Quilting by Gina Halladay ~ QuiltersBuzz & Threaded Pear Studio

on February 20 | in Sewing + Quilting Tips | by | with 59 Comments

This article was written by Gina Halladay. Find her introduction here and enjoy her quilting wisdom below.

Hi, quilting friends! It is my pleasure to be a participant in Quilting Month at Sew,Mama,Sew! I am a lover of fabric. I am a quilt maker.

I know there are probably a bunch of you sewers who are crossing over to quilting and maybe are not quite sure how to about the process of finishing your quilting project, so I thought maybe I could give you a bit of guidance. And while I am no expert, I will share with you what I know.

Quilting your project on your home machine

If you are interested in machine quilting your quilt on a “domestic” or home machine, I highly recommend taking a class at your local quilt shop if at all possible. Knowing how to prepare your quilt properly will make your job of quilting it so, so much easier and you will be much happier with the end result.

“Quilting a quilt” means that you are stitching three layers of your quilt together—the pieced top, your batting and the backing fabric. How close your quilting needs to be is determined mostly by the batting you choose. In general, you should not have an area bigger than you hand that is not quilted, although there are some battings that allow your quilting to be as much as 10 inches apart. Check the information on the batting package.


Gina working on a quilt.

My favorite batting? Hobbs Heirloom. It is a 80% cotton, 20% polyester batting that is perfect for nearly every project. This batting does not need to be pre-washed and has just enough loft. I also really like Warm and Natural cotton, by the Warm Company. Both Hobbs and Warm are available in the normal “creamy color” of batting and a bright white. You can also get Hobbs 80/20 in a black batting for dark projects.

Preparing the quilt
To start, make sure your backing and batting are at least 4 inches bigger than your quilt top on all four sides.

Before you can begin the process of quilting, you must prepare your quilt by pinning (or basting) your quilt together, making sure that your backing, batting and quilt top are smooth and without puckers. There are several techniques/methods of doing this. Again, I suggest seeking the help of an experienced quilter or quilt shop staff. Many quilters pin with safety pins about every 5 or 6 inches, others hand stitch big basting stitches throughout the quilt.

Me? I have converted over to spray basting. I get me a big ‘ol can of basting spray—it is a bit expensive, but the $15 can do several quilts. There are many brands out there. Some do not have an odor, others do—but most work relatively the same. I spray the wrong side of the backing and lay down my batting. Then, I spray my batting top and lay down my quilt top. It is easy to reposition and to get the project nice and smooth. You can sew without getting a “gummy” needle and the spray washes out on the first laundering. I love the stuff. I probably like the brand 505 Basting Spray the best.


Which thread will you use?!

Choosing your thread
What is next? Picking the thread color and pattern for your quilting. There are times when you want to pick a thread color that really “Ka-Pows!” the quilt—and shows off the quilting. There are other times when you want to pick a thread color that “blends” or is not so noticeable on your quilt top. There are beautiful variegated and tone on tone threads available as well as regular solid colored threads available in different weights (like 40, 50 or 60—the higher the number the thinner the thread.) A good resource for reading about threads is at Superior Thread’s website. They put out an informative newsletter that addresses many questions about threads.

Your thread should not be discount or bargain thread. You should be using a strong, high quality thread—it can be cotton, a blend or polyester. (I always piece with 100% cotton, but quilt with a variety of “flavors”.) Besides Superior, other brands I like include Aurifil, Mettler, PermaCore and Signature.

Size and pattern

For your first quilting project, I suggest quilting a table runner or small wall hanging. Size does matter. The throat space on your machine and the size of your project really determines how easy you can quilt using your domestic machine. You will be rolling up and “shoving” and moving your project around the throat of your machine.

You can mark your quilt top with a pattern to sew. You may use stencils, templates to mark your quilt using a washable pen or pencil. This will allow you to follow a pattern while you sew. You may also follow the seam line and “stitch in the ditch” of that seam line. You should try to remain on one side of the seam line of the other and try not to cross back and forth.

The easiest to start would be to mark a straight line pattern to follow. Start in the center of the project and sew outwards. Checking the back and adjust the backing if necessary to avoid puckers. Most quilting magazines offer suggestions for quilting patterns and techniques.

Do not be afraid to try quilting on your own machine. This is a process that takes time and practice (and some unpicking!) but you can become a great quilter. You may become frustrated with the space limitations on your machine when you advance to bigger quilt projects.

Sending your quilt out to machine long arm quilter

If you want to “send your quilt out” to be quilted, you can take it to a long arm quilter who owns a giant, industrial-looking sewing machine. A long arm sewing machine is just that… It has a long arm or throat space that allows your quilt to be quilted easier and faster. A long arm machine is placed on a big table or stand that allows your quilt to be “racked up” with your top, batting and backing perfectly sandwiched together. The long arm machine is big…the table is usually 12 feet long and 4-5 feet wide!

A Gammill Statler Stitcher quilting machine.

