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.

Machine Quilting Tips and Tricks Part 1 of 9: Introduction

Today I’m excited to kick off a 9 part series on Machine Quilting Tips and Tricks. This is something I’ve been wanting to do for a long time, especially since I’ve written and taught on this topic extensively over the last few years. This week’s post will serve as an introduction to the series, and also as the landing page where I’ll update each of the links below as they are written.

Christa Quilts

I’m also happy to answer your machine quilting questions. So don’t be shy – ask you questions in the comments and I’ll include answers in a future post! So first off all here’s the schedule:

  • Week 1 – Introduction
  • Week 2 – Tools of the Trade
  • Week 3 – Preparing the Quilt
  • Week 4 – Practice, Practice, Practice!
  • Week 5 – Make a Quilting Plan
  • Week 6 – Easy Walking Foot Designs
  • Week 7 – Easy Free Motion Designs
  • Week 8 – Custom Quilting
  • Week 9 – Wrap up and Your Questions Answered

Sewing Machine – Longarm vs. Sit Down

The very first question you’ll want to decide is whether you want to quilt on a regular home sewing machine (like I do), or if you want to purchase a specialty machine like a sit-down free motion machine or a stand up long-arm machine.

I like the feel of “scrunching and smooshing” my quilt through a regular machine, so that’s what I’m most comfortable with. Also, I like the freedom to quilt “walking-foot” designs with my feed-dogs up, or “free-motion” designs with my feed-dogs down. A free-motion only machine can be limiting, but it provides more room to quilt and can usually quilt a lot faster than a domestic home machine.

Domestic Machine Quilting
Christa Quilts

This throwback pic is from 2013 just after I got my first upgraded machine, but I still quilt the same way – in my studio while listening to music or a quilting podcast!

My recommendation is to try out both and do what feels most natural for you. Many quilters start quilting on their regular home sewing machine, then upgrade to a larger machine as they improve their skills. I’ve tried both and I prefer the feel of domestic machine quilting, so that’s mainly what the rest of this series will be about. However, if you are a longarmer, stick around – many of my tips and ideas can be easily adapted to your situation!

A great place to try out sit down “domestic” machines is at your local sewing machine dealer. I recommend visiting all of the dealers in your area and bringing in your own practice samples (or even a full sized quilt) to try out. Although I am a BERNINA ambassador and that’s my machine brand of choice, a good reliable dealer will go along way towards helping you be successful with home machine quilting. I don’t recommend buying a machine online or at a big box store, because you’re just not going to get the level or service you’ll need.

Long Arm Quilting
Vicki Ruebel Orchid Owl Quilts

My friend Vicki Ruebel of Orchid Owl Quilts in her longarm shop in Las Vegas

For long-arm machines, I highly recommend testing out all of the major brands at local or national quilt shows. They’ll usually have a full-size machine set up that you can test out, and it will be prepared with a quilt already on the machine that you can practice on. Most shows will also have great deals on machines if you purchase it at the show. So keep that in mind and don’t be afraid to attend multiple shows until your mind is made up.

Many local quilt shops now offer longarm rental service so that’s also a great way to get your feet wet before making such a large purchase.

If you want further reading on the differences between machine quilting with a longarm versus a domestic machine, be sure to check out mine and Angela Walters’ book The Ultimate Guide to Machine Quilting. It’s where we get to share the best of both worlds!The Ultimate Guide to Machine Quilting by Christa Watson and Angela Walters

Click here to grab a signed copy of our book, The Ultimate Guide to Machine Quilting.

Here are  two other fabulous longarmers I recommend following on social media: my friends Heather Black of Quiltachusetts and Vicki Ruebel of Orchid Owl Quilts. Check out their websites and instagram accounts for some fabulous long-arm quilting eye candy!

In next week’s Tools of the Trade segment, I’ll share about the specific features I prefer to have on my domestic machine that make it much easier to get the job done, so stay tuned!

