Machine Quilting Made Easy!

Posted By on April 8, 2015

Machine QuiltingI’ve been quilting for a couple of decades and now my favorite part of the process is machine quilting. I used to be intimidated by machine quilting. When I first started quilting I was a hand quilter. But as you probably know, as therapeutic and beautiful as had quilting is, it just takes too long! Not to mention the potential carpal tunnel issues that seem to go along with years of hand quilting. So I was determined to learn to machine quilt. But when I started, I approached machine quilting from the viewpoint of a hand quilter. It wasn’t until I gave up the notion that machine quilting had to be marked and symmetrical, using stencils to mark, that machine quilting became easier and more fun.  True, you can find continuous-line machine quilting stencils, but marking a quilt takes nearly as long or longer than actually quilting it.  And when your designs are perfect and evenly spaced, even a non-quilter can see where you wen off the line and made a “mistake.”

Then one day I picked up a sale copy of Show Me How to Machine Quilt by Kathy Sandbach. As I started reading through the book, machine quilting was revolutionized for me.  According to Kathy, quilting doesn’t have to be perfect! Think of it more as doodling, even drawing or “quilting” your design over several times, just like when you are doodling.  Don’t pick perfectly even hearts and stars to free-motion quilt, pick more whimsical designs.  And don’t waste your time marking, just go with it. Wow this was “crazy!” Everything I ever learned about quilting involved accuracy and perfection. Wouldn’t this negate all of the time and effort I had spent cutting and piecing so that all of the points were perfect and everything fit together like a glove? But I tried it anyway because I was tired of working so hard on a quilt and then stressing so much over the finishing or quilting process.

And much to my surprise, not only was this concept easy, it actually enhanced my quilts.  If you think about what you’ve learned about variety and selecting fabrics: variety of print scale, variety of value,different color combinations, why not vary the most common element of your quilts (angular, straight line, perfect piecing) with curvy free-form, even whimsical quilting.  Once I let go of the whole need to be “perfect” when I quilted, my quilts became much more advanced looking.  And the more I did free-motion quilting, not worrying about staying on a marked line, the more relaxed and free I began to feel.  And like I said before, it started to become my favorite part of quilting.  I couldn’t wait to get my quilts pieced and basted so that I could have “fun” quilting my quilts!

Angela Walters at Quilt Con 2015

Angela Walters at Quilt Con 2015

And now with the latest quilting movement known as “Modern Quilting,” I am truly in love with quilting again.  Modern quilting is asymmetrical with lots of negative or background space just begging for dense machine quilting. Not to mention the simple and often large scale piecing goes fast so that you can get right to the quilting or “fun” part of the process of quiltmaking.  Just this past February I attended Quilt Con with approximately 10,000 other modern quilters, the second annual Modern Quilting convention in Austin, Texas featuring hundreds of modern quilts, dozens of lectures and workshops and a huge vendors shopping mall. I heard a lecture with several of the quilters of Gee’s Bend and saw some of their beautiful quilts in the show. I went to dozens of other lectures by the top quilters and book authors of the modern quilt movement like Denyse Schmidt, Bill Kerr, Jacquie Gearing and Angela Walters. And I was lucky enough to get into a machine quilting workshop with Angela Walters, whose quilting I admire and books are great.  I learned lots more easy free motion designs to apply to various shapes on quilts.  It was all very inspiring and just helped to make me love machine quilting even more.

Quilt Con WorkshopIf you want to learn to love machine quilting as much as I do, consider taking one of my Machine Quilting Made Easy workshops.  I have one coming up at my studio on Saturday, April 18, 10 a.m. – 4 p.m. for just $45.  You will learn several basic all-over designs and lots of different free motion designs all without marking and all easy enough for a beginner machine quilter.  Even if you’ve been doing a lot of machine quilting, this is a great chance to improve your machine quilting and learn some new free motion designs My workshop focuses mostly on free motion machine quilting and easy techniques I have learned over the past few years and some of the great tips I learned at Quilt Con with Angela Walters.  You will be creating a box of machine quilted sandwiches which you can use as a reference tool when you are ready to machine quilt your quilts. To register for this class, email me at or stop by my studio any First Friday or Second Saturday.  I’m also there during the day most weekday, but call first to be sure.

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