Ready to quilt

I love quilting!

In earlier posts I described how I prepared a quilt top for quilting, as well as basting together the top, the batting and the backing fabric. And now I'm ready to quilt.
Have I ever mentioned I love quilting? 
Quilting gives me the chance to tell the story of the quilt top. 

By changing the quilting design, my deer friend can be a Christmas deer ...

... or a trophy deer ... ahem, at Christmas time.
Deciding what design to quilt is often tricky.    
I'm sure everyone has their own preferred process for deciding how and where to start quilting a new project, but this is how I approach it.

Firstly I brainstorm quilting possibilities while I'm piecing the top. I try not to get too attached to any ideas at this point as most of these ideas get dumped. 

The most important question is what style of quilting does this project want? 
The answer depends on several things:
1. the personal preferences of the maker of the quilt top
2. the fabrics used - are they solids or plain; pliant or stiff
3. the spirit of the whole quilt - is it meant to be pretty and sweet, or graphically simple
4. the recipient of the quilt ... (and let's be practical) if the quilt is for the family pet then the emphasis will be on speed rather than involved, time-consuming designs. *This can, however, be a great place to practise new designs.  

There are, at its most basic level, two types of machine quilting stitches. These are straight lines, which are usually done using the feed dogs to help control the feed of the fabric, and free motion quilting (fmq) where the machine operator has control of the feed of the fabric.

While I love fmq, sometimes simple straight line quilting is a better choice.
This granny square block was made by the talented Alisha, who owns the delightful on-line fabric store Ministry of Fabric .
The straight line quilting evenly accentuates each and every pretty fabric.
Whether the quilting design has free motion work is simply straight lines, I start the quilting with any straight line and stitch/quilt-in-the-ditch quilting. Stitching right in the seam itself is called "stitch-in-the-ditch" quilting.

Doing the the straight line quilting first helps stabilise the three layers of the quilt, and minimise the annoying tucks in the backing.

The arrows in the photo below are pointing to the straight line or stabilising stitching. On this particular sample (which is used in my free motion quilting class) I've quilted 1/8 inch away from the actual seam. This is personal preference only. 
You may prefer to quilt 1/4 inch away from the seam or alternatively right in the seam itself. 
Other quilts look better with just free motion quilting.
For many years and many quilts I used my domestic sewing machine to quilt. Eventually we decided a specialised quilting machine would be worth the extra expense and bought the Handiquilter "Sweet Sixteen" model.

This Handiquilter mid-arm sized machine is used pretty much as you would use your domestic sewing machine to quilt on, except that you sit at the end of it rather than at the front.

It is not a long-arm machine.
It is not connected to a computer.
It will not quilt any design exactly the same each time.
It will not stitch an edge-to-edge quilting design for you while you go paint your nails.
It does not have a coffee cup holder.

It has a 16" throat space available to squash the quilt through.
It only does free motion stitching.
It has no feed dog teeth.
It is great to use when quilting small projects such as placemats and mug rugs.
It will only stitch where you guide it to. 

And I love it.

But please don't think you need to have a mid or long arm machine to quilt bed sized quilts. The quilt in the photo behind the machine was quilted on my domestic sewing machine years before I was able to purchase the "Sweet Sixteen".

And while it's definitely easier to quilt using a specialised machine, you can apply some of these differences to how you quilt with your domestic machine.

1. The machine being set down into its own table means better visibility while quilting with the added bonus of being kinder to my neck. 
*Domestic machines can also be set on a lower table, or even into a specially shaped cut-out if you have a handy person.

2. This table for this particular machine comes with optional side leaves which can be fixed in position level with the top - giving a larger support area for larger projects, or left in the down position giving more space around the machine table.
*Fold out tables or your ironing board beside your domestic machine will do the same job.

3. Basting - It wasn't until I had this machine that I experimented with basting a quilt using the free motion technique. If it's a very large quilt, or heaven forbid it has to sit for a while waiting to be quilted, I can quickly sew v.e.r.y long stitches effectively basting the three layers of the quilt together. *Works the same on a domestic machine set to free motion settings. 

4. The specialist machine has the ability to work at a faster speed.
*Depending on the design you're quilting and your skill level, the domestic machine works p.l.e.n.t.y fast enough.

No matter what style of quilting I'm doing, there are always times when I think "Oh that's not as good as I'd like it to be" but if I wait until my quilting is perfect ... I'm never going to finish quilting anything.

So just do it,


  1. I really enjoyed this post Kellie, it was very informative and I also loved seeing a behind the scenes peek at your machine and process!

  2. Your talent is boundless! Thank you for sharing your knowledge.

    1. "I'd like to teach the world to quilt, in perfect harmony" ... you've put that song in my head! xo


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