Free Quilt Pattern – Connections by Charisma Horton in Modern by the Yard Ezine from Benartex

One of the things that I love about working with Benartex on fabric design is that they produce a fantastic free digital magazine called Modern by the Yard. In each issue, they share inspiring projects that you can make from their fabrics. So each time I have a new line that comes out, one of my amazing designer friends creates a fabulous pattern for you for free!!

Connections Quilt in Modern by the Yard

Click here to download Modern by the Yard for free from Benartex.

In the current issue of Modern by the Yard, my talented designer friend Charisma Horton has created and shared her amazing quilt  pattern called Connections, which is right up my alley!! She made it using my latest fabric line, Good Vibes from Benartex.

Good Vibes by Christa Watson for Benartex

Click here to get your hands on Good Vibes yardage, precuts and bundles.

Here is what Charisma has to say about her latest project:

 “I am a big fan of Christa’s fabrics. I have made a few projects with her collections. They are fun, colorful and diverse. I actually designed Connections years ago before I was a professional designer.

I have learned that sometimes you have to wait for the designs to speak and decide when they should be released and where. I have always been a fan of quilts with negative space. This quilt decided that it was time and she is shining in all her glory.

 If you’d like to check out some of my other patterns you can visit my shop here:Charismas Corner on Etsy

Thanks so much for letting me share! I can’t wait to design with Christa’s next line of fabric. We make a great team.”

Connections Quilt by Charisma Horton

Connections Quilt made by Charisma Horton from Good Vibes fabric.

Thanks Charisma!!!
Click here to see other beautiful quilts and projects that Charisma has made from my fabrics.

I can’t wait to see what she makes next!

Virtual Quilt Festival: Sign Up for My Classes December 3-5, 2020

I’m looking forward to teaching during Virtual Quilt Festival Dec. 3 to 5. This online event is presented by Quilts, Inc., the parent company of International Quilt Festival.

On Thursday, 12/3, I’m one of five presenters in Machine Quilting Forum I.

Focused forum of 20-minute back-to-back presentations from five top educators, including live Q&A and chat for a truly engaging experience. Download a compilation of handouts from each presenter, new ideas, and information on products and processes.

My portion is titled Christa’s Top Tips for Machine Quilting Success:

Learn to become better at quilting on your home sewing machine with Christa’s top tips for machine quilting success. A few of these include proper work station setup, choosing the right materials, how to hide your mistakes, and learning why a “can-do” attitude is the most important tool in your toolbox! If you can sketch it, you can quilt it. See Christa’s “doodle” demonstration and learn up close how practice makes progress with each and every quilt!

Other presenters are Jenny K. Lyon, Sue Nickels, Catherine Redford and Cyndi Zacheis. We’d love to have you join us!

Click here for information on how to register.


On Friday, 12/4, I’m teaching a Master Class called Modern Machine Quilting: Walking Foot Wonders.

Stitch beyond the ditch and unleash the power of your walking foot! Learn how to stitch wavy lines, decorative stitches, grids, spirals, straight-line designs, and more! Christa Watson loves to share her modern machine quilting methods which emphasize texture over perfection in a warm and encouraging manner. After viewing this master class, you’ll feel armed with the confidence that yes, you can quilt your own quilts!

Click here for information on how to register.


More information from Quilts, Inc.:

WHAT CAN I EXPECT AT VQF?

3 days of interactive content – classes, vendors, special exhibits, live connect to exhibitors and fellow VQF attendees, games, and more during show hours

3 months to continue to view beautiful quilts, experience Open Studios™, and shop the vendor mall

WHEN?

Show hours – December 3-5, 2020, 10:00 AM – 6:00 PM CST

Special Live Lecture, December 3, 2020, 6:00 – 7:00 PM CST

Quilt exhibits, Open Studios™, and Vendor Mall – December 3, 2020 – March 5, 2021

HOW WILL THE EVENT WORK VIRTUALLY?

VQF includes elements of our in-person shows – special quilt exhibits, classes, vendors – brought to you online in a mix of live and pre-recorded content. VQF is accessible from any device on the web from any computer or tablet and through an app on mobile devices.

WHEN WILL CLASSES BE?

