For many quilters, the thought of machine quilting can be overwhelming. Designer and expert machine quilter Mabeth Oxenreider shares her tips for success.
1 . Think about how you want to quilt your project from the start. Knowing how you’re going to finish the project can help you make decisions along the way. For example, if you’re going to outline-quilt a design, you may change the direction you press the seam allowances to avoid quilting over them.
2 . Prepare for a smooth quilt back. Use spray starch (according to the manufacturer’s directions) on your quilt backing before taping it to the floor or a table. This will give the fabric a firmer hand and make it easier for you to smooth all the layers before pinning. Keep the top, batting, and backing taut (not stretched) as you pin to make quilting easier.
3 . Give yourself space. When you sit down to machine-quilt, give the quilt as much space as possible. Avoid letting it drop to the floor, as this will create drag on the quilt, causing long, irregular stitches. If you have a limited work surface, adjust an ironing board to the height of your sewing machine bed to help support the quilt’s weight.
4 . Use the right tools. Select an 80/12 sharps sewing machine needle and 60-weight thread in both the needle and bobbin.
5 . Know where you’re stitching. If you’re stitching in the ditch, the needle should pierce the quilt just next to, but not in, the seam line.
6 . Experiment with free-motion quilting. In this type of quilting, you will drop the feed dogs and move the fabric freely in all directions beneath a darning foot. Use your hands as a hoop, placing your thumbs about 3" in front of the presser foot and fanning your fingers out to the sides. Never push the fabric ahead; this will cause tucks and wrinkles in the quilting or cause the batting to pull, which can distort the finished quilt. If your machine won’t allow you to drop the feed dogs, tape a business card over them to prevent them from grabbing the fabric.
7 . Concentrate on the moment. Instead of worrying about the parts of the quilt that are resting on the table, pay attention to the portion of the quilt within your hands.
8. Quilting the straight lines first will keep them straighter. If you’ve pinned the layers together well, you should be able to start quilting any portion of the quilt.
9 . When quilting curved designs, go slowly. Going too fast doesn’t give your machine time to make a good stitch. Bobbin thread that is resting on top of the quilt backing is one sign you may be stitching too fast.
10 . Get comfortable and relax. Don’t expect every stitch to be like the last one. It is not possible to make every stitch the same, but, with practice, you can achieve an overall stitch consistency.
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