Part 1
Getting Started

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    Get everything ready:
    • Clean the machine and make sure it is kept at room temperature. If it has been stored in a cool room, the oil can get thick so leave in a warm area for a few hours.
    • Check the needles you are using. A quilting needle is sharper than a universal needle and makes a smaller point. For metallic threads use a metallic or embroidery needle. Use a fine cotton thread 30 or 40 with a size 70 needle.
    • Loosen the top tension if any bottom thread shows. Always work a sample.
    • Fix the layers with safety pins or machine stitch rows with dissolving (soluble) thread. If you hand tack, the thread can get caught on the machine foot and drag your stitching.
    • Use a walking foot for machine fed quilting if you have one.
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    Think about the look you are trying to achieve. Quilting by machine has a different look to hand quilting, making the fabric harder and flatter. Thinner cotton wads make machine quilting easier and are available in many weights and fabrics, e.g. polyester, cotton, wool or silk. Experiment with samples of as many as you can find. Quilting supply stores, craft stores and online sources, like The Cotton Patch, sell sample packs of wadding; all cotton, polyester and mixed.

Part 2
Learning Machine Fed Quilting

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    Use a walking foot, if available. Start in the middle of your work and work all the lines to the right. Then turn the piece over and work all the lines to the left of the center.
    • Do not go up and down as this can cause diagonal drags to appear. Think about how you start and stop. One possibility is to start with the stitch length set to 0 and then increasing it over the first 1⁄2 in. to normal length.
    • Alternatively, sew a few stitches on the spot – this can cause a bump of thread if you are not careful – or pull the threads to the back and tie in a knot before threading away into the backing with a needle. Beware this can take hours on a big quilt.
    • Stitch in the ditch, seams must be pressed to one side, only machine pieced work.
    • Stitch away from the seam 1⁄4 in. – think about colour choice. Some people work a slight curve from corner to corner or point to point, try them and see.
    • Straight line grids – use masking tape to make even lines to follow.
    • Curved lines but still machine fed.
    • Use a twin needle.
    • Use different threads. Try threads (splits) of threads, monofilament thread, variegated thread or shiny rayon thread. Note which snaps or frays the most. Coloured threads can be used to add interest to a large plain area of a block.
    • Machine set patterns – if you have a newer machine try some of the pattern stitches. Check the look on the back as you go.
    • Work a narrow zigzag stitch or satin stitch,
    • Use satin stitch to work small ties for tied quilting or use a preset pattern such as heart or snowflake.
    • Try to do samples that mean something to your current work not just on pieces of calico. How likely are you to be machine quilting plain calico in the future? If you have no blocks then piece some simple nine patches and practice in the ditch sewing on those.
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Part 3
Learning Free Machine Quilting

- Check your machine as before and then take the following steps: -

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    Loosen the top tension – you do not want the bobbin thread to show. Make a note of the tension number (if your machine has one) and the thread used. Experience will likely show different "best" tension settings for monofilament and machine quilting threads.
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    Drop the feed dogs or cover with masking tape if necessary.
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    Use a darning foot or no foot. If you use no foot, keep checking that the foot lever is down or the tension will not be right on the top and keep your fingers away from the needle. The foot should stop you sewing right through your fingers but it might not!
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    Place your work in an embroidery hoop and set drum tight, tighten the screw with the flat section of the hoop against the machine bed, or hold tightly in your hands.
    • Set the stitch length and width to 0.
    • Use the needle to bring the bottom thread up to the top of your work.
    • Hold both threads to the back of the work when you start stitching to stop them getting in a tangle.
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Part 4
Mastering Technique

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    Use the needle as a pencil. Relax, take a deep breath and press your foot so the machine runs fast and move the frame slowly in your hands.
    • Start by working loops of the letter e over and over again, trying not to speed up as you go round the bends.
    • To practice work in an open space but you may find it helpful to work inside a 2in grid, which could be machined on fed sewing before you start or you can draw it on with pencil.
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    Have some scrap paper and a pencil beside you and work the ideas on paper first – you’re trying to get the brain to use the needle as a pencil! Repetition and practice definitely helps. Ideas for patterns are:
    • Cross hatch.
    • Scribble.
    • Circles.
    • Meandering.
    • Feathers.
    • Shells.
    • Leaves.
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    Look for PATTERNS that occur in nature – animal markings, wood grain, marble, water reflections etc! Try lettering, your signature, or perhaps there are shapes from your mark making exercises or design work that could be translated to stitch.
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    As you become more confident, work without a grid and try to work continuous patterns. Make a note of the threads and machine settings used, especially how the threads behaved.

Part 5
Using Free Quilting

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    On ‘whole cloth’ quilting, try voiding shapes as well as filling shapes. Think about the density of stitching as well as the contrast between quilted and non-quilted areas.
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    On patchwork, think about filling different areas or imposing an all over pattern.
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    Use a printed fabric for backing and stitch the outlines of the pattern from the back and then quilt in the areas from the front – this works well with large scale furnishing fabrics.
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    Use a free zigzag stitch to create fill patterns.

Sources and Citations

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Categories: Sewing