The Free Motion Quilting Project: Make Quilting Easier

Wednesday, October 14, 2015

Make Quilting Easier

One of the most frequent questions I hear from quilters is about moving the quilt - How do we make it easier? How do we manage a big quilt on a small machine? How will I be able to quilt that?!

Quilting a king on your home machine
One of the first things I explain is that you don't have to quilt your quilt all at once. You start in the center and work your way to the outer edges, filling the spaces of your quilt with different designs or one single pattern. It really doesn't matter what you stitch or how it is stitched, so long as you are working from the center to the outer edges so any excess fabric or batting has the ability to shift outwards as you go.

But starting in the center can definitely be tricky, especially when it's a VERY big quilt on your machine. Big quilts mean a lot of bulk and weight, which thanks to gravity isn't very easy to move. When we quilt in free motion, we must be able to move the quilt smoothly over the surface to produce small, consistent stitches.

If we don't have this smooth movement, you may find yourself in a frustrating, jerky tug-of-war battle with the bulk of the quilt fighting you on every stitch. It doesn't look pretty and frankly, it's a total wear out. I've quilted many quilts that feel more like a wrestling match than a fun quilting experience.

The thing is - quilting doesn't have to be this hard! Quilting a large quilt CAN be easy, but only if you're willing to make the changes to your sewing machine set up and tools so the quilt is easier to move!

Invest in Your Quilting Experience

To make quilting easier, the first and most essential tool is a flatbed sewing table. If you don't have one, please, please, please treat yourself to one soon! When your machine is setting up on a table top, you are having to pull the quilt up and over the edges of the machine, fighting drag with every stitch.

Make quilting easier on your home machine
When the machine is set down into a flatbed or dropdown sewing table, the machine's needle plate will be on a flush surface with the table top. The difference is the feeling of running up a steep hill or running along totally flat ground - which feels easier?

Instead of having to pull your quilt up over the arm of the machine, all you'll need to do is slide it under your needle. No more tug-of-war, no more battle of weight and gravity against you!

Even more important than having a flatbed sewing table, is expanding that table surface in an optimized way. The best directions to add more table surface is to the back, directly behind the machine, and to the left side because these are the directions your quilt will need to shift into. We very rarely shift our quilts to the right because it would get hung up against the motor of the machine.

Quilting a king on your home machine

Another helpful step is to push your sewing table setup into a left corner so the left side and back are flush with walls. The walls will act as a barricade and prevent your quilt from sliding off the table surface and jerking against your needle.

Does all this seem like a lot of work just to make quilting easier?

For a long time I thought I had to "make do" with what I had. My sewing machines set up on the table top and I fought the bulk with every stitch. I resigned myself to mostly making small quilts because anything big was just too overwhelming.

But then I found a flatbed sewing table and suddenly I could quilt anything I wanted. It took a few years to figure out how to set up extra tables properly so the quilt had more than enough space to be supported and blocked from flopping off the edges of the table top. Yes, quilting a big quilt is still a time consuming process, but at least now it doesn't feel like a battle waged between me and gravity.

Now it's your turn - are you struggling to quilt your own quilts? Do you have a flatbed sewing table? Isn't it time to make your quilting experience easier and more fun?

Click Here to check out our Affordable Sewing Table which comes with a custom cut insert for less than $300. It's a small table that can easily be expanded with folding tables to fit your space just right. It also has wheels so you can take it with you to workshops too.

If you're tired of fighting the endless tug-of-war with your quilts, please make your experience easier by investing in your setup. My tables have lasted for years and made such a difference to how easy and fun quilting feels and I know it will make a big difference for you too!

Let's go quilt!

Leah Day


  1. Having the right equipment definitely helps. I also use the slider that you've recommended previously and love it.

  2. Leah -- all great suggestions. I think these are important set-ups even for modest lap-size or wall quilts. I have a small Horn of America cabinet that my Janome sits down in. The cabinet has a left side extension (table top flips open) and a back extension that flips up. When all are open, that leaves a big square hole in the far left corner. Worse yet, the edges are sharp, which really catches the fabric. What an astoundingly poorly thought out design. I have addressed this by adding on an additional fold-out on the back extension (with an adjustable support leg) that fills the gap. The whole thing is pushed into a corner, as you describe, to form a barrier on two sides and prevent the quilt from falling off the table. I also topped the entire surface with what amounts to an industrial strength super-slider -- teflon on the top, fiber-glass fibers in the middle and sticky silicon on the bottom. It makes for a great work space.

    Keep the great advice coming ...

  3. So I've done all this but what I found at the end of the day is that the throat of my machine is just too small. I tried doing a large quilt but physically there was too much bulk whe working in the centre. So I won't do a king sized quilt again for a while. Or I need to learn hand quilting.


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