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How to Machine Quilt - Straight Line Quilting

You've finished your quilt top and now it's time to sandwich and quilt it.  If you are new to quilting, this may seem daunting.  Don't be afraid because anyone can do straight-line quilting!

Straight line quilting is a favorite of mine because it's quick, easy, and you can do it on any sewing machine.

Straight line quilting takes less practice as long as you are able to sew in a straight line. We will give some tips on sewing those straight lines too.

Straight line quilting may seem simplistic, but there are many different options and the look can vary from traditional to modern.  The lines can be quilted at different distances apart, in one direction or two directions, on diagonals to create diamonds or triangles.  The possibilities are almost endless!How to Quilt Straight Lines

If the lines are quilted close together, approximately 1/8" apart, it is considered matchstick quilting.  This is a modern quilting design and can look stunning.  Using a double needle can be helpful when stitching match-stick quilting.

Every quilt you make with straight line quilting can look different depending on the final pattern of lines you decide upon.  It can vary by using decorative stitches or a serpentine stitch in place of the straight stitching.

Learn more about straight line quilting by watching our video or keep reading this tutorial.



COMPLETE VIDEO TUTORIAL AVAILABLE! The video below is a preview with no audio, to watch the whole video tutorial, click the link How to Machine Quilt - Straight Line Quilting to watch in Youtube.


Disclaimer: This post may contain affiliate links. We make a small commission on sales through the affiliate links, at no extra cost to you. Thank you in advance for your purchase and your support! Please see our full Affiliate Statement for more information.

Samples of Straight line quilt designs

To show some of the variety of straight line quilting designs you can make, below are some samples of quilts we've made in the past.

Our simple & easy baby quilt pattern uses straight lines across the cream borders of the quilt and also in the block borders.  So, the straight lines can be quilted in sections of the quilt.

This Baby Safari quilt was quilted with vertical straight lines 3" apart.

In our Beginner Quilt Series tutorials, we demonstrated how to quilt straight lines diagonally through the blocks in both directions.

The Easy Charm Pack Quilt Pattern also uses the quilt pattern of diagonal lines through the blocks in both directions.

As does this T-Shirt Quilt.

For this Green Vertical Stripe quilt, my child didn't want much quilting, so the lines are quilted along the edge of some of the stripes.

This I Spy Quilt was quilted with both straight line quilting and stitch in the ditch.  So, there is no rule about mixing and matching types of quilting in one quilt.

The Star Stream quilt was quilted with straight lines trailing off from the stars and star streams.  The lines were unevenly spaced since they came off the points and then continued to the next star or edge of the quilt.

This Pieced Border Panel Quilt has vertical straight lines through the panel spaced 1/2" and 2-1/2" apart. The horizontal border lines are spaced 1" apart.

For some variety, the Easy Strip Quilt was quilted in diagonal lines but using the serpentine stitch.  It's still quilted in straight lines, but the needle moves back and forth to create the serpentine stitch.

How far apart are the lines when straight line quilting?

As you can see from the samples above, the lines can be varying distances apart, from as little as 1/8" in matchstick quilting up to several inches apart.

To determine the maximum distance for quilting lines, consult the wrapper for the batting.  The instructions should say what the maximum distance between quilting is best for the batting.

How do I prepare my Quilt for Straight Line Quilting?

To prepare your quilt top for quilting, a quilt sandwich is made by layering the quilt backing, batting and quilt top together.  Our tutorials on making a quilt backing and how to layer and pin-baste a quilt will guide you through these steps.

WHAT YOU NEED for Straight line quilting:

Look at the end of this tutorial for links to purchase supplies.

INSTRUCTIONS for Straight line quilting

My Straight Line Quilting Design

For this straight line quilt design, the lines are stitched two inches apart.  The guide bar on the walking foot can be used to stitch most of the lines so only the first line needs to be marked.

