Christa’s Soap Box – More Thoughts on Machine Quilting

Thank you all so much for your thoughtful comments on last week’s Soap Box. I love that we can have conversations about hot-button quilting issues in such a respectful manner, even if we differ in our opinions.

Thanks to the online quilting community, I know I have become more open-minded, even though I am still passionate about my ideas. I actually wrote the essay below several months ago, but didn’t have a chance to share it. Now is the time, and I’d love to know your thoughts about it, as I continue to explore my own feelings on the subject.

Machine Quilting Gloves From the archives – a baby quilt I made for a friend several years ago.

You Can Be the Quilter

I am constantly inspired by attending and entering quilts into shows, both locally and nationally. I learn so much from the judges’ comments and after I show them, I love to use them!

When I first began sharing my quilts locally, I lamented that there weren’t more quilters entering their own completed quilts for judging. It seemed like a majority of the quilt entries were quilted by the one or two professional quilters in the area.

While it was wonderful to see Teri Topper’s beautiful blocks, and Patty Piecer’s perfect points, Lucy Longarmer’s gorgeous quilting always stole the show, yet she seldom got the credit for her work. Nowadays, I’m happy to see more quilt shows sponsoring separate categories for individual entrants, and it warms my heart to see professional machine quilters earning ribbons for their beautiful work.

Over the years I’ve tried to do my part to encourage others to learn and enjoy the machine quilting process, whether their machine of choice is a long arm, short arm, or somewhere in between. This is so that when others look at their beautiful quilts and ask who the “quilter” is, they can say, “I am!”



33 thoughts on “Christa’s Soap Box – More Thoughts on Machine Quilting

  1. frostiest says:

    I could quickly get in trouble in this forum, I suppose, but I enjoy quilts whether they are quilted by professionals or the piecers who made the tops. I can remember my grandmother having hand quilters come to her home where there was a large wooden frame in the dining room. She paid them to hand quilt her quilts. And they were her quilts. If I pay a professional, then it is still my quilt. I do not have the skill to do my own machine quilting, but I love to quilt. I am still a quilter, and I like to display my quilts at shows. I always acknowledge the quilter, though I now realize that my quilts are occasionally DQ’d because I have not quilted them myself.

    • Christa says:

      Thanks so much for stopping by and adding to the discussion!! I love hearing everyone’s opinions because that’s how we grow as quilters. 🙂

      The best thing about quilting is that there’s something for everyone and there’s room for all! No trouble here 🙂

  2. Linda H. says:

    I’m in 100 percent agreement with you, Christa! I’ll never pay someone to finish my quilts for me. And yes, it’s certainly a great feeling to say, “I quilted it myself.” We rock!

  3. Pattie C says:

    I usually make large quilts and always take them to a longarm quilter. I pick the design and thread color and I consider my quilt as just that, mine, even if I’m not driving the machine. I do quilt baby and smaller quilts but that’s not the part of the process I enjoy, so why risk ruining a quilt I have put so much time and money in with poor quality quilting, it’s not worth it to me. If you have the skills then go for it.

  4. Alice says:

    Hi Christa. I just finished a quilt that was quilted with x’s through some blocks and fancy machine stitching in others. It was an auction item for my brother’s benefit to help with medical and last wish expenses. I am still sending out bigger than lap quilts but I can’t afford to do that any more so I guess I will need to learn some simple things to do myself. I appreciate your encouragement.

  5. mudpiesandpins says:

    I think that quilting is often what makes a quilt and for that the quilter should always get the recognition they deserve. It is wonderful that quilt shows are beginning to recognise that there is a difference between professionally quilted quilts and individually quilted quilts and I think this is great as it gives the oppertunity for more quilters to be recognized for their wonderful work.

    To date I have always quilted all of my own quilts but they have been smaller quilts. I have a couple of larger tops made that I know I will not be able to quilt with my current machine so I am planning on sending those out to be quilted as plans I had to upsize my machine have been shelved indefinitely. Yes, it would be lovely to say that I had done all the work on them myself but I think I would rather see them completed, in use and being enjoyed than sitting waiting till I can finally finish them. I will always acknowledge whoever I shall choose to quilt them for their contribution to the finished piece.

