Saturday, 8 December 2012

How I straight line quilt

I often get asked questions about my straight line quilting so I thought I'd set out how I do it.  As with anything on this blog, I completely ignore the rules about how things should be done and just aim for the way that suits me so take any advice from me with a pinch of salt.  I've scattered a few photos throughout the post of quilts I've straight line quilted.


1.   Backing: we all know that quilt backing is the most expensive part of the whole process so keep this cheap.  Whenever I need a quilt backing, I go straight to the sale section at Fat Quarter Shop.  You can always find something there that is perfect for the quilt you're working on and you can get it for a knockdown price - often as low as $5/yd if you choose well.

2.   Wadding:  I alternate between two waddings.  The first is a French cotton wadding which I buy from Oakshotthttp://www.oakshottfabrics.com.  It's super soft, warm, cosy and lofty.  Perfect for a quilt that will be used for snuggling on the sofa.  The other one I use is called Sew Simple Super Soft Cotton which I buy from Simply Solids.  It is warm but less snuggly and lofty.  When quilted this lies flatter showing the quilting off better and so I use this when I'm making a quilt for a magazine, for Fat Quarterly, for show or to sit on top of the rest of the bedding on a bed where it will add warmth but doesn't need to be snuggly.  I am going to trial a bamboo wadding from Oakshott soon and will let you know I get on with this - bamboo is supposed to be the Rolls-Royce of wadding so I'm excited for this one.


3.   Thread: I use only Aurifil because it is my favourite and if it aint broke, don't fix it.  50wt for when I want the quilting to add texture but melt into the background.  40wt when I want the quilting to stand out a bit more.  28wt if the quilting is going to be the star of the show.  You can buy Aurifil thread at the Village Haberdashery in the UK and at the Fat Quarter Shop in the US.

4.   Needles:  Again, I only use Superior Titanium Topstitch needles (which are now being stocked in the UK by Simply Solids).  80 for piecing lightweight fabrics like Liberty lawn and Oakshott shot cottons.  90 for piecing regular quilting cottons.  100 for quilting.  They cost more than other needles but last and stay sharp for so long that they're cheaper in the long run.

Kaffe Fassett Diagonal Madness

5.   Basting:  I baste larger quilts with quilting pins (bent safety pins) and smaller projects with basting spray.

6.   Marking the quilt:  don't be fooled into thinking you can just follow the pattern in the piecing as you quilt.  You will end up with a hot mess of not quite straight lines.  I mark quilting lines on the quilt top with a hera marker.   I start with a wide grid which I quilt.  I then mark a smaller grid in between these lines and then tend to quilt again in between these lines following the lines as a guide.  These final lines do not need to be marked as you can eyeball the half way gap between two parallel lines.  I like my straight line quilting lines to sit about 1" to 2" apart - this is quite dense quilting and is personal preference - I like the look of dense, even quilting.

Brit Quilt Swap

 7.   Stitch length: I use my machine's maxiumum stitch length which is 5.  Smaller stitches are slower, harder to unpick and can pucker the quilt more.

8.   Walking foot:  if you don't have one, get one.  They are built into some machines and, where they aren't, you can usually find one made for your machine or which will work on your machines.  Straight line quilting without a walking foot will leave you in a big old pucker mess as the layers all shift underneath the foot.

Harlequin quilt

9.   Gloves:  I use a pair of very grippy gardening gloves - these make it much easier to keep a strong hold on the quilt as you maneouvre it through the machine.

10.   Quilting table: my machine has a quilting table which I use for any quilt over about 35" square to hold as much of the quilt on top as possible.


11.   Quilting chair:  I also put a chair to my left which helps hold some of the weight of the quilt.

12.   About unpicking: when you first start quilting, it is tempting to stop and unpick every time you sneeze or your arms have a funny turn and make a weird wiggle or the quilt gets caught on your knee and veers off sideways.  Resist the temptation.  Two years down the line when you're sitting on the sofa watching re-runs of The Waltons in front of a roaring fire with a glass in your hand, you will not notice the imperfections.


13.  Wine, tv and music:  straight line quilting can be boring and repetitive.  The addition of music, tv, wine or any other distractions that come to mind can help pass the time.

And what about your top tips for straight line quilting?

52 comments:

  1. I am scared of my walking foot! It looks scary!

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  2. Great post! Fascinating. Any chance you could do a very quick line drawing showing me what lines you did first and your grid system? (just a box with lines on it and numbered?!) Sorry if I'm being thick its just easier to sink in if I see it.
    The bamboo stuff is AWESOME... I love it. And I just love sitting by the woodburner with a quilt watching the Waltons :-) (The Andy Griffiths Show is a great alternative by the way)
    Always so lovely to see your "showcase"... Penguins is still my all time favourite! x

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  3. Everything you've said is a big help, thanks! I take my huge quilts to the longarmer to be basted. It saves my knees, is affordable, and marks a grid for me too.

