A Simple Technique with Big Impact
Echo quilting is one of those free motion skills that every machine quilter should master.
Fast to do—because it requires no marking—it adds emphasis to applique and quilting designs with ease and is a much quicker alternative to micro-stippling or other fill stitches.
It also helps to emphasize those carefully stitched feathers.
By smushing down the batting around the outside edges of your feather design there is more contrast between the height or puffiness of the motif and the background stitching.
It is a form of quilting that can be done either by hand or machine.
A line of quilting that is stitched a uniform distance away from a fabric patch, applique piece or quilting motif.
If you stopped with the first line of stitching, it is called outline quilting.
If you continue by stitching another line a uniform distance away from the first, you are now echo quilting.
Continue adding lines of quilting in this manner until you are satisfied with the look.
Like any other type of free motion quilting this will take some practice. You are concentrating on your stitch length, following a line AND keeping the distance between stitching lines relatively even.
Again, be patient with yourself, this will take practice.
But the benefits to you are well-worth your efforts.
If you stitch by machine, use the edge of your darning foot as a guide to approximate a quarter inch distance. You can even echo the inside of an applique shape to add dimension and texture.
In hand quilting, the stitching lines are typically made a finger width apart. When you come to the end of your first round, you'll simply slide the needle in between the layers of the sandwich to maneuver your needle to the spot to begin your next row.
If you applique, you know that the applique, especially if done by hand, is the real star. Nothing should detract from it.
Echo around the design to add emphasis without distraction by repeating the outside line.
This stitching also compacts the batting around your design so that your applique comes forward visually.
This is an example of echoing around an appliqued shape, in this case, a Hawaiian quilt design.
Feather quilting is stunning and adds a real WOW factor to quilts.
Make those feathers stand out even more by adding a few rows of narrowly spaced stitching. It will compact the batting and accent the outline of the feathers and visually increase the WOW factor of the feathers.
To up the impact, change the colors of thread for succeeding lines of quilting.
Even a fine 100 wt silk thread can dazzle if you just change the thread colors.
Here is an example of echo quilting using a contrasting 100 wt silk thread in red for emphasis.
After you've quilted your feathered designs and added a few rows of echo quilting for emphasis, look for those small spaces on the inside of the feather plumes. They are a perfect spot for additional echo quilting.
For quilts where there is not much space for background quilting, consider echoing as your method to complete ALL the background quilting instead micro stippling. It's much faster and more interesting visually.
This is a section from Generations Quilt Pattern B120 called "Feathered Bellpull".
If you're having a hard time spacing your rows evenly, go ahead and mark your stitching lines for practice. Remember to follow the instructions on any marking tools you use to remove the marks.
A round darning foot WITHOUT an open toe is helpful for stitching lines a quarter inch apart. Just be sure the foot is round so your needle is an even distance away from the edge of the foot...all the way around.
For stitching lines less than a quarter inch apart, an open toe darning foot is easiest because there is nothing between your eyes and where the needle is going.
Read our Q&A on echo quilting to find out why you don't want to turn your quilt under the needle during this type of quilting.