Adventures in quilting

Geometric quilt blocks 1Hold on to your hats, folks: I’ve been quilting!  I recently joined the Cambridge Modern Quilt Guild, a newly-formed organization that meets right here in my neighborhood, and I’ve been having fun experimenting with a different type of sewing.  I’ve done plenty of quilting in the past (see my finished Mariner’s Compass Quilt and Tulip Quilt), and even more so during my childhood and adolescence, so it certainly isn’t a brand new experience for me.  However, since I’m a bit rusty on the basics and never made it to many of the advanced techniques, I’ve been enjoying the learning process.

Over the past week or so, I made the 6 blocks you see above using a fat quarter bundle that I won (!) a few years ago.  Each block is 12.5 inches square and is composed of half square triangles arranged in a geometric pattern that I randomly found in a Google image search.  No fancy pattern to purchase.  Each triangle is 3 7/8 inches along the side.

The blocks were made for the CMQG’s first charity project, which involves donating pieced and quilted blocks to Soy Amado, an organization that provides quilts to homes for children previously living on the street.  It has been such a nice change of pace meeting with other quilters in person and doing some work for a good cause.  What a great reminder that we’re all human beings behind our computer screens!

Backing fabric

I picked up this crazy fabric for the backing at Gather Here’s semi-annual sale last weekend.  Since the quilts are for children, the guild encouraged us to use bright, colorful fabrics.  I think this one fits the bill, especially with the $3/yard sale price!

Orange quilt block

It’s been an interesting experience trying to get an accurate 1/4 inch seam (standard in quilting) using my current selection of presser feet.  The block above was the first one I made, when I was being super careful and diligent, and I think the point-matching came out pretty well.  Subsequent efforts were not as good!  I’ve been using my walking foot to keep things aligned, but it’s not ideal for 1/4 inch seam allowances.  I debated purchasing a 1/4 inch foot for my Bernina, but OUCH those Bernina feet are expensive.  I think I’ll stick with my (already expensive) walking foot for now.

Are you ready to feast your eyes on something exciting?
Free motion quilting sample - stippling

My first-ever attempt at free-motion machine quilting!!  🙂  Friends, I was so excited to learn this new-to-me technique.  I got some guidance from this Sewing With Nancy video, adjusted the settings on my machine, and just went for it.  And you know what?  It was super easy!  Granted, I assume wrangling a large quilt through my machine would be much, much harder to deal with than this 12-inch sample, but the quilting technique itself was a piece of cake.  Who knew?

Free motion quilting - stippling detail

Here’s a close-up of my stippling.  It’s far from perfect, and you can see some jagged edges where I got confused about where I was going, but overall I’m pleased with my first attempt.  The video suggested practicing the squiggly lines with pencil and paper first, and I can report that it was indeed a helpful exercise to get the feel of things before going to the machine.

Free motion quilting - stippling - back

The quilted fabric is so squishy and sproingy – I love touching it!  I may or may not have rubbed it against my face every time I walked by my sewing table for a few days after making it.  🙂  I’m excited about the idea of making an entire quilt with this stippling technique – one day.
Geometric quilt blocks 2

For now, I’m planning to individually quilt my 6 blocks using free-motion quilting, including stippling and perhaps trying some other techniques such as pebbles and echoing.  I feel like an entire new world of things to learn has been opened up before my eyes.  Isn’t that such a wonderful aspect of sewing?  You really never stop learning.

As a final note, I’ve found that meeting up with local quilters has been such an enjoyable and rewarding experience.  Sometimes (ok, often) I get frustrated by the aggressive marketing that is starting to pervade every crack and crevice of the sewing blog community, and it’s nice to interact with other sewists in a purely social environment with no one shoving products down your throat.  My thoughts on online marketing extend well beyond sewing blogs, as I’m sure yours do as well, so it’s been nice to shut off the ads and just enjoy my hobby in peace for a change.

Do you enjoy quilting at all, or are you exclusively a garment sewist?  Have you ever tried free-motion machine quilting, and if so, do you have any tips to share?

