Start Sim­ply With Walk­ing-Foot Quilt­ing

Learn how a walk­ing foot works and the best ways to use it.

Quilter's World - - News - BY DEBBY BROWN

Se­crets for suc­cess­ful ma­chine quilt­ing with a walk­ing foot.

Most quil­ters start their ma­chinequilt­ing jour­neys by us­ing their walk­ing foot to “just” stitch-in-thed­itch. Sadly, many are un­happy with the re­sults, and their ma­chinequilt­ing jour­neys are put on hold, some­times for­ever.

Stitch-in-the-Ditch Quilt­ing

Walk­ing-foot quilt­ing is more than stitch-in-the- ditch, though, and can be a great choice for beginner ma­chine quil­ters. A walk­ing foot works with the ma­chine’s feed dogs to feed the lay­ers of the quilt through the ma­chine as it stitches, min­i­miz­ing the chances of the lay­ers shift­ing and of quilt­ing puck­ers and pleats into the project.

The idea of stitch-in-the- ditch is to hide the stitch­ing in the seam lines so that the lay­ers of the quilt are held to­gether with­out the thread show­ing, but the trou­ble comes when quil­ters ac­tu­ally at­tempt to keep their stitches in­side of the ditch!

De­pend­ing upon how the quilt was de­signed, pieced and pressed, the seam al­lowances could be pressed in op­po­site di­rec­tions on dif­fer­ent sides of the block or they could switch di­rec­tions in the mid­dle of a sin­gle seam! Also, quil­ters might choose light thread to match the light fab­ric in the quilt, but the thread could con­trast boldly on the dark fab­ric.

I’ve heard many quil­ters say, “I can’t even stitch-in-the- ditch!” as if they can’t com­plete the eas­i­est type of ma­chine quilt­ing, when the op­po­site is true. Stitch­ing in the ditch is harder than you want it to be, but don’t dis­may! There are far eas­ier ways to use your walk­ing foot to com­plete your quilts than stitch-in-the- ditch. When I want to quilt sim­ply with a walk­ing foot, I don’t stitch-in-thed­itch; I save it as a foun­da­tion for more in­tri­cate cus­tom quilt­ing.

The sim­plest stitch-in-the- ditch de­signs are stitched from edge to edge on the quilt. This makes se­cur­ing knots easy or even com­pletely un­nec­es­sary. Hur­ray for easy knots! When stitch­ing from one edge to the other edge of the quilt, I be­gin each line of stitch­ing in the bat­ting/ back­ing beyond the quilt top, stitch across the quilt top, and then end the

stitch­ing line in the bat­ting/ back­ing beyond the quilt top.

Some ma­chines have a thread cut­ter; this is an ex­cel­lent place to use that fea­ture, if avail­able. When I stitch the bind­ing to the quilt, the quilt­ing stitches will be se­cured and no one will ever know that I didn’t make knots at each end of each line of stitch­ing.

Where to Start?

When stitch­ing straight lines, I usu­ally start with a line of stitches across the cen­ter of the quilt. Even with a well-basted quilt, there is a chance of ex­tra full­ness in one of the three lay­ers. When start­ing to quilt in the cen­ter of a quilt and work­ing out on each side of the cen­ter­line as shown in Fig­ure 1, any ex­tra full­ness can be pushed off the outer edges as quilt­ing pro­gresses.

Af­ter I have stitched a line across the cen­ter of a quilt, I space the sub­se­quent lines based on the type of bat­ting used, my de­sign pref­er­ences, and how soon the quilt needs to be fin­ished! I might mark the quilt top with a marker or chalk pen­cil. I could place tape on the quilt to mark the dis­tance or quilt­ing lines or I may use the seam-guide at­tach­ment on the walk­ing foot to as­sist in even spac­ing.

I find it help­ful to have both a left­side seam guide and a right-side seam guide to al­low spac­ing for all dif­fer­ent types of projects. I learned the hard way that us­ing the op­po­site seam guide can re­sult in stitch­ing with the en­tire quilt stuffed onto the bed of the sew­ing ma­chine. That was no fun, I as­sure you!

Walk­ing-Foot Quilt­ing

As I stitch from edge to edge of the quilt, I can ei­ther quilt all of the lines in the same di­rec­tion, or I can al­ter­nate the stitch­ing di­rec­tion, like in Fig­ure 2. When line af­ter line are stitched close to­gether, the quilt top could pull away from the bat­ting and back­ing, and be­come dis­torted. In that in­stance, I would al­ter­nate the di­rec­tion of the stitch­ing. In most other cases, I can suc­cess­fully stitch in which­ever di­rec­tion is most con­ve­nient.

The sim­plest non-stitch-in-thed­itch walk­ing-foot pat­tern is to stitch next to the ditch. I usu­ally choose an easy mea­sure­ment, like 1/4", 1/2" or the width of the walk­ing foot. I stitch on each side of the ditches and make a plaid pat­tern with my threads.

An­other easy walk­ing-foot pat­tern is a wig­gle. For that, I start in the cen­ter of the quilt and ei­ther stitch a free-form wig­gle, or fol­low a curve drawn against a flex­i­ble curve, or fol­low a curve drawn against a ruler. I echo that stitch­ing out to each edge of the quilt.

If one wig­gle is good, two wig­gles must be bet­ter. I can stitch the wig­gles in the op­po­site di­rec­tion and make a wig­gly crosshatch­ing de­sign.

For a bit of a work­out, try a freeform “fol­low that curve” de­sign. Start by stitch­ing a wig­gly line, but this time change di­rec­tion by stitch­ing side­ways or in the op­po­site di­rec­tion. Next, echo that curve sev­eral times.

Start stitch­ing in bat­ting/back­ing.

Walk­ing foot and seam guides.

But­ton to au­to­mat­i­cally cut thread.

Wig­gle stitch­ing.

Mark­ing the wig­gle.

Plaid stitch­ing.

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