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Set Up Your Sewing Machine for Quilting! Tip Tutorial with Leah Day

October 23, 2019

Hello my quilting friends. Leah Day here with a new video: Machine-quilting Party. We have our rainbow log cabin quilt set up, ready to go. It’s ready to be machine-quilted. But you know, this is a really big quilt and you’re probably really worried about being able to quilt it on your home sewing machine. So, let’s check out the machine. I’m going to give you some tips for setting it up so it’s really easy and it’s not a strain to quilt a big quilt on a smaller machine. Here is my sewing machine setup. I’m out here in the Crafty Cottage and this is where I quilted my rainbow log cabin quilt. The first thing I want you to notice are the walls. My quilting table is surrounded on all sides—except for the front—with walls, and that stops the quilt from falling off the edge of the tables. I really, really love that because if the quilt falls off the edge it’s going to immediately pull against you and you’re going to be constantly fighting and tugging it to stop it from pulling against the foot and jerking off of the line of stitching that you’re doing. So if you can, no matter how your sewing machine is set up, if you can push it into a corner or against walls, that would be really, really helpful. The next thing I want to talk about is my sewing table. This is called a flatbed or drop-down sewing table. What that basically means is it gets your sewing machine down a flush surface with the tabletop. You can find this table on my website. It’s called The Affordable Quilting Table and it also has a custom-cut insert that fits around your machine. So that way you don’t have big gaps here between the hole in the tabletop and your actual sewing machine. The machine that I’m using in these videos is the Bernina 1230. This is an older home sewing machine. You can still find them on eBay. They’re wonderful machines, very sturdily built, and have a beautiful array of feet that you can find for them, still compatible, from Bernina. I highly recommend this machine as a home sewing machine—it’s not the only one that I own— because they’re just so dependable. I can get them serviced once a year and they work great and I really love them. I love the walking foot that’s designed for these machines, I love the darning foot that’s designed for it as well. I do think it’s a good choice. However, there is a very small harp space here and that can be a little bit of a struggle when quilting a big quilt, but I promise, getting the machine down on a flush surface really is the key because you don’t have that hump of the arm up on the tabletop that you’re kind of pushing and pulling the quilt over, instead of down on a flush surface. You can put the quilt underneath the foot and it’ll just be sliding back and forth across the table. I have expanded the table surface here. I did this with a big melamine board that I bought at the office supplies area at the hardware store. We just cut out a shape for my table and then I took the extra piece and extended it over here. That way, I have extra space here to the left side of my body when I’m facing the machine and I have extra space behind the machine as well. And that’s really where you need the extra space. You really don’t need extra space to this side, to the handwheel side of the machine, because it’s just not useful. The quilt usually doesn’t end up on that side of the machine because it’s kind of blocked by the motor. You want to focus on setting up your table so you have more space to the left side, more space to the back. You can do that by building a setup like I have or just by simply setting up two folding tables. You could set up a 3′ by 6′ folding table to the back. You could set up a 3′ by 6′ folding table to the side. That probably would be more than enough. I know Lowe’s, Walmart, all of those places have really inexpensive folding tables that collapse down and you could just stash them in a closet when you’re not using them. I have several of those from many different quilting setups over the years and I still find them very, very helpful. We pull them out on canning days, whenever we have family over and we need a big table to serve everybody at—it’s sometimes a really nice thing to have on hand, just some extra folding tables laying around. You can expand your quilting setup when you need to; you can shrink it back down when you need to. I do think that this is a worthy investment. Rather than spending money on a much bigger, more expensive sewing machine, use the machine that you have right now and see if it will work. See if you can get your table set up in a way so that it doesn’t fight you. One last thing that you could consider doing and that is going vertical. I don’t do this out here simply because the tables set up’s big enough, but in my house I have a curtain rod hung over a window and I have a machine set up there. I use a bungee cord clamping system. Here is a picture of a quilt clamped up on that system. Basically it’s just a bungee cord hanging onto the curtain rod. On the other end of the bungee cord is a clamp and that clamp holds the quilt. Now the one thing to keep in mind about any sort of clamping system is that you’re going to need to continually adjust it. For every line of quilting that you do, even as you are stitching, you’re going to need to stop and re-clamp continually because as you move any area of the quilt, you’re going to have to continually be shifting and repositioning those clamps so they’re helpful. That’s still going to be a bit of a stop-and- start. There’s not really a magic bullet when it comes to quilting big quilts on your home sewing machine. My best advice for you is to try a variety of different methods, see what works for you. More than anything else is just power through it. The hardest part of the quilt is the part that we’re going to get knocked out first; that’s the center. Once we get the center of the quilt knocked out, everything’s going to get easier. The one thing to keep in mind and look forward to is the fact that when quilting on a home machine, everything gets progressively easier, the further out from the center that you get. I hope that this video has helped you understand how to get your machine set up. One last tool that I have on my machine here is a queen-size Supreme Slider. This is a teflon sheet. It’s got a pink grippy side and an off-white really slippery side. This I have set up here to the left side of my walking foot and off the feed dogs. The reason it’s off the feed dogs: When you have your walking foot on the machine, it’s putting pressure down and you need those feed dogs to be putting pressure from the other side. If you put the Slider over those feed dogs it’s probably going to get ripped, so don’t do that. Pull it off the feed dogs; put it on the side. When you’re just getting used to using it, make sure to tape down the corners so it stays nice and secure. You can build up lint on the back side of the Supreme Slider so it won’t be as grippy. Take it off occasionally to your sink and rinse it off so that way it stays nice and grippy and holds tight to your tabletop. But again, I can’t emphasize enough, it’s important to tape it down until you get used to the feeling of it, so that way you don’t accidentally stitch it to the back of your quilt. That has happened to me and it wasn’t very pleasant. So definitely make sure to try that out. It will just simply help the quilt to slide and glide over the tabletop a little bit easier. The goal here is to make the quilt easy to move so it slides easily over the surface of the walking foot and the feed dogs can do their job, feeding the quilt forward and making those beautiful nice even stitches. So, I hope that this has been very helpful and you can see how I’ve set up my machine and tables. No matter what set up you have, whether it’s temporary and it’s on your dining room table, it doesn’t matter. I truly believe that you can quilt your own quilt, even large quilts like the rainbow log cabin, on your home machine, and I look forward to teaching you how. Coming up next we’re going to learn how to stitch in the ditch and get the layers of our quilt secured. I hope that you’ll check that out and come back for more videos on the Machine Quilting Party. And don’t forget to pick up a copy of the book 𝘌𝘹𝘱𝘭𝘰𝘳𝘦 𝘞𝘢𝘭𝘬𝘪𝘯𝘨 𝘍𝘰𝘰𝘵 𝘘𝘶𝘪𝘭𝘵𝘪𝘯𝘨 𝘸𝘪𝘵𝘩 𝘓𝘦𝘢𝘩 𝘋𝘢𝘺 to get the patterns that you need to follow along with this year’s quiltalong. We’re going to make the Rainbow Log Cabin, the Marvelous Mosaic, and the Prism Path baby quilt. All the patterns can be found in this book. You can check it out at If you enjoyed this video please Like it, share it with your friends, and subscribe to our videos on YouTube so you don’t miss the next video coming up soon. Until next time, let’s go quilt.


  • Reply Renee Felts January 27, 2018 at 2:37 am

    Thank you I found it!

  • Reply Dianne20010 R March 24, 2018 at 1:11 am

    What the name off the mat again

  • Reply Lisa Swetz October 14, 2018 at 12:46 am

    Thank you for these videos! I am waiting on my Bernina 1230 in the mail!! This is really helping me out soooo much!!

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