Straight line quilting is the easiest way to finish a quilt and it’s especially great for beginner quilters. After spending so much time making a quilt, you can confidently quilt it yourself in straight or wavy lines. Here are 4 easy variations on straight-line quilting that I think YOU will love. When you take straight line quilting to the extreme, you get matchstick quilting. See my modern quilt with matchstick quilting here.
This is basic straight line quilting with the lines about 1/2” apart – I use the edge of my walking foot as a guide. I tend to ‘eyeball’ the lines (for every method) and don’t stress a lot if they vary a little. I think that some natural variation gives my quilts an organic feel – there’s no doubt that they are handmade, not mass produced. I love that! If you want to mark your quilts that’s fine too.
On this mini quilt I sewed diagonal lines in one direction first, and then turned it around and sewed more diagonal lines to make a grid. They were all about 1” apart. Get the Sushi Roll Mini Quilt pattern!
Since my Jumbo Hashtag Quilt had a lot of straight lines in the piecing (and I wanted to give it a more lighthearted feel with the quilting), I purposefully quilted a gentle wavy line all the way down the quilt – and then repeated again and again. You might think your wavy line looks weird or not right, but when you let it blend with a whole bunch of wavy lines – they look beautiful together.
In the video above, I demonstrate how I quilt wavy lines – it’s so much fun!
When it was time to quilt my Pretty Pictures Quilt, I was really in a hurry! I decided to quilt straight lines 1/2” apart, but then I decided to skip every 3rd and 4th line. I love how this one turned out too!
I’m going to show you my straight line quilting technique using pictures that I took while quilting the last quilt shown above, because you’ll see how to use the edge of your walking foot as a guide, plus the guide bar for the larger gaps between lines.
Tools for Straight Line Quilting
Besides a quilt all sandwiched, basted, and ready to go*, these are the tools that I feel are most important for straight-line quilting:
A walking foot (or dual feed foot) for your sewing machine. I wouldn’t even attempt straight line quilting before it. Learn more about what a walking foot does here.
If your walking foot comes with an attachable guide bar, that’s awesome! If not, you can also find a generic guide bar and tape it to your walking foot. You’ll have to watch to make sure the tape doesn’t come undone, but it will work fine, I did that lots of times before I bought my Janome.
Quilting gloves are a must for your hand, arm, and back muscles. They help you grip the quilt better and relieve the strain. My local quilt shop only carries purple ones because that’s the owner’s favorite color!
High-quality needles and thread. I love all kinds of high-quality thread, and use mostly Superior Titanium Topstitching needles, size 90/14.
* Side note: I use the same technique that Allison of Cluck Cluck Sew does to sandwich and spray-baste my quilts. Her tutorial is so awesome that I’m sure you’ll love it too.
How to Do Straight Line Quilting:
Make sure that you have plenty of room to the left side of your sewing machine for the quilt to spread out, if possible.
Start quilting in or near the middle, where you hopefully have a nice seam running down the quilt to help you sew in a straight line. This is one of my ‘cheats’ that helps me not have to mark a straight line down the center to get started.
Gently roll or fold the right side of the quilt to help it move through the machine.
Even though the quilt is hanging down in front of the sewing machine in the picture above, that’s not how it looks when I’m sewing. When the machine is running, I pick up the quilt in front of me and put it on my lap (or over my shoulder) to help the quilt move through the machine with as little resistance as possible.
Start sewing on the batting above the quilt. Backstitching is not necessary.
As you see here, I’m sewing the first line down the middle of the quilt, using a seam as my guide. Whether you sew right on top of the seam or next to it is your preference. I think sewing next to the seam looks better.
Sew all the way until you are on the batting at the bottom, and then cut the thread. Raise the presser foot and pull the quilt toward you until the presser foot is on the batting at the top again. Don’t turn the quilt around and around to sew in opposite directions, this causes rippling between the lines.
As you can see above, my second line was about 1/2” from the first and I simply used the edge of my presser foot as a guide.
Try your best to not push or pull the quilt through the sewing machine. It’s better to hold the weight of the quilt with your hands and arms and let the sewing machine’s feed dogs pull it through at a measured pace. This gives you more even stitches.
You can continue quilting lines 1/2” apart for a result like my Fat Quarter Fancy Quilt, or vary the width of the lines any way that you like.
For this quilt, I put on my guide bar and set it about 1 1/2” away from the needle. Then I ran the edge of my guide bar right over the previous stitching line. This was like skipping two lines of stitching. It saved me so much time and made a really cute design!
When I was using the edge of my presser foot as a guide (for every other line), I ignored the guide bar.
Continue quilting in one direction only (top to bottom) until you reach the edge of the quilt. Seam lines in the quilt top can help you keep the lines straight.
When the quilt is halfway quilted, turn it around and finish the rest of the lines from bottom to top.
This helps to create more professional-looking quilt lines and reduce bulk in the harp space of your sewing machine.
After you are finished quilting, square up the edges, bind it, and you have a beautiful new quilt!
Thanks so much for reading my straight line quilting tutorial. Check out my Quilted Things Pinterest Board for more quilt patterns and ideas.
Disclosure: some of my posts contain affiliate links. If you purchase something through one of those links I may receive a small commission, so thank you for supporting SewCanShe when you shop! All of the opinions are my own and I only suggest products that I actually use. 🙂