Sunday, December 21, 2008

Machine Quilting

Machine quilting is an area that many new quilters seem to struggle with. They have many questions and I get so many e-mails on this subject that I thought it was time to lend a hand.

When machine quilting, you need to take the time to prepare properly. Machine quilting (which is the act of sewing the 3 layers together. Backing, batting and the quilt top)requires practice in it's self. There is no way around the practice part, sorry ladies! To perfect machine quilting, you need to put in your time at the machine. You need to become one with the machine. But how do you do that?

Prepare the layers and build a quilt sandwich first

There are many ways to do this. If this is your first time, I suggest getting some batting, and muslin or scraps of fabric together. Make a square about 12 x 12 inches of all 3 layers.
  1. Place the backing on the table, wrong side up

  2. Place the batting on the backing

  3. Place the quilt top on the batting, right side up


Now you need to secure those layers. This step is very important. You can do this in a number of ways.
  1. With Spray Adhesives

  2. With quilters pins

  3. With Thread


Now if you are not familiar with these methods you may need to do a bit of research to figure out which one you prefer. Sometimes it depends on the project at hand. Spray Adhesives work well for small projects, but have strong odors that may be offensive to some people. You need a well ventilated room to use them in. Pin basting is popular because it is easy to move or remove the pins as you quilt. Giving you the opportunity to smooth out the quilt and keep control of the wrinkles. Plus by removing them as you sew, you don't have anything to remove in the end like you would with thread basting. Thread basting is quick also, and many quilter like that, because the thread does not get in the way of quilting. So they don't have to stop to remove it like you do with pins.

As you can see there are pros and cons to all of these methods, and you need to find the one you like best. UFO-rphanages has a list of tips on Spray Adhesives. Pat Sloan has a video that shows you how to pin baste. I don't agree with her on a few things but the video will give you an idea of how to pin baste. (I prefer the curved pins they go through the layers easier. & I pin much closer than she does and I think that helps keep the layers from slipping)Take a look at About.com they show a good example of how to thread baste.

Once you have the layers basted together using one of the above methods

Your next step is the quilting. There are two main types of quilting. straight line quilting & Free motion quilting

As a beginner you may want to start out with the straight line quilting. This is much easier to master than the free motion quilting. One helpful tool you should own is a walking foot, or even feed foot on your machine. This type of quilting uses the feed dogs to pull the fabric through the machine. The walking foot helps pull the top layers of fabric a the same pace as your feed dogs in the machine are pulling the bottom layers. Making the fabric move through much easier and helps to prevent puckers. Puckers can occur when the layers are not feeding evenly. (they also can happen when your layers are not basted properly, or if the layers shift and you don't adjust the basting)


As for free motion quilting you should attach the darning foot. Then you will need to lower the feed dogs or cover them depending on your machine. Free motion quilting puts all the control in your hands. There are no feed dogs to pull the fabric, you are the only one moving the fabric. If you just let the machine stitch with out moving the fabric it would stitch in the same hole repeatedly. Think of free motion quilting as drawing with your machine, by moving the paper not the pencil. This take more practice than you think! That is why I suggested you make a small quilt sandwich, and now you can follow the steps to basting and practice both styles on the sample piece before going to your project.

Here are a few websites to check out for more examples of machine quilting.
  1. Machine Quilting for Dummies (love this one)

  2. Popular Patchwork

  3. Expert Village has some great videos on YouTube.com here is one of them. Once your at YouTube.com type in "machine quilting" into the search and you will find plenty of videos to watch.


I hope this helps shed some light on machine quilting. There is still plenty more to learn about machine quilting which I will need to cover in another post. I did not want to overwhelm the new quilter, and I also know that if this gets too long, you may not read it all. Machine quilting is an important topic and I want to be sure you do read it all. So until next time get that practice piece out and have some fun. Play around with both straight line quilting and try some free motion quilting as well.

If you have any comments you would like to share on this subject please do so in my comments section. I love to read them. I also have mailing list you can join at the top of this page, I recommend you join if you want to learn more about quilting. My members get weekly quilting tips and much more. Enjoy Quilting today!

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