Dot ‘n’ Dash Quilt Along Week 6 – Machine Quilting Part 1 SITD

Can you believe we are 6 weeks in to the quilt along?! The work you all are doing is fabulous and I’m excited to get to my favorite part – machine quilting!! This week we will Stitch in the Ditch (SITD) to secure the quilt for the jazzy free motion quilting we will do later. Many times, this crucial step is overlooked, and although it’s not the most exciting part of machine quilting it’s one of the most important steps for successful free-motion quilting.

Machine Quilting Detail on Dot n Dash Quilt

Machine Quilting Detail on Dot ‘n’ Dash Quilt. Stitching in the ditch allows you to break down the quilting into sections, which makes for more successful free-motion quilting later.

My Fave Machine Quilting Supplies

First of all, let me tell you about the needles I prefer to use for machine quilting. They are from Superior Threads and are called Topstitch needles. Look at the image below to see the difference between a Topstitch needle and a Universal needle. The Topstitch has a slightly sharper point which is helpful for penetrating the fabric. But the most important feature is a slightly longer eye (the hole) so that your thread won’t shred. I love these needles so much that I use them for piecing as well.

Needle Closeup

I buy the needles in the blue package as they are most economical for my projects:

Next, the thread I use for piecing AND machine quilting is 50 weight 100% cotton from Aurifil. The 50 weight is thin, yet strong so that it will blend into your quilt. I’d rather see the overall texture of the quilting rather than the individual stitches, and quilting densely helps me mask any mistakes. After all, the easiest way to hide imperfect stitches is to surround them with more imperfect stitches!

Piece and Quilt Collection Aurifil Thread by Christa Watson

For this quilt, I’m using the medium gray #2605 from my Piece and Quilt Neutrals thread collection. (My neutrals box also includes a lighter gray and a darker gray so that you’re covered, no matter which shade of gray you like!)

Stitching in the Ditch

Whenever I do any custom quilting, I will always “anchor” the quilt by stitching in the ditch first, in key areas of the quilt. For Dot ‘n’ Dash, it made sense to stitch in the ditch between each long row. I recommend using a walking foot, or a machine that has a built in dual feed system (such as the BERNINA 770 QE that I’m using).

The nice thing about pressing seams open, is that you can actually stay in the ditch, and you don’t have to worry about switching thread colors for the low vs. high side of the ditch. Contrary to popular myth, stitching in the ditch with seams pressed open will NOT weaken your seams. I’ve been doing it for years with no problem, and I find it actually strengthens my quilts and adds more stability. (Just think about it – if stitching over a previous line of stitching would cut your threads, then you’d never be able to backtrack over a seam, right??)

Stitching in the Ditch on Dot n Dash Quilt

I use the terms walking foot quilting and dual feed quilting interchangeably.
Stitch slowly , so you can stay in the ditch as much as possible

The built in dual feed turns my 1/4″ patchwork “D” foot into a walking foot, feeding the quilt through evenly with no puckers. I recommend quilting with a slightly longer stitch length (3.0 instead of 2.5) to help compensate for any drag on the quilt. I also recommending reducing your presser foot pressure when doing walking foot/dual feed quilting (but not for FMQ).

Because you are making contact with the quilt on every stitch, this puts a lot of pressure on the quilt which can lead to tucks and puckers, especially when crossing seams. By reducing the presser foot pressure, it enables you to quilt with a lighter hand (or should I say foot?) on the quilt.

Modern Marks Quilt Backing

Look how nicely the gray thread blends into the blue Modern Marks print on the back.

When stitching long straight lines across the quilt with a walking foot, I recommend stitching in one direction only, from top to bottom, rather than going back and forth. This will keep the quilt flatter, with less torque on the quilt. Many times, “whiskering” – or lots of little creases will appear if you stitch lines back and forth.

Scrunch and Smoosh the quilt under the machine

Scrunching and Smooshing in Progress

To deal with the bulk of the quilt under the machine, I scrunch and smoosh it out of the way however I can, and only focus on one area of the quilt. I start on the right side of the quilt and work my way across the quilt, stitching one line at a time.

When I get to the center of the quilt, I’ll rotate the quilt 180 degrees and keep going from the middle to the edge of the quilt. This allows you to deal with the least amount of bulk at a time, and by the time you get to center you know that the bulk will get less and less as you quilt the other side.

Stitching in the Ditch on Dot n Dash

Detail of stitching in the ditch

Once either side of the strips has been stitched in the ditch, your quilt is fully secure to add more quilting. Note that I’m only SITD along the long rows, not in between the smaller squares. That would be too much starting and stopping for my taste! And don’t worry, even if your ditching lines veer off a little bit, you won’t notice it once you add more quilting.

Quilting Homework

Finish stitching the rows in the ditch and then get ready for free-motion quilting next week! Because we are taking our time and spending 3 weeks on machine quilting, you’ll have plenty of time to ease into it.

Dot n Dash machine quilting

Next time we quilt, all we have to do is think about smaller sections, one row at a time.

You could always stop right here and call it finished, but I can’t wait to show you how to add more yummy texture next week! Be sure and share your progress and ask questions or get any trouble-shooting help over in my Christa Quilts Facebook group, or on instagram #dotndashqal.

Click here for the start of the quilt along with supply list and links to all of the QAL steps.

Dot ‘n Dash Quilt Along Week 5 – Backing and Basting

I love quilt alongs and the best part is seeing the variety you all are making! It makes my day. 🙂
This week we are getting down to the nitty gritty and getting the quilt ready for machine quilting next week. But don’t worry, if you aren’t to that point yet, that’s perfectly fine. These quilt along posts will stay up indefinitely and you can always refer back to the intro post for links to each specific QAL step.

