good. patience while moving it around under the needle to make sure the area you are working on is flat. I also have used a water soluble thread to baste the quilt if my design covers more that one block. It will wash away, leaving only my quilt design. My biggest thing to remember is when I stop with my needle down and have to adjust the fabric to make sure my next stitch is still in line. I raise the needle first, checking the placement of the next stitch.

  23. One of the best words of advice Lori gave me a couple years ago about quilting a bed size quilt is to grid the quilt into large squares… Whether you do this mentally visualizing a squared off area or if you actually mark it and just think about quilting that square… Not the whole quilt. Once it’s done move on to the next square… This helped me not to get overwhelmed thinking about my design covering the whole quilt. I’ve used this to quilt twin, queen and king quilts with all over designs. I start in my visualized center square and work my way out.

  24. I agree with Lori’s idea of pinning a mistake, and then looking at it later. I can’t tell you how many times, I’ve decided that something doesn’t need to be fixed. Either it blends with the rest of the quilting, or it adds a little bit of character. Both are a win in my book!

  25. Take the time necessary to do a really good job of basting (I like to pin baste) before you start quilting, and you be happy with the results, especially the smooth back. Also, feel the back side from time to time to check that your tension is still good. No need to lift the quilt to look–your fingers will tell you. Good stitches feel smooth; if there’s a problem, they’ll feel rough. I agree that proper support everywhere will keep the quilt from tugging. If even an inch hangs over the table, it will feel very heavy. And don’t give up if it seems awkward at first. It will get easier, and by the time you’re done, you’ll feel like a pro. It’s even possible to quilt a 10 foot square quilt!

    • My finger tips ( and feet) have diabetic neuropathy and cannot feel things very well with accuracy I used to have. I depend on my eyes and memory. A FMQ friend gifted me a pair of gloves to sew with… the crinkly kind you use to defoliate skin . They are chartreuse.. Fun !!
      Thanks for your suggestions and description.

  26. I had my husband install utility drawer handles in the ceiling and use bungee straps and ratchet clamps to support the weight of the quilt. That way it doesn’t fall off the table and cause drag. I have a sit-down mid-arm however if you are FMQing on a domestic machine, you could turn your machine so that it orients the same way, with needle towards you and motor in the back and use my system. Leah Day does a similar thing with her DSmachine, only leaves it in a normal position with her table in the corner. I use 4 handles, 2 on ea. side to hold the front and back of the quilt. I spray baste all my quilts and usually SITD the main seams to stabilize before I start quilting. If you don’t want your SITD to take away from your design, use wash away thread. Rachet clamps are easy to reposition and don’t take as much hand strength as the spring clamps.

  27. I have not seen what I usually do above so will mention it. I have my mother & grandmother’s quilting frames. I put the backing on face down first, measuring and attaching it with straight pins to square it up. (Watched the church quilters attach their quilts – they tie for missions and I just cannot get into that!) Then lay down the batting and top or one at a time and use a bit of spray basting, and curved pins and/or pinmoors from Leah Day to baste it. I don’t always stitch in the ditch around the blocks. I put my Pfaff machine on a large table in the basement against a wall so there is lots of room everywhere. I have been experimenting with several motifs as I get bored doing just one design as an all over design. I do some friends quilts who are just beginners in piecing and do not want to pay a professional so I can get more practice than just my own quilts. They seem to be happy and I like to do the free motion more than the piecing. I would love a long arm, but space, money and time are not on my side for that experience so I will keep working on my domestic machine to achieve acceptable quilting myself. Thank you to all who shared their experience and a SPECIAL THANK YOU Lori for all you do for me & other domestic quilters. It really HELPS!! I’m on a race to get some projects done for holiday and organizing projects to take along when we go south for 3 months when I will have to piece instead of free motion quilting due to lack of space.

  28. I like the thought about small motifs on large quilts – I have done that automatically and thought I needed to s-t-r-e-t-c-h myself to something bigger. Cross that off the to do list. One thing I don’t see in the conversation is scrunching the quilt instead of rolling or folding. I also have learned to listen tothe very little voice in my head that says “it’s pulling” or “sounds like a knot”. It is OK to stop, breathe, and rethink. I like physical breaks too – I have some back therapy exercises, and even 5 minutes on the treadmill is refreshing.

