Tuesday, February 22, 2011

straight line quilting

I often get asked how I go about doing straight line quilting, so I thought I'd share my method...

Here's the thing with me, I hate marking quilts (I also hate pinning), so I try my very best to avoid both of those.  Only taking the time to mark if it's absolutely necessary.  I should also make note that I am not a perfectionist, I don't mind if my lines aren't even, or if they aren't straight.  It just doesn't bother me.  I do like my quilts to be well made, to stay together forever, or at least until they are worn out.  That is the only area that I am a "perfectionist" in.  

Anyway, anyone can straight line quilt, but I definitely recommend a walking foot.  My machine has it built in, but most walking foot-s (or feet) look like this.  Basically it helps move all your fabric through the machine together to avoid pulling/puckering/dragging.  

I often use a seam as my guide when sewing straight lines.  In my pips quilt, I used the diamond pattern as my guide.  I sewed a very generous 1/4 inch away from my seam line, on both sides.
I did the same thing with my rabbits and race cars quilt.  Since the blocks aren't straight, I did a lot of rotating at each intersection.  I thought it would be very time consuming, but once I got going, it went quick.

I recently finished up a quilt that I quilted straight lines one inch apart over the entire quilt.   It's pretty easy, a bit monotonous and maybe even boring, but I love the effect it gives.  I'll post the finished quilt soon...

To sew one inch apart, I use a little tool called a quilting guide, I'm sure you all have one.  It's so handy.  
You slide it in behind your needle, and then tighten a (tiny) screw to secure it.

sidenote:  the normal way to put the guide in your machine is in the picture above this one, but I like to remove the bulk of my quilt from under the machine as I go, instead of adding to it (which is what happens when the guide is on the other side).
  I usually sew one line down the middle (sewing a 1/4 inch from a seam, so I don't have to mark.)  Then I use my quilting guide, I adjust it's position to my desired distance from the needle, mine was one inch-ish away. 

Line up the guide with your previous stitched line, and sew.  It's easy. I keep my eye on the guide/stiched line.  It's pretty cool how well it works.  If you have puckering or pulling, stop and figure out what the problem is.  Trust me, from personal experience, you will notice it once it's finished!

I mentioned that I don't mind imperfection, but if you do, I recommend checking to make sure your line is still going straight (use a seam as a guide), sometimes it can slowly start to drift and will no longer be parallel with the edges of your quilt.  Just check it if you are particular about that.

I hope this helps someone, if you have questions, let me know.  Or, if you have tips or techniques that you use, I'd love to hear them.

39 comments:

Andrea R said...

I use the edge of my foot as a guide when sewing away from the seams. I even measured a few for different distances.

Then as long as the edge of my foot lines up with the seam, I know I'm sewing that 1/4" away.

Tho I am a fan of chalk pencils and washable markers.

Laura said...

If I don't care about drifting and it being eactly straight I use my guide but if I want it more exact I use painters tape. I have it in all different widths.

Lisa said...

I use the edge of my foot too, and the seams as guides. I haven't been doing the free motion quilting as much as I used to. I think I need more practice on that.

kelly said...

the quilting guide is my best friend when it comes to straight-line quilting. i'm too impatient to mark with chalk or tape!

Michelle said...

I have a problem when straight-line quilting: the stitches won't come out at equal lengths or tensions, whatever I do with stitch length and tension adjustments. I'm using a walking foot and my machine isn't old - I think it's me and not the machine. Any tips on obvious things I might be doing wrong, before I blame the machine? Thank you (for the inspiration, and any advice you might have)!!

Sarah said...

I have a quilting guide, but never knew how to use it. Thank you for showing exactly how simple it is. I am going to try it on my next straight line quilt.
Thank you!

nettie said...

hi michelle, that sounds strange to me. do you use a walking foot??? Be sure your quilt isn't pulling as you quilt.

Michelle said...

I do use a walking foot. By 'pulling' do you mean the weight of the quilt at the front that is yet to be quilted? Maybe that's it, since I've tested sandwiches made from 2 FQs and a bit of batting and they work fine. Do I just try to hold it up? I think I might need at least 3 more hands...

Leila said...

I use masking or painters tape a lot for straight line quilting, I have it in various sizes very convenient! I also use the back of my seamripper to 'draw' a line instead of marking it with a pencil, works really well.

Rhanda said...

So thankful for your post. I am a big fan of straight line quilting. But have only quilted lap or baby quilts. However, now I am doing a king size bed runner (so it's not wide, but it is king-size long). It's been tedious. So, I have read that you are "supposed" to start your quilting in the dead center of the quilt, which is what I have been doing. Is this what you recommend? The problem with doing this is that I have a start/stop line that runs the length of my quilt ) (I do stagger my starts a little.) Any suggestions? Thanks!!!!

Annalia said...

