I like to machine quilt my smaller projects (anything under 45″ I consider small!) so I wanted to share some of my machine quilting tips. For the first time, I’ve done a few short videos to demonstrate parts of what I talk about in this post. I hope they’re not too unprofessional ….LOL! I think they came out OK for a first try. So, on to the tips……
Tip #1: I like to practice on a scrap quilt sandwich, especially if it has been awhile since I have quilted anything. This gets me familiar once again with the motion of quilting and also gives me time to work out some design ideas. This is a great way for you to learn how to machine quilt as well.
Tip#2: I sometimes draw designs on a photocopy of the blocks I will be quilting. This helps to get the ideas flowing. You can try this by using the pattern you worked from to make the quilt. Photo copy a page that has a good size diagram of the block that makes up the quilt. Then draw out design ideas in pencil. Here’s a one of mine:
I’ve also sketched out “free motion” designs too.
Tip#3: Make sure you’re machine is ready. It’s a good idea to change your needle to a machine quilting needle. Check your machine’s manual for recommendations. Another tip about the needle…. they wear out! If you are quilting a larger project, the needle should be discarded when you are done. You should be able to quilt several smaller projects with the same needle though.
Once the needle is taken care of, now pick out the thread. I like to use a medium neutral thread on my quilt tops because that blends well with my Civil War reproduction fabrics. My favorite is an Aurifil 50 weight. It works for me! Choose your favorite thread. I like these threads because they do not create a lot of lint in your machine. Thread color is a personal choice. You may want your quilting stitches to show more or be disguised more. Pulling out a tail of each thread and laying them across a block in your quilt will allow you to judge how each blends.
Make sure your machine is oiled, “fuzzies” cleaned out of the bobbin area and that you have a few bobbins wound and ready. This is a good habit to get into especially if the project you are quilting is going to be a large one. No stopping for bobbin filling! Just pull out the empty and load in a full one.
Tip#4: Baste your quilt top with pins or with a large basting stitch. Your preference. I use pins to based my quilt sandwich.
Now it’s time to quilt!
I start out by putting on my machine quilting gloves. These are a great tool to have. It helps to grip and pull the quilt sandwich tight while quilting so it doesn’t get puckers on the back the quilt.
You’ll see them in action in my little video.
I use a darning foot (most machines come with them). Either a closed toe or open toe darning foot will work.
The feed dogs on your machine need to be dropped. See your owner’s manual on how to do that if you have not done it before.
To start, pull your bobbin thread to the top of the quilt. To do this, put your threaded needle down in the spot where you want to begin and drop your presser foot. Tap your foot peddle so the needle comes back up, pull on the end of the top thread and this will draw the bobbin thread to the top of the quilt. This is so the bobbin thread does not get caught in the stitching on the back and create a mess!
So here’s video #1 (no laughing!):
Now you are ready to go! Start with a few small “locking stitches”. Since you feed dogs are dropped, they are not moving the quilt sandwich …. you have to. So to make these small stitches, just move the quilt top slightly while stitching. Since you are only moving it slightly, the stitches will be very small. Once you do those beginning stitches, you can now move on to the motif you have chosen. Be sure to move the quilt top at an even pace with the speed of your machine. That is how you keep the stitches even (unless you are one of those lucky quilters who have a stitch regulator on your machine!). Once you reach the end of your design or are at a place where you need to stop, end with a few small locking stitches again. Snip the threads as close as you can to the quilt top as you can. Now you are ready to move on to the next area!
Here’s video #2:
You are now machine quilting!
Check your local quilt shop for some in person quilting classes. There are also many machine quilting books available for a more comprehensive lesson. The main thing is to have fun! Start off with easy overall designs and work your way up to more difficult ones. Practice makes perfect! Here’s a few motifs I’ve been working on: