5 January 2015

Top 10 Tips for New Quilters - Quilting with your Walking Foot

Welcome to this week's installment of the Top 10 Tips for new quilters - Quilting with your Walking Foot. For the complete line up of weekly tips, please see this page.


Quilting with your Walking Foot:

You have completed your latest quilt top!  Yes!  What an accomplishment.

Now what?

Lots of quilters shy away from finishing their own quilts for various reasons.  Maybe their sewing machine is pretty small and they are afraid to take on a large project with such a small machine?

I started out quilting with my Lil' Janome.  He only has 6.5" from needle to base.  Not much room in there for a King size quilt?

This Oh, My Scrappy Stars finished at 102" x 102".  And we managed.  The quilting of the entire background was performed using the walking foot.

Oh, My Scrappy Stars

And then some Free Motion Quilting was added later.  For some Free Motion Quilting advice, please see this post.

Oh, My Scrappy Stars

Quilting with your Walking Foot can be a great way to finish a quilt.  Free motion quilting is versatile and very popular, but I really prefer to use my walking foot.  Lil' Janome is my free motion quilting machine.  So I still use him for that when a quilt calls out for that method.   But since January 2014, I have been using my walking foot more and more, and quilting on Aunt Elna.  She's got 11" of space and has made my quilting life so much easier.

I prefer a quick finish using an Edge to Edge design.  Some edge to edge quilting examples to follow are:  Organic Wavy Line, Decorative Stitches, and Spiral Quilting.

Organic Wavy Line Quilting:

Organic Wavy Line Quilting can be performed from edge to edge using your walking foot.  The amount of space you leave between the lines will determine what the end result will look like and how dense your quilting will be.  The looser the quilting, the less stiff the quilt, the more drape.

Organic Wavy Line quilting with Lil' Janome

Winter Wolves was my first attempt at Organic Wavy Line Quilting.  This quilt was my also my first time quilting with fleece and I felt that quilting edge to edge would reduce the chances of shifting and puckering.

But I was afraid to quilt from edge to edge.  Fearing that the quilting would ruin the look of the piecing and make the framed squares look terrible.  I first quilted leaving large spaces between the lines.  Then returned to quilt more between those lines.  And learned that this caused pulling and distortion between the lines.  But I did like the look of those wavy lines!

Organic Wavy Line quilting on Winter Wolves


Check out this post where I share a video of my early wavy line quilting with your walking foot!!! 

Fox & Friends2 was another first for me - using a minky backing.  On this quilt I kept the lines closer together.  My only real concern were those applique eyes and noses.  I did not want to quilt on top of them.  So I quilted around them.  I think the exaggerated curves only serve to enhance the raccoons' masks.

Organic Wavy Line quilting on Fox & Friends2

Another example of Organic Wavy Line Quilting is Pretty in Plaid.

Organic Wavy Line quilting on Pretty in Plaid

This Christmas Placemat shows what I would refer to as Organic Wavy Line Matchstick Quilting.  I wanted to use a denser quilting motif on this project.  This dense quilting resulted in a much stiffer end product, perfect for use on table decor.  The lines don't cross, but do come very close to touching.

Organic Wavy Line Matchstick Quilting on Christmas Placemats

Although I have not tried this method yet, Straight Line quilting can also be performed densely, known as Matchstick Quilting.  This will leave your quilt extremely stiff.  In my opinion, best suited to wall hangings and table decor.

Quilting with Decorative Stitches:

Other Options for an edge to edge design include using Decorative Stitches that may be found on your machine such as the Extended Zig-Zag or Serpentine stitches.

Flowers in the Sun was my first time using the Extended Zig-Zag stitch found on my Lil' Janome.  Again, I was afraid to quilt across the blocks.  Worried that this would diminish the look of the piecing.

Zig-zag on Flowers in the Sun

Also referred to as Honeycomb Quilting, I first discovered this quilting method courtesy of Amanda Jean of Crazy Mom Quilts here.  My only caution in using this method is that it can cause quite a bit of shifting.  In spite of heavily pinning during the basting stage, my quilt top on Flowers in the Sun continued to shift to the right as I quilted each line.  It was a close one, so I encourage you to be generous in the dimensions of your backing if using this stitch to finish your quilt.  And baste heavily!

Zig-zag on Flowers in the Sun

But I was so happy with the results!  And have used the Extended Zig-Zag stitch again and again.  Fruity O's was quilted more densely.

Zig-zag on Fruity O's

Resulting in a slightly stiffer, flatter finished quilt.

Zig-zag on Fruity O's

This little Medallion Doll Quilt also got the Zig-Zag treatment!

