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Do You Need A Special Machine to Quilt?

Once upon a time, Sewers used to quilt their projects with just their hands. Today, with different types of sewing machines available, the tradition has made way for the modern.

As a beginner sewer, one of the many questions filtering through your thoughts may be whether all sewing machine types can handle quilting. As a sewer who has often been asked that question, I believe I’m in a great place to give you a comprehensive answer.

Do You Need A Special Machine To Quilt?

No, you don’t need a special machine to quilt. Machine quilt can be done with any sewing machine that’s sturdy. A sturdy machine is required since you’re going to sew through the three layers of the quilt. With the increasing demand for sewing machines that can quilt efficiently, manufacturers have done their best to equip new machine models with accessories that make machine quilting easier. Some sewing machines feature stitch regulators while others feature special walking feet. With or without these accessories, you can absolutely quilt with a regular machine.

Apart from the tools that makes it possible to quilt without a special machine, there are certain elements that determines whether or not your quilt turns out well. We’ll be discussing these elements shortly.

Why you Don’t Need A Special Machine to Quilt

A quilt is a textile with three fiber layers. The process of sewing all three layers of fabric together is called quilting. If you’re hoping to make a quilt for your bedding, decoration or for any other project, buying a special quilting machine is an idea that may cross your mind once or twice. Yes, making a quilt can be challenging, but most sewing machines were created to handle all kinds of projects.

Agreed, there’s a chance your sewing machine might not be sturdy enough to sew through the three layers of a quilt, but most sewing machines are strong enough to take on this kind of project. With many people looking to take advantage of technology for quilting, more features have been added to sewing machines for an easier experience. Thus, all you need to get your machine ready and perfect for a quilting project is a few tweaks. In the following paragraphs, we’ll be looking at 2 major types of machine quilting and how you can tweak your sewing machine to ensure they are done properly.

Straight Line Quilting

If you’re making a straight-line quilt, one tweak that can make your job easier is to replace the regular foot with a walking foot.  A Walking foot is a special kind of foot that grips the quilt sandwich at the top and advances it through the machine at a similar rate to the quilt’s back, which is joined with the machine’s feed dogs and moved along. When the quilt moves evenly through the sewing machine, the layers of the quilt sandwich are prevented from being shifted apart while the quilt is sewn.

Free Motion Quilting

Not to be confused with Freestyle Quilting which means quilting without the inspiration of a drawn pattern, Free Motion Quilting may seem like a Herculean task if you are new to the whole idea. However, I have since learned that the key to getting your machine to do what you want it to do is by working with it until you are completely familiar with it, like an old friend. This way, you can do just about anything, like quilt in free motion

Free Motion Quilting is a style of quilting that requires you to detach your feed dogs. You will be amazed at how many designs you will achieve when you are in control of your free motion quilting. Note, however, that you will need to use a different presser foot from the one you use on your standard sewing machine when your feed dogs are in place.  Feed dogs are built to help pull the fabric through your sewing machine. Therefore, to quilt in free motion, you will have to work with a presser foot that can perform the task of the feed dogs while lending you the flexibility to craft original designs.

7 Quilting Secrets to a Better Experience

As with every skill, it is inevitable that you will get better with every quilt you create. My first quilted cloth took me all of three months, and it was a romper for a two-year-old. Riley’s parents absolutely loved the little gift and gushed over how talented I was. Today, with every new project I have embarked on, every unveiling of yet another pattern, I realize that it only gets better.

Here are some of the secrets I have garnered over the years:

  1. There is no such thing as too many tutorials! Granted, it is important to take breathers in between learning to practice what you have been taught. However, I would advise you to put together a folder of useful YouTube links that can help you better your craft. Then, you can take the learning one video at a time.
  2. Declutter your sewing space – All it takes is one piece of fabric here or there and you have a mountain of distractions to hamper your quilting experience. First, ensure that your sewing machine is always clean for more seamless quilting. Second, rid your table surface of anything you do not need while quilting. Finally, keep your entire space organized such that you have control over your creative process without having to worry about one misplaced quilt piece or the other.
  3. Using cotton fabric? Launder first – Some cotton fabrics tend to “bleed” out their colors during the first wash. To minimize that, it is best to get the laundering and as much color out of the way as possible.
  4. Your quilted piece is only as good as the pressing – The impact of a good pressing technique on your work cannot be overemphasized. Therefore, you must handle all pressing issues delicately and diligently, to ensure that your quilt piece turns out close to what you envisioned. Press before cutting your fabric, press as you join your seams, and press when you are done quilting. With time, you will find that this process will come to you more naturally. Remember, pressing is different from ironing in the sense that when you press, you are simply moving the iron up and down the fabric. Ironing can easily cause the fabric to lose form.
  5. Test your skill on bits of scrap material or paper first – Resist the urge to jump right unto your sewing machine and always start with a test run, especially with each new quilting style.
  6. Be clever about hiding your mistakes – Let’s be realistic: You are probably going to make a lot of quilting mistakes, often as a beginner and even much later. However, nobody else has to know. For starters, choose thread colors that match your spindle and remember to stick with thinner threads too. Also, go for bold, multi-colored fabrics that can successfully blend in with your thread. All of these are to ensure your errors stay between you and your quilted piece.
  7. Color Coordination – Unfortunately, it is impossible to use the “easy route” in quilting because one wrong stitch can cause everything to go south. No matter what style or pattern you are quilting, you must maintain coordination in color. For instance, you may feel an inclination to take the easiest route when batting by using a similar color to match with your fabric color and hoping that both colors blend. The result is that both colors will stand starkly against each other and your work won’t look neat.

P.S: Quilting while listening to music has been scientifically proven to relieve stress and spur your creativity. To make this work, I created three different playlists of my favorite songs to keep me recharged and motivated while quilting.

Misconceptions about Quilting

  1. A Quilt is just a blanket but with a fancier name – Perhaps, this is the greatest myth ever. As a bedding essential, a quilt is far more complex than a blanket, joined with three layers of fabric as opposed to blankets that are joined with 1-2 layers. Another difference is that quilts are made using batting while blankets are made without.
  2. Quilts must be made of bold, contrasting colors and patterns – You can quilt on plain fabric using warm or cool colors too.
  3. Use only cotton thread to quilt – Wrong. You can use all kinds of thread to quilt. Remember, it is not the type of thread that matters, but the quality.
  4. Needles coated with titanium will break your sewing machine – Just to be clear, Titanium-coated needles are not titanium. The idea of coating needles with titanium is to allow them last longer, not make them strong enough to ruin your machine.

In conclusion, it cannot be stated enough that in order to master this amazing skill, you require patience, creativity, and a zeal for learning. That said, access as many reading materials and YouTube videos as you can while figuring out a rhythm with which to personalize your craft. Trust your process and never be afraid to fail.

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