How to Make a Quilting Plan for Your Quilt

Since we are getting ready to quilt our quilts for the Color Weave Quilt Along, I thought it would be helpful to discuss how I make a quilting plan, using examples of some of my previous quilts. Then it will make more sense when I write about machine quilting for the next installment of Color Weave. For those of you NOT doing the quilt along, this info is still helpful for any quilt you make!

Machine Quilting Color Weave

Machine quilting my Color Weave quilt.

I’ve had fun sharing my methods in three machine quilting books I’ve written along with my online classes through Bluprint (formerly Craftsy). Each of these resources includes not only step-by-step patterns for piecing a quilt; each pattern also includes a complete quilting plan with instructions on how to finish your quilt!

Christa Quilts Machine Quilting Books

Today I’ll share a several quilting plans and explain how I break down the quilting process. Then hopefully, you’ll be able to incorporate some of my methods into your own work.  But first, before we even get to that part, you’ll need to get your quilt ready for quilting. Be sure to check out my earlier post from this week about preparing the backing and basting – which works for any quilt!

Hobbs Batting Cotton/Wool

Click here for my pieced backing and spray basting tutorial.

When I’m making a plan, the first question I always ask is, what’s the purpose of the quilt and how much time do I have to finish? For example, If it’s for a baby shower coming up this weekend, I’ll stick with fast and simple quilting, like an allover design. Here’s a simple block quilting plan showcasing one of my go-to modern quilting motifs: boxes. The plan is more of a guideline of how to work my way around the quilt rather than an exact replica of the stitching I’ll do.

Allover Free-Motion Quilting Plan

First, I will draw the design on paper to get a feel for how it will flow across the quilt. Then I’ll quilt it out on a practice block, or even a scrap of fabric and batting to check thread color and tension. Finally, I’ll apply the design to the actual quilt.

To quilt an allover quilting design, pick a favorite free-motion motif and quilt the design randomly from edge to edge, regardless of the pieced design. It’s fast, fun and easy to do, and by the time you reach the end, you’ll be an expert at that design! I quilted the free-motion design shown above, on my quilt “Stepping Stones“, below:

Stepping Stones by Christa Watson

Click here to get the Stepping Stones quilt patten for just $6.95 while supplies last.

To make a plan for an allover design, I always start quilting on the right side of my quilt and work my way towards the middle. When the quilt gets too bulky, I rotate it 180 degrees and then finishing quilting from the middle to the other edge of the quilt. It’s much, much easier to start quilting when there’s no bulk under the machine, and you work your way across the quilt a few inches at a time.

By the time you’ve reached the bulkiest part in the center, it’s time to rotate the quilt, and then it gets less bulky again as you work your way across the other way. As long as you’ve done a good job basting your quilt, there’s no need to start in the center and stress yourself out with all of that bulk to begin with!

Stepping Stones Quilt Pattern by Christa Watson of Christa Quilts

Here’s what the quilting looks like on the actual finished quilt. Remember, I didn’t try to replicate the design exactly, I just meandered my way across the quilt in an organized manner, block by block. Like everything I design, my Stepping Stones quilt pattern includes instructions for both piecing AND quilting.

Allover Walking Foot Quilting Plan

You can also use the edge-to-edge quilting process with walking foot quilting, by using a process  I call “divide and conquer” – or breaking down the quilting design into smaller manageable chunks. I still start on the right-hand side of the quilt work my way across towards the center, rotate, and then continue from the center to the other side. In this example, I’m planning to quilt a wavy line design “near” the ditch rather than “in” the ditch because wavy lines are much faster AND easier to quilt than straight ones!

I’ll quilt my wavy lines in one direction for all of the vertical seam intersections, and the spacing will depend on how wide the blocks are. This first pass across the quilt is called “anchor” quilting and will secure the quilt for additional quilting later on. It also distributes the density of quilting evenly across the quilt.

First, I sketch out my plan on an image of the pieced quilt design. You can print off a digital image of the quilt if it’s something you designed in Electric Quilt (or other design software). You could also make a photocopy of a sketch or pattern cover and blow it up big enough for you to draw on. You could even take a picture of of the finished quilt top and then print it out in black and white on a regular size piece of paper, too.

Once I’ve quilted the first pass across the quilt, I’ll quilt  more wavy lines in between until I’m happy with the final line spacing. When planning a quilt, I won’t necessarily draw in all of the lines, but I’ll sketch enough of them to remind myself of what I’m doing. You can follow the exact same plan above using straight lines, wavy lines, or even decorative stitches on your sewing machine.

