Sunday, September 11, 2011

Quilt too Big? Hang it Up!

Are you still struggling to quilt big quilts on your machine? Is the bulk and weight of the quilt really getting you down?

It's time to start thinking vertically with our quilting setup! This is a suspended quilting setup that is lifting the bulk of the quilt up off my tables so I no longer have to fight the drag of the big quilt. I set this up yesterday because quilting Emergence was proving extremely difficult as more areas were filled.

I'm not sure whether it's the dense quilting that makes the quilt surface stiff, or it's the weight, or maybe both, but moving and shifting this large quilt smoothly was becoming a challenge. Then I remembered a photo I saw on Caryl Bryer Fallert's facebook page and decided it was time to build my quilting setup UP.

While it looks really complex, it's actually not. I installed this hanging system in about 30 minutes and it only cost around $25.

Here's how to do it yourself:

Materials:
- 3-5 metal handles - These have to be the heavy duty, aluminum sort that come with thick screws to install from the front. I started with 3, but will probably pick up 2 more to install more handles to the left side of the machine.

- Bungee cords - You'll only need about 5-7 of these, but it really helps to have an assortment or to pick up the kind that adjust. The key is making sure they're long enough - at least 24" - 36" or longer because you can always adjust or tie them to make them shorter, but you can't make them longer.

- Clamps - There are many different types of clamps, but I already like the kind that squeeze to open and have rubber pads on the ends. Whatever you use, make sure it won't damage your quilt and will be easy for you to open and reposition whenever you like. The more complicated, expensive kind are not really the best suited as they take more time to reposition.

Instructions:

1. Move everything away from your tables
- Do not leave your sewing machine in place as you will create a lot of dust and dirt drilling into the ceiling. Move your quilts, thread, machine, and any tools away from this area for the time being.

2. Find a stud in your ceiling - I do have a stud finder, but find it often glitches out on my ceilings so I just drilled very small holes until I found the areas where the wood beam ran across the ceiling. Place a handle over the stud and mark the location for the holes, then drill the holes, and screw the handles in place.

If you can, try to locate these handles around 12 - 24 inches BEHIND your machine. You might also want to install a few around 16 - 24" to the left of the machine to pick up that side of the quilt as well.

3. Modify the clamps - All of the clamps I picked up had small holes in the handles. I used a 3/8" bit and drilled through this hole carefully to widen it. Make sure the wider hole will fit over the hook on the bungee cord.

4. Hang up the bungee cords and clamps. Adjust and readjust until you find a system that works. It's hard to say exactly where the clamps should be because I think this is a system that will be different for everyone. Just make sure your clamps aren't too close to the table top or they won't lift the quilt up enough to make a difference.

5. Go quilt a king sized quilt with your awesome new hanging quilting system!

After shooting this last photo, I sat down and quilted 2 more rings into the sinkhole section. It was AMAZING! No drag, no fighting, no pulling, no pushing. This is the way quilting is meant to be on a domestic - easy!

I am still using a Queen Supreme Slider on the machine because the area I'm quilting around the needle is still flat to the tabletop and still needs to slide easily. I'd say the combination of the hanging system to get the bulk of the quilt off the table, plus the slider to make the quilting area move evenly and easily is the best combination.

Keep in mind that this setup will work great even if you don't quilt densely like I do. If you're quilting a bed quilt in this manner, you will likely have to adjust the clamps often, probably around every 12" or so, but once you get used to it, it's really not difficult.

So now there is absolutely, positively no excuse not to quilt all those full, queen, and king sized tops in your closet! You really can do this easily on a domestic sewing machine so long as you take the time to look at your setup and be willing to make continual improvements on the way it works.

Let's go quilt!

Leah

44 comments:

  1. ha ha, you need a long arm machine :-)

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  2. Beaquilter - I don't think so! Suspending the quilt from the ceiling was not only easier, it was also a hell of a lot cheaper!

    Cheers,

    Leah

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  3. Leah:
    When I sold wedding gowns, what we used was very similar, but worked even better was to put a pulley at the top with cording - that way you could adjust the height as necessary - LOVE the idea though - that 'drag' is huge - another thing that will help is to have a big table to your left so it's not dropping off of the table. GOOD JOB!!!!

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  4. Way to think outside the box! My little machine quilts beautiful stitches, but dragging a big quilt through it is killing my arthritic joints. I may have to steal hub's drill soon. :)

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  5. Brilliant idea - I was thinking of something similar... from the wall or something. I've seen clamps used from a table top too.
    I just have a few inches behind my sewing machine, so right now I am just avoiding quilting anything larger than a table runner/baby quilt.

