Quilting tips – continuing the learning curve

I spent much of Saturday and Sunday quilting together the layers of a lap quilt I’ve called ‘Wizard Diamonds’. So named because; 1. the pattern creates what could – at a stretch – be said to represent faceted diamonds; 2. someone likened the fabric colours to those seen at a Hogwarts Quidditch match – appropriate as I had been listening to Stephen Fry reading Harry Potter and the Half Blood Prince while I pieced the quilt top.

The diamond shapes and Quidditich colours of Wizard Diamonds

Anyway, back to the quilting… I took some photos as the quilting progressed with a view to sharing how I came to decide on the way to quilt this little project and the issues I encountered and learned from as I went along. It was a very dull wet day on Sunday so please bear with the use of flash in the following photos.

Two reasons for not free-motioning a meandering pattern across this quilt: 1. I still don’t feel confident enough to use fmq on a quilt that will be seen in public; 2.I wanted the quilt stitches to ‘go with’ the patchwork pattern, to be in harmony with it, even emphasise it rather than adding an unrelated pattern over the top. Using the same reasoning as in 2. I sought out several spools of thread to match the fabric colours.

I began by using the walking foot (idt system on my machine) with a mustard coloured thread to stitch in the ditch along the inner seam of the mustard border (I thought stitching this first would help stabilize the quilt sandwich, preventing puckers).I then stitched in the ditch in all the diagonal seams and around and across the centre diamonds which were formed of the mustard and magenta fabrics.

In the ditch quilting (a few out of the ditch stitches too!) across and around one of the centre diamonds.

I then switched to teal coloured thread and ditch stitched the diagonal seams and centre diamonds formed from the teal fabrics.

On a few occasions, as I was piecing the quilt top, I had experienced an optical illusion whereby the outer edges of the diamonds appeared to be curved (I suppose a bit like the curves created by the intersection of straight seams in a ‘Storm at Sea’ patchwork?). I decided to pursue that in the quilting and used a specialist technique called the ‘dinner plate method’ 😀 to mark curves on to the quilt top.

Using a dinner plate to mark curves on the quilt with a white Chaco marker.

Again I chose to use coloured threads to match the fabrics so the quilting created indented patterns on the fabrics without distracting from the patchwork pattern.

Quilting the curves with the walking foot was fairly straightforward (no pun intended!). The arc of the curves was large and the quilt itself a size that comfortably fitted through the throat of my machine. However, I couldn’t avoid the quilt top fabric being pushed around by the changing direction of the foot so there is some rippling, despite all the in the ditch, stablising stitches and the presence of basting pins.

Oh! I nearly forgot to mention the pin basting of this quilt top. For the first time I used a Kwik Klip tool to close the safety pins. Can’t recommend it enough! Easy to get the hang of and saved my finger tips and nails 🙂 (And, I promise no communication or money has changed hands between me and the tool’s manufacturers!).

Pin basting is a whole lot more comfortable with a Kwik Klip tool.

The final section of the quilt to be stitched was the wide outer border. Thoughts on this included: stitching a series of wavy lines along the length of each border – idea rejected as I felt the border needed a more formal quilt pattern to be in-keeping with the strong geometric patchwork; marking a formal border using a stencil – idea rejected as I didn’t fancy fiddling about getting a stencil pattern to fit along the borders and around the corners; using the ‘dinner plate method’ again – idea accepted because easy to mark and the curved lines would be both geometric and compliment the curved lines already stitched in the quilt centre.

I marked simple curves on the borders and stitched a straight line of stitches between each echoing the seam between the two borders. Hum! Again the nature of stitching a curved line with a walking foot definitely tugs the top fabric in all sorts of directions. I was having to keep a tight grip of the outer edge of the border fabric to stop it being pulled towards the centre of the quilt top as I stitched. Too late I realised I should have sewn ‘stay stitches’ around the edge of the border before quilting. Instead, I added the stay stitches once the quilting was done to help stop the binding distorting the top and creating wavy edges. This did help a lot. On reflection I should also have done a few more lines of quilting in the border to help draw-in the border fabric, again reducing the risk of the quilt edge not lying flat.

Stay stitches 1/8th inch inside the edge of the quilt top

The stay-stitches also helped when it came to trimming and squaring up the quilt prior to adding the binding. Having a border seam also helps in the trimming process. I use a 6½” x 24½” ruler to trim, lining up horizontal and vertical lines on the ruler with the inner border seams to act as consistent guides as I trim all the way round the quilt.


In conclusion my tips gained from quilting ‘Wizard Diamonds’ are:

  • Spend time looking at a quilt top – ask yourself, ‘Do the quilting lines need to echo the patchwork or add an entirely fresh pattern to the whole?’
  • Choose thread colours (and weight) with care, threads can add to/detract from the finished look of a quilt.
  • Pin basting is much more comfortable using a Kwik Klip tool!
  • Dinner plates make great templates!
  • Stay-stitching the outer edge of a quilt top is a worthwhile exercise.
‘Wizard Diamonds’ – first finish of 2017

Linking with Stephanie and Yvonne for Tips and Tutorials Tuesday.


6 thoughts on “Quilting tips – continuing the learning curve

  1. I always stay stitch the edges of my quilt sandwiches, but I have yet to figure out how to really choose quilting that compliments my tops. I’m a work in progress.

    • I’ve found going to local quilt shows is a great way to examine quilts up close and see the designs stitched on a wide variety of quilts. Generally it’s OK to take photos at local shows which I use to create a handy record of ideas and inspiration ☺

      • Yes, you are right, Allison! I have a lot of pics I can peruse for inspiration. They aren’t organized and I don’t like taking the time to go through them. Time is precious! Ha, ha! That statement is a two-edged sword, I know. If I took the time to think it through, I’d probably be happier with the results. 🙂

  2. Your quilting does a great job of emphasizing the piecing without being intrusive, and I love the curves you added. The quilt looks great! I sometimes forget to stay stitch the edges, but it does help so much. Thanks for sharing your tips!


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