An archive of sewing tutorials and inspiration


Machine Quilting - Beginner's Quilting Tutorial Series

This post is part of the Beginner's Quilting Tutorial Series. We are going through an in depth series which will teach you everything you need to know to establish a solid quilting foundation. Click here to see all of the posts and learn more about the series.

Machine Quilting

Quilting is the step in which you stitch all three of your quilt sandwich layers together. The first step before you begin quilting will be to decide and plan in which way you will be quilting. So let's talk about some of the different quilting methods before we begin.

Straight Line Quilting

Straight Line Quilting is one of my favorite techniques. I love the simple clean modern look of it. Straight line quilting is one of the easiest techniques to start with because the stitch length is determined by the machine and the only thing you have to do is guide the quilt in a straight line using a few different methods. Here are some of the different straight line quilting methods.

Stitch in the Ditch

Stitch in the ditch is a method of quilting that minimizes how much thread shows up on the top of the quilt. You will stitch in the seam lines of the quilt.

Outline Quilting

Easy Pezzy Crib Quilt

Similar to stitch in the ditch you will quilt lines parallel to your seam lines, but use the edge of your presser foot, or a quilting bar to stitch 1/8" to 1/4" from the seam line on both sides of each seam. This is the technique I used for the Easy Pezzy Crib Quilt.

Basic Straight Parallel Lines

When quilting basic parallel lines you can choose any distance you would like to space your lines such as 1/2", 3/4", 1". You then can use the edge of your presser foot, a walking foot guide bar, and even painters tape to use as a straight edge guide to stitch along.

Random Spacing Straight Lines

Similar to basic parallel lines you will stitch lines but space them at different width intervals.

Grid Perpendicular Quilting

Gwenyth the Menace Quilt

When stitching in a Grid you will cross your lines perpendicular. This will create a grid on your quilt. You can stitch your grid evenly creating squares or at different widths creating different size squares. This is what I use in the above photo on the squares, my lines are bit wavy, but this was my first quilt.

Cross Hatch

A cross hatch is intersecting lines that create a diamond shape.

Wavy or Organic Quilting

Summer Sunrise Baby Quilt Color in Motion Baby Quilt

I find this a very easy and relaxing method of quilting. You simply quilt wavy lines spaced however you want parallel all over the quilt.

Straight Line Echo Quilting

Patchwork Prism is Complete Puma Zig-Zag Quilt

Echoing is when you copy or follow a pattern in the quilt. You will most often see this in free motion quilting, but it can be done with straight line quilting as well. In the patchwork prism quilt I echoed the hexagon shape and in the zig-zag the zig-zags.

Free Motion Quilting


Free Motion Quilting is done on a machine with the feed dogs down, so the quilt can be moved in any direction freely under the needle. Once you have gotten the hang of it, Free Motion Quilting can be a bit quicker than basic straight line quilting. The possibilities with quilting designs in Free Motion Quilting (FMQ) are endless, but some of the popular designs are.

Meandering Stitch

The meandering stitch sometimes referred to as the stipple stitch is a continuous line stitch. The stitch is curved not angled and the lines never cross.

Loop D' Do or Garnet Stitch

A Garnet stitch is also a continuous line, but it can be curved or angled and the line crosses itself to create "loops".

Pebble Stitch

Pebble quilting looks just like a bed of pebbles. It is a continuos pattern of circles either the same size or alternate sizes used to fill in an entire space.

Quilting the Easy Pezzy Quilt

When beginning I suggest trying straight line quilting. It can be a bit more time consuming than Free Motion Quilting, but will give you a good foundation for when you decide to attempt FMQ.

What You Need

One of the most important tools you will need when straight line quilting is a Walking Foot. It is possible to do it without one, but having a walking foot will help all three layers of your quilt to stay in place without to much shifting. This is because a walking foot has its own feed dogs built in so you will have feed dogs above the fabric and below the fabric working together. You will also want to fill a few bobbins before you begin so you won't need to stop and un-thread you machine to fill a bobbin in the middle of your quilting. I like to fill 2-4 depending on how big my project is. Make sure to put a fresh brand new needle in your machine before you begin as well.

I like to use Machingers Gloves when I am quilting. This will help you get a better grip on your quilt. I have also seen other people use a Supreme Slider to help the quilt from "Drag" and to move more easily.

Setup Your Station

The best setup would be to have either an extension table for your machine or a drop in table. But, if you have to you can make do without it. On my Elna I don't have either. I do suggest you have a table to the left of my machine to hold the bulk of the quilt as you are quilting, to prevent the weight of the quilt from tugging at your stitches. So I sit on a corner table about 1ft away from the left table. I clear my left desk off so my quilt has room.

When you begin quilting you will want to roll the ends of your quilt up. I had recently seen Quilt Clips  that you can clip onto your rolled up quilt to keep everything from unrolling. Start your quilting in the top center of your quilt. You will then work from the inside outward.

Next week we will watch a video tutorial that I have created which will walk you through how to outline quilt along your seams, and then how to properly bury your thread tails after quilting to prepare for binding. Burying your threads is very important, because you will NOT want to cut your threads or back stitch.

Other Resources

Alyssa Williams

Alyssa Williams

Creator of Pile O' Fabric

Alyssa Lichner is a graphic designer turned avid sewist. She writes modern quilting tutorials and shares techniques and inspiration on her blog, Pile O’ Fabric. Alyssa has a passion for exploring different techniques and applying them to modern designs. She is thankful to have the opportunity to share these techniques, through her tutorials, patterns, and classes with quilters around the world. She always encourages her readers and students to challenge themselves to try new things and to approach quilting with a fearless attitude.