Quilting a Quilt
Makes the Piecing Pop

First you must decide how much time or interest you have in quilting a quilt...

...Using easy quilt patterns is a good starting point and will start an enduring relationship with your love of quilting.

..The art of quilting using easy quilt patterns and stamped fabrics that are not too complicated will enhance your love of quilting.

This pattern is relatively simply with very few pieces. The choice of shading in the fabric gives this design definition.

Even the quilting is relatively simply. Most of the stitches are laid out in a straight line without a need to keep the lines perfectly straight.

We simply followed the contour of the violet field...

...and grassy hill side with quilting stitches, added a strip of fabric for a road, added a tin-roof by cutting our fabric at different angles to form the roof...

...then appliqued a tree as an overlay in front of the round barn.

We eliminated leaves on the tree and included an early spring violet field...what could be easier!

Some quilters are quite content with just piecing a top and let others do the quilting.

That is OK too! But the quilting is what makes it pop. 

First you must decide how much time or interest you have when it comes to quilting a quilt.

Do you plan to quilt by hand or a machine?

Mastering one element at a time will avoid the feeling of being overwhelmed when you are first learn to quilt.

Being realistic will decide the answer.

  • Do I want to try my hand at hand quilting a quilt?

  • Do I want to learn how to machine quilt using a regular sewing machine or a longarm quilting machine?

  • Do I want to try the lap quilt technique?

  • Do I want to tie/tack my quilt?

  • Do I know and trust a machine quilting service to finish the quilt?

Batting Transforms Your Project

batting for quilts

Quilt Battings provides the fluff between the layers but the quilter provides the amount of fluff needed.

  • The technique you choose for quilting a quilt will influence the batting you use.

  • Put as much time in selecting the right batting as you did the fabrics.

  • Do you want the finished quilt to look flat or fluffy?

  • Flatter batting is preferred for wall hangings or draped items

  • Fluffier batting is generally used for greater dimension to highlight the quilting design.

  • Fluffiest batting is reserved for tied projects like comforters.

  • If the answer is NO for all of the above you may want to get a free quote from us.

A Pieced Backing

Quilt backing fabrics come in widths up to 120 inches which can eliminate having to seam the backings.

However, the choices are limited for extra wide fabrics.

If the backing needs to be pieced, it is preferable to have two seams on either side of the center as shown in the first image below.

This image is a full size quilt (80-inches by 95-inches) which will require you to place a full length strip of 42-inch wide fabric down the middle and split another like length strip for the sides.

The second image shows how a queen or king size quilt backing can be pieced. Place two full length strips of 42-inch wide fabric (40-inch once you cut off the selvage) on the outer sides.

The piece down the middle will be cut wide enough to get a full 100-inches by 120-inches long. This piece will be pieced together in the middle.

quilting templates

The third image shows how to piece the quilt backing if you plan to have your quilt quilted on a long arm quilting machine.

It is best to have only one seam to contend with and that seam will follow the take-up roller.

In other words, avoid a seam straight down the middle of the backing when using a long arm quilting method.

If you are considering not to pre wash the quilt backing first read our page on Quilting Instructions. There is no margin for error here.

Stencils Used When Quilting a Quilt

quilting templates
  • Machine quilting designs for quilting quilts should be compatible with the style of your quilt.

  • Study examples in books and at quilt shows to find how others did similar projects.

  • Busy prints tend to suppress fancy quilting patterns so use easy quilt patterns in this situation. We have several on this web site.

  • The more intricate and fancy the quilting pattern, the longer it will take to quilt.

  • How is the quilt to be used? The answer to this question will determine the amount of stitches when quilting a quilt.

  • Wall hangings do not get heavy use so they do not require heavy quilting.

  • A baby quilt will be laundered frequently and be quickly outgrown.

  • Quilts that are going to be loved to death do not justify the many hours of hand quilting.

  • Large open areas on a quilt top begs for fancy machine quilting .

  • Maybe the quilting design comes first so why not build a quilt around the design.

  • Check out the stencils that your local quilt shop carries for that 'Aha!' moment.

Free-motion Quilting

machine quilting designs

Most quilting templates can be adapted for machine quilting designs.

When machine quilting a quilt it is important that the quilting be done in continuous unbroken lines when possible.

You want to minimize the number of thread ends to bury due to starting and stopping points in the design.

Part of a design may require you to stitch over it twice to get from point A to point B. Whereas when hand quilting you simply bury the end in the batting layer to move from point A to point B.

Look for designs that can be traced without lifting your pencil from the paper for machine stitching.

free motion quilting

Machine quilting designs that allow you to use free motion quilting is perfect for simply quilting a quilt without marking or using a template;

First, practice drawing your design with a pencil and paper until it feels comfortable. Your brain will get use to the pattern and will help you to retain the image once you do begin quilting with the machine.

Next, take the thread out of your machine and practice stitching the design using freezer paper and your sewing machine until you feel comfortable.

