The Free Motion Quilting Project: Quilting Tools and Machine Setup

Saturday, September 12, 2009

Quilting Tools and Machine Setup

Okay, I'd like to take a little break and share a bit about my quilting machine and how I have it set up.

I've been getting tons of questions about the gloves I'm wearing in all of the videos and the other tools I use to make free motion quilting easier.

There's actually several very specific items that I use on a daily basis and you can learn more about them in this video:

Here's a list of the tools I mentioned:

Machingers™ Quilting Gloves - Lightweight, comfortable gloves with rubber tips that increase your grip and control over the quilt.

Supreme Slider™ - This is a teflon coated sheet that reduce the drag between your quilt and the surface of your machine so you can move your quilt quicker with more precise movements.

Little Genie Magic Bobbin Washers - Teflon rings for your bobbin case that help your bobbin to evenly feed and improves the look of your stitching on the back of your quilt.

Fiskars Softgrip® Scissors - For clipping Trapunto, these scissors are a must have! The wide handles make for a much more comfortable experience so you can clip for hours with no problem.

Clover Seam Ripper - Perfectly designed to rip out even the smallest quilting stitches.

The Pin Place - This is a small magnet attached to a suction cup that will literally stick to your sewing table or machine and hold your single "cheater" needle so you will always remember to hide your loose threads.

Some readers have also asked about my sewing machine and about the foot I use in the videos.

For the record, I quilt on a Juki TL-98QE which I bought from Sew Vac Direct. I detail my machine and the modifications I've made to it in this video:

Click Here if the Video Does Not Appear

UPDATE! A fellow quilting modifier, Stephanie D has also broken her foot! Here's her photos with explanations on the modifications she made. Just click on the image to see a larger version and read the text.Finally, I feel like I really need to drive home my point about your sewing machine setup.

I truly believe that you can quilt even king sized quilts on a domestic sewing machine so long as you follow 2 simple rules:

1. DON'T roll your quilt up into a log.

2. Set up your machine so that the left side and back are blocked with a wall.

It's really that simple! Since I changed my quilting setup I've noticed a huge difference not only in the ease of free motion quilting, but also in less wear and tear on my body.

I've got a third video on setting up your tables so the weight of your quilt is always on one flush surface:


  1. Oh, You are amazing! Thank you so much, I am learning so much from YOU! Thanks for being so generous. I will be changing my machine's position immediately! just makes so much sense, duh!

  2. Thank you for all of you great tips. I'm a hand quilter but have been teaching myself how to machine quilt for the last month. I made a couple of quilt sandwiches for practice and have now moved onto a quilt sandwich using a large scale print. I definitely see an improvement in my stitches. I think my biggest obstacle is my need for perfection. The print side of the fabric shows all the places where I may have ran off course, but if you look at the backing, it looks great. So I guess I should just take a couple of deep breaths and enjoy what I'm creating. LOL

  3. I think I just had a light bulb moment!! Part of my problem must have been the quilt "log". It never did move smoothly and now I know why and what to do about it. Also, I had to "modify" my walking foot so I could see my stitching...I'll have to go check out the free motion foot too!! Thank you so much.

  4. Hi Leah

    An excellent post, thank you. I heartily agree about the left hand corner. It makes such a huge difference if you are not fighting gravity :-)

    I showed my friends your blog on Friday night and we were wondering what machine you had with the open toed foot. Now I know you did the modification your self. The Juki is an excellent machine and really good value for money. I too, wish the machine manufacturers would hear us about producing a "plain" midarm. They would sell like hotcakes, unlike the new Bernina which is out of most people's budget,even for the next-down model, the quilters version.

    Does the teflon sheet have a hole punched in the middle of it for the needle to go in? Do you think an applique teflon sheet would work just as well. I'm not sure we can get those teflon sliders here in New Zealand

  5. Great videos. I use all the same products except for the scissors. Haven't been brave enough to alter my free motion foot, but I may after listening to you. One item I still use that you didn't mention..Sewer's Aid lubricant. However since using the Supreme Slider and Bobbin Genie's I don't seem to need it as much.

