Machine Quilting Tips and Tricks Part 2: Tools of the Trade

To be successful with machine quilting, especially on a home sewing machine, the right tools can make all the difference. Below, I’m sharing some of my favorite tools and supplies that make the job easier. This is by no means an exhaustive list. And if you have a tool or tip you love that’s not listed here, please be sure to share it in the comments so we can all learn from each other!

Sewing Machine with Drop in Table

Having a large work surface will help as you scrunch and smoosh your quilt through the machine. My table is about 20 years old and originally held a different machine, so you can see that the hole in the middle doesn’t really fit my new machine. However, by placing the extension bed on top of it and adjusting the height of the drop in table, it works great!!

Sewing Machine Feet

Machine Quilting PracticeFor “Walking-Foot” style quilting you can use a walking foot made for your machine. Or if your machine has a built-in dual feed like mine does, you can use an open-toe dual feed foot instead. Both types of feet perform the same function which is feeding the bulky quilt through the machine evenly so you don’t get puckers on your quilt.

free-motion-quilting

For free-motion quilting, you’ll need to use a specialty free-motion foot that looks like a circle or an oval, along with dropping the feed dogs on your machine. This will allow you to move the quilt and stitch in any direction. Just like with the walking foot, I prefer an open toe so that you can see the needle better. This makes it easier to see where you are stitching.

Recommended Sewing Machine Features

Here’s a quick list of bells and whistles that make the job easier:

  • Stop with the needle in the up or down position
  • Wider throat space (8″-10″ is ideal. Most standard machines are 6″.)
  • Ability to adjust presser foot pressure; less pressure is great when walking foot quilting.
  • Knee lift or hover feature to raise presser foot without having to use your hands
  • Full shank feet rather than snap ons so it’s fast and easy to switch out the feet
  • Straight stitch throat plate – for free-motion quilting
  • Decorative stitches (with zig-zag plate) for walking foot quilting effects
Quilting Notions

When free-motion quilting, I place a Supreme Slider on the bed of my machine to make it more slick. This makes it easier to move the quilt around. The gloves give me a better grip on the quilt while I scrunch and smoosh it through the machine.

Marking Tools

quilt marking tools

I don’t like to mark my quilts very much, but when I do, I’ll use painters tape to create a straight edge. Or I’ll use a white plastic hera tool to create a crease on my quilt that I can follow. If I want to mark out evenly spaced lines, I’ll use a grid marker with the hera tool, or a water soluble marking pen to mark the lines.

Thread

Aurifil Thread by Christa Watson

I prefer to piece and quilt all of my quilts with Aurifil, 50 weight 100% cotton thread. It’s thin, yet strong and comes in a wide variety of colors. Because it’s cotton, it won’t make my quilts stiff when I quilt them heavily. And I can use up the leftover bobbins when piecing my next quilt!

Needles

Superior Threads Needles

To go along with the size 50 weight thread, I prefer size 80/12 topstitch needles. The titanium coating makes them stronger so they last longer than regular needles. I use the blue package above for both piecing and quilting.

Stack of practice sandwiches

Free-Motion Quilting practice samples

Make a stack of practice pieces with 2 squares of fabric and batting in between. Around 10-12″ is good so you have plenty of room to practice your designs. You can try a variety of fabrics, a variety of battings, and even use up some leftover quilt blocks. You can also use leftover fabrics and long pieces of batting that have trimmed off when you basted your quilt. Put those scraps to work!!

Pen and Paper for Sketching

FMQ Demo

A small notebook will do but it’s important to sketch out your designs on paper before you try them out on the real quilt!

Inspiration pics and quilting ideas

99 machine quilting designs

Click here to get your signed copy of 99 Machine Quilting Designs

My latest book, 99 Machine Quilting Designs is chock full of quilting motifs for you to practice! You can sketch each one or follow the line drawings to see how each design is formed and it includes alternate ideas on each and every page. It includes dozens of ideas for walking foot and free motion quilting!

So that’s pretty much it when it comes to machine quilting supplies. I’m a minimalist when it comes to tools needed, but these above items serve me well for all of the quilts I make.

Just remember, the most important thing you need in your quilting toolbox is a “can-do” attitude. After all, this is supposed to be fun!!

Click here for my full series of Machine Quilting Tips and Tricks.

6 thoughts on “Machine Quilting Tips and Tricks Part 2: Tools of the Trade

  1. Carolyn says:

    Great article – thanks! I’m a minimalist for tools and I prefer free motion quilting. How do you keep the Supreme Slider from moving around under your quilt? I’ve seen these before but never tried one. Thanks!

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