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« Shooting Heather Ross's Book at Melanie's House | Main | Gertie at STC Craft: A Stitch-Along! »

Stitch Magic Stitch-Along: Quilting

Welcome to the first week of the Stitch Magic Stitch-Along! This week's theme is quilting, which begins on page 70 of the book Stitch Magic by Alison Reid. The book shows you several examples of hand and machine quilting and incorporates them into inspiring projects like a beautiful chair cushion and adorable egg cozies.

Here, I've taken the author's methods and practiced some of them exactly as written (like diamond quilting and tuft quilting with scraps), and also devised a few of my own exercises, like channel stitching and zigzag quilting, two techniques often used in clothing. If you’re a garment sewer like me, it’s tempting to write quilting off and never learn to do it! But quilted effects are not only great for home décor, they’re a staple of modern designer garments and vintage pieces alike. (See my quilted garment inspiration post for lots of ideas on how to incorporate quilting into fashion sewing.)

Now, on to the techniques! First you’ll need to prep your fabric squares. (If you'd like to read up on the prep process, Stitch Magic goes into a lot of detail on pages 74-75). Start by cutting eight 10” squares of muslin or other cotton fabric. Pink the edges so they don’t fray.

Now cut four 10” squares of your thin cotton batting. Sandwich the batting squares between two pieces of your cotton fabric and pin to secure. Now we’re going to hand baste the layers together so they don’t shift when we quilt them. Thread a needle with a single strand of all-purpose sewing thread. Start by making big diagonal running stitches from one upper corner to a lower corner. Repeat these lines of stitches in regular intervals. Now, do the same thing in the other direction. I used a different color thread so you can see my second direction of basting. As you can see, neatness doesn’t really count here! These are temporary stitches.


Now we’re ready to quilt! We’re going to start with some simple channel-stitching and diagonal quilting by hand. Prepare your square by marking it with a disappearing ink pen or some other removeable chalk. On the upper half of the square, draw about 7 parallel lines ¼” away from each other. On the bottom half of the square, make a 1” grid of diagonal lines. 

Now we’re ready to try some channel stitching. This just means simple rows of stitching ¼” away from each other. (I’ve been in love with channel stitching ever since I saw it on a beautiful Diane Von Furstenberg dress a couple years ago. It was a glorious bright red wool jersey with a full circle skirt and a wide midriff band with channel stitching.) Load a large-eye needle with some embroidery thread and make a running straight stitch across your lines. Here's what the running stitch looks like in process.


Now make the running stitch along your marked lines. Try to make your stitches as even as possible. Experiment with different effects by using fewer strands of embroidery floss. I started with 6 and then split the thread down to 3, 2, and 1 strands as I went up my lines. It gave a cool pseudo-ombre effect.


You can mark the back of your sample with the thread used (or any other notes) to remind yourself!

 Now for the diagonal quilting. Again, we’re just using a simple running stitch, but this time we’re quilting along our diagonal lines. I used 6 strands of embroidery floss for all of my lines here, but played around with two different colors to achieve an argyle effect.


Isn’t your sample pretty? 


Next, you can try the exact same exercise with machine quilting. I used regular all-purpose thread in my machine and used a 3.5mm straight stitch and a straight stitch presser foot. Make sure that you smooth out the square as you quilt to avoid puckers. 


Now you can play around with different patterns if you like. I was eager to try some zigzag quilting. I drew one big zigzag on the upper half of a new square. Then I quilted the line by machine (you can do it by hand if you prefer). Next, I used the edge of my presser foot to make ¼” lines that echoed the first zigzag. 


I found it a little difficult to get perfect lines using my presser foot edge, so  next I did a ½” zigzag pattern, making each line with disappearing ink before quilting. 

This is my favorite sample I think! I would love to make an entire circle skirt quilted in this pattern.

Last, you can try a fun effect that incorporates tiny fabric scraps and tufts made by tying off embroidery thread. Start by cutting small squares of two different fabrics, one a bit bigger than the other. I did my tiny squares in blue ultrasuede and my slightly bigger squares in a cotton print. 


Layer the squares on top of each other and arrange them on your fabric square. Load a needle with embroidery thread and stitch down and back up through each square. Tie the embroidery thread in a knot and cut it off at about ¼” for cute little tufts. 

 This would be really cute on a pillow, don't you think?

That’s it for this week, stitch-alongers. Next week we’ll be doing pintucks, which we’ll also do both by hand and machine. I’ll also discuss the pintuck presser foot and twin needles.

Happy stitching!

Reader Comments (16)

Oh, I love the zig zag one best, too! There is a simple 20s mandarin collar coat pattern VPLL has, that even has template for diamond quilting right on it, and it's been in my mind the last year I'd really like to learn to do this as would be such a lovely feature on that coat. Thanks for the stitch-along, get me headed in the right direction in time for coat season!

July 27, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterHillary

This is the most timely post ever! I've got a couple of robe patterns - or housecoats and have been wondering how I could quilt them to make the robe thicker and warmer. I knew Google wouldn't be able help me much because it would only bring up quilting quilts! ;-)

Since I wouldn't want my fabric to be too stiff - do you think only a couple of thinner layers of batting would help keep the drape of my fabric more manageable?
And do you think it would look good with seersucker???
Not that I have many chances of finding any seersucker in such quantaties as needed for a housecoat!

July 27, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterEsz

When I machine quilt, I normally use a walking foot with a wider stitch length. That way the fabric don't pucker too much.

