machine quilting, quilt

A lot, or a little, how does this quilter decide on how much quilting

I’ve shared some about this quilt here and here and probably here.
49 pieces of chocolate stretched outSomeone asked about the density of quilting, determining how much quilting is enough. She’s discovering that her quilts end up a little stiff. More than likely there are rules written somewhere, in a Quilting 101 type of book, written by a member of the Quilt Police, we’d have to ask Megan if she knows anything or has seen the official documents.
For this quilter, it all depends on the end use of the quilt and how quickly it needs to be completed and I’m going to add that it all depends on the personal style of the quilt-maker involved. A way back when I quilted for a shop owner she kept telling me to keep it simple. Her idea of simple and my idea of simple were, and probably still are, two entirely different things. Simple changes over time.
ny-beauty-full-quilt-april-08Remember as you read, these are my opinions based on what I would and do as a quilter.

If it’s a kids quilt, a quilt for an animal shelter, a mug rug, place-mat, an all over stipple/meander or pattern of some type is great. This is a quilt that’s going to be used and loved and washed over and over again. This is enough to hold the layers together and keep the batting from shifting when being washed. I’m going to offer that these quilts are the perfect place to try out new-to-you motifs and develop the eye/hand coordination for stitching them out on other projects.

double-irish-chain-full-viewA quilt for a bed, a lot would depend on the pattern and what the quilt is saying that it needs. When I hand quilted Bob’s quilt I planned for a lot of hand quilting in the white squares. It’s not densely quilted, it’s appropriately quilted. Any more and this quilt would be stiff and I’d still be quilting it.

Sometimes the most appropriate type of quilting is stitch in the ditch or a simple meander, so not a lot of quilting. This is the place to start having some fun with the quilting. I’ve heard that, no one will see this but me as a reason to do very simple quilting on a bed quilt. But, um aren’t you worth it? Don’t we quilt for our own sanity and pleasure?

Now I’ll say, I don’t want a bed quilt to be quilted within an inch of it’s life however, it can be fairly densely quilted. This is where an understanding of thread weight comes into play, with a finer thread the possibility exists for a lot of stitching without adding a lot of weight or making the quilt too stiff. On a quilt where I want to do this I’d use threads like Aurifil 50 wt. Mako (cotton), Superior MasterPiece, Kimono Silk or SewFine! 60 wt polyester, or 100 wt silk to do a lot of dense quilting on a bed quilt. If I want the quilting to be present but don’t want to do a lot of quilting I’ll use a heavier weight thread and not a lot of stitching.

Much of the “how much do I need to stitch” is dependent upon the size of the blocks, whether the quilt is stitched in the ditch, and the batting used. The batting is a key component to knowing how much or how little stitching is *needed* then you can go for how much is wanted. Read the batting packaging or visit the website of the manufacturer to understand their recommendations. The quilt above is an prime example of understanding the recommendations. It said quilt up to 5″ apart. Well, that does not mean an entire border can be left without any stitching. Lesson learned.Lucas Moon Over Manhattan 39 x 34

Onto show quilts. That, in my opinion, is a different story. Show quilts can be quilted much more densely than other quilts. The thing is, it needs to complement the quilt and the density needs to be consistent across the surface of the quilt. Look at 49 Pieces of Chocolat, When Alex and Jinny met in NY, Beauty Happened, and Moon Over Manhattan the density of quilting is different on each quilt. 49 Pieces clearly needs more quilting to be consistent across the surface. There is a noticeable difference in When Alex and Jinny met. The quilting is much more consistent across the surface. And yes, Moon Over Manhattan is a while cloth quilt. The stitching is the component of the quilt but it is consistent across the surface. Anything not quilted is part of the overall design.

its bigger than i thought

One final quilt before wrapping this up. This is It’s Bigger Than I Thought pieced by Cheryl. I quilted this quilt rather densely. I was developing eye/hand coordination for stitching out feathers. The quilting is consistent. The stitching gets better as I go. I chose a thread I wanted to learn more about and I had fun.

So here are questions I ask:
what is the intended use?
what batting am I using?
what thread am I using?
what motifs do I want/need to learn?
So if it’s a bed quilt that I want to be comfortable under then a medium amount of quilting that complements what’s happening in the blocks, in a color that works for the quilt (blends) or myself (stands out) is just perfect. Motifs can be scaled (sized up or down) to fit the size of the blocks. If it’s a kids quilt the minimal amount of quilting is perfect. If it’s a show quilt…that’s a blog for a different day.

Happy Quilting,


and to my dear friend Earthtones girl…I will answer your question in another blog and talk about these same quilts.


4 thoughts on “A lot, or a little, how does this quilter decide on how much quilting”

  1. Wow!!! Perfectly written! Thank you so much for this liberating perspective on a lot or a little, how much, what kind and why!! This has cleared up quite a few mysteries for me! And your suggestions regarding thread were an eye opener! Once again you’ve shown that you’re an outstanding teacher and mentor!!
    I anxiously await your next post! Thank you my friend!!!!

  2. Thanks for this Teri. I’ve been thinking of writing something similar myself (minus the show quilt bit) because I’ve learned a lot along the way about quilting density and how that interacts with batting. I went in to this thinking a soft batting would make a soft quit. This is clearly not always the case. I’d really like to help new quilters get a handle on this, just like you have.

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