  6. Leanne Parsons says:

    I quilt my own quilt because they’re MY quilts. I made them from start to finish…well, I didn’t grow the cotton, weave or dye the fabric and maybe I didn’t even design the pattern, but there are limits! 🙂 I love being able to look back at my earlier quilts and see how far I’ve come and it just wouldn’t be the same if someone else were doing a big chunk of the work. Plus, my quilting fees are much lower than if I were paying someone to do it for me!

  7. Amy's FMQ Adventures says:

    To each their own! But I think there should definitely be recognition for quilting done by someone else. Maybe as a paid quilter, they don’t get a piece of the pie, so to say, but definitely name them.

    I am too much of a control freak to send my quilts out. Plus, I do a pretty good job of quilting my own. I’ve even quilted a quilt passed on from a computerized long arm quilter since she didn’t want to program in the background designs for an intricate applique’d quilt. That’s an ironic twist, quilting on my Janome sewing machine for a long armer!

    I’m glad to hear that there are more categories being considered in different show venues. At a recent show, it was somewhat sad to see some quilts have to be in a computer aided/guided category just because a stitch regulator was used. Since I use no regulator though, I’m glad I didn’t have to compute against those who do.

  8. Joanne P. says:

    I quilt all my quilt tops on my home sewing machine. I don’t have a problem with other people sending theirs out to long arm quilters if that is what they want and can afford. I just like quilting my own and trying some new things and new threads. I have never entered anything in a quilt show. I always felt the quilt shows were more for what I call professional quilters. I have seen several people on various quilting videos who have a quilt they made and had quilted by a long arm professional; the quilt maker then enters the quilt in several shows over a few years time period, and wins major prizes on it each time. I always felt it would be a waste of time and money on entry fees to enter.
    From what you say, sounds like the quilt shows are starting to have more categories for entries that should give people a better chance of getting recognition. Separating the professional long arm quilted pieces from the home quilted may give home quilters more opportunities for ribbons.
    Like some people have said, to each his/her own; just have fun making your quilts and finishing them as you desire. That is what is important in the long run. I call it my therapy!

  9. Kristy Daum says:

    Oh, I am defintely a “Finish What You Start” kind of girl. While I know that some of my quilts could probably benefit from quilting designs that are much more complex then I actually use, I’m happy with my skillz 🙂 I do like seeing the complexity of designs that long-armers create; but it isn’t for me. Glad to see that there is room for all of us, and that I’m in good company.

  10. hosersblog says:

    have always quilted my own projects. I may not be the best at it, but I can take credit for the whole thing. I even did it on a long arm that I rented from someone for a queen size. It went so much faster. Mostly though I have used my little Janome, My quilts aren’t perfect, but they don’t need to be. My dream is to feel my work is good enough to enter in a contest. One day!

  11. Susan says:

    I tend to agree that if you don’t do all of it yourself, can you really say you made it. But then I think back to “the old times” when they had quilting bees. They still considered the person who pieced it, the quilt maker. I have to quilt my own, I can’t afford to send them out for someone else to quilt. I am also afraid I might not like what they do or worry about what if they mess it up or it gets lost…

    I have never entered anything into a quilt show. I am not that good yet. However, I have attended several shows. None of the winners quilts had the reasons given for winning (at least not for the viewer to see), just the category.

  12. stitchinstein says:

    I too am rather torn on this subject. If I am paying someone to quilt my design it is still my design. I can only think of Couture Fashion as an example. The design walking down the runway was made by skilled craftspeople but the designer gets the credit regardless of who did the actual work. That’s how I feel about it. The only way I would give the credit to the quilter if I entered a show is if it was a collaborative effort, meaning I didn’t pay them for it and it truely was a design effort together.

