By Brandi M. Seals
Quilting a quilt is quite possibly the most difficult part of making a quilt. You can skip it by hiring someone else to quilt it for you or you can use ties to hold the quilt together. However, if you want to do your own quilting, you can.
Quilting does not start until the quilt has been fully made. The top and back should be joined and the batting in the middle. The quilt should be sewn shut, including the pull through hole.
Now you will want to lay out your quilt on a flat, smooth surface. You will want to make sure everything is lined up and the layers of cloth are completely smooth. You will need to follow these first couple of steps regardless if you will be quilting the quilt on your sewing machine or doing it by hand.
When everything is all smoothed out you will need to begin pinning the layers together starting in the center. Use safety pins not straight pins. If you use straight pins you will end up stabbing yourself repeatedly with the sharp pointy ends. Go to your local craft store to pick up some safety pins. They come in a variety of shapes and sizes. Prices generally range from about $1.75 to $7.00 depending on the number of pins and their size.
If this will be your first time quilting a quilt and you are using a sewing machine, I highly recommend that you either forgo the intricate patterns you have seen on quilts in the past. They are easy to mess up, especially for first times. Instead, sew your quilt along the seams. If your piece is made up of 8 inch blocks, follow the seaming on the blocks and sew what is known as a ditch. This quilting should suffice. If you want to add more detailed quilting you can either practice with scrap pieces on your sewing machine or do it by hand. I am not saying it is impossible to do patterns on a sewing machine, only that it can be extremely difficult.
Quilts are large, they can be difficult to manipulate through a sewing machine, especially if you have to turn the pieces this way and that way. I, personally, will continue to avoid this type of work until I better master the skills needed in the process. If you do opt to do a pattern piece, you will need to use a stencil to transfer the design onto the material. Pick up a fabric safe pencil to draw the design on. You will need to do this if you will be quilting by hand as well. Simply sew along the lines to quilt your piece.
Like when you pinned the quilt, you will also need to quilt it starting from the center and working outwards. This is done to keep the piece stable and avoid fabric shifts.
When you begin to quilt the piece in the machine, you will find it very helpful if you roll the quilt. Roll both sides that run parallel to the seam you will be stitching along. Try to roll them tightly, it will help you get a better hold on the material and keep the quilt from shifting so much. It will also help you pass part of the quilt through the small space on the other side of the sewing needle.
You will want to use a clear thread for the quilting. Pick one with a dark tint to it for quilts with dark fabric or a completely clear thread for light colored quilts. You will need to use regular thread in the bobbin, otherwise the stitching will not hold. Pick any thread that will blend in with your backing.
If you will be quilting by hand, you will need a quilting frame to hold the quilt flat. They can be purchased at craft stores. Alternatively, you may be able to use those large adjustable circles used by cross-stitchers. You will want to use a clear thread as noted in the above paragraph for your quilting. Try to keep stitches evenly spaced and the same size.
Hand stitching will inevitably take longer than quilting with a sewing machine, but it does offer you more freedom. You can easily follow any quilting design you like and you do not have to fight with your quilt to fit it through the sewing machine. The skill level involved is not as high as it is with quilting by machine, but you need a great deal of patients to even consider quilting by hand.