I did a small bit of machine quilting today, and I thought I’d share some quick tips to make machine guided grid quilting easier. I’m making a small background quilt to display Inchies, so all I needed was some straight line quilting to hold the layers together and create some visual interest.
On a small quilt sandwich with unpieced bali fabrics on both sides and Hobbs 80/20 Black batting in the middle, I used a ruler and a hera marker to mark the straight quilting lines on the sandwich. A hera marker is simply a piece of plastic with a nicely tapered, curved edge which, when pressed on the fabric, compresses the fibers and leaves a mark that is fairly easy to see. Note that this particular model by Clover is the one I’ve had the best luck with; the others that I’ve tried have been made of softer plastic and didn’t make as nice a mark.
I marked the lines on the quilt sandwich in one direction only, meaning all the lines that are parallel to each other in an up and down direction. If you mark all the grid lines in both directions before you start quilting, you may find that when you mark the second set of lines across the first, the first set of lines will have little waves or points where the second set crosses them, and it will be difficult to quilt straight lines later.
When I’m quilting a grid, whether it’s big or small, I always start with a line of quilting close to the center of the quilt or space, and then work outward to the right and left. I always begin quilting at the top of the piece or area, and quilt toward the bottom, which means rolling up the bulk of the quilt to fit under the machine head when working on the left side. Even with a walking foot or IDT/dual feed, the layers of a quilt sandwich will shift; it’s just a fact of life.
Starting each line of quilting at the top will prevent diagonal wrinkles from forming on the quilt top or back from stitching lines in both directions. Remember this “top-to-bottom” stitching technique the next time you’re putting down stitch in the ditch between rows and blocks on a large quilt, too, as the same idea applies and the same diagonal wrinkles can happen, just on a larger scale.
Once the first set of gridlines was quilted, I marked the second set perpendicular to the first. The second set of quilting lines needs a bit more attention to detail than the first. When you start adding quilting lines that cross other lines, you can run into trouble when the fabric starts shifting. As you come up to a previous line of quilting, you may find that the top fabric of the quilt sandwich starts to form a little hill, which will become a pleat if you keep sewing.
The solution is to slow down and pay special attention in this area. You can use your fingers on the top of the quilt to gently nudge the top fabric toward the presser foot, essentially forcing the top fabric to feed more quickly into the machine to reverse the negative pushing effect that the presser foot is having on the quilt sandwich. Not just for grids, this little nudging technique is infinitely useful whenever I do any kind of machine guided quilting with a walking foot or IDT/dual feed.
A few simple techniques made quick work of this little display quilt, so stay tuned for pics!