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Tips for Machine Quilting

Our site is filled with hints and tips to make things easier. This section is dedicated to ways to make Machine Quilting a little easier and help you get the perfect finish to your new quilt.

Some tips to get you started

  • Choose a busy print for the lining if you want your quilting stitches to be less visible.

  • Spray starch the lining to make it move more easily on the sewing surface.

  • Clean and spray wax your machine bed and table surface to help the quilt sandwich slide around easily.

  • Use a straight-stitch throat plate (single hole) for less puckers while quilting.

  • If you can't lower your feed dogs for free-motion quilting, set the stitch length to zero to reduce their movement.

  • Rather than rolling the quilt into a tube, accordion-pleat it for greater flexibility under the sewing machine.

  • Put on some favourite music – but probably not rock and roll – to help you establish a rhythm for your quilting.

  • Use the serpentine or the running stitch as a substitute for the straight stitch when quilting in the ditch. Set at a narrow stitch width, the stitched curves cross from one side of the ditch to the other so you don't have to worry about precise needle placement.

  • When using invisible thread, choose clear monofilament to quilt a light-coloured top and smokey monofilament thread for dark colours.

  • Use a thread sleeve on your monofilament spool to prevent threads from prematurely unwinding and tangling.

  • Placing the monofilament spool in a small jar behind the machine rather than on the spool pin may give better tension and keep the thread from unwinding too fast and tangling.

  • Before you start quilting, bring the bobbin thread through the quilt to the top and hold both thread tails when taking your first stitch. This prevents snarls on the lining side.

  • Aids for gripping the quilt sandwich: dishwashing rubber gloves – with or without finger tips removed, colourful elastic bandaging, garden gloves with rubber dots on the palms, office rubber fingers, latex surgical gloves (packaged 50 to a box).

  • Guiding the quilt with very light pressure in a gentle, sliding motion is ideal for machine quilting. If you press too hard your quilt will drag, movement will be jerky and stitches will be irregular.

  • When free-motion quilting, slow down as you approach a seam to better control the stitch length. The seams and the multiple layers of seam allowances tend to change the thread tension and shrink the stitch length.

  • Increase the stitch length a little to show off rayon or metallic threads. More thread on the surface will reflect the light.

  • Gently push any excess quilt-top fabric toward the needle while quilting to gradually ease it in without making tucks.

  • Stop with the needle down in the quilt before shifting the quilt for further stitching.

  • When continuing a line of quilting after having sopped, make sure the quilt is level and is not being pulled in any direction by its own weight. Holding the quilt in place, stitch in the previous stitch before proceeding. These two measures will ensure that your line of stitching is straight.

  • Clean the bobbin area often because lint builds up quickly when quilting.

  • If your foot pedal keeps sliding out of reach from the continuous pressure of quilting, put a non-skid carpet pad under it.

  • Use a self-threading hand sewing needle to embed thread tails into the sandwich after tying off.

Once started you need to know how to stop!

If you prefer to machine quilt, starting and stopping a line of stitches is easy and secure using either of these two methods. Be sure to install a walking foot on your machine first.

  • Begin the stitching with a series of 5 or 6 very short stitches and then increase the size of stitches to your chosen length as you continue quilting. When you reach the end of your stitching line, finish with 5 or 6 tiny stitches.

  • As you start your line of stitches, hold the quilt sandwich in place to inhibit the quilt from going forward for 5 or 6 stitches and do the same at the end of your stitching. Stopping the forward motion for a few stitches doesn't hurt your sewing machine. When you are finished, carefully clip the thread tails close to the quilt's surface.

Hints for Consistent Stitches

  • Mark the quilting design on the fabric clearly. If you can see the marks, you are less likely to hesitate while stitching them.

  • When you begin a machine-quilting session, warm up on a practice sandwich. Determine what your rhythm is for the day before you start to stitch on your quilt.

  • When marking a machine-quilting design on your fabric, draw the lines in the same sequence and direction that you will be free-motion quilting. Then you will know the stitching sequence before you start quilting.

When your stitching is going well and you want to stitch faster, be sure that you also move the quilt faster to keep the stitches a consistent length.