As we begin our new blog series on machine quilting, you may be wondering how I learned to quilt by machine. Two ways: first, by reading about machine quilting. I am mostly self-taught and have a nice collection of machine quilting books in my studio library. Second, and we’ll cover this further in future blog posts, by practicing machine quilting. You can read all you want – this blog included – but you’ll never really learn to quilt by machine until you actually do it and practice, practice, practice! Nevertheless, we can learn a lot from the great machine quilting experts and this post will give you a suggested reading list to get you started.
Easy Machine Quilting Jane Townswick (editor)
This book is a compilation of twelve lessons from well-known and talented machine quilters such as Caryl Bryer Fallert, Sue Nickels, Debra Wagner and Hari Walner. It also includes twelve projects designed to feature the techniques from each lesson: not only can we read about it, we can practice it.
Lesson 1 is called “Getting Ready” and presents the basics of understanding your sewing machine, setting up a space for machine quilting and choosing needles, threads, and batting. Other lessons include starting and stopping, machine guided and free-motion quilting techniques, quilting in-the-ditch, cross-hatching, echo quilting, stippling and meander quilting, machine trapunto, and more.
Every machine quilter should have a solid reference book on the subject in their library and this book served that purpose for me. Even though it was published in 1996, the concepts and practices still hold true today. But a lot has happened in the quilting industry over the past 16 years so this was not my last machine quilting book!
Guide to Machine Quilting by Diane Gaudynski
The machine quilting of Diane Gaudynski rocked my world and has been a huge influence on my work. Diane’s quilts have such beautiful texture, they appear to be embossed. I longed to be able to create that same effect and jumped at the chance to learn from this master as soon as her book was published in 2002.
Guide to Machine Quilting covers many of the same topics as Easy Machine Quilting, although it is always interesting to discover the tools and products favored by our heroes. It is the chapter on “Free-Motion Quilting” that I have pored over the longest. Her description of stippling is excellent and her strategy of working away from yourself (as opposed to toward yourself) has helped me enormously.
Diane machine quilts just like everyone else quilts on a home sewing machine, but how does she get those results? I have concluded the answer lies in the density of the background quilting and have worked to achieve the same effect. The photographs in this book are sure to inspire you – and if you’re a cat-lover, bring a few smiles to your face as well.
Mastering the Art of McTavishing by Karen McTavish
Karen McTavish is an award-winning longarm machine quilter whose signature style of background quilting has become known as “McTavishing”. In my quest to produce that embossed look in my quilts, I was curious to investigate this unique look and to develop some other options besides stippling.
The book includes a 90-minute DVD which parallels and demonstrates the chapters in the book. Karen discusses how to create “McTavishing” using a domestic sewing machine, so we don’t have to have a longarm to produce this look! But we do have to practice (are you sensing a theme here?) and so after a few trial runs, I attempted to use “McTavishing” in the background of my Butterfly Mosaic.
Machine Quilting by Sue Nickels
Machine Quilting: A Primer of Techniques is a relatively recent addition to my library, even though it was published in 2003. I had the privilege to serve as the classroom volunteer during Sue’s classes at Quilt Canada 2010 and the book was her gift to me. Sue does beautiful machine quilting and I was eager to see what tips I could learn from her approach.
There are two aspects of this book that I particularly like. The sections called “Trace and Practice” provide an opportunity to try out many of the machine quilting techniques. As Sue says: “It is helpful to do the practice samples as you would if you were taking a class”. This book is like taking Sue’s class.
Another great aspect of this book is the chapter on “The Actual Quilt”. Here, Sue talks about choosing quilting designs, marking them, selecting backing fabric and basting. She also clearly explains how to “package” the quilt so it will fit within the boundaries of a home machine and includes a number of very helpful diagrams. We can exercise all we like on practice sandwiches but eventually we have to move on to a real quilt!
These are not all of the machine quilting books in my library but they each represent various aspects of this vast subject and offer insight into machine quilting technique. Next week, I’ll share my favorite of them all and tell you why.
This is my year to begin to master machine quilting. I have a few of the books you mentioned. It is helpful to me when someone points out something in a book that I missed. thank you for taking this project on.