Zig-zag on Medallion Doll Quilt

When I went shopping for an upgrade to my Lil' Janome, aside from wanting more space between needle and base, I also wanted a machine that could perform the Serpentine stitch.   I'm a Little Bit Rock n' Roll was my first time using the Serpentine stitch when I got my new Elna Excellence 760, whom I playfully now refer to as Aunt Elna.

Serpentine on Rock n' Roll mini

These two little quilts made from my scraps of Sunnyside also got the Serpentine stitch for a fast finish.

Serpentine stitch on Sunnyside Scraps Twin Doll Quilts

My latest finish using the Serpentine stitch was this WoW-E! quilt.  I really like how the curvy lines soften up the sharp angles of the blocks.  I shared this finish on Friday during my final 2014 hosting post for TGIFF!

Serpentine stitch on WoW-E!

Straight Line Quilting:

Straight Line Quilting with your walking foot.  Sounds rather boring?  It doesn't have to be!

Boring?  No.  Straight Line quilting along the seam lines keeps it simple, allowing the focus to remain on the fabrics.  This Custom Order Baby Quilt was Straight Line quilted along each seam line, both horizontally and vertically.  Clean.  Fresh.  Classic.

Custom Order Baby Quilt with Straight Line Quilting

Still not convinced? Here are two examples of the same quilt pattern.  Quilted using Straight Line Quilting.  Ohio Stars in Holiday Hoot was quilted using plain white thread along the seam lines.

Ohio Stars in Holiday Hoot with white Straight Line quilting

This version, GO! Ohio Stars, was quilted using the exact same method, but using blue and green Magnifico threads by Superior Threads.

GO! Ohio Stars with green and blue Straight Line quilting

Dress things up a little more.  When I was quilting my pieced fabric to make my Charlie Harper Quilted Jacket, I used a double line of quilting along the seams.  This quilting was done using variegated Fantastico threads by Superior Threads.

Quilting with Superior Threads's Fantastico variegated threads on Charlie Harper Quilted Jacket

Straight Line quilting does not have to remain simply along the seam lines.  Quilting can also be performed in a Grid or Cross Hatch pattern.  Or in random lines across the quilt in random directions.

SUPER TIP:  The direction of straight line quilting in relation to the backing fabric can have an undesired effected on the results of your finished quilting.  This is determined by the backing crossgrain layout.

Straight Line quilting from edge to edge was used on my ILove2Sew and ILove2Quilt mini quilts.  Both of these quilts were quilted in succession.  First I finished the Sew version.

Straight Line quilting on ILove2Sew

Then I quilted the Quilt version.

Straight Line quilting on ILove2Quilt
And I could not believe my EYES!  Why had one turned out crisp, clean and beautiful?  And the other turned out wrinkled and crinkled?  I have never seen or read about this kind of thing happening before!

What was the difference?  The direction of the crossgrain on the backing fabric.

With the ILove2Sew mini, the quilting was along the crossgrain.  The quilting on the ILove2Quilt mini was along the straight of grain.  Hmmmm.  Learn something new every day.

Spiral Quilting:

As I said before, I do prefer a quick finish using an edge to edge design. But since getting Aunt Elna, I have tried some other methods.  Another method of quilting using your walking foot is Spiral Quilting.

Spiral Quilting on WoW-E! in Northcott Colorworks Solids

As with the WoW-E! quilt in Northcott Colorworks Solids, a single spiral makes quite a statement.  The tricky part is to get the beginning of the spiral to look good.  I traced a circle around the cornerstone using a pencil.  Then quilted one stitch at a time until there was a quarter inch gap around the circle.  From there the going gets easier as you continue the spiral out to the edges of the quilt.

This Modern Flower Garden quilt has also been Spiral Quilted.

Spiral Quilting on the Modern Flower Garden

As a matter of fact.... It has two spirals that overlap.  One spiral was quilted in pink Magnifico by Superior Threads and the other quilted in green.

Spiral Quilting on the Modern Flower Garden

In this example, Modern Charm was quilted using multiple Spirals and some echo quilting.

Spiral and Echo Quilting on Modern Charm

The multiple Spiral and Echo quilting was performed using pink, blue, purple and green Magnifico threads from Superior Threads.  This can be best seen from the back of the quilt.

Spiral and Echo Quilting on Modern Charm from the back

Spiral Quilting is really just an elaborate form of echo quilting.  But this method does not have to remain limited to circles.  You can spiral quilt around any shape.  Squares.  Rectangles.  Triangles.  Stars.  Amanda Jean of Crazy Mom Quilts used this method to quilt around an oblong shape in quilting her gorgeous Lipstick Quilt.

