I’ve been enjoying the lively discussion that my recent soapbox post on machine quilting has generated. In fact, I can talk quilting all day long!
Speaking of machine quilting, I have a little warning here before we start. You know I can go a little crazy with the quilting because it’s my favorite part of the process. Although this is still supposed to be a tutorial on how to quilt your own quilts, please don’t feel like you have to quilt them to death like I do (though I would love it if you became just as obsessed about FMQ as I am)!
My hope is that by seeing what I do, it will inspire you to quilt it yourself and maybe try one or two of my ideas. Think of it as a fashion show – it’s great to see all the flamboyant clothes and makeup on the runway but you wouldn’t exactly wear the same outfit as the models when you go to the grocery store, right?
So anyway here it is – part two of machine quilting Modern Trees – quilting the background fillers. It took me a total of 9 hours to quilt all the backgrounds over a 2 week period. I only quilted about 1 – 1.5 hours per day so it never seemed too overwhelming.
Note: I quilted all of my background with a cream colored Aurifil cotton thread, 50 weight in both top and bobbin. I used up a complete spool of thread (the large 1300 M size). I counted my bobbins this time and used 5 of those. (My Bernina bobbins are higher capacity, almost 2x the size of a regular bobbin.)
Step 1 – Practice First (30 Minutes)
No matter which design I quilt, my process is the same. I start of with a couple of scrap fabrics with batting in between to test my design first before I quilt on the real quilt. I’m checking the thread tension and getting a feel for how to form the design.
My machine will save my stitch settings but I’ve often found that I have to tweak them each time I start to quilt. For example I may need to tighten or loosen the top or bottom tension slightly. Sometimes I need to adjust the amount of presser foot pressure applied to my machine (check your manual to see if your machine has this feature – not all of them do). I’m not sure if heat or humidity affects things but it’s always good to stitch on a practice piece before each quilting session to make sure things are looking good.
Step 2 – Quilting Mini Modern Baptist Fans (3 Hours)
This design looks a little bit like piles of snow drifts which is what I was going for. It’s stitched on a smaller scale than a traditional baptist fan motif and I certainly didn’t worry about trying to keep the rows uniform. Modern machine quilting without marking is very liberating for me! I stitched this design on the bottom third of the quilt.
The diagram above shows how to form the design. It’s a good idea to sketch out the designs on paper first so you can “go with the flow!” Remember – you are going for an organic look here, not perfection.🙂
I quilted the first row along the bottom edge of the quilt first, then gradually worked my way up the quilt row by row, quilting from right to left, then left to right as needed. My piles of snow have anywhere from one to four rows of ‘humps’ depending on where I was trying to go. When I bumped up into a tree, I simply quilted around it to get to the next row, or I went back the other way.
Here’s a picture showing the entire quilt rolled up into the arm of the machine. This is a small enough project that I was able to reach completely to the other side of the quilt.
Step 3 – Quilting Snowballs and Snowflakes (3.75 hours)
Here’s a sample piece I made up using some leftover scraps from another project. I wanted to make sure the scale of my quilting worked so you could see the snowflakes hidden among the snowballs and see how the quilted star would turn out. The contrasting thread is just for practice – I always blend my threads in real life so you see the texture of the quilting, not the threadplay!
The snowball circles are called pebble quilting which is a very popular modern quilting motif. They are time consuming but they are very forgiving to stitch and add incredible texture. Think of quilting loops but without the spaces between the loops. And don’t be afraid to quilt around your circle several times or backtrack to get to where you need to go.
I started my pebbles on one side of the quilt, near the mini fans and filled in all the spaces. When I bumped up next to a marked snowflake motif, I continued by quilting on the marked line and then filled in the spaces around with smaller pebbles so the design wouldn’t get lost. I quilted snowballs sprinkled with snowflakes throughout the middle section of the quilt.
I drew a few arrows on my quilt top with a water soluble marker to direct me on which way to get in and out of each section. (I’ll rinse out all the blue marks once the quilting is complete.)
The key to enjoying quilting all of this background is having as few starts and stops as possible, and listening to something fun on your ipod or phone.🙂
Step 4 – Quilting the Swirls (1.75 hours)
I must say that quilting swirls (or spirals) is quickly becoming one of my favorite go-to FMQ motifs. They are so fun to stitch and can represent wind, sky, water and lots of different landscape motifs. It’s also easy to scale them up or down to whichever size you need. There’s no wrong way to quilt a swirl!
Here’s the sketched diagram. The marker colors change when moving in the opposite direction. It’s okay to have peaks and open spaces in this motif. It adds to the interest and keeps it from looking like computer generated stitching.
Here’s how the swirls look stitched out on the top third of the quilt. Just like quilting the other marked motifs, I quilted the star and words as soon as I bumped up against them. By using a thin cotton thread for quilting, you can backtrack (stitch over) previous lines of quilting as needed without making a mess.
You’ll notice a little fullness that occurs as the motifs are being stitched. By cupping my hands around each area to be stitched, I ease in the fullness and it gets quilted out as I go.
I hope you are enjoying making Modern Trees and can truly make this quilt your own. It’s so fun to see everyone’s progress on my flickr group each week, especially those who jump in there and share their free-motion quilting designs.
Here are a couple more details shots for your viewing pleasure:
Remember, you can find step-by-step tutorials for all of my previous quilt alongs here.
- Modern Trees Intro and Supply List
- Step 1 – Cutting and Sewing the Tree Blocks
- Step 2 – Assembling the Quilt Top
- Step 3 – Backing and Basting
- Step 4 – Machine Quilting Part 1
- Step 5 – Machine Quilting Part 2
- Step 6 – Binding to Finish
If you are quilting along with me, please be sure to share pictures of your progress on my Christa’s Quilt Along flickr group.
Grab my Quilt Along button and share the love!
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