11 essential tips for machine quilting

Welcome back! I hope you liked the discussion on which way you should cut your binding strips in yesterday’s post. What I love about quilting is that there is NO right or wrong way to do anything. It really depends on the look that you want, what tools you have available to you, and what skills you have learned along the way.

One thing about having good tools is they make you look great even if you don’t have all the skills. That’s the case with the Husqvarna Viking Designer Ruby deLuxe. I’m a good sewist, but with this machine, I’m a fabulous sewist!

Husqvarna Viking Designer Ruby deLuxe

I was busy quilting up some small wallhangings and table runners the other day and I thought I would share my tips for machine quilting with you. I’ll confess that I don’t often sit down to machine quilt on a domestic sewing machine. My skills were a bit rusty when I started but by the end of the day, my muscle memories kicked in and I was doing great.

Here’s the thing – I used to hate machine quilting on a domestic sewing machine (GASP!). Yes, there were two reasons. The first one was that my shoulders and neck would be in pain after 40 minutes or so. That would never do, so I tended to put quilting off. I’m happy to report that I quilted for a long time that day (after doing three projects) and I had no issues. When I realized that, I was doing a happy dance. Why didn’t I experience any pain? I checked my arms – they were BESIDE me, not flapping up in the air as they usually do. I think my chair was higher!

The second reason that I was put off by quilting on a domestic sewing machine was the quality of the stitches that I was getting on my sewing machine. Skipped stitches was a big issue for me and although I tried many things to resolve the issue, I was never 100% happy. Well after three projects, there wasn’t a SINGLE SKIPPED stitch.

You know – I might just like this machine quilting on a domestic after all!!!

Now that I’ve shared that with you, let’s get down to those tips.

1. You need space around the sewing machine to support the quilt

Whether you’re doing stitch in the ditch or free motion, you need some space around the sewing machine to support your work. Doesn’t matter if your project is big or small, you need space around the sewing machine to support your work.

I love the optional extension table that you can get for the Designer Ruby deLuxe. You don’t need a lot of space, but you need space. The smooth, curved front of the extension table makes for easy movement of your quilting project. And it’s great for piecing as well.

Husqvarna Viking Designer Ruby deLuxe with optional extension table

The wallhanging is supported by the extension table during the quilting process.

2. Always bring the bobbin thread to the top of the project

It’s easy to bring the bobbin thread to the top of your work. With your quilt positioned under the needle where you want to start, hold the top thread in your left hand, touch the Needle Stop Up/Down function twice and a loop of the bobbin thread will come to the surface of your project. Pull the bobbin thread so the end tail is completely on top and then you can start. You’ll never get a thread nest on the back of your work if you use this technique.

The bobbin thread has been pulled through the quilt layers to sit on the surface.

3. How to manage stops and starts with variegated thread

Let’s say you’re quilting away and your bobbin runs out – hey it happens. Easy to pop in a new bobbin, but you’re using variegated thread. After you cut the top thread in order to get started again and you’ve popped in a new bobbin, you realize that the last bit of top thread was green and now you see blue. If you just started to quilt with those two different colors, the join will look nasty. Simply pull on the top thread until the same color appears that you ended with and you’re good to continue stitching.

Pull on the variegated thread until it matches the color found at the spot you had to stop.

4. Do a sample stitch out, ALWAYS

Before you start quilting your project, you should always do a sample stitch out, ALWAYS. This will let you know if the machine settings are correct. Do you have the right tension? Is the thread breaking or shredding? (incorrect needle/thread combination is usually the culprit there) Are there any other issues? This will prevent you from having to rip out stitches which is never fun. The sample stitch out can also be a place to practice the stitch that you’re about to do and the process can also alert you to the fact that today might not be the day that you want to machine quilt. I’ve had that happen.

Notice that I don’t use a fresh sandwich every time. If I’m using a different thread color and I can still see the new stitches, then I reuse those practice pieces several times.

Sample stitch outs are critical.

5. Allow the sewing machine to complete the stitch when turning a corner

In the sample below, you can see that the corner stitches are beautifully formed. They were stitched using the Dual Feed foot. I ensured that the stitch was complete and right into the corner rather than half turning or rounding the corner. This was aided with the Needle Stop Up/Down and using the foot pedal to tap through the stitch sequence to ensure the stitches were completely formed. Simple tools, but they make for great looking stitches on the back of the projects.

