Do I have to use a hoop when machine quilting?


Do I really have to put my quilt in a hoop to do machine quilting? I kept breaking needles while trying to do freehand quilting without a hoop, and my machine dealer said I was probably moving the quilt too fast and that I needed to put it in a hoop so that I could speed up the needle while slowing down the fabric motion.

Yet I see illustrations in quilting books that show people machine quilting without a hoop. What do you think?

Machine quilting with a hoop is the last thing I’d want to do! Not only would it be oh-so-much fun to jam the hoop under the foot to get started, but the hoop would bang into the machine all the time, and you’d have to reposition the silly thing every ten minutes. Nope, not for me either.

You might be breaking needles if:

  • your hands are moving the quilt faster than the needle (doubtful)
  • you’re jerking the quilt around instead of moving it gracefully and deliberately (more likely)
  • you are free-motion quilting and you forgot to lower the feed dogs (it happens)
  • your needle is bent (it happens)
  • you are using an old, blunt needle (you should change your needle with each new project)
  • you have thread fragments, dust, and assorted crud under the throat plate (clean it out)

To train yourself to machine quilt, practice on a small hot-pad-size “fake” quilt. Drive around that for about 10 minutes, then quilt another one.

Try to follow the print on the fabric. Go slowly — it’s not a race. After about 10 itty-bitty quilts, try something larger.

Practise on a Coloring Book?

I like to use the pages of a child’s coloring book to get back in the swing of machine quilting. At first, I don’t use thread — I just follow the lines with the plain needle. When I feel I am back in my “groove” I add thread and then I can see my stitches. If the paper tears too easily, tape or staple it to several sheets of typing paper for stability and strength.

This is a good way for beginners to gain the skills they need, and for those who have not machine quilted for some time.

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