Quilting and the shape of your head

After many years about thirty minutes of thoughtful consideration, I’ve come to the conclusion that a good portion of success in quilting is dependent on the shape of your head. If your head is somewhat skinny and tall, and set back a bit, it’s easier to see what you’re doing and your back doesn’t hurt so much when you quilt for long hours. Those with shorter, somewhat wide and angled heads are at a disadvantage. What?? Oh, you thought I meant…no, no, no, not that kind of head! I meant the head of the sewing machine! 😀 Let me explain.

For years I was happy (and so was my back) with my Pfaff 1475 machine. Then when I bought the new 2056 model, I noticed I had a harder time seeing the needle without hunching down farther in the chair, and then I had more back pain, especially when machine quilting. Here’s the side by side shape comparison:

Pfaff 1475 headPfaff 2056 head

On the left is the 1475, and on the right is the 2056. As you can see, the head of the 2056 is wider, and the needle is set back farther from the front of the head. Maybe this is only a problem for people like me who have a long upper body and arms, but I never can get my whole table and chair situation adjusted just perfectly for the 2056. If my arms are level with the machine bed, I have to hunch to see the needle because the head of the machine is in the way if I’m sitting straight up like I should be. Alternatively, if everything is adjusted so that my back is straight, my elbows aren’t bent at 90 degrees, and my wrists are bent down, which is not good either, nor does it contribute to greater control while quilting. For what it’s worth, the Bernina 440 has the same problem as the Pfaff 2056, with a wider angled head, so that was no help to the situation. It all makes me wonder if other people have these issues, and whether these machine designers ever actually have use them.

Years ago (pre-Pfaff 2056), I bought an angled platform for my machine, which was supposed to help the situation. (More info about the supposed benefits of something like this can be found here.) Here’s how it looks in use:

Pfaff 2056 on tilt platform
I guess it was supposed to make it easier to see your work since it angled the whole machine toward you, but for me, it never really did the job. It worked okay with the 1475, since the machine bed is flat instead of angled like the later model Pfaff machines so maybe it provided a better view. After purchasing the 2056, it was completely useless, as it just compounded the problem, bringing the machine head into an even more obstructive position. When I was cleaning out my studio getting ready for the musical rooms move, I stacked it with the other stuff I’d planned to sell on ebay at some point, and there it sat.

Flash forward to the Misery Quilt project: I’d been doing this slow, tedious satin stitched appliqué for a couple of weeks, and my back was feeling it. It takes 3-6 hours to do each border, and I’d just started the sixth one (remember I’d had to make two sets of borders). I suddenly remembered this platform that I still had, and wondered if I could turn it around, so that the machine was angled away from me instead of toward me. WOW! What an epiphany! I tried it, and it really worked great! The machine head was angled back out of my line of sight, and I could see the needle without hunching my back even when my chair was at the right height. Here’s the pic:

Pfaff 2056 with backwards tilt platform

So, does anyone else have these issues, or am I just special? Actually, when Kristin was here, we stopped in at Patchcom, and we had this conversation with Birgit, so I know I’m not completely alone. She still uses an older model Pfaff (a 1473, I think??) for just this reason. I don’t know how this is going to be for machine quilting, or how it will work on the Bernina, but I can’t wait to find out!

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14 thoughts on “Quilting and the shape of your head

  1. What a sensible idea. I have a long back and tend to scrunch upwhen in the wrong chair. I’ll try this. Thanks! 🙂

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  2. What a great site! You have some really interesting ideas. I have just started quilting and it is very time consuming. I have been looking for patterns and books and the only suggestion I have received is to look at http://www.willowberry-lane.com. Do you have any other suggestions?

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  3. Hi Andie,

    Thanks for your kind words, and welcome! As for patterns and books, do a Google search for it, and you’ll find plenty! I tend to make my own patterns up as I go along, and I buy books at Amazon, because it’s cheaper than anywhere else. Good luck!

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  4. Paula,

    No, you’re not alone, and I’m really glad to know I’m not crazy, thank you very much! What do you use to tip the machine?

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  5. BLOODY BRILLIANT!! Thanks for pointing this out – I’m going to give it a go. Love having my big Pfaff set into the cabinet for machine quilting, but for stuff where I need to see the needle more than the line of stitching I think this will really help!

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  6. Hi Caitlin! Sometimes, desperation breeds new ideas, doesn’t it?! Which “big Pfaff” do you have? Do let me know how this works out for you!

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  7. I have been making fabric postcards using the needle to draw with. I tilted my machine back using two paperback books – they are not very thick, but I can always use bigger books if necessary. It works! Thank you for the tip

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