Friday, March 10, 2006

Machine Quilting

This is my sewing area. You can see my cabinet, my thread storage and you can see a bit of my cutting table on the left behind my sewing cabinet. My stash is under my cutting table in the three-drawer plastic storage units sorted by colour families or novelites.

I love to machine quilt! Many people don't actually like to do it because they think that you can't quilt a large quilt on a domestic or regular sewing machine. I have a Pfaff sewing machine with a regular sized harp (the arm of the sewing machine) and I have machine quilted queen sized quilts. Now there are some things that will make it much easier for you to quilt

  • don't use a really thick batting like polyester. It is hard to get all that quilt under the harp. instead use a thinner batting like a cotton. I like the Hobbs 80/20

  • use quilting gloves. I like Machingers because they are one piece, thin, and they allow you to thread needles and cut threads with them on.

  • PRACTICE PRACTICE PRACTICE PRACTICE PRACTICE PRACTICE. It takes a while before you feel comfortable quilting. Make small practice sandwiches and use those to develop a rhythm and work out the kinks. The last thing that you want is to look back on a project and wish that you had practiced more first.

  • Take a good machine quilting class. It is far easier to learn in a classroom rather than trying to teach yourself. You will learn a lot of tips and tricks that will make your life easier.

  • If at all possible sink your sewing machine into your table or get an extension table for your sewing machine. You need to increase the bed of your sewing machine. Otherwise you will not be able to quilt the larger motifs. I have included a picture of my set-up. My husband made this cabinet for me; but, Horn of America makes a wonderful cabinet called the Quilter's Dream that is beautiful. Notice the extesion off the left-hand side? This is really important to support the bulk of the quilt. Having this extension makes it easier on your neck and shoulders.

  • keep your sewing area clean, mess free and dust free. This will make a big difference with friction. Before I start quilting I also spray my quilting area down with a product called Quilt Glide by Jukebox Quilts to reduce friction. It lasts for about 4 hours and works really well.

  • Invest in a good chair without arms. You're going to be spending a lot of time in it so it's better to be comfortable.

  • Use good quality thread and the appropriate good quality needle. Many of the frustrations that quilters experience could be eliminated by using good quality thread and the right needle for the job. Oh and change your needles every 6-8 hours of sewing. Needles get dull and won't make a nice stitch if they are dull.

  • Listen to music to help you develop and maintain a nice rhythm. This is so important. If you don't maintain a constant rhythm and listen to the rhythm of your machine your stitches will not be even. Quilting in fits and starts will lead to uneven stitches and sharp lines instead of flowing motifs.

  • Wind a few bobbins ahead of time so that you don't have to stop and wind bobbins every time you run out of bobbin thread.

  • Take care of your machine. Keep it clean and oiled as per your manual. Take it in for check ups at least once a year. Machine quilting is hard on your machine so be nice to it.

If you would like anymore machine quilting tips or have a question please feel free to post a comment here and I will try to answer any questions or comments that you may have.


dadsdotter said...


Thanks for your comment on SimpleArts! I'm so glad that you let me know that you are out there and I will talk about your blog in my next Quilting Stash episode. I love this blog about machine quilting. I just got my Brother machine this week and hunkered down to quilt. Your suggestions will make my life so much easier when I continue ; ) I forgot about Quilt Glide and I agree that using music is essential, almost for any kind of quilting.

I look forward to more installments of your blog!


Katrina said...

Hi Annie;
Thank you so much for your really nice comments! It is nice to know that something that I have to offer will help someone. I teach a series of workshops on machine quilting and I find that with most people once you get them to practice they can relax and develop a good rhythm which leads to even stitches and greater confidence. Have fun with your new machine and I look forward to more installments of your Quilting Stash podcast.