July 27, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterBarbara J

I love the channel quilting, and it's given me so many ideas already! The batting is the perfect weight - thick enough to add texture but not thick enough to add a lot of bulk. I can see this as a detail on a dress or jacket yoke, or a skirt waistband, and definitely on a nice wide midriff. Gorgeous!

Question: would you cut the garment pieces and then do the quilting, or would you quilt a larger piece of fabric and then cut the pattern pieces from it?

And the tufts are the cutest thing ever, I want to use it for something unusual, like... a book cover maybe? Must give it some thought.

July 28, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterKathy

VERY informative! I'm glad I stumbled across this! Can't wait for the pintucking!

July 28, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterPadme Jones

Loved the stitch-along. All the techniques are great and the instructions are very clear! My favorite is the tufting in the last segment. I'm tufting away!!
Thanks, Gertie

July 28, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterPaula

So cool! I just started quilting last year and this gives me ideas for garments and other home decor. If people have a walking foot attachment for their machines, it will help the "sandwich" all go through evenly when sewn.

July 28, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterAndreaK

This is such perfect timing for me! I just ordered some fabric to make a circle skirt, and have been dying to add a quilting detail along the hem. Now I finally have the kick-start to get me learning how to do it. (Since like most garment-inclined sewers, I have pretty much skipped the whole quilting thing. Despite drooling over many vintage garments that feature quilting!) Can't wait to cut out my muslin and get my samples made up!

July 28, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterCasey

This is so inspiring! I used felt instead of batting because I wanted just a little bit of "puff" and my batting was too thick. I made a needle case (pictures soon). I have a free motion foot so I made the lines squiggly and free. I'm going to try the tuft fabric idea as well - usually I wouldn't be caught dead leaving frayed edges like that but I am intrigued! I want to make a bag for storing sewing supplies and maybe a cool pillowcase as well. So much fun packed into one post! Off I go to make something! Thanks, Gertie and way to go!

July 28, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterKeren Duchan

To Barbara: Yes, do the quilting before cutting out your pattern piece. The quilting will "shrink" your fabric a bit. (You can rough cut fabric and batting a few inches larger than your pattern pieces so that you aren't struggling to quilt yardage.)

And I will second Esz who suggested using a walking foot if you have one.


July 28, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterCatholic Bibliophagist

Hi Stitchers! Glad you enjoyed the post. I just put up a post on my blog with more details on how to incorporate quilting in your garment sewing (including cutting, darts, etc), so come by if you have questions about that.

Hillary, you can use flannel as batting if you don't want too much loft. Seersucker already has a lot of texture, so keep that in mind when choosing a fabric. Good luck with your housecoat!

July 28, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterGertie

Thank you for this tutorial, Gertie! I agree; that green zigzag quilting is adorable. I'm looking forward to your next posts!

July 28, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterAbby

Esz: I would think seersucker might have enough of its own texture that all the work you put into quilting would be visually lost. Depends on what effect you are going for.

Kathy: I had the same question with regards to quilting a larger piece, then cutting, with an additional idea: before cutting out, should the quilted piece be pre-washed/dried a number of times so shrinkage is all done before fitting?

My daughter (not quite 8 years old) is planning a large-block quilt. I think I see tufting in her future!

July 28, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterAngie

Thanks for all the answers on the seersucker - Probably best to choose a fabric that isn't so textured then. And flannel is a good idea - I can imagine this housecoat will take up LOTS of fabric. Must start gathering all the bits and pieces for it. :-D

July 28, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterEsz

I just finished my sample. I did some quilting of applique flowers and used the free-motion quilting foot on my machine, too. It was all super-fun. I am going to wash the sample up now to see if it all 'puffs' a bit more. I put all my work on one small rectangle so my seven year-old daughter could grab it for her dolls. I am not really sure how I will put this into my garments, but I definitely see a cool belt in my future....

Thanks for the fun stitch-a-long!!

July 29, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterLucy Mae

I've been quilting for -- well, too long for me to happily admit, and I vividly remember a wonderful set of quilted silk pajamas my mom had that she wore -- well, it sounds crazy, but she wore those gorgeously glamorous p.j.s around the campfire when we went camping (p.s. they looked a lot like a hapi coat and pant version of the gorgeous black vintage zig-zag quilted skirt Gertie showed). In other words, I tend to associate quilting with warmth.

The problem with translating the kind of quilting I do into making quilts that are wonderful garments is that I also associate weather that's cold enough for me to want those extra layers with weather that has the potential to be rainy, snowy, or all sorts of combinations of the above that will actually make cottons dangerously unsuited to the elements (doubt me? try dampening your t-shirt on a hot day, then shudder at what that could do to you if temps were near freezing).

That's the reason the black silk skirt (and mom's silk pajamas) made such sense. Protein fibers like silk and wool behave completely differently than cellulose fibers like cotton and linen when it's cold and there's a hint of moisture in the air.

So, just as a pipe dream, imagine how glorious your housecoat would be, Abby, if you made it out of silk with, say, a layer of wool flannel as batting (note bene: I won't even pretend it would be cheap! -- but wouldn't it be a glorious thing?!?). Similarly, a circle skirt out of wool would be gorgeous on a chilly day (maybe in red?), and nothing withstands rain, sleet, or snow as well as wool.

Where I live, I only have to contend with the rain part of the equation, but I'm already dreaming of a skirt that incorporates quilting with a bit of crewel embroidery. I'm thinking of a grid pattern, with maybe different small motifs here and there across the grid. Now if I can only convince myself to move it out of the dream stage and into "I'm going to make that territory" -- cause I think the current dream would be just gorgeous!

July 30, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterKaren

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