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  4. Great post! Thank you for that. I'm however jaleous about the prices for wadding which you have in UK ;) In Germany it's like double the price (for not so wide one).
    And I agree that Aurifil threads are great!

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  5. Thanks for sharing again, Lynne'. I tried using those big clips things to hold the quilt rolled in the harp. All they did was catch on the table edge and drag the quilt back.

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  6. Great post. I love straight line quilting too and do it mostly this way. I love my Hera marker too (it's mislaid at the moment and a knife is not doing the same job!)

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  7. Great post! I don't have a hera marker so I use a piece of blue painters tape to mark my first line and then I use the edge of my walking foot or my bar to do the other lines. I also flip my quilt different ways to reduce pull from sewing the same direction. I love the look of straight line quilting!

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  8. Loved this post Lynne! I have used bamboo and it is wonderful! so soft. It is warm but lofty and I liked that about it.

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  9. I love this post! I need a hera marker as I hear so much about them. Have you ever spray basted a big quilt?

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  10. My tip is that I don't bother marking and if the lines aren't straight (and they aren't) I just call it "organic lines" and go about my business.
    I have only actually made one this way and I am in love with it. The walking foot looks scary but it is a joy to work with (tell NurseJessi I said so!)

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  11. Thanks for all the tips. My question is: when quilting within previously quilting areas does it not pucker as you quilt towards the line?

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  12. I bought a walking foot for my old old Brother but have never figured out just how it goes on. Course if I did more than just look at it get intimidated and slip it back into the drawer, I might actually figure it out! Thank you so much for the tips.

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  13. I use painter's tape when stitching straight lines. I wrote about my experiments here:-

    http://boutschoisis.blogspot.fr/2011/07/le-progres-progress.html

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  14. Thanks for the tips, Lynne! I finally got a walking foot and tried straight line quilting for the first time and I definitely need that Hera marker. I'm going to try your tip about using a longer stitch length and I definitely need to stock up on the wine!

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  15. Thanks for the tips. I will try the wide grid and filling in between the next time - that's probably where I have gone wrong.

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  16. My walking foot has guides I can attach for straight line stitching. Great for cross hatching. I start in the middle and work opposite side I'd the middle lime to help keep the quit flat as possible. Loved this post...great info!

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  17. Lovely tips, I do many things the same as you which is comforting. The ironing board beside the table can also help hold the quilt at table height.

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  18. What a bunch of beautiful quilts you have shown us. Wow! I couldn't pick a favorite if I wanted to.

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  19. What about the bobbin thread? Do you match the bobbin thread to the top thread (50wt, 40wt, 28wt)? Or do you use a constant bobbin thread?

    I use pre-wound cotton bobbins for my bobbin.

    I like to quilt in an organic wavy line instead of straight, in the ditch quilting. I also like using non-straight stitches, such as the serpentine stitch on my machine, much like a sine wave.

    I also like using the 12 wt thread to follow lines on the fabric. I like fabric with straight lines for my mitered borders, so I can quilt on the fabric lines around the quilt border in matching thread. The 12 wt gives more 3d look to the lines in the fabric.

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  20. Great post, Lynne. Thanks for all the helpful tips and letting us see all your lovely quilts again.

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  21. Good tips. I also suggest starching the backing. It helps it slide better over the table and keeps the back from getting puckers as you quilt. Starching the top helps too but I usually do that as I piece it together.

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  22. Pinned!! Great great post - I really don't enjoy the quilting process...I'm a serial topper, but reading this beforehand may help. Thread is usally my downfall as I run out or my machine doesn't like it. Oh. Your Kaffe Fasset quilt is AMAZING!!!!!

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  23. Well done! I liked especially your instruction to resist unpicking. At the end you will not notice those hiccups.

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  24. Thanks for the tip about increasing your stitch length. I have not heard that before, and will give it a try. I also have to try a hera marker - I keep hearing good things about them. It's hard to imagine that the line will last more than a few seconds, but it sounds like it does!

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  25. Some tips I have never heard of...so thanks for posting them. Yep a glass of moscato eases my nerves when quilting!

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  26. I will be following your advice about wine, tv and music, though obviously I won't be sewing while doing this as I can't sew. Nice to see my quilts up there. The Penguin one is on the bed and I can see it from where I'm sitting and theyoutube quilt is next to me on the old Breton chest. Happiness.

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  27. Great post - thanks for sharing! It'll come as no surprise when I tell you that I'm a pernickety unpicker ;o)
    Before I started quilting my Stained QAL blocks I had what I thought was a brainwave: I filled two bobbins (same thread) and used one on the top in place of a reel as I thought I could keep an eye on how much thread I was using and I would avoid running out of bottom thread halfway along a line. It didn't work! I don't know if it was the double layer of wadding (although my tension looks spot-on) but I went through the bottom bobbin at about twice the rate of the top one. So much for my bright idea! (I'll try it again though, when I'm using a single layer of wadding, just in case!)
    My only handy hint is that if your quilt isn't gliding across your machine bed as much as you'd like then a quick spray and wipe with Mr Sheen (other furniture polishes are available!) makes a huge difference! Oh, and I don't use quilting pins (because they're so much more expensive), just normal (medium) safety pins but I do use a teaspoon to help me close them...

