OPQA: Quilting Your Orange Peels / General Quilting Tips

Just like my recent basting post, I’m taking this opportunity to share quilting tips, but it’s not at all limited to an Orange Peel Quilt-Along topic. I’ve machine-quilted a hefty pile of quilts now, on a machine that isn’t especially good at it, so I might have some tips to share that could help you, too.

It's going so quickly now! Less to lug around and, working on the diagonal, each row gets shorter. Almost there!!! #OrangePeelQAL2014

My machine is fairly basic – a Janome 7025, which I bought as the cheapest machine I could get with the ability to lower the feed dogs for free motion quilting. This was several years ago now, possibly more, and I had no idea then how much sewing I’d end up doing. I just thought I’d want the option to learn more if I took a notion to.

I don’t know if Saul (that’s what I call this machine) is perhaps not quite as good as he used to be, or if I’m a better quilter and can feel his limitations now, but quilting a large (70″ x 70″, yikes!) quilt on Saul isn’t the easiest. (Note! Janomes are great machines! I don’t want to sound like I’m dismissing them in general, I just think perhaps I’m ready for an upgrade.) I’ll go through some issues I have and how I deal with them, and hopefully that’ll help you out as you continue your project!

My biggest issue with quilting on my home machine is drag. It’s really difficult to manage the heft of a large quilt without the weight of it effecting the smoothness of the feed. In case that doesn’t make sense, let’s put it a different way: I need to support the weight of the quilt as much as possible so that Saul isn’t fighting against it. I roll my quilt (the side going through the machine, seen in the photo above) as tightly / small as I can, and heave that over my right shoulder. Yeah, it gets tiring. I don’t have a huge table to work on (sit at the biggest table you can, that’s going to be the best possible weight support), so I also try not to let any of the quilt hang over the sides of the table, which would create pull as it goes through the machine. The pull / drag will effect the consistency of the stitching, so it’s important to try to develop a set-up that helps support the weight as you work.

Huzzah! Only 1/4 left to go - and I always leave the easiest section for last.

A related machine issue is feeding the layers of a quilt through evenly. You absolutely have to have a walking foot for quilting, there’s no arguing. I actually don’t use Saul without a walking foot for anything, except zippers, because that extra help feeding is just generally handy. But there’s no substitute for quilting – they’re expensive, but it’s just one of those things. It will help prevent your layers misaligning and bunching on your lovely quilt top.

I should be sorry for the gratuitous overgramming of this quilt, but I'm so in love with how it's turning out, I'm really not sorry at all.

You might also need to adjust the presser foot pressure, lift the pressure just a touch. Your machine will probably have a dial / knob to raise or lower the amount the foot presses down. On Saul, raising the pressure one notch is too much, I get the opposite problem – slippage. But on Bettie, my vintage Singer Featherweight, I do raise and lower the pressure constantly, based on what I’m sewing.

I flippin' did it! Eeep! Now binding and burying all those threads! #OrangePeelQAL2014

Stitch length is, I suppose, personal preference – on Saul, I usually sew at a 2.5 stitch length, and the quilting in these photos is a 3. I used to use a longer stitch, but I’ve been trying to get better quilting results, so I wanted to try out a shorter stitch for my peels. I also had to mess with my tension a little – after fixing some really faulty bobbin tension (the bottom thread kept breaking, thanks a bunch, maintenance people), I ticked the top tension up just a teeny weeny touch and that seemed perfect.

Absolutely make a scrap batting-and-fabric sandwich and test your stitching and tension out before you dig into your quilt. Nothing will simulate the heft of a quilt and the effect that will have on the process, but you can at least check tension and stitch length and make sure you’re happy with that before you start!

This is just a little run-through of the things to keep in mind as you get started on a big project, if you’re new to machine quilting. Of course, no amount of checklisting will compete with the knowledge that comes with experience, so get going! Get those peels quilted and I’ll be back with a binding tutorial later in the week, peeps!