Dot n Dash Quilt Along

Click here for the quilt along schedule and supply list.

Preparation is Key

Getting ready to machine quilt is a little like getting ready to paint a house. The actual painting isn’t hard – it’s all the prep work (ike moving furniture and taping down the windows) that takes time and gets in the way of the fun part. So take your time to prepare the quilt and baste it and don’t feel like you have to rush this part. In fact, I always set aside a separate day for backing and basting and then give myself a little reward when my least favorite part of the process is finished!

A tip on choosing batting: if you want to hide machine quilting “irregularities” and give your quilt that antique puckered look, choose a cotton batting like Hobbs or Quilter’s Dream. If you want to give your stitches more definition and a loftier look, choose wool. I usually stay away from polyester batting because it’s very slippery and usually causes me to get puckers on the back of my quilt. Cotton and wool cling to the quilt which gives you better control while quilting.

Quilt Batting Used in Dot n Dash Quilt

Take a picture of your batting with your quilt top so you can remember what you used.

Sewing the Backing Fabric

You want to ensure that the backing fabric is at least 3-4″ bigger on all sides of the quilt top, more if you plan to long arm quilt. The easiest way to do this is to cut two large pieces of fabric and sew them together. For example, my quilt measures 60 x 72. So If I cut 4 yards into 2 two -yard pieces that will give me one big rectangle approximately 72″ x 80″ to work with once the chunks are sewn together parallel to the selvage.

Sewn Quilt Backing

I basted this quilt at a recent teaching retreat I participated in. All you need is one table for basting – work on the middle and then the sides as needed.

Spray Basting the Quilt

If you prefer to pin baste, click here for an alternate tutorial.

My basic method for spray basting is to spray the wrong side of the top and bottom layers of the quilt outside, then bring them inside for assembly. For a slight variation of this technique, click here for my wall basting tutorial.

My favorite basting spray is 505. Be sure to shake the can before you use it and spray a little on a scrap to make sure the nozzle isn’t clogged. If the spray doesn’t flow out evenly, some of the chemical can accumulate and leave a stain on your quilt, so always test it first.

Spray Basting the Quilt

At first I tried an off brand that a friend had but I didn’t like it because it wasn’t sticky enough. Fortunately one of the other retreaters had some 505 which they let me use for my quilt!

The basting spray does not cause any problems with machine quilting, and if you notice it starting to gum up the needle at all, just wipe it away and you’ll be all set!

Lay out all 3 layers of the quilt – backing, batting, and quilt top on a large table (or design wall). Spend time smoothing out each layer with a long acrylic ruler before adding the next layer. This can take awhile but is worth it so that the quilt is nice, flat and smooth.

Quilt Basting

Notice the leftover batting – most of it will get trimmed away after basting. I like enough extra batting and backing so that I don’t have to worry about getting my quilt top perfectly centered.

You can also use the acrylic ruler to scooch any quilt blocks back into place and straighten out any wonky seams as needed. Smooth out any bubbles as needed so that the quilt is nice and flat.

The last step is to iron the quilts on both sides – front and back. This helps set the glue and allows you to work out any wrinkles one last time before you quilt. I use a hot dry iron ,with no steam. You can iron the quilt on an ironing board, or on a table to give you more room. Because there’s batting inside, the quilt acts as it’s own pressing surface.

Iron the basted quilt to set the glue

My quilt is basted and ready to quilt!

Now it’s your turn! Get your quilt basted and we’ll start machine quilting next week. We’ll have extra time for quilting since it’s my favorite part!

Show Your Work

Don’t forget to share your progress in one of 3 ways (or all of them if you like):
(1) In my Christa Quilts Facebook group
(2) On Instagram, #dotndashqal
(3) Share a link to your blog, or leave a comment about your process on this post.

Dot n Dash Ready to quilt

Trim the batting so that there’s only 1-2 inches sticking out on all sides of the quilt. This will prevent the excess from flipping under the quilt and getting caught in the machine.

Dot ‘n’ Dash Quilt Along Week 4 – Sewing the Quilt Top

Did you finish your quilt blocks from last week? How is it going? Be sure to share your progress over in my ChristaQuilts Facebook group and/or on instagram using the hashtag #dotndashqal.

Finished Dot n Dash Quilt Blocks

Today we will be laying out our blocks and sewing them together to make the quilt top. The most important thing to remember is that each row in the quilt goes in opposite directions, so separate your blocks into two piles, A and B.

See pages 53-54 of Piece and Quilt with Precuts for specific directions.

It’s super helpful to lay out all 30 blocks on a design wall or other larger surface area. If you have a design floor or a design bed, that will work, too! Take as much time as you need to orient your blocks in the correct position with a nice color distribution of prints.

Dot 'n Dash Quilt Along

All blocks are laid out in order on the design wall, and ready to sew.
Take a picture with your camera phone to refer to as you piece the rows.

Pinning and Pressing

The key to a really nice flat quilt top is pinning and pressing. I prefer to press all seams open for the entire quilt and sew with a shorter stitch length (2.0 instead of the default 2.5.) However, if you choose to press to the side, that’s ok, too. Just be sure to press each and every seam as you go with a hot, dry iron.

Dot n Dash piecing detail

My corners match up nicely because I pressed each seam, and pinned each intersection.

Here’s a tip for managing the bulk of the quilt top while sewing and pressing: Sew the block rows together into pairs of two. Then press each pair of rows before joining larger sections together. The quilt to will shrink up a bit once it’s all joined, but you can always add more blocks or a border to make it larger if you like.

