expect machine quilting to look like hand quilting!
It is a
great way to finish many things, and it is very attractive in its own
fashion! It doesn’t need to imitate hand quilting. Look for interesting
threads and techniques to make the machine quilting an important design
Machine quilting takes time to learn and practice to do well. It will
become easier and faster as you practice it, but at first it may seem
awkward, and you may have trouble getting the tension and stitch length
just right. Don’t give up early, and don’t start on your favorite quilt
Machine quilting requires the right tools. For straight lines and very
gentle curves, use a walking foot. For the curved and stippling (free
motion) patterns, use a darning foot. You will need to know how to
lower your feed dogs. (Some machines have a little plastic cover for
them instead.) In addition, it's helpful to be able to release or lower
the pressure on your presser foot. Check your manual to see if you can
do this. A flat bed for your sewing machine is very useful. This might
be part of your sewing machine, or a special drop-in table, or you can
buy or make one.
A clean machine is a happy machine. Begin by swabbing the accessible
parts of your machine and bobbin casing with a soft paintbrush. Very
long tweezers can reach into the machine to clean out threads that are
caught or loose inside the machine. Get out all the lint and thread.
Wipe the exterior of the machine clean. Don’t use compressed air
to clean your computerized machine. Unless your
specifically designed to be oil-free, you should oil your machine
regularly. After oiling, wipe away the excess oil and sew through some
scrap fabric to make sure it's all absorbed or removed.
your needle frequently. Schmetz makes needles designed for machine
quilting or you can use a universal size 12 sharp. Your needle will
dull faster if you use a polyester batt. You may require several
needles to quilt a big bed quilt.
Machine quilting requires the same careful layering and basting as hand
quilting. This is worth the time to do right. The long threads of hand
basting are a real nuisance when you are machine quilting. Safety pins
work well, but you need to remove them as you quilt or sew
around them. I like to use the Quilt-tak ® for
both machine and hand quilting. It doesn’t leave such big holes
as safety pins, and it takes a fraction of the time to baste a quilt!
It's safer than safety pins, since nothing breaks if you stitch through
one. The Quilt Tak is more expensive than other brands of
guns, but I have found it to be more reliable and less prone to
the feed dogs while using the darning foot.
pressure on the presser (darning) foot.
your needle in the Stop Down position if you can.
sharp needles - change frequently.
at the edge or in a seam whenever possible.
draw the bobbin thread to the top of the quilt.
both threads in your left hand when you start sewing.
the back of your quilt periodically.
PRACTICE AND EXPERIMENT!!!
Make a practice piece (or two)
For your first attempts at machine quilting, use two pieces of cotton
fabric, approximately 20" square. "Fat Quarters" work fine, but don't
spend money on these pieces. Use your ugliest scraps.
Sandwich them with a cotton batt about the same size and use safety
pins or the Quilt-Tak
® to baste the three layers together.
Use two different colors of thread (one for the top and one in the
bobbin) so you can judge the tensions. Both colors should contrast with
the fabrics you are using.
© 1997 Catherine Timmons