OPQA: Peels Quilting (Finally!)



I finally got sick of my own dithering and forced myself to choose a quilting pattern:


This design was actually not my own idea, by my friend Christa’s; she suggested the pattern for a mini-quilt I made in a recent swap and I absolutely loved the effect. It is at once subtle and modern, over a very traditional quilt top. Let’s hope it works out as well as it looks in my doodle!

I had a little false start when I started with lines 2″ apart, only to decide that 1.5″ would’ve been better, but I’m cooking now! Time to start considering binding …

Arrrg. Quilting Brainfreeze.

Sorry I’ve disappeared on you, guys – I’ve been puzzling over the quilting on my orange peels and I’m SO STUCK. I can’t quite seem to move forward, although my beautiful quilt is draped over my sewing chair, all basted and waiting for me. Last time, I wrote about trialling quilting designs on photos – I’ve been doodling away for the last two weeks, and nothing I’ve sketched has really grabbed me yet! I feel like I’ll know it when I see it, you know?

The natural quilting pattern is to trace the peels, but I don’t want to do that on this one. Or to free motion something either in the peels or in the space between them, but there’s two problems there: first, I really don’t trust my FMQ skills just yet. I’ve barely even practiced, and my grouchy modern machine, Saul, isn’t really great with FMQ tension on a small project, let alone a ridiculously heavy large quilt. Second, although that sort of quilting would be really beautiful, I don’t think it would be me. I like simple lines, almost a minimalist look – especially in a case like this, with a fairly busy, ornate quilt.

I tend to really be drawn to a quilting pattern that is a straight line design, and isn’t at all related to the patchwork. I dunno why, that’s just how I roll! Here’s a few of my favorite doodles, the last two especially — but I’m still thinkin’. I’ve hand-stitched 196 peels for this quilt, dammit. I really need to get the finish just right.






Tools & Toys Tuesday: Use Drawing Apps to Trial Quilting Patterns

Here’s another little tip that isn’t just for our quilt-along, but this seems like a perfect time to share it: when I’m considering how I’ll quilt a new project, I like to trial quilting patterns by doodling over a photo in a drawing app – instant quilting test without sewing a stitch!

I’m currently using Aviary on my iPad with a stylus for drawing – I take a photo of my quilt top, then use a fine line in an unobtrusive color (usually a light gray, but it depends on the quilt) and just doodle away. It’s a great way to try out different ideas and experiment. Here’s three basic options for my orange peels, just to show you what I mean:




I’m also playing with the idea of free motion quilting in the spaces between peels, which would be great FMQ practice. But I usually like a minimalist quilting approach best, so I’ll probably doodle a million ideas and then go with one of the straight line options above. I’m so predictable that way. :)

New Wave Quilt WIP

New Wave Quilt WIP

Working down my list, now that my mini-quilt is done, I’ve turned my attention to my New Wave quilt (pattern by Elizabeth Hartman from Oh, Fransson). Although I’ve been gathering the perfect arrangement of fabrics for well over a year, I put this quilt top together in a massive sewing frenzy over the bank holiday weekend at the end of May. It was like a blur of thread and bits of fabric.

New Wave Quilt WIP

This one’s all for me-me-me, in all it’s gloriously brown-and-gold 70s-ness. Yum! I’m even using a vintage sheet as the backing. These are totally, completely, not like my normal color choices and maybe that’s why I love it so much. Do you ever find yourself drawn to things that seem wildly un-you and love them double-much for it? I think it’s important to sometimes treat ourselves to something that’s completely out of the ordinary, whether it be fabric choices or a day out. It shakes things up.

New Wave Quilt WIP

Anyway, I pieced the back and basted it shortly after that weekend, but it was put aside for other things until now. Now the quilting’s almost done and I’ve got the binding (HOT pink, baby!) all ready to go.

New Wave Quilt WIP

Expect an FO post on this one soon – I’m actually quite in need of a light quilt for these suddenly hot summer nights, so I’m anxious to get it done!

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