  29. I confess that I haven’t taken time to read through all of today’s comments yet. I have a question that I don’t know if you have addressed it in your column yet.
    I am sort of embarrassed to ask, but, here goes. What is your opinion of the special foot and ruler templates that are used for FMQ?
    From what I have seen, there are different kinds and sizes. The Bernina web site used one that was held in place as you are sewing. I saw a different one that used a thumbtack under and into a hole in the ruler to guide the shape in the template.
    Thank you for your insight.

    • Carolina, I just purchased the Ruler Foot #72 and rulers from BERNINA and am beginning to play with them. I think they are great–but somewhat challenging to learn to use–one more thing to account for and hold on to….Tutorials forthcoming!

  30. It is essential to have the right equipment to quilt a big quilt on a domestic sewing machine. I rely on my Machingers gloves to get a grip, a thread net over my cones of thread when I am using a thread stand to get a more consistent and even flow, and my Sew Slip (or a Supreme Slider) to lower the drag on the sewing surface.

    • I was told by a machine repair shop to use spray silicone on the machine bed to slide easier. He said it would not hurt the machine. Anyone else try it?

      • I silicone spray on my whole table. I wipe off the excess. I use it at my job too. I work in a commercial /upholstery sewing room, so this is a common practice. Just make sure you remove the excess from the table surfaceand don’t get it on a smooth floor it makes it very slippery and dangerous.

      • I use spray silicone at work on industrial equipment (pharmaceutical manufacturing). I would advise to spray a cloth lightly and then rub / buff the sewing machine bed. A quick shot of spray will be more than enough. If you want to clean it off, a little rubbing alcohol on a cloth does the trick. Make sure that the spray silicone is labeled as a lubricant, Regular silicone can act as an adhesive.

  31. My biggest rule ( which you apply in a few of your tips) is “Do not fight gravity as it will win”. For me that means: 1. The quilt is supported all around. 2. The quilt is poofed up all around including anything in my lap being poofed up under my chin so that the quilt feeds down into the machine and gravity helps no matter which way I go. Overall it is like I am working in a nest 3. The moment I feel anything start to resist or tug or pull, I stop and identify the issue.

  32. LOVE these comments! Did anyone mention the Super Slider (teflon sheet) –makes a huge difference in moving that monster around? I also recommend a dollop of Norwegian hand cream on your hands before you start (thanks to Aira at Quilts and Lace in Melbourne, FL for that tip!) and use the best thread you can afford.

    I just finished free motion quilting my first big quilt on my little Bernina Activa. I took frequent breaks, tried listening to podcasts (I now have a blue tooth speaker on my Christmas list) and worried that it took so long! The quilting is quirky but fun, and I only had to redo a few sections. When I was half way done, I swore I’d never do it again. But I might… thanks to all the wisdom here!

  33. I cut the tops off the fingers and thumbs on my quilting gloves. They are now cooler to wear and it is much easier to thread the needle etc.

  34. I love seeing everyone’s comments. Thanks for all the tips! I’ve watched all kinds of FMQ Craftsy videos…the one piece of information that stands out is (I think) from Leah Day…quilt with feed dogs up. I had tons of tension issues in my FMQ until I tried it, and since then, I rarely have issues. I just cover them with my super slider and party on. If ur fighting with tension, give it a try.

    • I have had the same kind of success with feed dogs up, covered by the Supreme Slider. I will never lower my feed dogs again! Thanks, Leah Day!

    • Thank you for that reminder–I don’t find that makes a difference on my machines, but I do think some machines and some models do better that way. Also, you can just lower your stitch length to zero–feed dogs up and not covered even.

  35. I haven’t quilted anything larger than a lap size. I have been working on an oversize queen and am dreading quilting it. I plan to do the method where you divide the batting into thirds and I plan to connect them with the iron on stuff made for that.
    One tip I would give that I haven’t seen listed is to have your machine imbedded into a table. Before I had my new table, anything I was quilting would get hung up on my sewing machine.

