Wednesday, June 20, 2012

{Zig Zag Quilt Along}: Quilting Your Quilt

Ok... Are ya'll ready for what I think is the biggest part of the quilting process??? The actual quilting of the quilt. It isn't hard- it's just a lot of prepping and it can be tricky at parts dealing with the bulk of your quilt while sewing... but I am hoping that I can help guide you all through this process and that everyone will come out unscathed! ;)

Like I have said all throughout this quilt-a-long... I am not an expert! So the way I quilted my quilt is just one of many options you have when quilting YOUR quilt. So keep this in mind.

If this part of the quilt along freaks you out- there are totally places that will do this step for you. It just costs money, and due to how fabric is, I have always just done this part myself to save on the overall cost of my quilts.

 Ok... So to start, we need to piece our quilt back together. You should have cut your fabric back at the beginning, so take out those two large strips of fabric. (if you haven't cut this part yet, refer back to this post)

Step 1:Lay your two strips of fabric right sides together (make sure that the grain/pattern of the fabric is going in the correct directions) pin and sew. Press open the seams and iron all the wrinkles out of the fabric. Lay flat on the ground wrong side facing up.

Now for this next part- these two types of pins are a life saver for me. The ones on the left are called T-Pins and the ones on the right are curved safety pins. Here is what I use them for. Once I lay my quilt backing out on the floor, I smooth it all out and then I use the t-pins and I put them at all four corners and every so often on the sides and I pin them straight down into my carpet. This keeps my backing from shifting while I am creating what is called the "quilt sandwich" (which is just the 3 layers of the quilt- backing, batting, and quilt top pinned together). I will get to the curved safety pins in a minute. 
-if you lay your quilt out on a smooth surface such as a wood floor or something, obviously you are not going to have the option of putting a pin straight down into the floor- for this you can just use masking tape and secure your backing to the floor with the tape for these next steps.

Step 2: So pin your quilt backing down. Once it is secure, roll out your quilt batting. (I used a pre packaged twin size since I had it on hand but you can buy batting by the yard) Your batting may be larger than the quilt backing- if it is, no worries, you can trim it down in a minute.

Step 3: Once your batting is all smoothed out so there are no wrinkles, lay your quilt top down and smooth it flat. (p.s.- you may or may not need to iron your quilt top before laying it out depending on if there are wrinkles in it.) Once your quilt top is laid out, you may trim off any excess batting there is. Just be sure to leave an inch or two (or more if you would like) all the way around the quilt top in case of shifting during the quilting process.

Once I have my 3 layers laid out, I usually remove the t-pins carefully from the bottom layer and put it in the same place, but through all 3 layers this time to secure them while I pin for this next step. Again- if you are on a hard surface you can use tape.

Step 4: This is the step where the curved safety pins come into play.... Now that your quilt is all laid out totally flat, you need to pin every few inches to keep the layers together while you are quilting the quilt. I just put a pin in the middle of each triangle and then every few inches on the borders spaced out evenly to hold the layer in place good.
{I like to use curved safety pins because they are super easy to work with, but a lot of quilters use regular safety pins. I like to use the large (size 2) curved pins, but some quilters say not to use these... so it is all just about personal preference and what works for you. I bought mine at Joann's and I have over 150 of them so it is a bit of an investment... I buy them with 50% off coupons so they aren't too bad, but check around online too to see if you can find any deals.}

Be sure not to skimp on the pinning... You will be hating life if your quilt isn't properly pinned once you start to quilting it.
Once you are all pinned, remove the t-pins or tape from the floor and you are ready to start quilting. As you are quilting, you just remove the pins as you go.

Like I mentioned... there are so many options for quilting this quilt. You can use straight line quilting with just your regular presser foot. You can use a walking foot to quilt straight lines. You can use a free motion quilting foot to do any curvy lines you would like. The options are endless. Here is a great resource for anyone that wants to try out Free Motion Quilting.
For my quilt I used a combination of straight line quilting with my machine (just my regular presser foot) and I added some hand quilting to give it that extra special touch... I will show you how I did mine.

Step 5: Quilting the zig zags.

I like to stop and start with my thread the least amount possible- so for mine, I started on one side of the quilt and I went down a seam of the zig zag (using the edge of my presser foot to line up along the zig zag seam as I went), then when I got to the bottom of the zig zag, I turned the quilt and went up the other side of the seam. Then once I got back up to the top, I went straight across the top of the row and went down the next seam of the zig zag, back up the other side of the seam and across the row until I had made my way all of the way across the quilt top without stopping. (I may have had to stop once due to running out of thread- can't remember. But I just started where I had left off again.)

Now- let me warn you. According to quilting guidelines that I have read- you should always start by quilting your quilt in the middle so that you don't have any puckers or any bunching of fabric... But since I went from once side and worked across the quilt I didn't have a problem with it. Just as long as your quilt is pinned really well and you try to make sure everything is smoothed out as you are quilting you should be fine. But really- just do whatever feels good for you.

I hope this makes sense. Here is a picture close up that shows how I sewed along the seams.

A good way to handle the bulk of the quilt while you are working on quilting an area, is to roll it up to where you are working so you don't have to try to feed a big wad through the neck of your machine.

