Trace the quilting motif on tracing paper. Place tracing paper under the quilt top with a light source behind. Lightly mark the design on the quilt top with a hard lead pencil or a marker of your choice. Test any marking product for removability before using it on your quilt.

Straight lines may be “marked” as you quilt by using masking tape that is pulled away after quilting along its edge.

backing and basting

Make the quilt backing 4"–8" larger than the quilt top. Remove the selvages to avoid puckers. Usually 2 or 3 lengths must be sewn together; press the seam allowances open. Place the backing wrong side up on a flat surface, stretch slightly and tape or pin in place. Smooth the batting over the backing. Center quilt top right side up on top of the batting. Pin the layers as necessary to secure them while basting.

Basting for Machine Quilting
For machine quilting, basting may be done with rustproof safety pins. Begin at the center and place pins 3" to 4" apart, avoiding lines to be quilted.

Basting for Hand Quilting
Beginning in the center of the quilt, baste horizontal and vertical lines 4" to 6" apart.



Quilt in the ditch refers to quilting right next to the seam line on the side without seam allowances. Outline quilting refers to quilting 1⁄4" from the seam line.

Machine Quilting

Before machine quilting, bring bobbin thread to the top of the quilt so it doesn’t get caught as you quilt: lower presser foot, hold the top thread and take one stitch down and up, lift the presser foot to release the thread tension and tug on the top thread to draw a loop of the bobbin thread to the top of the quilt. Pull the bobbin thread to the top. Lower needle into the same hole created by the initial stitch, lower your presser foot, and start quilting. A walking foot is used for straight-line or ditch quilting. To free-motion quilt, drop (or cover) your feed dogs and use a darning foot. Start and end your quilting lines with 1⁄4" of very short stitches to secure.

Hand Quilting

Hand quilting is done in a short running stitch with a single strand of thread that goes through all three layers.

Use a short needle (8 or 9 between) with about 18" of thread.

Make a small knot in the thread, and take a long first stitch (about 1") through the top and batting only, coming up where the quilting will begin. Tug on the thread to pull the knotted end between the layers. Take short, even stitches that are the same size on the top and back of the quilt. Push the needle with a thimble on your middle finger; guide the fabric in front of the needle with the thumb of one hand above the quilt and with the middle finger of your other hand under the quilt.


To end a line of quilting, make a small knot in the thread close to the quilt top, push the needle through the top and batting only and bring it to the surface about 1" away; tug the thread until the knot pulls through the quilt top, burying the knot in the batting. Clip the thread close to the surface of the quilt.


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