Dot 'n Dash finished quilt top made from Fandangle Fabric

My finished quilt top – ready to baste in next week’s lesson!

Take a Victory Lap!

Whenever I’m making a quilt top with blocks that go all the way to the edge (no borders), there is a chance that the edge seams could split open. To prevent this, I take a “victory lap” around the edges – sew with a larger stitch length approximately 1/8″ in from the edge of the quilt around the entire perimeter. It feels like a great way to celebrate the finished top!

Here’s what the edge stitching looks like from another quilt I recently made:

Victory lap around the quilt to secure the edges

By sewing with a larger stitch near the edge of the quilt, the stitching line will get covered by the binding. This secures the edge seams from splitting open during all of the rough handling that will occur with basting and quilting.

Jump in any time!

If you are just joining the quilt along, remember you can work at your own pace. Please don’t ever feel like you are “behind” as that’s never the case. And if you want to work ahead, that’s great, too! I’m just glad you are following along, either on your own version of the quilt, or virtually in your head!

Dot n Dash Quilt Along

Click here for the Dot ‘n Dash Quilt Along Schedule and Supply List
Click here to purchase the Fandangle Strip-pie or other precuts.
Click here to purchase a signed copy of Piece and Quilt with Precuts.

Dot ‘n’ Dash Quilt Along Week 3 – Sewing the Blocks

It’s been fabulous getting to know everyone who’s participating in the Dot ‘n’ Dash Quilt Along. I love seeing all the fabric choices you are all sharing. And getting to know everyone over in my Christa Quilts Facebook group is so much fun. If you are just joining us, grab a jelly roll of fabric & some background and you’re all set!

Dot n Dash Quilt AlongClick here to purchase yardage & bundles of Fandangle fabric.
Click here to purchase just the Fandangle Strip-pie (jellyroll).
Click here to grab a signed copy of Piece and Quilt with Precuts.

Pressing and Piecing Tips

Before we get into sewing the blocks, I’d like to share a couple of general sewing tips.
I prefer to sew with a shorter stitch length (2.0 instead of the default 2.5). This helps ensure that the seams won’t split open at the ends during sewing.

I also press ALL of my seams open. I use a hot dry iron for pressing with NO steam. (Steam can distort the blocks, and adding water to your iron is one of the easiest ways to break it!!)

Seams pressed open.

I press all of my seams open for 2 reasons: (1) it makes the blocks super flat which makes machine quilting on a home sewing machine sooooo much easier to do. And (2) I don’t have to think about which way the seams need to go from block to block so it makes joining the blocks together much, much easier.

I gently press each seam open with my fingers as then follow it up with the iron. After each seam is pressed, I press the whole block on both sides to make a flat, crisp block!

Closeup of Seams Pressed Open

I use a lot of pins when joining my blocks and I make to sure to sew a little bit slower than normal so that I don’t veer off the end of each piece while sewing.

And don’t worry if you make a hot mess while you are sewing. The image below is what my actual process looks like when chain piecing. Fortunately, once the threads are clipped between units and everything is pressed as I go, I can quickly calm this unruly chaos:

Dot n Dash sewing in progress

The instructions and tips I offer during the quilt along are just suggestions and ideas that work for me. Remember – you are the boss of your quilt, so feel free to use your own favorite methods if you are happy with them and getting good results!

Sewing the Dot ‘n’ Dash Blocks

Follow the instructions in the book on pages 52-53 to make the blocks. Take care to make both versions of the block as shown in the diagrams. They are similar and easy to confuse but the layout for both is slightly different.

Dot n Dash Block Layout

To speed things up, I’ll lay out all of the block parts in order on a mat next to my sewing machine. Because we are going for a random scrappy look, don’t overthink the fabric placement. Just try not to have the same fabric repeat in each block and you will be fine.

Stack up a whole bunch of units at once so that you can assembly line sew.

Dot n Dash blocks in progress

As you are piecing, keep the background rectangles (gray in my image above) on top as you sew. This will ensure that you are sewing the long skinny strips in opposite directions each time. This is so the blocks won’t warp or skew as you make them.

Also, use pins if needed to ensure that your pieced units and gray strips match up on both ends. If for some reason they are not the same size, you can trim them down, but be sure that all units are the same length so your blocks will go together correctly.

Dot n Dash Blocks in progress

Notice how the units in the A & B blocks go in different directions. Be sure to pay close attention to the block assembly diagrams in the book and make the correct number of each.

For those of you making Dot ‘n Dash with the light gray Fandangle fabric kit, here’s what your finished A block may look like:

Dot n Dash Block light gray

Once you’ve finished piecing all 30 blocks (15 A + 15 B), give them a final press if desired and admire your pretty handiwork!

Homework

Finish sewing all of the blocks. Then share pictures of your progress in my facebook group and/or on instagram #dotndashqal. I love to see how you are doing!!

If you are blogging about your progress, be sure to add a link to your blog post in the comments below so we can all head over there and cheer you on!!

Finished A Blocks for Dot n Dash QAL

Don’t you just love a pretty stack of finished blocks??

Click here for the Dot ‘n’ Dash Quilt Along Schedule and Supply List.

Spray Basting Tutorial – Using a Table

Recently I shared a tutorial on spray basting using a design wall. Today’s tutorial shows how to modify the spray basting process using a table instead. Note that my pictures are all taken outside but once the quilt layers have been sprayed outdoors,  you can assemble the quilt inside using any size table.

Improv Squares Quilt Using Modern Marks

The quilt shown in this tutorial is Improv Squares, made from Modern Marks fabric.
Click here to get the Improv Squares quilt pattern – printed version shipped to you.
Click here to get the Improv Squares quilt pattern – instant PDF download.

