Machine Quilting Practice #6: Echo Quilting

Echo quilting is another random free-motion background fill. Last week, we practiced stippling. In previous sessions, we have machine quilted a straight line grid, clam shells, orange peels, and four star motifs. I hope you’re having fun and seeing some improvement in your machine quilting skills!

As the name implies, echo quilting fills the background with echoes of the shape it surrounds. It is typically a random, no-mark technique with the spacing judged by eye or by the width of the presser foot. The distance between the quilted lines usually ranges from 1/8″ to 1/2″ and the lines remain evenly spaced throughout the background.

For this practice session, you will need one of the quilted Star Motifs from session #4. If you are working on a nine-block sampler quilt, echo quilt around the star motif in the bottom right corner. For more information, please read the Instructions for Preparing a Machine Quilting Sampler. Set up your machine for free motion stitching by lowering (or covering) the feed dogs and installing a darning or free motion presser foot.

Decide on the spacing between your lines of echo quilting – perhaps 1/4″. Begin your first echo this distance away from the quilted star motif. Pull up the bobbin thread as described in Beginning and Ending Machine Quilted Stitches and take the first small stitches by moving the quilt slowly under the needle. Stitch around the outside of the star motif, trying to stay an even distance away from the edges all the way around.

Remember to keep the quilt in the same orientation as you stitch the motif. When you return to the point where you started, take a few small securing stitches and clip the threads. Begin the second line of echo quilting the same distance away from the previous line, however you may want to move the starting point to avoid placing all the securing stitches in a row.

As the echo quilting lines get further away from the original star shape, they will start to lose definition. Points will become rounded or disappear entirely. Eventually the lines will reach the boundary of the block and must stop. Fill the remaining spaces with more lines of echo quilting until the entire background is quilted.

Echo quilting emphasizes the shape or shapes it surrounds, both by compressing the background and by the impact created by the repeating lines. It is very often associated with Hawaiian quilting. When the thread matches the background fabric, the echo quilting creates texture.

Next week, we’ll try a fun background fill: loop-de-loop. Until then, happy quilting!


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