Thursday, May 22, 2014
Quiltmaking 101 -- quilting your quilt
It isn't a quilt until it's quilted -- that is, the layers (top, batting, backing) are held together with stitching. You can stitch by hand or machine.
Those who stitch by hand usually put the quilt into a frame of some kind, although you can also work on a flat surface, most likely a table, without a frame. I have done it both ways, but neither one made me want to master the skill. That makes me the wrong person to give you advice on hand-quilting, but you can find many books and online tutorials if that's your inclination.
My preferred method -- and that of most quiltmakers today -- is machine quilting, for three reasons. First, it's so much faster to quilt by machine. Second, machine quilting is much sturdier (in case you plan to use and wash your quilt). Third, it gives a more contemporary look.
Nobody can tell you the best way to machine-quilt; she can only tell you the way she quilts. Perhaps some of the wide variety of quilting techniques arises because different sewing machines have different temperaments and biases. Your machine may love a certain kind of thread, while the same type on my machine will produce tangles and breakage. Your machine may have a "dual feed" feature, a stitch regulator or presser foot pressure adjustment, while mine doesn't. Your machine may have a wider harp than mine, or your sewing table may have a wider flat expanse around and behind the machine for the quilt to rest upon.
We all adjust the way we quilt to compensate for these differences in equipment. We also learn that some techniques feel comfortable and make us happy, while others don't. So I won't offer a long tutorial on how I quilt, because it may not work for you. You'll find the way that is best for you, the best presser foot, the best brand of thread. Once you've found a way that works, stick with it! Practice will improve your technique and you'll figure out little adjustments that will make it even better.
I will advise you to try out different techniques on smaller quilts, because they're much easier to handle -- less fabric to fit under the harp, less weight to push and pull around. And always test your quilting out on a small sample before you work on your actual quilt. Make the sample from the same materials as the quilt and use the same thread you will use for the quilt. It's surprising how a slightly different weight or finish of fabric can occasionally require an adjustment in your tried-and-true method.
In subsequent posts I'll describe the two methods of machine quilting: straight-line and free-motion.