Step 1 – Spray the back side of the backing and quilt top

Be sure to spray the layers outside, or in a well ventilated area. If you have sensitivity to chemicals, I recommend wearing a dust mask. I use 505 basting spray and a large sheet to protect the surface I’m spraying on.

I’m using a lightweight folding plastic table, so it’s easy to move. I just store it out of the way in the garage when I’m not using it.

Spray Basting

The table you are using doesn’t have to be bigger than the quilt. When I’m spraying, I cover the center section of the quilt first, and then the sides. For this step, you don’t even need a table; you can lay out a sheet or dropcloth on the ground or wherever you have room.

I used a small park near my home so that I’d have plenty of room, and also nice scenery for photography!

Hold the can an arm’s length away and spray evenly and generously. Make sure to get good coverage on the quilt. To ensure the can is spraying consistently and doesn’t get clogged, spray a few squirts on your dropcloth before applying it to the quilt.

Spray Baste

Although I pressed the top and backing separately before I began, you can see some fold lines on both layers. But not to worry – this gets pressed out at the end. If you spray the top and backing separately, it uses less spray than spraying the batting, and it’s easier to manage.

Once both layers have been sprayed, you can fold them up and bring them inside to finish the assembly process (or stay outside and set the layers aside like I’m showing here.) The layers will be sticky, but not stuck, and you don’t have to assemble them right away – the adhesive doesn’t dry out.

Remove the drop cloth or sheet from the table and then lay out the backing wrong side up.

Spray Baste

Step 2 – Add the batting

I like to fold the batting in half long ways so that I can put the fold line roughly in the center of the backing. You can see in the picture below that it’s not exactly even and that’s ok. As long as the batting and backing are bigger than the quilt top, you’ll have some wiggle room so that you don’t have to line things up perfectly.

In fact, my batting is actually a little longer than the backing so it’s easy enough to trim away the excess. Working on a table is great because it won’t hurt your back like the floor can.

Spray Baste

Open up the batting so you have coverage on all sides. Even if the sides hang down to the ground – that’s okay. The excess will get trimmed away.

Spend time smoothing out the backing. You can lift and reposition it if needed. Work out any wrinkles or bubbles, using your hands and a long acrylic ruler.

I’m using Hobbs cotton batting for this quilt. I like natural fiber battings because they cling to the fabric and they aren’t slippery. (Polyester has a tendency to slip while you are shoving the quilt through the machine which can cause puckers.)

Spray Baste

Once you smooth out the center section, adjust the layers so that you can smooth out the sides, too. Take your time here to really get it nice and flat. Smoothing out the layers also smashes them together so that they stick together better and don’t shift.

You can also iron your batting before you baste to get it nice and flat. I use a spray bottle and a dry iron. With cotton batting, you can put the iron directly on the batting. With more delicate battings like wool, you can cover the area you press with a piece of fabric. Be sure to use a dry iron so that it doesn’t shrink up the batting.

Spray Baste

Step 3 – Add the Quilt Top

Add the top in the same way that you added the batting – get it roughly in the center and make sure there’s coverage all the way around the edges. You can see it’s still a bit wrinkly from handling and moving it around. That’s okay – you’ll iron it again at the end.

Spray Baste

Trim away the excess batting and backing so you’ll have less bulk to deal with. If you have a super large quilt that touches the ground, you can always place two tables side by side to give you more room to work.

I use specialty batting scissors – they cut through the layers like butter, and trimming goes super fast! I only leave about an inch or two on all sides when I trim. That way it’s less likely that I’ll flip the quilt under itself and accidentally quilt through the extra layers!!

Spray Baste

Step 4 – Smooth Out the Layers

Smoothing out each layer as you add it is such a critical step. When your quilt sandwich is flat and smooth, it makes the machine quilting process so much easier! The reason I love using basting spray is that every inch of the quilt is stuck to every other inch. This prevents shifting of the quilt and greatly reduces the chances that you’ll get a tuck or pucker while quilting.

Spray Baste

Use the long ruler again to smooth out the center of the quilt. You can also use it to help line up the pieced seams and nudge things back into place if needed. It’s almost like pre-blocking the quilt before you quilt it.

Spray Baste

Once you’ve smoothed out the center, you can work on the edges. Roll up the excess so that it doesn’t drag on the ground as you shift the quilt around.

It usually takes me a good 20 minutes to smooth out each layer of the quilt, but it’s time well spent!

Spray Baste

Step 5 – Press the Basted Quilt on Both Sides

The secret to good spray basting is to press the quilt once it’s layered. The heat of the iron sets the glue and it smooshes the quilt together so it’s nice and flat. I press the back side first, working out any excess bubbles or wrinkles. Then I flip it over and press the front.

I use a big board which fits on top of my ironing board, giving me more room to work.

Spray Baste

I’ve developed this basting method over the last few years and I can honestly say it makes a huge difference in how my quilts turn out. Just remember, you are putting a lot of wear and tear on the quilt when you scrunch and smoosh it through the opening of your machine. But with this method, nothing shifts and it’s easy to just focus on one area of the quilt at a time.

Feel free to pin and share this tutorial with your friends. My goal is to get more people quilting their own quilts while enjoying the process from start to finish!

Squiggles Quilt Along Week 7 – Quilt Binding Tutorial

I’ve been thrilled to see all of the fabulous versions of Squiggles that you all are making. Some of you have already finished, others have made more than one version, while others are just beginning. Just remember – I’ll leave the blog posts up indefinitely, so you can make this fun quilt on your own schedule!

