Before I get into machine features that really benefit you in becoming a partner with your domestic machine for quilting the layers of your projects, I will write about using a domestic sewing machine with a frame and without a frame.
Domestic machine with a frame
This system uses your regular size or stretch model domestic sewing machine mounted on a rack with the individual layers of the quilt attached to rollers. Handles are attached to the machine for you to move it back and forth across a strip of exposed quilt. The operator stands or uses a rolling chair. Since you are using a normal sewing machine, you know it was manufactured to easily be adjusted for refined work. One advantage to this system is that when the quilt layers are attached to rollers, basting is not necessary. However, one must consider the time it takes to accurately load the layers on the rollers to prevent the layers from being misaligned.
I do not own this system and do not have photos. To view photos of these frames do an image search for Sewing Machine With Quilting Frame.
It may be the rollers that present the greatest challenge for the operator. The take-up roller with the completed section of the quilt is between the needle and head opening and unless you are using a stretch model, that space can be quite narrow. As the top is quilted, the space gets smaller, sometimes limiting access to the stitching area to 4″. Planning the quilting designs to fit that narrow space or interlock with one another may be tricky and time consuming.
Domestic machine without a frame
When using a domestic sewing machine for quilting the layers the machine is stationary, positioned on the largest work table you have available. The quilt bundle is moved, guided under the needle with your hands as you sit in front of the machine. There are no rollers to hold the layers so they must be basted. The machine was manufactured for refined threads and needles, these machines require little or no adjustments when using fine thread. The use of a stretch model increases the space to maneuver the quilt bundle.
The good news is that you can use the equipment you already own to complete small projects and the quilt tops that you may have waiting in your closet to be completed. When using a domestic sewing machine with the walking foot or for free-motion quilting, stitching can occur unrestricted anywhere on the quilt, from top to bottom and from one edge to the other. You can plan wonderful quilting designs that easily flow anywhere on the quilt surface because you have the freedom to access to the entire quilt.
Joanie Happily sewing a large quilt on a domestic machine!
The key to using a domestic machine for quilting is how the quilt sandwich is maneuvered under the needle and how choosing the right supplies makes that job much simpler. I am delighted with the results I can accomplish with my domestic machines and have no desire to change. Here are the reasons I continue to use a regular size domestic machine for quilting.
• Practicality. I already own several domestic machines. (Who’s counting?)
• Unrestricted design possibilities. Having access to the entire surface maximizes the quilting potential.
• Many designs I create require maneuvering intricate motifs; my machine was built to handle it.
• Delicacy of the results. My stitches are tiny and the thread is very lightweight so my machine was designed to easily adapt to these lightweight supplies.
• Logistics. I teach on domestic machines, students can learn on their own equipment in class.
For me, at this moment, I am able to stitch anything I want with the machines I already own. I recently completed a piece that was 92″ x 92″, which is big enough for my requirements. My aspirations have never been geared toward making quilts to sell or to transform a top into a quilt for someone else. I love to draw, write, teach, and create designs for you. However, I am also old enough and wise enough to say never say never!
Next time, features of a sewing machine that are beneficial for machine quilting.
If you are interested in learning machine quilting on your own sewing machine, you can read about my hands-on workshops in the Madison, WI area by clicking on the Upcoming Machine Quilting Classes tab on the navigation bar of this website.