Quilting Basics: A Guide To Basic Quilting Stitches

There are two types of quilting stitches and variations created by hand and by machine.

There are two different types of quilting. One is by hand, which is the traditional method still loved by many quilters today. This is slow, but the results are lovely, and nothing you can do by machine can top it. The other is by machine, which offers the advantages of accuracy and speed.

Here are stitches done by hand:

Regular rocking stitch: using a short very sturdy quilting needle creates this stitch. The needle comes straight down into all the layers of the quilt, and when it is barely through the bottom layer, the needle is "rocked" back up by tilting the needle eye end down toward the quilt top. This brings the sharp tip of the needle pointing up into the bottom fabric, and a small push brings the needle tip to the top of the quilt again. Your opposite hand is held underneath to help guide and control the fabric. This is repeated until 4 or 5 stitches are on the needle. It is then pushed completely through the fabric, and the quilting thread is pulled snugly. It is considered expert to have 15 tiny stitches or more to the inch. A thimble is needed to protect the finger pushing the eye end of the needle.

"Big" stitch: this stitch is very similar to the regular quilting stitch, but not rocked so much. The aim is to have even stitches, but larger, and not so many stitches. A thimble is need for this stitch also.

Practice very much affects the appearance of your stitches. It is a relaxing activity, and yet exciting to see the gorgeous results. Also, there is a huge amount of hand quilting patterns available.

Here are stitches done by machine:

Regular: this is a straight stitch, using quilting thread. It will go through all three quilt layers (pieced top, batting, and bottom fabric).

* It can "echo" the shape of part of the quilt block.

* Or "stitch in the ditch" which is stitching right into the area between two pieced parts of the block.

* It is useful for "continuous" quilting which is a design stitched by following a repeating pattern, such as ocean waves.

* By dropping the feed dogs, you can "free motion" quilt. Try this first in a "meandering" stitch, not planned, just sort of wandering around while stitching. Your machine will not be pulling the bottom fabric, so you will have to move the fabric while you stitch. Going slowly at first helps to learn this skill intensive stitch.

Not strictly a quilting stitch, but also used for appliqué:

Satin: this is a compact zig zag stitch, mostly used for securing the edges of the individual part of the block.

Rag Edge: this is an exciting new stitch in which you stitch very close to the edge, but leave a 1/8 inch unfinished edge to the piece. This will fray and look nicely "ragged", giving a whole new look to your quilt.

Buttonhole: this is also used to secure the edges of the individual pieces in your block. It will take a stitch into the piece, and then at right angles, a stitch along the edge. These two are repeated to create the whole stitch.

Machine quilting is exciting because you can complete projects quickly. There are some quilting purists who insist on hand quilting, but women are so busy now a days, machine quilting is becoming widely accepted as standard. There is a lot of practiced skills necessary to machine quilt nicely, and many women are looking into getting the home versions of quilting frames that can use your existing machine, and duplicate the effects of fine machine quilting.

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