Exciting news – Classes are available throughout show hours AND recordings of selected classes will be available for one week post-show, December 6-12, 2020.  This means you can register for any class that you might not be able to join live. It also allows you to register for more than one class that broadcasts at the same time because you can watch classes later.

IMPORTANT NOTE: A few classes will not be recorded and are only available during their scheduled time – these classes are denoted by the words “Live Viewing Only” in the class description.

I’d love to have you join me for Virtual Quilt Festival!

When you have finished the registration tutorial, you can

Click here to go to registration.

 

Happy Thanksgiving from Christa Quilts!

Happy Thanksgiving 2020, friends! I’m so grateful for each person who supports me and my family. If you’ve ever left a comment, given a like, used my fabric, read my books, made my designs, taken a class or forged ahead more boldly into machine quilting, thank you so much! I couldn’t do this without YOU!Happy Thanksgiving 2020

Quilt shown above is Modern Logs, made from my Good Vibes fabric.

Although it was just the 3 of us this year, my husband, daughter and I did our annual Thanksgiving trail run in the desert near our home. It’s the perfect place to social distance and still get the exercise we need.

2020 Thanksgiving Trail Run

Above, my daughter and hubby on a trail near our home. Below, my daughter and I at the finish.

2020 Thanksgiving trail run

2020 Thanksgiving trail run

Show and Tell: Get my Books for just $19.95 Each through 11/30/20

You have just a few days left to get my current stock of books for just $19.95 each. All 3 of them include step by step instructions for both piecing AND quilting. Click here to get your signed copy now!

Machine Quilting Books by Christa Watson

 

To keep you busy this holiday weekend,  I’ve included images of ALL the quilts from my books. So browse your favorites below, then click here to purchase it and I’ll be happy to sign it for you!

Quilts from Piece and Quilt with Precuts

Squiggles

Click here for the blog post about this quilt.

Squiggles by Christa Watson from Piece and Quilt with Precuts

Gridwork

Click here for the blog post about this quilt.

Gridwork by Christa Watson from Piece and Quilt with Precuts

Frequency

Click here for the blog post about this quilt.

Frequency by Christa Watson for Piece and Quilt with Precuts

S.W.A.K

Click here for the blog post about this quilt.

SWAK from Piece and Quilt with Precuts

Starstruck

Click here for the blog post about this quilt.

Starstruck by Christa Watson from Piece and Quilt with Precuts

Dot ‘n’ Dash

Click here for the blog post about this quilt.

Dot 'n' Dash by Christa Watson from Piece and Quilt with Precuts

Twinkling Diamonds

Click here for the blog post about this quilt.

Twinkling Diamonds by Christa Watson from Piece and Quilt with Precuts

Windows

Click here for the blog post about this quilt.

Windows from Piece and Quilt with Precuts by Christa Watson

Kites

Click here for the blog post about this quilt.

Kites Quilt from Piece and Quilt with Precuts by Christa Watson

Arrows

Click here for the blog post about this quilt.

Arrows from Piece and Quilt with Precuts by Christa Watson

Spools

Click here for the blog post about this quilt.

QuiltCon reject 2

Quilts from The Ultimate Guide to Machine Quilting

Choosing Colors

Click here to read more about this quilt.

Choosing Colors by Christa Watson

Christa’s version – in rainbow order.

Choosing Colors made by Angela Walters

Angela’s version – mix it up and throw in a scrappy binding!

Swirling Butterflies

Click here to read more about this quilt.

Swirling Butterflies Wholecloth Quilt

Christa’s version – bold and contemporary.

Swirling Butterflies Angela Walters

Angela’s version – white and traditional.

Plumb Lines

Click here to read more about this quilt.

My version of Plumb Lines won 2nd Place, Modern at HMQS in 2016.

Plumb Lines Quilt

Christa’s version – free-motion alternatives to straight line quilting.

Plumb Lines Quilt

Angela’s version – peachy keen!!

Cornered

Click here to read more about this quilt.

Corned quilt by Christa Watson

Christa’s version – pretty in pink!

Cornered by Angela Walters

Angela’s version – make your friends green with envy when you learn how to quilt these motifs!

