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Outline quilting

by Sandra Wynne
(Flourtown, PA, USA)

My quilt is finished-now I want to outline stitch 1/4 inch from the seam and outline each block.

Is there any easy way to do it?


I wish I could tell you that there is, but I can't. It'll have to be done a stitch at a time...

Securing starts and stops...

If you are machine quilting and outlining each of the patches in a block, you are going to have a lot of starts and stops to contend with. You'll need to decide if you'll use microstitching or hand tie the thread tails to secure your starts and stops. The microstitching is faster.

However, if you plan to use a shiny or metallic, decorative thread for this quilting, personally I would choose to hand knot the thread so that the 'shine' of the thread isn't lost in the small microstitches.

If the thread has a matte finish (most cottons) then I'd probably use microstitching to save time. But I would do a test just to be sure that I was satisfied with the 'look' of the quilting before I started on the actual quilt.

Marking (or not) the quilting lines...

To avoid having to mark each line, do some testing with your chosen quilting foot to identify where 1/4" is in relation to the edge of the foot. Or you could use a chalk marker to mark the quarter inch line as you proceed with your quilting. Test the chalk to make sure that you can remove it easily (I continue to get emails from readers who are having problems removing colored chalk from their quilts) or use white.

If you're hand quilting, you'll be able to slide your needle between the layers of the quilt to move to the next section to outline stitch.

I'd love to see your quilt when it's finished. Please do share it with us via the 'Share Your Quilts' page so others can enjoy it and celebrate its completion with you, too!


Julie Baird

Comments for Outline quilting

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Outline quilting
by: Jay

First of all, let me say, I LOVE this site!!! I am fairly new to quilting, and am always browsing the internet looking for help and idea - don't need to brows anymore, found my go to site!

With regards to the 1/4 outline quilting, the very first quilt I ever did was a queen sized, hand appliqués quilt with a tremendous amount of outline quilting.

My instructor suggested I use 1/4 inch masking tape for quilters to mark my quilt (the quilt was white background). I loved it so much, that I continue to use it when I machine quilt!

Thanks again for all the great advice!!!

From the Editor:
You made my day today, Jay! Thank you for the compliment and letting me know that the information is helpful to you. I'm blushing at your kind words!

~ Julie

Outline Quilting
by: Jo Goranson

As Julie said, there will be a lot of starting and stopping, but I have done this by just lifting the presser foot and moving the needle to a new place. This does leave extra threads on the underside of the fabric, but if you plan it out so you are not criss-crossing constantly it can be done. I then just tie off the threads and bury them. There is a foot that might help you so you don't have to do any marking. You might already have it. It is called a "blind hem foot" and mine has a guide that is in the middle of the foot instead of like the 1/4" seam foot where the guide is at the side. It is normally used to do blind hems and the guide helps feed the fabric sew a straight nearly invisible blind-hem. The problem with using this foot when you are quilting is that you run the risk of not having all three layers moving through the machine at the same time as you do with a walking foot. However, if you use your walking foot with invisible polyester (not nylon) thread in both the top and bobbin and stitch in the ditch along the seams in your quilt that should keep all the layers moving through the machine at the same time when you use the blind hem foot.

You can also outline your blocks by not going around each block, but just going in a straight line and then follow each straight line and you will have outlined without going around corners. I hope that makes sense.

For example if you have square blocks you would quilt across the whole line of blocks going horizontally inside and outside of the seam lines, then you would turn the quilt and do the same thing on the vertical lines. I think this would work even if you had triangles, etc. The blind hem foot would only work if your machine allows you to move the needle from the center position.

If you can't change the needle position the best and easiest way to outline quilt is to learn how to free-motion quilt. If you haven't tried doing this don't be intimidated. It is not as hard as it looks. Since I don't have the space to do it here I will reveal my secret of learning how to free motion quilt in another article. Since I love to answer the questions Julie gets I think I'll start my own page!

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