3 questions to ask yourself before you start to quilt

Last month I made some Rolling Snowman Placemats and I didn’t quite get to finish them by the end of that week.

Today I’m going to quilt them and then move onto adding the circles to create the snowmen. There are so many different ways to quilt these placemats and decisions to make about quilting motif, thread and method of quilting. So let’s get started with quilting the rolling snowmen placemats.

Last month, I ended with a no binding finish which works great for these small quilted pieces. Since the piece is now sewn together as one unit the only option for basting the layers together is pinning. And even though the 3 layers have been sewn together I do still pin the layers before quilting. This just ensures that everything remains even and nothing shifts or moves as it is being quilted.

Placemats ready for quilting

I usually ask myself 3 questions before I start quilting a quilt. Basic simple questions but questions that need answers before the quilting can begin.

Question 1 – What motif will I use to quilt this?

Do I want the quilting motif to be simple or complex? When answering this question take into consideration the size of the piece, what it’s going to be used for and how much it will be washed?

This piece is a placemat so not that big and I’m leaning towards a very simple design but densely quilted as it’s going to be washed. I think the dense quilting will lend itself better to this. If there’s shrinkage when it is washed then it will be even shrinkage all the way around. 

Since it has a curve in the design I’m going to echo this curve in the center section of the placemat. The borders will be straight lines between the already printed lines that are there. That’s the plan in my head right now but as we all know the best laid plans can change along the way. And that’s okay if they change along the way, it just means that you’re inspired to do something else…

Question 2 – What foot will I use for the quilting?

A walking foot or a free motion foot a.k.a. darning foot. Do you want to do free motion quilting or straight stitch quilting? These small pieces are a great canvas for practicing free motion quilting if you haven’t done a lot of it. Placemats also lend themselves very well to the walking foot.

I’ve decided to go with the walking foot as I want my echo lines to be even distance apart and they don’t always come out even when I use the free motion method.

Using my walking foot means that I can line up the edge of it on each line of stitching and the quilting lines will be about a ½″ apart. If I was using the free motion foot I would then have to mark my lines and stitch along the marked line. This isn’t a problem and I’d use a chalk liner to do this with. The Heirloom Chaco Pen works great for this job. And a wonderful feature about these chalk liners is that you can get refill chalk for them.

Chaco pens in blue and white

I like the white chalk best and once it has been stitched on there’s usually no residue of the chalk left on the quilt.

Chalk line echoing curved seam for quilting line

Question 3 – What thread will I use?

There are so many threads to choose from but for this piece I decided to use 100% cotton thread because the piece will probably be washed a lot seeing how it’s a placemat and the cotton thread will wash very well.

There are definitely many options for cotton thread, and the variegated cotton by Sulky from their Blendables line is ideal. This thread comes in a huge array of colors and I have to say I have a very good selection of them as they’re one of my favorite threads.

Blendables – oh aren’t the colors delicious?

I then ask myself do I want the stitching to stand out and contrast to the fabric or to be subtle and blend in with the fabric. Because I’ll be adding the circles to the piece tomorrow I decided to go with a thread that blends in with the background but can still be seen.

Subtle threads that blend in are my choice for the quilting

Excellent! The questions have all been answered and I’m ready to quilt.

And ta-da! It’s quilted. Wasn’t that fast!?

Quilting is done but boy it sure is hairy!

Now what to do with all those thread ends that are dangling off the edge of my placemat and some in the center as well?

Yes, I could have used the tie off feature on my machine and then I wouldn’t have had to deal with them.

I also could have taken many little stitches in place at the start and finish of each line of quilting but I’m not a fan of this because the one time I did do it I guess I didn’t do it quite good enough and my quilting lines started to come undone.

So my favorite method of securing lines of quilting is by leaving long ends of thread and tying them off and burying them under the back fabric. An easy way to do this is with self-threading needles from Unique.

Unique self-threading needles

Self-threading needles have a notched opening at the top of the eye.

Self-threading needles have a notch on the top for easy threading

The thread slides into the notch and the needle is threaded.

Needle threaded with one of the thread ends

Pull the thread through to the back of the piece, tie a knot and rethread the needle to pull the thread under the backing fabric.

Thread ready to be buried under the backing fabric

Clip the threads and the finish is perfect.

Thread end buried – only a thousand more to go

Wow, I’ve got a lot of threads to deal with and one more placemat to quilt so I had best get moving. Answering the 3 questions that I always ask myself before starting the quilting on a project certainly made the job of quilting the Rolling Snowman Placemats go smoothly and seamlessly.

This is part 1 of 5 in this series.

Go to part 2: Glue – an alternative to fusible web

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