Sunday, 16 January 2011

Quilting Quilts with Meander Quilting

Machine quilting using meander quilting is what I regard as the next step in machine quilting after stitch in the ditch.

Preparation for meander quilting is the same as for any machine quilting:

  • The three layers of your quilt have been sandwiched together with each layer as flat as you can make it.
  • the three layers have been basted together either with spray adhesive, pins or thread.
  • You've dropped the feed dogs on your sewing machine so that the fabric can move freely as you meander quilt.
  • You've removed your normal sewing machine foot and replaced it with a darning or quilting foot.
  • You have quilting thread in the spool and the bobbin - they needn't be the same colour as each other but they do need to be quilting thread as this is stronger.
  • If your machine has a quilting extension arm then use that - it does give more room for your hands and the quilt to lay flat.
  • You are ready to adjust the tension on the sewing machine.
Yes, that final point is the one that requires the most attention.  My sewing machine has auto tension but I have to adjust the tension before I begin quilting quilts.  Make up a sample using the same three layers as your quilt - layer of fabric, layer of batting, layer of fabric.  It doesn't need to be more than about 12" square.

Begin sewing on the sample panel and sew for a few inches until you can look underneath the sample and see what your quilting looks like underneath.  With my machine there would be great loops of thread on the quilt backing.  Adjust the tension and sew a further few inches until you can look underneath again.  Keep doing this until you are satisfied with the quilting both on top and underneath the quilt sample panel.  If the tension is correct then the thread from the bobbin and from the spool will loop each other in the middle of the panel and so you won't be able to see the top thread underneath the quilt or the bobbin thread on top of the quilt.

The quilting foot on the left has a spring that lifts the foot each time the needle comes up, allowing the fabric to move underneath it.
The photo on the right shows my normal sewing arm behind the quilting extension arm - you can see how much extra support it gives both to the quilt and to my hand when I'm holding the quilt in place.

Now you are ready to transfer your quilt to the machine.  No matter how well I have basted the quilt, I still prefer to begin quilting in the middle of the quilt and work outwards.  Choose a section of a block that you are going to quilt first and position the quilt so that the sewing machine foot is in a corner of that block.

In the photo the left hand block is quilted up to the sashing and the right hand block will be quilted next.

The quilt to the right of the needle is best rolled up so that it takes minimum space and allows your right hand to lie flat around the needle.  The quilt to the left and in front of and behind the needle should be supported in some way - either spread across the table or resting on your lap.  Try not to let it hang over the edge of the table as this will stretch the fabric.  If you have room, move your sewing machine to the right of the table so that you have more space on the left for spreading out your quilt.

Put your quilting gloves on.  For a long time I resisted wearing gloves because I thought they'd be uncomfortable, but you really cannot move the fabric round without gloves to make your fingers stick to the fabric.  (And they aren't uncomfortable at all!)  Most quilting shops or haberdashery stores will sell quilting gloves.

Put the needle down into the quilt, hold the trailing threads and start to sew.  The major difference between meander quilting and normal sewing is obviously that you are moving the fabric rather than allowing the feed dogs to move the fabric.  So you need to move the quilt at a steady pace to get even stitch length.  The faster you move the quilt, the longer your stitches will be.  It is terribly easy to move the quilt faster when you are at an easy part like a long, regular curve - I do it all the time and then see that my stitches are much longer along that curve.  It really does take a lot of practice to get your movements even and with meander quilting or any method of quilting the object is to have even stitch length.

The point of meander quilting is that there isn't a set pattern - you quite literally meander all over the area that you are quilting.  On the left the meanders are fairly close together and on the right they are larger curves and more spread out.  The choice is up to you but it's best to keep it similar throught the quilt.  It really is worth doing several practice sample panels to get your hands used to moving the fabric and to see how big or small you want your meander quilting to be.

You can see meander quilting in action:



Meander quilting always feel very relaxing to me:  I'm not stressing because my quilting stitches have gone off the line of a pattern or look wobbly.  Whatever I do I can claim to be part of the 'pattern' of my meander quilting!

Thanks for visiting my blog.
You'll find more quilting ideas at how to quilt.
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