  36. Question: Does anyone know whether a video exists showing the spray basting process from start to finish?
    I pin every 6-7 inches all over the quilt sandwich, while smoothing and smoothing. Then I turn the whole thing over and pin baste in between the top side pins. I do many of the pins over that are on the top side to smooth out puckers. I then turn it over again and repeat checking and smoothing in order to wind up with no puckers and NO pins on the backing side of the sandwich. This works fine on lap quilts and small quilts for CASA donations, etc. But I would like to learn to spray baste.
    Has anyone had problems with the spray substance sticking on the needle?

  37. I just want to say that although I’m not really good at FMQ I am not afraid to try anymore. I got tired of straight stitch and stitching in the ditch so I used my Accuquilt Go cutter and just did a bunch of 8″ squares with sashing so I could practice some FMQ. Did some swirls and got a little crazy on one that I tucked away to “re-do” someday”…lol BUT….. I’m not afraid to try anymore. Thank you so much Lori and everyone else for helping me to take the first step! God Bless to all!!!!!

  38. One more share before I hush…Two years ago I made an extension “table” for one of my sewing machines. I used styrofoam from packing materials, cardboard, brown paper and wide tape. I cut the foam, covered it with the cardboard, cut the cardboard to fit exactly around the bed of sewing machine. I covered the cardboard with the brown paper and taped it all very well. Then last I covered all that with clear
    Contact paper..nice and smooth and shiny! Has stood me in good stead so far. It slides into place from the left side with the bottom of it weighted down by bottom of the machine, like a sleeve. And it is wider in back by the presser foot area than the bought one for my other sewing machine.

  39. When I quilt a large quilt on my machine using an allover design I start in the middle of one side and work my way to the center of the quilt, then back out to the border. I keep working in and out toward the top of the quilt, but only quilt as far as an imaginary diagonal line toward the corner. When I get to the corner, I rotate the quilt and work back and forth toward the next corner, and continue in that manner until I get the whole quilt done. It works great! I explain it a little better in this blog post:

    • Thank you! This is a little different than how I work, but I can see the logic. I think your post is very clear and well written and will be helpful to many people!

  40. I have always quilted my own quilts, no matter how big or small. Some are better than others and I get frustrated with the process but at I look at it this way–at least I had a go and it’s all made by me. ‘Thanks for all the tips and advice–maybe I’ll get that perfect quilt one day.

  41. I have a Bernina 440 that I quilt my projects on. My quilt projects vary in size and I do make king-sized quilts on my machine. I do free motion designs on my quilts.

    I have found that by pin basting the width of your hand eliminates the tucks on the back of the fabric. When pinning I start in the center of the quilt and move out in a circular motion. I do use a floor space to tape down the backing with masking tape and then smooth out the batting and then the top. At times I have gone to a local quilt shop to use the classroom floor to pin baste so I have enough space to lay the layers out due to size.

    When it comes to the quilting of the quilt I have my sewing machine table facing another table and to my left of my machine cabinet is my ironing board. By doing this I have support for the quilt to the back and the left side of the machine. I have learned not to roll the quilt to put it under the harp space, I just do the fluff and stuff method with fabric distributed about the machine and in my lap. I do stop frequently to adjust the quilt to eliminate the pull of the fabric and to remove pins.

    I often use Superior Thread when I do the quilting, so I use a topstitch 90/14 needle, as suggested. When I first started quilting I would have thread problems but since using a better quality of thread I don’t encounter thread breakage very often at all.

    Thanks Lori for all your tips and guidance.

  42. Lori,your tips r wonderful!!!!!But I have a question about the table in the picture.Is it special order?My husband thinks it is a door.I am asking because My 830 has lucite plate form around the arm and because it doesn’t sit flush,there is drag on all 4 sides.I am trying to figure out how to rig up a flat bed surround to give me more flat area that doesn’t cost an arm and a leg.Do you or any of the readers have any suggestions?Thank you one and all.

