Thursday, January 23, 2014

a spiral (and oval) quilting tutorial

As requested, I'm going to share a tutorial on how to spiral quilt. (I'll talk a little bit about oval quilting, too.) I've done a few quilts in this fashion now and I've learned a few things along the way. Hopefully this tutorial will give you the confidence to try this technique!
The quilt I'm showing in the photos is my scrap vortex quilt, which you can see finished here. It is a king size! Smaller quilts are easier to spiral quilt, obviously, but it is feasible to do almost any size on your home machine. If your back can take it, that is! :)
First, find the center of your quilt. The polka dot was within 1" of the center, so I used it as the starting point. Close enough! It would have looked awkward to have the center just a bit displaced from such a natural focal point. I drew a circle and spiral with a water soluble marker. (I use the clover brand fine tip disappearing pen. It's a great one!) I tried quilting the very center with my walking foot on my Janome 3 different times, but it never was quite smooth enough. So, finally, I moved over to the JUKI and used my free motion foot.
That looked so much better! Bury your knots, as shown in this tutorial. It's a little bit of a pain, but it's soooooo tidy when you are done! I bury my knots as I go, so I don't have a bunch to deal with at the end.
At this point I switched over to my Janome and used the walking foot to quilt the rest of it. I use the width of the walking foot as a guide, so the quilting lines end up being about 1/2" apart. It's perfect spacing! I keep my needle in the center position.
Once in awhile the width of my lines waver. Here I was about 1/8" off or so. In the big scheme of things, that's ok! You really won't notice it in the end. Just try to keep the arcs as smooth as possible.
'What do you do about the bulk?'
That's a fair question, if you look at the photo above! The good news is that only 1/2 of the quilt (or less) will be in the throat of your machine at any time. It takes a lot of turning and shifting, but as you spiral your way outward, it gets easier. Work slowly, adjust often and most importantly...support the bulk of the quilt so it doesn't pull against the needle.
I used the dining room table when I was quilting the center. It was ideal because there was a lot of room to spread out the bulk of the quilt. (A cushion for your chair is a must, too. For real!) After my husband gave me too much grief for having half a basement to quilt in AND taking up the dining room table, I moved back down to my normal quilting quarters.
My table downstairs isn't very large, so I set up two tray tables right next to my work space to support the quilt. (An ironing board would work well, too.) It helps a bunch!
Once you get to the corners, just continue to echo the arcs, starting and stopping at the edges. (This is where one can really appreciate an auto thread cutter!) It's very common to breathe a big sigh of relief once you hit the final corner. But it's oh-to-satisfying to be able to quilt your own quilts. Even (or especially) the big ones!
For the oval quilting on the lipstick quilt I used the same technique, except I drew an oval (a very long oval) in the center. I used the stripe of the center block as a guideline. I used my walking foot for the center, but wasn't thrilled with it. After I finished quilting, I went back and ripped out the center lines that were bugging me and used my free motion foot to re-do the quilting. It took me 3 tries to make it look decent and in the end I had to forgive myself for a few wobbly lines. {Perfection is over-rated, right?}

I think I've learned my lesson and next time I will just start with my free motion foot for the center and hopefully I'll save myself some stitch ripping. It seems to work the best for me, anyway.

I would like to give a shout out to Marianne, who posted her great spiral quilting tutorial. It gave me the idea and the confidence to give spiral quilting a shot in the first place. Thanks, Marianne!

If you have any questions, I'll try to answer them in the comments. Happy spiral quilting!

45 comments:

Sally Ann Flecker said...

Amanda Jean--This is a GREAT tutorial. I can't wait to try it out. Thank you so much for posting this--and so quickly, too. I also clicked on the burying threads tutorial. Both of these are worth their weight in gold--as are you! My best from zero degree Pittsburgh!

Karolyn Landon said...

Amanda Jean, did you know that Janome makes a circular sewing attachment. Not sure if it would work with free option or not but certainly would with a walking foot. M

Anita said...

Thank you, great post. I usually don't draw on my quilts before starting. I'm going to try it next time I free motion quilt. I've been pulling out my sewing table and putting a card table behind it, to hold the quilt up.

Grandma Ruthie said...

What a smart idea to do part free motion (the middle) and then switch over to the walking foot. Thank you for the tutorial. I love this quilting look!

tink's mom said...

You definetly made it look easy enough to try. I also like the idea of an oval Never thought of that as an option before. Thanks

Lorna McMahon said...

I highly admire that quilting design. Thank you so much for sharing your tutorial. And the shout out to Marianne. It's always nice to meet a new friend!

Alison said...

I feel as though you have turned a light on for me. No more will i be stuck with in the ditch or stippling. i am usually a hand quilter but need to know machine quilting for some projects.

Thank you so much - i want to leap out of my bed and start sewing.

Suzanne said...

As always, I got an education in quilting and pretty colors to look at as well. Thanks for the tutorial, AJ!

Lori Landenburger said...

Oh, so nice! Thanks for the tutorial!! Now I'm definitely going to try this!!

charlotte said...

I have tried this before, and now with these tips, I will certainly try again. Each time we just improve.

Jenny said...

Thanks so much for this great tutorial - I certainly want to try this as well.
I've only recently found your blog, and am now a dedicated follower! Just love all the great tips and inspiration you give

giddy99 said...

AWESOME info, thanks! I hope to quilt a BIG quilt someday!

wish2stitch said...

