Category Archives: Machine Quilting

Machine Quilting

Getting to Know You

Machine Stitch Samplers

What if I told you I could instantly make you a better machine quilter with just one simple technique?  And you wouldn’t have to invest in any expensive tools, DVDs, or books.  Just use what you have.


Here it is:

Get to know your machine better.  Spend some time with it.  I can always tell the quilters in my class who know their machines really well, as they are instantly more successful in class because of it.  They’re not necessarily better quilters, they simply know how to make their machines purrrrrrrr.

I’ll be unveiling specifics on how to get the most from your machine next week.  Stay tuned!

Star Student in My Piecemakers Class

Star Student in Maria Peagler's Machine Quilting Class

Meet Maizy. She was so well-behaved in class. Her owner, Dolle, brought her to join us after lunch, and she was such a dear. Not even one bark.

We had so much fun at the Piecemakers’ Machine Quilting class in Cumming, Ga. We had hand-quilters, brand new quilters, and machine quilters who wanted to refresh their skills. Everyone did famously!

Here is Audrey, guild President, with her class sampler with both machine-guided and free-motion stitching on it:

Audrey, Piecemaker's President, in Maria Peagler's Machine Quilting Class

I’d love to visit your guild. Check out my Workshops page to find out how to book me for a workshop to jumpstart your quilting creativity!

Home Sweet Home

Teapot Drawing by Maria Peagler

My kids missed me while I was gone, and one of their favorite ways to spend time together is drawing. I was exhausted and dragged myself into this, but as always with anything creative, I had a blast doing it.

This is a teapot pincushion in the Mary Engrelbreit Home magazine, spring issue. How cute is that?

I’ll be teaching Machine Quilting at the Piecemaker’s Guild in Cumming, GA on Tuesday, May 27. I think they have a couple spaces still available, so if you’re in the area, come join us from 10:00 to 4:00 at Christ the King Lutheran Church.

A Sea of Fabric

UGA Quilt @ Sewing Machine

Wow. I feel dwarfed by this quilt when I’m at my machine. It takes me, my sewing table, and a chair to hold it all. But we’re plugging along, block-by-block, and it’s almost done.

I’m spending 80% of my time wrestling, ahem, nudging, the quilt through my machine, and the other 20% actually quilting. I thought I had broken my machine when it was making a painful noise and the stitch arm was stuck in the “up” position. It was one of those classic marriage moments when my husband suggested it was the needle, but I knew better, as my machine would never make that horrible noise if it were just the needle.

UGA Quilt II @ Sewing Machine

It was the needle.

Letting Go . . . Not!

UGA Backing

I couldn’t do it. I had the best of intentions, but when it came time to part with Emily’s UGA quilt top, I just knew it belonged to my hands to quilt. Not literally hand-quilting, but the quilting design and the machine quilting I wanted to do. So here it is, being basted. Normally a slow process anyway, but my younger son is home ill with a fever so it’s reaaaaally slow.

What are those things on the backing, you ask? What every resourceful girl would use when she’s out of bulldog clips: they’re clamps from my husband’s woodworking shop. Which echoes those words of wisdom from Norm Abrams:

“You can’t have too many clamps.”

He said this during an episode of New Yankee Workshop I happened to be watching with my husband eons ago. Norm was gluing together a piece of furniture, and literally the man must have had thirty clamps holding that piece together.

UGA Batting

Batting laid out.

Basting UGA quilt

Safety pins? Check. Kwik-Clip? Check. I’d better pull up a chair. I’m going to be here for a while.

Machine Quilters’ Top Dilemma

Colber Baby Quilt Optimized for Web

The number one question I’m asked in my machine quilting classes is this:

How do I decide what quilting design to use in my quilt?

My answer?

Decide on what your quilt needs.

Let’s really look at my answer. First, this is your quilt. No one else’s, so it should look like your quilt. Don’t copy someone else’s quilting because they did the same quilt and that’s the kind of quilting they used.

Secondly, what does your quilt really need? How is it going to be used? A bed quilt calls for more quilting than does a wall quilt. A bed quilt calls for utility quilting, as you’re not going to be looking at it directly, as you would a wall quilt. Sure, decorative quilting is nice, and you can certainly do that. But ask yourself this question first: is my quilting competing with my overall design?

My perspective on quilting is unique, in that I take a different view than do most quilters. With my watercolor background, I have studied artists and art history extensively, and I understand that artists look at a work as a whole: they consider the function the piece serves, then decide on what form that should take.

They understand their job is guide the viewer’s eye to the most important area of their piece, and not to overcomplicate or clutter their piece with so much “stuff” that you can’t tell where to look.

That’s the biggest mistake I see machine quilters making. They put lots of ornate machine quilting on a quilt that already has a busy collection of fabrics and extensive piecing, and the quilting actually detracts from the overall design. You eye doesn’t know what to focus on.

The quilt I included with this post was a baby quilt I made for a friend who had adopted a little boy. This quilt is my original design: I wanted something masculine-looking for a boy. Nothing complicated, but beautiful in its simplicity and elegant design. Marla had asked for blues and greens, and I tossed in some complements of red and orange in light values for a little sparkle.

Because this quilt had a simple piecing, I could use a more complicated quilting design. Here’s the design up-close:

Colberg Baby Quilt Close-Up

I call this Picasso quilting, as it’s interlocking cubes and rectangles reminiscent of Picasso’s Cubist era. Where did I get the design? It’s my own. I didn’t want ornate feathers (not appropriate for a boy or this design), nor did I want it to look like everyone else’s quilt, so I didn’t use stippling. My quilting design complimented the rectangular brick shapes and heavily quilted the quilt so it would withstand lots of use. I achieved both good form and beauty at the same time.

So when you approach your next quilt, ask yourself: “What does it need?” And have the courage to do it your own way.

Longarm Quilting: Best of Show?

Longarm quilting

The East Cobb Quilt Guild show was last weekend and I attended with my friend Karen. Lots of beautiful quilts, both traditional and contemporary. I was astonished at the number of quilts that had been quilted by a paid longarm quilter, and was even more taken aback to find the Best of Show winner had also been quilted on a longarm machine, by someone other than the maker.

So who gets the ribbon? And doesn’t the fact that a paid professional worked on that quilt put it into an entirely different category? This is definitely a trend, as at least half of the quilts in this show were done on longarm machines.

What do I think? Longarm quilting is great for a large bed quilt that is too cumbersome to do on your home machine. But I consider longarm quilting to be utility quilting: it gets the job done by someone who has been paid to do it. I personally find longarm designs to be rather predictable: feathers, stippling, and the occasional interesting pattern, but that is rare. The photo accompanying this post is the most interesting longarm pattern I saw.

Many of the students attending my classes are fascinated by new sewing machines  with a stitch regulator; but what’s the point if you’re going to pay someone else to quilt your stuff? In my machine quilting classes, I teach my students how to machine quilt so they enjoy the process and make beautiful designs they’ll be proud of. So, this week I’ll be focusing on machine quilting and how you can do it better, and more comfortably.  And, I’ll be doing interviews with the makers of some of my favorite quilts from the show.  Keep posted!