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.

SOME HELPFUL LINKS:

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!
Elaine

 

197 thoughts on “Six Tips for Machine Quilting

  1. Kay Z.

    Thanks for the link at the bottom of the post about identifying needles – I never knew they were color coded! I always got out a magnifying glass to try to see what size they were. Now I know.

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  2. skalabara

    Thanks for your tips. I can only confirm that all points listed are absolutely right – I have learnt them the “hard way”. Using correct needles with the right thread makes a huge difference.

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  3. jesusknowsmyname

    I just subscribed and I am learning new tips already! I am a ‘new-ish’ quilter and have been tying my quilts because I can’t afford to have them done professionally. I think your tips here are really going to help. I love your fabric combinations and patterns. I see some fabric on here that I have used–‘Reel Time’. Love the tips about the walking foot and the quilting needle.

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    1. GrammieFaith

      I thought the lower the number the heavier the needle. With injection needles, Guage is the number of needles it takes to lay across an inch. It takes 27 Guage 27 needles to fill an inch.

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  4. AnnieVee

    Hi Elaine. Thanks for all these great tips. I will definitely be using them. Is it just me or do you use a longer stitch length for your quilting? My fabrics have arrived and I can’t wait to get started on my Zen quilt. 😀

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  5. OzWombat

    These are great tips. I am fairly new to quilting and have actually learned these tips quite recently, the hard way. Thanks.

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  6. Heidi lane

    I am using some garden gloves for sewing and they work great. You have to find the ones with grippy stuff on then. I also cut off a few of the finger tips so I could do the little stuff without pulling my gloves off so often.

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    1. Hunkydory

      I purchased a pair of expensive quilting gloves (cloth gloves with the little nubbies) at the fabric store. Then my neighbor gave me a pair of cheap garden gloves from the dollar discount store and I Love them!!! They grip the fabric so much better than the quilting gloves!

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    1. Beech Tree Lane Handmade Post author

      Mona: Yes! Quilting is so easy – basically, you just need to sew a straight stitch and you can make zillions of designs. I would highly recommend that you take a beginning quilting course at your local quilt shop. This is the best way to begin – you get hands on guidance from people who really are interested in getting you to enjoy quilting and you can always go back if you need help. If, for some reason, you don’t want to go this route, Craftsy has awesome online courses for beginning quilters. Check them out here. Also, I would urge you to start by making a mini quilt. You can use all the techniques you need to make a regular quilt, from piecing to binding, and it gives you practice and confidence before tackling a regular size quilt. Hope this helps!

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      1. Kristi

        Craftsy is definitely a helpful reasource! I am almost completed with my first real quilt and I have done the whole thing myself from start to finish. Couldn’t have done it without craftsy classes!!!

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  7. Carolyn Watts

    What kind of thread do you use to quilt with? Learning alot about quilting in the quild I belong to and have great tips here to help me learn to use my sewing machine to do the quilting.
    Thank you for your helpful tips.

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    1. Beech Tree Lane Handmade Post author

      Carolyn: I use Aurifil thread from Italy to quilt with. I love it because the 50 wt. is very fine for piecing. The thread just practically disappears in your seams. Also, Aurifil thread leaves very little lint in your machine. I use the 40 wt. often for quilting the top of the quilt – it is a heavier thread and really shows off your quilting stitches. I do use 50 wt. for quilting, if I don’t have the 40 wt. of the color I want. It can be expensive, but Craftsy sells it at a great price and I buy it a lot from Hawthorne Threads and Pink Castle. A large spool of Aurifil thread is an amazing thing – it seems to last forever! Hope this helps.

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      1. Carolyn Watts

        Thank you so much for the answers, please keep on teaching us who are still learning to quilt. Happy Easter.

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  8. DaneseKristi

    I am so excited to be here! I love your blog and appreciate you sharing with all of us!

    I love to make baby quilts and sometimes throw size for a comfy cuddle with a book or Netflix and my question is that since I like to quilt as I go (sometimes just using different width stripes if I’m in a time crunch) would you recommend that I use a walking foot since I am stitching all three layers together?

    Smiles, Danese

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    1. Marie

      Have you tried spray basting. I’ve use it in one location, folded it and started again 650 miles away, and it’s still exactly as I sprayed it. I enjoy the finished project, but the binding and quilting parts I find the most tedious. I can’t imagine how I’d dread it if I pinned! Also, I sew my borders on first, stitch the quilt together, the lay the batting down and roll and flip it through a small part I left open in the top. Works perfectly. If small parts come unstuck, I just reach in and move it around. Then I top stitch the border done in some cases for more definition.

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  9. Dena

    I am a newbie to quilting recently. Love your information here. Going to look into purchasing the walking foot. Thanks

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  10. Sandra

    Thank you for sharing the helpful hints, I’m going to buy the needles and the walking foot. I was about to start on my 3rd quilt and I am so glad I found your info.

