The Free Motion Quilting Project: How Do I Quilt This?! Intro

Sunday, August 22, 2010

How Do I Quilt This?! Intro

Yay! I'm finally ready to start “How Do I Quilt This?!” a video series devoted to explaining all the different ways you can quilt your quilt with the free motion fillers from this project.

Here is a video introduction where I show all four quilt tops and explain the different ways each one will be free motion quilted:

I know not everyone can watch the videos, so here’s the basic rundown of what I shared in the video:

Have you ever pieced or appliqu├ęd a beautiful quilt top only to look at it later and ask yourself:

How Do I Quilt This?!
free motion quilting | Leah DayIn this video series we’re going to learn about four different methods for quilting any quilt.

You’re probably already familiar with two of the methods:
  • Stitching In the Ditch
  • All-Over Quilting
These two methods are very popular, so popular in fact that I call them our quilting default settings.

So what do I mean by that?

Just like our printer has a default setting to only print in black and white we have default settings too.

After taking the time to piece a quilt, sometimes we are so focused on the shapes and angles we’ve created in the quilt that we can’t see a new design to add with quilting stitches.

So in these situations we stitch in the ditch - hiding all our quilting thread in the ditch of all the piecing and applique lines.

Of course, this method preserves all of the piecing design, but it does not add anything to the quilt top itself.

free motion quilting | Leah DaySo another default method of quilting is All-Over quilting, and this is exactly what it sounds like - a quilting design that covers the whole quilt, ignoring all the piecing and applique lines completely.

We use this method when our quilt is either too complex, or there are too many pieces and angles so Stitching in the Ditch is just not realistic.

We also usually use all over quilting when we need to quickly finish a quilt intended to be cuddled with. Bed, lap, and crib quilts really shouldn't be quilted very densely or they will become stiff and uncomfortable, so All Over quilting works great for these situations.

But these are just two methods for quilting a quilt and I want to make it clear that these methods are not bad ways to quilt your quilt.

I've quilted quilts by Stitching in the Ditch and by covering them with All Over quilting, and there is absolutely nothing wrong with them.

But I want you to also understand that these are not the only two ways you can quilt your quilts. I call them our default settings because we often will choose to Stitch in the ditch or All Over Quilting without really considering any other options.

There is also Section Quilting were we pick different filler designs for each section of the quilt: each block, each flower, the sashing areas, and the borders.
This type of quilting is not any more difficult than All Over Quilting, it just requires a bit more planning and time to accomplish.

On the plus side Section Quilting adds loads of texture and design to your quilt tops, especially if you take the time to pick filler designs that accent the section they are being quilted into.

Finally there is Over The Top Quilting where you literally add a new dimension to the quilt with the quilting design!

You could also call this Show Quilting, but don't let that intimidate you. It simply requires a bit more planning, preparation, and time, but the extra input is absolutely worth it in the finished quilt.

So the first part of this series is going to cover Stitching in the Ditch with the Morning Glory quilt.

free motion quilting | Leah DayThe second part of will cover All Over Quilting on the Cheerful Shapes quilt.

free motion quilting | Leah DayThen the third part of this series will cover Section Quilting in the Circles of Daisies quilt.
free motion quilting | Leah DayFinally we will finish off with Over the Top Quilting on the Vine of Hearts quilt.

free motion quilting | Leah DayNow all of the filler designs I will be using over these quilts will be beginner level designs, so please feel free to grab a quilt, baste it up, and follow along with the project!

If you don't have a similar quilt in your closet, or if you really want to create one of these simple quilts, the instructions for piecing and appliqueing them are right here.

Of course, before I run off to start quilting these quilts, I really need to take a minute to talk about batting!

Check out this video where I discuss the different battings you can use and what makes a terrific batting for beginning quilters:

Lately I've been using a lot of Polyester Felt as a batting within my quilts. I really like how felt stays perfectly flat with no shrinkage at all, and it's slightly stiff so my quilts hang a bit better.

But for a beginner, you might want to consider a cotton or a cotton blended batting. Cotton battings have just a little bit of shrink to them - sometimes as little as 3% and this is enough to slightly shrink the whole quilt.

What happens is the quilt top ends up looking very slightly shriveled up, almost like a California Raisin, and your quilting lines will be hidden within the wrinkles of the quilt top.

For a beginner, having your thread hide slightly might help you deal with some of the imperfections of your quilting lines.

If you feel like you must stop every 5 minutes to pick stitches out, it might be comforting to know that after you wash your quilt, those slight imperfections won't be visible after the batting shrinks the quilt.

Another think to keep in mind when choosing a batting is the rating of the batting. Look on the package - somewhere it will say "stitching up to -- inches apart.

This means you could take this quilt top and leave this many inches (for example 8 inches) apart and that would be plenty of quilting for your quilt.

This also means that you wouldn't want to leave any spaces of your quilt open bigger than 8 inches. If you left space bigger than that open, chances are the batting might shift inside the quilt, causing it to become lumpy and uncomfortable.

Finally, I really encourage you to shop around for battings and try out a couple before settling on your favorite brand. We have all kinds of new battings now available blending cotton and bamboo, soy, polyester, wool, silk, and even polyester battings made from recycled drink bottles!

It's important to try out many different options to see what looks the best on your quilts and, please, whatever you do - Don't cheap out on your batting! Always invest in a good quality batting and never go with the cheapest option.

From my personal experience, I've experimented with a lot of different threads, fabrics, and battings in my quilts, and the only thing to ever ruin a quilt completely was a bad batting.

If you buy a cheap batting and it starts to beard - that means the fibers start pulling through the top or back of the quilt - once it starts, there's no way to stop it and there's nothing you can do.

So invest in a good quality batting and make sure it will match the amount of space you want to leave open on the quilt.

Now I hope ya'll are enjoying this series as much as I am! We'll get back to the project in a few weeks, but with over 200 designs to choose from, I really think the most important thing now is to teach you how to use them.

So make sure to tune in tomorrow for the first part of this series on Stitching in the Ditch!

Let's go quilt,

Leah Day

Are you enjoying this new series? Click Here to support the project so these videos stay online forever!


  1. Thanks! This series is so timely for me. Can't wait for the next installment

  2. I know this series was completed over a year ago, but I have to comment on the courage it took to do this introduction. I have been an artist in some form or other since my first pack of crayolas, but quilts came along much later than others. I will say this about the 'snobbery' I myself see in the quilting world and it is this:
    Talent, innovation and courage can almost always completely make up for inexperienced technique, but the fanciest machines, materials and mastered motor skills can NEVER replace the genius & pure spirit of art.


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