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May 10, 2012



I'm a long armer so rarely quilt at my own sewing machine. I find myself moving my jaw in cirlces as I quilt. Quilting friends suggested sucking on a tootsie pop while I quilt and it helps. Of course all that sugar doesn't help, but the pop lasts a long time and it not only keeps me from moving my jaw but also makes me not hunch so much.


I know exactly what you mean about a tense machine quilting session - it's no fun! I haven't found a solution yet - only that I have to be in the right frame of mind.

Barbara Anne

I get all bunged up when I try to machine quilt but think part of my trouble is my chair is old and is too low.

Love Debi's suggestion of the tootsie pop and love your table runners, wonky enough or not!!


Mary on Lake Pulaski

I keep on practicing and yes, I do think it gets better, but I have a long way to go. Don't give up Nicole!


Oh I definitely get tense when I machine quilt...I have to make several goes at it usually...and always CONSCIOUSLY tell myself to relax my shoulders... Yours looks great! Oh, and glad you got a response from Cheryl...and maybe a solution! I looked for Bella when I got home, and realized that all of mine were the creams that were part of fabric lines...


Where did you get that huge cutting mat? I need that! I have only tried machine quilting once so far, and I'm not done with that quilt yet. I think it was a bit too big for my initial try, but I will persevere! I found myself rushing it and not caring how straight my stitch in the ditch lines were, so perhaps just the free-style wiggles would be better!


I have been machine quilting for a couple of years now, and definitely find that things are improving with practice. I am generally a klutz, and the fact that I can do some pretty nice free-motion quilting comes as a big surprise to me. Not only that, but I have quilted a number of customer quilts, which is completely unexpected!
When I was first starting out, I found that putting on some soft music helped to relax me, and also about 1/2 a glass of white wine. I don't need the music anymore, but every once in a while, especially when I'm trying a new design, the wine is still a help. Also, taking periodic breaks to get up, breathe, and walk around a bit. When you find your shoulders up around your ears, it's time to take a break!

Good luck with your quilting, and pat yourself on the back for learning a new skill. It's an amazing thing when we grandmas can do that!

Mary Kastner

Hi Nicole,
The runner looks great. One thing I will say is practice, practice, practice. I invested in a class at Asilomar about 3 years ago with Diane Gaudynski and now I can say it was worth every penny I paid for it. She suggests that you always take a practice piece out before you start your project and warm up for about 10 minutes. This helps your brain get the image intact and makes your beginning a bit smoother. I do like the candy idea. I also use a kitchen timer and set it for twenty minutes and get up and walk around for a minute or two. This lets your shoulders relax frequently. I get so tense and I don't even realize it until I stop. I have saved a ton of money quilting quilts myself in the past couple of years and with grandkids an all over pattern is a breeze now on their quilts. I just finished a quilt for my sister's 60th birthday this summer. I custom quilted it. It took forever but was worth it. I can't wait to give it to her this summer. It does get easier. I promise.


Love your table runner! I tried free motion machine quilting a couple of times and it was a gastly mess. So I stick with stitch in the ditch or diagonal straight lines on the stuff I do for myself. Otherwise it goes to the long-arm quilter. I enjoy the piecing SOOO much more! :)


I'm glad to hear the info. was helpful to you, so sorry for the typo in my email address (I corrected it)... I quilt much better than I type! The new line being presented at Quilt Market next week is "Tapestry" it has the yummiest cream in it, we all agree in the studio, it will be available in September. If you like you can get a sneak peek of Tapestry on Fresh Figs blog, it's already become one of my favorites.


Nicole, The quilting on your runner looks wonderful!!! I love the fabric too, way cute and cheerful. I have been learning to do my own quilting too and I found that Leah Day had the best Tutorial series for that I could find so I wanted to share the link with you. I have learned so, so much from her and if you haven't watched any of her videos I hope you will check them out. You will find her Free Motion Quilting Project, that is designed specifically to help us beginners get a handle on it. Let me know what you think, Hugs...

marilyn mckinnon

Michael Buble and a glass of wine works wonders I find. Marilyn


Practice, practice is right. I would much rather free motion quilt any day than stitch in the ditch - much more relaxing. But I've been doing almost all my own quilting now for the last 20 years so it's a lot easier. It comes with time.
Now I'm trying more custom quilting and I find I have to slow down and breathe. One thing that helps is to take a slow, deep breath in just before you start stitching, then slowly let it out as you begin. Then you start out nice and relaxed and it's easier to stay relaxed. Good luck! (Contrary to logic, the first thing I free motion quilted was a 90X90 single fabric quilt - it forced me to keep going until all done. That was a lot of practice! Now it's a picnic quilt)


Free motion machine quilting does tend to make me tense, but if I would do it more maybe I would get more comfortable. Only problem being - to do it more, I have to finish more to the quilting stage.


I can mess up a perfectly sewn project with my horrible machine quilting. But I am determined to learn. I keep doing small table runners or mini quilts in straight lines because I'm afraid of the machine quilting. I have a pinwheel baby quilt top ready to quilt, but I have a good excuse not to do it because my machine is still missing. Getting ready to pull it from that shop and take it elsewhere!

Kathy R

I think my shoulders are perpetually in my ears! I can't afford to send my quilts out so I have to suck it up and do my own. I'm getting better, but my shoulders are not very happy. I'm going to try the tootsie pop idea as my jaw works very hard when I'm quilting! Now if I could find something for my shoulders to do!

Karen Boettger

I'm still practicing and trying to keep my shoulders down but every so often I hear inside my head, "Lord, give me patience, and give it to me now!" You are an inspiration, so I will keep trying.

Deb A

I've practiced and practiced and get so frustrated trying to move my quilt around under the small opening that I've given up and send everything to my long arm quilter to have them done. I'll still do really small items, but nothing very large.

Kay Mc

I've tried machine quilting a little & always get frustrated with it. I took a class a few months ago & told my long arm quilter that he wasn't in any danger of losing my business.

carol broughton

Hi Nicole,

I think your table runner looks great! I think we are too critical of our own work and we instantly focus in on any mistakes, but other people don't see them. I really need to try to machine quilt, I even have the BSR for my Bernina, so what is my excuse? Well, I am scared to mess something up! I enjoyed reading everyone's comments, lots of very good suggestions. I think a glass of wine and good music would definitely help me!


I like the tiny loops. Stippling is a nice look too. I have stayed at it and am improving with a lot of practice behind me. I find that slowing down helps. Also drawing on paper before I start helps me.


One of my all time favorite bright color fabric line - Fresh Squeezed. I've made a couple of quilts with that fabric. Your table runner looks wonderful!

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