When you walk into your favorite department store and see a quilted jacket, blanket, or even purse, what kind of quilting do you see on that item nine times out of ten?
Quilting straight lines!
But how can you keep your lines so uniform and, well, straight if you want to make one of those items at home?
I’ll show you how to achieve those clean, attractive, modern lines on your quilt projects in this article.
Straight Line Quilting Designs
First and foremost, you must determine the type of design you wish to make. There are many different straight line quilting patterns to pick from, including as vertical lines, horizontal lines, lattice designs, checkerboard designs, and so on.
“How widely apart should quilting lines be?” you should ask yourself once you’ve picked on the pattern. Keep your lines inside the manufacturer’s advised boundaries for how far apart your stitching should be, and check the guidelines on the batting.
Most bats recommend spacing of 6″-8″ apart. This just guarantees that the batting inside the quilt does not become bunched up or crooked over time or during washing.
How do you mark a straight line on a quilt?
You can draw straight lines on your quilt top in a variety of ways. Straight-line machine quilting or hand quilting are both possible options. As a guide, you can use your seams, painter’s tape (my personal favorite), a Hera marker, a water-soluble marker, a chalk pencil, a ruler, or a mix of these options.
The beauty of quilting is that there is no “One and Only” method to do anything. You’ll have to figure out what works best for you.
Blue painter’s tape is my favored media. It sticks effectively to the fabric, and each strip of tape lasts for multiple uses. It’s also easy to find, so I don’t have to make a special trip to a craft store or wait several days for an internet order.
Supplies You’ll Need for Straight Line Quilting
- Basted and ready to quilt quilt sandwich
- Painter’s tape, blue (I’m using 34-inch tape.)
- Sewing machine for thread
- Walking foot (optional) – this makes moving your quilt through the machine much easier, but it isn’t required. If you’re using a standard foot, just take it slowly. (I’m showing how to do it with a conventional foot in this tutorial!)
- Water-based marker (optional)
Step 1: Lay Your First Strip of Tape
This will be your most crucial strip, so take your time and make sure it’s perfectly straight. Remember that you’ll be using the tape as a guide and should stitch 14 inches away from the tape’s edge.
Depending on the design, you’ll begin in the top center (for vertical lines) or the top left-hand corner (for horizontal lines) (for diagonal lines such as a lattice design).
I’m going to start at the top center because I’m making narrow vertical lines in this instruction. Starting in the center and moving out to the edges of the quilt prevents puckering in the middle.
Make a small mark with your water-soluble marker at the precise center position. You can see in my project that the middle has a seam that runs the length of the quilt top, which will help keep my tape straight.
I’ll also use my ruler as a straight edge to ensure that my lines aren’t jagged or crooked. Align your ruler with the mark you created with your marker and the quilt’s center seam.
Take your tape and align it with the ruler’s edge. Slowly run the tape along the ruler’s edge. Make sure you’re not pulling too hard on the tape, or the fabric will bunch or fold under it.
Once you have reached the end of your ruler, move it down about half the length of the ruler, so half is still next to the tape you have laid, and the second half is ready to be your guide for more tape. This will assist you in remaining on track. Carry on in this manner until you reach the conclusion of your quilt. Your first strip of tape is now complete!
Step 2: Repeat Step 1 as Desired
This is when your design decision becomes important. How much distance between your quilted lines do you want?
With 34″ of space between each line, I want my lines to be quite close together. Now comes the slightly challenging part, but don’t worry – you’ve got this!
I like to create marks with the batting to see where my lines will be. Because my first stitched line will be 14 inches from the tape edge, I measure 14 inches from the tape edge. I measure 34″ from that mark since that is how far apart I want my lines to be.
Next, I need to add 14 inches to where I’ll place my next strip of tape. Between my tape strips will be 114″ in total.
It’s merely a matter of repeating this technique throughout your entire quilt top once you’ve figured it out. Make sure you take notes in order to have those measures on hand.
Continue to add tape strips to your quilt top until you’ve reached your desired number. I normally do 4-5 strips at a time so I don’t have to go back and forth as much between my dining room table and my sewing room. But, because the lines on this quilt top will be so close together, I’m just doing two strips at a time.
Step 3: Use Your Sewing Machine and Start Straight Line Quilting
You’re now ready to begin quilting! Bring your quilt top to your sewing machine and stitch slowly, keeping your tape edge as a guide. I like to stitch in the excess batting from the beginning to the end. There’s no need to backstitch because the binding will hide and secure those edges.
You can raise your pace as you become more comfortable feeding the quilt through your machine. Use the needle down feature if your machine has one. It’s especially useful if you have to halt in the middle of a line. Under your needle and foot, the quilt will not move.
Step 4: Repeat Steps 2 and 3
Repeat these procedures until your quilt top is completely quilted! When you’ve stitched all of the lines you can with the tape strips you’ve laid, return the quilt top to the surface where you laid the tape and attach the next set of strips. Before the stickiness of your tape strips dries off, you should be able to reuse them 6-7 times.
Return to your notes to determine the distance at which your next strip should be placed. My last stitch line is 1″ distant, or 114″ from the last tape edge. Continue sewing until your piece is completely quilted.
It’s quite acceptable if you run out of bobbin thread in the middle of a line. Simply replace your bobbin, move back a few stitches where you ran out, and resume stitching.
Backstitch a few stitches, then continue stitching till you reach the batting at the end of the line. This is how I always finish a stitch when a bobbin runs out, and it’s never caused me any problems.
Some quilters like to hide the thread ends by tying them together like they would when hand-quilting. It’s entirely up to you and your preferences.
When you’re quilting your lines and can see how far you’ve come with each line, it’s a tremendously fulfilling sensation. Enjoy yourself, take your time, and create those modern, clear lines!
I hope this lesson has demonstrated that you can produce lovely quilted lines on your next quilt project with a little time, effort, and painter’s tape!