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Beginner Quilting Series Part Five: Quilting with a Walking Foot

If you're ready to use your walking foot to quilt but aren't sure where to start, you've come to the right place! Welcome to Part Five of the Beginner Quilting Series. We've been working together to create a quilt from start to finish. We have our quilt top finished, sandwiched, and ready to quilt! Last week, we discussed a few quilting options using your walking and free-motion feet. This week, we will be diving a little deeper into how to use your walking foot to achieve some different designs!

To see what you've missed in the Beginner Quilting Series, click here.

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Supplies Needed this Week:

Fabric Used in this Series:

Quick Jump Links:

In Part Four, we discussed where to find a walking foot that fits your machine. Check out your machine's manufacturer's website or Sewing Parts Online and avoid sites such as Amazon (and Temu lol) for sewing machine parts.

Some Important Things Before You Start Quilting:

Before we dive into the fun part of quilting designs, let's talk about a few fundamentals of quilting that you need to know; how to start/stop quilting and stitch length. How you start and stop quilting varies depending on where you want to begin on your quilt! Read below for more information, or watch the video this week for a better example!

How to Start Quilting: If you are beginning to quilt on the edge of your quilt, start sewing a little before your quilt top. Backstitch a few stitches, then continue forward. You're good!

If you are beginning to quilt anywhere besides the edge of your quilt, we still be starting a little differently. The method below applies to both free motion and walking foot quilting.

When we just start sewing, it creates a little nest of thread on the back of our quilt that doesn't look so pretty. To avoid this, we need to pull our bobbin thread up before we start sewing. To do this, place your presser foot down where you want to start sewing. Hold the needle thread with your left hand while rotating the hand crank for your machine towards you in one full rotation. The needle should now be at the very top position and ready to come back down when it stops. Gently pull the thread you're holding in your left hand to bring up the bobbin thread. Grab the bobbin thread and firmly grasp both of these threads in your left hand. Take a few stitches in place, or very small back/forth stitches. These threads are now secure and be clipped when you're ready. Now, you can begin quilting.

How to Stop Quilting: When you're finished quilting, we need to make sure that our threads are secure and won't come loose later. Some may pull their needle out, leave a long upper/bobbin thread, tie it off, and then bury their knot...but I'm a little too lazy for that! When you're finished, either take a few stitches in place or backstitch and then forward stitch a few times along your previous quilted line. Then, cut your threads! BAM.

Stitch Length: Your stitch length is the amount of space, in millimeters, between each stitch. Most machines have a dial with numbers 1-8 on it or have a digital read where you select the number. Bigger numbers produce longer stitches, with the opposite said for a smaller number. The stitch length that you choose can change the aesthetics of your quilt. What you choose is a personal preference! Try out different lengths and figure out what works best for you. Below are examples of different lengths. See how much they change things!

Simple Walking Foot Quilting Designs

I'm sharing a few simple designs that you can use on any quilt with your walking foot! Use these ideas for your whole quilt or create your own spin on them! Each of these designs are explained in greater detail in this week's video above. One of the most amazing things about quilting to me is the fact that we can create the same quilt 10x over, but the way that we choose to quilt it makes all the difference in the final appearance! Below, you will notice that I used the same charm pack to create multiple 4-block squares. Notice how different each looks depending on the quilting style!

Stitching in the Ditch: This is great if you aren't really sure how to quilt it or you want to only quilt the bare minimum. Following along each seam, place your stitches directly in the middle. By doing this, your stitch looks like it disappears! When we pressed our seams, if you looked carefully, you will notice that one side is a little higher depending on which direction you ironed. We are placing our stitch towards the shorter side of our seam. I know this doesn't make much sense...but when you are looking at your quilt seam it will!

Pros and Cons of this Design: This design is simple, effective, and shows off your hard work! Some may think that quilting is distracting and that stitching in the ditch lets your quilt top shine. It's also very minimalist if you're into that! The downside (for me anyway) is that it can be time-consuming if you're a perfectionist. You really need to take your time to make sure your stitches disappear.

Cross Quilting: This is one of my go-to's! I love the result. Line up your walking foot's left edge to one of the vertical seams on your quilt. Following it, quilt all the way down. Repeat this with all of the vertical lines on your quilt to the left and right of your seam. Next, flip your quilt and repeat this step with all of the horizontal lines on your quilt. Don't forget to backstitch and the beginning and end of each row.

