It’s no secret that I’ve been working to hone my walking foot quilting skills for quite some time now. I’ve bought the book, watched the video, and even recently taken an in-person class with my favorite teacher (and friend!) Catherine Redford. But what’s holding me back from tackling the stack of quilt tops I have ready to quilt?
Yes, the expectation that my quilting will be flawless, professional looking, and —dare I say—prize-worthy, is basically preventing me from moving forward and becoming truly proficient at this important skill. Not only that, my avoidance is actually making me slip backward and forget the basic skills I had already mastered.
A few weeks ago, when Catherine taught a class for my local friends, I was reminded of a few of the basics that can bring any quilter from good to great. Confession: some of these were gleaned from Catherine, and others were picked up from other quilters whose work I admire. But whatever the source, they are awesome tips that can help me – and you – master the skill of quilting on a home machine!
Without further ado, the five P’s …
5. Pressing Matters
Press your seams open. Yes open. I know many traditional quilters will swoon at the thought, but this step will help your quilt lie even more flat and make it easier to quilt. Open seams do negate the possibility of quilting in the ditch, but that is not necessarily a bad thing and most modern quilters don’t stitch in the ditch all that often. A flat quilt is preferable in most cases, and in my mind, open seams make it all the more possible.
4. Prepare a Sample
If you aren’t sure how to quilt a certain space, practice on a sample block. I keep 10” square quilt sandwiches next to my sewing machine for practice. Even if I know what I’m going to do, I’ll often practice on a sample quilt sandwich for a few minutes before working on my quilt. This also goes for free motion quilting: it’s always best to warm up before you sew.
3. Pin Baste Ugh.
I really do not enjoy this part, but it is necessary. Catherine bastes her quilts on a table, and also pins very close together. I frequently use a spray baste product because it is convenient.
2. Plan with Your Pen
Not sure of the design you should use on your quilt? Try drawing it on a clear plastic notebook divider or acetate sheet. Place the drawing over your quilt top and evaluate your design. Does it look good? Yes – Start quilting. No? Draw a different design and start again.
And the number one tip for making your experience with a walking foot even better?
You’ve heard it since you were a child: the more you practice, the better you get at anything. It rings true for learning your multiplication tables as well as becoming confident with your walking foot. Over the years, I’ve made lots of placemats just for this purpose, and they have great to use for practicing different motifs. Last week I sewed a stack of 9” blocks for holiday potholders and practiced on those. It doesn’t matter what you make, it is just important to put the hours in. Suddenly, the stitches are neater, the rows are straighter, the corners are tighter, and suddenly, you’re in business.
Take the time to press your seams open, prepare a sample, pin baste, plan, and practice… you’ll be happy you did!
And keep a copy of Modern Machine Quilting by your machine for lots more tips, techniques, and exercises that will have you quilting like a pro before you know it.