Tag Archives: quilting

Quilting with Decorative Stitches from your sewing machine

Quilting with decorative stitches is a great way to add an accent to your quilt, especially along a border or in place of “stitching in the ditch” on a casual quilt.  Some decorative stitches can be used with your walking foot, but only if the stitching always moves forward.  Some decorative stitches can only be made when the feed dogs force the fabric to move backwards or even sideways.  These stitches cannot be done with the walking foot in place, since the walking foot moves the fabric in the usual front-to-back direction only.

For these decorative stitches, another presser foot must be used.  The best foot to select is an open-toed satin stitch or embroidery foot, such as the one shown below.  The photograph shows a Bernina foot for my machine that has a 9 mm stitch width; if your machine has a narrower stitch width, your foot will also be narrower.  The embroidery foot can be distinguished from other feet by the groove on the bottom, shown in the right hand photo.  The groove allows a dense stitch that stands above the fabric to move under the foot smoothly.

Open toe embroidery foot

Open toe embroidery foot

bottom view, embroidery foot

bottom view, embroidery foot







Without the walking foot, the quilt top fabric will tend to be pushed forward relative to the batting and backing.  Eventually when you reach a previously stitched line this will result in a pucker or fold.  Avoiding puckers requires more careful pinning along the stitching line.  This can be done by pinning the stitching area for six inches or so ahead of the stitching, as shown in the photo below.  I use large pins for this purpose so they are   easy to pull out right before the needle reaches them.  As they are removed, they can be placed further along the stitching line.

Temporary pins ahead of stitching with the embroidery foot

Temporary pins ahead of stitching with the embroidery foot

And below is an example of some decorative stitches I like for quilting.  None of these stitches is very dense, so they are relatively fast to stitch and look good on the back of the quilt as well as the front.  I particularly like the serpentine stitch (basically a wavy line), a simple feather stitch, and a simple leaf stitch.  You may need to adjust the stitch width and length before they make an attractive quilting stitch.  Be careful to check your tension on a scrap piece before stitching; sometimes the default tension on a decorative stitch is set loose so the top thread will go to the back and no bobbin thread will show on the top.  Since we will be seeing the quilting stitches on the back as well, we need to balance the tension, especially if the top and bobbin threads are different colors.

Some decorative stitches suitable for machine quilting

Some decorative stitches suitable for machine quilting

If I don’t want to take the time to bury knots at the start and stop, I ensure an attractive start and stop by first stitching 5 or 6 tiny straight stitches.  Then I change to the desired decorative stitch and continue until I am within about a millimeter of the end.  I then change back to a straight stitch and make a few tiny stitches.  The closeup photo below shows this area; the straight stitching is not noticeable and provides the necessary locking of the thread so it won’t unravel.

Begin and end the decorative stitch with 5 or 6 tiny staight stitches to lock the thread

Begin and end the decorative stitch with 5 or 6 tiny staight stitches to lock the thread

Try some decorative stitches on your next quilt.  Several of them are great substitutes for stitching in the ditch, if you have trouble keeping your stitches in the ditch!

Meet the Author event August 7

Yesterday was my “Meet the Author” event at the Silverdale Quality Sewing and Vacuum store.  It was terrific fun.  The 35 or 40 ladies in attendance were so enthusiastic and asked lots of great questions.  The staff at Silverdale QS&V were terrific hosts, providing savings coupons for attendees, door prizes, refreshments, and demonstrations of some of their products.  The three hours just flew by.  I signed lots of books and a few patterns.

This was my first trunk show, and went pretty well.  I did a lot of prep ahead of time, preparing a big notebook of  information about each quilt and samples of various techniques that could be handed around.  Now I have it all ready I hope there will be other opportunities to use the material.

After the event, the store manager (Jim) suggested they would be happy to do another book signing event “when my next book comes out”.  I told him first I have to think up a good idea for a book!  Since the binding book took several years to produce, even once the idea comes – if it does – the book signing won’t be any time soon.

Now this event is over, I hope to get back to some serious quilting and post here about some interesting quilting progress!

New quilt tops from “Super Swift Quilts” patterns

As part of my trunk show preparation, I decided to make up new samples of several patterns from my book, “Super Swift Quilts”.  A couple of them I hadn’t actually made before – I had made up one or more blocks as I was writing the book, but hadn’t completed a whole quilt.  These three (shown below) are all easy.  Rail Fence Flags goes together really fast.  Triple Pinwheels looks a lot harder than it is!   The mitered borders on “Lattice in the Window” are a little time consuming. The easy piecing of the center goes quickly (a couple of hours at most, once the pieces are cut) but expect to spend an equal amount of time on the mitered borders.

Rail Fence Flags

Rail Fence Flags

Triple Pinwheels

Triple Pinwheels

Lattice In The Window

Lattice In The Window

Happy Quilting!