Here’s me putting the quilting plan into practice, “scrunching and smooshing” the quilt under the machine as I go. Look closely near the bottom of the image to see how I’m filling in lines of quilting between each of the “anchor” lines.

The quilt shown is called “Modern Puzzle” showcasing jelly rolls of my fabric, but of course it would look fabulous in any fabrics. It’s the perfect pattern to practice your “divide-and-conquer skills!” The best thing about quilting several passes across the quilt is that you can decide to stop at any time, once you are happy with the spacing of your quilted lines.

Custom Quilting Plan

Now, If I want to spend more time quilting a special quilt, I’ll do custom quilting, combining both walking foot quilting and free motion motifs. To divide and conquer the process, I’ll break the quilt down visually into these elements: the ditch, the blocks, and the background. Then I’ll quilt something different in each section.

Here’s an example quilting plan for my free quilt pattern “Beaded Lanterns” – made from one strip roll of my Fandangle fabric line.

Step 1 – Stitch in the ditch between each row of blocks. Here, I’m treating each row of blocks as one unit so I’m basically outlining the shape of the blocks while stitching the vertical ditches. However, I’m NOT stitching the horizontal ditches so that I don’t have to stop and start as much.

Optional: Echo the ditch to further separate the elements of the quilt. This is also called outline quilting or channel quilting and will help provide more contrast between the blocks and the background, separating the quilting designs so they’ll stand out more.

Step 2 – Free-motion quilt “something” in the background. By this, I mean pick ANY free-motion motif you like and quilt it in all the background areas. I happen to really like quilting pebbles in defined areas so I use them a lot. Remember, this isn’t an exact replica of what each stitch motif will look like. It’s just a roadmap that will tell me which design goes where.

Step 3 – Free-motion quilt a different design in all of the blocks. The fun part is figuring out different combinations of designs you like, and there’s no right or wrong answer! Because my background had dense curved pebbles, I chose something more linear and slightly less dense in the blocks to create contrast between the two designs. Because the blocks are made from busy prints, the quilting won’t show up as much so it’s a great place to practice a fun design that doesn’t have to be perfect!

Remember, for each pass across the quilt (ditch, echo, background, blocks) I’m working from the right side of the quilt towards the middle, rotating the quilt, and then working from the middle to the other side of the quilt. I only concentrate on one section of the quilt at a time, and reposition my hands whenever I feel like I’m reaching. By breaking down each step of the quilting plan, the whole process seems much less overwhelming.

Simpler Custom Plan

I’ll share one final quilting plan that’s a bit simpler to execute, but still gives a custom look. This is the plan I created and included in my “Positive Direction” quilt pattern. It’s a combination of straight lines and pebbles which emphasize the subtle arrow design made by the color arrangement of the pieced plus blocks.

I quilted all of the straight lines with a walking foot first, and then filled them in with additional straight lines until I was happy with the spacing. Then, in the remaining areas, I filled in the rest with free-motion quilting.

And here’s what the finished quilt looks like below. The quilting adds yummy texture, but doesn’t overwhelm the pieced design. After all, the more quilting you add, the less you see the individual stitches.

Click here to get the Positive Direction quilt patten for just $6.95 while supplies last.

I hope this gets you excited to break down the process, and not be afraid to dive in and quilt your own quilts. If you’d like for me to cheer you on in your machine quilting journey, be sure to join my Quilt Along email list where I’ll share lots of tips and tricks for quilts we can make together! You can also catch me on instagram @christaquilts where I usually show what I’m working on in real time. Happy 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!

Tips for Making Geese in the Garden – Part 2 of 2

I’m excited to share with you how I quilted my Geese in the Garden quilts – using two different but super simple and fun walking foot quilting designs. These are designs that I teach in my quilting classes and they can also be found in my books Piece and Quilt with Precuts and Machine Quilting with Style.

Wavy Line Quilting on Geese in the Garden

Wavy Line Quilting on Geese in the Garden – Warm

Most people think that stitch in the ditch is the easiest thing you can do with your walking foot, but wavy lines “near” the ditch are much easier to accomplish. Then, when you are ready to tackle straight line quilting, embrace unmarked, uneven line spacing for a quicker finish!

Straight Line quilting on geese in the garden by Christa Watson

Irregular Parallel Lines on Geese in the Garden – Cool

Make a Quilting Plan

I originally developed the idea to make a quilting plan in my books, then refined my technique so that I could clearly teach it to others in my online video class – The Quilter’s Path. In a nutshell, I like to draw my designs out on an image of the finished quilt top to see how it will look before I quilt the quilt. Below is the quilting plan for both quilts, which is included in my Geese in the Garden quilt pattern.