Piece and Quilt with Precuts

Step by Step Binding Tutorial

This is the same method I use for all of my quilts.

Step 1: Trim the Quilt

Trim the extra batting and backing flush with the edge of the quilt top.

Binding Square up the Corners

I like to use a large square ruler for the corners, and a long acrylic ruler for the sides.

Binding Trim the Sides

Step 2 – Make the Binding

Lay out two binding strips so that they overlap at a 90 degree angle. Mark a diagonal line on the top strip from corner to corner, where the corners overlap. Pin in place if needed.

To figure out how many binding strips you need to cut, add 10″ to the perimeter of the quilt (length of all 4 sides of the quilt). Then divide that number by 40″ to get the number of strips to cut. For the Squiggles quilt, the number of strips to cut is listed on page 15 of the book.

Tip: most patterns suggest to cut the binding strips 2 1/4″ to 2 1/2″ wide. However, I’ve recently began using 2″ strips and I like it much better. The narrower strips allow me to get a tighter finish, and both sides of the binding end up the same size.

Sewing the Binding

Sew on the drawn line and trim excess to 1/4″. Trim off the “dog ears” – the triangle tips, too. Join all of the strips the same way and press seams open. This will distribute the bulk of the seam when it’s attached to the quilt.

Join Binding Strips

Trim the beginning of the binding strip at a a 45 degree angle and press the entire length of binding in half, wrong sides together. Be sure to trim the starting edge first, before you press it in half.

Finished binding, ready to sew

If desired, fold up the binding, or roll it up until it’s ready to attach to the quilt.

Step 3 – Attach the Binding to the Quilt

Attaching the binding

Start attaching the binding on the side of the quilt, not at the corners. Line up the open edges of the binding to the trimmed edge of the quilt and leave about 8″-10″ of the tail hanging off. This will allow plenty of room for attaching the two ends later.

Place a pin in the binding and quickly “walk” it around the quilt’s perimeter to ensure that none of the pieced seams will land in the corners. Adjust the binding as needed and start sewing at the pin, using 1/4″ seams.

Binding 1/4" mark

When you reach the corner, stop sewing 1/4″ away from the corner. Mark a line if needed to get an exact measurement. Then sew off the side or corner of the quilt.

Folding the binding corner

To get a perfect miter in the corners, fold the binding up and away from the corner. Ensure that the right side of the binding aligns with the edge of the quilt.

Mitering the binding

Fold the binding back down, leaving the excess in the corner. Make sure the top of the fold lines up evenly with the top edge of the quilt. I called this the “funky fold.”

Grasp the top and bobbin threads and carefully sew down the next side of the binding. It will be thick at the corner where all of the bulk is.

Binding Corner

Once you sew a little ways, check the front of the quilt. It should form a nice crisp miter at the corner if you’ve lined everything up correctly.

Attaching the binding

Continue sewing down all 4 sides of the binding, taking care to get nice crisp miters at the corners. When you get close to the starting point, leave several inches between the starting and ending point of the binding, so you have room to attach the two ends of the binding.

Step 4 – Secure the Ends

Open up the end of the binding and place the start of the binding (the angled cut end) on top of it. Be careful that the strips don’t shift.

Matching up the binding

Open up the beginning binding “tail” (below), and notice that the angled end runs in the opposite diagonal direction in which it was folded. Mark a line on the uncut strip, following the direction of the cut end.

Matching up the binding ends

Measure and cut 1/2″ away from the marked line. This will add the amount needed for seam allowances on both ends of the binding.

Trimming the ending tail

Match up the binding right sides together and make sure it doesn’t get twisted. Pin the binding, offsetting the triangle tips by about 1/4″ and sew with 1/4″ seams to close the binding. This will create a hidden join that is smooth, with no bumps.

Join the binding ends.

Finger press this final seam open (it’s hard to get an iron in there at this point), and pin the un-sewn binding to the quilt, easing in any fullness. Attach this last bit of binding to the quilt, overlapping the starting and ending stitches.

Pin the binding in place

If desired, press the binding away from the quilt with a hot dry, iron. This will help the binding wrap around to the back of the quilt much easier.

Secure the binding to the back of the quilt with pins or binding clips. When you get to the corners, fold them in opposite directions and clip in place.

Secure the binding with Wonder Clips

Finish with small hand stitches on the back side. I use a single  16″ – 18″ length of Aurifil thread in a color that matches the binding. I use a thimble to push the needle through and sew from right to left, with the bulk of the quilt away from me. I’ve noticed that some quilters prefer to sew the oppoiste direction with the quilt toward them, and that’s okay, too – whatever works for you!

Of course, you can finish the binding by machine if you prefer, but I love the slow pace of hand stitching while I relax and cuddle with the quilt.

Binding by hand

Here’s a quick bonus video of me hand-stitching  the binding on another quilt:

Step 5 – Share, Share Share!

I hope you enjoyed this tutorial! You are welcome to share on pinterest or your favorite social media (with attribution). I hope that binding doesn’t seem so scary and feel free to mix it up with your favorite binding method.

This concludes the quilt along tutorials – next week I’ll share some finished pics of Squiggles, taken in the desert behind my neighborhood. Be sure and share your progress and finishes with me on instagram #squigglesqal or in my ChristaQuilts Facebook group. I love seeing them!!

Squiggles Quilt by Christa Watson

Click here to get an autographed copy of Piece and Quilt with Precuts.

Click here for links to all of the Squiggles Quilt Along blog posts.