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  6. Truly, revolutionary thinking! Terrific~

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  7. Fantastic idea. I am struggling with a sore back at the moment I think this would help!

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  8. do you also have a suggestion to make the neck of my machine bigger too???

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  9. What a great set of ideas! When I get my sewing table out of my bedroom, I will have to do this. In the meantime, I do use folding tables to help take some of the weight off the edge of the table. You are brilliant, girl!

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  10. What a great idea! If you placed clamps to the left of the machine, would that roll of clamps be perpendicular to the row behind the machine? Would be an "L" configuration of handles. Luckely I have wood beams in all my ceilings. Will be easy to attach handles. Thank you for sharing.

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  11. mmmm, power tools! I'm just finishing off the drywall for my "quilting studio/extra bedroom in the basement" so a new excuse to use the power tools is a good thing. I think all power tools should come in pink. There are pink hammers, and pink screw drivers, but I think it's time for pink to think bigger, as in "more power."
    See, give a girl an electric machine, and she wants to take over the world!

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  12. The threadwork on that quilt-in-progress looks amazing.

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  13. Leah you are amazing! You really make me step back and say "think outside the box!" I love that I can work with what I have and still produce wonderful quilts! Thanks so much. You have really been an inspiration to me.

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  14. Leah, it has been a lonnnnng time since I have posted my appreciation to you for this blog and all you have been sharing with us the last couple years! You are the best!!!

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  15. G'day. Now that's smart thinking. Well done. Take care. Liz...

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  16. I don't understand why you don't invest in a longarm.:o)

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  17. QuilterBee - It's simple really: if I was to invest in a longarm at this point, I would have to totally re-learn how to quilt. I'd have to learn how to load it correctly and then I would be forced to quilt from edge to edge from one side of the quilt to the other.

    I have no desire to learn any of these things. Quilting on a domestic is simply what I do. It's much more affordable, more people have access to regular sewing machines than longarms, and I don't have to excuse the expense by quilting quilts for other people.

    There's also that small little detail that it would most certainly alienate more than 75% of my readers!

    So it should be pretty easy to understand - I haven't bought one because I don't WANT one.

    Cheers,

    Leah

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  18. Hi! Leah,

    You never cease to amaze me at the patterns you come up with for free motion quilting. Most of us out here, a. dont want the investment in a long arm machine, b. just dont have the space for one. For someone to show me how to overcome any problems I have with large quilts on my domestic machine is a blessing. You have my vote, and I'm behind you 100%, keep at it Leah, we need you.

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  19. PS.ah,

    Forgot to say what a stunning quilt you are working!

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  20. This is an excellent idea! I'm planning a trip to the hardware store this weekend! Thanks!

    I agree with not wanting a longarm.....I have a frame that you use with your machine...moving the machine instead of the quilt. At my age, after many, many years of moving the quilt, I simply can't convert to moving the machine.

    A tip I'd like to share with those quilters on a limited income, like myself: I have found that a couple of yards of clear, 20 gauge vinyl to cover the machine bed, extension table & adjacent work space works as well, if not better than the Supreme Slider for a "slippery" surface to reduce drag. And it's a fraction of the cost.

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  21. My other half has an amazing collection of clamps, which I am obviously going to be raiding after seeing your ingenious pix of how you handle large quilts! I always thought you "had" to have a long arm machine for serious large-scale quilting & aside from the expense I found the whole idea intimidating. But your series has been wonderful in guiding us! Thank you soooooo much!!

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  22. Leah, I just wanted to say THANK YOU and my husband also says thank you! Before I found this website, I struggled with quilting on my domestic. I love all of your videos and appreciate the straightforward advice about tools and techniques. Everyone told me I had to get a longarm (which Husband was 100% against) and like you, I do not want a long arm machine, but I want to be able to make cool stuff! You rock!

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  23. What a great idea to take the "drag" out of free motion quilting :) Thanks Leah for all your hard work!

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  24. This is a great set up. Very good idea. Will put it in my tool box for later use.

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  25. Well Leah,

    I have past over this post for weeks as it looked complicated...and then you start...

    Are you still struggling to quilt big quilts on your machine? Is the bulk and weight of the quilt really getting you down?

    And I am laughing my head off....can't for the life of me remember the original "comercial" but it is indeed my era....

    And when the read was finished it is not the complicated.... still not up for queens and kings.

    Usually I read blogs from a reader so do not go to the blog page often but this morning I went to your page and just LOVE LOVE LOVE your side bars or what ever they are called with the squares of the examples... Sew on we go...