Make a quilting plan

The reason I like to quilt irregularly spaced, imperfect lines is because I know I’m going to “mess up” anyway, so why not build it into the design? After all – you know what they say: do something once and it could be a “mistake.” But do it two or more times and it’s a design element! Plus, it’s a lot faster to quilt imperfect lines than perfect ones!

Thread Choice

I recently released my new thread kit with Aurifil – The Varigated collection and was super excited to try some of my new colors out on these quilts.

Variegated collection by Christa Watson

Click here to get my Aurifil thread collection.

Because the prints are so colorful and busy, a variegated thread looks great and helps blend everything together. I chose Stone Washed Denim #3770 for the cool version. Even though it looks like a solid colored thread, it has subtle color changes that will look great on this quilt. Because it’s more on the pastel side, it also blends in with the rest of the prints.

Aurifil thread

For the warm version, I selected #3840 French Lilac. The purply-pinks blend beautifully and add wonderful texture. When choosing colors, I lay the spool across the quilt and see which color disappears into the quilt the most. If I’m not using and exact matching thread, I’ll usually go a shade lighter rather than darker, as that seems to blend in the best.

Pink Variegated Thread from Aurifil

To do the actual quilting, first I quilt a series of “anchor” lines to secure the quilt. These can be lines in, or near, the ditch, randomly spaced across the quilt to prevent it from shifting. Then I fill in with additional lines as desired.

Check out this video of me quilting the warm version with a simple wavy line design, following the pieced design of the quilt. I’m using my BERNINA dual feed, which acts just like a walking foot, but allows me to use different feet on my machine.

For the cool version, I used painter’s tape in some of the areas to divid up the space and give me nice, crips lines. When stitching right next to the tape, I have to be careful not to stitch it to the quilt!

Geese in the GArden quilting

Once I’ve established a few anchor lines, I’ll fill in between the lines at random intervals, using the edge of my foot as a guideline for spacing. Here’s another short video of my quilting the cool version, adding more lines in between previously spaced lines:

Finally, I prefer to bind my quilts by hand because I love the clean look it gives to them. Here’s a final video showing how I make each stitch by hand, once it’s been sewn onto the quilt by machine. (See links at the end for my full binding tutorial.)

Binding a quilt

Here’s a short video showing how I stitch the binding by hand to finish:

I really enjoyed sharing more behind the scenes of making this quilt. To help support the time it takes to create these posts, please use the links below to purchase the pattern, or find my entire pattern and fabric line at shop.ChristaQuilts.com. Many thanks!!

Geese in the Garden Quilt Pattern

Helpful Links

Dot ‘n’ Dash Quilt Along Week 8 – Machine Quilting Part 3: Double L’s

Good news! I’ve restocked the Dot ‘n Dash Kit in the light gray colorway.
Click here to order or visit shop.christaquilts.com.

I’m so glad we spent a little extra time machine quilting this quilt. Making a quilt from start to finish isn’t hard – it just takes a little time to break down the steps into doable chunks of time. This week we are going to finish up the quilting with a fun free-motion variation inspired by one of the quilting designs from my third book, Piece and Quilt with Precuts.

Free Motion quilting on Dot n Dash by Christa Watson

I’m all about perfectly imperfect texture in my quilts!

I like to quilt my quilts densely to add amazing texture and the more they are loved, used and washed, the softer they’ll get!

After quilting the double zig-zags last week, it’s time to tackle the “Double L’s” motif this week. These are based based on the “Cursive L’s” motif as shown in the Arrows quilt on pages 78-85 of the book, and also on the cover.

Free Motion quilting

Arrows is the cover quilt from Piece and Quilt with Precuts.

Sketch it. Then quilt it.

I’ve also used this design in a slightly different way on Twinkling Diamonds found on pages 56-63. So take a look at the quilting plans for those quilts to give you a better understanding of how to form the design.

The first thing I do when figuring out any design is sketch it first on paper. You can see in my rough drawing below, I tried a couple of different versions of the cursive L’s.

Sketch it. Then Quilt it.

Sketch it – then quilt it!

 At first I thought I would quilt the L’s and then echo them, but when I tried that on a practice sample, it didn’t look so good. I also thought of doing a more linear geometric version (in the upper left of my sketch) but that wasn’t right either. So I opted for two rows of cursive L’s, overlapping each other just like I overlapped the modern zig-zags in the gray areas of the quilt.

I tried quilting the L’s both horizontally and vertically and found it much easier to rotate the quilt so that I was quilting them vertically, from top to bottom in each row across the quilt.

