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What’s the best way to machine quilt?

Despot1 | Posted in Quilting and Home Decor on

I started this thread because I look at pictures and read articles in quilting magazines and just DROOL over the lovely finished pieces. I read the articles very carefully and most of them are excellent at providing details on how to cut the blocks, how to piece together – but when it comes to the quilting part (which to my mind makes the quilt) – it usually says ‘quilt as desired’.  GRRRRR!!!!!

I don’t know about all of you but I don’t have a $10,000 quilting machine (and even if I did, no room to put it!!!). I do have a gorgeous Baby Lock Quilter’s Pro that my wonderful mom bought me for my birthday – a 9 inch bed and the ability to cut the thread without leaving a tail is a true luxury – plus the SPEED! oh boy!

But even so – if I am trying to quilt even a 5′ by 5′ quilt and I am not doing it in the ditch, I still have a lot of trouble manuvering all that fabric. So here is what I tried so far;

Installed my walking foot. Definitely helps but not enough.

Tried a modified version of Georgia Bonesteel’s lap quilting technique. I divide the quilt into 3 sections, quilt each seaprately, then attach then together and hand stitch the back seams. Not too bad but a lot of hand sewing.

Found a new technique which I need to try – make the quilt top and cut the backing to size – but cut the batting into 3 separate sections. Insert the middle piece of batting and roll up the 2 sides. Then quilt. Add each end piece, whip stitching each to the middle piece, then quilt. Supposedly eliminates the hand sewing on the back while reducing the bulk.

I would love to be more creative with my quilting, but manuvering all that fabric, even in smaller sections, is a challenge. Any suggestions/tips?

I attached a baby quilt that I did using Georgia’s technique.




  1. Palady | | #1

    Congratualtions are your foray into quilting.   MO, the issues you address might deal with experience.  The more you quilt, the more "comfortable' you become in handling, a bit more so anticipating  the nuances, the more satisfied you'll become with your finished piece. 

    Stitching-in-the-ditch sometimes requires using a single toed zipper foot.  I say this from fashion sewing.  My quilting effrots lean to very small projects. 

    When the directions specify quilt as desired perhaps this means the overall design.  The doing is to a degree - creative.

    As to hand sewing.  many sewists abhore the doing.  But really, MO, sometimes it is the ONLY way to go to get the desired end result.

    From my vantage point, your baby quilt is nicely done.


    1. Despot1 | | #2

      Thank you - the baby quilt was fun and went to a friend of mine in France who was delighted. I have made a number of baby quilts, table runners, wall hangings, etc as well as full size (never dared do a queen or king size, however) but the only good way I have found so far to get some of the more intricate quilt patterns is to do it by hand - I like to hand sew and quilt but it just takes so long!

      So what I am trying to find out is whether there is a reasonably easy way to do some of the curved patterns and stippling on a machine that is fairly basic (i.e. not a Janome with a quilt frame) without running into the problems of bunching and pleating that always seems to happen!

      Piecing the sections so far seems to be a good way to get the intricacies I am looking for wihtout having to handle a 5 ft x 5 ft piece through the machine but was wondering if anyone else had a different technique.

      1. Palady | | #3

        Do you think it would be of more value to you to post on a Quitling Forum?  A Google search brought up some you can consider browsing.


        Members there might have the sort of experience to steer you in the direction your wanting.


        1. Despot1 | | #4

          What a great idea! Thanks!

          1. User avater
            JunkQueen | | #5

            There used to be a very talented woman who posted regularly on the forum named Damascusannie.  Annie quilted exclusively (to the best of my memory) on treadle sewing machines.  Her quilts were exquisite and she taught classes.  I believe she lived in Wisconsin.  I just checked her profile and she's not posted in almost a year.  That said, she may still look in occasionally without logging in.  There USED to be an option for emailing other users if the individual user allowed it, but, alas, I don't see that option any more.  (That could be her restriction, I've not looked at other users......)

            My point is, you might use her name as the topic and she might respond to you, or other members may still be in contact with her and give her a heads up.  Another possibility is to Google variations on her name and treadle machine quilting.  I know she used to hold seminars. 

            Hope this helps a bit.

  2. meg | | #6

    I took Harriet Hargraves' machine quilting class last year at  Vermont Quilt Festival.  She is a GREAT teacher, with great techniques.  She's written a wonderful book:  Heirloom Machine Quilting; I highly recommend it.  Also, she's begun a workbook series and it's great, too.  Her quilts are fantastic and they're all quilted on a domestic sewing machine; you can spend your $10K on fabric instead.

  3. Palady | | #7

    The new format has indeed brought man of us to our knees Junkqueen.   Cutting & pasting along with a few of the "older doings" fail or are yet ellusive.  Maybe us "oldies" practicing patience & persistance is the better.  Some of the younger folks might pay heed.


  4. deemail | | #8

    You are on the right track, investigating and trying for yourself.  Any machine will quilt quite nicely if you take off the foot and remember to put the foot lever DOWN and just sew.  there are embroidery and quilting feet out there that are universal, but honestly, I still usually just take the foot off and put the lever down and go....you can make squiggles, simple flowers (daisies are easy), zigzags, and even write cursive with it.  It is a bit like writing by moving the paper and holding the pencil (machine) still, but with a bit of practice, it's easy.  Lots of safety pins or simple, huge squares BASTED with your biggest stitch, garden gloves with the little grippy bumps, and lots of thread, that's all you need to practice and practice and practice.  A friend of mine cuts the last 1/2 inch of her gloves off to facilitate finger use, but i leave mine intact....you might try both...  Of course, if you are stitching in the ditch, you will leave your foot on and let it do the spacing for you, when you sew 'free motion' you determine the stitch length by how fast you sew and how fast you move the quilt 'sandwich'.  

    Handling the bulk of the fabric is best accomplished with bicycle clips, big table with the machine pushed back a bit more than usual, (mine is about 10 inches from the edge of the table, but I have long arms) and lots of basting (pin or stitch).  

    If you are half done and the fabric needs to move a different direction, an adjustable ironing board, set at table height can be moved as you need when the bulk shifts from one area to another, (I have several ironing boards that I have picked up at yard sales, great even for temporary sewing table and you can even stick your pins into the end!)  

    pps.   sewing or cutting table not big enough?  put two ironing boards at the same height, several feet apart, plywood on top and go....hmmm...it just occcurred to me that a body sized hole in the middle of the plywood might give you a nice table that surrounds you for the bulk...oilcloth stapled on for smooth surface, and the height would be adjustable.  When not in use, both ironing boards and the plywood would store under a bed or behind a door...you never know...hope something in here helps...

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