9 key steps to machine quilting a machine embroidered wallhanging

Hopefully, you’ve been following along this week for the tips on binding and machine quilting. I’ve been having a lot of fun with the Husqvarna Viking Designer Ruby deLuxe to make all these wonderful samples happen.

Today, I thought I’d focus on quilting a machine embroidered wallhanging. I embroidered this wallhanging in a previous QUILTsocial post. The embroidery design is one of the standard designs that comes with the Husqvarna Viking embroidery sewing machines.

Husqvarna Viking Designer Ruby deLuxe

I added the borders to the machine embroidery piece in another QUILTsocial post and now it’s time to get the wallhanging completed. I get asked for suggestions on how to quilt around machine embroidery designs so I thought that would be a good topic to share with you.

Wallhanging with machine embroidery motif

Step 1 Choose the design

I really like the idea of quilting a grid behind the machine embroidery. However, this will require a lot of stopping and starting so I’m never keen to do it. As you can see in the photo below, I drew a few sparse grid lines and each time the grid intersects with the embroidery motif, you have to work around the motif to the next line or stop and restart. A tighter grid would be that much worse.

I decided that I didn’t want to do that much work so I opted to fill the background with free motion quilting.

Grid lines (of quilting) will intersect the embroidery motif

Step 2 Stabilize the quilt

Because I’m lazy, I’m not a huge fan of basting smaller items before I start to quilt them. This quilt top measures 24″ x 32″ and I did not technically baste it. I did press the three layers (backing, batting and quilt top) together on both the front and the back. I’ll explain what other things I do to prevent shifting as I go through the quilting process. I’m not saying that you should do what I do, but I just find it a hassle to baste these small things and my method prevents tucks and mishaps from occurring.

I did stick a few straight pins into the piece before I started to quilt for a little bit of security. Should you choose to give this method a try, you must iron both the front and the back and DO NOT FOLD the piece after you’ve done that. Folding can cause ripples on the front or the back.

For this particular piece, I attached the Dual Feed foot to the Designer Ruby deLuxe. I used an invisible thread (clear) on top and a regular piecing thread that matched the quilt back (green) for the bobbin thread.

I don’t like to start with the free motion. I like to work up to that. If I’m only going to do free motion quilting, then I have no choice but to start with that. My preference is to stabilize with as much stitch in the ditch or straight line quilting that I’m going to do on the piece.

The first thing I did here was to stitch in the ditch where the flange meets the border. On a large quilt, I would NEVER pivot at the corners, but this piece was small enough that I could get away with pivoting.

Notice that there is LOADS of room under the arm of the Designer Ruby deLuxe so there was no pushing or shoving required. The more you manipulate your quilt, the more you may have issues with the backing and tucks.

Stitching in the ditch with invisible thread on top.

3. CHECK the back

This is absolutely critical to the success of the work whether you baste or not. CHECK the back. Check it often – check it after every step. If there’s an issue, you can fix it right then. If you don’t, you can be guaranteed that the back will be messed up.

You may want to press the top and back again. Press gently so you don’t compress the batting (remember this is a wall hanging so a little flatter batting is OK). Press away from the center so any fullness is pushed to the outside edges.

As mentioned, I did NOT baste this piece and I didn’t have to rip a single stitch out for any reason.

4. Continue with the stitch in the ditch

I’ve now stitched around the flange and I’ve checked the back. No tucks, no ripples. I know that the fabric inside that center block on the front and back isn’t going to do anything as it’s now well stabilized on all four sides. And yes that block is big, almost 12″ x 20″!

I like to get all the straight line quilting done first, so it was onto quilting the border. Again, I stitched in the ditch using invisible thread (clear) on the top and green piecing thread in the bobbin. I did not have to adjust the tension at all.

I had to do three separate lines of quilting to complete the stitch in the ditch on the border. Since I was on the edge of the quilt, it was easy to pivot on those angles and no need for pushing and shoving under the arm of the sewing machine. If you have to push and shove that quilt under the arm, you’re not doing yourself any favors. Don’t do it!

Notice in the picture below that I’m using quilter’s gloves to better manipulate the quilt. I also gently spread the seams apart when I’m stitching in the ditch. That helps to hide the thread into the valley (the opposite side from which the seam allowance was pressed).

Using quilting gloves to help manipulate the quilt when stitching in the ditch.

Step 5 – CHECK the back

I’m sounding like a broken record, but you MUST check the back of your work. I checked after each of the three lines of stitch in the ditch quilting. If I felt that the wallhanging needed a bit of a press, then I gave the piece a quick press (always pressing away from the center). This might seem like a lot of fussing but it’s these seemingly unnecessary little steps like constantly checking the back that are critical to not having a mess on the back.

Even if you baste your quilt in any of the traditional methods, I would still check my back after every section of quilting. Chalk this up to experience – it takes a second to check the back and saves hours of ripping.

Checking the back after two rows of stitch in the ditch quilting have been completed.

In this next photo, you can see that I completed the stitch in the ditch around the center block, the three rows necessary to complete the stitching in the border and I’ve also stitched the outer edge of the quilt to the backing, as I mentioned in yesterday’s post. I like to do that as it helps to keep everything from moving around and it certainly helps when it’s time to sew the binding on.

All the stitch in the ditch is done and the back looks great with beautifully formed stitches and no tucks.

The stitch in the ditch quilting from the front of the quilt.

