That’s my son Ben up there with the first Twin size quilt I ever made in 2008! Block tutorial can be found here (click here).
I received a question about quilting a large quilt on a home sewing machine, and while it was on my mind I thought I’d post a few tips for quilting a large quilt!
- First you should decide whether to quilt it yourself or not. Let’s say you have a Queen size quilt that needs finishing, and you are deciding whether to send that bad boy to a quilter or tackle the quilting yourself. There are a few things you may want to consider to help you decide, like if your sewing machine is sturdy and handle the weight and size of the quilt, if your back and shoulders are strong enough to hold up the weight of the quilt for long periods of time, and if you’re prepared to baste a large quilt (and if you have space!). If you are confident and want to try it…then go for it! Everyone should quilt one huge quilt themselves at least once, and it’s pretty awesome to make a big quilt from start to finish by yourself!
These days I pretty much send everything a Twin size and over to a long arm quilter, because I don’t have the space to baste it, I never have the time, and it kills my back. I also send out anything that is for display at a quilt show or will be hanging in a shop. Basically anything that will be looked at closely by other people I send to a professional.
- Baste it really well. If it’s not basted well you’ll end up with bumps and folds and extra fabric in the center. Spray basting a large quilt can get expensive quick, but you can spot baste it and just do the center, or use a dot of spray baste every 6-8″ or so. Then use pins to go over everything again and make sure it’s all very secure. I have a tutorial on spray basting here. Also that tool down below is the Kwik Klip and I can never baste without it.
- Make a quilting plan of action. Layout your quilt and figure out where you are going to start and stop quilting. I find it easiest to break my quilting into smaller sections. The image below is of a Throw size Shortcake Quilt, and imagine if I was sitting right at the START points. I quilt up and down the rows until the section is done, then I turn the whole quilt and start at the other section. Breaking it up into sections makes it less overwhelming and easier to handle under the machine.
- Don’t be afraid to start and stop in the middle! You don’t have to start and end on the edges…and it’s really hard to smoosh the whole quilt through the machine neck to get to the center. Instead just start in the center, quilt a section, and end in the middle. Just stitch in place a few times back and forth to make sure your thread is secure, and bury your thread if you prefer (or not!). You can start/end stitching in a seam to hide it even better.
- Choose a design that you can keep consistent. Don’t pick something super complicated or that requires moving the quilt around a lot.
- Support the weight of the quilt. Use a table or ironing board, or whatever you have that can support the quilt to the left and back of the machine. It will save your shoulders and back if you are not holding all of the quilt weight by yourself! I move to my huge dining table when I’m quilting something big.
- Use gloves. Quilting gloves (these are cheap and have great reviews) make gripping the quilt so much easier, especially in the center of a large quilt. Trust me, you don’t think you need them until you try them. You don’t need fancy quilting gloves either (see my photo below from 2009 using my yucky-but-clean gardening gloves)!
Most importantly I’d say don’t worry too much about perfection or screwing it up when your quilting . Just relax, have a plan, and go for it! You gotta start somewhere! That being said…if you are a beginner you might want to practice a lot on smaller quilts before you jump into a king size. :)