Quilting is just sewing through layers. Whilst there are buzz words and new sewing machine feet to use, it is essential to remember it is not new. So let’s discuss what you need to start quilting with your sewing machine.

Start Quilting With Your Sewing Machine

There are three types of quilting hand quilting, walking foot machine quilting and free-motion machine quilting. This blog covers quilting with a sewing machine.

Before you start quilting with your sewing machine, you will need to make a wadding sandwich. A wadding sandwich is a piece of wadding sandwiched between two pieces of quilting cotton fabric. This sandwich represents a real quilt where there would be a quilt top, probably that you have pieced together, then the wadding and then a quilting cotton fabric backing.

For practising, a 20” square wadding sandwich is perfect. It can be held together in many ways, such as pins, plastic tacks, large tacking stitches and temporary spray glue. I use spray glue (505).

Walking Foot Quilting

Walking foot quilting is the best type to try first. With walking foot quilting, the sewing machine moves the fabric forward, just like regular sewing. For this type of quilting, you will need a Walking Foot,

Usually, the feed dogs (the teeth on the base of the needle plate) move the fabric forward.  When there are layers of material, the teeth can only pull the bottom layer, and the other layers may move and pucker as you sew.  A walking foot has a second set of teeth on the top of the foot, which grab the upper layer of fabric and move it on in unison with the needle plate feed dogs. These two sets of teeth stop any puckering.

Using a walking foot is precisely like using a regular or zig-zag foot apart from the extra set of teeth. The machine settings are the same as regular sewing, except that you will need to lengthen your stitch to 2.5-3 because of the additional material thickness.

Practise straight and wiggly lines on your wadding sandwich, and look out for another blog on the best walking foot designs to try.

Free Motion Quilting

This type of quilting is like drawing with a needle and thread. The feed dogs are no longer moving the fabric. Instead, you will be moving the material rather than just guiding it. Moving the fabric yourself can lead the sewist to think that it is a more complicated way to sew. It is not more complicated but will need practice. You will also have to be prepared to become better at it over time. It can be frustrating when we aren’t immediately good at something, but this is one of those things you must repeat over and over to get better.

The benefit of free motion quilting is that you can be more expressive in the designs made. There can be lots of curves and small delicate designs as you are not tied to a sewing direction. With free motion quilting, you can move in any direction, not just forward, so there is no need to twist a large quilt through your machine. This is a huge benefit when quilting larger projects.

For this type of quilting, you will need a darning foot. You no longer need a foot with an extra set of teeth because you will be moving the quilt, not the machine. A darning foot only presses down and holds the fabric during the split second that the needle travels in and out of the material. The foot is then released, allowing continuous movement by the sewist.

The machine setting for free-motion quilting varies depending on who is teaching. I suggest making no changes and not altering the feed dogs or changing the stitch length. This set up worked fine for the many pupils I have taught. Traditionally, the sewist would drop their feed dogs (so they cannot reach the fabric) and turn the stitch length to zero, stopping the feed dogs from moving.  My suggestion is to start with my method and then try the other and see what you like best.

There is no need to change your tension. It is best to have the machine needle-moving quite quickly. If the machine is running slow, then your movements will be appearing jagged. Think of it like a swan, your arms are gliding your fabric around, but the machine is like the swan’s legs paddling fast below the water!

Practise writing your name with the machine. These movements are very familiar to you. Then try loops. For more ideas, have a look at my doodle quilting online video, which take you through 80 different designs and more.

Which Quilting Is Best?

I like both types of machine quilting, but I think free-motion has become my favourite over the years. Have a try with both, and don’t discount free motion if you find it hard at first. Work through my doodles, and I am sure you will love it too!