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  11. Sara

    Schmetz has an app for android and iPhone that has their color guide all nicely blown up the size of your screen. I mainly hand quilt, but this comes in super handy when I’m on the go and need to know about the machine needles I’m looking at in the store.

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  12. Marisa

    Can I use the “walking foot” and quilting needles on a regular sewing machine?
    As you can see, I’m new at this and where we live there’s not much advance. I have an amazing teacher but I also do a lot of self teaching

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    1. Beech Tree Lane Handmade Post author

      Marisa: What kind of machine do you have? Almost all machines can take a walking foot. You should google your machine type and see what kind of walking foot to buy. The quilting needles can be used by any machine. Hope this helps!

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  13. Allyson

    Thanks for all the information. I am tired of sending my quilts out to be $$quilted. I made a quilt top today. I think I’ll try to quilt it myself😉

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  14. JanJ

    Thank you for the very useful tips. Can you use the basting spray for baby quilts? Would you recommend a walking foot for a Bernina 770QE which comes with a dual feed foot?

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    1. Beech Tree Lane Handmade Post author

      JanJ: As I understand it, you can use basting spray for baby quilts because it washes out. So just be sure to wash the quilt after it’s finished. As for the walking foot for that particular Bernina, I have no idea! Sorry! I would contact a Bernina dealer and ask them.

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    2. Hunkydory

      JanJ–
      If you have the dual feed foot, you probably shouldn’t need a walking foot. The dual feed is just a walking foot built into the machine.

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  15. Jenn

    I love my walking foot. It made a huge difference in my finished quilt. So many of the quilting gloves have latex which I’m allergic to. So I found silicone page counter finger tips, they work great. I’ve also used the stick on finger thimbles, they’re rough and work pretty well. I thought all this time that I was just a needle snob only liking Schmetz. Always use the needle that is for what you are doing and Schmetz has one for each sewing need. I do start each quilt with a new universal 11 for piecing and a new quilting 14 for quilting. These are little things but put them all together and they make a huge difference.

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  16. Hunkydory

    I’ve found that spray starching and pressing the backing fabric before putting the quilt sandwich together also helps reduce or eliminate puckering and pleating of the fabric. Made a big difference when I tried it on the latest quilt…

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  17. Jody

    Thanks, great info. I recently tried a walking foot for the first time. At first I loved it. But then the bottom foot part kept coming off, which caused the needles to bend/break. I was working on a quilt with appliqued blocks so I was turning it a lot. I guess the walking foot is better for long straight runs? Anyone have similar issues? It was on my regular Singer machine.

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  18. Barbara

    Thanks for the great tips. I was using same needle for piecing and machine quilting. Will try the 11 and 14 needles!!

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  19. catskillquilter

    These tips are fabulous! I have been sewing forever and had no idea that there were machine quilt needles! I use the Schmetz 90’s but now I will get the special ones. I will also check out the gloves. Thank you!

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  20. Karen Foster

    I use the microtex needles (Schmetz) for piecing, especially for batiks, and I use a topstitch needle (90/14) for quilting. I love King Tut thread for quilting. I also like Sulky blendables but my Viking Sapphire doesn’t like the Sulky thread if I am free-motion quilting. I use my walking foot for attaching my binding and any straight line quilting. But I must admit I am partial to free-motion quilting and I think with plenty of practice, even beginning quilters can do it.

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  21. Ann

    You hit all of the points on the head! Thank you! I’ve quilted 2 quilts on the machine so far! It’s truly an act of ❤️, I’m learning so much from people like you and Pinterest! Sew on!!!

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  22. Sue

    I just used Aurifil thread for the first time and it keeps breaking. I am just using it for garment construction, so I don’t know if that thread is used just for specific purposes. So far not a fan of this thread.

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  23. Sandra

    If the Aurifil thread is breaking the first suggestion would be to change the needle. As for the person who was having problems with her walking foot, yes it is for straight sewing. If you are turning your work a lot or doing a lot of curves you might want to learn free motion quilting which is completely different. There are Craftsy classes for that as well.

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  24. Dolores Neal

    I’m about to machine quilt for the first time. This a special quilt — for my first great grandchild!
    I have a Kenmore machine. I want to keep it simple maybe just straight lines. Should I use a walking foot? Do you always lower the feed dog with a walking foot? I really appreciate your Pinterest info.

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    1. Beech Tree Lane Handmade Post author

      Dolores: Please get a walking foot if you are able. It will make a huge difference in the way the quilt “sandwich” moves through the machine. You do not lower the feed dog when using a walking foot. You actually want the bottom feed dog engaged, so it moves the fabric through easily. The walking foot provides an upper feed dog for the quilt, moving it through even better. You only lower the feed dogs when using a free motion quilting foot. Hope this helps!

