Quilt As Desired Article 1: Modern Machine Quilting

Last week I shared an article that Jacquie Gering and I had written for the National Quilting Association which dissolved last year after 46 years as an organization. Now that a period of time has passed and the rights have reverted back to me, I thought it would be an appropriate time to share with you the series of articles I wrote for them about Machine Quilting. There’s a total of 5 articles (2 of which were never published) and I plan to share them with you approximately once a week. Hopefully you’ll pick up a tip or two. Happy reading friends!

Note: The following article was written as a sample of my writing style and helped me land the free-lance writing gig. NQA asked if I wanted to go ahead and use it for my first column, but I chose to write on a different topic which I’ll share next time. So this is the first time this article is being shared in public.

Modern Machine Quilting

 Whether you prefer to quilt by hand or machine, or send your quilts off to a professional for finishing, I’m here to share my expertise and offer advice on how to enhance your quilt’s overall appearance with appropriate quilting choices. This will be a regular feature in each issue of the Quilting Quarterly. We hope you enjoy it!

I love to make modern quilts and explore how to quilt them. Functional modern quilts are meant to be used and washed and they often include vast expanses of negative space. For bed quilts, the quilting should provide enough texture and interest to fit into a modern décor, without being so excessive that the quilt becomes scratchy, stiff and unusable.

I will illustrate an example of functional, modern machine quilting on a quilt I designed named Abacus. It’s made from circular blocks that are machine appliqued. It is sewn together in rows with increasing lengths of grey strips forming the background.


The first thing I do when considering how to quilt a quilt is take a picture of the actual quilt top or the quilt pattern, and print it off in color on a piece of 8 ½” x 11” paper. I will then sketch different quilting ideas until I come up with something I like.

The pen marks indicate the quilting lines, but not necessarily the color of the thread. I will quilt Abacus with a series of gently waving lines, using my walking foot on my home machine and slightly turning the quilt to form the waves as I stitch. This can also be accomplished by using a decorative stitch and maxing out the length and width. (Be sure try out different stitches to find one you like!)


Next, I will practice on a smaller sample piece with the same fabrics, thread, and batting I plan to use for the quilt. I think grey is a nice neutral thread choice, and I will use the seam lines between the rows to give me a relatively straight guideline to follow. Spending time on these steps now helps prevents disappointment down the road when a quilt doesn’t turn out like I envision it in my head.


Finally, I will quilt the real quilt, starting in the middle of the quilt and quilting the wavy lines from top to bottom, moving halfway across the quilt. When I get to the edge, I will turn the quilt around and quilt the other half.


If you are using a long-arm machine to quilt this quilt, just load it from the side and quilt the wavy lines back and forth horizontally across the quilt, advancing the quilt as you go.


Click here to purchase a PDF version of my Abacus quilt pattern.


Abacus 32″ x 32″, designed pieced and quilted by Christa Watson

4 thoughts on “Quilt As Desired Article 1: Modern Machine Quilting

    • Christa says:

      I have found that I get better results when quilting in one direction with the walking foot. Whiskering or puckering can occur when you switch directions back and forth. However, when free-motion quilting it’s not as much of a problem because the foot is not making continuous contact with the quilt. But, when in doubt, do what works for you 🙂

      Christa Watson Instagram @christaquilts website/blog: ChristaQuilts.com Click here to join my facebook group: Quilt with Christa

      On Fri, Sep 30, 2016 at 3:47 PM, Christa Quilts wrote:


  1. Karen B says:

    Does quilting from top to bottom repeatedly not distort the quilt top? Love your quilt, and SO appreciate seeing your article, and your tips. Look forward to reading more. Thanks so much.

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