I quilted Spirals around a triangle on this Equilateral Triangle Quilt Along quilt.  And the echo lines do not have to remain equally spaced.  In this sample the width between lines varies.

Spiral quilting a triangle on the Equilateral Triangle Quilt Along quilt

SUPER TIP:  The Stitch Length can make all the difference in the appearance of your stitches and enhance the overall look of your quilting.  I always set my stitch length to 3.2 or larger, with 3.4 being the largest stitch length I use.

What is the best thing about an Edge to Edge design?  You won't have to bury any thread tails!  But when I do need to bury threads, I rely on my "Best Quilting Buddies" - Small scissors, Pointy tweezers, Seam Ripper and Big Eyed Needle.  To see how I use them to bury my thread tails, please see this guest post .

What are your thoughts on Quilting with your Walking Foot?
Do you have any helpful tips or tricks to share?
Any questions?  Please leave a comment!

Keep On Quilting On!


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Melanie said...

Great blog post....thank you! I love my walking foot too!

Cynthia's Creating Ark said...

I played with free motion quilting during 2014 and my skills improved heaps but for some reason I still prefer quilting with my walking foot. I have a few quilts that need quilting, I think I will play around with some decorative stitches on my machine and not worry about going through the blocks and see what happens. Thanks for this great post.

Pam @Threading My Way said...

Thanks for all the tips, Lorna. I've never done wavy lines, but I think they look fabulous. Pinning.

Kay said...

Really helpful, thanks so much. x

Julia D @ Jada's Quilting Adventures said...

Thanks for sharing :) I do love using the Serpentine stitch. It is definitely one of my favourites. I will have to try that long zig zag stitch. I do like the look of that. Also thanks for sharing your method for the spiral quilting. I loved it on your WoW-E quilt. I'm a little terrified to try it because of the starting point. Any tips on how to best start it? I use my walking foot all the time whenever I piece or quilt any flannel fabric. I use to always feel like I was fighting with the fabric pieces while sewing and then while quilting. The walking foot is a dream when working with flannel!

charlotte said...

Thanks for a great post, Lorna. I would really love to try wavy lines quilting. I have several quilt tops, so perhaps it would be perfect for one of them.

suemac said...

I too am a fan of serpentine quilting. Very fun and relaxing way to quilt.

margaret said...

Lorna you make it sound so easy! I do think my old new home quilts better with a walking foot than the bernina. I have a 30" by 45" cot quilt waiting for quilting and someone suggested quilting it with a thin backing then using a fleece as the real backing but just attach it with the binding, she also said I would not need wadding but I will put a thin one in, do you think that will work as I dread trying to quilt a fleece. Have yet to try FMQ

kathyinozarks said...

great tips thanks-I should try this again

Karen - Quilts...etc. said...

I like the straight lines and walking foot too. Thanks for all the tips - do you always use white thread? in most of the photos I really can't see what color thread you are using it seems to blend in so well.

Dorian said...

What a great post! I love the look of straight line quilting, and love your spirals too. Especially the work on your Modern Charm quilt, that is so cool! Thanks for the wonderful tips. Beautiful work you do.

TakeMeThereTotes said...

This is a great post! I look forward to using it as a reference for future quilting projects. I was amazed by the "wrinkled" look created by sewing through the different grain lines. I would be interested and I would appreciate it if you would do a tutorial on just that one aspect. What a difference it makes in the total look. I am undecided which I like the best. Some people really love that wrinkled look. I like smooth but there are times when wrinkles are nice too.

I enjoy when quilters describe the detail of their quilts, i.e. number of blocks, type of thread, type of stitching, style of binding. But rarely does anyone tell the type of batting used inside their quilt nor do they tell the name of their pantograph (if they used one). I want to know more about batting and the result each one makes to the quilt and after it is washed. I have tried most all batting except wool. Sometime I am so disappointed with the results, no loft or too heavy, etc. Would you consider doing a future post on batting? If you have done one already, let me know. I am an experienced quilter but I always enjoy learning more about the products and techniques of our craft. Thank you for your excellent indepth tip posts.

~Diana said...

Maybe I'll screw up my courage and try to quilt a larger quilt on my machine this year...I really am a chicken~thanks for the great tips!

Connie Kresin Campbell said...

What a great post Lorna! I am amazed at all the beautiful designs you do using your walking foot and love your serpentine quilting!

Jenn @ A Quarter Inch from the Edge said...

Thanks for the reminder of all the great motifs one can quilt with their walking foot. Sometimes I get so caught up thinking that it needs to be FMQ to be really amazing! I've pinned this post for future reference when I'm struggling with how to quilt a future project!

DuAnne said...

