Working on the 20 veteran's quilts was a great exercise for me. It made me feel good to do them but I also put myself on a time limit for each quilt so I was forced to come up with some easy, yet interesting, ways to quilt them. Pantographs are easy but they take extra time to set up and align each row. I wanted to do all of these quilts free motion from the front of the machine.
Over the next several months I will share many of them because I wish I'd had this kind of information when I started quilting on the longarm. I was never encouraged to take it easy so I could spend those first few months just getting familiar with the machine. When I started quilting I was encouraged to do things like stippling and loops. In hindsight I think both of those things are harder for a beginner. When you are doing a meandered design you have the added complexity of watching where you are going next to avoid quilting yourself in a corner. I am pretty good at that now but it took me a long time to work that out.
I think that beginning longarm quilters will be more comfortable with line or grid-based designs. My new favorite quick quilting method is the wavy crosshatch so I'll start with it. This one is good for short or longarm machines.
The wavy crosshatch is best for quilts pieced in a grid with blocks (or sub-units) that are small enough to provide the grid for your quilting path. It can be done on squares or rectangles or even diamonds (across the seams). In the quilt above it was perfect because the piecing was all pressed open and the wavy cross hatch went right over the diagonal seams. It added stability to the quilt and gave an effect almost like stitch-in-the-ditch.
This stitch is perfect for a beginner. It's a wavy line! It's OK if the waves are a little uneven. This is a very organic quilting effect and you will never notice variations. Just make a nice gentle wave. The objective it to work from point to point with this wavy line.
The stitching path:
My blocks were 12" 9-patch blocks so I decided to use the pieced block as my "row". You can quilt this across as many blocks as your machine allows. On a short arm this will be really easy because you would quilt it one row at a time. So you will zig-zag to the right and then zig-zag to the left and you are done.
In this example I started on the top left and quilted diagonally down to the right as far as I could go then headed up and tot he right going back and forth until I got to the end of the quilt. Without cutting the thread I traveled down one block.
Follow the orange line to see the stitching path back to the left. At the left side there's no need to travel on the edge. Just start back in the other direction.
The third pass in marked in green. Look at the right side where the green line "ends" at the top edge. No worries, just head back down to the right until you hit the edge of the quilt and travel down the side one block.
The 4th pass is marked in turquoise.
The 5th pass is marked in blue.
The 6th pass (purple) finishes it up quickly! I quilted a king size quilt with 4" blocks in tis pattern in lesss than 4 hours. It's just dense enough and it looks good to.
If you are a beginner wanting to use this as a skill building stitch there are 2 key things to work on.
- Your stitch: Work on getting the waves in your line as smooth and even as possible. You don't want perfection but you want to get to the point where you can look at your like and see that the person quilting it was relaxed and comfortable.
- Meeting at the corners. As you quilt each row start trying to aim your stitching for the corners of the blocks. This is most important at the top and bottom of the rows. You will eventually get good enough that people will not be able to tell that you did this stitch in rows. It will look like you quilted it diagonally across the quilt.
- When you are ready to start using rulers the cross hatch is a great way to start. Do this exact same thing just with straight lines using the ruler.
Learning to handle the machine on the diagonal is a big deal in longarm quilting. It's easy going left and right and front to back but diagonal straight lines are very difficult to do free motion. This pattern will help develop your diagonal quilting skills and you will finish some quilts really quickly.