Matchstick-style Machine Quilting: 5 Hot Tips

Detail of "More Than Twenty-three Hexagons" by Catherine Redford featuring matchstick quilting.

Matchstick-style machine quilting is a sophisticated way to give your quilt a modern look. But it also works well any time you want to fill in an area on your quilt–and looks especially nice on solid fabrics.

Matchstick-style machine quilting by Catherine Redford.

You can use a contrasting thread to draw attention to the machine quilting or matching thread for a harmonious look.

Matchstick quilting may look difficult, but it isn’t–so long as you have the right tools. A walking foot, rather than the darning foot you would use with free-motion quilting–helps a lot. With the feed dogs up, the walking foot moves all the layers of the quilt sandwich forward at the same time. This technique allows for more even stitching and avoids tucks in the fabric.

My personal patron saint of the walking foot is Catherine Redford. I have watched her demonstrate how to machine quilt with the walking foot to create machine quilting patterns including straight stitching, triangles, plaids, serpentine, and matchstick.

Here you can see Catherine's process for building up the lines for matchstick quilting.

Here you can see Catherine’s process for building up the lines for matchstick quilting.

Here are some of her tips for matchstick machine quilting.

1. Press seams open and flat for a more even stitching surface.

2. Pin baste with several small safety pins.

3. To start your first line of straight-line quilting use a seam as a guide, or, place a piece of painter’s tape on the fabric and stitch next to it (not through it-you’ll ruin your needle).

“More Than Twenty-three Hexagons” by Catherine Redford featuring matchstick quilting.

4. Stitch straight across the area you wish to quilt. At the end, pull up the thread and move your needle over to one side of the first quilting line, the width of the foot. Continue this way until you have quilted the entire section. Note: If you come to a seam, do not stitch in the ditch, because the seam was pressed open. Instead, stitch just next to the seam.

5. Now, start filling in the “gaps” between the original stitching lines. Start with one, fill in with close lines of stitching, and then proceed to the next. “Think happy thoughts!” says Catherine, and don’t worry if the lines aren’t exactly straight. “It looks more organic.”

I have learned so much from Catherine’s machine quilting tutorials, and you can, too! Her best-selling Quilting Arts Workshop, Modern Machine Quilting, is available for download or on DVD now.

Discover even more machine quilting instruction and inspiration from Catherine!

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