Answers to Your Machine Quilting Challenges – part 3

As we continue on with this series of trouble shooting your machine quilting challenges, be sure to read part 1 and part 2 for more helpful advice. And now, onto more suggestions:

Christa Watson of Christa Quilts

My goal is to help you love machine quilting as much as I do!

Problem: keeping size consistent on large scale designs
My suggestion: I have found that when it comes to domestic machine quilting, it’s much easier to quilt smaller scale designs because you have less room to work on the bed of the machine, compared to a long arm. If you want to quilt a larger scale design, I suggest marking it. Or if you are quilting a large scale textural filler, keep something nearby that is roughly the same size (such as a drawing of the motif, or a 3D item) so you can constantly refer to it for scale.

Problem: maintaining good speed control
My suggestion: free-motion quilting requires you to balance the speed of two things at the same time: the rate at which you push the quilt through the machine, and how fast your machine stitches. It’s like driving a car with a manual transmission for the first time – it takes some getting used to. Work on starting with a slower speed and aim for smooth stitches. Be sure and take a few “test drives” on practice scraps before you head out on the highway (quilting the real quilt)! Once you are comfortable with the process, then try to increase your speed.

Problem: I can’t get smooth curves
My suggestion: try a more modern, geometric design such as square boxes, triangle texture, or a more jagged stipple. Some people seem to have a natural inclination to quilt either curving or geometric shapes. If you struggle with either, practice quilting one design on a large section of the quilt with blending thread and don’t criticize yourself too harshly. It will get better with practice. Also, spend time sketching out your design on paper so that you can practice drawing the smooth, fluid shapes.

Triangle Texture and Pebble Quilting by Christa Watson

Try quilting both curves and angles to see which you like best. This is detailed quilting of “Broken V” from my book Machine Quilting with Style.

Problem: skipping stitches, nesting issues, thread breakage
My suggestion: these problems are usually caused by one or more of these factors – wrong needle size for the thread you are using; bent, nicked, or dull needle; incorrectly threaded upper thread; tension too tight; bobbin inserted incorrectly; machine not oiled or delinted often enough. Be sure to always thread with the presser foot up and then trouble shoot each of these issues one by one. A tiny silicone disc called a Magic Genie bobbin washer can also help on machines that don’t have built in bobbin sensors.  If all else fails, it may be time to take your machine in for service.

Problem: I don’t like free motion quilting
My suggestion: that’s perfectly fine, you can quilt tons of designs using just a walking foot! In my Craftsy class and in my books, I show how you can quilt several differnt quilts completely using walking foot techniques. Also, Jacquie Gering just wrote a fantastic new book called Walk that goes deeper into this subject.

Walk by Jacquie GeringClick here to preview Walk by Jacquie Gering.

Problem: I don’t know how to quilt a quilt that has a lot of blocks, like a sampler.
My suggestion: I’d go either super custom or super simple. An allover design either quilted with a walking foot or free motion is the easiest and would be quilted regardless of the piecing or block designs. This type of quilting adds a layer of tecture to the piece, and if done with a blending thread, becomes secondary to the overall design of the quilt. However, if you want to draw attention to the individual blocks, then custom quilting each one and treating it as a separate element is the way to go.

Free Motion Quilting a Sampler

I’d suggest taking a look at Leah Day’s Craftsy class, Free-motion Quilting a Sampler as a great place to start!

Problem: getting stuck in corner, missing areas in allover designs, getting boxed in 
My suggestion: Contrary to what the quilt police might think, it’s reall okay to stitch over previous lines of quilting, or cross over your lines if needed. I usually like to sketch out a quilting plan on top of a picture of my quilt top. That allows me to plan out the direction I’ll take to quilt each section of the quilt.

I hope you are enjoying these machine quilting tips. I love being a cheerleader for “do it yourself” quilting and I try to make the process as approachable as possible. I’ll be back again next week with more suggestions!














12 thoughts on “Answers to Your Machine Quilting Challenges – part 3

  1. Valerie says:

    I inherited a sit-down quilting machine without a stitch regulator. I’m really struggling to get even stitches. Are your comments and advice and experience mostly based on using a stitch-regulated machine? The only advice I can find is to practice more.

  2. shoshana says:

    hi Chista,\i’m a fairly new quilter [how long will hat excuse stay good?!], and am really loving your advice, as well as your books. thanks so much, please keep it coming!

  3. lilquilter says:

    Christa, thank you for these great tips. Having been quilting-obsessed for 30+ years, I consider myself an experienced (but NOT expert) quilter, and am constantly learning and growing my experience. I’m currently working on a 2-block star wallhanging and was thinking of quilting it with my walking foot so your review of Jacquie’s book is most timely! I just ordered it and can’t wait to get it in a couple of days. Thank you – thank you -thank you!!

  4. Becky Banet says:

    Thanks for the tips! I haven’t done a lot of free motion quilting, but I think I’m getting better. I can hardly draw a straight line, so fmq curves seems easier to me. I like your idea about planning out the direction to quilt by drawing on top of a picture of the quilt. I’ll try that. 🙂

  5. Ruth Heater says:

    Would you consider giving a tutorial of your process of “sketching out a quilt plant on top of a picture of your quilt top”? This sounds great, but I can’t really visualize how it’s done…to scale? Thank you for all your helpful solutions you’ve shared! Ruth

      • Susan Eckberg says:

        Hi Christa. I was reading these questions and I clicked on your link to find your class for half price, but it wasn’t half price. The link is only a day old.

      • Christa says:

        Thanks! To get the half price discount, add the class to your cart. It’s an automatic coupon that applies when you check out. I hope that makes sense 🙂

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

        On Tue, Jan 24, 2017 at 7:57 AM, Christa Quilts wrote:


  6. Pat Evans says:

    Your hints are so right on. My FMQ used to be pretty jerky and I lacked control. Finding out it was okay to slow down and that backtracking was okay helped me improve immensely. Well lots of practice helps too. And not worrying that every morif must be uniform and perfect. If you can tell it’s a heart or a flower, that’s good enough for me. But I’m not doing show quilts, either. Thanks for this series.

  7. margiestitcher says:

    I am so enjoying these articles and learning so much I do have your book too and since I boight that have not been nearly so scared about the quilting process, started on small pieces and now doing large ones still not that good but thy say practise makes perfect! Still hate layering up the sandwich though so often I turn it over and have a few creases! Thnk you so much

    • Christa says:

      Thanks so much – I’m glad it’s helpful. I’ll address basting in the next post this Friday.

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

      On Thu, Jan 19, 2017 at 10:48 PM, Christa Quilts wrote:


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