Machine Quilting Tutorial

Wednesday, February 06, 2008

Tutorial - prepping a quilt for machine quilting and suggestions for stipple or puzzle quilting a small patchwork quilt with a regular sewing machine

Anyone can learn to machine quilt. Much of machine quilting success is in prep of the quilt before going to the sewing machine. My method to prep the quilt involves using quilt spray that is non-gumming to the machine needle. I only quilt smaller baby, crib, or lap sized quilts with my regular machine because I feel this is all I can handle with good success. I know others quilt full-sized quilts on a regular machine but I limit myself to this for best results.

Machine quilting your own projects is a good skill that quilters at all levels can learn. Before attempting to “stipple” machine quilt your first quilt I recommend unthreading your machine and “pretend” quilting or practicing on paper. You need to drop the feed dogs and place the darning foot on the machine. Then, practice moving the paper around while stitching and create loops or a puzzle type pattern on the paper. You might want to then move on to hot pads or coasters to try machine quilting before moving onto a larger quilt. I think I made 50 potholders before I tried my first baby quilt. My first several quilts were quite amateur but with practice comes success and I have quilted over 500 small quilts myself with good results.

Your quilt back and batting should be larger, on all sides (1-3”), than the quilt top.

1. I use Sullivan’s Quilt Basting Spray to adhere the quilt layers together. There are several basting spray brands but I prefer Sullivan’s because it adheres best. Beware; the spray carries in the air so the area surrounding the quilt may become sticky. I have tried using drop cloths, rugs, and the driveway to lay out the fabric and batting layers for prepping. I have found that a sheet of wafer board (mine is 4x8 feet) works best to use as a work surface to prep small quilts. I place the wafer board over my table or countertop.

2. Lay the quilt back onto the wafer board right side down. Then lay the batting on top of the quilt back.
3. Fold the batting in half on top of itself while spraying the uncovered half of the quilt back with the basting spray.

4. Smooth the batting over the side of the quilt where you have sprayed the basting spray. Make sure the batting lays smooth with no bumps or lumps. You can pull the batting up off the back and reapply if you need to make adjustments.
5. Repeat for the other side of the batting and quilt back and check to make sure it is perfectly flat, smooth, and adhered to the quilt back.
6. Next lay the quilt top over the batting centering in the middle of the batting.

7. As before with the batting, fold the quilt top over on itself to expose half of the batting. Spray the batting with the basting spray and then carefully smooth that half of the quilt top onto the top of the batting. 8. Repeat for the other side of the quilt top and make sure the quilt top is perfectly flat, smooth and adhered to the batting.

9. If you have to pull up edges of the quilt top from the batting or part of the quilt top from the batting to make sure it is perfectly straight and smooth, do so now. The nice thing about this spray is that mistakes can be fixed.
10. Turn the quilt over placing the quilt top down on top of the wafer board. You may have some wrinkles in the quilt back at this stage. Pull the quilt back off the batting, if needed, in places where the fabric may have wrinkled and smooth out any bunching.
11. Turn the quilt around right side up and make any adjustments needed in the quilt top smoothing as necessary. You now have a quilt sandwich created by the 3 layers consisting of the quilt back, batting, and quilt top.
12. Move the quilt sandwich to your cutting mat and with your ruler, trim the excess batting and backing away from the quilt top.

13. Pin or clip edges around the perimeter. You won’t need to pin inside the quilt because the spray will hold it together quite well. I don’t use straight pins because often they will scratch or prick my hands while I quilt. (I have bled on more than 1 quilt so don’t do that!). Your quilt prep is now complete.

Machine Quilting:

Before beginning several tips would include: Set your stitch length to 0. Only work in small areas at a time. Don’t over extend your arms. Keep both hands on the quilt and move slowly while running the machine at a fast speed. This will help keep your stitches smaller and more even. When your bobbin runs out, change bobbins and back stitch over the last several stitches where you stopped quilting to make sure stitches don’t unravel. Try to relax your arms and neck while you quilt. Take deep breaths occasionally. Take a short break if you get too stressed or tense.

1. Use a thread that will blend best with your quilt. Especially while learning you don’t want your stitches to stand out. Make sure you have 4-5 bobbins pre-threaded before beginning quilting. 2. Drop feed dogs, set the stitch length to 0 and put the darning foot on your machine. Before starting your quilt it's a good idea to do a scrap test. You could use a scrap you cutt off from the edge of your quilt sandwich for this. After stitching the test piece, turn it over and check the back to make sure the tension is set correctly. You don't want stitches pulling through or looking uneven on the top or bottom of your quilt. Then begin at the edge of the quilt and begin to stitch.3. Remember to move your hands slowly as you move the quilt under the darning foot and run the machine speed fast as you meander around your quilt. Avoid overstitching into already quilted lines and creating angles or jerking corners while quilting. Try to make smooth even loops around the quilt. Take your time and be patient with yourself. You can do it.
4. You may also use quilting gloves with grabber type backs that help you move your quilt around under the needle with less effort. I cut the fingertips out of my gloves so that I can also feel the fabric while quilting.
5. Alternatively you can use a walking foot and stitch in the ditch, outline, or create straight lines on your quilt. This is also a good method for beginners to quilt small quilts.
6. After you have completed quilting the entire quilt use a good light and check all areas of your stitching in both top and back. Clip loose threads from areas where you changed bobbins. If you have a wrinkle in the fabric you can try unpicking stitches in that area and smoothing out the wrinkle and then re-quilt that little area. Good Luck

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