Free Motion Quilting on Dot n Dash Quilt

I’ve rotated the quilt so I can quilt each row from top to bottom.

First Pass Across the Quilt

First, I did one pass of Cursive L’s across the quilt, starting on the upper right of the quilt, quilting one row at a time from top to bottom, and working my way toward the center. Once the quilt got too bulky in the middle, I rotated it and started from where I left off (center, top) to the other side of the quilt.

I’m using the same Aurifil gray thread (top and bobbin) that I’ve used for the whole quilt, and it blended in nicely on all the different Fandangle fabrics.

Cursive L's Free-motion quilting

Cursive L’s quilting – 1st pass across the quilt. Notice the gaps between the loops.

I recommend practicing a couple of times on scrap fabric and batting to get the hang of how you’ll form the design.

I’m not at all worried about the spacing of each motif or whether or not all of the loops are perfectly smooth. I’m aiming for texture over perfection. To get from one strip unit to the next, I’ll aim for the corner, or I’ll backtrack in the seam as needed to get to the next section to quilt. Notice that I’m treating the pieced units and the small gray background square as one area to quilt.

Cursive L's Free-Motion quilting

Head for the corners, or backtrack in the seams to get to each new section to quilt.

After the first row of Cursive L’s, I repeated the process, adding another row of L’s on top of the first row, intersecting the lines and quilting the design in opposite directions.

I squeezed in the second set of loops in the gaps between the previous loops. This added more texture and also made the imperfections less noticeable.

Second Pass Across the Quilt

Cursive L's detail quilting

Squeeze the second round of quilting in between the gaps of the first.

The more quilting you add to the quilt, the more thread you’ll use of course. So I would check your bobbin level at the end of a row of quilting and change it out as soon as it looks low (or pay attention to your bobbin indicator light if you have one on your machine).

Don’t play bobbin chicken!! I’d rather have a little leftover bobbin than run out in the middle of the quilt. If you are using cotton thread in your bobbin, you can always use the leftovers when piecing your next quilt.

Cursive L's Dense Quilting

I love using soft 100% cotton thread and natural fiber batting for my quilts.
This allows me to quilt densely while still ensuring a cuddly quilt!

Quilting Homework

Finish quilting the quilt! Feel free to mix and match quilting motifs from my books, or use some of your favorite designs. However you decided to quilt it, please share your quilt in progress in my Facebook group and on instragram #dotndashqal. I love seeing everyone’s work!

Next week, we’ll trim up the quilt and bind it to finish. I can’t wait!

Quilting at the Beach

I love how these surfboards at the beach match the coloring of my quilt!

Click here for the quilt along schedule, supply list, and links to all the tutorials.
Click here to purchase Fandangle precuts and coordinating yardage.

My Trip to Australia 2018

Now that I’m back and rested from my trip to Australia, I thought I’d share some of the highlights. I was invited to travel to Tasmania and Adelaide to teach machine quilting and it was soo amazing! I couldn’t pass up the opportunity to bring my family with me. They had lots of adventures while I was teaching, and I was able to participate with them on my days off.

Welcome to Tasmania

If you’ve never gone on a long haul flight, I have to admit it was pretty tough. It took us about 24 hours to get there with multiple layovers, one long 14 hour flight in which we had to sleep on the plane (so not fun) and of course a huge adjustment in time zones. But the hubby and kids were up for the adventure and fortunately our first day there was a recovery day so it didn’t slow us down too much.

Flights to Australia

The kids loved walking on the tarmac to board the plane on one of our connecting flights.

Sleeping on the Plane

Sleeping on the Airplane is not very comfortable!!

I had a full play day scheduled in Tasmania before I had to teach and we were able to visit a local museum and animal sanctuary. I learned a bit about the country’s history and got to cuddle with some koalas and kangaroos!

Art Piece from Tasmania

This art piece from the museum looked very quilty. I enjoyed learning about the region’s history.

Bonorong Sanctuary in Tasmania

The Bonorong Wildlife Sanctuary in Tasmania got most of their animals as rescues. Many times the mama kangaroos are killed on the roadways while carrying Joey’s (baby kangaroos) in their pouches. They raise the babies and protect other native wildlife so they can thrive.

Kangaroos in Australia

It was fun to pet & feed the kangaroos. Can you see the joey sticking out of mama’s pouch??

Jason was our designated driver and it took him a few days to recover from driving on the “wrong” side of the road, but fortunately I was able to use that analogy when teaching free-motion quilting. I told my students that It takes learning a new motor skill while both driving AND quilting, LOL!!

Driving in Australia

It took awhile to get used to the view from the “wrong” side of the street while driving!!

