Well, you just finished your quilt top and now you are anxious to quilt it. Your quilting will bring your quilt top to life so you have to choose what to quilt on your precious top.
If you are a beginning quilter and are overwhelmed by too many ideas (or you don’t have any idea – it happens to all of us!), here are a few guidelines to help you make an easier choice; I follow them when I quilt my own quilts.
When choosing the quilting motifs, you have to take into account these things : the design and the technique of the quilt top, the pattern of the fabric, and the purpose of the quilt. If it seems too much, do not worry: there is not a “right choice” or “wrong choice”.
1. Quilting with the walking foot
Straight line quilting
This is the first quilting technique any beginner quilter learns.
It works beautifully on patchwork quilts; you could use the edge of the blocks/patches as your guide and stitch in the ditch or 1/4” away from the edges or straight through the center or diagonally.
You could sew a beautiful grid (vertical and horizontal parallel stitching lines) and the space between the lines is up to you.
I don’t have enough patience to sew a grid on a big quilt, but I think this is a great option for any quilt and especially for quilts with complex patterns.
I enjoy quilting “crazy” grids on small pieces!
You could sew grids on curved pieces too – just follow the desired edge with your presser foot. Some nice designs are born at the intersection of the lines.
Some applique designs could be easily echoed with the walking foot too. Follow the design with the edge of your presser foot. The quilting has a simple and modern look.
Really helpful- for wide grids
Do you have this accessory for your machine? It allows you to stitch at the desired distance from a previous stitching (great for wide grids- it’s adjustable!).
It’s great for echo quilting too. I have a Pfaff machine and this is called edge/quilting guide.
Point up or point down, it works like magic!
It can be done with the walking foot or the free motion quilting foot; the space between the lines is up to you.
It’s one of my favorite ways to quilt the pieces for my quilted bags.
Free motion quilting
All over machine quilting designs
If your quilt is scrappy, or it is made out of fabric with busy prints, stippling is a great idea; I still ADORE stippling after 15 years of quilting!
Especially great for bed quilts, table runners, pillows, and for any quilt that will be used and washed over and over again.
This loop design is beautiful too and it is easy to stitch it all over the surface of the quilt.
Highlight the design of a block
If you want to highlight the design of a block, sew stippling on the background and just outline the main design – this will make the design pop.
You could leave the design unquilted too, but it is not recommended if the blocks are big (you don’t want too much space left unquilted).
And this is the back of my block.
For outlining, you could use one of the motifs below (some of them take more time than others, the first one is great!).
I always like to sew “fancy” quilting on solid (or almost solid) fabric and on light color fabric (it’s more visible).
I don’t sew fancy quilting on busy prints.
You could easily quilt a wavy grid with the free motion foot too. The key to enjoy it? Don’t try to make it perfect!
This grid is continuous!
On many blocks you could sew spirals – they don’t necessarily have to be round! Start from the center and follow the edges of the block.
A wavy quilting that follows the edge of the patches of a block always works! The space between the lines is up to you.
I free motion quilted this zig zag quilt, but the same stitching could be done with the walking foot; and instead of straight stitching, you could use a decorative stitching.
The same parallel stitching lines, following edges of the block.
The different directions add texture and interest.
Some fancy machine quilting designs
Feathers on hexagons – a very good idea and so easy to stitch (tutorial here- sheets for practicing are included).
You could quilt feathers on any shape!
Still afraid to machine quilt?
“I have worked so hard on making the top pretty, now I am afraid to machine quilt it, I don’t want to ruin it with lousy quilting”.
Do you struggle with this too? The only solution for this is to start quilting on small pieces; it doesn’t have to be a pretty top; just layer 2 pieces of cheap fabric with batting and start practicing. As you gain confidence, start quilting bigger and bigger pieces.
Practice on paper
You could practice on paper too, until you find the rhythm of your machine! I find this much more effective (and fun) than doodling with a pen on paper.
Print your designs on paper (a lightweight paper is the best, mine is a little bit thinner that the one I use for regular printing). Remove the thread from your machine, attach the darning foot, insert a thin needle that you will keep only for this purpose (it will become dull soon) and start sewing through paper. You don’t waste fabric or batting and you don’t have to unpick stitches.
A few tips for your success!
Baste your quilt sandwich correctly and you will quilt easier and with better results.
Here is how I baste my quilt.
- Large quilts – I baste them on the floor. I tape the backing to the floor with masking tape, keeping it flat and taut.
Then I lay the batting on top and then the quilt top. The thin cotton batting is the best for beginners – the fabric sticks nicely to it, leaving almost no room for creases while quilting.
- Medium quilts could be basted on a table and binder clips could be used to keep the layers taut.
- For my small to medium quilts (smaller than 50”) I prefer an adhesive spray; I baste the quilt on the table, in the front of an open window. If the quilt is bigger than the table, I work in sections. I never feel sorry when I spend money on basting spray!
Try to have a uniform quilting all over your quilt; large heavily quilted areas combined with large unquilted areas could distort the shape of your quilt and you could end up with a quilt that doesn’t lay flat.
Speeding up quilting
If you don’t need to match the color of the thread with the color of the fabric, use a thread in a neutral color; it works well on any color and it saves you a lot of time. It’s what I do for most of my quilts; I prefer quilting with light color thread.
Not all the needles are the same – these are the ones I use with great success!
Washing the quilt
I wash every quilt (by hand or by machine) when it’s finished. To remove the water, I put it in the machine for a low-speed spinning cycle; when it’ done, I lay it on the floor (or table) and smooth it until it’s nice and flat. If the quilting distorted your quilt, you will be able to correct it at this stage.
More tips for easy free motion quilting
This is what I quilt on my quilts! If you are looking for inspiration, I hope you find some ideas.