Quilting the Top - A Tutorial

I have received a few questions and comments about my quilting.  I thought I would post a little about my self taught technique in order to answer your questions.

But first, my disclaimer:  I am self taught.  I am by no means an expert (there is proof of that in past quilts).

First…the machinery!  I use a Bernina Aurora 440 Quilters Edition. It is about 7 years old. It does have the stitch regulator.

When I first started quilting my tops, I used the stitch regulator. However, I no longer use the stitch regulator and I use it “old school” style.”   What I found is that the my own foot and hands coordinate better on timing and speed then the stitch regulator. In addition, it is a little more flexible when you are doing detailed stitching.  More on that a little later.  The one thing I did add to my machine was a larger table.  While I would love to have a sewing service where I could recess my machine, I do not.  A larger table does make it easier to sew bigger quilt tops.  One day…I will get a custom table with my machine recessed!!

How did I learn?

I practiced and practiced and practiced. I first started out with meandering quilting / stippling that I did on almost quilt until I felt comfortable. It took about 5 or 6 quilt tops until I felt comfortable and liked the results. The one thing that I found out is that practicing on a small sample quilt sandwich versus using a real quilt is a lot different. I would practice on a small sample, but I think you can’t beat quilting on the real deal…a real quilt top. I find straight line quilting hard because there is a level of perfection that I try to achieve because of the straight lines that seems almost impossible.

My advice…master stippling first. Try it over and over again before you try anything else.

In the quilt below, I used contrasting thread which had a very nice effect.  For more information on the quilt below, you can click on this link.

Quilting Close Up - Contrasting Thread

Also, try different sizes of stippling, different ways to maneuver your entire quilt on your machine while quilting the top, etc. I certainly do not consider myself an expert or even intermediate, but I have improved over time and that is all you can hope for, right? I just like the idea of completing every element of a quilt.  In the quilt below, I used a thread that blended right in and very small stippling.

The more you practice, the more you will understand your machine and the tension settings that you need to adjust when quilting.  Check the front and back of the quilt to make sure the stitches are even and not too tight or too loose.  If you go too fast or the stitches are pulling through the back, you need to slow down and reduce the tension.  This is why you need to practice, practice, practice!  For more details about the quilt below click here.

Applique…for the custom flower quilt below, I actually sewed on the applique pieces as part of the quilting process.  I used very small stippling in the background and then outlined sewed each applique piece into place.  Pretty tedious, but had a great result.  Notice that when you use stippling, the sewing never crosses over itself; that is the key.  Here is the link for more details on the quilt below.

Here is what it looks like to sew a larger quilt on my sewing machine.  This takes some practice and the more you do it, the more you will learn about the best way to sew large quilts on your machine.  Every machine is different…

TIP:  I find that pulling my quilts toward me when quilting is easier than pushing them through.

Quilting the Top

Here is a closeup of some decorative quilting that I did on my Jasmine Quilt.  This is the first quilt that I really branched out of stippling and did some more free form design…none of it was really planned.  I just went for it.  I did some shadow quilting, some meandering, some stippling, etc.

Also, notice the open foot below..I like this foot the best when quilting my tops so that I can see where I am going.

Quilting Close Up

Here is the finished quilt top…for more details on the quilt below, click here.

Jasmine Quilt All Finished

A few other key items:

I use aurifil cotton thread.  It is the best and I use it on everything.  I highly recommend it.


Practice, Practice, Practice

The more you practice, the more you will surprise yourself.  And…..

Share your projects….would love to see your quilting adventures….


Tutorial - Spray Basting Quilts

Most of my quilting skills are self taught…lots of books, magazines, blogs and even some you tube.  But, I did take a beginners quilt class about 8 years ago and learned to spray baste my quilts.  Yes, spray baste…I tried basting with the hundreds of safety pins and it just wasn’t for me.  So, I thought I would shared with you the method I use.

Here is my favorite spray adhesive…I have tried many other types and this one works the best.  It is a temporary fabric adhesive 3M 505.  It does not leave your needle sticky when you are quilting and is just simply the best I have found.  Now, it is not the cheapest…it is $12 to $14 per can.  One can is good for a large king size quilt.  But, usually, I don’t make king size quilts so the can lasts for 3 to 4 quilts depending on the size and how much I use.