My students in Tasmania seemed to have a fabulous time learning both walking foot and free motion quilting. Thank goodness that “driving” a sewing machine works the same no matter which country you are in (though of course we had to pack a few plug adapters to use our electronics.)

Student work

Student work in class – I love the variegated thread!

Tasmania MQG

Souvenir from the Tasmanian Modern Quilt Guild – I’ll wear it with pride!

While I taught, the kids were able to travel to what they called “The End of the World” – the southern most tip of Australia. Really you can’t travel much further south without being in Antarctica!

Views from the End of the world

View from “the end of the world”! It wasn’t really but the kids had fun calling it that!

By the way, I loved taking notice of all the cultural and language differences between our two countries. The most interesting thing I noticed at each restaurant we visited was that they gave us a container and glasses for us to pour our own water, rather than serving us glasses of ice water and constantly refilling it. It’s actually more efficient I think, and my younger son who prefers not to have ice in his drinks was thrilled.

Water at the Restaurant

There’s a large Asian population in Australia which meant lots of yummy Asian restaurants to try!

The Lift at the airport

The word LIFT at the airport certainly takes up less space on a sign than “elevevator!”

Just for funsies, here are a couple of wording differences that the kids had fun pointing out. The first word is the Australian version, followed by what we call it here in the US:

  • Lift = elevator
  • Holiday = vacation
  • Trolley = shopping cart
  • Chips = french fries
  • Sauce = ketchup
  • Toilet = restroom
  • Take away = take-out
  • Way out = exit
  • Pram = stroller
  • Jug = pitcher
  • Biscuit = cookie

Australian Tim Tams

TimTams are the best “biscuits” we’ve ever had so we made sure to stock up!!

After our jaunt in Tasmania (with delicious food and amazing hospitality) we took a hop over to Adelaide for the next leg in our journey so I could teach at the Australian Machine Quilting Festival. I lectured and taught for 3 days straight and the most fun thing to realize is that quilters are amazing and enthusiastic, no matter where in the world I travel!

Cindy Needham, Helen Stubbings and Christa Watson at AMQF

I enjoyed chatting with Cindy Needham and Helen Stubbings from Hugs ‘n Kisses after a day of teaching. Cindy was one of those inspiring teachers who came to my guild about 10 years ago that made me realize I wanted to travel and teach, too! Helen invited me to her guild in Tasmania and it’s her sister who invited me to teach at AMQF. I love a creative quilting family!!

I taught 3 machine quilting workshops and one piecing workshop. Students worked on their versions of my Modern Logs quilt pattern and it’s one of my favorite piecing workshops to teach because everyone’s blocks turn out so differently, but are still soo amazing!

Modern Logs Workshop in Australia

I love hanging out with fun quilters worldwide!!
BERNINA Australia generously provided sewing machines in class for everyone to use.

While I taught in Adelaide, the family had even more adventures. They went bike riding out in the country, and did some rock climbing guided by my oldest son.

Watsons and Koala

This Koala knows how to pose for the camera!

We were there for a total of 12 days including travel and my daughter who is still in school diligently kept up with her homework while we were gone. I’m so glad the timing worked out for all of us to go (the older boys head out on their next life adventures this fall).

Biking in Australia

The kids had as much fun with their outdoor adventures as I did teaching!

Rock climbing in Australia

This is the one adventure I was ok to miss! My oldest son is quite the climber so he took the rest of the family on a SAFE rock climbing adventure during one of my workshop days.
I’m so glad they use LOTS and LOTS of ropes!

More Kangaroos!

More Kangaroos!

One of the highlights of the quilting festival was getting to put a teacher ribbon on my favorite quilt. Not only was I blown away by the quilt in the shape of Australia, but the maker machine quilted it herself, adding lots of wonderful texture to the surface, without overpowering the pieced design.

Australia Quilt by Barbara Kukulies
Land Girt by Sea by Barbara Kukulies – Faculty Choice Ribbon

I had such an amazing time and hope to return to Australia again someday. This was my first international teaching trip and it’s definitely made me open to teaching at other international locations, too! So if you live somewhere exotic and fun, feel free to pass my name along to your event organizer or guild. 🙂

Do you have a fun place that’s on your bucket list to visit? Leave me a comment and let me know!

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.

Writing Book 4 – Part 2: Contract Accepted, Work Begins

If you are new to my blog, I’ve begun documenting my progress as I write a book from start to finish. In my last post, I discussed the book proposal process, so be sure to check that out! I’m currently working on my fourth book, and kinda maybe sorta know more about what I’m doing this time around. Just kidding about the “sorta” part, but it’s always a learning process, for sure!!