    • Hi Donna, I sew on a Horn cabinet designed for quilters when I am at home. My machine sits flush in the cabinet and there are extensions on all sides. Your husband is right–the last photo was from Craftsy’s studio –it is a custom made table with a cut out.

      I used a Sew-Steady table for years before I got my Horn cabinet. It provides a bigger surface, but there is still drop off on four sides.

      Does anyone have suggestions, patterns for creating an inexpensive table?

      • Well, I could refer to my previous letter (after 11PM last night) about the cardboard and styrofoam extension table I made. I wonder if a tracing around your machine bed sides could be transferred to a piece of plywood and cut out with a saw. Only problem would be that the plywood might need to be beveled to be able to cozy up closely to the sides of the machine. The plywood could be supported by books, bricks, (LOL) ironing board or whatever to hold it level with your sewing machine. My other machine has a SewNSteady table and is small for very large quilts. It had to be custom cut for the brand machine I have and yet has never been satisfactory. I had not realized that the bed slopes fractionally down in 3 directions from the presser foot area until we tried to install it to the machine. I would not have spent the money for that extension table if I had realized the logistics. I had assumed my machine bed was flat! So the fancy expensive sewing machine has a table with ditches that catch the fabric of a quilt. The one I made for my older sewing machine works perfectly.

  43. I am trying to find a pair of gloves that will fit, for when I am quilting. The large pair I have are too small and really aren’t functional with the cuff around my thumb. It isn’t that my fingers are long, but my hands are very wide. Any suggestions are appreciated.

    • The gloves my quilting friend gave me are crinkly and stretchy, They are for scrubbing your skin. I wish I could get my photos out of my cell phone and into the computer so I could show you.

  44. Thank you Lori and Marta.I too have a sew steady table and it does just as u say—drag.I laid in bed last night thinking about how to make something.Have a little at the end of the tunnel but need to sweet talk my wonderful husband into it.Thanks again

  45. Lori – I just read through your post and all of the comments – and I would like to say THANK YOU!! to everyone – GREAT information shared by one and all. I am just learning how to FMQ and am by no means an expert – but I would like to add my two cents – for what it’s worth – ;))

    I use a fusible batting – Hobbs Heirloom Fusible – 80% Cotton/20% Polyester – that can be quilted up to 4″ apart. No pins – no fumes! After I layer the back – the batt – and the top – on my kitchen island (my knees don’t DO floors anymore) – smoothing them all out – I iron it from the top (using a dry iron and spritzing it with some water) – then flip it over and iron it from the back – peeling it off and re-attaching it if I need to. If I mark the quilt – I make sure that I do it AFTER I iron/press it. Then I use pins and pinmoors to stabilize the longest seams between the blocks before I do the “stitch-in-the-ditch” quilting – in case the fusible becomes “unstuck”.

    I have the luxury of space and have one machine set up with a custom walking foot – no Supreme Slider – in a sunken table – with two large plastic banquet-type tables – one in back and one on the left side to support large quilts while I “stuff and fluff” them through the narrow throat plate to do the “stitch-in-the-ditch” part. It’s all set up in the family room in front of the fireplace that we never use. (We live in Southern California – who needs a fireplace? – LOL – ;))

    Once it it is stabilized – I press it again – and move to another machine set up with a FMQ foot – also in a sunken table – but with a silicone oven liner taped to the custom extension table that covers the gap between the table and the machine. The table is set up against a wall so the quilt won’t fall off the back end. I prefer to have the quilt in my lap and “push” it through – up against the wall – and start in the middle and work my way to the right side – turn it around – work to the right again – all around the quilt. I use light-weight cotton quilting gloves and cut off most of the thumbs and index fingers so that I can thread the needle and other stuff. (I don’t bother with gloves when I do the “walking foot” quilting – there doesn’t seem to be any need for them then.)

    When I get to the binding part – it’s back to the other machine – with the walking foot. It really is easier for me to simply switch machines rather than switching out the feet – and the needles – and changing all of the settings.

    And in case you’re wondering – my quilts have LOTS of “personality” – LOL – ;))

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