Squiggles Quilt Along Week 6 – Machine Quilting Tips

This week we get to my favorite part of any quilt – the machine quilting!! For Squiggles, I quilted it with my walking foot. I always recommend starting off with walking foot quilting for beginners because it really is no-fail quilting. In the book, I show you how to quilt organic, squiggly lines with the walking foot, for the original version made from Pat Sloan’s The Sweet Life charm packs:

Machine Quilting Ideas

Squiggles Quilt from Piece and Quilt with Precuts

The original version of Squiggles: pattern & quilting instructions available in my latest book.
Click here to get your signed copy of Piece and Quilt with Precuts.
Click here to purchase The Sweet Life charm packs seen above, while they last.

If you’d like to quilt fun, fast and easy squiggle lines, follow along in the book on page 19 to see the instructions and quilting plan for Squiggles

Another quick and easy way to finish this would be to quilt a wavy grid, following the directions for “Gridwork” on pages 26-27. Check out a closeup of the wavy grid quilting below:

Gridwork quilting with a walking foot

For my Squiggles remake from Modern Marks fabric, I wanted to try out a different design that I mention briefly in the book on page 21 as a “make it your own” idea.  Rather than quilting wavy lines, try quilting irregularly spaced “straight-ish” parallel lines to create a random crosshatch grid.

Random crosshatch quilting

I chose a highly contrasting Aurifil thread in Jade so that it would show up on the busy prints.
The thread is from my Piece and Quilt Collection – Colors.

Random Crosshatch Quilting Tips

Here are a few tips on how I approached quilting the second version of Squiggles:

Machine Quilting Squiggles

I always start quilting on the right hand side of the quilt and “scrunch and smoosh” the bulk of the quilt as I go. First I make one pass across the quilt in both directions to anchor the quilt for more quilting later. This breaks up the quilting, secures it in place, and allows me flexibility on how densely I want to quilt it.

Start and end off the quilt

I try to choose designs that allow me to start and end each line of stitching off of the quilt in the batting. Then I don’t have to tie off all those pesky threads!! For best results when using walking foot/dual feed quilting, try to stitch in one direction rather than stitching the lines up and down or back and forth across the quilt.

It will help prevent puckers or “whiskering” that looks like little creases caused by the shifting of the fabric. I make one pass across the quilt from right to left, quilting “anchor” lines depending on how wide the blocks are. Then I rotate the quilt when I reach the middle, and keep on going to the other side.

Use gloves to move the quilt

I wear Machingers gloves to help grip the quilt and give me a little more power when I push the quilt through the machine. I also use my hands as a hoop and only focus on the area I’m quilting between my hands. It’s not a very larger area, so I re-position my hands and the quilt A LOT while quilting, and that’s ok!

For the random crosshatch, some of the “anchor” lines will be in the ditch, while some of them may be randomly to the side of the ditch. Below are three different ways that I mark or randomly quilt straight lines across the quilt:

Marking With a Washable Pen

Marking Straight Lines

Use an acrylic ruler and washable marking pen to mark guidelines if needed. I used a combination of marking and eyeballing when quilting my straight-ish lines. Mostly I changed it up so I could dry out several different methods. Hey, what I can I say? I’m always experimenting!

Painter’s Tape

Use Painter's Tape as a Guide

Painter’s tape is one of my favorite marking tools! I can place it at random intervals, using my long acrylic ruler to keep the lines straight. The best part about quilting random lines is that I can stitch along both sides of the tape to quilt 2 lines at a time!

Bonus tip: rather than putting the needle next to the tape, put the edge of your quilting foot next to the tape. It will space the lines out a little wider, and you won’t accidentally stitch through the tape!!

Walking Foot Guide Bar

Using a guide bar for quilting

You can also use a guide bar to follow along a seam line, or previously quilted line. Just decide how far apart you want your lines, and adjust the width of the guide bar appropriately.

Notice that I’m using the BERNINA dual feed rather than a walking foot. My machine has a built in mechanism that attaches to the back of a specialty “D” foot, giving me more options of which foot I can use. It acts just like a walking foot and performs the same function. I also like using an open toe so I can see exactly where the needle is stitching.

Machine Quilting Random Crosshatch

Here’s what Squiggles is looking like after a few random passes across the quilt in both directions.

Keep on Quilting!

Walking Foot Quilting

Continue quilting randomly spaced liens both horizontally and vertically across the quilt until you are happy with the spacing. The hardest part is knowing when to stop!!

Machine Quilting Random crosshatch

Click here to purchase a Squiggles Quilt Kit made from Modern Marks fabric.

And just remember, if you aren’t happy with the way it looks, just keep quilting. When I had only quilted a few lines on the quilt, I honestly wasn’t sure if I would like the end result, and the thread really stood out like a sore thumb. However, once I added more lines, all of the sudden, I couldn’t see any of the imperfections, and I love the amazing texture that was created!

Remember to share your progress!

Part of the fun of any quilt-along is seeing all of the variety everyone is making. Check out my ChristaQuilts group on Facebook to cheer on your fellow quilt-alongers and post pics of your WIP’s (works in progress). You can also tag me on instagram @christaquilts and #squigglesqal.

The next post will go up in 2 weeks, giving everyone a chance to catch up on their progress!
Click here for the previous Squiggles Quilt Along tutorials.

Wall Basting Tutorial Using Spray Adhesive

One of the secrets to successful machine quilting is basting your quilts properly. So today I will share with you my favorite way to baste a quilt using 505 basting spray and my design wall. You can definitely modify this technique and baste your quilts on a table, but I prefer the design wall because I can get up close to the quilt and make sure it’s nice and flat.

I’m demonstrating how to baste my Modern Puzzle quilt. Get the free quilt pattern here.

