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Machine Quilting with your standard Sewing Machine {Quick Tips & How to}

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Machine Quilting can be kind of tricky– especially when you are just starting off and all you have is your standard sewing machine to do the job.

I have had a few requests or questions about using your standard sewing machine for quilting your quilt and thought I’d help out by offering up a few links for some great how to’s + some quick tips on my own.

machine quilting tips and how to's / patchwork posse

For the last few years I have been using a large machine for all my machine quilting {now named the screaming banche}.  I fell into a wonderful deal and bought a WOW quilting machine.  Definitly not top of the line- but thier service {over the phone} is wonderful and the machine does what I tell it to without too much complaining.  It is not computerized and so I do all the designs ‘free hand’.  I do have a few templates and can do groovy board designs,- but where the sewing cottage isn’t large enough to accomidate that. So free hand it is.

Before the big machine found it’s way into my life I used my standard sewing machine.  It is a Janome.  I love it!! My one complaint is the button stitch is at a slant and not customizable….. I love everything else.  It is a work horse and loves it when I take it for long walks in the meadow of scrapville. hee hee

I loved machine quilting using my machine. I did the quilting for over 3 years–  The quilts varied in size from tiny ones {baby size} to a mega queen size.  The larger you get the more difficult is it to maneuver.  It isn’t the quilting that is difficult, it is the weight of the quilt that hinders the quilting. {and if you are anything like me – I get distracted!– it takes a bit of time on the machine and seriously it is not stimulating sometimes}.  I have found a few tips that totally helped and changed how I quilted– time to share them!

How to quilt with a sewing machine. great tips that will help when I am machine quilting.

How to Quilt with a Sewing Machine~

*  Start off SMALL!!! Don’t get all excited and load up the biggest quilt you have and off you go.  You will find nothing but frustration down that alley!!!  Grab a project that is ready to go and in the size realm of 36-50 inches max.  You also don’t want to go the extreme and start on something tiny.  This will lead to nothing but cries after sewing your finger or popping pills so you don’t have anxiety about sewing your fingers.  Start somewhere in the middle that you are able to handle a nice amount of fabric in each hand and not have it heavier than a 10 year old child.

* Drop your feeddogs.  Those are the little teeth beneath the plate that ‘feeds’ the fabric into the needle area.  You really don’t want these moving.  This has a habit of detering your fabric and not letting you be in total charge of it.  IF your feeddogs don’t drop {mine didn’t} no worries– Turn it to 0.  That is the same setting as if you were putting a button on and you don’t want them to move.

*  Start with a simple design….like the meandor.  If you find yourself crossing over lines a lot, then add a loop in there.  I think that for the first year the only thing I did was the meandor! lol  It was easy and quick to do and wan’t difficult.  You can also learn how to control the stitch length and learn moving the fabric.

*  When I started quilting I used safety pins.  Layed everything flat, smoothed it out…and pinned it to death.  This works great, but after a few years of getting that perfected ‘FUSIBLE BATTING’ was on the shelf.  That I love!!!!   It is easy to do, you still have to lay it flat and smooth it out, and iron…oh, boy iron!  But, after it is done it gives the quilt a stiffness to it.  This is easier, I found, to handle.  It also condensed the fabric sandwich so it wasn’t as puffy and you can see a lot better where you are going.

The biggest payoff is the ‘no pins’ solution!  No stopping to unpin.  You are still pausing to move the bundle around, but that is not as often.  Follow the instructions on the package and give it a try.  You won’t regret it!

machine quilting with your sewing machine

*  The backside is pretty important when starting out on machine quilting your own quilts.  The busier the fabric the less it shows mistakes.  You will not be happy with your first attempt if it has a solid color back!!! Believe me!!  That thing will show any and every pucker, skipped stitch, pointy curve and whatever else you didn’t think you did. 🙂   So, keep it easy and find something that will be a little more forgiving.

Even though I don’t use my machine anymore {right now I am using the screaming banche} when I do use it for little projects I still follow the same rules.

The photos are from the most recent quilts I have quilted.  They are quilts for others. I do that occasionally too.

There are a lot of machine quilting tutorials out there to start you off.

If you are quilting around applique– here’s a video to help you:

If you are looking for a new sewing machine…here’s  a quick free printable all about finding out what you need.

buying guide for a new sewing machine with printable | patchwork posse | free and easy sewing projects and quilt patterns
What’s your story on Machine Quilting? Share it! I’d love to hear how you started off or any tricks you might have.