Directionally Challenged

Click here to read more about this quilt.

Directionally Challenged by Christa Watson

Christa’s Version in shades of blue with walking foot quilting and FMQ.

Directionally Challenged by Angela Walters

Angela’s version in red showing how to break down large blocks for quilting success.

Migration

Click here to read more about this quilt.

Migration Quilt

Christa’s version – grid quilting in warm earthy tones.

Migration by Angela Walters

Angela’s version – jewel box quilting with lots of negative space fillers.

Exploding Star

Click here to read more about this quilt.

Exploding Star by Christa Watson

Christa’s version using Angela’s fabrics with walking foot continuous spiral quilting.

Exploding Star by Angela Walters

Angela’s version quilted with multi-sized spirals.

fractured squares

Click here to read more about this quilt.

Fractured_Squares_Christa

Christa’s version – completely quilted with a walking foot.

Fractured_Squares_Angela

Angela’s version – having fun with improv borders!

Quatrefoil Applique

Click here to read more about this quilt.

Quatrefoil-Applique_Christa

Christa’s version – it’s a machine quilting sampler!

Quatrefoil-Applique_Angela

Angela’s version – bold and dramatic.

U-Turns

Click here to read more about this quilt.

U-Turns_Christa

Christa’s version – cool teal solids with a touch of print.

U-Turns_Angela

Angela’s version – perfect for practicing turning a corner!

Quilts from Machine Quilting with Style

Ripples

ripplesRipples, made by me

 

Rain

mqws_rainRain, made by me
Juried into QuiltCon 2016
Shown at MQG Exhibit at Int’l Quilt Festival

color crystals.Color Crystals, made by me

Little Man’s Fancy

Little Man's FancyLittle Man’s Fancy, made by me

Static

staticStatic, made by me

Square in a Square

square in a squareSquare in a Square, made by me
Juried into Road to California, 2016

Focal Point

focal_point

Focal Point, made by me
Juried into QuiltCon 2016

Lightning

Lightning and backing

Lightning, made by me
Bonus backing tutorial from Martingale
Juried into Road to California 2016

Candy Pop

Candy_PopCandy Pop, made by me
Awarded 3rd Place, Applique at DQN 2016 Quilt Show

Broken V

BrokenVBroken V, made by me

Facets

Facets_Kona

Facets, made by me
2nd Place Modern, AQS Paducah 2016
Juried into AQS Phoenix 2016

Pearl Gray

Finals B1324.inddPearl Gray, made by me
1st Place Large, Single Maker, DQN 2016 Quilt Show

CLICK HERE FOR SIGNED COPIES OF ALL 3 BOOKS

Books by Christa Watson

 

All Digital Quilt Patterns on Sale This Week Only!

Save 20% on All PDF patterns in my Etsy shop!

This week I’m running a special sale on all of my instant downloadable digital patterns in my Etsy shop. This is a great time to stock up on those patterns on your wish list. Or grab the PDF versions of your favorite print patterns. Then you’ll always have access them to them right on your computer!

Click here to view all of my PDF quilt patterns on sale. 

Christa Quilts Patterns

Best of all, there’s no coupon required to get them. Sale prices are valid through Friday, November 20th. Price not valid on prior purchases.

Happy Early Back Friday!!!

Color Weave Quilt Kit, Gray Fabrics Back in Stock!!

I know it’s been a minute since I posted but I have lots of exciting behind-the-scenes stuff happening right now. But I had to come up for air to let you know the fabulous news that my Confetti Crosshatch fabrics are now back in stock.

Confetti Crosshatch by Christa Watson

Click here to get Confetti Crosshatch by the yard in light or dark grey.

These are my most popular prints of all time and you can see why – because they are the PERFECT grays that go with just about anything!!

And there’s even more great news to share – my Color Weave quilt kit is now back in stock, too. This has been my best selling kit and pattern EVER!! I’m not sure if it’s the rainbow effect that folks love, or the magic of the piecing, but it’s one of my favorites, too!!Color Weave quilt by Christa Watson

Click here to get the Color Weave quilt kit, while supplies last.