Click here to grab a Modern Puzzle Quilt Kit featuring Modern Marks.

Wall Basting Quilt Tutorial for Modern Puzzle Free Quilt Pattern

Wall basting is my favorite way to baste! I can get up close to make it smooth and flat.

Wall Basting Tutorial

Ensure that all 3 layers of your quilt (top, batting, and backing) are nice and flat. The batting and backing should be a few inches larger than the quilt top on all sides.

Give the top and backing a final press and clip any stray threads. Relax the wrinkles in your batting by throwing it in a dryer with a wet towel for a few minutes, unrolling it from the package to “rest” for a few days, or pressing the batting with a hot dry iron. (For delicate batting, use a piece of fabric to cover it while you press.)

Step 1 – Apply Adhesive to Backing and Quilt Top separately

Lay a sheet on the ground to protect your quilt and catch any over-spray. Outdoors is best so that the fumes can dissipate, but you can do it inside in a well ventilated room while wearing a dust mask. Be sure to shake the can and spray a few squirts on the sheet to ensure the nozzle is clean and the spray comes out evenly before you start.

Lay out the quilt backing wrong side up and apply a thin coat of 505 spray adhesive evenly across the surface of the quilt. Walk around the quilt backing as needed to reach all areas.

Apply spray baste to the wrong side of the backing fabric

Spray the adhesive on one section of the backing at a time. Use seam lines in the piecing to help keep track of where you’ve sprayed since it’s hard to see the adhesive on the fabric.

Repeat the process for the quilt top, using the design of the quilt to help you keep track of which areas you’ve already covered. Don’t worry if the quilt top and backing have some give or are a bit wrinkly from movement. You will smooth it all out later.

Spray baste the quilt top

Be sure to lay out the quilt top wrong side up while applying basting spray.

Hint: it’s easier to keep track of where you’ve sprayed if you cover one-two rows at a time, moving methodically over the quilt top.

spray basting

Try to keep the can spraying out consistently so you don’t get any adhesive buildup.

Once the backing and quilt top are sprayed, fold them up and bring indoors to assemble the layers on a design wall. It doesn’t matter if you fold them right sides in or out. They will be sticky, but not stuck and you can easily unfold and the layers and peel them apart. You don’t need to baste right away, but I wouldn’t wait more than a few days to prevent the spray from drying out.

Quilt top and back with basting spray

It’s okay if the layers are a wadded-up mess. You’ll straighten them out next!

Step 2 – Assemble The Layers Indoors

Pin the quilt backing wrong side up to the top of the design wall (mine is made from foam insulation board covered with a white flannel sheet). Let gravity pull the weight of the fabric down. Gently un-stick any of the fabric sticking to itself and spend some time smoothing it all out with your hands or an acrylic ruler.

wall basting

For shorties like me, use a chair or step ladder to reach the top of the design wall.

Your hands will get a bit sticky, but the residue easily washes off with soap and water. Spend as much time as you need to straighten the backing so that it’s nice and smooth and flat on the design wall.

Smooth backing on the design wall

The backing is nice and smooth! Any small wrinkles will get ironed out later.

Fold the batting in half vertically and stick it on one side of the backing. Notice that I didn’t cut my batting perfectly straight on one edge and that’s okay. As long as the batting is larger than the quilt top, it’s easy to trim off any excess.

Wall basting - adding the batting

For this quilt I used Hobbs Tuscany Cotton/Wool blend batting. The cotton gives it a nice drape and the wool adds depth and dimension to the quilting without wrinkling up.

Unfold the batting and spend a good amount of time smoothing it out with your hands or a long acrylic ruler. My ruler can get a bit sticky so I have a separate one that I use just for basting. See the excess batting sticking out on the right side? I’ll trim that off with batting scissors before I add the quilt top.

Smoothing the layers

Spend 10-15 minutes smoothing out the batting. It’s okay to re-position it if needed. The ruler acts as an arm extension to help you cover more area while you smooth it all out.

Add the quilt backing right side out in the same manner as the backing. Pin generously and let gravity pull on the weight of the quilt top to get it to hang straight. This is why it’s so important for the batting and backing to be larger than the quilt top. Then you don’t have to make sure it’s lined up perfectly in the middle – you’ll have a bit of “wiggle room” to maneuver.

The excess batting and backing will get trimmed away later.

Spend a lot of time smoothing out the top layer once it’s on the wall. Use the acrylic ruler to help you work out any bubbles and ensure that the seam lines are nice and straight. Once your basted quilt is flat, smooth and straight, machine quilting it will be a breeze!

Bastd Modern Puzzle Quilt

Taking time to smooth each layer will make it much easier to machine quilt!

Step 3 – Iron the Basted Quilt

Here’s where the magic happens! Once the quilt is basted, I take it to the ironing board and press both sides of the quilt. This does two things: (1) it’s a final chance to press out any wrinkles and work out any fullness in the quilt. (2) It sets the glue and ensures that all 3 layers will stay together without shifting, eliminating the need to add any pins. You can still pull apart the layers if needed, but this process will ensure that every inch of the quilt is sticking to every other inch of the quilt.

Press the spray basted quilt

I use a “big board” which sits on top of my regular ironing board and gives me more room!

Once I switched to spray basting, I virtually eliminated any pleats and puckers on my quilt. Because there’s a lot of “scrunching and smooshing” going on while quilting, your basted quilt needs to be able to handle a lot of wear and tear while pushing it under the machine. It takes the same amount of time to baste a quilt with spray or pins, but you’ll save a huge amount of time by not having to stop and remove pins. Give spray basting a try and let me know how you like it!

