5 Essential Machine Quilting Tips for Beginners

Machine Quilting Tips

So after months and months of carefully sewing together your quilt top you have finally finished and now you are at the point where you are ready to move on to quilting.  After all the work you’ve  put in to this quilt top you certainly don’t want to screw things up now!

I found myself in this very situation just a few days ago as I was finishing up a secret anniversary quilt for my husband.  This might sound odd, but I have made quilts before, I just never actually “quilted” them.  In the past, I took the fast road and used the yarn tie knot method to hold it all together.  If you don’t know what I mean, check out Bloomin’ Workshop’s colorful flannel yarn tied quilt.

I finished the anniversary Gather ‘Round quilt yesterday.  Here’s a picture of it.  As you can see, I still need to steam block it to straighten out the edges so it lays flat, but overall I’m really happy with how it turned out.

finished quilt 6

As I mentioned earlier, this was my first machine quilted (or any kind of quilted) blanket.  As I was happily quilting along I was thinking about what tips I could pass on to my readers.   The tips and tricks I came up with are fresh on my mind, so I figured it was a good time to share what I learned.

todd quilt close up

5 Essential Machine Quilting Tips for Beginners

  1.  Figure out your basting method.  This is how you’re going to keep all the layers in place.  It is common for those who quilt by hand to baste by hand to keep everything in place.  However, when you’re machine quilting you can either use quilting safety pins or adhesive spray to keep your layers from shifting during quilting.  I used safety pins and I am positive that next time I will use spray adhesive to save time and to prevent pleating on the back side.
  2.  Start out with a new needle.  This is a good idea not only because your needle has a lot of work ahead of it, but also because I noticed as it starts getting dull it skips stitches and more problems ensue.  I used a Schmetz Universal Needle size 80/12 and that worked well for me. I changed it out once for this quilt.
  3. Keep your needle down when pushing your quilt through.  You will be stopping to push your quilt through often, when you stop make sure your needle is in the down position and then push the quilt through to finish out your line.  If not, you will end up with zig zigs instead of a straight stitch.  Ask me how I know.  Hehe.
  4. Use a high quality cotton quilting thread.  You won’t regret this.  When you’re looking for a quilting thread for regular machine quilting, look for a thread weight between 40-50.  Keep in mind that the higher the number the finer it is, the lower the number the heavier it is.  Most hand quilters will choose a heavier weight thread, around 28 to endure the stress of pulling and tension that’s goes along with hand quilting, but that weight is not necessary for machine quilting.   If you choose a high quality 40-50 weight cotton quilting thread you will have nice smooth lines with very little lint to speak of.
  5. Consider getting a walking foot.  I did not have this luxury when I was sewing my quilt, but I wish I did.  The reason you would want to use a walking foot instead of just a standard foot is because a walking foot has feed dogs that help evenly pull the quilt through the sewing machine, thus straighter lines.  While I did not have a walking foot, I made a few adjustments to help pull the quilt through as evenly as possible.  I lowered the pressure dial so that the presser foot had less pressure, thus making the quilt slide through a little bit easier.  I also used the cheap little quilting guide attachment that came with my machine.  It helped me keep my lines straight mostly straight.  For my next quilt, I will without a doubt be investing in a walking foot. 

So those are the five main tips I wanted to pass on to you.  I hope it helps to save you time and unnecessary frustration.

What kind of quilt do you plan on making?  I would love to know, please leave a comment below:)


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