I used to use my fingers underneath the quilt frame, gently poking them with the needle and then pushing up into the underside of the quilt to bring the needle back up again. For more than 10 years, however, I have been using a spoon on the underneath side. It saves fingers and for me produces smaller and more uniform stitches. (Actually my use of the “spoon” is thanks to Gayle Ropp, a quilter in the northern Virginia area who showed me how it was done.)
A brief video below shows you the basic process. But the idea is that you have a narrow rigid item poking into the quilt from underneath the frame. With a spoon, the thumb on the hand that is under the frame fits into the bowl of the spoon and the edge of the spoon pokes into the underside of the quilt. When the needle goes down from the top of the quilt, it hits the rounded edge of the spoon and then “glances off” the edge and comes back up again. There is sort of a rocking motion that eventually allows uniform stitches.
When I first tried this method, I quilted half of the quilt before I finally got the hang of it. Michael James has used a thimble that he flattened with a hammer to produce a sharp edge on the side of the thimble. He used this on the underside of the quilt. Aunt Becky has a product that is a metal piece that you fit over your finger and does a similar thing. I once happened upon a group of women in rural South Carolina who were quilting a raffle quilt. One older lady was quilting away so fast that I was truly impressed. I asked how she kept her fingers from getting sore and she proudly whipped out her hand from underneath the frame and exposed her thumb which had a quarter neatly taped to it. She used that quarter in a similar fashion to the spoon.
A quarter, spoon, Aunt Becky’s gadget, a pounded thimble, whatever, any sharp item poking into the underside of the quilt which the needle can glance off of may help you to produce more uniform stitches. Quilting is such an individual thing and each person has to use the method that works best.
I now use the TJ Quick Quilter spoon made specifically for quilting. It is chrome plated and doesn’t scratch so it lasts quite a long time. It has become quite popular so we now carry it in our shop and our online store.