We are talking about quilting on this last Sewing Diary entry. As most of you know, this blog doesn’t talk about quilting as much as I’d like it to! I’ve got grand plans for at least 7 different stacks of coordinated fabric in my stash – and those are only the ones I can think of off the top of my head! Of course, my first love is quick projects and apparel. But I have actually finished the occasional quilt, and will always own a machine with the capability to make quilted projects.

Today I’m sharing tips I’ve found helpful as I learn about piecing and quilting, link to some great quilty tutorials and I’m even going to share a potentially embarrassing mug rug I made. Yikes – taking “professional” photos of something I’m not terribly proud of is hard! #perfectionisoverrated?

Before we head into the post, here’s a re-cap of the Sewing Diaries posts, since, amazingly we are already at week 6 of 6! Each post covers a different topic, by the end you should now know your sewing machine inside and out! Plus I hope you’ve found a few tips and tricks on how to make it sew what you want like a pro.

Week 1: Unboxing Your New Machine Part 1/Part 2 ~ Week 2: Closures ~ Week 3: Heavy/Uncommon FabricsWeek 4: Knits (without a serger!) ~ Week 5: Embellishing your Projects (ie. Stitches and Machine Feet) ~ Week 6: Quilting/Piecing (today’s post!)

Disclaimer: A Skyline S7 has been loaned to me for the purpose of writing this series.  As with all products I write about, I will always tell you my own honest opinion. I purchased and loved Janome machines long before they contacted me. Janome has not asked me to qualify my opinions in any way. Also, the fabric for this post was given to me by Fabric Spark. Thank you for supporting my sponsors!

Today’s main project is “the Herringbone Runner” – a table runner pattern from Carolyn Friedlander – in Carolyn Friedlander-designed fabric no less! The selection of fabrics are from her last few collections and were provided by my lovely sponsor, Fabric Spark. They have also put together kits for this runner so you can make one too! Her well-curated collection is always amazing to browse through, I know you’ll find something you love.

These fabrics play so well together and I’m really pleased with how the table runner turned out. It was a surprisingly fast project – about 6-7 hours. Four of those for the paper piecing alone, but not because it was hard, but because I was thinking way too much about making sure the colours were evenly distributed. My brain likes everything to be super symmetrical, so this was a stretch for me! The pattern includes a really great explanation of how to paper-piece and I love how precise the final product is.

This leads to my first quilting tip: Remember, sewing is your hobby. If it’s not fun, don’t do it! Don’t get hung up worrying about quilt police. Make something you love, following the way you want to do it and it will be perfect! Of course, like anything, if you want to be more knowledgeable about how to do your hobby that’s ok too. Here’s a great article I love from Sew Mama Sew about keeping your hobby fun.

Keeping all of this in mind, here are some important things you should know when learning about how your sewing machine handles piecing and quilting.

Check out your Feet:

Piecing a quilt can be done on any machine but you will need at least one type of special machine foot to quilt a project on your sewing machine. Take a look at the feet that came with your machine. If they are specific to quilting, look them up in the manual. Find out what they do so when you come across quilting lingo you know what it’s talking about!

The Skyline S7 is great for quilters with lots of extras including the AcuFeed Flex, several Free Motion Quilting Feet and a 1/4″ Piecing Foot. I have found that even basic Janome machines (my first SUV1122!) tend to come with an included Walking/Even foot, which is a huge bonus for beginners.

If you happen to have a Dual Feed option like the Skyline S7’s AcuFeed Flex (more about this foot in the Sewing Diaries: Week 4) or an Even/Walking Foot count yourself lucky! These feet are the key to producing an evenly sewn and quilted project. They move the top and bottom fabrics together, keeping all of the layers in line. When quilting, this lets you move the fabric around without accidentally creating  sewing wrinkles in the unseen underneath layer.

Check your Tension:

Tension is especially important when quilting your pieced project because a layer of batting adds a lot of extra thickness.  If you are using different spool and bobbin colours, it is especially important that the tension is set properly. The two threads need to cross in the middle of the quilt layers so they don’t show on the other side. I used cream bobbin thread to match the backing and multiple colours to match the top and the Skyline S7’s automatic tension did a great job. Find out about adjusting your tension in the Sewing Diaries: Week 3.

Have a perfect seam:

Find out how to sew with a super-precise 1/4″ seam allowance. This is so important! Without a precise seam you will not be able to follow most quilt patterns. A piecing foot comes in really handy for making sure you sew your seams accurately. The Sewing Loft has provided a great article about how to simply find your machine’s perfect 1/4″ seam.

Basting your Quilt:
I still find it tricky to figure out how to get large quilt layers straight and basted before quilting them. Generations Quilt Patterns has some great detailed information on how to Successfully Layer and Pin Baste Your Quilt. Of course if you don’t mind watching for the quilt police and your project is smaller you can use straight pins. I have had good luck doing this and am too cheap (so far) to buy curved quilting pins to make the process easier.
Machine Quilting

I generally tend to default to straight line quilting in my projects, just because it is simple and easy to do. Plus, there is little to no learning curve, which helps! Mark straight line on your project, attach a Dual Feed or Walking Foot and start sewing. If your machine happens to have a quilting guide bar attachment, even better. Mark one line on the quilt and follow your seams with the guide bar to continue sewing evenly placed lines. I used it on my table runner to help follow the herringbone lines with my quilting.

I also tried out the included knee bar while quilting as well. It’s works so well it’s disappointing that I sew standing up and can’t really use it properly. You would have laughed! I’m balanced on a bar-stool with my knee in the air working the thing. Great for my abs, though! And so easy to turn pivot at corners, move the bar to the right to lift the presser foot, turn the quilt, let go to release it and lower the foot again.

Free Motion Quilting

Here’s where I “show off” my lovely mug rug.

As you can see free motion is not as yet a skill I pull off easily! It does take practice, and the nice thing about the Skyline S7 is that it sets everything up automatically so a lot of the guess-work is taken out of the process.

Sew Mama Sew has some great Tips on Beginner Free Motion Quilting. One thing I’ve read that is not included in their list is to practice with a pencil and paper. I’ve found this really helpful when figuring out how to get the shape you want. Practice putting your pencil down on the paper and don’t lift it until the shape is finished, just like when your quilt is in the machine!

Clasp Stitches

I used a few of these automatic stitches on my mug rug to try them out. It’s like tying a quilt, only by machine. I can see this being really cute and a great alternative to all-over quilting. I like the star shape best, but couldn’t resist adding a snowflake or 3 since our “springy” April has been full of them!

Bind your project:
Ideally it is best to hand sew your quilt binding. And it does look nicer – but I usually don’t want to take the time to do it, so I machine bind my projects. So far I’ve been happy with the results, but I can see it being really relaxing to sit and hand-bind a quilt. I always use Cluck Cluck Sew’s Machine Binding tutorial. It is well explained and easy to follow.
I hope you have enjoyed the Janome Sewing Diaries series! I have (of course) been spoiled rotten using the amazing Janome SKyline S7. It really is a fantastic machine. Great for advanced sewers and beginners alike. If you have any questions about your machine, please let me know and I’d be happy to help find answers for you!

Happy Sewing!