Ha! I have a quilting guide. Until now, I never knew what it was or what it did! :)

-so thanks.

nettie said...

hi michelle, that is what i mean. try holding up quilt so the weight of it isn't pulling and possibly messing up your stitches. If that doesn't work, I have NO idea!

Lauren @ Craft My Life Away said...

Thanks for the tips! I am definitely going to use your idea of starting out tough with all the fabric and working towards easier... makes sense!

BaileyGirl5 said...

Epiphany!!!! I ordered a quilting guide and when I got it I had NO idea how to make it stay in my walking foot. A little screw you say .......

I can't wait to get home from work and check out this screw! I hope I haven't thrown out that guide yet.

Wheeler Family said...

Thanks so much for the tips! I'm a beginner and about to start my first baby quilt!

Katie said...

OMG. This totally helped me! I do have one of those things, but I had in my head that it had something to do with stippling. I couldn't figure out how it would help with that AT ALL. Too funny. I've been drawing lines on my quilts when I want to quilt a straight line and thinking what a pain in the butt and that there MUST be a better way. Too funny. Thanks so much for sharing this probably-obvious-to-everyone-else tip.

Jen of ReannaLily Designs said...

I'm a huge fan of the seam guide bar. I use it with my walking foot when I'm straight line quilting.

Anonymous said...

I'm so glad that you mentioned that you are NOT a perfectionist. Neither am I and was feeling bad about it. I try the best that I can and if it's not perfect, so be it. Thank you for sharing.
cindy

AMKreations said...

Wonderful! Thanks for the tips and photos!

DeAnna said...

Just finished my 2nd ever quilt and I was really disappointed in my lack of straight lines. You would think that someone was sitting next to me tapping my elbow just to avoid straight lines!HA!! I didn't know about the quilting guide I am going to get one and a walking foot! Thanks for a very informative post!

Cheryl Arkison said...

I spy a Pfaff... It actually looks exactly like mine.

bruinbr said...

I always wondered how to use that little bar! Thanks! :)

Terra said...

I always wondered what that was for! Thanks for enlightening me.

Tanya said...

As you work through a quilt, do you alternate which side you start the line (start from side A, sew to opposite side B, flip quilt, next line start from side B, sew to side A)? I've heard of people doing that to avoid the shifting, but honestly, it seams tedious. And quilting shouldn't be tedious...

manybooks said...

Thank you for the tip! I am new to quilting with my machine and just figured out how to attach and use the walking foot a couple weeks ago. All i've ever done is straght lines, but I didn't know about that little guide! THANK YOU~

nettie said...

hi tanya, i don't do that. i start in the middle and then work my way out to one side, then I flip it and work from the center again toward the other side.

If I use my walking foot, I don't have any problems.

Linda said...

So, Nettie, when you turn a corner, aren't you moving a lot of bulk around? Would you do things differently if it were a lap or twin quilt? or could you still use your same techniques?

Susan said...

Thank you, thank you! I have never known what that "curved allen wrench thing" that came with my sewing machine was for...until now! I'm going to try it myself someday very soon. :)

Michelle said...

Thanks for the tips, Nettie - hopefully, I try your suggestions and with any luck, I'll have good news of my success soon!

hydeeann said...

well, i sure hope my walking foot takes one of those because that is fantastic! it may seem a simple thing, but thanks for sharing the tutorial and advice. i use the side of the foot like others said, but i wasn't sure how to proceed for wider spacing without all the trouble of marking everything. straight line stitching is a wonderful look just made easier.

Erin said...

A quilting guide!! Of course! I too have been using painters tape, but kept thinking to myslef 'why hasn't anyone invented a gadget for measuring straight line quilting!?' :) Thanks for the tip! I love the way your stitching looks -- what stitch length to you set your machine to?

nettie said...

hi erin, i usually use 3 or 3.5 on my machine (for quilting, for piecing I use 2.5 or 3)

girlforallseasons said...

I also use the edge of my foot as a guide, but I don't care about drift as long as the lines don't start crossing each other! Thanks for the tips and clear photos.

Micki said...

It looks like we do it the same way. Do you have a Pfaff too? I have the Pfaff 4.0 Expression!
Micki

Hollie said...

Oh my gosh! Thank you! I never knew what that funky piece of metal was that came with my walking foot. Now I know!

fialka012 said...

Hezké...

quiltygal said...

I am planning on straight line quilting a baby quilt this weekend so thanks for the tips I will post a pic on my blog when I'm done .....

jamie said...

Just linked over from http://silverlilysews.blogspot.com/2011/03/for-baby-nellie-or-lil-nel.html

Thanks for the tips!

Anonymous said...

Thank you! I have a Pfaff--and the exact same seam guide. I like your idea of putting it so it lines up on the outside--not inside the harp!

Maggie

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