Machine Quilting a Beginner Quilting Project
I am quilting a table runner and the first one I have made. I have gotten the appliques sewn on and I am now need to quilt the seams and I need to know how to do it and the best way to do the corners and to make it look continuous.
My instructor (who did nothing but confuse me when I asked her about it over and over) made it seem very hard and I am all confused on what stitch to use and how to make it look continuous and not mess up the seams.
To answer your question, I'm going to start you from the beginning of the quilting process. I've put links to information that is on the website already. Just use your back button to return here to this page.
Gather Your Machine Quilting Supplies
To machine quilt your table runner you'll need:
- Your quilt top, neatly pressed, thread tails clipped, make sure all the seams on the outside edge are completely stitched. Because we don't back stitch for piecing, sometimes those seams want to pull apart. Re-stitch them now if needed as it will make your machine quilting easier.
- Cotton batting: "Quilter's Dream" or "Warm and Natural" will do fine. Cotton is nice for beginning quilting because it will "stick" to your quilt fabric. A polyester batting has a tendency to slide around a bit, so I discourage its use for beginners.
- 100% cotton thread: Aurifil or Masterpiece (by Superior Threads) works beautifully
- Monofilament thread: This thread is optional, but if you will be sewing over many different colors of fabric, a monofilament or clear thread will help to hide your stitches.
YLI, Superior Threads and Sew Art all make a nice monofilament thread. This thread should feel much like hair and break easily when you pull it between your hands. It is sold in quilt stores. Joann's carries Sulky monofilament and that will work too. It should not feel like fishing line. My favorites are YLI and SewArt.
- Safety pins: #1, nickel plated, rust proof. You'll need enough safety pins so that when you put your hand on the pin basted quilt top, you feel at least two pins.
- Sewing machine needles: A Universal 80/12 is fine for this beginning quilting project unless you've used batik fabrics. For batiks, use an 80/12 Microtex Sharp needle.
- Sewing machine: in good working order with a walking foot. If you have a Pfaff machine, it comes with an IDT foot that replaces the need for a walking foot. A walking foot is sometimes called an even feed or quilting foot, too.
- Masking tape - not blue painter's tape, just plain old masking tape
Preparing the Batting and Backing
Because this is a table runner, batting and backing grain lines are unimportant. If this were a wall hanging, the lengthwise grain line should run from North to South to add stability to your quilt.
If you've pre-washed your quilt top fabrics, then pre-wash your backing. If you haven't prewashed your fabric you may want to do a bleed test.
Cut your quilt backing 2 inches larger on each side. If your table runner is 16" x 39" you'd cut the backing 20" x 43". Cut your cotton batting the same.
Layering and Basting the Quilt SandwichLayering the Quilt Sandwich
Unlike hand quilting where your quilt sandwich is basted together with needle and thread, a quilt to be machine-quilted is basted with safety pins.
Lay out the backing on a large, flat, clean surface. The backing is smoothed and taped to the surface with masking tape. This prevents it from shifting during the basting process.
- First tape the centers. Tape the middle of one side. Then the middle of the opposite side. Then the middle of one of the remaining sides and it’s opposite.
- Next, tape one set of opposing corners. Then the other.
- Finally, move around the backing filling in with tape.
As you tape, remember:The backing is not stretched, but rather pulled taut.
The idea is to have a flat, non-puckered back taped to your basting surface. The grain line should not be distorted. If there are ripples in the backing remove the necessary pieces of masking tape and redistribute the fabric. In fact, it is the norm to adjust some of your tape pieces during this process.
The batting is centered and smoothed over the backing and NOT
taped or pinned. The top is then centered and smoothed over the batting/back. Pin Basting
With a large supply of #1, nickel plated safety pins, pin out from the center, working out to the outside edges. Pins should be 3” to 4” apart; you can have more if you feel the need. (Laura Heine, an award winning quilter and author, wrote in her book, “Color Fusion” that she places her safety pins 1 to 2 inches apart. That’s a lot of pins, but it works for her.) When you place your palm flat on the quilt, you should feel at least two pins. If not, add more. These pins are holding your quilt sandwich together so that it doesn't shift while you are quilting.
Avoid pinning through seam allowances and try to pin far enough away from a seam that will be quilted “in the ditch” or a design line so that your walking foot will not catch on the safety pins. This saves you time.
Once you're satisfied you've got enough pins in place, close them and finally remove all the masking tape. You're ready to go to the sewing machine.
Note that for your table runner, you'll only need to add only 4" to the length and width to arrive at the backing and batting size. That is because your table runner is a smaller quilt.
Sewing Machine Setup
Install your quilting foot
(sometimes called a walking or even foot on your sewing machine. Set your straight stitch length to 2.5 for cotton threads or 2.0 if you choose to use a monofilament thread in the needle and a 50 wt cotton thread in the bobbin. I like the shorter stitch length for monofilament or clear thread. It reduces the shine from the thread.
If your sewing machine has a needle stop down setting, use it. It's like having an extra hand while you're working.
Does your sewing machine have a speed control? Use it. Set the maximum speed your machine stitches at down a notch or two. Quilting is not a race. Stitching at a slower speed gives your more control.
Make a practice quilt sandwich with scraps from your quilt fabric and batting. It doesn't have to be big, 6" square or 3" x 6" will work, you just need a piece big enough to practice some stitching on.
Now sew a line of straight stitches. Check your sewing machine tension
. Adjust it as necessary so that no bobbin thread shows on the top and no needle thread shows on the bottom. If you've used clear thread, do you like the look or does it show too much? If you've used clear with "muddied" or "country" colors, sometimes the smoke colored monofilament thread will show less.
Machine Quilting Techniques
There are a couple of machine quilting techniques that you'll use when quilting your table runner with a walking foot. They are:
The rest of the information on that page is specifically for free motion quilting with a darning foot. (Remember we have already selected our straight stitch and stitch length.)
Next we'll move on to the actual quilting. See the "Comments" below...