Pros and Cons of this Design: This design can be time-consuming but comes together quickly, especially with smaller quilts. It looks like a more complex design that's not even complicated to achieve. If your nested seams aren't quite right, this design may be more difficult as you follow your rows.

Diagonals: A more simple idea with a walking foot is to quilt diagonal lines through your blocks. This can be done in just one direction or both to create X's. If your blocks are fairly small, you can definitely eyeball this. Begin on one side of your quilt. Keep a mental line going from the center of your walking foot that leads down to the center of your block and follow it. If you're not confident in your eye-balling skills, use the tools mentioned here to achieve ultra-straight lines!

Pros and Cons of this Design: This simple design creates a unique aesthetic to your quilt! It's also pretty quick if you're in a hurry. The only con would be if you choose to use a marker it may be more time-consuming. Also, if your nested seams aren't together well (or close) you may be drawing attention to them with this design. If this is the case, I would gravitate towards a wavy line design!

Straight-Line Quilting: Definitely a classic! We can use our walking foot to create simple, straight lines. Some walking feet come with an arm attachment that extends out from your foot. It can be used to follow along your previously quilted line at a pre-measured length. My walking foot does not have this accessory, so I use the end of my walking foot as a guide. I line the edge of my walking foot up with my previously stitched line and create rows down my quilt. Don't forget to backstitch when you start and stop each row.

Pros and Cons of this Design: This can be very time-consuming, especially with bigger quilts! If you're a perfectionist, this may not be the design for you, because it can be difficult to get each row EXACTLY the same. Over the grand scheme of things and unless you're looking closely, you never really notice the minor differences between rows. This design really gives structure and excitement to a simple quilt design!

Amazon has some helpful tools if this sounds like your thing.

A herra marker has a nice edge that you can use to create creases in your quilt. These are not permanent and disappear. Use your quilting ruler to mark out lines that you'd like to quilt. I've used this for both straight lines and diamond designs and it works wonderfully. You can also use a water-soluble marker to pre-mark your lines. The Mark-B-Gone is my favorite! These lines easily erase with a water spray bottle. You can even use a little baking soda in your water mixture.

Walking Foot Waves: Building off the last design, let's talk about waves! While I know the idea of a walking foot is to create straight lines, you can still use it to get a little wavy. Much like the straight line design, we will create lines from one edge of the quilt to the other. As your quilt feeds through your machine, gently move it from side to side. You can create waves that all look the same and echo each other, or choose to make them more random and free-flowing. You can even let them cross over the previous line. Don't forget to backstitch at the beginning and end of each row.

Pros and Cons of this Design: This design is great if you want to be creative! I love the free-flowing idea and each line is unique. It also comes together pretty quickly. I can't really think of any cons for this design!

I decided to use the waves example for my quilts! I love the movement it creates. It was also a quick option when I was pretty short on time. I chose to let each line be free-flowing with no rhyme or reason.

Tips on Quilting Bigger Quilts

Now may be the perfect time to share some tips on how to quilt bigger quilts. They can be frustrating, especially because of their size. They get caught and drag, making it difficult to quilt sometimes. I've compiled a quick list of tips!

  1. Take your time. Working with a bigger quilt can be challenging and also tiring. Readjust your quilt so that it doesn’t get heavy and drag. You can try quilting on a bigger table or set up a small table next to you to carry some of the weight of the quilt. Throw one end of the quilt over your shoulder or whatever you need to do to keep it easily feeding through your machine. This will help keep your stitches consistent.

  2. Use quilting gloves. It really helps to grip your quilt, big or small. Since your hands tend to be slippery against quilting fabric, the gripping dots on quilting gloves really makes moving a bigger quilt around easier.

  3. If you’re working with a smaller machine, keep your quilt neatly rolled up inside the throat space of your machine as you quilt.

  4. Don’t get discouraged if you see things aren’t going quite as planned. For example, your stitches aren’t looking great or maybe you messed up. I promise, in the grand scheme of things YOU CAN'T TELL. No one is going to be knit picking this quilt. They’ll be so amazed they won’t even notice any quilting errors, unless you tell them, so don’t.

  5. Be consistent. This helps to cover up mistakes. People are much more likely to notice big gaps in quilting before a crooked line or missed stitch. Make sure your lines are consistently far apart.

  6. Finish it. Seriously. Don’t stop! Just keep sewing.

Join me for Part Six as we take an introductory look into free-motion quilting! While we are only covering a small number of new designs compared to this week, the world is your oyster! You are free to create whatever designs you choose while free-motion moving.

See you for Part Six!


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