  6. Thanks to everyone for commenting!

    To answer your question Helen, yes the Supreme Slider has a hold in it that you position for your needle to go through.

    Mary L - I've never used Sewer's Aid lubricant, but I do oil my machine regularly with Sew-Rite.

    Let's go quilt!


  7. Your 3 videos are great. I use a Juki also, and I hated the foot right off the bat. But I was afraid to alter mine, so I ordered Sharon Schamber's stipple foot and I love it. It's tiny - doesn't hop - and I can actually see what I'm doing. I also use the Supreme Slider. Now I'm going to go find the pliers and see what I can do with that old foot - can't hurt to play a little... thanks!

  8. Kathy P - Yes, I did mean to mention Sharon Schamber's foot. I also bought it and tried to use it, but I just really like the visibility of an open toe.


  9. Thank you so much for all these tips! You are delightful! I going to blog about you today on my blog - I'm not an extremely popular blogger, but I just feel like I need to share your expertise with my friends! Take care and happy stitching :)

  10. Leah, I don't even remember how I found your blog today but am so SO SOOOOO Very glad I did!!!!!!!!!

    THIS post about your set up and things you use and recommend was EXCELLENT and gives me what I need to work on getting started!

    Thank you, THANK YOU, T-H-A-N-K-Y-O-U a THOUSAND times for setting up this blog to share your knowledge with quilters like me!!!

    Love from Texas! ~bonnie

    PS - I shared a link to your blog over on the quilter's message board with my friends. I know that there will be several there who like me will love your site and visit often!

  11. I have Juki, and that hopping foot really bothers me too. I will definitely be altering it. I use the Juki with my superquilter setup. I have a Bernina for smaller things, and the foot on that hops too. Hmmmmm. I just recently found your site and will definitely be spreading it around!! Great job. Wilma from western NC

  12. Excellent!!!
    as always...

  13. I am amazed that you do all that with a domestic machine - you have inspired me no end! Thank you so much for sharing all your tips and set-up information!

  14. THANK YOU SO MUCH FOR THIS POST!!! I wedged a few layers of cardboard in my walking foot (instead of a chuck of wood) and it now glides easily over the top of my quilt. i've been struggling with that issue for months, but no more! thank you tons! sending a big HUGE virtual hug. :)

  15. At your suggestion I tried the Clover Seam Ripper, two thumbs up are two happy ones. Thanks!

  16. A big THANK YOU from me too for the recommendation of the Clover seam ripper. I'd been looking for a comfortably large ripper with a fine point, and had no luck (why do big rippers have to have fat points, that only fit under big stitches?!?), so I was pleased to find your recommendation - and the ripper is perfect, just what I was looking for!

    Your site is excellent, I just bought your ebook - I'm so glad I found you! I've always wondered where to put the lines on the ruler, and why my patches seem to grow when I sew them, so that they end up not matching, when they did match before I stitched them together - now I know! You have a great teaching style.

    Happy Quilting from the bottom left-hand corner of Germany!

  17. Thanks for the tips and techniques Leah! I recently started trying out machine quilting (thanks to you!) and I refer back to your website constantly, and hand quilting is not huge here in Australia (its too hot!) My Brother NS30 had a horrible free motion foot too, an oval plastic thing. I got handy hubby to take it up to the shed and cut it in half and now its perfect!! Thank you for the wonderful help you give. Brilliant!

  18. Can you answer a question for me. I see that you choose to make your foot NOT hop. I want mine to hop, but even though the needle screw is hitting the top part the foot itself is not hopping.. Is there a way to make it hop again? I have two feet and neither are hopping and I really don't want to spend the money for a new one if these can be made to hop again. If they don't hop, I find that the thread is breaking as the foot does not raise on thick seams and tends to drag a bit.
    Thank you

  19. Hi Linda - Hmm...the only thing I can think of with a not-hopping foot is the spring has worn out and it's no longer forcing the foot back down after the needle lifts it. The thread is breaking because the foot is too high.

    I would recommend trying the rubber band trick to lock the foot in the correct position to just slightly hover over the surface of the quilt. Otherwise you will need to buy a new foot to get a spring that's still working.

    Good luck,

    Leah Day


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