Christa Watson Books

I’ve written 3 books on my own and have been featured in numerous collaborations with my publisher Martingale/That Patchwork Place, a few of which are shown here.

So here’s what’s happened so far. After I submitted my proposal back in April of this year, I met with my publisher in person in May at Spring Quilt Market 2018 in Portland, OR. I had an in-depth meeting with the acquisitions editor and content editor to nail down the specifics of what the new book will be about (machine quilting – duh!!)

I had originally wanted to go in one direction with the book, but when they pointed out that some of the content I wanted to include was already covered in my first three books, they helped me narrow down my focus and solidify the overall direction for this new book.

Martingale Collaboration Books

Two new Martingale titles that debuted at Spring Quilt Market include Fat Quarter Favorites, featuring my quilt on the cover, and Lunch Hour Patchwork which includes my modern mini.

A couple of months after our meeting at market, Martingale offered me the formal contract in writing, which of course I accepted, and I made myself a time line/to do list of all the steps I’ll need to finish on time.

The first section of the book isn’t due until the next February and the final manuscript, instructions, and samples are due by the end of summer 2019. I’m thrilled because this will give me plenty of time to create the book along with other new and exciting projects I have in the works.

The most wonderful part about working with a publisher is that although I create all of the content, including “placeholder” photos and illustrations, Martingale has a team of professionals who photograph and illustrate everything based on my images. I love it when they take what I create and make it look even more beautiful!

Publishing Agreement for my Next Book

Happy mail! Getting the contract in the mail is always an exciting day!

Book 4 (as I will be calling it until the cover art is finalized) is slated to be 96 pages which is the same length as my most recent book Piece and Quilt with Precuts. Of course that can change depending on final editing, and it’s due to be published in September of 2020 (also subject to change). I have a working title for the book, but even that can be tweaked.

As an example, for my first three books, the publisher named the first two while I titled the third. I have a feeling that the title for Book 4 is something we both are in agreement on! (Sorry for all the teases, but I’m giving away only as much as I can at this point.)

I can’t say enough about how excited I am to work on this new book. It’s actually something that many of my students have been asking for, so I love being able to meet their needs. And the best thing about machine quilting is that it’s timeless: the ideas I create now will be just as relevant in two years when the book is available for sale. Even though that seems like a long way off right now, I know that time is going to fly!

Christa at Quilt Market 2015

Doing a demo for my first book at quilt market in 2015

While I can’t discuss the specifics of my contract, I can tell you that royalties are based on the wholesale price of the book, and I will also have the opportunity to purchase them wholesale myself. In fact, most authors who sell their own books make more from direct sales of their books than they do in royalties, so it’s something to keep in mind if you are considering writing a book, or purchasing a book directly from the author.

Now the real work begins. The toughest part for me is balancing out my workdays so that I work on my book a little each week, rather than trying to cram in everything right before the deadline. I’m currently planning in detail everything that needs to be done, and my publisher was fabulous to work with on the timing, since I let them know I wouldn’t really be able to start on it in earnest until after Fall Market later this year.

Machine Quilting Demo

Machine quilting demo to promote my latest fabric and book at Spring Quilt Market 2018. I will be doing lots and lots and lots of quilting over the next few months. I can’t wait!

I have to be honest and say it’s been nice to have a two year break from book writing, since work on my previous book was completed in 2016, a full year before the publish date. But now I feel refreshed, re-energized, and excited to dive into the new work! I’ll be sure to keep you updated on my progress, and will share a few sneak peeks as I can, so stay tuned!

In the meantime, if you have questions about the book writing process, please ask away in the comments below. If there’s enough interest, I’ll be glad to do a separate blog post devoted to answering your questions about anything I haven’t covered so far. I love sharing what I know and inspiring others to reach their goals, no matter how big or small!

Kits for and fabrics for my Craftsy Classes are now Back in Stock

Many of you have asked me when Craftsy will offer more kits for my beginning class: Startup Library – Quilting. The good news is that they are available once again! The first round of kits performed so well, that they finally ran out of fabric using the original prints so they decided to re-kit it with a similar collection with the same look and feel of the original.

Click here to check out Startup Library: Quilting

Friendship Stars quilt by Christa Watson

Click here to get the Friendship Stars Quilt Kit

Although you can certainly get the kit without the class (it comes with a detailed pattern), you can also get the class and make your own version using any fabrics you choose.

