It can be tough to work out the best way to quilt a design as continuously as possible but there are some common techniques that can be applied to many designs.
Trace over the design with your finger to figure out the best place to start—usually it’s at an intersection of two or more lines. Sew one line then transfer over to the other part of the design. It may seem obvious for this basic design but the principle is the same on a more complex design. As there are four intersecting points in the design, there are four possible starting points and it is personal preference as to which point you choose. Alternatively, sew the central square and then around the outside of the design.
It doesn’t matter if you sew in a clockwise or anticlockwise direction—or in which order you sew the rectangles—as long as you have a plan. If you start somewhere other than an intersection (as shown in the next diagram), you can still sew the design continuously.
Rows of circles may be sewn in loops (shown below) but will need travel stitching (stitching over a previous line of quilting). If sewn in a contrasting coloured thread or thicker thread, the travel stitching forms a serpentine line throughout the design which may be distracting. Many quilters sew their circles using this technique—it’s personal preference. My personal preference is to sew using the second technique to sew the row of circles which avoids the thread build up but you have to be a little more careful to hit the join mark. Think of the design as two halves—sewing the top half and then the lower half. Many of my patterns are designed to be sewn in halves.
When I learnt to quilt pebbles, I was told to quilt around each circle 2-2½ times to disguise the travel stitching. This works well for me (although it is more work) as I don’t personally like the serpentine line. I use a #100 thread for this pebbles so the stitching isn’t distracting from the design.
The same principle of sewing half the design first can be broken down further. Instead of two lines, this one has four lines.
The next alternative is usually the better way to sew the same design as the quilt does not need to be moved as much. However, you may prefer to employ the last method to sew the design in some situations.
The main part of the next design is continuous, and the lower line is sewn separately.
The next border design is also continuous and sewn in two halves. All of the top halves are sewn first (as shown in the first two steps below), and then and the lower halves.
Some designs may need travel stitching (sewing over a previous line) to get to another point on the design. Things to consider here are:
- Is the line too long to travel along?
- If using a contrasting thread to the fabric, will the double stitching be distracting?
- If the thread is heavier (thicker) will the travel stitching be distracting?
If the answer to any of these questions is yes, it is probably better to tie off and start the new line of quilting where needed. Some designs will be enhanced by travel stitching and some aren’t. It all depends on the look you’re going for.
Can the design be altered to avoid travel stitching? You may be able to get to the new spot by doing a little filler design work around the design to travel over to it. Altering the design will lead to coming up with new designs to play with, taking the design in another direction. It’s a lot of fun. Knowing how to quilt continuously will help you design quilting patterns.
For these and several other ways to quilt continuously, check out my books!