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  26. Nice. I work mostly on large quilts, but my body has been killing me. I do want a machine with a larger throat, like your janome, but your bungee hanging system would be a fine addition to my workroom. My beams are exposed so it will go in super easy. Thanks for the details.

    And I totally agree about the long arm issue. I sometimes use a Flynn frame and it is very limiting design wise.

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  27. Hi Leah. Caryl Bryer Fallert has many photos of this system on this page on her website:

    http://www.bryerpatch.com/faq/studio.htm

    Enjoy!

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  28. • • • IT WORKS! My quilts aren't as large as yours, but now I may reconsider going larger. I have a king in my head, but it is still in the cutting stage.

    Anyway, I work in the basement and there is tracking for a drop ceiling so all I needed was the bunge tie down. I already have clamps. I could not believe how much easier it was to move the quilt.

    Thank You for sharing this. I'll be spreading the word.

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  29. Wow this is an awesome tip/invention! Now I just have to talk my husband into it -lol-
    Have a great day.
    Always, Queenie

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  30. I'm not sure I'm completely satisfied with the layout in my sewing room, so I don't want to start putting holes in the ceiling yet. Do you think this would work if I hung the bungee cords from a clothes rack or something similar?

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  31. Leah - Great answer about not wanting a longarm. Also I'd have to buy a new house to go around that long arm. I love quilting my own quilts on my DSM. That way I can spend all my extra money on fabric!

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  32. I love it! I quilt up to Queen size...are you using grippy gloves? Longarms are just overpriced for no reason.

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  33. Love your boldness. I won't buy a longarm unless the price reasonably compares to actual production costs.

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  34. I'm not a quilter, all my in-laws are quilters. I have an opportunity to buy one fairly inexpensively that can be set up in a central location for family members to use, so I have been researching mid-arm quilters when I came upon this post about hanging up your quilt.

    Two questions:
    1.Why isn't there a (folding) table behind your sewing table, so you can push out your excess quilt onto it?

    2. Just in general sewing, I find I have a lot drag on my side of the sewing machine. What do people do about that?

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  35. I just read your article sent today on pain free quilting and was surprised that I already do the things you suggested with the exception of handing from this article. I made my own 4ftx6ft table with a drop in an insert of my machine and that was one of my biggest problems. I laughed when I read that you use a doctors chair! I have been using a doctors chair for years, easy to adjust and found I never used the back of a chair anyway when I quilt. I will have to try the hanger system. I still find my back gets sore however I think that could my leaning over too much because I cant see my quilting very well, need to get some better lighting too, I moved my quilting studio and miss my old lighting. Thank you for all of you wonderful post and project you are the most wonderful teacher! You are a joy and positiveness I frequently need and nice to know others have the same issues!

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  36. Love both this idea and your answer to the long-arm question. I definitely don't want to feel obliged to quilt for others to justify the cost. Well done!

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  37. Thanx for the great idea and keeping it "real" for the frugal gals out there who don't want or need a long-arm! I'm gonna try it!

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  38. I saw this system in a segment on The Quilt Show with Caryl Bryer Fallert who had a system just like this in her studio! I have thought so much about it since I've seen it and was trying to figure out how to do it in my studio which has a problematic ceiling (10ft ceilings and leaks from the our roof)! So what I did was buy a nice Z- based garment rack with a 2 rail system to go right in the middle of my sewing center! I can hang bunji cords from it to hold my quilt and then use the rails to hold blocks or strips which I'm working on at the machine! I decided to do a search on different pulley systems for quilting and found this!! Very cool Leah... your setup looks like it works awesome! I can hope and pray that what I have in mind works for my needs!

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  39. Could this system be used to bind a quilt? I have a top that is 85" x 85" and know I'll struggle with the size and weight when it's quilted...

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    1. Yes, I thinks so! You might just need to stop and readjust the clamps pretty often, but it could definitely work for binding too.

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  40. I thought it might take some additional/frequent adjusting. I'll give the information to hubs tonight and turn him loose on it...

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  41. Wow, I just looked into how much long arm quilters are and up popped your blog post! What a gift. I've been struggling with the same thing. Actually, I started quilting as I go and not really liking it but that was the best I could do with the space I have....not any more, thanks to you! Brilliant, thank you and God bless.

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  42. For quilters who have high ceilings or don't want holes in their ceilings check Jennoop Quilt Suspenders - http://www.jennoop.com/
    Really great system that is portable and works wonders.
    Marie

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