Thursday, January 6, 2011

Quilting on Your Domestic Machine

Some of my earlier practise pieces.
I admit, its been a while since I did any real quilting on my domestic machine. I play with it occasionally just to keep my skills up, but I am spoiled because I own a long arm machine that I wouldn't trade for anything. Still, I do play with quilting on the domestic and I do enjoy using it for small projects. Recently, I made a series of 4" by 12" wall hangings. (Long Fellas.) I seemed silly to load them on the long arm, so I quilted them on my Bernina.

Years ago, when I first started quilting, I taught myself how to quilt on a home machine. The most critical thing I learned was that you need a walking foot for the straight aways, and a hopping or darning foot for the curved bits. My first couple quilts had long straight stretches of stitch in the ditch and some motifs that I quilted by hand because I didn't know how to free motion.

I learned free motion the long way. I made about 30 pot holders and practised on them first. This allowed me to perfect the motions I needed and to learn to coordinate the machine speed with the speed I moved my project. Being small, there was no need to worry about excess quilt getting in the way. Next, I made myself place mats. I bit larger for the project, but not too big to be really difficult. Then came table runners, wall hangings and finally a quilt. It was a long way to go, but I learned something each step of the way.

Now, when I have time I play around with practise squares. I made some practise squares about 12 inches square. I layered them with batting scraps. (I have boxes of these.) Each square gets used several times. I used a plain fabric because thread shows up best on plain fabrics. I quilt in a contrasting fabric because the point of this is to perfect my technique and I need to see what is going on. Often, I will reuse a square by quilting over what I have done in a different thread. I'm not worried about perfection because I know this is a scrap. These squares are also handy for testing new stitches and adjusting your tension. Running a test drive before starting your "real" projects will save you a lot of grief.

I've also found that this practise transfers to the long arm machine with is an added bonus. I think the mind remembers the motions and knows to transfer moving the fabric to the head of the machine.

Making the squares: I love 505 basting spray for this. Cut a pile of 12 inch squares. (Or what ever works for you.) Cut one batting square for every two fabric squares. Protect you table with scrap paper. (I use examination table paper from the medical supply store.) Put one square of fabric wrong side up. Spray LIGHTLY with 505. Place a batting square on top, spray again, place the second fabric square on top (right side up.) Check that it is all smooth and you are all set to go.

You can see that this is being re-used.
Now: put on your hopping foot and away you go. I find it easier to run the machine at a medium to fast rate and move my fabric quite quickly. You'll find that initially, your stitches run the gamut from tiny to huge. Don't worry about it. Just keep practising. Don't even worry about pattern or crossing over what you have already completed. Just focus on meshing that machine speed with your motion. It comes faster than you think. I've read that you can master this skill in about eight hours. That's the good news. The bad news is that if you don't keep on it, your skill slips a bit. Try to fit in a few minutes every time you sew for practise.

If you are interested in a great set of videos on free motion quilting, check out Patsy Tompson at this link: Another great resource is Leah Day. Check out her blog at: She has fabulous free motion ideas.

Remember to enter the draw for that Wonderfil thread package by commenting on this posting or any of the other ways listed in my previous post.

QUESTION OF THE DAY: Do you quilt your own projects or do you hire a quilter? Why?


  1. I would LOVE to have a long arm machine but space is very limited so I have to be content using my Domestic machine. I do all my own quilting....I think the quilting brings it to life. While doing the larger quilts on a domestic can be a bit of a challenge it is possible with careful planning.

    Practice IS the best advice for sure. I never pass up an opportunity to keep my skills sharp

  2. Great advice, Cath! Practise makes perfect. As you know I quilt my own projects since I'm a control freak :) But I do have a good longarm quilter in my back pocket, er, area!

  3. I want a midarm sooo bad!!! I do free motion quilting on my regular machine. Thanks for all the advice

  4. I quilt my own because I am a relatively new quilter and I want to learn how to do it myself. I am just beginning to free-motion quilt.

  5. I quilt my own on a domestic machine - here in the UK there aren't many long arm quilters and it's so expensive to have it quilted!

  6. Very informative blog - thanks for sharing.


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