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Appearance of quilting on the backing fabric

by Licia
(Melbourne Australia)

Licia writes...

I've completed two children's quilts.

I'd like to stitch in the ditch around the large squares, stipple in the white background surrounding some large animal pictures printed in the fabric and outline these same animals.

Will this combination of quilting methods look "messy" on the back? Should I quilt the front separately? I am very new at machine quilting!
Thanks for your advice.

Julie replies...

This is a very good plan for quilting your quilt AND it'll give you lots of practice with both your walking foot and darning foot.

The initial ditch quilting helps to stabilize the quilt sandwich so that you can pull out a lot of the safety pins. That will make it easier when you are free motion quilting. Less starting and stopping to remove a basting pin.

Don't worry about quilting the front separately, there really is no need to go to that extra work.

To keep the back of your quilt looking neat and tidy, I've got several recommendations.
  • Use a patterned quilt backing fabric to camoflage your quilting stitches, as well as your starts and stops. When you're at a big quilt show, ask a white-glover to see the back of the award winning quilts. You'll almost always find they've used a patterned back for this very reason.

  • Use the same (color) thread in both the needle and bobbin. That way, any slight or intermittent tension problems will be hidden (i.e. you won't be able to see the bobbin thread loop around the needle thread from the front side of the quilt. Preferably the thread will blend with the backing fabric.

  • Make it a habit to ALWAYS bring the bobbin thread to the top of your quilt sandwich as you begin a line of stitching. It's much too easy to sew over bobbin threads on the underside of your quilt. The thread tails are a pain to pick out because the needle has usually pierced the thread tails and you've got to cut them out.

    Some machines need a bit of tension on that first stitch to make a nice first stitch. Holding onto the bobbin thread from the top does just that.

  • Always test your quilting threads, needles, tension adjustments and stitch patterns on a practice quilt sandwich. Every once in awhile, something that you thought would work perfectly on your quilt, doesn't. Or a combination that you'd never thought of is perfect. Make a small practice sandwich from the leftovers of making your quilt. It doesn't have to be pretty or very big. But you'll have a better idea of how your finished quilt will look if you test the materials out first.

    I recently worked on our guild's raffle quilt, Stars of the Prairie. I'd have never thought to use a shiny rayon thread on this very traditional looking quilt. But after seeing a sample stitched out, I was sold.

    If the quilting decision had been solely based on how the thread looked on the cone, we'd have missed a terrific combination with stunning results for our Guild's raffle quilt.

Good luck with finishing these quilts. I'd love to see how they turn out. Think about sharing them with our visitors in our Show and Tell Quilt Pictures.

Licia, I hope you find these tips helpful! Readers, please do add your tips with the 'Comment' link below! Your ideas are always appreciated. Thank you.

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