Welcome to the next installment of the Machine Quilting 101 series! Today we will be talking about how to work your way around the quilt, where to start, and how to manage the bulk. Fun stuff!
(I can't take credit for that genius sub-title. Cindy came up with it at retreat a few years ago and I'm finally getting around to using it!)
The most commonly asked question when it comes to free motion quilting is: Where do I start?
I always start about half way down the left side edge of the quilt. (No, I do not start from the center and work my way out.)
When painting a wall "they" say that you are supposed to keep a wet edge. I say the same thing applies to free motion quilting. Keep working side to side, back and forth in small sections. Fill in the empty spaces as you go. Avoid leaving a big un-quilted section in the center, or in any section, for that matter, or the potential for puckers is high. You don't want puckers!
I also have observed over the years that it is easier for me to quilt from left to right rather than from right to left. I do quilt every which way, but things seem to flow easiest when working from left to right. (Probably because I learned hand writing that way.) If you look back at the diagram, at the quilt as a whole, I basically work my way from left to right in one big oval.
The Straight and Narrow:
Straight line quilting (if you are a perfectionist) isn't easy. I think it's harder than FMQ in some ways.
The most commonly asked question I get when it comes to straight line quilting is: Do you quilt in one direction, or do you alternate directions with each line of stitching?
To that I say, it depends! (Just what you wanted to hear, right?)
It depends largely on how your machine behaves. That means you've got to do some testing on your machine and see how things go....even if it's just on a larger scrap. If your machine feeds the layers through the quilt evenly, then you can quilt in any direction that you choose.
this post. Cringe, cringe.) This can be caused by a variety of things and usually it's not just one factor at play. (In this case I was trying to straight line quilt with a medium loft batting...not a good combo. But I plan to delve deeper into that subject at a later date!)
Drag is a part of straight line quilting. If it's subtle, it can be dealt with by quilting the entire quilt in the same direction, from the top down. The down side is that at some point all of your quilt will be in the harp space. If your quilt is large, that's a whole lot of bulk to wrestle though the harp of your machine.
One other thing I've learned over the years when it comes to straight line quilting is that not all machines do it equally well. My Janome feeds the quilt through much better than my Juki. (Oh, the irony...my straight stitch only machine doesn't straight line quilt that well!) I've written more about that in this post.
There is so much more that I could cover, but hopefully that helps a little!
Managing the bulk:
spiral quilting, as shown in this photo) having a good support system is key.
I quilt on a small desk or table, so I use an ironing board set to a similar height to my desk to support the weight of the quilt. Sometimes I will use a tray table (or two) to help support the quilt instead. I usually end up holding a good portion of the quilt on my lap, too! The main goal is to have the quilt well supported so the weight of the quilt isn't pulling on the needle and so that the section you are working on can move about freely.
There is no way around the bulk, because quilts are just that...bulky! One thing that helps it to pool the bulk, don't roll up the quilt! It's so much easier to rearrange and maneuver folds rather than trying to wrestle one big quilt log through your machine.
Ok, so I've worked on this post until my eyes crossed. If I missed anything, I'll try to answer the questions in the comments. I hope that this post has been helpful to you!
If you would like to refer back to the previous posts in this series, I've added the links here for easy access:
Week 1: Introduction
Week 2: Pre-Basting Prep
Week 3: Basting
Week 4: Practice, Practice, Practice