I quilted Modern Puzzle using walking foot wavy lines, a technique I teach in my book, Piece and Quilt with Precuts.

Modern Puzzle Quilting Detail

I hope you enjoyed this tutorial. If you end up making your own version of Modern Puzzle, please share pics in my Christa Quilts Facebook group. I’d love to see your progress!

Answers to Your Machine Quilting Challenges – part 4

Welcome to part 4 of my series that helps you solve your most challenging machine quilting issues.  You can read part 1, part 2 and part 3 for more helpful advice.

Christa Watson shares tips and advice for domestic machine quilting

Publicity image for my Craftsy Class: The Quilter’s Path where I share more quilting tips!

Problem: I have health issues that don’t allow me to quilt as much as I  would like.
My suggestion:
I totally understand! I recently had a bad fall and injured my left arm, so I haven’t been able to touch a machine in weeks. When my health is not up to par, I try to do other things that don’t wear me out such as playing with new designs on the computer, or getting inspiration from reading quilting books and magazines.

When I’m able to sew but feel like I don’t have the time or energy to do much, I set a timer for 15 minutes and get right to the machine. Even sewing one or two seams can give me a really satisfying feeling. Finally, if you can’t quite do the things you used to, that’s okay. See what you are able to do and don’t be timid about asking for help from others.

Problem: I do not like basting and always get puckers.
My suggestion:
Basting is definitely the least fun part of the process. It’s taken me many years to figure out how to baste without getting puckers. The key is to get all 3 layers of the quilt really flat before putting them together, and taking time to smooth them out as you layer them.  I prefer to use 505 basting spray and then iron the whole quilt after basting to smooth it out and set the glue. I’ve also had success with pin basting, too.

Tutorials on quilt basting for machine quilting

Students basting in a recent class I taught. Use a long ruler to help smooth out the quilt.

Click here to find several different tutorials I’ve written about the basting process. I’m sure one will work great for you! If all else fails, you can actually pay a longarmer to quilt long basting stitches on your quilt and then skip the process all together!

Problem: I don’t know how to use my new fancy machine.
My suggestion: I would say that’s a nice problem to have, LOL!! Whenever I teach newer quilters, I always recommend that they get acquainted with their machines right away. I know it’s kind of boring to do, but reading through the owner’s manual is really the best thing to do to get to know your machine. If you purchased it from a dealer, they should offer new owner’s classes for free. Another tip is to google, “how do I _______ on my _______ (make and model) machine” and fill in the blanks. I’m sure you’ll find a wealth of videos and tutorials to help you out!

Problem: I need help making pretty spirals (or other designs).
My suggestion:
Practice, practice, practice! It may not make perfect, but practice will make progress. Part of my teaching method is to have students draw out their motifs onto paper ahead of time to learn how the shapes are created.

Practice Drawing for free motion quilting

My drawings don’t look nearly as good as my quilting, but they are important to practice!

One thing to keep in mind is that most people will draw designs from left to right (if they are right handed), but quilting is usually done from right to left (starting on the right edge of the quilt). So keep that in mind and draw in many directions to get comfortable with the movement.

Problem: How do I get over my lack of confidence and fear of failure?
My suggestion: Just remember that you are learning a brand new skill and it takes time to learn a new muscle movement. Diving in and getting started is the best way to tackle any problem. If you are a brand new quilter, start with walking foot quilting first, and the move on to free-motion when you are most comfortable. Then remember this advice: the best way to hide imperfect stitches is with more imperfect stitches! One line of quilting will stand out like a sore thumb. But surround that line of quilting with more (imperfect) lines and all of a sudden you notice the overall texture, not the individual stitches.

Problem: I don’t know which thread to use for machine quilting.
My suggestion:
Grab my Piece and Quilt Collection from Aurifil! It’s 50 weight low-lint cotton that is perfect for sewing and machine quilting, as the name implies. The best thing about only using one type/brand of thread for everything I do is that I can stock up on tons of colors, without breaking the bank. Plus, any leftover bobbins from machine quilting can be used when piecing my next quilt!

Piece and Quilt Aurifil thread by Christa Watson

My Colors collection includes every color of the rainbow. The Neutrals group is versatile and includes way more than just black, white and gray. These two collections will provide blending thread colors for virtually any quilt you are going to make!

Click here to see which colors are included in each group.

Piece and Quilt Neutrals Aurifil Thread from Christa Quilts

Ask for my threads at your favorite quilt shop, or purchase online from The Precut Store.

Problem: How do I get an even stitch length?
My suggestion: That’s one of those things that will develop over time. When you are quilting with a walking foot (or dual feed system) the stitch length setting on your machine will work with the feed dogs to provide even stitches. Some newer machines with free-motion quilting include an option to use a stitch regulator. I learned the old fashioned way on a machine without a regulator and the key is to balance the rhythm of your hands moving the quilt through the machine with the speed at which you are quilting. It’s more of an art than a science and it’s like learning how to drive a manual car. But if you practice for 10 minutes a day, every day for a week, you’ll definitely see some improvement!

I hope you have enjoyed this week’s trouble shooting session. There’s still a whole bunch of problems to get through, so keep checking back each week for more! If you enjoy these tips and advice, don’t forget to pick up a copy of my machine quilting books that will help you put this advice into practice on real quilts!

Click here to purchase signed copies of my books, Machine Quilting with Style
and The Ultimate Guide to Machine Quilting.

Christa Watson Books

You can also find them on Amazon, from my publisher Martingale/That Patchwork place which offers a free e-copy with every print copy purchased, or from you favorite local quilt shop!

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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!

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