Today’s Topic: Stabilizing Quilts for Easier Machine Quilting
Welcome to Week Nineteen of The Better Machine Quilt-a-long based on my book 25 Days to Better Machine Quilting.
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Good Morning, Quilters!
To stabilize or not to stabilize that is the question…
Before we get ahead of ourselves, perhaps I should explain….
What is stabilizing as it pertains to quilts?
Unlike garment sewing, stabilizing a quilt does not involve interfacing…
I know you all just breathed a sigh of relief!
Stabilizing a Quilt–Defined
Stabilizing is an invisible or semi-invisible line of permanent stitching that prevents shifting of the layers and distortion of the quilt. It helps outline blocks and provides an infrastructure within the quilt for all other quilting. In addition, stabilizing allows you to quilt any part of the quilt at any time–or in any order. In other words, when a quilt is stabilized, it is not necessary to begin quilting from the center. You can quilt from the edges, in.
How to Stabilize a Quilt
Baste before stabilizing!
To stabilize a quilt, stitch the long axes of the quilt. Begin by stitching all the vertical axes, then stitch the horizontal axes. Stitch from the top of the quilt to the bottom of the quilt and knot off before beginning the next row. Do not rotate the quilt after every row–that introduces shifting. Instead stitch a row, knot off and start at the top again. If the quilt is large, stabilize all of the right sided vertical rows first, then rotate the quilt 180 degrees and stitch all of the left sided rows from the new top to the bottom, again knotting off between each row of stitching. When all the vertical rows are complete, rotate the quilt 90 degrees and stitch the horizontal axes of the quilt in the same way.
Use your stitch in the ditch method of choice: machine guided, free motion, free motion over the ditch or even ruler free motion. (See stitching in the ditch When, Why and How HERE)
Any lightweight thread in a neutral or matching color.
Advantages of Stabilizing a Quilt
There are several advantages to stabilizing. First, it provides a permanent infrastructure within the quilt which keeps the quilt straighter–less distortion. In addition, stabilizing outlines the blocks and creates definition (as does all stitching in the ditch.)
One of the major advantages of stabilizing a quilt is it allows you to quilt in any order. In other words, you can quilt the outer blocks before quilting the center of the quilt. This has real design implications. Most of the time, I don’t know how I plan to quilt the entire quilt, though I may have an idea for the outer border. If the quilt is stabilized, it’s okay to quilt the border before quilting the center blocks. By doing so, you can remove the basting pins and consequently, the quilt will be less heavy and less bulky when you tackle the center of the quilt.
Disadvantages (Sort Of) of Stabilizing a Quilt
Stabilizing a quilt takes a lot of time. It took me 12 hours to stabilize and stitch in the ditch all of the blocks in a queen size quilt. However, it was time well spent. During the time, I let the quilt “talk to me” about design ideas including thread and motif ideas.
PRO TIP: A quilt is more likely to “talk to you” while you are working on it than when it’s folded in a plastic storage box!) I know this sounds facetious, but If you really can’t figure out how to quilt a quilt–start with stabilizing! I promise-by the time you’re done stabilizing you’ll have several ideas!
Quilt Motifs on Top of Stabilizing Stitches
Once the quilt is stabilized, the decorative motifs are added on top-as if the stabilizing stitches were not there. As you can see from the small log cabin example, stabilizing stitches do not interfere with the look of the decorative motifs.
Basting v. Stabilizing
Stabilization is not the same as basting. Stabilizing reinforces the effect of basting. However, basting must be done before stabilizing a quilt and basting is temporary. Basting stitches or pins are always removed. Stabilizing stitches are not removed.
What about YOU?
Have YOU ever stabilized a quilt before quilting it?
Which method of stitch in the ditch do YOU prefer?
Do YOU ever use a combination of stitch in the ditch techniques?
Have you ever made a “wobbly” quilt?
We’d LOVE to hear!
YOUR Stable Quilter–(most days–but not during an October blizzard!)
PS…All tutorials, images and information are the property of Lori Kennedy Quilts and are intended for personal use only. Feel free to re-blog, pin or share with attribution to LKQ. For all other purposes, please contact me at Lori@LoriKennedyQuilts.com. Thank you!
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