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!

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.

 

Machine Quilting Tips and Tricks Series Starts Soon!

Since I know many of you can’t be with me in class in person this year, I thought I’d do the next best thing and try to share more of my my best quilting tips and tricks online. Over the next several weeks I’ll be blogging about many of my behind the scenes secrets for successful machine quilting. Most of these are ideas are also in my machine quilting books so you can grab a copy of each and follow along!

Machine Quilting Books by Christa Watson

My number one goal in teaching machine quilting is to help you understand how fun and carefree it all can be. Fortunately I WILL be doing some more online teaching soon, and my online Craftsy videos should be available soon on their revamped website, so stay tuned for that.

In addition, I’ve been creating and sharing more tutorials over on my YouTube channel, too.

Christa Quilts

So whether you are a newbie beginner, or seasoned pro – let me help you discover the joys of quilting your own quilts!! The series kicks off here on the blog starting next week so be sure to subscribe to my blog so you don’t miss a thing!

Modern Logs Partial Blocks

Virtual Classes for October’s PIQF

I’m really excited to be teaching three classes for Pacific International Quilt Festival Online, coming up Oct. 14 to 17. Registration is open and I’d love to have you join me!

Here are brief descriptions. You’ll find more complete information at the links below.

1. Free Motion Improv, Thursday evening 10/15, 4–7 PST

Example of my Free Motion Improv

Liberate yourself from traditional quilting symmetry by mashing up your favorite motifs in a seemingly random way. Combine basic shapes with transitional designs and free-motion fillers to add amazing texture to the negative spaces in your quilts, or create your own unique work of improvisational art. Note: Students should be comfortable with basic free-motion quilting.

Cost: $80, includes $25 kit fee, kit includes your choice of one of my machine quilting books.

Click here for Christa Watson: Free Motion Improv, Price Includes $25 Class Kit (Half Day WS, Thurs, 10/15/20, 4-PST)

2. Free Motion Quilting Designs with Lines, Friday afternoon 10/16, 12–3 PST

Example of my Free Motion Quilting Designs with Lines

Embrace the “hand-sketched” look when you learn to quilt modern geometric fillers that require little to no marking of the quilt. Go beyond the straight line when you learn how to create irregular linear motifs that look great on both traditional and contemporary quilts. Note: Students should be comfortable with basic free-motion quilting.

Cost: $80, includes $25 kit fee, kit includes your choice of one of my machine quilting books.

Click here for Christa Watson: Free Motion Quilting Designs with Lines, Price Includes $25 Class Kit (Half Day WS, Fri, 10/16/20, 12-3pm PST)

Machine Quilting Books by Christa Watson
The kits for these classes include your choice of one of my books.

3. Improv Piecing: Modern Logs, Saturday 10/17, 9–3 PST

Modern Logs is made with improvisational piecing: easy and fun!

Put a modern spin on a classic block while you learn to create improvisationally pieced Log Cabin blocks. Choose two sets of fabrics that have good contrast, such as lights and darks. You’ll need 10 fat quarters of assorted lights and 10 fat quarters of assorted darks to make the 48″ x 54″ quilt. Pattern is included in the kit fee, and the pattern includes additional sizes. Suitable for all skill levels.

Click here for Christa Watson: Improv Piecing: Modern Logs, Price Includes $12 Class Kit (Full Day WS, Sat, 10/17/20, 9am-3pm PST)

Make plans to join me for virtual classes during PIQF Oct. 14 to 17. I’d love to “meet” you!

Modern Logs Quilt Top
Modern Logs made in my Good Vibes fabrics for Benartex. Available on my website, shop.christaquilts.com

Click here to shop for Good Vibes fabrics to make your own Modern Logs quilt!

Good Vibes Fat Quarters
Good Vibes by Christa Watson for Benartex

Click here to buy the Modern Logs paper pattern (not necessary if you’ll be in the class, because the pattern is included in the class fee).

Click here to buy the Modern Logs pattern instantly as a downloadable pdf.