Take inspiration from hand quilting patterns, but understand that the machine-quilted version does not have to be identical to get the same effect as hand quilting.

Layering and Basting

quilting basics

Think of your quilt as a sandwich where the batting is sandwiched between the bottom and the top.

This is a good visual showing the technique for layering and preparing for basting.

The quilt backing, also called the back, or lining, of a quilt is the third, or bottom, layer of the quilt.

The quilt top features the main design that has been pieced to achieve a definite look.

Most backings use regular yardage that has no patchwork or applique designs.

Backings generally require the fabric to be pieced in order to gain the width needed for your quilt.

However, it is possible to purchase widths up to 120-inches where no piecing would be necessary.

Basting, sometimes called 'sandwiching' is the process of securing the three layers of the quilt together before quilting a quilt.

While being mundane, this step is important and should be done carefully to assure that the layers of the quilt do not shift.

A good job of basting the sandwich together will later make the quilting fun and a lot easier.

quilting frames

Once you have your quilt in a basting frame you are entering the home stretch...

...a finished quilt will soon be ready to display, enter in a show, or give as a gift.

Purchased Quilt Frames can be pricey.

However, it is a necessary part for quilting a quilt.

But you can build a reasonable basting frame. So try your hand at making your own; won't hurt the pocketbook as much either!

You'll see...

...after have'n spent hours crawling around on a hard floor or doing the back breaking stretching over a table this simple and inexpensive basting frame is a jewel!

Hand Quilting the Quilt

easy quilting

You've finished the top, marked a design using your template, pieced the back to avoid a center seam, picked a batting especially for your project, based the three layers, and assembled your supplies. Now you're ready to quilt.

A quilting hoop is necessary for hand quilting in order to hold the three layers of a quilt together in order to free up both hands to work together to make perfect stitches.

The size and gauge of a quilting needle directly affects the size of the quilting stitch.

Quilting needles are called Betweens and are about 1/4-inch shorter than a regular needle.

Both ends of the quilting needle are equally as sharp which makes wearing a thimble a must.

This will require you to learn to use a thimble. But there are a few alternatives to choose from so you may have to experiment a bit to get the one that works for you.

Quilter's Knot

Here we show you how to make the quilting knot...

...so that you can slide  it into the batting layer by giving it a gentle tug forcing it to pass through the top layer only.

hand quilting

Because the needle is the only thing that is not flexible you must learn to bend the fabric around the point of the needle.

The needle must pierce all three layers in a straight up and down position...

...then with the thimble finger, rock the needle into the horizontal position.

Place your thumb just ahead of where you expect the needle point to appear.

Stop pushing once the needle point appears so as not to prick your thumb. This will take practice.

With the thimble finger...

...rock the needle back into the vertical position and repeat this process. At first you will only be able to load one or two stitches but this also will improve with practice.

Machine Quilting a Quilt

beginner quilting

My design is too big! My design is too small! My design is just right!

The overall size of a motif is to allow 1/4 to 1-inch between the quilt design and the seam allowance in the block.

It is important to maintain size ratio between the quilting and the size of the block when quilting a quilt.

The easiest way to change the size of a printed pattern is to enlarge or reduce it on a photocopy machine.

Continuous-line designs are a speedy way to quilt when machine quilting.

Repeated starting and stopping takes more effort as well as time and can be noticeable and distracting.

Try to avoid the need of Stitching over a previous stitched line when designing your quilt.

How do you know if a design can be stitched continuously or not?

Designs with lots of lines going in different directions cannot easily be adapted.

Patterns for enclosed shapes, such as hearts and flowers, often can be modified.

Analyze your hand quilting templates and patterns for possibilities in converting into continuous-line designs when quilting a quilt.

Hand Tying Secures the Quilt

how to quilt

Tying is a fast and easy way to secure the quilt layers and has the look of a tied folk art style baby quilt.

Tying is an excellent way for quilting a quilt for a small baby quilt.

Tying is best when working with thick batting for comforters.

Tying is not recommended for cotton or silk batting; reserve these for close quilting.

For ties, use pearl cotton, lightweight yarn, floss, narrow ribbon, or buttons (use buttons only for adult quilts).

Machine bar tacking is also acceptable when tying a quilt

Charm tacks are small, decorative shapes that are stitched around in place of bar tacking or tying.

Look through children's books for small illustrations to inspire your own designs.

Using the Lap Quilting Technique
When Quilting a Quilt

This quilt is an early form of lap quilting. When you view it up close you realize that it was quilted one block at a time and then pieced using the 'on point' concept.

The quilt is being displayed by Alice, and the quilt was made by our Grandma Dyer some 75 years ago.

Lap quilting is the technique of joining a pieced top, batting and backing together in small, block-sized sections.

The small block-sized sections are then connected to form the entire quilt.

You can built an entire quilt by adding sections gradually working at your own pace.

When a large quilt seems overwhelming, try using this technique to create a hand bag for yourself or a baby quilt to give as a gift.

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