Because the throat space is so big—it usually has between 12” and 22” of quilting space depending on the size of machine—the quilter has hundreds of quilting pantograph (edge to edge) patterns to pick from as well as using stencils, templates, and other patterns. An experienced quilter often uses no pattern and just quilts “free motion” and feels inspired by the quilt top itself.

There are different skill levels for long arm quilters. Some quilt only edge to edge patterns and they can “crank” them out, and others will quilt only custom quilts that will be entered in shows and contests. These quilters maybe quilt only quilt six or so quilts in a year. I know of one quilter who spent over 2,000 hours quilting on one quilt—she did win “Best of Show” and won a ton of cash!

Today, there are also computerized quilting machines which offer even more flexibility and literally thousands of quilting pattern options, from simple to extremely complex, and you get perfection in the quilting. I started my long arm quilting business on a Gammill Statler Stitcher Computerized Quilting Machine. I now own a Gammill dealership and quilting studio, Cranberry Quiltworks. I would be happy to answer any specific questions or send info to anyone who wants it. You can email me a cranberryquiltworks at gmail dot com.

A Gammill quilting machine.

How much?
The price for “sending out” your quilt really varies depending on what part of the country you live in and what kind of quilting you want done. An “allover” or “edge to edge” quilting pattern is the cheapest (FYI: at our studio, a 60” x 60” lap size quilt would cost about $80 for the quilting) and most quilters have a faster turn around time with an edge to edge pattern than with a custom design. Custom quilting may involve many patterns or thread color changes and is much more expensive, sometimes costing hundreds of dollars.

Finding the right quilter
To find a long arm quilter ask at your local shop about long arm quilters they may recommend. You can also attend a quilt guild meeting in your area and ask around. Some long arm quilters offer first time customers a discount in order to get your business and others may offer discounts for faithful customers.

Ask to see a quilter’s work before you give them your quilt. Discuss thread colors, pattern options and the turnaround time and get an exact quote before you leave. Another thing to think about before leaving your quilt: Is the quilter’s place of business animal- and smoke-free?… Your quilt could be hanging in the quilter’s place of business for weeks.

Another service a long arm quilter may offer is to bind your quilt. I have had customers who want a completed quilt, binding done, when they come to pick up their quilt. However, this too can be expensive. Make sure you get an exact quote for binding services. Sometimes binding can be as much as the quilting.

Over the years, I have been inspired and have taught some incredible people in this industry. I hope this info has been helpful. Enjoy the creative process whatever you do.

Pin It

Related Posts

59 Responses to Quilting by Gina Halladay ~ QuiltersBuzz & Threaded Pear Studio

  1. Marcelle says:

    Good article, before trying my first quilt I want to make sure I have read enough information so as not to make a lot of mistakes and am always learning new things I never even imagined of.

  2. Susan says:

    Lots of good advice. I’m getting ready to find a long-arm quilter for my first quilts. I liked the info about threads, too. I’ve always wanted to try quilting on a long arm.

  3. Barbara says:

    In your picture of picking your thread were did you get you thread holder?
    Thanks Barb

  4. Char says:

    Thank you, Gina–this was so helpful to me. I think I’d love to try quilting on a long arm machine, but the cost has me completely stopped right now. I’m going to ask my favorite quilting store if there’s a way they could provide a shareable, or at least demo-able model…

  5. claudia says:

    Great tips and explained in such a friendly way! Thank you!!!

  6. Larici says:

    Thanks for the great tips! I’m looking forward starting my first quilt.

  7. Glaucia says:

    It´s a very helpful article, thank you!

  8. Helen says:

    Great informative article, thank you! Loved the shot of you choosing your thread colour too, PMSL!

  9. Dawn says:

    Great advice! Reviewing the fundamentals is always a good idea!

  10. Carrie says:

    Thank you so much for all this great information. It’s everything a “newbie” like me always wanted to know. This will help me out so much when it comes time to actually complete a quilt.

  11. Carol says:

    Thanks for the guidelines!

  12. Becca says:

    Thanks for sharing this great info!

  13. CodeCrafter says:

    What great info! Thanks.

  14. RobinE says:

    Very informative! Thank you.

  15. Sandy says:

    Thanks for such an informative article.

  16. Lil' d says:

    Thank you.

  17. Sam says:

    I’ve been contemplating machine quilting lately to get some of my projects moving. I’ve hand quilted in the past, which I enjoy and find very relaxing, but it certainly is time-consuming! I’ve found mixed answers regarding the type of foot I’d need on my low-mid-range few-years-old Singer (3962) to do freehand quilting–any thoughts from the peanut gallery?

    Regardless, thanks for the information! This is really helpful.

  18. Lauren says:

    Thanks for the advice. I am trying to get up the guts to try my first quilting project and this definitely inspired me!

  19. Christine says:

    Wow! What a great selection of thread. Makes me jealous.

  20. Kelli says:

    I’ve been a little afraid to use basting spray on a larger quilt, not sure why. I happily use it on table runners and wall hangings. I think I’ll try the spray next time. Thanks for another great article!

