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Machine Quilting Circles

by Paula R
(Montgomery, IL)

I'm trying to quilt my "sandwich", and I want to make circles, but I don't know if I'm supposed to use the darning foot to do that, or just a walking foot.


I'm beginning to think I should start off every reply with the words, "It depends!" I seem to be writing them so much these days...(very big smile!)

But the great thing about quilting is that there is never just one way to get things done!

If you are comfortable with free motion quilting (free dogs down, darning foot on, you are in control of the moving the quilt sandwich under the needle and creating the stitch length) then ABSOLUTELY use the darning foot!!!

It's so much easier because you don't need to turn the quilt sandwich under the needle.

A walking foot can be tricky...

Using your walking foot can cause several problems.

Regardless of the size of your quilt, quilting with a walking foot will mean you are constantly turning the quilt sandwich, adjusting the layers and starting and stopping your stitching.

Every time you turn the quilt sandwich under the needle, it creates an opportunity to either:

  • Stress the needle by bending it. Bend it too much and it will hit the throat plate and break.

  • Create tucks as the quilt sandwich is manipulated, both on the back and/or the front.

  • Create jagged circles. Starting and stopping smoothly in the middle of a curve is somewhat difficult to do. That first stitch when you start quilting again is the hardest to keep in line.
If you must use a walking foot, then larger circles on a smaller quilt would be easier to stitch than smallish circles and/or a larger quilt sandwich.

If you are new to free motion quilting...

...and are frustrated with your abilities to stitch on the drawn line of the circle, remember:

  • Keep your eyes a bit ahead of where you are stitching. I keep mine about 1/4" ahead of the needle or at the spot on my darning foot where the drawn line meets the foot. Your 'comfort zone' may be different but 1/4" or so is a good place to start.

  • Whatever you do, don't look at the needle, itself, as it pierces the fabric. If you do, you won't know where you are going. It'll be harder to stay on the drawn line.

  • Slow down the speed of your sewing machine, until it stitches only as fast as you can keep up with. I typically set my speed at 60% when following a marked line. My hand movements are deliberate and constant. The foot pedal is pushed to the ground. It's a nice rhythm that I can always keep up with. Sometimes it does feel slow, but the result is good and worth the few extra seconds.

Paula, I hope this information has provided some helpful hints. Please let me know if you need more information!

Readers! Suggestions? Please use the 'Comment' link below to offer your assistance if you can.

Thank you!


Julie Baird

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