How to Quilt on a Sewing Machine - a tutorial by The Sewing Korner

So, you bought a fancy sewing machine with all of the bells and whistles, and you’re determined to learn how to quilt with it. If you’ve never learned how to quilt on a sewing machine before, there’s no need to panic because the process is really much easier than you think.

Quilting on a sewing machine is mostly a matter of using the right functions and keys on the machine. These machines have specialized buttons dedicated just to the quilting process, and once you learn how to use them, the rest is a piece of cake.

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    Starting From the Beginning

    The first thing you’ll want to do before you start quilting on your machine is to become familiar with your sewing machine so that you know where everything is. Read through the instruction manual and learn what each button is for, even if you don’t know exactly how to use that button yet.

    If you take some scrap material and start practicing, this is a great way to start learning what each button is there to do. Working with scrap material allows you to practice and mess up without ruining a project, and it’s the fastest way to get used to all of the buttons and learn what they can and can’t do.

    Another tip that you may want to follow is to start with a small project first. Instead of making an entire quilt or blanket, try making a table runner or a baby’s quilt instead. Don’t expect your first project to be perfect – it seldom is.

    To get started, make sure you have everything you’ll need for your practice project, including a quilting foot, stencil, pen for marking your fabric, batting, enough fabric to get the job done, and anything else necessary for that particular project. Then, you can have some fun.

    How to Quilt on a Sewing Machine

    Quilting projects done on a sewing machine don’t have to be nerve-wracking. In fact, you likely already know how to sew on the machine, so now all you have to do is learn how to complete quilting tasks and you’re already halfway there.

    Some of the things you can do to make the task a little easier include:

    • Go ahead and fill up your bobbins so they are ready to go when you need them.
    • Check the tension in the machine and adjust it if necessary to make sure it’s workable.
    • Have lots of those big black paper clips on hand so you can slip the quilt as you work and not have hanging fabric when you’re done.
    • Always, always have a seam ripper to work with as your project progresses.
    • Extra fabric for your backing and extra batting should always be close by – aim for five inches worth of material or more.

    You can also think of quilting as a process filled with five main steps, each of which should be done correctly as you take your time so that the next step flows just as smoothly. As a general rule, here are those five steps in a little more detail:

    Step 1: Create and Join All of Your Quilting Blocks

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    Working in blocks is what most quilters do, and with good reason. When you create one quilting block at a time, your project is a lot easier and faster to complete. Whether you sew by hand or with a machine, creating blocks one at a time is a smart thing to do. This can help you see your progress with each block that you create and make it more fun as well.

    You’ll start by connecting the blocks together, then add your batting and sew them all together. Once you do this, you’re ready for the second step.

    Step 2: Get Rid of Any Extra Batting

    When you cut the excess batting, make sure to use a ruler so that all sides of the quilt are perfectly even and straight. You’ll also need to add binding, which you can do in several ways:

    • Use binding made of bias tape if you want rounded corners.
    • Use mitered binding if you want your quilt to last much longer.
    • Corner or square binding, though a bit on the technical side to learn, is usually easier for beginners.

    But the important thing to remember at this point is to make sure you take a pair of sharp scissors and remove all of the excess batting from your quilt.

    Step 3: Cutting the Fabric

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    Once the quilt edges are properly prepared, you can start cutting the fabric. Keep in mind that you have to have an accurate measurement of each of the four edges. For rectangle-shaped quilts, you’ll end up with two long pieces and two short pieces. For square-shaped quilts, you’ll have four pieces of the same length.

    Always add two inches to the measurements you’ve taken and leave a seam allowance of 2.5 inches. This will give you enough fabric to make sure you cover each corner completely and that you don’t run out of fabric as you work.

    Step 4: Work on the Binding

    Knowing how to quilt on a sewing machine comes in handy when sewing the binding because doing this job by hand would take much longer. The strips of binding must first be pinned to the quilt, but the task is a little easier if you start by ironing the two wrong sides together. This makes for a binding that is much smoother and wrinkle-free.

    Once the fabric is laid out, go ahead and pin it in place, leaving a seam allowance of one-fourth of an inch. In just one corner, make sure you leave a two-inch allowance so that the next and final step is much easier on you.

    At this point, once the binding is pinned to the fabric, you’ll notice it forms a “tube” in the middle of the binding, and that’s what is supposed to happen. Sew the binding on all four sides, then trim any of the excess off once you’re done with that.

    Step 5: Preparing for Your Stitches

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    At this point, you’ll have to use your iron to flatten out the binding. Find the top binding and fold it over, and when you do this, always start in the corner so that your corners are guaranteed to be nice and smooth in the end.

    Pin all of the seams down after they are ironed and folded over, then prepare to do some sewing by hand, as this is the easiest way to make sure this step is done correctly. Always keep two things in mind when completing the binding:

    • Use a blind stitch so the stitching isn’t as noticeable.
    • Always use the same color thread as the binding so the binding “blends in” much better.

    If all of these steps sound difficult, not to worry because once you practice them just one time, you’ll realize just how simple they are. Much like any other creative skill, quilting takes a little practice but the more you do it, the easier it becomes.

    Tips for Quilting on a Sewing Machine

    When you’re learning how to quilt on a sewing machine, you’ll notice there are two main stitches that are required for most projects, so it’s good to master these as soon as possible. Here is a recap of the two stitches:

    • Straight line stitch: For this stitch, you’ll want to switch to a walking foot and not use a regular presser foot. It is also called an even-feed foot. The foot applies specialized pressure that helps you move all of the quilting layers evenly through the sewing machine. A walking foot also works best when executing gentle curves and not complex patterns.
    • Free motion stitch: For best results, use either a special darning foot or another foot made specifically for quilting. The latter will look like a darning foot but will usually have bigger openings.

    Keep in mind that the designs made for quilting machines can be just as complex as those made for hand-sewing, but mastering how to quilt on a sewing machine means the job is a little faster than usual. You may end up sewing some parts of the project by hand anyway, but the sewing machine will make most of that project much easier.

    In Summary

    For people who are used to quilting the entire project by hand, you may feel like you have less control over the project when using a sewing machine. In fact, just the opposite is true once you get used to the machine. If you already know how to sew and quilt, switching to a machine is almost guaranteed to be easier than you think.

    If you’re not a sewer, not to worry because most of the steps of your typical quilting project involve basic sewing skills only. Learning how to quilt on a sewing machine may not even be necessary because of this. If you decide to hone these skills anyway, it shouldn’t take you long to figure out just what you’re doing.

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    2 Comments on How to Quilt on a Sewing Machine

    1. Hi this quilting on a small domestic sewing machine is NOT a piece of cake if a person has a quilt with measurements of 5ft by 4ft, trying to manage this, even starting in the middle is very hard work. Anybody can quilt on flat pieces. This is not sad grapes, I’ve now quilted six quilts in these sizes in the last two years. They were the very first I ever made. Hard work.

    2. Thanks for also talking about how it’s important to work with extra fabrics as well when planning to use a quilting machine. I want to buy one someday because I’m thinking about creating custom quilts that I can use for decorating my living room. Maybe I could even directly embed them onto my couch.

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