Tips and Tricks for Better Machine Quilting

Cindy Seitz-Krug shares her knowledge gained from over two and a half decades of machine quilting award-winning quilts on a home sewing (domestic) machine.

Decisions, Decisions...

Decisions, Decisions...

Asian Arcs quilt"Asian Arcs" by authorWhen I started my latest quilt (Asian Arcs), as I was working on it, I began to wonder how other quilters choose their next project.

For me, after I complete a “show” quilt, I usually feel completely spent and mentally fatigued, so I just want to work on a “no-brainer” quilt just to enjoy the process, the colors, the fabrics.

Also, it’s a real treat not to have to agonize over matching points or intersections. And it’s always a great feeling to use up some of that fabric I’ve been hoarding, or leftovers from a previous quilt.

This latest quilt (Asian Arcs) is definitely not a show quilt, but after finishing my wholecloth, “Blush”, I wanted a relatively easy quilt to work on. This pattern had been sitting on my sewing table for the past year, calling to me! And finally I found that I had the time to do it, and better yet, I had fabric in my stash that would work well with this pattern.

Even though I think of this quilt as an “easy” quilt, it really wasn’t all that easy! All that curved piecing took a lot of time to complete. And it was a bit challenging to someone like me who quilts things for show to just tone it down and quilt modestly. Besides, I knew with that busy Oriental fabric my quilting wouldn’t show up much in those areas. So I wanted to keep it simple. I also didn’t want to lose the integrity (shape) of those arcs, so I didn’t quilt them at all. Now that the quilt has shrunk and those arcs are so puffy, I wish I had quilted something in them to make them behave! Oh well, another lesson for me! Oh, and if I’d used a different batt besides wool, they wouldn’t have puffed up so much either. Live and learn! Maybe some day I’ll add some extra quilting to them, but probably not; I’ll just chalk it up to experience.

This simple quilt is called “Mission Accomplished” because it was my goal to use up all the scraps from “The Dance of the Cranes”. I just kept making more of the little block units until all my fabric was gone. I used up leftover fabric on the back too. I LOVE getting rid of fabric! It just makes me feel good!

Mission Accomplished quilt"Mission Accomplished" made with scraps from "The Dance of the Cranes" The Dance of the Cranes quilt"The Dance of the Cranes" by author

This Oriental quilt doesn’t have a name; it’s just something I whipped up with leftovers from “A Splendid Display”. Unfortunately, I still have a lot of this “peacock” fabric. Since I’ve made two quilts from it, I doubt if I’ll attempt a third. I’m over it!

Peacock fabric quiltMore peacocks? A Splendid Display quilt"A Splendid Display" by author

I realize that not everyone works on “show” quilts, but I’m sure many of you work on difficult quilts that take you out of your normal comfort zone. So when you finish one of these difficult quilts, do you like to dive right into another difficult quilt, or do you want to relax and work on something simple?

Another option when finishing a difficult quilt is to grab a UFO out of your cupboard and finish that. We all know the satisfaction derived from finishing up UFOs. I personally don’t have a huge stack of UFOs because my A-type personality won’t let me accumulate a bunch of them; I generally feel the need to complete quilts once I’ve started them. But I know a lot of my quilting friends have 30, 40, or even 50 (yikes) UFOs stacked up (or hidden away) in their quilting room. So completing one or two UFOs a year is a very good feeling.

I know there are some quilters out there (those who are winning all the top awards these days) that seem to just churn out one Best of Show quilt after another. I am amazed at their ability to keep creating masterpieces. I guess they are so creative that they can finish one amazing quilt and immediately start working on their next award-winning quilt. I wish I could do that, but that really isn’t the case with me. Like I said, after the mental challenge of designing, piecing, appliqueing, and quilting a competition quilt, then I just need to make a simple quilt to give my brain a chance to recuperate.

Asian Arcs quilt resized detailI would really love to hear from you all and see how you choose your next quilt? Do you have a stack of patterns that you’ve numbered with your favorites on top? Do you have a wedding or baby gift to make someone? Or do you just fall in love with a new fabric line and pick a pattern to use that fabric? I hope you’ll join the discussion and give all of us some insight into how you deal with these decisions. We all know that there’s not a single one of us who just has one stack of fabric and one pattern sitting on her sewing table. We have piles of fabric here, stacks of patterns there, boxes of magazine clippings in the closet, and so on. So how do YOU make the decision as to which quilt to make next?

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