Why should you quilt your own quilts?
1. You have complete control of the outcome. No ifs, ands, or buts about it.
2. You will finish a quilt from the very beginning to the bitter end. That is a huge accomplishment!
3. With practice and the right tools, you can create beauty!
4. You can strengthen your arm muscles. :D
5. Creating a design on top of the design you've already pieced is so satisfying.
6. You aren't spending extra money on sending your quilt out. Some people want a professional finish and that's fine. I myself cannot afford to send out my quilts anyway (which means more money for fabric, thread, etc. - another reason I started quilting my own quilts).
So, whether you are straight line quilting a quilt or free motion quilting...
Top 10 Tips for Quilting Large Quilts on Your Home Machine:
1. Lift it up. Especially if it is a large quilt (bigger than baby), use another table, a couch, or a chair next to your machine to hold up part of your quilt. This reduces both the bulk that you have to move and the drag on your quilt (which can mess up stitches big time). I tend to line up two tables one behind the other to create a larger space for my quilt to lay. Sometimes I'll add a chair to the left of my machine, too. It all helps - spend the time to get set up.
Here's my set up this week - this quilt is 72" x 72" and supported by two tables.
2. If you are free-motioning, don't look back! Everyone has to practice. No one becomes Angela Walters overnight (or ever, really, but you get the idea). You make mistakes and you move on. Really. Use baby quilts and mini quilts to practice your designs. See my recent post on Sew Mama Sew about how to make practice quilt sandwiches to quilt with beforehand (and to learn more about adding straight lines to your free motion designs :) ).
Supernova in Blue didn't come out completely even (I didn't mark it) but I didn't tear it out. Guess what? Only I'm noticing it and showing you now. It's only a tad wobbly anyway.
3. Take breaks. I cannot stress this one enough - you can even set a timer to give yourself a friendly reminder to break. I usually quilt for 30 to 45 minutes at a time, and then step away to do something else. If you have room, it helps to have another project set up so that you can still cut fabric or hand sew while you are on a break.
4. Drink lots of water. Ever felt like making a quilt is a workout? Well, if not, you'll feel it when you quilt. For real. :) Stay hydrated and your body will thank you.
5. Stretch. Before, during breaks, after... you get the idea. You could also bug your significant other/siblings/parents/anyone with arms to give you a quick neck, shoulder, or hand massage.
6. Use tools to help alleviate arm, hand, and body tension. Such tools include quilting gloves (I use Machingers), Supreme Slider (a mat that helps your quilt slide as you quilt), and extension tables (they attach to your machine to give you more flat space, and they often come with machines). You may want to invest in a quilting table or desk that has an inset machine space, or get someone to carve one out for you. I hope to do this someday.
Also, once I figured out that quilting was my favorite part of the whole process, I looked for a professional sewing machine with quilting in mind. I have had a Janome MC6300 for the past 2.5 years, and I love it to pieces. It came with an extension table, walking foot, darning foot (amongst many other feet), knee lift (the best part!!), and a whole lot of power! It is specifically made for machine quilting. See my So, You Want to Buy A New Sewing Machine post for more details. Of course, you don't have to get a machine with quilting in mind, as most machines are equipped to handle quilts (I quilted straight lines and free motion on a very tiny Brother machine from Walmart for more than 2 years). This one just happened to be awesome and within my budget. :)
7. Prewind lots of bobbins! This reduces how much you will have to stop your machine and wind them. If I don't wind enough, oh well; guess I'll have to do that. If I wind too many, that's okay; they can be saved for another project. The key here is less stress!
8. Concentrate on one section at a time. You maybe want to roll your quilt up before hand (from both ends) so that just one part of the quilt is showing in the middle. Or, you could just stuff the quilt under your machine as you go (as I tend to do).
For Rainbow Wave, I quilted each color in a different motif, one color at a time, starting in the middle.
9. Choose the right design for your size quilt. For very large quilts (king size or bigger), it's going to be difficult to quilt detailed designs, no matter what your setup. For these quilts, I recommend long, wavy lines or straight line quilting to lessen how much you have to turn your quilt.
This was my approach for Breeze, which is king size. I used my walking foot to power through the bulk.
For Stripey, a large twin (60" x 70"), I quilted an all-over woodgrain motif.
Finally, I collect images from all over the 'net of free motion itself on Pinterest (FMQ board); I browse this board whenever I'm getting ready to quilt something new!
Do you have any other tips for quilting large quilts on your home machine?
Top 10 Tips will be a new series on the blog, whenever a topic comes up. I hope you enjoyed this first installment, and that you'll try quilting your large quilts!
Linking up to Fabric Tuesday at Quilt Story, Sew Cute Tuesday at Blossom Heart Quilts, Tips and Tutorials Tuesday at Late Night Quilter, WIP Wednesday at Freshly Pieced, Needle and Thread Thursday @ My Quilt Infatuation.