This quilt was super fun and fast to make because the blocks are simple to piece and the quilting is easy enough for a beginner to handle. I quilted the remake using the same quilting plan as the original and the class includes step by step tutorials on how to quilt it the same way shown here:

Friendship Stars quilt by Christa Watson

In the class I go over how to quilt gentle wavy lines with your walking foot, plus two fun and easy to learn free-motion designs: stipple and continuous curves.

As a recap, here’s what the projects look like for my other two classes:

Click here to check out Startup Project: Starry Path

If you’ve already tackled Friendship Stars and want to go to the next level, kits are also available for my followup class: Startup Project – Starry Path Quilt. It was fun to try out a completely different color scheme and expand my repertoire of star blocks!!

Starry Path Quilt by Christa Watson

Click here to get the Starry Path Quilt Kit

Click here to check out The Quilter’s Path

I made three versions for this class to show how to quilt with a walking foot, free motion – or both! It’s fun to see how the same design looks in different fabrics, with different quilting!

Pinwheel Quilts from The Quilters PathFabric selection for this class is super easy – just pick two jelly rolls in colors that you like.

Enroll in My Classes at Your Convenience

My Craftsy classes are available for you in two ways – either a la cart where you own it forever, or you can sign up for Craftsy Unlimited which gives you 24/7 access to all three of my classes as long as you continue with your subscription. Either way you view – you have unlimited access to me when you take any of my classes, and each one comes with a free pattern to make the projects featured in the class! Here are the relevant links below:

And remember – I’m here to help you each step of the way so you can enjoy making a complete quilt from start to finish as much as I do!

Friendship Stars Quilt by Christa Watson

Click here to get the new Friendship Stars Quilt Kit

QuiltCon 2019 Catalog Just Released – Here’s What I’m Teaching

I’m excited to be teaching at QuiltCon once again February 21-24 in Nashville, Tennessee. I’ve been to every QuiltCon since it began and this will be my third time as a member of the faculty. I’m most excited about the fact that although I’ll be plenty busy teaching 3 workshops and a lecture, I’ll still have plenty of time for all of the social events, too.

QuiltCon 2019 CatalogClick here to get the complete QuiltCon 2019 catalog.
Member registration opens June 26 and general registration begins July 10.

My QuiltCon 2019 Teaching Schedule

DSMQ200 Walking Foot Wonders, Thursday Feb. 21, 9-5

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, several different spirals, straight‐line designs, and more. You’ll leave class armed with the confidence that yes, you can quilt your own quilts! This is a hands-on machine class with machines provided for each student.

Walking foot Quilting Workshop


QDR010 Plan Your Quilting (A), Saturday Feb. 23, 2-5 PM Or
QDR011 PLan Your Quilting (B), Saturday Feb. 23, 6-9 PM

How do you get from “quilt as desired” to a cohesive quilting strategy? Students
will practice sketching quilting motifs on paper, then learn strategies to apply those designs to an actual quilt top. Students will each have a chance to create several different quilting plans using images of their own quilts printed on paper, as well as learning how to create quilting plans for a wide variety of quilt designs. This is hands‐on drawing workshop.

Plan Your Machine Quilting


lec22 Infusing Modern into Machine Quilting, Sunday Feb. 24, 10:15 AM

This informative lecture is full of examples from previous QuiltCons, demonstrating how the modern aesthetic can apply to the machine quilting process. Learn how negative space, minimalism, graphic geometry, improvisation and other hallmarks of the modern aesthetic can be incorporated into your machine quilting work.

Attendees will gain a better understanding of why many modern quilters choose to employ an abundance of straight line and “industrial looking” designs rather than quilting overly ornate and perfectly symmetrical motifs. Suggestions on how to incorporate graphic and linear free‐motion quilting as an alternative to straight‐ line quilting will also be explored.

The last time I taught at QuiltCon I was part of a panel lecture/discussion about managing your fabric stash with the lovely and talented Judy Gauthier, Rossie Hutchinson and Mary Fons.

This QuiltCon is shaping up to be one of the best, yet! There are loads of meetups and mixers and the class catalog offers the widest variety of lectures and workshops they’ve ever offered. I’ve got my eye on a design workshop I want to take, and there are plenty of lectures I’m interested in, too!

I hope you’ll make plans to attend, whether or not you take any workshops. QuiltCon is unlike any other quilt show I’ve attended – there’s definitely a party atmosphere there and half of the fun is the socializing! Leave a comment if you plan to attend and let’s get this party started early!!

My Newest Craftsy Class – Startup Project: Starry Path Quilt

It’s here – it’s here! The launch of my third Craftsy class – whoo whoo! Just after I made the sneak peak announcement earlier this week, the class went live! So today I’d like to introduce you to Startup Project: Starry Path Quilt.

craftsy Class Starry Path Quilt

Click here to preview my class Startup Project: Starry Path Quilt

In this nearly 3 hour long class, I teach how to make this stunning quilt I designed featuring two different types of star blocks and three different types of triangles.

