Machine Quilting Practice #1: Straight Lines

Response to this blog series on machine quilting has been tremendous and I am glad if the articles have been helpful. But there is really only one way to improve your machine quilting skills. You must practice. I have heard that it takes 10,000 hours of practice to master a skill, or 3 hours a day for 10 years. I wonder if I have logged that many hours yet in my 18 years of quilt making?!

If you are serious about learning to machine quilt, I would like to help. Each week this summer, I will present a machine quilting technique on my blog for you to practice. You can work on individual practice sandwiches or make a nine “block” sampler quilt. The idea is to put your knowledge into practice – and the key word is practice! Think of it as machine quilting summer camp.

We begin this week with a straight line grid. You will be able to practice machine quilting with a walking foot, beginning and ending your line of stitching with tiny securing stitches, and jumping over a section to resume quilting on the other side.

For an individual practice sandwich, you will need an 8″ square of fabric for the top and a slightly larger square of batting and backing fabric. Mark the Straight Line Grid on the 8″ square of fabric, layer and baste.

For the nine-block sampler quilt, you will need a 20″ square of fabric for the top and a 22″-24″ square of batting and backing fabric. Please read the Instructions for Preparing a Machine Quilting Sampler for more information about marking the quilt top.

Turn the practice piece on point. Begin in one corner and stitch a straight line to the opposite corner.

Move to the right of center and stitch the next line, jumping over the section of horizontal lines. Clip the threads.

Continue working to the right of center, stitching each vertical line.

Turn the practice quilt 180 degrees to quilt the straight lines on the other side of center.

Turn the practice quilt 90 degrees and repeat the process for the lines in the opposite direction.

Congratulations on completing your first practice piece! Next week, we’ll start quilting free motion with the clamshell design.

Back to main


  1. Hi Kathy.
    I don’t know how I missed your videos on machine quilting. I discovered them last Thursday. I have been following your blogs since I met you in Uxbridge. Had I found them sooner I could have saved a fortune as I have purchased several computer programmes. I am a hand quilter but am determined to master machine quilting since I have had a problem with my hands so I am set to practice, practice, practice.
    Faye PFC (Professional Fabric Collector)

  2. Sue Godwin says:

    Hi Kathy,
    Just got back from vacation and see you have started a summer camp on how to quilt. I am planning on participating. Thank you for the blog, as this is just what I am looking for. I also love the look of your new “cottage studio”. I hope you have lots of fun in it!

  3. kkwylie says:

    Hi Tammy,
    For beginning and ending machine quilted stitching, I take a series of small stitches and clip the threads close to the surface. Mind you, I tend to work with fine threads that blend or are practically invisible. For thicker or high-contrasting threads, it might be preferable to bury the threads if the small stitches are unsightly or unravel.

    All the best,

  4. T. Murphy says:

    Would you also use this method of jumping and clipping threads on your show quilts?
    Or do you leave tails and bury? Or backtrack?

Leave a comment