24 thoughts on “Adventures in quilting

  1. I have made a few, okay two, baby quilts and each time I vowed never to do it again. It’s the wrangling all those fabric to quilt it that’s hard …
    And yet, every so often I find myself wanting to do more quilting …
    I think for quilting, usung rotary cutter and mat is way easier than scissors … And yes, those 1/4″ seams are hard … I thought I can do my best using regular foot but my points did not match lol …
    I did do a single size quilt top but I gave up trying to quilt it, maybe I should try again …

    There is this doggie quilt pattern I want to make … But the thought of choosing the fabric, cutting the fabric, piecing and quilting sometimes makes hessitated …

    I love that you do so many things …


    • Yes, machine quilting a full-size quilt can be kind of a nightmare! It’s a satisfying feeling once you’ve finished though, and I really enjoy all the other parts of quilting, particularly designing the quilt top pattern and choosing fabrics/colors. I definitely use a rotary cutter for quilting, as it would probably take twice as long to trace and cut like I do for garment sewing.

      I like having a variety of hobbies that I can switch between as the mood strikes. That’s the benefit of not sewing for a living! 🙂


  2. I dabble in quilting – I have yet to make a full-sized one, but I love patchwork as an art form and have made a handful of smaller pieces. A proper bed-size quilt is on my list of things to make one day and free-motion is on the list of things to try – I just got a new machine which came with a bundle of quilting feet thrown in, so I want to play around with those once the Interminable Coat is done.

    I hear you on the wonderful texture of quilted fabric! It’s strange how the behaviour of a quilted sandwich is so different to the individual layers. I just finished quilting the sleeves for the in-progress coat – just quilted the shell to the underlining, no batting – and they’re wonderfully tactile but at the same time utterly unlike either fabric on its own.


    • How exciting that you have a bunch of quilting feet to play with! One day when I win the lottery I’m going to buy **all the feet.** 🙂 I agree with you that quilting, particularly the design stage, is a true art form, and I have a lot of respect for quilters that do it well. Choosing the right colors/fabrics is particularly difficult, I think.

      I look forward to seeing how your coat comes out! I love the idea of a quilted coat.


  3. Definitely no quilts here. I don’t get the appeal of cutting up fabric, stitching it together, losing a lot in the seam allowance, nothing but straight lines, just to create fabric!

    Much rather have tricky & curvy clothes patterns instead.


    • Haha, I hear ya! I was thinking the same thing as I was piecing these blocks: why am I cutting up fabric only to sew it back together again?? I think it’s a different art form though, and of course I still love the challenge of garment fitting and sewing. One advantage of quilting (in my opinion) is getting to use more colors, brighter colors, and more obnoxious prints than in garment sewing. You can create an explosion of color without worrying about blinding your coworkers. 🙂


  4. I really do want to make a quilt for couch snuggling one day, but who knows if I’ll actually get around to it. Wish I had more quilt appropriate scraps to play with so I wouldn’t have to buy any! Someday… Love your quilt squares, and I echo your sentiments on the constant advertising. Would be great to have actual sewing people to socialize with! Glad you’re enjoying the quilting guild!


    • Thanks Lisa! My pile of leftovers is similarly not particularly suited to quilting. I was lucky to have this fat quarter bundle sitting around waiting for a quilting project, but if I’m going to do any more quilting, I’ll have to buy some fabric. I have so many knit scraps… but somehow I don’t see myself using them in a quilt!


  5. My grandmother and great-aunts taught me how to quilt and I find it very relaxing. I meet with a group of ladies monthly to work on both individual and group projects. I usually learn a different technique from each session. I like the fabric in your quilt squares.


    • Wonderful Donna, I hope to have a similar experience with my quilt guild! It must have been so nice learning how to quilt from your family. My grandmother was a professional seamstress, but I didn’t really get into garment sewing until she was too old to teach me. I learned how to quilt from public tv shows, ha!