If you are stitching lines further apart, it may be necessary to mark more of the lines if they are too wide for the guide bar.  Stitching through blocks from corner to corner will usually require marking each line before stitching. Straight Line Quilting - Showing Quilt Lines

Instead of stitching lines two inches apart across the entire quilt, I am stitching groups of five lines in two locations across each direction of the quilt. 

This will leave large sections unstitched.  In those sections, to make sure it's held together, I will tie the quilt.  You can use several different quilting methods on one quilt!

Where do you start when straight line quilting?

When stitching lines on a quilt, start stitching the first line near the center of the quilt and work in one direction towards the side of the quilt.  Then return to the center and work towards the opposite side of the quilt.

If you are quilting lines both horizontally and vertically, stitch one set of lines first, ie vertically.  Then stitch in the other direction, ie horizontally, always starting from the center and working towards the sides of the quilt.

The diagram below shows the steps for straight line quilting.  Each line is stitched across the entire quilt from either top to bottom or left to right starting at the edge of the quilt or quilt top. Straight Line Quilting - Order to Stitch Lines Diagram

STEP 1: Mark the first line

To mark the first line, use a ruler and chalk pencil, marker or another quilt marking pencil. 

For my quilt, I am quilting groups of five lines in different areas of the quilt.  In the photo below, you can see that I've quilted the five lines near the center of the quilt.  I've finished all of the horizontal lines on the quilt and am ready to quilt the vertical lines.

For the vertical lines, I will quilt five lines starting from near the edge of the black center section towards the side of the quilt.  To mark the first line, align the ruler along a seam allowance or something on the quilt that is a straight line. Straight Line Quilting Showing Pinned Quilt with a few lines quilted

Measure a distance from that seam or line and mark the first line with your chalk marker.Straight Line Quilting Mark first line with chalk

Move the ruler and continue to mark the line across the entire quilt.  If quilt pins are in the path of the line, remove them as you are marking the line.

Since I am stitching five lines in sections, I will mark the first line for each section.  The marked line will always be the line closest to the center of the quilt.

STEP 2: Machine Settings for straight line quilting

Since there are many layers in your quilt, it's recommended to use a walking foot to ensure the layers feed through the sewing machine equally.  Place your walking foot onto the sewing machine.

Set your sewing machine on a straight stitch, serpentine stitch or another decorative stitch.  Usually, the straight stitch is used but straight lines can also be stitched with the serpentine stitch or many of the other decorative stitches on your machine.

If you select a decorative stitch, keep in mind how long it takes to stitch each section of the stitch as some of them are very time-consuming and will take a long time to stitch on an entire quilt.

If your machine has a needle down on stop option, turn it on so that when you stop stitching, the needle will be down.  This will keep the quilt from shifting when you stop.

Thread the sewing machine with quilting thread coordinating with the quilt top.  For the bobbin, a quilting thread matching the top thread can be used. 

The bobbin can also have a thread color that coordinates better with the quilt backing. It's up to you!  It can also be helpful to wind a few bobbins with the thread to save time when you run out.

What stitch length should I use for Straight line quilting?

For straight line quilting, set your stitch length at a little longer than the normal length.  So on my machine, I set it between 2.5 - 3.  The stitch length can be set longer for thicker quilts or if you are using more decorative quilting thread.

STEP 3: Setup the guide bar

The guide bar included with the walking foot is useful when straight line quilting. 

The guide bar is used to stitch each line after the first one.  By using the guide bar to follow the previously stitched line, the other lines can be stitched at a constant distance from one another quickly and easily!

To set up the guide bar, place it on your walking foot but keep it loose so it can be moved.  Use a ruler to measure from the needle position to the width desired for your quilt lines.  Tighten the guide at that width. Straight Line Quilting Measure to set guide distanceMy lines will be stitched two inches apart so I set my guide bar at 2" from the needle. The lines are ready to be stitched.