Beautifully formed stitches the create a square corner.

6. Allow extra backing and batting whenever you’re quilting

You absolutely must leave some extra backing and batting for all quilting projects. It doesn’t matter who or how the project is going to be quilted, you need extra backing and batting. Why? Well, you can see that as the Dual Feed foot approaches the edge of the quilt that without the extra backing and batting, I would have nothing to hold. That means I’m not in control when approaching the edge of the quilt. We all know what that means. The stitches are not going to look pretty.

Extra backing and batting are crucial to nice quilting along the edge of the project

7. Stitch the edge of the quilt to the batting and backing

Tomorrow, I’m going to show you the steps I took to quilt this wall hanging. But when I had finished the stitch in the ditch quilting, I stitched around the entire edge of the quilt to help secure the edges. Having all three layers sewn together will make it easier to attach the binding.

To prevent tucks and to help ease in any fullness, I’m using a quilter’s awl to keep the fabric under control.

Use a quilter’s awl to prevent tucks and ease in fullness on the edge of the quilt.

8. If your quilt has a flange, start your quilting under the flange

No one wants to see the beginning and ending stitches of your quilting lines. If you have a flange on your quilt, gently pull back the flange and pull up your bobbin thread to start the line of quilting. You can end the same way.  I don’t like to stitch the flange down in any way and if the edges are popping back because you had pulled them away, a gentle press, once the project is complete, will have the flange flat again.

Start and end your lines of quilting under the flange if you have one.

9. Piecing thread is an EXCELLENT choice for quilting

I’ve learned that the more variables you could eliminate when machine quilting a project, the less you have to think about when you actually sit down to quilt.

The type of thread you use is one of those variables. If my sewing machine likes the thread that I’m piecing with, then it should like that same thread for quilting. Makes sense? Right? Don’t go crazy on different threads until you get the hang of your sewing machine and the quilting process.

I love these spools of Gütermann thread. They’re inexpensive to purchase, they come in a huge range of colors and you can get them in 100% cotton or polyester. The thread comes in different sized spools as well so that is handy.

I have a good story to tell you about that spool of yellow sitting in the front, but I’ll save it for tomorrow.

A few of the wide range of colors of Gütermann threads available for thread that is excellent for machine quilting.

Gütermann threads: the beige spools are 100% cotton and the white spools are polyester.

10. Use good quality needles

These are my FAVORITE needles to use for any piecing and quilting. Matter of fact, if I could only have two kinds of needles, it would be the Micro-Tex Sharp and the Top Stitch needles. Size 12 works for piecing and quilting. While there are many options (needle types and sizes), I find that these two needle types in this size will work with almost anything you want to do.

Don’t forget to change your needles often. Every project or every five bobbins. You pick a system and stick to it. Don’t forget to clean the bobbin area as well when you change the needle.

Good quality needles are a must for great looking projects

11. Read the manual

I can’t say this often enough. Read the manual. You’d be amazed at what you can learn. There are little things about the Designer Ruby deLuxe that I never knew about and I’ve had the sewing machine for a few years. When I read the manual, I was pleasantly surprised and now I’m that much smarter!

The User’s Guide and the Sample book of the built-in embroidery motifs on the Husqvarna Viking Designer Ruby deLuxe

There you have it. Some great tips for machine quilting. Every little tip will make your life easier when you go to machine quilt. And having a great tool like the Husqvarna Viking Designer Ruby deLuxe helps a whole lot as well.

Don’t forget to come back tomorrow as I’ll be walking you through the steps of how to quilt a machine embroidered wallhanging and I’ll share that story about the spool of yellow thread.

Have a great day!


This is part 3 of 5 in this series.
Go back to part 2: 3 tattle tale experiments on binding a quilt

Go to part 4: 9 key steps to machine quilting a machine embroidered wallhanging

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Laura Sloan June 16, 2018 - 8:54 am
Good tips here! I'm just about finished with a quilt top and will start machine quilting soon. It's been years since I've made a quilt, so I'm glad I read this article now.
Lynn M June 13, 2018 - 5:02 am
Some great ideas here! I am not sure how to start with my bobbin thread at the top of my work, but I will figure it out. Thank you.
Delaine June 6, 2018 - 1:47 pm
Thank you so much for the tips! It is good to go over things like this every once in a while to discover if you are developing any bad habits!
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