Recently, I have been seeing amazing quilts that have words quilted into them. This is such a great way to give a quilt a personal touch with out it being over the top. I also love the idea of secret messages being quilted into a project!
There are several amazing inspirations on using free-motion quilting to quilt words. As always, I am completely in awe with the quilting of Angela Walters. In this quilt used to promote Tula Pink’s Parisville Fabric line, she quilted the word Parisville into the quilt on the bottom of an amazing ship. This quilt is so stunning! The lettering stands out so well because it is big and blocky and the quilting around it is super super dense.
Then I saw this quilt by the uber-talented Jacquie Gering called Building Bridges:. I love how she has added meaning and interest to this quilt by using words with out it being over the top. This quilt is a bit different from the technique that I decided to use, Jacquie used straight-line quilting and stopped and started at all of the right places to make words. I used to technique that Angela Walters used in the Parisville quilt and free-motioned quilted around words.
I am so excited with how this turned out! I have been wanting to try this for a while, and it was so easy that I should have done it a while ago!
First, lets collect our materials.
1.) Something to quilt. An already completed quilt top, or any fabric of your choice to go for a whole-cloth style. I used a fat-quarter that was not pieced.
2.) Backing fabric (an appropriate size for your quilt, I used a fat quarter)
3.) Batting- I love Quilters Dream.
4.) Lots of thread that blends in with the quilt top. Free-motion quilting is a thread hog. I used about 250 meters in this little pillow!
5.) Safety pins or spray adhesive for basting.
6.) Free motion quilting foot- this is the essential tool for free motion quilting. Sometimes it is called a darning foot.
7.) Supreme-Sliders (optional). This is an optional tool that really helps! These are sheets that have a sticky layer on one side to stick to your machine and the top is a Teflon material. It creates practically no friction between the bottom of the quilt and the machine so there is no resistance when you quilt! It is especially nice when you have a huge quilt to drag round your machine.
8.) A removable fabric pen.
The top fabric can be whatever dimensions you want! You can use any top that you want, but I caution against it being too busy or all of your amazing quilting would be disguised by the piecing. I used a “whole cloth” approach to make this simple quilt top. I picked some of my favorite fabric (Carrie Bloomstead’s Collage line, which has made several appearances already on our blog and website, but we all love it so much that we aren’t sick of it yet!) and simply cut a piece that was 12.2 inches by 18.5 inches. A fat quarter would work well for this. Be creative, this can be used as a baby-quilt, a pillow, a placemat, whatever! I decided to make a pillow, so my top fabric was 12.5 inches by 18.5 inches. Just make sure that your project isn’t super small (this technique probably wouldn’t work well on pot-holders for instance).
Next, its time to mark the word that you want to quilt. I going to quilt the name “Hart’s” so I will write that word on my quilt. The tricky part about this is that I will not be quilting in the letters! That is how they will stick out, they will actually be un-quilted. I used a fabric marker and wrote the letters in a big block format. Be creative here and make any style letters that you would like. The important thing is to make sure that they are big and blocky, anything too thin will be hard to see.
Now lets cut the bottom fabric and the batting.
Cut the backing fabric that is 2 inches larger on all sides than your top fabric (so my backing fabric was 16.5 inches by 22.5 inches because 12.5+2+2=16.5 and 18.5+2+2 is 22.5 inches). Cut TWO pieces of batting that are one inch bigger on all sides than your top (so my two batting pieces were 14.5 inches by 20.5 inches). The extra batting and backing will be cut off in the end, so these don’t have to be super precise measurements. The idea is that the batting is bigger than the top and the bottom is bigger than both the top and the batting.
Baste the layers together with your favorite basting method. If you need a refresher, check out our pin-basting tutorial (http://blog.hartsfabric.com/2013/07/22/quilt-pin-basting-tutorial/). I used two layers of batting to make the word a little more obvious. The extra layer of batting makes it a little bit trickier, so be sure to use lots of pins.
OK! Now lets set up the sewing machine for free motion quilting. Here are the steps:
1.) Drop your feed-dogs if your machine has that capability. If it doesn’t, then that is OK! Just put masking tape over the feed dogs which will essentially de-activate them.
2.) Put on your free-motion quilting foot. To do this you need to remove the normal attachment and make sure that the bar on top of the spring of the free-motion foot is above the bar of the sewing machine. It should look like this:
3.) Load your bobbin.
4.) Put the supreme slider on the base of the machine.
5.) If possible, set your machine’s stitch length to 0. When free motion quilting, you will be the “stitch length regulator” so you don’t want your machine to do this also.
6.) If your machine has a needle down feature, now is a good time to use it. Otherwise, just remember to crank your needle to the down position every time you stop.
OK! Finally! It is time to quilt! My favorite part.
You can pick any dense free-motion quilting style that you would like. I picked bubble/pebble quilting. There are lots and lots of great free motion designs in Angela Walter’s book called Free-Motion Quilting. This book made me want to really perfect my FMQ, check it out! You can do swirls, a dense meandering stitch, paisley, really anything that is dense. For pebbles, I will just be quilting in little tiny circles, sometimes going around a circle more than once.
The idea behind free motion quilting is that you doodle with thread. If you can doodle it, then you can FMQ it! The first thing that I did was outline the letters with thread. The quilting should be dense enough that this isn’t very obvious, but I like having a little extra definition. It is also good FMQ practice. Start on one letter, and move the fabric underneath the needle while trying to go at a constant speed with the foot petal. I find that beginners frequently don’t go fast enough. You do not want your stitches to be huge, so make sure that you have a decent amount of speed with your foot petal. With FMQ, there are two things that regulate the stitch length- speed of the foot petal and the speed at which you move the fabric. It takes a while to get used to, but once you get it, it is easy! Practice on some scrap fabric and batting if this is your first time Free Motion Quilting. Instead of starting and stopping each time a letter is finished or you have to move your needle, just quilt a line from one point to the other. It might be very obvious now, but once it is quilted, I promise that you won’t see the line.
Once the letters are outlined, it is time to add the pebble quilting (or dense FMQ design of your choice). For pebbles, just make tiny circles. To travel from one circle to another, just follow your first stitch line. Pebbles look good when some of the circles have been traced twice. I like to doodle a design with pen and paper before I quilt it. For more information, check out Angela Walter’s book. Now, have good music on and just keep going, and going and going… Remember that FMQ is very forgiving if you use a thread that blends in well with the top. The goal here is to add texture, not color. The quilt top will be the first thing that you see, the quilting is just to add interest and texture. Remember to be easy on yourself, little mistakes will not be visible!
If you have letters that have a hole in them like “a” or “b” or “e”, etc, then you will need to stop outside the level, make a little knot by stitching some tight stitches and then going backwards over those same stitches and cutting the thread tightly. Then, raise the needle, position the fabric under the interior of the letter and quilt again, making another knot when you are finished.
Quilting pebbles gives a great texture, but it takes a while. As you can see, I quilted pebbles around the letters and then switched to a less dense and quicker style (loop-de-loops) further from the letters.
Here is a picture of the back of my project. I used a contrasting color so the quilting really sticks out:
Trim the backing and batting to be the same dimension as the top and you are finished! You can bind it if it will be a quilt or sew it into a pillow (check out our super easy envelope pillow tutorial here).
That’s it! I hope that you had fun and realized how easy free motion quilting is! Leave comments if you have any questions.