Spray Baste - 505

For this tutorial, I used a very small sampler quilt which makes it easy to demonstrate this technique.  However, this technique can be used for all quilts.  I have used it on king size quilts.  You can see the specific link for this rustic sampler quilt here.

First steps is to cut a piece of your batting (the middle of your quilt sandwich) that is a about 2 inches larger than your quilt top.  Then place your top in the middle of the batting and smooth so that there are no lumps or bumps.  For smaller quilts like this, I do this right on my cutting table / mat.  For larger quilts, I do this on the floor on top of the carpet.  Carpet seems to work better than tile, but I have also used that as well and it works fine.  Use whatever you got!

Next, gently peel back half of the quilt top and spray your adhesive directly onto the batting.  Then fold back over the quilt top and smooth it into place on the batting.  Make sure that the corners are secured.  You don’t need a ton of spray; just a light dusting.  Then, peel up the other side and repeat.

Spray Basting a Quilt

Flop over your quilt so that the top is face down.  Cut a backing piece that is the same size as the batting.  For larger quilts that are larger than a width of fabric, you may have to sew the backing together into one piece.  It is absolutely important that this backing piece is as big as the batting.  OR, you risk not having enough coverage for the front of your quilt and THAT IS NOT GOOD.  Been there, done that.

Spray Basting Back of Quilt

Once your backing is smoothed in place onto the backing, then you repeat the process that you did on the front.  Fold up half of the backing, spray the adhesive and smooth down.  Fold up the other half, spray the other side and smooth down.  Now you have a complete quilt sandwhich that is all together.

Spray Basting Back of Quilt

Now, quilt your top however you desire.  I typically machine quilt my tops, but in this case I hand quilted the top.  I do recommend that you wait a few hours before you start to quilt so that the adhesive can dry.  This avoids the adhesive from being sticky and gumming up your needle.

Hand Quilting the Top

After the top is quilted, it is time to cut off the excess fabric and to square up the quilt if needed.  I simply place the quilt on my cutting mat and with my rotary cutter and ruler line up the edge of the quilt with the ruler and cut.  You should be cutting away the backing and the batting.  You may cut small slivers of the top off to make it square, but you shouldn’t cut much of the top away.

Finishing the Quilt

Once you are done with this, it is time to bind the quilt and finish it up.  It’s that easy!  Click here to see the finished product!

Have a great day!

1 Comment

Blooming Jasmine Inspired Quilt

In the month of March, the jasmine in my backyard was in full bloom….remember?

I took this image and the amazing smell and selected some fabric that I thought would be just right to match the inspiration.  I loved this fabric by Bonnie and Camille….

It’s funny, I selected the fabric without a photo of the jasmine in hand.  When I got home, I realized that my mind doesn’t quite remember color as well as I thought.  My fabric selections were more on the peachy side and less on the violet or fuchsia side that it seems the jasmine actually appeared.  Lesson…take a photo with you.  This is where the old me would delete the post because my inspiration and the fabric color doesn’t match.  It’s the perfectionist in me…but, alas, does it really matter?  I was inspired, purchased fabric and created.  I did know that I wanted a quilt that was simple and did incorporate a white background which was the one color I did get accurate!  So, I dug through the books I already had and came up with this pattern from the Fig Tree Quilt Book.

The actual pattern I used.

I can’t remember the last time I did a quilt with blocks this big.  It was pretty fun and super easy to piece together.  You can see my handwriting in the book below.  I have the hardest time keeping straight the corresponding colors when I am creating a quilt that has a different color scheme than the one in the book or pattern.  So, to keep myself from messing it up, I have to write in the actual colors I am using.  Just me?

Here are some pics of the quilt in progress…all pieced in one day.

Piecing the top….the one thing about big blocks is that you really notice if your seams are not lined up.  Pin … pin…pin….it is the best thing to keep those seams lined up.

A close up of one of the blocks.

Here’s a pic of the quilt top finished….from two angles.

The fabric that appears to be yellow in the photos is actually a very light green dot fabric.  I have selected a brushed cotton large green and white dot for the back of the quilt.  I am hoping to put the quilt together later this week and start the quilting over the weekend.

So much for a quilt that actually looks like the jasmine photo or at least the colors…either way, it inspired me and got me sewing.  And, blogging about it on a week night.  I have considered adding some flower appliqué, but I am still not sure.  We shall see ….