Machine Quilting: Know Your Tools

When I pulled out the Misery Quilt to work on the machine quilting that I hadn’t touched in…well…years…I had to remember how to do all of this machine quilting stuff! :? It all came back pretty quickly, but it made me realize all over again that there are so many little details that go along with machine quilting that are good to remember, and I thought them all over as I retrained my eyes and hands and foot to all work together again to get the quality I wanted. This series of blog posts is dedicated to machine quilting–because the more you know, the easier it is!

Let’s start with tools! What tools are great to have and use, and maybe even count as “essential” for machine quilting? Aside from the obvious big things like the actual quilty-type project that’s basted with batting and backing and thread and needles that are appropriate for it and of course that well oiled sewing machine, here are the smaller essentials that I always keep within easy reach (clockwise from top left–more or less!): Continue reading

Quilt Marking with a Circle Template

I’ve been working on a wild little “black and white and red all over” type quilt, and before I could get to one of my favorite parts–that would be the machine quilting!–I had to mark it. Well, I didn’t have to mark it I suppose, but I didn’t think trying to freehand quilt a bunch of oversized clam shells was going to end well. My perfectionist side would have come out of the corner screaming the minute things started to go wonky, as they undoubtedly would without some premarking!

The search for the circle template began; Continue reading

Patchwork Tree and Half-Rectangle Triangles

Here’s a little peek at a new quilt I’m designing:

Mmmmm, green. If I had to choose a favorite color, it would have to be green. I love, love, LOVE greens! And I had such fun just pulling these few fabrics together, some from my stash, some from the quilt shop, and some I ordered online.

I wanted to have a tree as the center piece of the quilt, and the tree block that I liked the best had half-rectangle triangles, which caused me some issues. I was thinking that you could just make them the same way that half-square triangles are made, by cutting the rectangles, drawing a diagonal line across the middle and sewing ¼” to each side of the drawn line then cutting apart. Continue reading

Quilt Ruler Manufacturing Report–Good News at Last!

I’ve been keeping a bit quiet about the progress on the InchieSee & InchieDo Viewer Tool & Ruler Set because I wanted to wait and see how everything worked out with the new manufacturer. I was also waiting to post until I had something fairly positive in the way of an expected availability date to share as well. I’m thrilled to tell you that the new manufacturer that I’ve been working with is none other than Rulersmith, the same company that manufactures the Omnigrid rulers!

I received the prototypes of my tools from Rulersmith two weeks ago, and let me tell you, they are awesome! They are every bit as wonderful as I hoped they would be in the beginning, and the quality is, of course, perfect. The ruler is absolutely perfect just as it is, and the tool only requires a very minor modification to be perfect as well. If only I’d been able to find this company before I’d gone so far with the first one! (I looked, I really did, but somehow didn’t find Rulersmith until the second go round, and I don’t even remember how I found it then!) My experience with Rulersmith has been completely opposite in every way to the one I had with the other company.

I sent Dave at Rulersmith pdf files of my designs (instead of the original Corel Draw files, Photoshop files, graphics and fonts, etc.), and from just those pdf files, his team drafted the designs and made the prototypes that were perfect and nearly perfect. Continue reading

Coming Soon! Inchie Quilts

This was a great way to wake up:

Inchie Quilts at

Even without the picture of the cover, it’s still a pretty awesome feeling to see your own book listed at! This caused quite a stir in our house on Saturday morning! The book is also listed at the AQS site, in the Upcoming Releases section and on it’s own page, and you can actually see a picture there as well as a short description.

Now that the book is listed at the AQS site and the mother of all book shopping sites, my editor has given the go ahead and I can share the actual cover art and subject material with you! So, without further ado, I give you Inchie Quilts:

Continue reading

Easy Grid Quilting

I did a small bit of machine quilting today, and I thought I’d share some quick tips to make machine guided grid quilting easier. I’m making a small background quilt to display Inchies, so all I needed was some straight line quilting to hold the layers together and create some visual interest.

Clover Hera Marker

On a small quilt sandwich with unpieced bali fabrics on both sides and Hobbs 80/20 Black batting in the middle, I used a ruler and a hera marker to mark the straight quilting lines on the sandwich. A hera marker is simply a piece of plastic with a nicely tapered, curved edge which, when pressed on the fabric, compresses the fibers and leaves a mark that is fairly easy to see. Note that this particular model by Clover is the one I’ve had the best luck with; the others that I’ve tried have been made of softer plastic and didn’t make as nice a mark.

I marked the lines on the quilt sandwich in one direction only, meaning all the lines that are parallel to each other in an up and down direction. If you mark all the grid lines in both directions before you start quilting, you may find that when you mark the second set of lines across the first, the first set of lines will have little waves or points where the second set crosses them, and it will be difficult to quilt straight lines later.

When I’m quilting a grid, whether it’s big or small, I always start with a line of quilting close to the center of the quilt or space, and then work outward to the right and left. I always begin quilting at the top of the piece or area, and quilt toward the bottom, which means rolling up the bulk of the quilt to fit under the machine head when working on the left side. Even with a walking foot or IDT/dual feed, the layers of a quilt sandwich will shift; it’s just a fact of life.

Starting each line of quilting at the top will prevent diagonal wrinkles from forming on the quilt top or back from stitching lines in both directions. Remember this “top-to-bottom” stitching technique the next time you’re putting down stitch in the ditch between rows and blocks on a large quilt, too, as the same idea applies and the same diagonal wrinkles can happen, just on a larger scale.

Once the first set of gridlines was quilted, I marked the second set perpendicular to the first. The second set of quilting lines needs a bit more attention to detail than the first. When you start adding quilting lines that cross other lines, you can run into trouble when the fabric starts shifting. As you come up to a previous line of quilting, you may find that the top fabric of the quilt sandwich starts to form a little hill, which will become a pleat if you keep sewing.

Fabric pleating at quilting line

The solution is to slow down and pay special attention in this area. You can use your fingers on the top of the quilt to gently nudge the top fabric toward the presser foot, essentially forcing the top fabric to feed more quickly into the machine to reverse the negative pushing effect that the presser foot is having on the quilt sandwich. Not just for grids, this little nudging technique is infinitely useful whenever I do any kind of machine guided quilting with a walking foot or IDT/dual feed.

Nudging the top fabric

A few simple techniques made quick work of this little display quilt, so stay tuned for pics!