Modern Logs by Christa Watson for Christa Quilts

Maybe you’d like to see a bit of how I machine quilt on my home sewing machine?

Check out this short video on my YouTube channel. It’s not exactly the same thing I’ll be teaching in the classes, but you’ll get an idea of my style!

I can’t wait to meet you and create some amazing things together!

Save the Date: QuiltCon Together Registration Opens July 15

I’m so excited to be a part of this! The Modern Quilt Guild took early steps to reimagine QuiltCon as a virtual event February 18–22, 2021, and it’s going to be great!

QuiltCon Together 2021

I think that more people will actually get to participate this way. I love that The MQG made lemonade out of lemons! I’ll miss seeing everyone in person, but this is the next best thing!

I didn’t originally apply to teach for QuiltCon 2021 because we were supposed to be out of the country. But of course the pandemic changed all that.

 

QuiltCon Catalog

Click here to download the QuiltCon Together Catalog.

I’ll be teaching two machine quilting classes: Carefree Walking Foot Quilting and Carefree Free-Motion Quilting.

What is carefree quilting?

It’s an attitude that aims for texture over perfection and leans into the slight flaws and irregularities that occur with any handmade craft. After all, they are part of the charm!

Walking Foot Quilting

The continuous spiral is just one of the many quilting motifs we’ll learn in Carefree Walking Foot Quilting. This is a detail shot from my Sparkling Stars quilt. (Pattern available here.)

Carefree Walking Foot Quilting

Learn to stitch beyond the ditch and unleash the power of your walking foot to quilt modern or traditional designs. Walking foot motifs to be taught include wavy lines, decorative stitches, irregular grids, large continuous spirals, several straight line variations and more! You’ll leave class armed with the confidence that yes, you can quilt your own quilts!

 

Carefree Free-Motion Quilting

Free Motion Quilting

Here’s a detail from my Block Chain quilt. All of my patterns include machine quilting suggestions!

Embrace perfectly imperfect quilting! That means little to no marking and a whole lot of gorgeous texture. Ease into free-motion quilting with asymmetrical wavy lines, then move onto loops, traditional and modern stippling, plus curvy fillers like wishbones and cursive l’s that can expand to fit any space. Finish it off with several swirl variations, and you’ve got a toolbox of motifs to try on your next quilt!

Students should be comfortable with their sewing machines, and will practice on their own pre-basted fabric and batting samples. The best part is that it will be a pre-recorded video that you can watch all through the event!

Books by Christa Watson

Both classes are based on ideas presented in my machine quilting books. Each book includes full patterns for each quilt (10–12 per book) along with detailed step-by-step machine quilting instructions. All three books include walking foot techniques and free-motion motifs.

Get a signed copy of any of my books for just $19.95 from my shop. 

Both of my classes are “Mini Workshops,” which means they will focus on technique, allow you to learn a new technique, practice a technique that needs work, or just gain tips and tricks from a technique expert. Each Mini Workshop consists of at least 35 minutes of video content in segments of on-demand education, as well as at least one homework assignment to help you practice your new skills. Each Mini Workshop will allow students the ability to type questions to their instructors in the online platform as they work through the class.

You will also have the option to upgrade your Mini Workshop to spend one 45-minute session live with me to ask for help or feedback on your project in a small group setting.

LECTURE/TRUNK SHOW: HOW DO I QUILT IT?

The secret to successful quilting is in the planning and preparation. I’ll guide you through the steps I take to make each quilting experience fun and stress free.

Christa Watson Trunk Show

Once you see my methods, you’ll feel empowered to quilt your own quilts! Learn how I baste my quilts, make a quilting plan, choose thread colors, divide and conquer each task, and apply rich texture with little to no marking of the quilt. I’m also excited to share my quilts and answer any questions you may have.

