Machine Quilting For The First Time, Part 4: Walking Foot Quilting Straight Line Quilting


This post is part 4 of the Machine Quilting for the First Time series; click here to read Part 1, Part 2, Part 3, and Part 5.

My greatest concern when I thought about quilting on my domestic sewing machine was how I would manage to hold all the layers of a quilt sandwich in place as I maneuvered them around the limited space surrounding the machine needle. I figured straight stitch quilting is the best type of stitching for a beginner to start learning how to control all the fabrics, the speed of the quilting and the uniformity of the stitches at the same time. I learned that the walking foot is a very helpful machine attachment because it helps feed all the layers through evenly. You do need to make sure you have a walking foot designed for your machine, and that it is attached correctly. And, some quilters like to use a single-hole stitch plate because it also helps feed the fabric layers while stitching.

machine-quilting-walking-footI looked through a number of back issues of Quiltmaker to get some examples of quilting that could be accomplished with a walking foot. I was looking for simple, straight-forward and pleasing quilting motifs that don’t require a lot of fancy turning and twirling. I discovered the most common quilting stitch our quilters use is stitch in the ditch. Another is to quilt around patch blocks and borders 1⁄4″ from the seams (outline quilting). Quilting a diagonal grid of straight lines and interlocking squares seems to be popular. And, going outside the line, wavy lines can also be created with a walking foot.

Take a look through the November/December ’17 issue of Quiltmaker. There are so many examples of quilts with quilting designs that can be made using a walking foot and straight or gently curved lines. I’ll point out a few of them as I tell you about each of the popular quilting stitches you can make as a beginner quilting with your domestic sewing machine.

Straight Line Quilting

Straight line quilting, popular before sewing machines were invented, was used by early quilters to hand stitch 1⁄4″ around patches and blocks. Terri Vanden Bosch used this same straight line of quilting, made with her sewing machine, around her patches and blocks in Mountain Retreat on page 76.

Straight line stitching opens up ideas to all kinds of linear quilting motifs. I’ve seen a lot of quilts in magazines and quilt-related websites that have incorporated matchstick quilting (sewing rows of vertical straight lines no more than 1⁄4″ to 1⁄2″ apart). The diagram below shows an example of matchstick quilting used for Tumbling Tiles, Katherine Jones’ pattern in the Sept/Oct 2017 issue of Quiltmaker.


Stitch in the Ditch

Stitch in the ditch, another traditional quilting stitch for hand and machine quilters, is often used to add definition to specific areas of a quilt. This stitch was selected for blocks and borders in Jo Moury’s True North design on page 68. Because the width of some borders can be narrow, stitching in the ditch on each side of a border may secure the quilt layers enough to eliminate the need for additional quilting in this area. You’ll find many examples of stitching in the ditch in the quilts we’ve published.

Crosshatch, Diamonds, Radiating Lines and Interlocking Squares

Moving from the straight line, some quilting designs cross lines or stitch echoing lines to create a shape. To make a uniform pattern you may need to mark these designs before you start quilting. Look at Jen Daly’s Celebrate! quilt on page 64, and Sledrunner, Pam Boswell’s quilt design on page 38, to see examples of the effects created by incorporating a diagonal crosshatch of lines.


Gigi Khalsa, in Star of Wonder on page 34, created radiating straight lines and multiple straight lines to outline the shape of patches. These lines form diamonds, which mimic the lines of some of the patterns in her fabric.

I can’t leave this section without telling you about one more easy quilting design made by crossing lines of stitching, interlocking squares. This is an example, similar to the allover trendy meander, of quilting that you can make over the surface of your quilt top with a walking foot. It takes some practice to make the squares uniform as they cross back and forth, but then, it’s still lovely even when the squares aren’t evenly spaced.


Echo Stitch and Gentle Curving Lines

The walking foot isn’t only for straight line stitching; you can take an attractive curve to your quilting too. Make gently curving lines of stitching. Create lines of stitching around applique shapes like those in Margie Ullery’s Ginger Tweets quilt on page 44. Margie also echo stitched around some of the shapes. To get a modern look with your quilting, make gently curving lines that echo across a quilt surface as you see in Carolyn Beam’s Modern Twist sampler quilt on page 58.


Next time…

Hopefully you can now recognize the many quilting designs you can create with a walking foot and simple straight-stitching skills. If you’ve looked at all the examples I know you are also familiar with the quilting found in this issue! As you have probably noticed, you can create a quilting plan incorporating multiple designs or only one to finish your quilt. And, you can finish them all with a walking foot and your domestic sewing machine.


My walking foot has helped me overcome a lot of my anxiety about quilting my quilts on a domestic machine and managing all the quilt layers to make nice, even stitches over a smooth surface. I can feel a difference. I have confidence. I’m ready to take the leap to the next level of this skill-building journey— free-motion quilting. I have an assignment for you. Look through this issue to find examples of quilts that might have used free-motion quilting to enhance the quilt design. See you next issue!

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