13 thoughts on “Machine Quilting with your standard Sewing Machine {Quick Tips & How to}

  1. Phrona Lybrand

    Thank you Becky for your very informative post on machine quilting.
    I am looking to start machine quilting and I want to get a machine for this function. I have a basic Brother sewing machine but the bobbin is always getting knotted up. I spend more time getting this straight than actually sewing. I end up hand sewing,which I do enjoy. I find it very relaxing when watching TV or waiting for a doctor. Do you recommend a machine for a beginner like me? My daughter wants an embroidery machine. Do you advise getting a combination of these machines? My daughter, Whitney and I would share the machine. She is an elementary school teacher and she would have the machine all summer, breaks and I would have it the other times. We both are beginners although she made drapes this summer for her bedroom in a home she and her husband Matt restored for their new home in Browns Summit,NC. I live in Charleston,SC. We will be building a log cabin on their property in the next two years, I would love to make a log cabin quilt for each of our two bedrooms in the log home. My Grandmother was an excellent quilter. She would put her quilt on a large wooden frame in the front bedroom and women from her little area would come and hand quilt for months. The quilt ends up so beautiful and my husband and I have her prize quilt,Butterflies, was given to us for a wedding gift. I t is so beautiful and we only use it for “special”occasions, So now you know all about my love for quilts and my desire to continue this wonderful family tradition. Thank you again for sharing your knowledge with so many people. I look forward to hearing from you.

  2. Wanda Johnson

    Great tips

  3. Joseph Davis

    Thanks for the information about sewing! I have wanted to learn how to sew for a long time now, and I am finally going to give it a shot. Thanks for the tip about getting plenty of sewing pins and a pin cushion. That will be the first thing I invest in!

  4. Anne stickney

    hi- thanks for the tips!
    p.s. it’s spelled “banshee”, not “banche” (wink)

  5. Marilyn Smith

    I have a Brother. I had the same problem of thread bunching, until someone suggested I use quilting thread. Totally worth the extra price. Only bunches up once in a while.

  6. Sue Kinzelman

    I’m assuming when you put the feed dogs down, you use your hands to make whatever pattern you want. Can you use any stitch?

  7. Sheila ahart

    I want to quilt a round tablecloth that I’m making for my son and his wife on my Tin Lizzie. Can I do this with a round object

  8. Becky

    I would think so. You just have to make sure all the layers are pinned along the edge so nothing moves.

  9. Peggy

    Thanks for your help, I hate hand sewing and with your suggestion of fuseable batting the is hope for me yet. And using a busy print for back makes perfect sense. Back to the machine I go.

  10. Elizabeth

    Do you backstitch at the beginning and end or does it matter? I’m quilting pillow tops and the backstitching tends to show up as backstitching. Any advice? Thanks.

  11. Becky

    Elizabeth- I don’t, but instead take a couple of stitches in the same place to lock the stitch. This works great and is what we do when using the large long arm quilting machines.

  12. Tisha

    Thank you so much Becky!!! Your wisdom gives me confidence to start quilting the blankets I have made!! machine quilting intimidates me… I have a Brother and love it!!! I also just acquired a Singer scholastic with all the different feet attachments not a clue what their purposes are … I haven’t used the singer long just a couple weeks… I want to machine quilt some baby blankets that I pieced together using cotton fabrics and flannel as the back… What machine would you recommend? Will the flannel bunch up? I am by no means an expert… i just love to make something and be original in my work most of the blankets i make i give away as gifts to beloved family members… I also love to do embroidery and incorporate it in my blankets

  13. Susan Ottwell

    I started quilting nearly 50 years ago with the cheapest used machine I could find, and have continued with various machines for all of that time. It’s even possible to quilt on an antique treadle. Even if you can’t drop or cover your feed dogs, you can still do free-motion quilting with the stitch length set to 0 and a very light pressure foot setting. I’ve used rubber fingertips for secretaries purchased at a local stationary store for grip before quilter’s gloves became popular, but I’ve also done without. All it takes is a little practice, and a lot of muttered cursing as you adjust the bulk of the quilt on a small kitchen table. The most important requirement is patience, don’t start stitching until the area you will be working on is lying smooth and relaxed under the needle, and don’t try to stitch too much at one time.

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