I’m a great believer in doing what works for you. When it comes to machine quilting what I usually do is a little different from how others do it but it works really well for me. Once my quilt top is ready to be quilted I have two goals. First, I want to get rid of the excess batting and backing as soon as possible because they just get in my way AND second when I am finished quilting I want to be done! So here's what I do!
Step 1: You need a well prepared quilt sandwich (quilt top, batting and backing). I pin baste my quilt sandwich making sure everything is smooth and flat. I like to lightly spray starch and press both the top and the back before pin basting. To baste my quilt I clamp the quilt back to a table making sure it is flat, taut and smooth. In the picture below you can see I use office clips to clamp it to the table. You can read more about clamping and sandwiching the quit here. I pin baste making sure my pins are spaced roughly every 4". I also try to ensure that the pins are not on the major seam lines because I will stitch in the ditch and if the pins are on those seams they will be in my way and slow down the quilting.
Step 2: Once this is done I like to use a technique described in Harriet Hargrave’s book “Heirloom Machine Quilting”. I stitch in the ditch on all the major seams.
While Harriet uses her walking foot I prefer to use my darning foot (free motion quilting foot) and I anchor all the major seam lines vertical and horizontal excluding the border.If there is sashing I stitch both sides of the sashing, vertically and horizontally. If the blocks are pieced without sashing then I just stitch the seams. I generally use Bottom Line thread in a colour that blends well with the colours in the quilt top or I use invisible thread. I don't use a walking foot because it doesn't give me freedom of motion.
When I make a quilt if something isn't perfect AND I can't live with it I fix it. If something isn't perfect and I CAN live with it I leave it. This means there are sometimes little wobbles in the quilt top. If I use a darning foot to stitch in the ditch I can work around them because I am free to move in any direction. This picture is a little wobble and I'll be able to stitch in the ditch around the wobble rather than through the wobble.
Once I've quilted the seam lines, if there are borders I ditch quilt the border seams. My last step is to quilt the borders.
Step 3: Once the border is quilted I can bind the quilt. I've never seen anyone else do it this way but once everything is anchored with stitch in the ditch the quilt is stabilized I can quilt the border and bind the quilt. Importantly I never bind the quilt before the border is quilted.
Step 4: I now go back and quilt the rest of the quilt. Most of the pin basting is still in place because I don’t remove the pins until I am ready to quilt in that area so between the stitch in the ditch and the pins everything is stabilized. In the following picture you can see the ditch quilting (horizontal and vertical) on the back of the quilt.
My current quilt 81 has a large center panel with stars and hexagon flowers appliqued. There are no seams lines so instead what I did was quilt around each of the appliques starting in the center and working out to the edges of the first border. The quilt sandwich is layered so that it is flat and smooth and it was well pinned. There was no shifting and I'll be able to go back and quilt the background later.
I quilted around the inner edge of the striped border and then the outer edge. From there I again quilted around the stars and the hexagon flowers and the applique baskets in the four corners.
The diamonds in the outer border were quilted and now I am quilting the outside edges of the quilt so that the quilt can be bound. I'm almost ready to bind this quilt!
This method works well for me because I get to quilt the border earlier which means I can remove the excess batting and backing. This makes the quilt a little smaller and lighter which means it is easier to move under the sewing machine. Also I don’t get the extra batting or backing caught in the quilting! I hate when that happens and I have to remove the quilting in order to free the excess fabric! So there you have it - machine quilting my way on a domestic sewing machine!
Until I post again, happy sewing!