Six Tips for Machine Quilting

Six Tips for Machine Quilting

Are you new to machine quilting?  You may have made tied quilts for a while and now want to explore machine quilting.  I’ve seen a lot of advice given for how to machine quilt but I think most of it lacks a couple of points that are important for successful machine quilting.  If you are having some issues or maybe just don’t know what needle to use, these can help.

grey goose stitch detail

I’m going to give you six tips for straight line machine quilting.  However, if you are especially having problems with puckering or tucking on the backs of your quilts or skipped stitches on the tops of your quilts, there are easy solutions to these problems in the following tips.

  1.  Use a Walking Foot.  If you’re trying to machine quilt with a regular presser foot, you’re going to have problems.  Invest in a Walking Foot (sometimes called an Even Feed Foot) if you don’t have one.  A walking foot will make your fabric feed evenly on the top and the bottom, not just on the bottom like a regular presser foot will.  There will be no bunching up of the fabric when you use a walking foot. Each manufacturer has a walking foot to fit their machines.
  2.  Use a Quilting Needle.  This makes a difference. Don’t use a Universal Needle, which has a slightly rounded point, for machine quilting.  Although it can work just fine and you may not have any trouble, quilting needles are better for machine quilting.   Quilting Needles are made for a reason!  They have slightly heavier shafts and a sharper point to get through thick layers of batting and intersecting seams. If you are having skipped stitches sometimes, a Quilting Needle can eliminate this problem.  It can also help a lot with any tucking or puckering on the back of your quilt.
  3.  Use a Heavier Needle.  I piece with an 11 needle and I switch to a 14  when I begin my machine quilting.  Makes a BIG difference! Many people do not switch up a size when they quilt.  Your quilting will be easier if you use a heavier needle.  I like to buy these packs of Quilting needles by Schmetz, which contain the two sizes I use most often, 11 and 14.
  4. Decrease Your Presser Foot Pressure.  If your machine has this adjustment, use it.  My Janome is set to 5 for regular sewing, but I switch it down to 3 when I start quilting.  It makes it easier for the quilt sandwich to move through the machine. This can also help with any tucking or puckering on the back of your quilt.
  5.  Use Quilting Gloves.  These gloves are grippy and will be a revelation to you if you’ve been quilting without them.  They enable you to really firmly hold on to the quilt as you move it through the machine.  Plus I believe they help prevent any oils and dirt from your hands in getting on the quilt as you are quilting it.  These are the kind I use but there are many different manufacturers.
  6. Change Your Needles Often.  It’s never good to let your needle get dull.  This can cause problems – like skipped stitches – and needles are cheap.  Some people change their needles every time they begin a new quilt.

sewing tools.jpg

These are tips that I feel will help you immensely, especially if you are wondering why you might be getting tucks on the back of your quilt or skipped stitches.  Give them a try on your next quilting project.


Machine Needle Guide by Schmetz

sewing needles

Ever have a needle laying around and you don’t know what it is?  Stop guessing!
How to Identity your Schmetz Needle by the Color Band

Have a great week!


226 thoughts on “Six Tips for Machine Quilting

  1. Pingback: 6 Tips For Machine Quilting – Quilting – Mix Of Tips

  2. Pingback: 6 Tips For Machine Quilting

    1. Becky Craft

      I make a scrap 10×10 or what I have left, sandwich batting scrap n fabric that I dont care to waste. I practice stitching on it before I do my quilt project.


    1. Sheila McWilliams

      Thanks so much for this . I would never have thought about the needle . What type of thread do you use. My spools keep breaking which is annoying


      1. Eileen

        Schmetz needles has an App that you can download for free. It has all the details about needles, color, and sizes. Very handy to have.


  3. Ellen Hoard

    Great information, but I need another important tutorial. I’ve watched how to begin the machine quilting process – but can’t manage to do it correctly. You are so good at explaining. Can you make a demo video of this process?
    Ellen in Michigan


      1. Ellen Hoard

        It’s been a year since I last looked at the existing tutorials… there is something one does to pull the through the bobbin thread into the quilt body (backing side of quilt) . Can you help with this?


  4. Beech Tree Lane Handmade Post author

    I don’t normally have to do this when I machine quilt, because I start at the edge of the quilt and sew across – that edge will eventually be covered by the binding, so I don’t bother to bring up the bobbin thread. However, if I have to start sewing in the middle of the quilt for some reason (maybe I ran out of bobbin thread in the middle of the quilt or my thread broke) I bring up the bobbin thread this way: Move your needle to the down position and grab the end of the top thread. Move the needle back to the up position and you will see that the bobbin thread will come up through the quilt to the top. Grab the bobbin thread and pull it out a little. Then you can start sewing. I hope this helps!


    1. Ellen Hoard

      Thanks for the reply. I’m such a visual learner, that I’d love to see a video of you doing this! I thought it was best to quilt out from the middle to the sides, but I will give this a try!


      1. Beech Tree Lane Handmade Post author

        Ellen: When I say to quilt out from the middle, I meant to start at the middle edge of the quilt. Maybe I need to reword that! Start on one side at the edge, but not at the ends of the quilt – start in the middle and then quilt across the whole width of the quilt. Then quilt out from there, to the sides. Does that make sense?


  5. Rosie

    I just made my first quilt (quarantined quilt), it has a cross in the middle and I am going to quilt it myself, but I’m not sure of the design that I should use. Would you have any recommendations.


  6. Sharon

    Thank you so much! I’ve been quilting for awhile and using the right needles was always an issue for me. I confess I used what had on hand, usually universals. Just ordered the 11’s and the 14’s. That will make it so much easier than guessing which ones to use. You’ve made it so simple. Thank you again.


  7. Barbara

    What stitch length do you use? I am finding I get very small stitches at 2.5 length. I think it may be due to speed, but even when I slow down, I think the stitch is too small. Thanks for the tips!


    1. Joan Sheppard

      I use my walking foot a lot but for quilting I use a “Free Motion Foot” . It’s a real learning curve but it’s under $20 and you have COMPLETE control of stitch length, direction, design. Try one at a quilt store. I can make circles, loop-de-loop, anything (with the feed dogs off).


      1. Barbara

        Thank you for your suggestion, I appreciate your comment. But still, I wanted to know what stitch length you use when you are using the walking foot.


  8. Joan Sheppard

    Corona means Crown so I am calling this my Crown collection! Have made a “bunch” of quilts. Thanks for the tips – no matter how long I sew there is always something I can learn. Never considered changing the needle. Inventors out there – can you make something that makes changing the needle less aggravating? I love my Janome too but changing the needle even with pliers I get stabbed.
    Thanks again, j



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