I keep wanting to do some quilting like these examples but I just don't see the design on what I am making. I love all the ideas and will attempt them sooner or later. Like this blog post! Keep it coming!

Doris Rice, The Quilting Queen said...

Great tips and advise! Maybe if I had this a few years I wouldn't have bought a longarm... nah I probably still would have but it's good tips to know.

Quilt Fabric Pizazz said...

Fantastic! Someone who finally quilts! I am right with you. I have quilted oodles of quilts with many of the stitches you have shown and other techniques as well.

Let's face it - if you don't actually quilt your quilts - you are not a quilter. You just a sewer of tiny pieces.

Totally love your work, designs and love the fact you are a quilter as well. Warms my little heart.

The only difference that I can see, is that I hate with a passion the "pin" method of basting. I love to hand thread baste my quilts with huge long stitches. It makes the quilt sandwich flatter, firmer and even easier to home machine quilt.

Thanks for this post - as I sit here drinking coffee and wondering what to start on next, you have inspired me to get going!

Ioleen said...

Thanks so very much for all the great tips. I have a quilt that needs quilting and think I am going to use the zig-zag stitch.

KathleenD said...

Thank you for your very informative and encouraging post today! Your examples are just what I needed.
Best wishes for a Happy, Healthy New Year

superstitches said...

I love quilting with my walking foot. I always get good results. When I start my spirals I use a stencil or a pattern. This works well for me. I haven't tried wavy lines yet.

Vera said...

Organic wavy lines and Serpentine stitch are on my list. Great motivating post Lorna. Thank you for sharing!

Susan C. said...

Oh bless you for your wonderful information. I it seems have been shadowing you in the quilting journey in that I have attempted some of these techniques too, but I have been a little clueless. It is wonderful to share what you have learned along the way and reaffirm that I may be on the right path. At the end of the day it also comes down to practice, practice , practise. We will gain confidence and skill if we take these tips and go and practice! THANK YOU for your time and generosity in showing us what you have done. Xx

Nancy in IN said...

I like using the walking foot. Took a class that inspired me. I need to keep your article so I can refer back. I don't like the way my machine does free motion but love walking foot quilting. I use blue tape a lot to make likes. I also us Pilot X Fusion pen--irons off. Might come back when freezes.

Daytona Damsel said...

Lorna, I use the wavy line stitch on my machine a lot. I love the look of it. I have the Craftsy video lesson on quilting with your walking foot, I learned a lot watching it. Haven't tried the spiral but it is on my bucket list for 2016
Have you tried flipping the quilt and going in a different direction every other time? I find it keeps things from going wonky when I straight line. Debbie

Lisa J. said...

Thanks for this post Lorna. Although I'm working on getting better at fmq right now I can see lots of possibilities with the walking foot that I'll be happy to use on the larger quilts. I also have a small Janome and I'm saving up for a machine with a larger quilting space. Thanks again for this great info.

Amy, a redeemed sheep said...

This is one of the best posts I have read in a long time. Great information and tips!

Your explanation on how the cross grain and straight of grain can make a difference on how a quilt quilts with straight lines was very interesting! Now I know why some of mine are wonky and some are spot on nicely done. I always blamed it on my skill,or lack of.

I love the spiral echo quilt on your Modern Charm quilt is amazing! Love the texture and the movement in that piece.

Once again ,excellent post!!

Lara B. said...

Wow Lorna! You packed a lot of wallop in this post! All really great information that will be invaluable! Thank you so much for sharing your knowledge. The three things I never knew, but can avoid now are:
Using too small a length in my quilting stitches
Starting my wavy lines far apart and then filling them in... I would have definitely done that.
Not being careful about whether I quilt cross grain or lengthwise grain.
I love all of these,, but the multiple spirals with echo quilting really knocked my socks off!

Joyce Carter said...

Lorna, I really enjoyed reading your post. You did such a beautiful job with your quilting and the information you gave on each quilt was very helpful. I have always hand quilted until recently. Because of an injury to my neck, it is getting harder to sit and do all the stitches necessary to get a quilt finished. I have been trying to use my walking foot lately to finish my quilts, but I am having a problem trying to keep my stitching lines straight. The foot is bigger than I am use to so I don't know how to use it to sew a quarter inch.It doesn't look too bad, but if my seams were even, it would look a lot better. Any Advice would be greatly appreciated.(I have a Bernina sewing machine) Thank you so much for all the info.

Carla said...

So much info here! That wavy stitch is something I would love to have. My machine has nothing.....
Looking forward to another year Lorna

KathyinMN said...

