Saturday, January 15, 2011

Fitting that Quilt Sandwich Into Your Domestic Machine

Quilting and prize winning are the topics of today. One lucky person has won a Wonderfil thread prize package. The rest of you get to learn a bit about fitting your quilt into your domestic machine.

First, I must apologize for the delay with this posting. Sometimes life has a way of getting in the way of what we want to do and sometimes is gets in the way of what we should be doing. I'll just keep it short and sweet and say that Dad came out of his surgery well, they've given him new meds that should fix the growths on his feet and he's walking better than he has for years. Go Dad!

Now, onto quilting. When quilting that lovely quilt sandwich we made last week, it is easy to become intimidated when we start thinking about where to begin. First and foremost, we always start in the middle and work our way out. If we were going to stipple the quilt, we would wind several bobbins with our desired thread and thread the machine. We'll probably need at least six to eight bobbins for a double. The reason we load all those bobbins is because once we have that sandwich under the machine, we don't want to remove it to wind a new bobbin.

Next change your needle. Yup, you heard me. A new needle is in order, and now just any needle. You need a QUILTING needle. I can hear you now, "but I use the same needle for everything, why should I change now?" The short and sweet answer is that each needle is designed for a specific purpose and while sometimes we can't see the difference, there are differences between needles and for best results, we want the one designed for the job. You wouldn't haul gravel in the trunk of your car would you? So why would you use the wrong tool for this job? You've spent hundreds of dollars on that quilt, why skimp on the cost of a needle? Get a quilting needle, it has a longer throat and eye and the tip is shaped to penetrate all those layers batting.
Get out your test sandwich and get take a test drive. This warms up your arms, gets your mind in quilting mode and ensures that your tension is correct. As a side note, when having tension problems check your threading first. Then check that your bobbin is in correctly. Then fiddle with your tension. After that, consider using different threads in top and bottom. Some of those "slippery" threads need a thread with "grip" to hold them in place. Both Invisifil and Decobob by Wonderfil have a bit of grip to better hold rayons and polyesters in place. When everything looks right, it is time to start quilting.

Many books and web-sites recommend that you should roll your quilt up (like you would a magazine for swatting flies) to fit it under the machine. DO NOT DO THIS! When you roll your quilt up, it is like trying to ram a canoe into that little space, There is no flex or bend to a rolled up quilt. Instead accordion fold your quilt. This gives flex and allows for easier movement under the foot.

You can fold up one side of your quilt, and drape the other over your shoulder and on your lap. Ensure your sewing table is free of clutter that might impede the movement of your quilt. If you are stitching in the ditch, or stitching long straight lines of quilting, you will stitch the first row top to bottom and the next row bottom to top. This keeps the top from continually shifting towards one end. If you are stippling or free motion quilting, start in the center and stitch a small area the work your way to one end. When you reach one end, go back to the center and work towards the other end.

Some quilters like to back stitch to hold their stitches in place, I prefer to pull the bottom thread to the top and bury them both when I remove the quilt from the machine. This allows invisible starts and stops. When you begin stippling in the center, you can restart at the exact same place and continue in the other direction if you did not back stitch. When you are finished bury the threads and like magic you have one continuous line of stipple.

A cute wall hanging
from one of my clients.

Stitch as much area as you can comfortable do without unfolding your quilt accordion, then refold and start again. When stitching very large areas, I will pass a huge safety pin through the folds in a couple spots to hold them together, or clamp them with bicycle (pant legs) clips.  Repeat this until you are finished. If you are stippling or free motion quilting, you will be finished at this point. If you are doing straight line or stitch in the ditch, you will need to check the back for any significant shifting. Fix any mistakes you see on the back before continuing. Now, fold the quilt the other way (fold up the bottom if you started with the sides) and start quilting the lines going the other way. Remember to go left to right for one row and right to left for the next.

Hope all that helps.

Now, onto the good stuff. THE WINNER OF OUR THREAD DRAW IS: Lee. I have sent you an email Lee. Watch for it in your in-box.

QUESTION OF THE DAY: What quilting technique do you excel at and which one do you detest?


  1. I am pretty good at all the techniques I have tried so far, sometimes anal in my opinion, and the only thing I detest, is having to hand stitch anything! Takes too much time.

  2. Thanks for the all the tips and thanks for the lovely giveaway! I am so happy to have won the thread and am looking forward to trying it!
    I am a new quilter so I love all different techniques to try. thanks again!

  3. I haven't tried the accordian fold...maybe that will work for me. The rolls always were trouble


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