I’m so excited to be back! The last time I was here, we chatted about sewing machine maintenance and then I worked on some cushion covers. For the next couple days, I want to share some of the ins and outs of free motion quilting. Many people are convinced they can’t quilt large quilts on their domestic sewing machine. Like many things, if you know the proper technique, it’s easy! But, first, you need to set up your workspace for free motion quilting.
This week, I’m still sewing on the Husqvarna Viking Sapphire 960Q. The more I sew with this sewing machine, the more I love it! I’ll be sharing my Top 10 reasons why I love the Sapphire 960Q later this week.
I also have a couple of very quick and very easy projects for you to sew.
Where does your sewing machine sit?
I’ve been teaching free motion quilting for many years. Most people want to learn how to free motion quilt, yet they give no thought to their relationship with their sewing machine. In particular, the physical set-up. If you don’t have the right set-up, you’ll become fatigued, you’ll get aches and pains and you’ll most likely abandon the project because you’re unhappy.
I hear the same comments over and over again:
- My physical space isn’t big enough to quilt a big quilt
- The throat space on my sewing machine isn’t big enough
- I can’t quilt a big quilt
- I get tired.
Over the next couple of days – we’re going to look at some of those complaints and see how it’s possible to quilt a large quilt on a domestic sewing machine.
Different solutions for different budgets
It’s important to keep in mind that we all have different budgets. When I started to machine quilt, I knew nothing about sewing tables or setting up my sewing space and I did not intend to spend a lot of money.
Before I talk about the various physical set-ups, I want to show you how I “package” a large quilt for quilting. When I’m doing free motion quilting, I reduce the footprint of the quilt to as small as I can and — while that may seem impossible with a large quilt – it is very doable if you know-how.
Notice that I’ve bunched the quilt around the sewing machine — no rolling, no clamping, no folding. All of that makes for harder movement of the quilt as I free motion. Just loosely bunch the quilt around the needle.
In the beginning…
I saved an old sewing machine cabinet that belonged to my aunt. The sewing machine was long gone, but for some reason, I kept the cabinet. I found that two wooden banquet tables were the perfect height to work with the cabinet. One table slipped under the flip lid and the other table went to the back of the cabinet. This provided me with a very inexpensive space. I screwed a piece of shelving in the bottom of the cabinet to accommodate my sewing machine.
This worked for many years and I was quite happy with the arrangement. I’ve always wanted to share that arrangement because I feel it was a very creative solution to a big problem!
For those who do not have an old sewing machine cabinet kicking around, let’s see what we can work out with those banquet tables. I love banquet tables because they can double as a basting area, sewing area and cutting table (if you add furniture risers to the legs). I sewed on banquet tables for years. They can be folded up and put away and are very useful, if you need extra seating for family gatherings! My preference is the wooden tables not the plastic ones. While the plastic tables are lighter for moving around, they vibrate a lot more during sewing.
If you don’t have room for banquet tables, you can make do with your kitchen table or dining room table. It’s just nice to not have to put everything away! Again – you have to find what works for you.
The Sapphire 960Q is placed in one corner of that arrangement and, this is very important, the extension table is added to the sewing machine. I can’t stress this enough – if you don’t have an extension table, then you’ll find free motion quilting extremely difficult. I’ll get into the details of that tomorrow.
If you’re fortunate enough to have a more permanent arrangement for your sewing machine and a bigger budget, check out this table.
There is a cut-out for the sewing machine to sit flush with the work surface and a custom cut plexi-glass insert fills the area between your sewing machine and the edge of the cut out. A chest of drawers and a side table for the right hand side of the cabinet are also available.
My cabinet (picture below) is an older model but it works like a charm and I use it all the time for sewing, quilting or whatever project I’m working on.
Check out the details of the latest INSPIRA sewing cabinets. The cabinets come in white and teak. They are gorgeous with lots of new features. I wonder ……
Let’s think about height
Now that we’ve figured out where to put our sewing machine, there’s one more very important aspect that we need to check out. That is the height of the sewing tables. If the tables aren’t the right height, we’re going to get in trouble very quickly. If you think about it, the height of the sewing machine on the banquet table is a different height than the sewing machine in the sewing cabinet.
Since we probably can’t change the height of the tables, we need to have an adjustable chair so that we’re sitting at the sewing machine at the correct height.
Let’s set up a quilt on the banquet table and the sewing machine cabinet with the Sapphire 960Q as our test machine so you can see what I’m talking about.
One of the other complaints I get is there isn’t enough room in the throat area for a large-sized quilt. Oh, yes, there is! You just have to know how to find it. Have a look at this next picture to see how to maximize the throat space.
Notice how much room there is to quilt in the throat space of the Husqvarna Viking Sapphire 960Q. Don’t forget that the center of the quilt is under the needle. See how I’ve pushed the quilt up on the right-hand side? I can still put my hands underneath the quilt on the right-hand side to make full use of the 10-inch throat space on the Sapphire 960Q.
Using the extension table for the Sapphire 960Q, there are about 8-inches of work space to the left of the needle. If I’d put the sewing machine in a sewing cabinet, there is no limit to the space on the left! The space to the left of the needle is as important as how much space there is to the right. Again, I’ll go into more depth on that tomorrow.
The above is a quick run down of how to set up your space for free motion quilting. I want to make you aware of your sewing space and to show you that it is possible to quilt a large quilt with a domestic sewing machine like the Husqvarna Viking Sapphire 960Q.
Take some time and look at your sewing space. How can you configure it differently? Check the height of the tables and check the height of the chair. Notice that I did not give you any measurements. We’re all different heights, sizes and shapes and your space should conform to you. Find a flexible solution. Send us pictures of your sewing space – especially when it’s set up for free motion quilting.
Tomorrow I’ll share some more tips on how to set up your workspace for free motion quilting, including free motion feet, dropping feed dogs and some good exercises to get you warmed up.