I’m currently working on a large whole cloth quilt that has a lot of intense free motion work. It’s critical that the quilt sandwich moves smoothly so that I can make my movements with ease. I have seen my students struggle with this in class and I began to wonder if I could effectively communicate some ideas I have on how to best manage the quilt sandwich while free motion quilting. I’m going to give it a try:
Here I’m working with the practice sandwich that I use to test tension, motifs, threads and scale. Most of the work on the quilt is fairly intricate. If I’m doing something small, intricate or detailed, my movements may be small, but they need to be accurate. I will very lightly use the tips of my fingers to move the quilt and my wrists will be flexing. My hands will be in a cupped position as you can see and my elbows will rest on the cabinet without my forearms touching the surface. I will feel this movement in my hands and fingers more than my shoulders.
When I am quilting long lines or curves, I will have an altogether different hand position. In order to make those long sweeping movements I will put my full hand on the quilt to move it. My hands and forearms will be moving as one, without any flex in my elbows or wrists. That helps assure that the line will be free of wobbles and wiggles. If I am going to stitch in the ditch I will have the same hand position. I will feel this in my shoulders more than my hands and fingers.
I hope that’s clear. Oh, and it helps to have a brand new gel manicure:-)
For either one of these methods I will also need to be able to move the quilt sandwich freely, unencumbered by the weight of the quilt dropping off the sides or back of the table. You can see here that my forearm is resting on the quilt. I won’t be able to move the quilt freely because the weight of my arm is on it.
Here you can see that I have bunched up the quilt so that my left arm is free of the quilt. Now I can move the quilt sandwich freely. Even though my quilt sandwich here is small, I will do the same thing no matter how large the quilt is. If you’re not doing this now, try it and you’ll see how much easier it is to quilt!
I taught my Fearless Curves ‘n Feathers class last weekend to an enthusiastic group of the Antelope Quilters Guild. I noticed this set up on Kathy’s machine and thought it was the cleverest way ever to find a place to hold your seam ripper! Isn’t she smart?
Well I had to figure out a way to do that to my machine! I wanted to be able to hold 4 of my favorite weapons at the ready. I know many of my students use the Scissor Spot to hold their utensils but I prefer something that holds all 4 items but lets me get to each of them easily. I liked Kathy’s idea, so I just made mine a little different so that I could easily grab what I needed. The empty containers from Airborne tablets were just perfect-taped to my machine. What a class act, grin!