 

LE 17 Quilting perspectives

I’m also excited to be part of a machine quilting panel about our quilting plans and processes, and how we approach a finished top. Hand quilting, machine quilting, and long arm quilting will all be represented on the panel from me, Tia Curtis, Sandra Johnson, and Riane Menardi Morrison. It will take place online live at 11 AM on Saturday, February 20.

I would be honored to have you in my classes and lecture at QuiltCon Together.

Registration for members opens July 15 at 10 am Eastern. 

Click here to Learn more about The Modern Quilt Guild! 

Open Letter to My Online Quilting Students…

Dear Valued Student:

I deeply and sincerely apologize if you have sought out my quilting advice or asked for help in an online teaching platform and never received a response from me. Due to this being completely out of my control, I am just now discovering hundreds of comments, questions, and conversations addressed to me that I never received until now (March 10, 2020). Many of these unanswered replies have kept you waiting for 1-2 years or even longer.

As I wade through a mountain of unanswered queries, I ache for those of you who simply thought I wasn’t interested enough to answer, or took my silence to mean I didn’t care about you. Reading comments like “Seems like she doesn’t want to answer our question, it’s been aaaaages ago!!!!!” or “Is anyone there?????” truly breaks my heart!

Sadly, many of you may not even see this, as you probably gave up and unfollowed me long ago. Please know that I *do* care, and would NEVER intentionally treat any of my students this way.

Rest assured that I WILL personally respond to you although I’m not “contractually” obligated to do so. I pride myself on being the best teacher I can and giving help to anyone who asks, whether I’m paid for it or not.

You were counting on me when you viewed my class, and from your point of view, it seems as if I let you down. I’ll keep my fingers crossed that this reaches as many of my students as possible. I’m here for you now, and always! 🙂

Sincerely, Christa Watson

Christa Quilts

Registration Opens today for the Minnesota Quilter’s Annual Show in June!

I hope you all know by now how much I absolutely love traveling all over to meet enthusiastic quilters and make new friends! I especially enjoy going to places I’ve never been before, especially when it’s a long-time regional show such as the Minnesota Quilter’s Show  & Conference.

Minnesota Quilter's Show

Can you believe they held the first show in 1976 and it’s been running continuously now for the past 20 years. How cool is that?? Well today is opening day for registration, and show dates are June 11-13 in St. Cloud, Minnesota. Minnesota quilters get priority registration starting today, and non-members can register beginning on February 3rd.

Here’s What I’m Teaching:

Workshop: Improv Piecing – Facets
Wednesday, June 10, 8:30 AM – 4:30 PM

Dive into improv piecing, but in a more structured way when you make this scrap friendly quilt!
The pattern can be found in my book Machine Quilting with Style.

Facets

Lecture: How Do I Quilt It?
Thursday, June 11, 12 -1 PM

Based on the easy-to-follow methods I teach in my books, I’ll share my best tips and tricks for machine quilting success!

Books by Christa Watson

Lecture: Hallmarks of Modern Machine Quilting
Thursday, June 11, 4-5 PM

Learn how the modern quilting aesthetic can be applied to the machine quilting process!
I’ll share lots of eye-candy examples from my books and patterns.

Christa Watson trunk show of quilts

Workshop: Walking Foot Wonders
Friday, June 12, 8:30-4:30

Get out of the ditch and create dynamic quilt designs with your walking foot!
Detail below is spiral quilting on my Sparkling Stars Quilt.

Walking Foot Wonders

Workshop: Free-Motion Favorites
Saturday, June 13, 8:30-4:30

Learn fast, fun, and fool proof free-motion!!
Detail below is jagged stipple on my Terrace Tiles Quilt.

Free Motion Quilting

If you’ll be in the area – I hope you’ll stop by and see me. It should be a rip-roaring event!

Click here for Minnesota Quilter’s Quilt show info.

MQX 2020 Quilt Registration Opens Friday, November 1

Are you planning to attend MQX quilt festival? It takes place April 14-18, 2020 in Manchester, New Hampshire. This will be my second time returning to the show and I can’t wait!

