Machine Quilting Ideas

Once you’ve pieced and pressed your quilt top, how do you quilt your quilt? Machine quilting your quilt has become more popular over the years as techniques, tools, and technology have changed to make it easier and more affordable.

machine quilting walking foot
Straight-line machine quilting with a walking foot.

Also, as quilters age, they often find that hand quilting is no longer an option, due to arthritis and other ailments that make handwork difficult.

So, what are the options for how to machine quilt your quilt?

Machine quilting on a home sewing machine

With a little practice and some machine quilting lessons, many quilters find they can learn to quilt on a home sewing machine.

Free-motion Quilting

One way is to drop the feed dogs and quilt with free-motion quilting motifs, using an open-toe or darning foot. This type of quilting can range from a simple meander stitch or stipple quilting to more elaborate quilt motifs like leaves, flowers and other shapes.

Walking Foot

Recently, quilters have discovered the benefits of using a walking foot to machine quilt. The walking foot is an attachment that usually comes with the newer machines, but can also be purchased separately. It grabs the quilt sandwich and moves the top, batting, and backing fabric together, giving you even stitching without slipping and creating tucks.

machine quilting serpentine
With a walking foot and an elongated stitch like the serpentine, you can quilt your quilts on a home machine.

A walking foot makes beautiful straight-line quilting, but you can also use it with your machine’s novelty stitches to create interesting quilt lines. For example, when elongated, the serpentine stitch (normally used to stitch elastic) creates a beautiful undulating line. And the quilting goes quickly!

Make some sample quilt sandwiches, attach your walking foot, and play around to see what you can discover.

Here are some tips for using a walking foot, from expert quilter and instructor Catherine Redford:

  • Make sure that seams are even and well-pressed.
  • Open seams will lay flatter, but pressing to one side makes them stronger. However you press your seams, make sure the block is completely flat with no tucks.
  • If your top “drags,” adjust your presser foot pressure.
  • If your machine does not have this capability, alternate the direction of each sewing line.Instead of marking quilting lines, choose a seam to guide the first line of stitching. Then use the edge of the walking foot from there. If the seam is incomplete, use painter’s tape as a guide.
  • Use the edge of the foot against the painter’s tape. If you sew right next to the tape, one accidental stitch through the tape leaves the needle gummy and needing replacement.

Longarm machine quilting

longarm machine quilting
Quilting on a longarm machine in our New Hampshire store.

If you have a very large quilt and a typical home sewing machine, it will be difficult to quilt it at home unless you own a longarm machine. A longarm feeds the entire quilt sandwich onto the frame and freestyles or uses longarm quilting patterns to quilt the quilt.

It takes special training to use a longarm and the machines are expensive, so not everyone can own or use one. But there are many longarm quilting services popping up where you can take or send you quilt to be quilted for a fee.

We have one of those at our Keepsake Quilting store in New Hampshire; you can bring the quilt in or mail it to us. With certification, we’ll let you use our machine to quilt your quilt yourself.

Do you have your own longarm and want to improve your skills or get certified to start your own business? There are online classes for that, too.

How do you prefer to quilt your quilts? By hand or machine? At home or at a service? Leave your comments and tips below.

Happy quilting!

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How To Quilt
Cate Prato

About Cate Prato

Cate Coulacos Prato loves fabric, thread, and dabbles in all types of fabric art. As Senior Online Editor for Keepsake Quilting, she welcomes your thoughts, ideas, suggestions, and discussion on quilts, quilting, fabric shopping, and the quilting community.

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