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Quilting from the back of my quilt

Miss Geneva Hill writes...

I was just wondering if it was alright to quilt on the back using my machine. I am making a double wedding ring quilt as you go.

All my interior fabrics are prints and the back is a solid.

I figure if I quilt from the back it would be ok.

Thanking You.

God Bless

Miss Geneva Hill

Julie replies...

The simple answer, Miss Geneva, is that it is YOUR quilt and you can do it ANYWAY you want. And in fact, the BEST way, is the way that works BEST for you.

What I try to do is give you enough information—usually through asking thought provoking questions—or simply relating to you what has worked for me.

So here goes...

First my mind is a bit befuddled at how to 'quilt as you go' a double wedding ring. But if it's easier to see what you're doing on the backing side of the units, then GO FOR IT! Quilting should be fun (well most of the time, anyway, truly I'm not a big fan of a day of nothing but rotary cutting!)

The thing to watch out for is your tension.

When we quilt from the front, we see exactly how the quilt will look from the viewer's vantage point. If your tension goes off a bit, you can see it right away and fix it. Many times we (definitely me) will settle for less than perfect stitches on the back of a quilt because no one will see them.

There's always lots more quilts to make.

By quilting from the backing side, you can't see what's happening on the 'pretty' side as you stitch. So my suggestion is that you frequently check the stitching. Catch any tension problems as soon as they happen so you don't end up with a bunch of ripping.

If you have minor tension issues, infrequently, the simplest way to avoid the problem is to use the same thread in both the needle and the bobbin. Then if a little loop of needle thread shows over the bobbin thread, it's all the same color and won't be noticeable.

In fact, the only reason I would choose NOT to do as you suggest, is if I was constantly fighting with my machine's tension.

Readers, your opinions and experiences are valuable! What would you suggest? Share your thoughts using the 'comments' link just below!

Good luck with your quilt Miss Geneva! We'd love to see it when it's finished!


Julie Baird

Comments for Quilting from the back of my quilt

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Quilting from the back
by: Anonymous

I quilted one of my first machine quilted quilts from the back because I needed to draw the pattern on the quilt and I couldn't see the lines because the quilt top had a lot of prints that made it hard to see. So...I free hand drew an all-over pattern on the back and quilted from the back.

The one problem I faced was that my quilt would often get hung up at the needle hole of my Supreme Slider when it came to a seam. Then it would suddenly give and I'd have big stitches. I solved the problem by carefully taping down the edge of the Supreme Slider hole.

That's the only time I've quilted from the back because it's easier to keep an eye on the tension if you do it on the quilt top side.

However, the quilt turned out great.

Don't quilt from the back of the quilt
by: Jo Goranson "The Thread Lady"

Julie is right that it is your quilt and you can quilt it any way you want, but I am more adamant than she is about never quilting except on the front of the quilt. As someone who is an authority on threads and how they work and on thread tension, (I used to teach thread techniques at quilt shops all over the area I live in). I would never, ever quilt from the back of a quilt unless it was some kind of demonstration. A quilt that you have spent hours on, and I am sure the quilt you are referring to took many hours to piece, needs to be quilted so that the good stitches are on the front. I have a Janome 6500 and even though I test all of my threads and quilt patterns I plan to use on a practice piece made up of the fabrics, batting and backing I used on the quilt I made before I do any quilting on the real quilt I always find something happens somewhere that doesn't go right on the back and it is so horrible that it has to be ripped out. I hate ripping things out, which is why I make sure I like the thread I have chosen to quilt with and the way I am going to quilt by first auditioning both on my practice quilt piece. I think I know what is going to look good, but I have some practice pieces where I have tried out at least 10 different threads and quilt patterns before I find just the right ones that I like. If I had started in with my original choice of thread or pattern on the real quilt I would have had to rip it out. I teach free motion quilting also and I have my students look at the back of their quilts while they are practicing to show them that even though they think everything is going along smoothly on the front, the back may be full of "birds nests". I have talked to my dealer about this and he says he has no explanation for why that happens but it happens all the time to every quilter he knows and to all of the employees who work in his shop. He is the grandson of the original owner and grew up in the shop which has been in business for 64 years and he knows sewing machines and how they behave.

So my advice is never quilt a quilt from the back because you will be ripping out what you have done even when you think everything is going well. I enter quilts in judged shows and if I quilted from the back I wouldn't be able to bury my threads and make the back of the quilt look good too. And the judges do look at the back of the wall hangings we do and comment on what they feel is sloppy work! I don't worry too much about how my wall hangings look on the back unless I am entering them in a show, but I do care about my non judged quilts and I would never hang one that had threads on the back that were way off tension or looked horrible. One of my quilting teachers told me to always use a printed fabric on the back of a quilt because it will hide a lot and that is what I do because she was right. If you put a plain fabric on the back you see every stitch and every place that the tension if off just a little. A print hides these little imperfections and since wall quilts rarely are seen from the back except at quilt shows or quilt guilds when people want to see the back I go with a print every time and the fabrics I use on the front of my quilts are ones that I have dyed myself if it is a quilt for a judged show. I do use store bought fabric, but I always buy it from a quilt shop because I want the best quality fabric in my quilts so they will last. That goes for the baby quilts I love to make also.

Just to show you what I mean by a practice quilt where I audition the threads and the way I am going to quilt the real quilt I going to put a picture of one of my "practice pieces" on the site. Then you will see what I mean by auditioning the thread and quilt pattern before you start on the real quilt.

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