Answers to Your Machine Quilting Challenges – Part 6

Welcome to part 6, the final post where I’ve been offering suggestions to some of my readers’ most challenging machine quilting issues. Get more tips by reading part 1, part 2, part 3, part 4 and part 5.

Craftsy Filming Behind the Scenes

On set during the filming of my Crafty class: The Quilter’s Path where I show you how to quilt many of the quilting motifs I write about on my blog and in my books and patterns!

Problem: I have a hard time getting ideas from my head into reality.
My suggestion: I used to have this same problem until I started creating a machine quilting plan for each quilt I make. I take a picture or make a printout of my quilt top and then I figure out the quilting path I need to take to work my way around the quilt. Below is the plan I made for my Positive Direction quilt pattern.

Positive Direction Machine Quilting Plan

Problem: I’m not sure which batting to use.
My suggestion: Try out a different batting for the next several quilts and see how each performs. Take note of the shrinkage, softness and what the quilting stitches look like. Some battings like cotton, will make the quilting appear more flat because it doesn’t have a lot of loft. Others, like polyester or wool will give a better stitch definition because they are more lofty, or puffy. My favorites are cotton, wool and soy.

Problem: Too much time passes between quilt projects and I feel like I’m losing my skills.
My suggestion: machine quilting is like learning a musical instrument: the more you practice, the more you’ll be able to “play.” If you are in between projects, keep a stack of small scraps of fabric and batting to stitch on for a few minutes each day. Just quilting for 5 min each a couple times a week will keep your quilting muscles in shape!

Machine Quilting Practice

Problem: I get discouraged whenever I compare myself to other quilters’ skills.
My suggestion:
Anyone who has just started their quilting journey will definitely go through this. It’s one thing to be inspired and another to feel inadequate. Just remember that it takes a lot of time and practice to get good at anything. I always encourage newer quilters to embrace walking foot quilting first because it’s pretty much fool-proof. Then, move onto tackling free-motion when you are more comfortable.

Walking Foot Quilting

I always teach walking foot quilting before moving onto free-motion. It’s virtually goof-proof!

Problem: How do I get out of the “stipple” rut?
My suggestion: I recommend collecting as many books as you can about machine quilting, taking a lot of classes, and seeing quilts up close and personal. Start sketching quilting motifs that appeal to you and try them on your quilts. If you have a toolbox full of 4-5 designs you really like, you can mix them up and quilt them in different areas of your quilt!

Problem: I want to try ruler-work quilting but I’m not even sure where to start.
My suggestion:
enroll in my friend Amy Johnson’s Craftsy classes on ruler work. She has two of them and pretty much covers all the basics. It’s amazing what you can do with specialty rulers on your domestic machine.

Quilting with Rulers on Your Home Sewing Machine

Click here to learn more about ruler work and see a class preview.

Problem: I don’t want to practice, because I hate wasting fabric on “learning.”
My suggestion: I don’t think “learning” is ever a waste. 🙂 However if you want to make something practical out of your practice sandwiches, create a stitch journal. Try out different quilting designs on similar sized practice pieces. Write on each which thread you used and other details like stitch length, batting etc. Then get some grommets or a key chain and punch a hole in the corners of each sample to link them together. Whenever you are stumped on an idea, refer to your journal for inspiration!

Problem: I’m not coordinated when it comes to machine quilting. It feels awkward.
My suggestion: when I started quilting it felt weird too, and I still can’t get the hang of longarm quilting (which is why I stick to a sit-down machine). Try to position your quilt and yourself a few different ways to see if you can get in a comfortable position. Quilting is a skill that requires a different muscle movement than anything else so it can take awhile for it to feel more natural. Don’t give up! Also try different hand positions when quilting. Try keeping your hands flat, raised, or gripping the edge of the quilt to see which feels more comfortable.

All Craftsy Classes on SaleClick here to see which classes are on sale, including mine!

I hope you’ve enjoyed these tips! If you haven’t already done so, be sure and enroll in my Craftsy Class, The Quilter’s Path. All brand new Craftsy classes are on sale for $19.99 or less this weekend only! Sale runs from today through Sunday, so stock up on this massive sale!!

Machine Quilting Tips

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6 thoughts on “Answers to Your Machine Quilting Challenges – Part 6

  1. Pat Ensing says:

    Thanks for your encouragement for all us free motion quilters. I have finally come to realize no matter how much I practice my work always looks like me. The hardest thing is to not compare yourself with others but accept yourself as you are. What a freeing experience that was. Thanks again.

    • Christa says:

      My favorite thing about people quilting their own quilts is that is looks like person did it rather than a computer. I love seeing the “hand” of the maker in their work!

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

      On Fri, Feb 10, 2017 at 12:00 PM, Christa Quilts wrote:

      >

  2. Martha cook says:

    thank you for answering our questions. I had a lot of catch up to do after I broke my right wrist which meant more time at the machine.:). so posture, height position of chair, arm position,etc. helps us from aching back,neck … please share your thoughts on this.

    • Christa says:

      So sorry to hear about your injury! Yes, good posture at the machine is important along with a comfy chair! I’ve noticed that it’s difficult to get an ergonomic setup for short people (like me) so the next best thing is to take lots of sewing breaks and stretch when needed!

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

      On Fri, Feb 10, 2017 at 2:37 AM, Christa Quilts wrote:

      >

  3. Jocelyn Kerr says:

    For practice pieces, you might check with your local animal shelter – see if they could use some quilted mats for their dog kennels and what size. Then you won’t feel that you’re wasting your time & materials – and the dogs won’t care if there are boo-boos in the quilting. 🙂 I haven’t done this yet, but read about it somewhere.

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