Step 6: Once I had sewn the zig zags with my machine, I started in the small sashing and went around and around with my needle set to the far side of the presser foot and just did row after row of stitching until the entire small sashing was filled up with neat rows of stitches. (same thing here... start in one place on the inside of the square border and just go around and around without stopping until you are finished)

Step 7: For the large sashing, I used something called a hera marker to mark a line in the middle of the sashing all the way around the quilt border so I could use it as a guide for sewing. (I have a picture of how to do this in an upcoming step- sorry I didn't show it here- just scroll down a bit to see the picture of how to do it)

Here is the line marked with the hera marker.

Once I had my line marked, I sewed two lines all the way around the quilt.

So that is all of the quilting that I did with my machine...For the remainder of the quilt, I hand quilted it.

Ok... here is the hera marker I was mentioning. It is a little tool that creates a creased line in your fabric so you can use it as a guide to sew straight. It is super easy to use. It only works if you lay your quilt on a hard surface (so I slip my cutting mat underneath the area I am working on)
You take your straight edge and line it up where you want your line to be and then you use the edge of the hera marker and run it firmly along the edge of the straight edge and it creates a line for you.

Pretty nifty huh??

So I used my hera marker and I created a line in the middle of each zig zagged row so that I could use it as a guide for my hand quilting.

For my hand quilting, I used a large embroidery hoop, a quilting needle (they are called quilters betweens- they are short and sturdy), and then I used size 5 DMC pearl cotton floss.

I love Ana Maria Horner's blog... She is so great at hand quilting! Here is an awesome post that answers a lot of questions about hand quilting if you are new to it... She also has an awesome tutorial on hand quilting as well- which is where I learned how to do it. If you have never hand quilted before- definitely refer to her tutorial because mine is just going to be pretty basic.

Ok.. So to start, you need to tie a knot in your thread. I learned a really easy way to do a knot and I am loving it. Here is the tutorial... Just keep in mind that the tutorial is using regular thread so you won't need to wrap the thread around your needle so many times if you use the size 5 floss like I did since it is so thick.

Once your knot is tied, insert your needle into the top two layers of your quilt (but not all the way through to the backing of the quilt) about a 1/2-1 inch away from where you want the stitch to start. Poke your needle up to the beginning point of the stitch and the pull your thread until the knot pops through the fabric and embeds itself in the batting. Then you are good to do your stitching... Again- if this seems vague- refer to the tutorial that I learned from and it is a lot more in depth.

To finish the stitching, get to the last stitch and tie a knot and then you are going to basically do the same thing, but backwards- if that makes sense. You will put your needle into the top 2 layers and have if come out 1/2- 1 inch away from the ending point and pull the knot through the fabric so it can embed into the batting and trim the thread that is coming out. (Refer to the tutorial I learned from if this doesn't make sense)

I did this for each of the zig zag rows.

Now for the hand quilting I did around the border, I did a brown stitch in between the two rows I had sewn with my machine and then did a yellow stitch on each side of the rows sewn with my machine. I just did the 3 threads at the same time so I only went around the quilt once instead of going around 3 different times with the different rows.

This is how it looked when it was all done.

Here is how the back of the quilt looked when I was all done with my quilting. (I took this before I had hand stitched the 3 rows in the border) I love how the back turned out!! So fun!

So hopefully the way I quilted my quilt gives you an idea or two on how you would like to quilt yours. The options are endless! I can't wait to see what you all do! Be sure to leave comments with any ideas you may have to inspire others quilting along with us!

And as always, a HUGE thank you to our sponsor The Ribbon Retreat!
Remember that all Mommy by day Crafter by night readers get 10% off on all orders... use the code Mommy10 at checkout!

Have fun quilting this week and we will see you back here next Wednesday for the final step of our quilt: The Binding!! :)


  1. Wow. This is beautiful!!! I love the fabric {color} choices.

  2. That is gorgeous! Can't wait to get started! What type and size of needle did you use for the handstitching?

    Jill @ Create.Craft.Love.

  3. In your opinion, is it worth it to purchase a walking foot to do the quilting? I've never worked with one. I have "quilted" blankets with multiple layers successfully with a regular foot but the layers get pretty wonky. I assume you prefer to quilt with a regular foot since you did this quilt with one, but would a walking foot make it any easier?

    1. I have used a walking foot and it worked well, but with my machine it said not to sew on the fastest setting so I felt like it was taking a lot longer so I switchied to my regular foot and I prefer that. Might have just been my machine though? The walking foot does grabs the top layer and helps feed it through so if you are having trouble getting the layers to feed through good I would try a walking foot.

  4. I am loving your quilt along! I only wish I didn't have so much going on that I could be participating along with everyone. Once things settle down some I WILL be making myself a zig-zag quilt :-)

  5. Your quilting looks great! I love the mix of hand quilting and machine quilting. I just discovered the hera marker (from watching Sew it All). I haven't picked one up yet, but it looks like I REALLY need one. :-)

  6. Is anyone else having problems with this step? I feel like my quilt is HUGE- I bought a double sized batting and had to use almost the whole thing. I wasn't too concerned- I got it all pinned without a problem, but I don't feel like I am quilting correctly. I can barely make the turns for the zig zags and my stitches are all over the place! Is this normal or am I doing something wrong?

  7. I haven't done a quilt yet but I'm saving your tips for when I do. Thanks!!


Thanks for taking the time to comment. I honestly love reading every single one! If you have a question you would like answered- be sure to include your email so that I can get back to you!

Thanks so much for stopping by! Have a great day!
xoxo, Ashley