I am “sew” excited for this week’s lesson! We are finally to my favorite part of the quiltmaking process – machine quilting. Before we jump straight in, please read my intro to FMQ tutorial here. It explains a bunch of beginning basics that I find helpful.
- First, I am extremely proud of you for making it this far! Machine quilting is not for the faint of heart, but I promise you, if you stick with it, you will enjoy the feeling of accomplishment that comes with knowing you did it yourself!
- Second, I love to quilt the heck out of my quilts. It usually takes me more time to do the quilting than the piecing, basting and binding combined. With that said, how much time you want to spend quilting is entirely up to you. Make it your own, and be proud of your work!
- Third, don’t get hung up on inconsistencies in your quilting, or any wonkiness that may occur. After all, we don’t want our quilts to look like they were made by a computer, right? Embrace the imperfections that come with a hand-made piece of art.
Now, let’s start quilting! It took me a total of 12 hours to do all of the straight quilting for String of Pearls. That’s only about 1/2 the quilting – more to come in the next lesson!
Step 1 – Stitching in the Ditch (6 Hours – ugh!)
Ok, so even though I love quilting, stitching in the ditch is a little boring. However, it’s one of the most necessary steps of good machine quilting. SITD anchors your quilt and provides stability so that your more exciting stitching designs can shine!
Use a walking foot or even feed for straight quilting. (My new Bernina came with built-in even feed). Insert a brand new needle and test your tension on a practice scrap before you start quilting. I recommend using a pair of machingers gloves to help grip your quilt.
I started by stitching the outlines of all of my black “strings”. I took a few minutes to look at the piecing design to figure out how to make as few starts and stops as possible. The lines in red below show my stitching path for each row. I used black thread and quilted on the black fabric side of the ditch.
I started quilting one of the middle rows of the quilt first, one row at a time. There were a total of 6 rows to quilt, 2 sides per row. When I got to the end of one side of a row, I rotated the quilt and came back up the other side. It took about an hour per row to quilt.
Hint: put on a nice audio book while quilting and try to only finish 1-2 rows per day, or per quilting session. You’ll be amazed at how much you can accomplish!
It’s ok to stitch over your previous lines of stitching if needed. This is called backtracking and is perfectly fine. Turn the quilt as needed to outline the “strings”. I used the continuous reverse feature on my sewing machine to stitch backwards at times so that I didn’t have to turn the quilt so much. Just slow down and stitch slowly if you do this. With practice, you’ll get the hang of it.
Above is a picture of my backing, showing where I got a little off track while following my path. I meant to SITD each row completely, before moving onto the next row. However, I got a little “lost” while turning my quilt. That’s ok, too! As long as you eventually outline all of the blocks, you are good to go.
I only stitched around the outline of the black areas. Stitching around each colored square is part of step 2 below.
Step 2 – Quilting Square Spirals (6 Hours)
I decided it would be fun to quilt a sort of maze or square spiral in each colored block. Before I started on my quilt, I practiced the quilting motion on a few scraps so I could get a feel for how to turn each side of the spiral while quilting. I did NOT try to keep each of the lines a consistent width. More random = more modern!
There was a lot of stopping and starting and changing thread colors, but it only took about 10 minutes to spiral quilt each block. I used a light grey thread in the bobbin for all of the spiral quilting so I didn’t have to change bobbins each time I switched top thread colors.
I like to keep a variety of colored threads on hand to match my fabrics as much as possible. Prewound bobbins are great to use when you only need a small amount of one color. I put them on the top spool pin and they work fine!
Because of the numerous stops and starts, I began quilting each block by stitching 6-8 teeny tiny stitches, slowly increasing or decreasing the stitch length at the beginning and end of each block of quilting.
I quilted all of the same color blocks before switching thread colors. Different shades of the same color can still be quilted with the same thread!
For fun, I mixed it up a little by throwing in a few random blocks with titled spirals. I thought this added a little more interest to the quilt. This will work well with the design I will free motion quilt in the grey background during the next lesson.
Here are a couple of other ideas you can use to quilt your version of String of Pearls:
Quilt straight or wiggly lines over the entire quilt surface using a walking foot.
Quilt Along Schedule – links will be active at the completion of each step:
- String of Pearls Introduction
- Step 1 – Rotary cutting all the pieces
- Step 2 – Sewing all the “pearl” blocks
- Step 3 – Completing the quilt top
- Step 4 – Backing and basting
- Step 5 – Machine quilting #1 straight lines
- Bonus – Extra spiral quilting
- Step 6 – Machine quilting #2 swirls ‘n pearls
- Step 7 – Binding to finish
Grab my Quilt Along button!
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