It was created as a followup class to my comprehensive start-to-finish class, Startup Library: Quilting. But of course, anyone can enroll and make this stunning quilt:

Starry Path Quilt by Christa Watson

Click here to get the Starry Path Quilt Kit, while supplies last

The class comes with the complete pattern to make the Starry Path Quilt above, and there’s even an optional kit. I chose to make it from basic blenders in a cool color scheme of lime, green aqua, blue and turquoise. I paired it up with a solid gray background for maximum impact. I’m really pleased with how well the design turned out and I loved taking my time to be as accurate as possible.

And, because you all know I loooove machine quilting, I threw in a bonus lesson on how to quilt elongated swirls. Isn’t it just fully of yummy texture??

Swirls quilting on Starry Path Quilt by Christa Watson

The class materials include step-by-step drawing lessons showing how to form the basic swirl design, plus a page for you to print off and practice drawing your own quilting plan. (It’s a nod to the technique I first introduced in my machine quilting class, The Quilter’s Path.)

The exclusive Starry Path pattern is easy to follow along as you watch the class, and I’ve sprinkled in as many helpful hints as I can to ensure your success with this quilt!

Starry Path Quilt with Christa Watson on Craftsy

I can’t help fondling my quilts, LOL!!

In Startup Project: Starry Path Quilt, I share my best tips and tricks for accurate cutting and piecing so that you can get stunning results, every time. My top tips for piecing any quilt?? Slow down when you are sewing, maintain an accurate 1/4″ seam and use lots of pins to get those intersections to line up precisely.

Starry Path Quilt in Progress

The best thing about my Craftsy classes is that unlike my live classes, you actually get to watch me sew and quilt. That way you can and see where I place my hands, and how I manipulate the fabric. With the magic of filming to speed things up, it’s actually fun to watch!

Starry Path Class Overview

Here’s a breakdown of what’s covered in each section and length of each lesson. The total class runs for just under 3 hours, and if you’ve ever heard me speak, you know that I can cover a lot of info in a short amount of time. So you really get more “bang” for your buck with my classes!!

Boundless Fabric from Craftsy
1. Getting Started (32 min)
Meet Christa and go over everything you’ll need for your project, the Starry Path quilt. Then she shares tips for cutting both yardage and fat quarters. Plus, see how to check and correct your seam allowance early on. This way, your blocks will be the correct size.
Sawtooth Star Block Piecing
2. Sawtooth Star Block (39 min)
Piece the classic flying geese unit four at a time! Christa shows you how to mark, sew, press and cut, and add simple squares to create the Sawtooth Star block. She helps you chain piece a few blocks at a time to speed up your stitching, and shows you how to use webbing to keep your blocks together as you go.

Christa Starry Path Quilt

3. Garden Path Block (30 min)
Learn how to cut and sew with the popular Tri-Recs specialty ruler that you can use in many other quilts. Find out how to properly cut and line up the pieces, add simple four-patches and solid units for a beautiful block, and save time by chain-piecing it.
Garden Path Block
4. Pieced Border (30 Min)
Follow along as Christa guides you to create the colorful pieced border that surrounds the Starry Path Quilt. See how to pair half-square triangles to form this hourglass unit, also known as the quarter-square triangle. Then batch-assemble the border strips.

Christa Sewing

5. Quilt Top Assembly (23 Min)
Now you’re ready to put your quilt blocks together! Here, discover a technique called webbing that will keep your blocks in order as you assemble the inner quilt top into rows. From there, sew the rows together, then add the solid and pieced borders.
Machine Quilting Swirls with Christa Watson
6. Machine Quilting Swirls (20 Min)
Wrap up class by finishing your basted Starry Path quilt with an all-over free-motion design. Christa discusses thread choices, then shares the benefits of making small samples to practice your designs. Afterwards, get her tips on maneuvering this quilt on your home machine as you add the final touches.

Starry Path Quilt by Christa Watson

I had so much fun making this quilt and I’m sure you will too! The best part about enrolling in my class is that you have my help and support 24/7. Got a question about the class or want to share your progress? Use the interactive class platform to share with me and fellow students. It’s like a virtual classroom with me at your side!!

Click here to enroll in Startup Project: Starry Path Quilt

Click here to get the Starry Path Quilt Kit

Elongated Swirls quilting by Christa Watson

I can’t wait to “see” you in class!