Machine Quilting Basics
Machine-quilting stitches are continuous and even, giving a quilt a precise look. With practice and these tips, you can create keepsake-quality quilts with your sewing machine.
Tools for Machine Quilting
Before you begin any quilting project, collect the tools and materials you'll need in one easy-to-access place. Below is a list of general supplies.
Darning, free-motion quilting, or hopper foot: This sewing machine attachment is used for free-motion quilting. You may find one in your machine's accessory kit. If not, know the model and brand name of your machine when you go to purchase one.
Safety pins: Use these pins to hold together a quilt's layers during quilting.
Table or other large work surface that's level with your machine bed: Your quilt will need the support.Thread: Look for quilting thread made of either 100% cotton or a cotton-polyester blend. For quilting that blends into the background, use fine nylon or polyester monofilament thread.
Walking or even-feed foot: This sewing machine attachment helps you keep long, straight quilting lines smooth and pucker-free.
Starting and Stopping Machine-Quilting Stitches
1. At the beginning of a line of stitching, pull the bobbin thread to the quilt top. Lock the stitches by setting the machine's stitch length to the shortest setting and sewing forward about 1⁄4".
2. Stop sewing, reset the stitch length to the preferred setting, and continue sewing.
3. To finish a line of stitching, return the machine's stitch length to the shortest setting, and sew forward about 1⁄4".
4. Raise the presser foot, remove the quilt, and clip the threads.
In-The-Ditch Machine Quilting
Quilting "in the ditch" means stitching just beside a seam line (on the side opposite the pressed seam allowance).
The stitches disappear into the seam, which makes a patch, block, or motif stand out from its background. You also may wish to stabilize a quilt for more decorative quilting by first stitching in the ditch on any straight lines, such as between blocks, inside borders, etc. It is one of the easiest machine-quilting methods (contrasting thread is used for illustration purposes).
1. Attach a walking (even-feed) foot. Find the lengthwise center seam line of the basted quilt sandwich. With the needle just to one side of that seam line, sew along it from border to border, positioning your hands so they form a hoop around the needle.
2. Turn the quilt crosswise; adjust all the layers so they are smooth. Stitch the crosswise center seam in the same manner.
3. Return the quilt sandwich to the lengthwise direction and stitch in the ditch along the seam lines in a quadrant to the right of the center seam, working from the center outward toward the border.
4. Turn the quilt and stitch in the ditch on the seam lines in a quadrant on the opposite side of the center line, again working from the center outward toward the border.
5. Repeat in the remaining two quadrants of the quilt.
Controlling a Large Project When Quilting
When you're working on a large quilt, it can be difficult to control the bulk of many fabric layers, especially between the needle and the inside of the machine arm. Some machine quilters find it is easier to roll the project, but others find rolling it unnecessary. The choice is yours.
1. Evenly roll or fold up opposite sides of the quilt sandwich. Secure the sides as desired. Note: Quilt shops often carry clips specially designed for this purpose.
2. Evenly roll or fold up a remaining quilt side, again securing as desired.
3. Place the project beneath the needle and presser foot and begin quilting.
4. Reroll or refold the layered quilt sandwich to stitch new areas.