In case you missed it the first time around, you can learn how to make this quilt from start to finish by checking out my step-by-step Color Weave Quilt Along. The quilt along itself is free – all you need is a copy of the Color Weave quilt pattern to follow along.

Click here for the Color Weave Quilt Along

Color Weave Quilt Pattern

I love seeing everything you all have made with my quilt patterns and fabric. Keep sharing them with me and making my day!!!

Color Weave Quilt by Christa Watson

Featured Designer: Heather Black of Quiltachusetts

Today I’m happy to have a guest post from my friend Heather Black of Quiltachusetts. Heather is a talented designer of modern quilts and when you visit her blog, you’ll recognize some of the designs on her published page.

Heather Black

Her most recent adventure is fabric design, and I know you’ll enjoy hearing about that. Take it away, Heather!


I’m so honored that Christa asked me to be a guest on her blog. Christa was one of the first quilters I met online and she’s been a mentor as well as a friend through the years. 

She encouraged me to follow my own sensibilities when it came to designing quilts and gave me the courage to branch out into fabric design when Paintbrush Studio came calling.

Fat quarters of Sketchbook by Heather Black for Paintbrush Studio

Earlier this year my first fabric line, Sketchbook for Paintbrush Studio, was released. I don’t know what I would have done without Christa’s support and guidance. The fabric line was inspired by a quilt I designed called Swatches.

Swatches by Heather Black

When I designed this quilt, I wanted the pink swatches to look like paint cakes, but the quilting is where I really found inspiration for the fabric line. 

I liked the black outline quilting around the paint cakes. It reminded me of doodling or sketching, and from there I began playing with shapes and textures that had the same feel and look.

Detail, Swatches by Heather Black

I also designed three different quilts to go along with the fabric line. They’re Sketchbook Sampler, Office Daydreams and Topsy-Turvy. Two of the designs are fat quarter friendly, and they use Painter’s Palette Solids as the background.

All of the prints from the line and the patterns are now available in my shop, quiltachusetts.com.

I’m so thankful to Paintbrush Studio for taking the risk and giving me a chance to design fabric. I really love the process and the creativity of it all.  My second fabric line, Road Trip, will be out before the end of the year. It’s all very exciting.

Again, this fabric line was inspired by a quilt I designed, and that quilt was inspired by all the road trips my family took and still takes. We’ve driven all over the USA and parts of Canada. 

I really appreciate the memories and time spent with my parents and siblings. The Road Trip fabric line is a combination of bright cheery colors and geometric shapes.

Road Trip by Heather Black

I hope you’ve enjoyed reading a bit about the inspiration behind my quilts and fabric. I love the design process and making quilts and I encourage all quilters to add their own personality to every quilt they create.

Detail, Road Trip by Heather Black

Isn’t it great to see that Heather has found her creative voice? She has a unique style all her own. It was fun to hear how her modern quilt designs inspired fabric designs! Be sure to visit Heather’s website and her blog, and follow her on Instagram: @quiltachusetts.

Modern Logs QAL Part 6: Free Motion Stipple Quilting

I love it when we get to the machine quilting part of a Quilt Along! I’ve just finished my fourth book on machine quilting so I feel like that is one of my specialties. I’m excited for you to try free motion stipple quilting like I did on my Modern Logs, or another quilting design of your choice.

I made a video with all my best tips and tricks for quilting Modern Logs. Just nine minutes but it’s packed full of help and guidance! Click play below to watch.

 

If you’ve never tried free motion quilting or a stipple (also called a meander), layer up a couple of fat quarters with batting and practice there before you start on your real quilt. You can quilt on this practice sandwich many times over, using it as a warm-up if you like.

I can’t wait to see how you decide to quilt your Modern Logs!

Click here for links to the Modern Logs quilt along.
Click here to get the Modern Logs quilt kit while supplies last.
Click here to purchase Modern Logs quilt pattern – paper version.
Click here to purchase the Modern Logs quilt pattern – PDF version.

Click here to see other people’s Modern Logs and how different and exciting they are!