Tips and Tools Tuesday – Machine Quilting Part Five, Odds or Evens?

In my last machine quilting post, Machine Quilting Part Four, Creating a Design, I promised that this post would show you how I traveled from one quilting design to the next in my Sawtooth Star quilt.

Well, before I explain HOW I travel from one design to the next, I thought I should share with you a few of the reasons behind WHY I quilt along the trails that I do.

Reason 1. To have as few starts and stops as possible.


Because starts and stops take time. The more starts and stops you have, the longer it will take you to finish quilting your project.

Reason 2. To not waste thread.

Thread costs money. Saving money is always a good thing. It’s not just your top thread that gets wasted with many starts and stops, but, it wastes your bobbin thread as well. The less time spent filling and changing out your bobbins, the more time you will have to spend on quilting. Yay!

Now, there are a couple of “rules” or “guidelines” that I follow that help me achieve my one-continuous-line-of-stitching goal. These rules are simple, and they will help you create designs to achieve your quilting goals.

One of the rules is… Start simple. Choose or create a design with the number of lines needed to accomplish your goal. And, that’s why I’ve titled this post “Odds or Evens”.

Let’s take a look at a triangle. It’s part of the Flying Geese unit in the Sawtooth Star block.

The first question to ask yourself is this, “What do I want to accomplish in each triangle?” If I want to end at or about the same place that I started stitching, I need to find or create a pattern with an even number of lines.

In this illustration, I’ve drawn the trail that I would take to stitch the inside triangles. Notice where the “Red” trail begins and the “Blue” trail ends. Pretty close to each other. If I wanted to complete the stitching at, or close to, where I started, then I would choose a pattern with an even number of lines. The lines don’t have to be straight. They can be curved or wiggly.

Let’s look at the quilting I did in the triangles of this Sawtooth Star.

In the quilt, I used red thread on the red triangles and white thread on the white background sections. I did not want to break the red thread for each individual triangle, so I created a design that would let me travel from one triangle to the next.

Most of the time, I will stitch in the ditch around all of the shapes to stabilize the quilt sandwich. Then, I can quilt some designs inside or outside of the shapes and the layers don’t shift. After stabilizing all of the triangles in the Sawtooth Star blocks in the quilt, I stitched two lines of triangles inside of one triangle. An “even” number of lines.

In the photo below, I show how I added some circles as a way to travel back to the other side of the triangle. Doing this brought my needle closer to the next triangle, so, I could simply travel along the seam line and then start quilting inside the next triangle. See, an “odd” number of stitching lines lets you travel on to the next section. I filled in each triangle and traveled like this around the entire block before stopping and tying off my thread.

Sometimes, while doing some stabilizing quilting, I can stitch around each shape and do the quilting inside of it at the same time. I don’t usually quilt inside shapes until after the entire top has been stabilized, but, sometimes it works out that I can, again, saving both time and thread.

Quilting designs don’t need to be complicated. They just need to keep the quilt layers together.

Doodle some ideas on paper. Don’t worry about “how” to quilt it. Just create some designs to fill the spaces. I’ll share my method for how I come up with a quilting plan in the next post.

Draw a quilt block on a piece of paper. Most paper is 8 1/2″ x 11″. Sometimes I’ll tape two or more pieces together. That way I have a larger block in which to doodle. Sometimes, I just cut apart a paper grocery bag and draw on that. Whatever you choose to use, just doodle. You can also draw components of the block, for instance, 4″ squares. Draw several 4″ squares and doodle different designs in them until you find one that you’d like to quilt into your block. Draw some 8″ wide by 4″ high triangles and do the same thing. That’s how I came up with the quilting designs that you see below.

You may want to draw your block on a piece of solid fabric. The photo below is a 16″ Sawtooth Star block that I drew on a 24″ square piece of steel-blue fabric. I used a heat-erasable pen and rotary cutting rulers to draw the block. I started with an 8″ square in the center of my fabric. Then I used a 24″ ruler to draw the rest of the block. I also added a line around the Sawtooth Star to represent the seam lines that would normally surround the block. This is a perfect practice piece for machine quilting straight lines with a walking foot. I quilted ALL of the straight lines with only ONE start and ONE stop. Then, switched to a free-motion foot and quilted ALL of the designs along the sides and corners, again, with only ONE start and ONE stop. And, you can, too! I’ll show you how.

Today is a good day to doodle.

Next time, I promise, I’ll show you “How” I come up with a quilting plan once I’ve decided on the designs.

Have a great day!


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