  6. You could use slightly wider seam allowances that are half the width of your walking foot if you don’t want to get a quarter inch foot. Make your own standard! It would make calculating the size of pieces to cut a little more complicated, though. Or if your sewing machine lets you adjust the needle position, move it a little to the right until it is a quarter inch from the edge of the presser foot.


    • Leila, thanks for the tips! I can indeed move my needle over and will play around with this. Custom seam allowances are a great idea too, and it would be pretty easy to calculate the cutting adjustments. Thank you!!


  7. Wow, your first attempt looks like you’ve been doing it for yonks! I’ve started dabbling this year and fancy having a go at free motion quilting. I might try with my little 6 inch splendid sampler squares. 😀


    • Oh awesome, I hope you try it! It was much easier than I thought, and I don’t know why I thought it would be difficult. You may need to invest in a new foot (I think it’s called a darning foot) if you’re going to be doing a lot of it, but for my little sample I got away with just removing my foot completely. Not ideal, but it worked.

      Liked by 1 person

  8. You make such beautiful quilts! Very glad to hear you did join the guild and are enjoying it. 🙂 I don’t quilt and don’t really want to, though perhaps I may try some time (yearsssss) down the road. I prefer sewing clothes and bags because I feel they’re more needed in my life than a blanket, but perhaps that’s because I’ve never had a blanket that really resonated with me.

    What sorts of marketing have you found creeping into sewing blogs? Product recommendations? Blog hops? I’m learning a lot about marketing and I’d like to apply it, so I’m interested to know of things which might be a turn off!


    • Thanks Ebi! Completely agree that garments are way more useful in everyday life than quilts. I consider quilts more of an artistic expression than a practical item. The fact that they are warm and snuggly is just a bonus. 🙂

      I am the wrong person to ask about which types of marketing are more annoying than others because I find them all annoying, LOL. To me, the worst offenders are sponsored posts, but in general the constant advertising of patterns and fabric is a turn off. I applaud people who manage to make a living from sewing/blogging/doing what they love, but personally I just get more enjoyment from reading independent/hobby blogs.


  9. I love free motion quilting! For me the actual quilting is just an excuse to play with my free motion foot. I’ve sewn three king-size quilts with free motion quilting so far (for a 160*200 beds) and I’m planning the next one (I dislike the quilt I made for our room but D doesn’t let me change it…).

    I’ve noticed some quilters incorporate linen and chambray in addition to quilting cotton, which is something I would like to try in future quilts.


    • Roni, you are my hero!!! Do you use a regular sewing machine to quilt such large quilts, or do you have a quilting machine or a long arm?

      I’m currently working on a small quilt in which I’m incorporating leftover garment fabrics, and they lend some additional texture and interest. I haven’t quilted with linen but bet it would make a lovely and long-lasting quilt.


  10. I love making quilt tops but I don’t love the process of actually quilting them. I have done some free motion quilting and I find it so challenging when I’m trying to wrangle a large quilt under my machine. I prefer straight line quilting (and mini quilts because they are so quick! Of course, I have no idea what to do with the mini quilts I’ve made!) I think my favorite thing about quilting is giving the finished project its first wash and dry so it gets all crinkly and wonderful! Your blocks look great!


    • Thanks Teri, and I agree with you about all the highs and lows of quilting! Wrangling a full size quilt through the machine is a nightmare, which is why my latest project is a mini quilt. 🙂 I’m planning to hang in on the wall in my sewing room. I hope all your lovely quilts are on display in your house – cover your walls with them all!


  11. I am a bit jealous at you for having a guild so nearby… I don’t think there’s anything really close here. I tried FMQ a couple of years ago and found it quite hard, but maybe I was a bit too critical of myself back then, immediately wanting everything to be perfect. Perhaps I should give it another go.


    • I would give it another try, on a small quilt or sample at least. I’ve never tried it on a full size quilt and imagine it would be quite challenging, especially since I can barely machine quilt in straight lines without lots of cursing, haha. I got so lucky with this new guild meeting in my neighborhood. I don’t have a car, so the fact that it’s a walkable distance is a miracle!


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