MQX Quilt Show

What I’m teaching

I’ll be teaching my most popular machine quilting workshops and lecture!
Here’s my complete schedule:

148-20 Free Motion Favorites
Wednesday, April 15, 2020
1:00 PM to 6:00 PM
228-20 How do I Quilt it?
Tips for Machine Quilting Success
Thursday, April 16, 2020
9:00 AM to 11:00 AM
244-20 Walking Foot Wonders
Thursday, April 16, 2020
1:00 PM to 6:00 PM Eastern Time

free-motion-quilting

Registration Opens at 9AM Pacific/Noon Eastern Time

Many of the classes sell out quickly, so be sure to bookmark the MQX website, create an account, and head there first thing on Friday to sign up. I’d love to see you there!

Click here for my complete list of classes, descriptions, and supply lists.

Walking Foot Quilting

Come See Me at Dave’s BERNINA in Utah August 7-10!

I love teaching machine quilting, and it’s always extra special when I get to teach at BERNINA dealerships around the country. This August 7-10, 2019, I invite you to come see me at either location of Dave’s BERNINA, one of the top BERNINA dealerships in the entire country!

Christa Watson Quilts

I love my BERNINA!! But my students can be successful on any machine!

Teaching in Provo, UT

I’ll be making my first stop at Dave’s BERNINA in Provo where I’ll be presenting my popular lecture and trunk show, “How Do I Quilt It?” on Wednesday, August 7 at 6:30 PM. The following day on Thursday, August 8, I’ll be teaching a full day of machine quilting where students will learn how to improve their skills with Walking Foot Wonders and Free Motion Favorites.

Dave’s BERNINA is offering a terrific deal: a workshop & lecture combo for just $99. You can also sign up for the lecture only for just $25.

Click here to sign up for my quilting workshop & lecture in Provo.
Click here to sign up for the lecture/trunk show only in Provo.

You can also contact Dave’s BERNINA Provo to register by phone (801) 374-5520 or email: info@davesbernina.com.

Teaching in St. George, UT

On Friday, August 9th, I’ll travel to the St. George location and repeat the same series with the lecture on Friday evening followed by the full-day class on Saturday, August 10th.

Click here to sign up for my quilting workshop & lecture in St. George.
Click here to sign up for the lecture/trunk show only in St. George.

You can also contact Dave’s BERNINA St. George to register by phone (435) 656-1498 or email: info@davesbernina.com

Christa and Maudie at Market

It was fun to catch up with Maudie Borget at market who oversees the St. George location. 🙂

I’m very excited for my local friends and fans who’ve been begging me to teach closer to home (in Las Vegas). This is the closest I’ll get for a couple of years, so be sure to join me if you can!

Click here for my current teaching schedule. I may be coming to an event near you!

I’m Off to BERNINA University!

Tomorrow I fly out for my next fun event – setting up my booth and teaching a couple of classes to dealers at BERNINA University. BU is an industry event exclusively for BERNINA dealers that’s held in different locations around the country. This will be my third time attending and it’s been great for getting up close and personal with quilt shop owners who carry the brand.

BERNINA U 2018My BU Booth last year when Fandangle fabric was released.
Click here to get the fabric, kits and quilt patterns shown.

At the show, I’m able to show off my newest line of fabric (which shops can order from Benartex), sell my latest patterns designed to support my fabrics, and talk one-on-one with shop owners.

No matter how huge the quilting industry is, it’s so important to create relationships with shops who carry my products. Many of them have also invited me to come teach at their shops, so I’m looking forward to traveling to new places over the next few years.

Big BERNINA at BU

Giant BERNINA on display at BU for their 125th anniversary last year.

If you’d like me to visit your local BERNINA dealer – be sure to have them contact me and I’ll be glad to add them to my teaching schedule. I’m currently booked through the end of 2020 but have just opened up my calendar for 2021 and it’s starting to fill.

Be sure to follow my adventures over the coming week on instagram @christaquilts and I’ll continue to share fun things here on the blog, too – so stay tuned!