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Quilter's muscles, or lack thereof!!

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Lindsey posted on Sun, Nov 18 2012 6:03 AM

Good grief! I never knew machine quilting needed muscles!!

Picture the scene: I spent half an hour setting up my kitchen: cleared the dinner table, moved the sewing machine, set the ironing board behind me, threaded up 4 spools, put in a new needle, positioned the quilt, hey presto, I was all set up.

One row, stitching in the ditch later, I'm ready to give up, howling with shock and horror! My stupid arm muscles are screaming and shaking! I have newfound respect for those machine quilters out there!

How on earth do you manage it? Did you have to spend 3 months in a gym pumping those weights in preparation for this skill??

I know I was in bed ill for 7 years but it's been 2 and a half years since I've been back at work.

Any tips? At this rate, it's going to take till christmas 2014 before this quilt is quilted, never mind this christmas, which is when it's supposed to be ready.

I don't have the feed dogs down, and I'm using a quilting foot, so I really don't understand why it's so hard to push through!

I also live in Uk, which means there are very few machine quilters out there and I don't have the funds anyway, so I've no choice but to press on.

Any words of encouragement would be appreciated!! Lindsey, Norfolk. UK

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joanie replied on Sun, Nov 18 2012 7:45 AM

Try lessening the pressure of your presser foot.  Most people have sew with too much pressure.  The amount of pressure should be just enough to keep the fabric from slipping out.   A quilt is so much thicker that the fabrics that we regularly sew.  This means that each time you do machine quilting after regular sewing, you will need to lessen the pressure.  Hope this helps!!  Also, congratulations for being up and around again!!! :)

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Barbara replied on Sun, Nov 18 2012 10:04 AM

Lindsey, first off  You don't have to lower your feed dogs , set your stitch length to zero.  this should help some, Next you need to get yourself a supreme slider, this is a mat you place on your machine that makes your quilt slide really well as you are quilting. Yes they are pricey but well worth the cost.  Next do not roll your quilt to work on it . gather it up around your machine   keeps the weight off your arms and shoulders.  Next make sure your quilt is not dragging on anything this will slow down your quilting and make it hard to move . Make sure you have a sharp needle in your machine .Then last but the most important thing is to relax,take a deep breath , move your shoulders around  and say I can do this . try not to hurry ,no need to ,take your time and enjoy it . 

Hope I helped you some. strength will come with practice . but take frequent little breaks .  Let me know if this helps .. Barbara

Liberty,Missouri

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Sue replied on Sun, Nov 18 2012 10:21 AM

Hi Lindsey,

Ever so glad that you are up and around again! 

Question, are you free motion quilting or stitching in the ditch?  If you are free motion quilting, then follow Barbara's suggestions, but do not use a walking foot as this requires use of both upper and lower feed dogs.  If, on the other hand, you are stitching in the ditch, a walking foot will really help as well as lowering the tension of the presser foot.  AND a supreme slider really does help!  So does bunching the quilt around the machine, making sure nothing is "dragging" or pulling down.

Another great tip is to relax and breathe.  Is your posture at the machine correct?  Are your eyes in direct line with the needle?  Are you sitting high enough?  Sometimes sitting on a pillow to raise yourself up is a great help.  Are your arms, when bent at 45 degree angles laying flat on the bed of the machine?  If not you need to be sitting higher.  Roll your shoulders back and down about once every 30 minutes, this will help to reduce the tension.  Another tip I found that really works is to tilt the machine.  Put door stops, two or three depending on how big your machine is, in the back of the machine so it is tilted towards you a bit, it doesn't have to be much, just enough so that you can comfortably see the bed.

Hope these tips help.

In the Piney Woods of East Texas

In The Piney Woods of Deep East Texas

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Barbara replied on Sun, Nov 18 2012 10:25 AM

Thanks Sue guess I need to be alittle more descriptive when I give directions ..LOL  I see it in my head but but need to express it better , thanks  really .. Lidnsey what Sue said to ...LOL between the two of us we'll get you there .

Liberty,Missouri

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Sue replied on Sun, Nov 18 2012 10:32 AM

Lindsey, one more thing I thought of, if you are stitching in the ditch, lengthen your stitch.  Seams need to be sewn with short stitches, but quilting should be done with longer ones.

Hope this helps.

In The Piney Woods of Deep East Texas

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Donna B replied on Sun, Nov 18 2012 11:36 AM

Sue and Barbara have given you some great tips!  There are only a few things I would add:  1)  Only travel (stitching) about 4-5 inches at a time...sew a few inches, reposition and then sew the next few inches.  2)  I do the "shoulders up and back" routine at least every 5 minutes if not more often.  Sometimes, if I find I am tense, I do it with every repositioning of the quilt!  3)  Until your muscles are used to the task, I wouldn't quilt for more than 1 hour at a time.  Give yourself at least a 30 minute break after each hour of quilting.  Maybe go for a short walk, but at least get up and move around to get the blood flowing again! 

