With my new visitors from Sew, Mama, Sew! I have been getting the same question quite a bit: How do you do that "all over squiggly" quilting? I do it on my normal little sewing machine, and you can do it too! It's called free motion quilting - and that pattern is called stippling. I'm certainly no expert, and there's lots of other info out there about free motion quilting, but I thought I'd type up a post, with all my thoughts and tips, to direct people to.
First off, I want to mention that it's not that hard. I feel like before I did any free motion quilting, everything I read about it scared me off. People made it sound like it was incredibly tough to master. But it's not. It takes practice, but beyond that, it's something that anyone can do.
The nuts and bolts: you use a darning foot on your machine, and you put your feed dogs down. From there, practice lots on quilt sandwich scraps before diving into your first quilt top.
Other things that help:
- Always set your needle to stop in the down position so that you can stop and start as much as you need to. -The key to even stitches is to find the balance between the speed you move the quilt and the speed of your needle. - For me, going fast makes my stitches more even - but from what I've read that's not the case for everyone. - If you run out of thread in your bobbin in the middle of your quilt, just keep going from the same spot, making sure to sew a few locking stitches over where you left off. - I check that the back of the quilt looks right A LOT. Tension problems often don't show on the front. - If you're quilting a big quilt, having a table to your left to hold the weight of the quilt is incredibly helpful. You can see what I mean in this photo.
Beyond all that I've mentioned, there is an amazing flickr discussion here that gives you all the tips and tricks you could ever need. And Amanda Jean put up a GREAT video tutorial here. Both of those helped me a lot.
The other question that I'm often asked is how I organize my quilting... meaning, where on the quilt do I start and how do I work my way through the quilt. I have an incredibly tough time explaining it in words, so I did a drawing for you! Here it is:
I hope that's clear! I don't start in the middle as is often suggested, but this seems to work for me. The first couple of quilts I stippled would get some yucky puckering in the back but now I pin LIKE CRAZY (I mean, I think I might OVER pin!) when I'm basting and that problem has stopped.
Quilting has come to be my favorite step of quilt making. I still get a thrill every time I sew over a seam and "unite" the quilt top a bit more. I love watching it all come together. It's so much fun!