Thanks so much for the tutorial. I bought a copy is Sunday Morning Quilts and have just started making some scrappy quilts. I made a small baby quilt and tried the spiral quilting after seeing your lipstick quilt, but started with the walking foot and experienced the same problem. Will try the free motion foot next time. I did use this small quilt to try machine binding. You suggested a small project to start and worked a treat. Very happy with the result. Thank you so much for sharing your skills.

Locket Pocket said...

Thank you for the tutorial :)
I have been trying FMQ in the last couple of days and it's really hard to start but I hope to improve with practice. Using free motion for the middle then changing to the walking foot is such a brilliant idea! Maybe I will learn to be brave enough to quilt a real quilt! X

Svetlana said...

fantastic, thanks for sharing. Next time I'm definitely FMQing the middle circle.

tubakk said...

Thank you, this is great. I have tried a spiral, but it's not easy. You inspire me to try again.

cgd said...

Thank you so much for sharing your great quilting techniques!!! I tried several times to do this and was never satisfied. I will try this next time.

Vicki said...

Did you have any problems with your layers shifting? I've quilted one quilt this way and had to rebaste a couple times along the way because the shifting was so bad. I clearly need help with my walking foot quilting.

Jayne said...

I was so close to doing this three hours ago! I wish I had seen your post then! I'm sure there will be another quilt to try this on! Thank you for sharing, it looks fantastic!

Quilting Dee said...

Thanks so much for this tutorial. I checked out Marianne's as well. I will have a go with my next quilt!

Quilting Dee said...

Thanks so much for this tutorial. I checked out Marianne's as well. I will have a go with my next quilt!

simplecraftylife.com said...

This is such a well-timed post! Thank you, I was wondering how you did the centre of the spiral so neatly!

I don't have a free motion foot, but I suppose you could do the really tight spiral section by hand and then move to the walking foot?

Thanks again,
Jess

Ann said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Ann said...

Thank you for the tutorial! I am contemplating quilting a 7 by 7 foot quilt this way... scary!

One thing I would like to add: Make sure your spiral turns the right way! I did it wrong on my practice quilt, and more and more of the bulk ended up in th throat of my machine!

margaret said...

many thanks for this tutorial, maybe I can now pluck up courage and have a go, will try on something small

Jennadesigns said...

Thank you for the great tutorial. My Pfaff has an echo quilting foot for free motion quilting the I'd love to try! Your quilts came out gorgeous!

Kay said...

Thanks so much for sharing this. I really want to have a go at it sometime this year.

Anna said...

great tutorial Amanda Jean! I love the oval quilting, really cool, too!

capitolaquilter said...

Love them both - do you think an oval is harder, easier or the same level of difficulty? Wondering which to try first.

Lea said...

I am actually going to give this a try, your tutorial is a keeper! Thanks! (I tend to spread out all over the living and dining room with my quilting, but I prefer to be here due to better lighting. It's just the nature of the game).

Maggie said...

Wow! I love this! I hadn't thought about spiralling right from the centre to the outside before. I'd only thought about a spiral within a block if you know what I mean. I really can't wait to try this especially as the walking foot is used for most of the time. Thanks for a inspiring tutorial. Maggie xx

Amber Johnson said...

Thanks for all the tips! I want to try both of these someday. They're beautiful!

pandchintz said...

Thanks Amanda Jean - very tempted to try this!

Susanne vb said...

Thank you so much for sharing what you've learned!! I'm not afraid to try this now. Yay!

✾Jamie Lee Cooley✾ said...

The design looks so beautiful and I will definitely give this a try on a lap size quilt! I can imagine finishing the corners feels amazing!

MariQuilts said...

It looks fabulous and thanks for the mention!!

Betty said...

Thanks for the tutoral; I'll try a spiral now too!

Melissa said...

Thanks Amanda Jean! I really love this quilting. Do you think this is design that a beginner to free motion quilting could handle? Thanks, it is another beautiful quilt... Great job!

Gigi Pereira said...

Thank you so very much! I will definitely be trying this soon. Your quilts are always wonderful and there is always something new and inspirational. Not to mention just straight out eye candy. And all the link ups on Friday are endless sources of ideas and " I wanna do that" moments. Thanks again:)

Karen said...

Ohhhh, you make it look so easy :) Bet it's not quite so easy when I give it a go... I have been seeing spiral quilted quilts everywhere though lately. I think one is calling me! Ha ha. Thank you for a great tutorial, and what a fabulous quilt!!

Quilt Musings said...

I was so inspired by your tutorial, I am doing a king size right now :) I'm not sure if you said, but clockwise ladies, go clockwise.... I have always been the rebel but in this case I just went with what felt normal (maybe because I am left handed??). . . now I have the ENTIRE quilt in the throat.... doable but not fun!! LOL Thanks for this tutorial, it really gave me the confidence to do this on a large quilt!

Tonya Alexander said...

Thanks Amanda Jean! This is great and I was inspired to try it out this past weekend. I'm so pleased with the results. My back is still a little mad at me - but it was worth every stitch!

Mary Huey said...

I want to finish up one of my small charity quilts this week, so think I'll give this a try! Thanks!

Else Marie said...

It is so beatyfull, I have to look in my scraps..

Quilt Fabric Pizazz said...

This is a fabulous modern quilt! Congrats on this one! It is so nice to see someone actually piece and QUILT their own quilt. That is what it is about - a struggle at times, but the hallmark of a real quilter. Just beautiful.