  13. Carole Hill says:

    Awhile back, the quilt guilds were strewn with quilts by a couple of quilters that always won everything, and it was intimidating to try and enter a quilt. They usually had “many” quilts in the show, so it seemed impossible for a person who only had one quilt to show, to win anything. Some of the feelings were why bother to enter! But now I see that our quilt guild is adding a lot more catagories, so that the unknown quilter may have a chance to win a ribbon. I agree that there are so many ways to quilt, and many different styles and types of stitching, that there should be room for all of it and everyone! I do my own quilting, because I can quilt it “my way” which may not be traditional. I like to use many different stitches on some quilts so that they can be unique in their look, and I can’t afford to pay someone to do what I can do myself. In California, I could go to many shows, but here we only have 1 show a year, and I still get inspired by the colors, styles, charm, and of course the quilting, and it’s still all great! Thanks for the article!

  14. Chantal says:

    We had a bi-annual how in Montreal last spring. As opposite to previous years, more and more quilts were pieced and quilted by the same person. Computer quilted quilts were not as many as previous years. Since I FMQ on a domestic machine, it was a relief to see other people tiny imperfections, and not computer guided perfection all over the place.

  15. Suzette says:

    I machine-quilted my first quilt this past winter. I made a full size quilt for my father in law who is a 24hr care seniors facility – something to warm up the institutional look of the place. It was just a bunch of swiggles and loops, but it was very satisfying to do a quilt myself from start to finish.

  16. Ellie says:

    I’m finally getting comfortable machine quilting by figuring out finally to do it in small sections at a time and not getting over whelmed by the size of my quilt. Currently I’m finishing up an attic window and just quilting it in pebbles. It’s going easier than I thought it would. I still send out king size quilts but can manage smaller ones. I have a bernina 440 but want to get the same one Christa has eventually the 860 series.

  17. Debby says:

    I agree to each their own. My mother loves to make quilts and she will quilt the baby quilts she makes, but she prefers to send the full size ones out to be done, while I on the other hand prefer to do the whole process myself. I usually handquilt mine but I have a FMQ craftsy class in my queue so I want to get to that soon. And it is on my PowerBall shopping list to get the best longarm machine ever made. Just as soon as I can get that winning ticket 🙂

  18. Ruth says:

    I want to work on quilting as you go since I really dislike making that quilt sandwich. I don’t want to send out my quilts because then they are not all mine. I also prefer minimal quilting; I want the colorwork to be the star, not the quilting.

  19. Pat Sell says:

    I have hand-quilted allmy quilts for years, but am now trying machine-quiltng. Sometimes it works beautifullyand sometimes it doesn’t, but learning a new thing is always good! I have a good friend who “long-arms” beautifully and I am always glad to give her credit. There is a place for everyone. 🙂

  20. searchfamilies says:

    I am still learning quilting my quilts other than stitch in the ditch i did do a quilt which i did pay to get quilted but all others i have done it for good or bad
    Hugs Janice

  21. Carolyn says:

    I also love to quilt my own quilts as it gives such satisfaction at completing a whole quilt myself. In fact I can’t wait for the piecing to be done to be able to quilt it! Having said that, I appreciate that many don’t like to quilt their own quilts and can afford to have them quilted in which case I agree with you Christa, the quilter most definitely needs to be recognized. I love your baby quilt!

  22. Vicki says:

    Having just gotten into domestic machine quilting, it can be very intimidating to be ‘judged’ on something so new. I think that if one doesn’t feel comfortable doing the quilting oneself, you should go ahead into the realm of quilt competition. Don’t stand back….jump in!

  23. knitnkwilt says:

    If we all begin to do all our own quilting, the longarmers would be out of business. Not a good thing. I’m learning FMQ and do it on small projects that “don’t matter.” Serious gifts and large quilts get sent out.

    I do think it important to acknowledge the quilter. At first quilters were not named. I am glad to see them named now. And my local guild has quilting categories for viewers to vote on as well as various categories of quilt.

    Encouraging people to quilt is much different than demanding that they quilt their own.

  24. Heather says:

    I too get so much satisfaction out of completing all of a quilt myself, and always encourage people to not be afraid to try their own quilting. But I do know people who love the piecing part of quilts, but seem to genuinely not enjoy quilting – so I wouldn’t want to dictate how they should pursue their hobby.

  25. Lis Ostiguy says:

    I believe there is a place for all in the quilt community and their talents should always be appreciated. I enjoy the work of those who specialize in doing tops, those who specialize in the quilting as an output for their creativity. It is a wonderful community to be part of.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s