Sewing Machine Quilting

I started quilting with my grandmother when I was 13, and we spent weeks hand quilting it.  When I began making quilts again from the prompting of a good friend, I had a hard time wrapping my mind around the concept of machine quilting.

In my mind, it wasn’t a quilt if it wasn’t hand quilted.  Hogwash, I say now! 

What are the different types of quilting?

  • Hand quilting: sewing the layers of quilt with a needle and thread by hand
  • Free motion quilting: using a sewing machine to quilt intricate designs without the help of the machine's feed dogs
  • Walking foot quilting: using a sewing machine with a special presser foot, usually quilting straight lines across the quilt
  • Trapunto quilting: using an extra layer of material on the back of the quilt to make the quilting look three-dimensional or "stuffed"
  • Long arm quilting: quilting done on a large, expensive machine designed for machine quilting
  • Hand-tie quilting: yarn is looped through all layers of the quilt sandwich and tied at the top of the quilt in equal intervals to keep the layers together

The concept of machine quilting my own quilt top was daunting. I thought it was way out of my league, so my first quilt was shipped out to a long arm quilter.

After much support from friends, I finally took the plunge to do my own sewing machine quilting. On this page are tips and instructions for free motion quilting and stitch in the ditch quilting using your own sewing machine.

Can you do quilting on a regular sewing machine?

I am living proof that it is possible to quilt on the machine you already own.  A few special tools are needed, along with a lot of patience and a willingness to learn.

There are two types of machine quilting that can be done on a standard sewing machine.

Stitch in the ditch or straight line quilting

Stitch in the ditch quilting is the easier of the two options of straight line quilting and free motion quilting.

If straight line or stitch in the ditch quilting is the plan, a walking foot for the home machine is necessary.  Nearly all sewing machines have a walking foot that can be purchased separately from the machine.

Simply replace the regular presser foot with the walking foot, which is sometimes called an even-feed foot.

Example of Straight Line QuiltingExample of Straight Line Quilting

The walking foot makes stitch in the ditch and straight line quilting easier because it moves both the top of the quilt sandwich through the machine at the same time and rate as the back of the quilt, which is moved by the feed dogs.

I love my walking foot since it is great for keeping the layers of the quilt sandwich stable and eliminates lumps and bumps.  It is also helpful whenever sewing through thick layers of fabric.  A walking foot will get lots of use!

It is possible to make curves and to echo quilt around a design on the quilt top, but anything more intricate will require free motion supplies and techniques.

Example of Serpentine Straight Line QuiltingExample of Serpentine Straight Line Quilting

Free motion quilting

With more intricate designs such as the designs of hand quilting, free motion quilting is the best choice.  For this type of quilting, a darning foot or a special free motion foot is used.

The feed dogs are lowered on the machine, and the quilt sandwich is moved solely by the quilter.  This makes it more difficult than stitch in the ditch or straight line quilting because there is nothing on the machine to move the quilt along.

The quilter is in total control of the movement and stitching of the machine. This takes much practice to move the quilt at the correct speed to keep all of the stitches the same size.

Example of Free Motion Quilting on a Wall HangingExample of Free Motion Quilting on a Wall Hanging

Don’t be afraid to take the plunge!  Even a full size quilt can be quilted on a regular sewing machine.  It is important to start quilting in the middle, so one side of the quilt will be rolled to fit between the needle and the side of the sewing machine.

Once I started quilting my own pieced quilts, I haven’t stopped.  So far, the quilts have been small enough to do so.  Start out small with a wall hanging or baby quilt.

To learn how to do each step of making a quilting, including the quilting, see our page on beginner quilting.

Scroll down to learn all of the things you need to know about using a home sewing machine to quilt.

You will be so proud when you’ve made a quilt yourself from start to finish!!

Sewing Machine Quilting

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 Continuous Line Quilting Designs

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 Explore Walking Foot Quilting with Leah Day

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Ready for a fabulous machine quilting adventure? It's time to explore walking foot machine quilting with Leah Day! by Leah Day - Paperback - Published 2017 Affiliate Link to Amazon

 Foolproof Walking-Foot Quilting Designs

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Liberate your machine's walking foot and move beyond basic stitch-in-the-ditch quilting! This idea book of walking-foot quilting designs includes expert tips for using commercial quilting templates, paper cuttings, and traditional sashiko-style patterns. by Mary Mashuta - Paperback Affiliate Link to Amazon

 Free-Motion Meandering: A Beginners Guide to Machine Quilting

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This book will show you that free-motion machine quilting doesn't have to be scary - with a couple designs in your pocket, you can finish almost any quilt on your home machine and enjoy the process. by Angela Walters - Paperback - Published 2017 Affiliate Link to Amazon

 WALK: Master Machine Quilting with your Walking Foot

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Free motion not for you? How about some "forward motion" quilting with the walking foot? It's time to get that walking foot out of the ditch. This book shows you how. by Jacquie Gering - Paperback - Published 2016 Affiliate Link to Amazon

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For your first quilts you'll learn the basic techniques of quilting with your walking foot, and sometimes, simple free motion quilting with your darning or hopping foot. Generational Quilt Patterns



This video and photo tutorial will show you how to quilt the layers together of a simple baby quilt. This is part of our learn to quilt series.

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This post shares techniques that will have you machine quilt meandering like a pro. Quilting Daily

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Learn how to quilt orange peels with this video. Kustom Kwilter

Pebbles Tutorial

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A free motion quilting design to learn - how to quilt is Pebbling, also sometimes called Pebbles. Leah Day

Plan Your Machine Quilting

Christa Watson from Christa Quilts shares her secret to stress-free quilting, especially when doing it yourself on a regular home sewing machine. Diary of a Quilter

Quilting Made Easy

Now, machine quilting is easy. Beginning and experienced quilters can get perfect results every time using these tear away patterns. Each continuous border design adjusts easily to fit the length and width of your borders. Quilting Made Easy

Quilting on a Home Sewing Machine

This is a post showing you the basics of quilting on your home machine. Two techniques - straight line quilting and free-motion quilting. Fat Quarter Shop Blog

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How to machine free motion stippling. Little Birdie Secrets


A short video demonstration of using a stipple pattern to quilt a quilt. You Tube


Free motion quilting filler designs - videos on dozens of quilting designs. Day Style Designs

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Straight Line Quilting

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T-Shirt Quilt - Part 5: Machine Quilt a T-Shirt Quilt

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