6. Set up the sewing machine for free motion

It’s very easy to set up the Designer Ruby deLuxe for free motion quilting.

There are many different styles of free motion feet. And I have most of them. But this one is my favorite. It’s metal (not sure why I like metal over plastic – they both work the same), but the best feature for me is that the front of the foot is open so I can see exactly where I’m stitching. Depending on what type of quilting I’m doing, I would choose one of the other feet if it were more appropriate.

This is the open toe spring action free motion quilting foot.

The spring action free motion foot is attached to the sewing machine. The spring action free motion foot is attached to the sewing machine.

Here’s one of the features I love about the Designer Ruby deLuxe. See that button in the photo below with the squiggly lines on it? I just have to touch that button, the pop-up menu comes up asking me if I’m using the Free Motion Spring Action foot or the Free Motion Floating foot and then I let the Designer Ruby deLuxe do the rest of the setup. It drops the feed dogs, sets the tension or whatever else it feels necessary for free motion.

That’s pretty much foolproof and I didn’t have to adjust the tension. I can override any of the automatic settings any time I feel the need. Something I rarely have to do.

Choosing the type of free motion that I installed on the sewing machine.

7. Choose the free motion design

This is where most people have trouble. I covered this off in a post on QUILTsocial about practicing and figuring out what you want to do on paper before you tackle your piece. It’s also a good idea to figure out the density that you want the quilting to be and stick with that. I’ll show you something about density in a minute.

You don’t need to know a lot of designs, but you should be willing to experiment with the size and shape and that’ll give you enough variety.

I know what I’m going to do, but let’s look at the piece. It looks like a disaster. All the stitch in the ditch is done around the border and that center square which has caused the center to pucker up and it looks awful. Just wait – you know the saying – it’ll quilt out? Stick with me and you’ll see what happens. Remember – we know that front square is the same size (and amount of fabric) on the front and the back.

The center block has puffed up because the outer borders are quilted and the center is not.

That center square almost looks worse as I start to quilt it with fairly dense quilting. But we’re not done yet. Don’t forget to periodically check the back to make sure things are going smoothly there.

The center square is even more puffed now that I’ve started to quilt it.

8. Make sure you have enough thread

You can see that I’ve plenty of room to work under the arm of the Designer Ruby deLuxe. I didn’t really do anything special in placing the quilt around the sewing machine other than I have the extension table attached. The piece is small and I bunched it up as I saw fit to make the job of quilting it that much easier.

However, I just about had a heart attack when I realized that even though I was close to finishing the stitching in the background of that block that I was going to run out of the thread. NO WAY! I checked my thread stash and no – I didn’t have any more of that color. Thankfully the shop was open and I was able to get more. Back home and when I was prepping for another project later in the day, I happened to check a small thread box that I keep for my machine quilting class and you guessed it – there was a spool of the EXACT same color! Well, now I have enough for another project.

That’s one of the other things that’s nice about using the piecing thread for quilting. If you run out, it’s pretty easy to get a replacement. If you’re using a specialty thread and you run out, it may not be so quick to get another spool.

I should mention that I used a regular piecing thread on the top and a regular piecing thread (a completely different brand and color – green) for the bobbin. The tension was perfect.

Running out of the thread for the top of my project.

9. Check the back and admire!

Once I had finished all the quilting on the center square, I changed the thread color on the front to a variegated green/blue/purple for the borders. This was a polyester thread, but I kept the green piecing thread in the bobbin. Again, no need to change the tension.

I did check the back as I went. Notice the back has NO tucks, that center block that looked so bad went completely flat. The center block is not distorted because I stabilized it before any free motion quilting had a chance to distort things as can sometimes happen. The stitch in the ditch quilting stabilized all the major lines in the quilt.

The finished back of the quilt

In the photo below, you can see that all the fullness that we saw above has been completely quilted out. That’s the beauty of quilting. But you must, must, must check the work back and front as you go. You must stabilize the quilt with basting or quilting and you can’t skip any of those steps or you’re going to be in trouble.

I’m very happy with the results. Now I must get the quilt trimmed and put the binding on. Since I haven’t made the binding, this one is going to go in the pile with the other quilts that are waiting for binding.

The wallhanging is completely quilted and it looks awesome!

A note about density

When you draw out your quilting designs, it’s not a bad idea to think about the density that you want when you quilt the piece. You can see in the picture below (bottom right) that I started off with an open density and very quickly made it tighter. I’m not going to fix it – this will become a good learning piece. The bottom line, that’s a very small space and not really noticeable. But if I had changed the density up in the quilting, it would be very visible. Something to keep in mind!

Notice the slightly larger density in the lower right corner.

Obviously, the sequence of quilting will vary depending on the type of project that you’re doing, but I try to stick to that method and I don’t have any issues with the quilting.

One thing I want to remind everyone. I’m giving you my tried and true techniques that I’ve learned over the past 20 years. Some of what I do may not work for you – like NOT basting a quilt. What I hope is that each of you will take my ideas and mold them with your experiences to find a technique and style that works for you.

I almost feel guilty to say that I quilted that piece because with the help of the Husqvarna Viking Designer Ruby deLuxe, the job was so easy and I basically did nothing but guide the fabric. It really doesn’t get any easier than that.

Tomorrow I have another wallhanging to share with you. This time it’s a hand-embroidered wallhanging and I’ll show you how I quilted that one.

Have a great day!!


This is part 4 of 5 in this series.
Go back to part 3: 11 essential tips for machine quilting

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