New classes added and one rescheduled

I have just scheduled several new class sessions for the fall at Karen’s Sequim Sewing Center and at Quality Sewing & Vacuum in Silverdale.  Check out the calendar page for the dates and times.

Due to a personal scheduling conflict,  I have had to reschedule the Pieceless Applique class at Sleepy Valley Quilt Company in Port Angeles.  The class is now scheduled for November 9th.


Use of “negative space” in quilts

I am taking a class right now called “Art for Quilters”, taught by Marilyn Belford ( http://www.marilynbelford.com ) at Quilt University ( http://www.quiltuniversity.com ). One of the first homework assignments is in the use of “negative space” – that is, the space outside the design elements where there is no piecing or applique. Negative space is also one of the common elements of the Modern Quilting movement so popular currently. Although they don’t name it, traditional quilters often use negative space in the form of alternating plain blocks, plain setting triangles, or sashing. Negative space gives the eye a place to “rest” as it moves around the quilt. It helps emphasize the importance of the positive elements of the quilt.

I am pleased with the impact that can be achieved with simple geometric shapes and using a lot of negative space. Here are some examples from my class homework.

First, I cut a rough circle was out of a lavender fabric, cut it into irregular pieces, and then scattered them about on a purple background:

Cut up circle with negative space

Circle cut up for negative space exercise

Then, I cut a light grey square into strips and placed them on a very dark grey background:

Square cut in strips showing negative space

Square cut in strips for negative space exercise

I cut a green rectangle into smaller rectangles and other shapes and placed them on a blue print background:

Rectangle cut up for negative space exercise

Rectangle cut up for negative space exercise – I had to do some additional cutting to make the pieces fit on this one

And I cut up several black triangles and placed them on a marbled grey/mauve background:

Cut up triangles for negative space exercise

Cut up triangles for negative space exercise – this one looks sort of Native American to me

Aren’t these interesting? With some appropriate borders and free motion quilting in the negative space, I think these are going to make dramatic little quilts. I will report more progress as I continue.

I am very pleased with this teacher and the class materials so far. Marilyn Belford also teaches a class called Realistic Fabric Portraits at QU that starts June 28. She has a book available on the same topic Portraits For Fabric Lovers  (if you click on the name here it will take you to Amazon to buy the book, so don’t click unless you want to do that).

I was saddened to find out that Quilt University – where I have taken many classes and learned so much – is shutting down at the end of this calendar year. It was founded by Carol Miller who recently died after a short illness. Her husband Roger, who was always the technical guy behind the scenes, has decided to have a graceful shutdown and allow all us QU addicts to take the classes we have been putting off. I am going to be very busy for the next few months trying to do just that.

Quilt Museum links

I just received an email from our guild webmistress with a link to the Victoria and Albert Museum (in London, England) quilting section. They have some excellent material and it is well worth taking a look:


And don’t forget the excellent resources at the International Quilt Study Center & Museum at Lincoln, Nebraska:


And the National Quilt Museum in Paducah, Kentucky


All these places would be wonderful to visit. Fortunately they have some excellent resources online, so we can benefit from their work even if we can’t go visit.

A quilt pattern tuneup part 1

I designed a quilt pattern a few years ago for a local shop, using a specific fabric line (Kumiko Sudo was the designer). The line included one fabric with a very large pattern. So the resulting quilt design, which I called Garden Windows, looked like this mocked up in Electric Quilt:

Garden windows quilt in red

Garden Windows in red from Kumiko Sudo fabric line

And here is another version, using a smaller scale focal print:

Garden windows purple and green quilt

Garden windows quilt in purple and green

I hadn’t actually made this pattern up in fabric, since I wasn’t getting paid for the design. I like the pattern enough to rework it, so this is my first report on the re working. I am labeling this post part 1 because I am not totally happy with the quilt yet, so I expect to change it a little.

I found another fabric with a large design at my local quilt shop, and selected several fabrics to accompany it. The fabrics are shown here.

Focus print and companion fabricss

Initial fabric choices for the Garden Window qult

The red and blue solids bring out the flower colors in the focal print. I hadn’t decided on the fabric for the borders and setting triangles at this point, but thought I would try to find a blue and black print. I couldn’t find one that worked, so I had to go another direction. I went back to the shop and bought a coordinating leaf print in the same line as the focal print. The completed quilt top is shown below.

Garden Windows quilt with red and blue flowers

Garden Windows red and blue flowers version

In retrospect, I think the solid blue is too bright, and I should have used a darker blue or switched to the red for the block sashing rectangles around the white/green blocks. Fussy cutting the large blocks consumed an incredible amount of fabric – not good in this day of rising fabric prices. I also think the blue sashing strips are too narrow. I will go back to Electric Quilt and mock up a new version of the pattern with wider strips — if that will work geometrically. Don’t know yet. Stand by for further developments…