    P.S. I adore the quilts you dotted through the post!

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  28. Lynne, thank you so much for the tips. I have so many notes in my notebook from advice you've given. I finally started using my walking foot and WHAT A DIFFERENCE!

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  29. Yep like Leanne I use the ironing board to hold the quilt as I do not have a big table, start in the middle, and maybe alternate which edge I start on but usually can't be bothered!

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  30. Great tips! I thought I was bold by using 3 for my stitch length. Guess I need to crank the dial a little further next time!

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  31. Well said, very practical. I love the caution to relax and enjoy the processes. I usually have coffee handy when I'm quilting but I can see a distinct advantage to having wine. Will have to add it to my quilting tools.... Love your quilts. Thanks for sharing.

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  32. When you do use the Bamboo, please let us know what you think. I have used it and liked it altho it does tend to lint quite a bit, dont know if that the right term but you get bits of fluff all over your quilt when you put the layers together, and then it seems to come up through the needle while you're sewing so the machine needs a good clean at the end. Also someone told Jenny (Amitie) that it breaks down badly over time - Not really a worry for me as I dont see any of my quits becoming heirlooms!

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  33. Thank you for this post....I learned so much. I am now going to use 5 for my stitch length.

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  34. Great post. I do most of what you suggest, but I'm going to try cranking up the stitch length to max!

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  35. A friend recently gave me an inexpensive used Brother machine with a large throat. I bought a walking foot and a darning foot for it, so that I can use it exclusively for quilting. I haven't had a chance to try it out yet, but I will use your advice when I do.

    When you take a short break from straight line stitching, check out this adorable Christmas video of Jimmy Fallon, Mariah Carey & The Roots: "All I Want For Christmas Is You" using only elementary school musical instruments here--->

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=sWEfszb9h8Q

    Happy Holidays!
    Nancy

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  36. So glad you shared. I'm new to quilting and while I can piece the top easily enough, the actual quilting needs some work :)

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  37. Thanks for all the tips. Lots of great information here.

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  38. Great tips, Lynne! I will add that if you are looking for great prices on quality fabric for backing, you can't beat connectingthreads.com - they routinely have great fabric in their sale section for as low as $2.96 a yard (and sometimes even lower!) and have free shipping if you order over $50. Unfortunately, they do not ship outside of the US and Canada.....

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  39. i do all the same things. I love my hera marker. i will add that my lines tend to be straighter the faster i sew. Also, if I have to stop to adjust the quilt or my hands, i stop on a seam. That way if my line wavers a bit, it will be 'hidden' and less noticeable.

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  40. Great tips Lynne. I mark the lines out with the Hera marker too. Works great with larger quilts. I also have a quilting pen but it's harder to draw on the quilt and the lines sometimes ends up a bit uneven. So Hera marker works best for men's :)

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  41. Great post. I have my mom's very old hera marker but for some reason, I can't imagine the marks being visible for long. I may have to try it anyway.

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  42. Don't do much quilting in straight lines but my tip is to look at where you are going rather than where the needle is! I think it makes for better lines whether straight or FMQ - after all we do look ahead when driving and that works most of the time!

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  43. Yhankyou for all the tips especially about the needles and thread weights. Really useful. Love your blog.

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  44. So funny about the wine! I don't drink, but my first tip to everyone learning how to quilt is chill out and get yourself a huge glass of your favorite drink. I'm a diet pepsi freak ;)

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  45. Great post.
    Buy one of those backpack Camel bags from a camping/ Bush walking supplier. It has a long straw around to your mouth. Fill with drink of choice. Sip and sew! No spills...no stains!

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  46. I love the look of straight line quilting. You gave some great tips, thanks!

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  47. Beautiful quilt and awesome quilting! A friend told me to try using painters tape(it's usually blue and has a low tackiness)...in all different widths. You can stick it down and then stitch on both sides of the tape. I has worked great for me,especially because I hate to mark quilts!

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  48. You really use 5 stitch length? I never go over 3 (2.5 is default setting). I would love to see a close up of the stitching.
    I love the look of dense straight line quilting but never dared to use it on a bigger quilt. My layers tend to shift.
    Susanne

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  49. I really like your triangle swap quilt. I'm new to quilting, but been sewing for years. Can you tell me or anyone, what the name of that pattern is. I love the log cabin strip look and this looks similar while being rather unique.
    Laura

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    Replies
    1. I just cut equilateral triangles and then log cabinned them!

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    2. Thanks! I'm going to have to give it a go. I really like how it looks.

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