Basic Technique Meets New Trends in Machine Quilting

comments (1) June 10th, 2008     

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MaryRay Mary Ray, contributor
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The free-motion wonder of quilter Diane Gaudynski is featured in her
quilt, Shadows of Umbria. 
Many quilt shops have long-arm machines like this one by at Fiberworks in Billings, Montana that you can rent by the hour.
The free-motion wonder of quilter Diane Gaudynski is featured in her
quilt, Shadows of Umbria. 

The free-motion wonder of quilter Diane Gaudynski is featured in her quilt, "Shadows of Umbria." 

Photo: Courtesy of C.M Strug

Quilting by machine definitely presents it’s own challenges. This is especially true if you’re quilting a large piece on a standard machine and trying to maneuver it through the small space under the arm while following a quilting design and trying to keep the stitches straight and even. It’s very physical activity! Thankfully, many sewing-machine companies have produced machines that include stitches and options specifically for the quilter.

When you quilt on a standard sewing machine, there are basically two ways to do it: with the feed dogs up or with the feed dogs down. Don’t know what feed dogs are? They’re those teeth that protrude slightly above the throat plate and, when you lower the presser foot to hold the fabric in place, they move the fabric as you sew. For most sewing, they’re in that position, and the fabric feeds precisely along; all you need to do is guide it. You can curve the fabric slightly as you sew, but mostly, you move forward in relatively straight rows, and when you want to turn a corner, you stop with the needle down, lift the presser foot, turn, lower the presser, and resume stitching. When I quilt my garments—basically in small sections—I like to keep the feed dogs up. They’re like a security blanket. And my quilt designs are mostly straight-line grids or slightly wavy lines of channel quilting.

Many machine quilters, however, like to lower the feed dogs. When you do that, the only thing to move the fabric along is you—so you’re in control and can basically sew in any direction you want to. This is called "free-motion" stitching. But, like hand quilting, it takes some practice to get in the rhythm, to keep the stitches straight and even.

There are some real masters of machine quilting, and I’m amazed by their skill in handling large quilts while producing intricately stitched designs with such precision. One expert is Diane Gaudynski, who teaches her techniques as well. Check out this video from a Threads piece that Diane wrote, and learn some of her tricks. Also visit Paula Reid’s site that offers some great tips on quilting with a standard sewing machine.

The latest trend in machine quilting is the long-arm quilting machine. I shouldn’t call it "a trend" because I’m sure it’s here to stay. Long-arm quilting machines are attached to a quilt frame. The machine essentially moves across the quilt, and that speeds up the process because you aren’t struggling to move the bulk of the quilt through the machine. Several manufacturers and dealers offer classes on how to use them. Many quilters have purchased them to finish their own quilts and turned it into a business finishing the quilts of others. Check with your local quilt shop for more information. Many shops have at least one and do quilting-for-hire, or they can refer you to someone who does. If you’re a prolific top maker, but aren’t so keen on quilting by hand or machine yourself, finding someone to do it for you is a great alternative! Tod Prescott, owner of The Quilt Shop (my local quilt shop) in Boone, North Carolina, owns one and always has a quilt on it that she’s working on. Go to her Web site where you can see her in action.

posted in: free motion, long arm machine, diane gaudynski, paula reid, tod prescott

Comments (1)

Pepita writes: I have a quilt from that is machine quilted, I checked at the local quilt shop, and they thought it was Civil War or just after. Is that possible? I did read something about somekind of contraption that could be put on an old machine long ago. What do you think would be the oldest American machine quilted quilts? (Home Made of course)
Posted: 8:22 pm on June 10th
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