What is Quilting?

* Quilting is the stitching which holds the three layers of the quilt 'sandwich' together while forming a decorative design. Quilting can be done either by hand or machine.

* Hand quilting is usually done in a quilting 'hoop' or on a quilting 'frame' using special needles, called 'betweens', and quilting thread. The stitches are usually executed with one hand; the other hand kept underneath the quilt to feel for the needle. A hand quilter prides his/herself on making small, uniform running stitches. It is more important, however, that the stitches be straight and uniform than they be tiny. Either way, these stitches must go through to the backing, preferably to be the same size on the bottom as on the top.

* Machine quilting is usually done on a regular sewing machine, using a 'walking foot' to help all the layers feed smoothly though the machine. 'Freehand' or 'free motion' quilting is done with a 'darning foot'. Machine quilters will often match the threads to the fabric that they're quilting. Invisible monofilament thread is used when matching is not possible.

* The design that is created by either method is visible as a 'shadow line'. Each method creates a different shadow line. Hand quilting yields a dotted, puckering line, while machine quilting, although faster, gives a straighter, finer line and a harsher look. Hand quilting seems softer and more dimensional than machine quilting. Each method has its advantages and disadvantages, in terms of speed and results, and its very vocal advocates.

Types of Quilting

1) Ditch: quilting very close to the seamline of a patch, block or border. Quilting 'in the ditch' is usually done on the 'low' side of the seamline (the side without the seam allowance) and is almost invisible:

Ditch quilting

2) Outline: quilting inside each patch, usually about 1/4" away from the seamline. This method avoids seam allowances and lends the most strength to the quilt:

Outline quilting

3) Motif: quilting that follows the lines of a design that is drawn onto the quilt top (e.g. feathers, bows, birds, hearts, wreaths, etc.):

Motif quilting

4) Accent: quilting that complements, rather than follows, existing seamlines:

Accent quilting

5) Selective: quilting only certain portions of a design to emphasize them:

Select quilting

6) Fill: quilting that fills in and flattens background or 'negative' space in the quilt top to make the primary design stand out. Some types of fill quilting are:

a) Echo: echoes the shapes of the patchwork or Appliqué with two or more lines of stitches spaced about 1/4" apart:

Echo quilting

b) Channel: quilting done in straight, parallel lines:

Channel quilting

c) Crosshatching: straight line quilting done in a grid pattern. This grid can be straight or diagonal and can form either squares or diamonds where the lines cross. Plaids are possible with creative spacing of the lines:

Crosshatch fill quilting

d) * Meandering: quilting done 'freehand' in random curved lines and swirls. This quilting does not follow any pattern but depends completely on the quilter's whim. Lines should not cross or touch each other:

e) Stippling: very closely spaced echo or meandering stitches meant to flatten down an area completely:

7) Allover: quilting that fills the entire top in a design that completely ignores the seamlines (e.g. clamshells, Baptist Fans, crosshatching, etc.):

Crosshatch quilting

* All of the above quilting types can be done either by hand or machine. However, meandering is most suited to freehand machine quilting with a darning foot.

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Page Last Modified on: 12/13/06
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