Sep 26 14

Lessons in Free Motion Quilting: Suspending Your Quilt

If you’ve ever tried machine quilting a large quilt on a home domestic sewing machine, then you know the frustration that goes along with “Quilt Wrangling,” or trying to maneuver it through your harp space and around your machine as you work various areas of the quilt. Not fun and not easy! I recently began suspending my quilt and was shocked by just how much easier the whole process became. By literally removing the weight of the quilt from process, it becomes quite easy to move the quilt almost effortlessly as you work  I first read about it many years ago when Caryl Bryer Fallert posted about her system:

 

Caryl Fallert Quilt Suspension

 

 

Later, when Leah Day posted about it here, I thought seriously about giving a try because Leah always has really good ideas about free motion quilting.  I held off on trying this for years, though, because I didn’t want to mess around with my ceiling but now there are lots of other options. Many years ago, I purchased a set of easily portable quilt display stands from Pals Products with the intention of using them to photograph quilts. For me, they have turned out to be the perfect solution for suspending my quilt as I’m working. The system is composed of 2 telescoping vertical poles on a base and 1 telescoping vertical pole that is held between them. It’s very easy to adjust the height and width to whatever size is comfortable for you and your current project. The photo below shows how I am using these stands for quilt suspension as I’m working on a quilt:

 

quilt-suspension-holding-quilt

 

I had originally placed an ironing board behind the table that holds my George machine, and because I set the table height about 6 inches higher than the table, I had a pretty good system going.  BUT, I have to say that suspending your quilt in mid air is a total game-changer.  No joke and no exaggeration…there is no weight to your quilt and it’s very easy to move that baby all around the machine bed!  Let me give you some close up shots of how my system works.  First up is the framework of my suspension system.  Here is a shot of the “empty version” of my suspension system’s upper section and then the bases:

 

quilt-susp-upper-empty

 

quilt-suspension-lower-empty 

 

(I should tell you that Pals Products has altered their quilt hanging system from when I bought mine.  Click here to see a photo of what their current system looks like.)  To hold the quilt, I tied 2 bungee cords around the top (horizontal pole) and then drilled a hole in a pair of spring-action hand clamps so they would fit inside the hooks on the bungee cords. (Truthfully, you don’t need these to be elasticized cords; any strong cord would work.) I place a scrap of polyester batting inside the clamps just to make sure my quilt stays clean. Here’s a close-up of the clamped quilt:

 

quilt-suspen-clamped-quiltcloseup

By having the vertical pole of my system within easy reach, I can push one suspended side to an extreme side or move it closer to center quite easily and then sit right back down and get back to my quilting. It never occurred to me that it would be helpful for ruler work, but it really helps there! Of the 4 sides of my ruler foot, I am always trying to avoid holding the ruler on the right side of the foot because it’s hard to control the ruler when it’s so close to the presser foot’s shaft. (The arrow is pointing to my “problem side”):

 

ruler-foot-with-arrow

 

If my quilt is suspended above the table, it is very easy to simply “twist” the portion of the quilt I’m working on to move it into an orientation that’s easier for ruler work like below:

 

ruler-work-on-george

 

If you’re looking for a quilt suspension system that’s ready to go, you might want to try Jenoop Quilt Suspenders. This company has ready-made quilt suspension systems (ceiling based or frame based) that are ready to go into action as soon as they arrive on your doorstep! You can find the web site by clicking here.  There are things that you can do that will make machine quilting easier and then there are things you can do that will be game changers in your free motion quilting life.  Suspending your quilt is a total game changer!

 

 

 

9 Comments

  1. peggy Says:

    That is bizarre and amazing and makes so much sense! Thanks

  2. Kelly Jackson Says:

    Excellent idea!
    Smiles,
    Kelly

  3. Brenda R Says:

    So true, Patsy! I had the pleasure of staying at Caryl’s home/studio in Paducah and, after seeing her system for suspending quilts, my husband built one for me. The sides are made of wood, a metal rod connects them, and I use different lengths of bungee ropes. It’s awesome!

  4. Diane Evans Says:

    I just ordered my system, Patsy — you’re a great saleswoman. The photos really help us see how brilliantly this works. Thanks for the tip!

    Diane

  5. Martha Says:

    I am so excited to see this. I ordered one right away!!
    Thanks to your tutorials, Patsy, I love FMQ and even teach it to others. But the weight of the quilt has always been an issue. I can hardly wait to try this!!
    Thanks so much for sharing.

    Your admiring fan, Martha

  6. Valerie Smith Says:

    Great to know! Believe it or not even with my stand up machine there are still a lot of things I like to quilt sitting down. I may in the future invest in a larger throated sit down machine…and sounds like a suspension system is worth checking out! Thank you for sharing! :)

  7. SewCalGal Says:

    You are so creative. I’ve toyed with the ceiling suspension for years, but I don’t live in a home that is constructed to make it easy to implement and I simply haven’t pestered my DH (or hired a handyman) to help. But your approach with the poles would certainly work for me. I can’t wait to give it a try. Thanks!

    SewCalGal
    http://www.sewcalgal.blogspot.com

  8. Barb Says:

    OH wow…I found this to be very interesting. I am about to lose my sewing room for a while but when it is back up and running I might have to just try this. thanks so much.

  9. Debbie Says:

    Do you prefer one system over the other ?( pole vs. ceiling mount )