If you have been quilting for any length of time you have been barraged by either side of this longstanding debate. The powered up machine stitch camp may try to convince you that hand quilting will give you cramps. Those crafty hand stitchers may tell you using a sewing machine is cheating.

Can you just imagine arguments in the quilting store? Thread flying? Quilters wielding fabric bolts of gingham and calico?

We at MT Needleworks would like to offer a solution. Why not try both? Choosing how you will stitch your quilt is really all about style, and some quilters even switch between the two depending on the project. Here are several stitches that make quilting fun, no matter which side you’re on.

Machine stitches

Free-motion loops and meandering- Free motion looping is probably the easiest and most fun machine stitching there is. The stitch lines are looped any way you choose, usually with the motion of the quilt’s patterns. Meandering are just wonderful, non-crossing patterns making waves across the quilt.

Straight line quilting- Straight line stitches look best when your machine is set to a long stitch and a walking foot is attached, aiding to feed the fabric from both the top and the bottom.To get the ruler straight lines, mark the fabric using chalk or a fabric pen and an actual ruler. For those stitchers not fond of marking fabric, try painter’s tape ruled in straight lines.

Echo or shadow quilting - Shadow quilting is a great way to highlight appliques or intricate quilt patterns such as mosaics. To achieve this look, a shorter straight stitch is used. Parallel stitches are quilted around the shape at ¼” and then repeated, stitching every ¼” creating lines that echo around the shape.

Hand stitches

Quilter’s knot - One of the most basic stitches, the quilter’s knot, is usually used at the beginning and the end of a stitch pattern. To sew this stitch, wrap the thread three times around the threaded needle, then pull the loops down over the thread to make a knot at the bottom. Start stitching in the center of your quilt, pulling the knot through the top fabric and to the back of your quilt.

Running Stitch- A running stitch is used to establish a steady stitch pattern. The needle is inserted through the front of the fabric, catching small amounts of the back layer of fabric loosely for several stitches and then pulling tight.

Tunneling and rocking stitches- Tunneling stitch aims to keep the needle as parallel to the fabric as possible, while with the rocking stitch, the needle is held perpendicular to the fabric while you are stitching.  Tunnel and rocking are smaller stitch lengths and used to make some of the more intricate stitch designs of flowers or leaves traditionally added to hand stitched quilts.

Now for something completely different!

Matchsticking- A fusion of machine and hand quilting, matchsticking can bring the best of both worlds to a beautiful quilt. The quilt is stitched on a machine using the straight line quilting method and then a runner hand stitch is used every inch or so to shadow the straight line look. The secret to the fusion look is to allow some freedom in the runner stitch to contrast the ruled look of the straight stitch.

In a prior article I commented that though some like to argue about which stitching method is better, there really is no value judgement. It is about your art and how you see it.

If you are looking for more stitch ideas, contact me. I’d be happy to help you with your technique or create a quilt you can be confident will last lifetimes.

-Teresa Giltner, Owner, MT Needleworks

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