Use the right height chair and table. An armless secretarial office chair with rollers is a comfortable choice. Your arms should be at a right angle, with forearms parallel to the floor. Hold Rod C underhand with a gentle grip and slide the frame, don’t lift or push down.
You can tape pencils down at the edge of your worktable to keep the PVC pipe from rolling off the edge; or use the gel filled computer wrist rests.
Get the right height PVC pipe. Buy PVC pipe at the hardware, lumberyard of farm and ranch supply store. If you can’t find the exact height for your machine, get the next larger size and set the sewing machine up on fiberboard or thin plywood.
3” inside diameter pipe usually works, but don’t go too small. John uses 4” for some machines and then raises the machine up to 4” with thin plywood or even a carpet square.
If your sewing machine has a short deck that doesn’t extend very far to the left of the machine’s head, use two pieces of PVC pipe; one close to the machine and one that moves from side to side as the balance changes.
Adding more PVC pipe when using longer rods, does not help you – it just adds friction. With practice and experience, you can find the right place to put the PVC pipe to help you distribute the weight of the frame.
If your machine is in a cabinet, you will need to get it out and on to a table. Your sewing machine dealer may be able to get a longer foot pedal cord for you if you need it, or you can set your foot pedal up on a box to get it to the right height. We use two 5' folding work tables and bring all the electrical and foot pedal cords up between the two tables. Some quilters have a hole drilled in the work table for the cords, just like they do for computer desks.
The back needs to be about 6” longer than the top. The batt also needs to be about 4 or 5 inches longer than your top.
It is important to make sure the top and back are square and to make sure the registration marks and center lines on the frame’s starter strips are square.
John makes registration marks every 4 to 5 inches along the sides of his quilt top and quilt back. Then he makes sure these line up each time he advances the quilt. Registration marks on the top and back help make sure that the back isn’t over tightened. The DVD shows this technique.
It can be helpful to spread the top and back out on the carpet when rolling them on to the rods. The layers cling to the carpet and help you roll everything straight.
If you are working on a big quilt, roll up the batt on a broom handle or dowel to compact it before tucking it between Rods B and C. It doesn’t have to be really tight, just enough so you can tuck it down between the two rods. You want to be able to see over the batt while you are working. Don’t push the batting so far down that it holds the back away from the top and interferes with movement and stitching.
Work through the lessons on the DVD.
Many successful machine quilters warm up on a scrap project before quilting on their work in progress.
Start with a small project. Use a yard of solid fabric with contrasting thread for a test project; it a good size to start with.
Before you start quilting with the machine, practice your quilting motif with a pen and paper. This helps you become fluid, helps you figure how you are going to get in to and out of your design and helps your brain memorize the motif you want to do.
Use an underhand grip on Rod C. Adjust your chair and table height so that your upper and lower arm for a right angle. Remember, you don’t have to hold on tight; this just locks up your muscles.
Keep your hands on the rod closest to your body, in front of your shoulders and relax! No need to lift or push down. Run the machine fast and move your hands slow. Set your machine on ½ speed, if you can, to start.
Clear Plexiglas machine tables can add friction or drag. Experiment – you may have better results with no deck and two pieces of PVC.
Don’t go out to the garage or workshop and get any plastic pipe you find. Some pipe has a rough finish, not smooth like PVC. Obviously, if the pipe isn’t smooth and the right height, friction and gravity are going to be working against you. Sometimes John waxes his PVC pipe with car wax.
You can use long rails for a narrower project; just use longer side tension ribbons.
Needles break when you run the sewing machine too slow. Run the machine fast and move the frame slow. Practice until you achieve the stitch length you want.
Use a hand mirror held under the frame to check the stitches on the back as you work
Consider machine basting your hand quilting project with a water soluble basting thread like Vanish from Superior Threads. After basting, you can take the middle rail out and set up the quilt frame for hand quilting. You have a little more room to quilt and the frame is lighter with out Rod B.
Sometimes it’s easier to take your Multi-Frame off the Frame Stand and lay it face down on a clean floor or sheet when moving to a new unquilted section.
Some bigger quilts may be too big for your sewing machine’s opening when combined with your batt choice and the Multi-Frame. Quilt as may reaches as you can, keeping your quilting pattern. When you don’t have room to complete your quilt motif, replace the thread with water soluble Basting Thread and machine baste the rest of the quilt. We use basting thread in the top and in the bobbin. After the quilt is basted, you can take out the middle rod, turn the frame around and finish quilting over the basting. See the DVD for more ideas.
Use the Multi-Frame to quilt across the top border, quilt the quilt body and the bottom border. Then take the quilt off the frame. Turn the quilt 90 degrees and reattach to the rods. The side borders will now be at the top and bottom, held tightly by the frame.
When you are planning your project, take a look at the block to see if it can be divided up into 3 or 4 inch horizontal segments for quilting. Take a 9” Ohio Star block for instance. With most sewing machines, you can easily stipple 3 vertical inches in each of the background squares and triangles. Enough background stippling acts like basting and you can take the quill off the frame and use your walking foot if you want to later. Or after all the background stippling is done, you can take the middle rod out, scroll back to the beginning and do all the horizontal quilting lines, take the quilt off, turn it 90 degrees , reattach, and do all the vertical quilting lines which are now horizontal.