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Quilting the On-The-Go Place-mat

by Jennifer Houlden

Now that the placemat is all sewn together it’s time to do some quilting. Some people love the piecing process of a quilt while others prefer the quilting stage. I enjoy the whole process and love to see how the piece changes as each step is completed.

I thought about how to quilt the place-mat and decided to keep it nice and simple with straight lines using the IDT system which is the built-in walking foot on the Pfaff Quilt Expression 4.2. I acquired an open toe decorative foot for the machine which will make it much easier to see my stitching lines and hopefully keep me going in a straight line. This foot is great for applique and decorative stitching since it has a large open area in which to see your work and where you’re stitching. Definitely one of my favorite feet and a must-have foot with any machine I use.

All right then lets get back to work and do some quilting.

Sandwiching the Layers for Quilting

The Layers

It isn’t a real sandwich but in quilting it’s called a sandwich of layers. Sandwich is kind of appropriate though considering this project is made specifically for picnics and food events.

The layers include the quilt top, or place-mat top in this case, batting and the backing. I am using a cotton batting which is nice and thin and will lay flat when quilted. That will make it easier for a plate to sit on the place-mat. Both the backing and batting need to be at least an inch larger all the way around than the quilt top for a small project like this and 2 inches larger all the way around for a large project. This is just in case there is any movement of the layers while quilting.

Basting Methods

To prevent movement of these layers when quilting it’s a good idea to baste them together. I prefer to baste with curved safety pins made specifically for this purpose and I usually place them about a fist width apart. Yes, I use a lot of pins and I have a lot of pins. The other methods that can be used are to spray baste with a product such as 505 Spray Basting Glue or to hand baste with thread, which I find is very time consuming.

Note how close together the safety pins are in the photo below.

Layers basted with curved safety pins.

Layers basted with curved safety pins.

Marking the Quilting Lines

Chalk Lines

I decided that I’d use lines 1½ inch apart on the quilt top. This will hold everything in place nicely. There are many ways to mark the lines on a quilt. One of my favourite marking tools is the Chaco Liner from Clover. It’s easy to use, easy to see on the fabric and easy to remove after the quilting is done. Because it’s chalk, it usually disappears with the stitching.

Remember to always start quilting in the center of the quilt as this will allow for any movement of fabric to go out towards the edges and not create bunches in the middle. If it’s basted well there should be very little movement of the fabric when quilting.

Chalk lines mark where the quilting will be.

Chalk lines mark where the quilting will be.

Masking Tape

Another marking method that I often use is masking tape. It comes in different widths and so I just use the desired width, lay down on the quilt and stitch along the edge of it.

Note the amount of space the open toed decorative foot has in the photo below – great for seeing what you’re stitching and where you’re going.

Stitching along the masking tape.

Stitching along the masking tape.

Machine Guide

Finally most machines come with a guide that attaches to the back of the presser foot shank on the machine. The Quilt Expression 4.2 is no exception and so I put it on and gave it a go. The curved area lines up with the previous line or edge that you wish to follow. Measure from the needle to the curved blade area the length to which the quilting lines are to be apart and tighten in place, then sew. As simple as that.

Using the guide to mark the quilting lines.

Using the guide to mark the quilting lines.

Quilting the Place-mat

There are three important items needed for successful quilting.


I used the same thread for quilting as I used for the topstitching on the utensil holder and the napkin bands. It’s a thread from Wonderfil called Tutti. It’s a 100% cotton, 50 weight variegated thread that works in the bobbin as well as on the top. This line of thread has a huge array of fantastic colors. I love them all.


I made sure to replace my needle with a topstitch 90 needle prior to quilting. Using the topstitch needle with the layers and variegated thread will make a nicer stitch and help to prevent any thread breakage. For further information about needles check out the Schmetz needle guide – a very useful document.

Walking Foot

With the IDT system engaged, the open toed foot in place and the needle in the down position I stitched the sandwich layers together. I went right over top of the utensil holder so that three individual spaces would be created for the utensils to slip into. The middle one I made just slightly larger so it could accommodate 2 utensils.

Quilted place-mat with parallel lines.

Quilted place-mat with parallel lines.

Tune in tomorrow to see how to add the ties and binding to finish off the place-mat as well as to see what little extras I created and how I used those blocks from day 1. With the quilting all done I think it’s time for a break.

Happy Quilting


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