What a great post, so much eye candy, so much that is awesome! From zig-zag to wavy lines to circles. WOW. I love using my walking foot to quilt, just did my first circled one, now I see other stuff I can do (love where you have the two circles intersecting. Thanks for sharing your talent with the rest of us.

Lovelli Quilts said...

Great post Lorna, full of wonderful ideas.

Jessica Hadden said...

Wow, I never thought of the backing's grain direction!

Michelle @ From Bolt to Beauty said...

This is a fabulous overview. Thanks!

Lisa in Port Hope said...

For my nephew's Awesome quilt, I found that straight (ish) quilting with my free motion quilting foot was a lot easier on my wrists and didn't cause any puckering or distortion of the fabrics, so it's an option I would recommend.

BethK said...

What kind of needle would you recommend for machine quilting??? I had no end of challenge when trying to do serpentine from side to side. I know I did not use the stitch length that you suggested. The material sandwich simply did not want to move. No idea what I was doing wrong.

Lorna McMahon said...

I had trouble with both the serpentine stitch and with the extended zig-zag skipping stitches. When I changed to Superior Threads Titanium-Coated Topstitch Needles, there were no more skipped stitches. I use size #90-14 and would not quilt without them now!

Sew Stitching Cute said...

Savings this blog post! Long and VERy knowledgable! Thank you for all your hard work to help us others out there! :o) I love using the long arm for some quilting yet I have been wanting to try and do more at home, I think this may give me the courage to do so now!

Sorcha girl said...

Thanks for the information you provided in this blog!! The best tip for me came at the very end...how to bury the threads from your guest spot on the Cozy Pumpkin blog. I've searched for suggestions without success. Several of my table runners and small quilts have been edge to edge quilted only because I did not know how to start and stop in the middle of a quilting pattern. Now I can finish a table runner that I thought needed more than edge to edge stiching.

Georgi said...

Thanks, Lorna! I strictly use the walking foot at the moment, so I love seeing everything you do with it. :)

Patch the Giraffe said...

Love all the ideas here. This are great tips, I hadn't heard about the crossgrain and that's going in my notebook! My only thought about you tackling the king size quilt on your little machine was her arms must have killed when that was done! Thanks :)

Lisa J. said...

Lorna: Could you remind me of which is the straight of grain and which is the cross grain?

Lorna McMahon said...

There is a link on the words "straight of grain" that leads you to the post for the Top 10 Tips on fabric. There you will find the explanation for which is the straight of grain and which is the cross grain.

Catskill Quilter said...

Thank you for writing this post! It is easily the best explanation of Walking foot quilting, and the quilt photos you have used to show the different designs make everything even clearer. I have pinned this and will be referring to it again and again.

CuddlyQuilter said...

Hi Lorna I love your ideas and patterns. thanks for sharing with us all. I bought a course on Craftsy about using the walking foot and just love it. Super to see your ideas as well.

Quilt Fabric Pizazz said...

Great post for those that think they can't home quilt their quilts! Of course we can! Your recommendations, tips and tricks are very helpful. I like using the wavy quilting stitch a lot in varying degrees of waviness right down to madness wavy for some more art style quilts. I find the best way to keep the dreaded "ripples" from happening is to thread baste the quilt first in two directions about 4 inches apart. I have even done a king quilt this way and it stays nice a flat with those wonderful waves in a variety of variegated threads and changing thread colours throughout the quilt. Love your work - and especially the time and techniques to actually "quilt" your quilts. That is what it is all about - and of course self expression.

Thanks for the post - it is great.

Karla Brown said...

Great post -- I'm a newbie and want to do my own quilting. I prefer using my walking foot but thought I would be limited in what I can do. You have inspired me!! Thanks again

Zenia Rene said...

Loved reading this post. Thanks for all the info and inspiration Lorna. You rock!

Louise said...

I just had a giant AHA moment, seeing your two quilts with the backing grain in different directions. Thank you so much for sharing that!

Unknown said...

So, when you do the spiral, are you feeding the material into the front of the foot?

lindav said...

Thanks so much for your quilting tips. I'm not a new quilter, but free motion quilting give me hives. I really like the serpentine stitch - and that my sewing machine does that stitch - I don't think it does the zig zag though, not without huge stitches.

Martha said...

Thank You so much for this post! I just can't manage free motion quilting, and didn't know what I was going to do with the baby quilt for my great-grandbaby. Now I see that I have several options! This post has really helped me!

Brenda said...

Thank you for this blog on walking foot quilting. I love my walking foot, but am trying to use more FMQ. I have a Janome 6600 and love the incorporated walking foot feature. I look forward to trying some of your ideas! Maybe I can incorporate both FMQ and walking foot quilting.

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