I wanted to make note of these things for my own future reference, but hopefully you'll find them useful as well:
- Baste your quilt well. You will handle the quilt a lot and want the layers to stay put. Also, quilting in the same direction around and around the whole time has the potential for a lot of shifting if your basting is insufficient. I used a lot of pins but spray would work as well.
- I found this printable spiral template at verykerryberry and found it to be very useful. I wanted to be sure that I began with a properly started spiral and this did the trick. The template doesn't look like much but it is all you need to get going in the right direction. I printed it smaller than actual size because I wanted 1/2" distance between my quilting lines. From there, I actually placed the paper template in the center of my quilt, affixed it with painter's tape, and sewed through the paper and the quilt with my machine unthreaded. Then I traced over those stitching lines on the quilt with a washable marker and was good to go.
- Use your walking foot.
- Start with a very short stitch length! I went all the way down to 1.5 (on my machine, 2.5 is the default stitch length). The beginning of the spiral is the trickiest part and when following a very tight curve, a short stitch length is really important. For the first few rounds I was literally sewing two or three stitches, then raising the presser foot and adjusting the quilt a bit, then a few more stitches, etc., just to be sure I was following my marked line. Also at the beginning especially you will want to take it really slow.
- I wanted my lines to be close together and I didn't want to have to use the guidebar for my walking foot (I hate that thing, mine doesn't stay put.) so I moved my needle position as far to the right as I could and then used the left edge of my walking foot as my guide.
- As I went along and the spiral grew and became easier to sew, I gradually increased my stitch length until I was up to a 3.0 on my machine, which is what I normally use for straight line quilting. Unless you look closely you'd never know that the stitch length varies throughout.
- You'll eventually get to the point of having a full spiral that goes out to the edges of your quilt, leaving the corners unfinished (the point I was at in the above photo). From here you can just quilt one corner at a time, continuing in the same direction that you quilted the rest (clockwise in my case) and continuing to follow the edge of your walking foot as a guide (or your guidebar, if you're using one).