Do you quilt by hand or machine

OK. You have your quilt pieced, which style of quilting to choose?

Do you know how to machine quilt or are you a hand quilter?

Does it really make a difference?


The Old Standby, Hand Quilting

Nancy is the one that uses this method.

After you have pinned your quilt sandwich, you have three choices on how to hold it for quilting. On a frame, In a hoop or just holding it.

Just holding it is probably the least used as there are a lot more chances for puckers and bunching. Since the quilt isn’t stretched tight, the backing can fold and get caught in your current line of stitching.

For that reason, most people use a hoop on smaller quilts and a frame on larger ones. I have seen people do a king-sized quilt on an oval hoop with a floor stand. But to me it seems that there is too much having to move and rearrange the quilt.

A frame is the only way to quilt with many people at the same time. With a frame, each person takes a section and quilts. Since it is stretched fairly tight on a frame, there is almost no chance for puckers or the backing folding over to be caught in the stitching.

A frame is nothing more than 4 each 1 by 4’s or 1 by 6’s with fabric attached to them. Some type of suspension system is needed. You can use tables or saw horses at each corner or a rope and pulley system to pull it up to the ceiling when being used or lower to a working height when needed.

I made Nancy 4 1 by 4’s 10 feet long for her frame. The boards are clamped together at the corners to stretch the quilt to the right size. Since our ceilings are slanted, I will have to make corner stands. That will also make it easier to adjust for different sized quilts.


Types of Machine Quilting

When most people hear the words machine quilting, they automatically think of a big, expensive machine. These type of machines are normally out the price range and floor space range of most home quilters.  Most quilt shops that sell fabric also have a machine like this and will quilt it for you for a reasonable fee.

There are long-arm machines made for quilting at well as sewing. These are cheaper than the big machines, but can still more than a household budget can handle.

But the average home quilter can still quilt any size quilt on their domestic machine at home. All you need is the courage to try. And if you can purchase or make a larger table area to put your machine in, it help to hold up the quilt better. It will also take a lot of strain off of you.

I was lucky to have an old counter top for an island lying around. So I cut out a shaped hole that just accommodated my machine. Now I have a 27″ by 44″ table to quilt on.

Carl's Sewing table area
Carl’s Sewing table area

With the formica top, it is fairly easy to slide the material around.  My machine, a Brother home machine, sets nicely in the table with a large area to the left. With an adjustable height office chair, I can sit at the right height for easy and relaxing sewing or quilting.


Using A Walking Foot To Quilt

Are you familiar with a walking foot? They are made so the top presser foot will move along with the feed dogs so that both sides are in unison. This helps to eliminate puckering and stretching of all of the material.

Walking Foot Attachment
Walking Foot Attachment

Most people think that a walking foot is for straight seams only. But with practice, you can make curved designs that are not too tight.

By stopping with the needle down, lifting the foot and turning the quilt, you can make zig-zag patterns also.

A walking foot is great for ‘stitching in the ditch’, where you stitch in straight lines where the blocks meet. This hides the quilting so it isn’t seen on the front. This technique is used for keeping the quilt sandwich from moving when doing more complicated free motion patterns that require a lot of movement.


Free Motion Quilting Isn’t  All That Hard

Free motion quilting is my most favorite type of machine quilting. It is done with a darning foot and the feed dogs lowered. O since there is nothing pulling the fabric forward, this type of quilting relies on your hands to move the quilt in any direction you desire.

Darning Foot Attachment modified the open front
Darning Foot Attachment modified the open front

You can make circles, curves, triangles or any other design you can think up and want to do.

There is one pattern called stippling where you just move the quilt in random patterns without ever crossing a previous line that wanders all over the pattern

There are many videos of patterns for free motion quilting on YouTube. Just search for ‘Free Motion Quilting’ and you can spend hours looking at many different designs by many different people.

One of my personal favorites is Leah Day. She explains things well and shows you exactly how to quilt a pattern.

You can use different patterns in different areas. There is no rule about using the same pattern in all areas of the quilt. Make the pattern fit the style and type of material design in a block.

Get adventurous and make an art quilt with many varied colors and blocks as well as different quilting patterns.



Get Adventurous In Your Quilting

Make yourself some 12″ by 12″ practice sandwiches and have fun. Try out a new pattern you just saw or heard about.

Practice on your blocks to learn a new design. Or practice a design you haven’t used in a while.

Make up your own design. Try adding two or more patterns together to see how they look. Maybe some echoing waves with bubbles in between. Or echoing triangles in rectangles with the triangles going different ways.

Change types and colors of thread. Check out some threads you don’t normally use, like metallic or variegated.

Try threads made of different materials, like rayon or nylon instead of cotton. Also try different thicknesses of thread.

What about trying trapunto?  Or doing applique with raw edges and a blanket stitch?

Remember that the quilt you design and make can be as plain or as unusual as you want. Think outside of the box and experiment. That’s half of the fun of quilting, whether by hand or machine.

Make your quilting experience one that you enjoy.


There will be another article next Friday, so come back to check it out.


Please leave a comment below to let me know if this article was helpful. You can also tell me about any other subject you would like to know more about. With 7 blogs, I probably cover it somewhere.




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