This can be tense, strenous work if your body is not use to it, so don't over-task yourself or you will regret it for weeks to come...LOL!  We want it to be fun and for you to love it like we do, so take it slow and easy and you will learn to enjoy the process!!!

 Winthrop, WA

 

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Thea replied on Sun, Nov 18 2012 11:50 AM

Linsey, I know exactly what you are talking about - we do build muscles that aren't used by others.  I would say to get a belt that protects your back - I am in the process of buying one now...teehee... You have to have a good chair too - one that is ready for the need that you have - make sure you have it set up so it isn't too high nor too low cuz both will cause problems... Have the muscle release gel ready to apply when you are done... 

Don't sit at your machine for hours without taking a break - just a small walk around the room and some stretching do wonders.  

As someone else mentioned make sure the tension for your pressure foot is reduced some so it is easier to move the quilt through and as much as possible make sure that the weight of the quilt is supported somewhere else and not on you!  Take the time for each row to set it up - fluffing and stuffing will build those arm muscles and is exercise and you do use up calories...

That is why quilters like chocolate...teehee...

I know you will persevere and as time goes by it will become easier and easier... 

I am quilting a quilt right now on my domestic as I do not have a long arm and woke this morning in horrific pain - good thing I have pain meds - but I knew what caused the pain and knew I had worked too long on this quilt yesterday and because of the size and weight I need to better prepare my area - had most of the weight on me which is Wrong Wrong Wrong...

Sending prayers and warm fuzzy quilty hugz your way!  You will build those muscles before you know it and it will be easier - till you let 6 - 12 months go before you do another one and then you will build them again... 

 

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Also, don't forget to use gloves that will help you grip so the tension on your hands is less. 

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Thea replied on Sun, Nov 18 2012 11:52 AM

Yes, stitching in the ditch - stitch length can be increase to 3.5 or 4... you are not worrying about the seams anymore - you are just holding the 3 pieces in place... 

 

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Lindsey replied on Sun, Nov 18 2012 12:26 PM

Thanks so much for all your help! What amazing answers you've given me! I'm going to print them all off and spend some time going through all your tips. 

I do have a pair of gardening gloves which I've never used but they have little balls on them, so I'm going to give them a try! They are cotton and were only 99pence!

And you're right, I want quilting to be an enjoyable experience, not one that I remember of being in pain and frustrated!! 

I'm also going to unroll my quilt as this does seem to make my arms ache waaaay too much!

Thanks very much again, your advice has been invaluable! I wouldn't have got it out of a book! You should write one together!

I do still have neck and back pain, so I have to be careful otherwise if I don't go into the office I don't get paid! 

Happy stitching, Lindsey Norfolk, UK

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Lindsey replied on Sun, Nov 18 2012 12:42 PM

Thea

Sorry to hear that you've been in pain! I hope you manage to make things better for yourself! Having hobbies is so important after all, especially if our bodies are not up to everyday tasks.

Thanks again for your help! I hope you take it easy too!

Happy stitching, Lindsey Norfolk, UK

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Agnes replied on Sun, Nov 18 2012 12:51 PM

You have received very good helps. A super excellent book is Rx for Quilters by Susan Delaney Mech, MD. One of her many helps that I came away with and adopted is that I never stay in the same position for more than an hour. It could be less if I start feeling tension or something in my body changing. At that hour break I follow her advise: She advises that 6 minute walks are as valuable as longer so I take that quick walk and do some stretches, drink a glass of water, go to the bathroom and often I go onto something else where I use my body differently. I learned the hard way that not listening to my body meant a lot of manipulation. As a result I have dealt with, and always will, sciatic pain in both sides, carpal tunnel and DeQuerrvine's Syndrome (thumb tendon problem similar to Carpal) in both hands. Despite all that with the help of super excellent physiotherapist and massage therapist I did not have any surgery but it took a few years of changing my work habits, giving up all type of hand activity except making meals. In the hobby world I could machine piece for short periods and had to find innovative ways to use the keyboard. Fortunately I was retired from active workforce though I did have a few minimal part time jobs that required the computer for book keeping.

Agnes in NW Ontario

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I like your tip about putting my arms down. I'm going to spend some time next weekend looking at everything, so I'm sure that'll all help!

I guess I was just so excited about getting the quilting done that I didn't really pay attention to all these important points!

Thanks again! Lindsey, Norfolk, UK

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Lindsey we all have been in your shoes,I'm quilting right now and taking my break . these are things we learn as we go,and I to learned some great tips today. So we never quit learning. Have fun and we can't wait to see photos of your work ,One thing you should know that is very important ,your work will not be perfect ,that is again things we learn as we conquer  this task. Its okay ,you should never be perfect , that is reserved for the upstairs guy.LOL  

Liberty,Missouri

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