Step 4: Stitch the first line

My quilt is a pillowcase finish, so I'm starting the lines just at the edge of the quilt.  I will back tack at the beginning and end of each stitched line.

For a quilt with a binding, start stitching just off the edge of the quilt top and then stitch onto the quilt top and across the quilt.  There is no need to back tack if starting the stitching off the edge of the quilt.

If your quilt lines are beginning somewhere on the quilt top, our Bobbin Thread Quick Tip will give you tips on how to start the lines.

For my quilt, each quilting line starts at the edge of the quilt and goes across the entire quilt length or width.  I started stitching my lines horizontally from left to right. Once I finished the horizontal lines, I continued stitching the vertical lines. See the diagram in the section, "where do you start when straight line quilting?" for a visual on the order to stitch the lines on a quilt. 

For this first line, stitch along the marked line. Roll the fabric on the right side of your quilt nicely so that it will fit through the throat of the sewing machine.
Straight Line Quilting Sew first line following chalk marking

If you stray off the line, gradually steer it back to the correct place.

Step 5: Stitch the Other Lines

Stitch the lines moving toward the right side of the quilt.  This will lessen the amount of fabric in the throat of the machine as you move toward the edge of the quilt.

If you move towards the left, then more and more quilt fabric will be in the throat area, and with larger quilts, this will become unmanageable.

Before you stitch each line, remove any quilting pins in the stitch path. Line up the stitch guide on top of the previously stitched line.  You will follow the previously stitched line when stitching each line on the quilt.Straight Line Quilting Sew Next Line with Guide following first line

When stitching the lines, concentrate your vision on the stitch guide, not on the sewing needle.  This will help you keep straight lines.

IMPORTANT! Keep your hands away from the stitching area so you don't stitch your finger or hand. See in the photo above, my hands are well away from the sewing machine needle.

Stitch the next line on the quilt following the previously stitched line. If you stray off of the line, don't stress, just guide it back slowly.  If you move slowly back onto the correct path, it won't be as noticeable.Straight Line Quilting Sew next line

Also, remember, as the quilter, you always see all of the mistakes.  Other people will not see small mistakes.  They will just see a beautiful quilt!

Continue stitching the lines across the quilt towards the right until all lines are completed for half of the quilt.

Step 6: Finish stitching the lines

Once you reach the edge of the quilt (or your last line in that direction), you will stitch the lines on the other half of the quilt.

Turn the quilt around halfway and roll up the right side.  This will be rolling up the side that isn't stitched yet. 

Start stitching the next line by aligning the guide to the first stitched line (original marked line). Stitch the line across the quilt as you did the previous lines.

Continue to stitch each line moving across the quilt moving toward the right after each line.Straight Line Quilting Guide Follows Previously Quilted Line

At this point, all of the lines should be stitched across the quilt in one direction.

Step 7: Stitch any other lines

Stitch lines in the opposite direction (ie. horizontally), if desired.

Use the same technique as described here for stitching the first set of lines.  Mark the first line and then start stitching near the center of the quilt working your way to the side.Straight Line Quilting - Close Up of Quilt Lines

That's all there is to straight line quilting!


QUESTIONS?

If you have any questions about this project, contact us through the YouTube Video comments or our Contact Us page. We respond to questions in e-mails and YouTube comments regularly.

Our tutorial How to Machine Quilt a T-Shirt Quilt, gives instructions and tips for straight line quilting a diamond pattern.  This tutorial shows straight line quilting on a traditional quilt that will have a binding after the quilting is finished.  

Are you wondering what quilt I was straight line quilting?  It's a School or Team Themed Quillow project.  Click the link to learn more about this project.

We hope you enjoyed learning straight line quilting with our tutorial!

Happy Quilting!

Chris's Signature

Supporting Products and links: Some of the links below may be affiliate links. We make a small commission on sales through the affiliate links, at no extra cost to you. Thank you in advance for your purchase and your support! Please see our full Affiliate Statement for more information.

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