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  25. Abby

    Thank you for the great tips! I too have a Janome machine but haven’t bee a quilter for long. So appreciate you sharing your knowledge!

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  26. Julie

    I would like to know your opinion on spray basting products. They works so well but I’m not sure the product washes out; any insight?

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  27. Euna

    I’m a new quilter, I did’t know about the needles or walking foot but will look into it before I try machine quilting. Thanks shook very much for your info, very helpful.

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  28. cindythereaderCindy schill

    This is very helpful. I have a 40-year-old Singer machine and never thought I could machine quilt large projects because I was sure I’d never be able to find an appropriate walking foot. Then one day in Jo-Ann’s I saw a walking foot and decided I’d try it. Lo and behold it fit! And it has made a huge difference. My question is are the needles you recommended available for an old Singer like mine?

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  29. Judy

    I really love your fabric selections and your quilts! Thank you for sharing so many great tips and the names of your fabrics! I’m new to quilting and am struggling with little folds trying to form as I cross over a previous quilt line. (I’m using a walking foot) Do you start your quilting at one end and go to the other end or do you start in the middle and go out from there? Also, do you finish all your vertical lines before you do the horizontal lines or do you alternate (one vertical, one horizontal). And lastly, do you sew the quilt lines in the same direction each time or do you flip your quilt around and sew the opposite direction for the next row? Sorry for all the questions but I want to be able to make quilts as beautiful as yours!

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    1. Beech Tree Lane Handmade Post author

      Judy: Getting tucks and puckers as you quilt is no fun. You have to rip them out and fix them and no one likes to do that. As I said in the post, using a quilting needle in your machine and lowering your machine tension helps a lot. Also, wearing quilting gloves can help for sure, enabling you to grip the quilt as you go, keep the fabric taut. But all these tips will be no good unless your original basting of the quilt is well done. When I baste, I lay my backing fabric on our ping pong table and tape it in place with lots of painter’s tape, stretching the fabric tightly down. Then I place the batting on top and stretch that out, rubbing my hands over it, to stretch it into place. Then I place my quilt top on that and stretch it into place. I start pinning in the middle and go outward, pulling the quilt top tightly as I go. When all the pins are in place, my quilt sandwich is very secure and so when I machine quilt it, there shouldn’t be any puckers or tucks.

      When I machine quilt, I usually start in the middle somewhere and start doing all the lines one way. Then I go to the other side and do all the same lines. Then I will turn the quilt and do the intersecting lines. That’s just how I do it. There isn’t one completely right way. It can be a good idea, however, to flip the quilt sometimes so that all your quilting lines aren’t done from the same side.

      I hope this helps!

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      1. Judy

        Thank you so much! This is very helpful. I did try lowering the tension on my machine and that seemed to help. Next time I will definitely take a lot more care with my pinning and will try your way for the direction of stitching. Thanks again!!

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  30. sharon

    thanks for the data on needles and the idea of quilting lines from different sides. (I’d never heard that but it makes since) one question do you have to pull the bobbin thread to the top (like when using a darning or free motion foot). I’ve never use a walking foot.

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  31. Dimple

    How do you know what batting to use? I like to make baby quilts and not sure what batting is good. I have just used some for jo-Ann fabrics but I know some quilters cringe when they hear that. and how do you know how much quilting there needs to be? I have heard that depending on the batting you use it tells you how far apart the quilting needs to be.
    Also is it okay to back the quilt with fleece?
    Thank you and your quilts are awesome! Love the fabric combination!

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    1. Beech Tree Lane Handmade Post author

      Dimple: Batting is a personal preference. If you’re going to machine quilt you have to use a low loft batting. I mostly use 100% cotton Warm and Natural batting. Some people don’t like that batting because they think it’s a bit stiff. They’ll use Hobbs Premium Heirloom 80/20 batting, which is 80% cotton with 20% polyester. It gives a little bit lighter feel to the quilt. In my most recent quilt, the Dotted Flying Geese quilt, I experimented and used two layers of an 80/20 batting by The Warm Company and it made a heavier quilt, which I wanted, and machine quilted just fine. The quilt packaging will tell you how far apart you have to quilt. And if you use fleece on the backing, I’m not sure it will machine quilt all that well. I’ve only used fleece on tied quilts. Hope this helps.

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  32. Judi

    I read the comments about professional quilting and quilting shops and courses with great envy. Nothing like that locally (UK). I am actually using quilting needles on my curent quilt and yes it does make a huge difference. Great tips thanks x

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  33. Sheena Beech

    I am a newbie to the quilting world and so glad I have found your blog today. For instance who would have though a needle could make such a difference! It is just lovely that people in the know with all their experience take time out to help beginners/others. We don’t unfortunately have the wonderful quilting stores you have in the USA here in the UK, but thanks to the internet it is getting easier to souce the things we need and can’t find locally. Thank you for sharing x

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