  21. Sam VanDerPuy says:

    This was an excellent article. I have always wanted soem straight forward advice on the different types of quilting. I’ve always hated the quilting part of my projects b/c I have to roll and shove my piece through my tiny home machine. This article has opened a whole new world of possibilities! Thanks so much! πŸ™‚

  22. ainhoa says:

    Very good article.

  23. Rose says:

    Thanks for this info! The info about spray basting and sending out to a long arm quilter is very helpful as I prepare to start my first king-size quilt.

  24. Melissa says:

    very helpful, thanks!

  25. Jen says:

    thanks for this…I have been quilting on my home machine for about a year and a half and make great progress with each quilt. by far my least favorite and most nerve wracking stage is basting! I have tried pins and hand basting but now I am dying to try the basting spray you recommend. thanks Gina.

  26. Cindy says:

    Thanks for the great tips, I made my first Quilt very successfully. I love all of your advice and your tutorials.

  27. TerriC says:

    A basting spray? Awesome! I’ve been out of the quilting world for many years and knew there had to be something I was missing. This article has inspired me to try machine quilting (on a small project first).

  28. Sarah says:

    Lots of great advice, thanks!

  29. Christina says:

    I am just about to machine quilt my first time, and this was perfect! Thank you!

  30. Thanks for the info.

  31. Mellissa says:

    Wonderful information, thank you!

  32. alicia says:

    Thank you for all the information! I am new to quilting and that answered a lot of the questions I have had.

  33. Julia D says:

    I really like the way this is bocken down into steps! I will be returning to this post as quilting resourse for sure!! Thank you so much for sharing!!

  34. Cassie Ogle says:

    Excellent article. This answered many questions that I have. I’m new to quilting and have only done piecing so far.

  35. Courtney says:

    Thank you! This is great information and I am saving it for reference!

  36. Marcia says:

    Thanks for all the great info. I’m getting ready to try my own quilting. I’ve had 3 sent out to a long arm quilter. For anything larger than a twin, I wouldn’t attempt on my own.

  37. Beth says:

    Great information on sending your quilt out. I always hear people mention it but I never knew any details on price and options and so forth.

  38. CIndy says:

    A helpful beginning for home quilting on my machine–thank you!

  39. Tia says:

    Wonderful article! Very helpful. A long arm (Gammill) will be my next big purchase (after we move again and have room!). I have been making so many quilts for ladies lately. Thank you Gina, I am off to research your crqnberryquiltworks site!

  40. Gretchen says:

    yay! she makes it sound so easy though–

  41. Jeannine says:

    I’ve also made the transformation to spray basting, and I will never go back!

  42. Nicole says:

    Thanks for the info!! I have done a few small baby quilts and 2 larger lap quilts, and I wish I had had some of this advice before hand. I am a “fly by the seat of your pants” sewer, and really should get advice more often! LOL Perhaps one of these days I will find the time for a class……I am sure it would help SO much! πŸ™‚

  43. Lisa says:

    Really informative information…thanks!

  44. Shannon says:

    Wonderful – keep the info on machine quilting with home machines coming! It can be hard to find good info for the most basic machines. I have been machine quilting A LOT lately, and am starting to ponder getting a more mid-range machine since I cannot drop the feed dogs on my old kenmore for freehand work. πŸ™‚

  45. Rose L says:

    Thanks for the advice1 With this info in hand, I will be picky when I go to choose my thread, batting, etc.

  46. Kristin says:

    Great info! Love the thread picture

  47. Erin says:

    Great information and very timely for myself. Thanks.

  48. Amy W says:

    Great info. Thanks! I found the spray basting info particularly interesting.

  49. alison says:

    Thanks so much for all the info on quilting. I’m a beginning quilter and feel so uncertain about this last step of the process. It helps to have your excellent advice and encouragement!

  50. mj says:

    Thanks for the informative article!

  51. Kate says:

    I would love to start a quilt! But I just don’t have enough money to buy all of the materials πŸ™ This post really makes quilting look fun and exciting! I yearn to make something beautiful! πŸ™‚ *sigh

  52. LadySnow says:

    If I only had that much thread to choose from! πŸ˜€

  53. Amanda says:

    Thanks for the quilting advice, it’s great! Quilting looks like so much fun… if you know what you’re doing! But now I have a much better idea! πŸ™‚

  54. alison says:

    Thanks for the great tips!

  55. Carrie says:

    Thanks for the home quilting tips. I tried basting, but maybe didn’t do enough stitches or stretched it tighter beforehand? I like Hobbs batting–I think they make a 100% organic cotton variety, too.

  56. Michele says:

    Great information! Perfect for a newbie like me…I wish that I would have had all of this info around Christmas time when I was creating my first quilt! Now I’ll be better prepaired for quilt #2!

  57. froghair says:

    I have quilted all of my (relatively small) quilts so far, but I am getting ready to “send out” the current king-sized quilt project, so this article was perfectly timed for me! Thanks!

  58. Katie says:

    Wow lots of information. Thank you so much!

  59. Jane says:

    Spot on advice for a ‘newbie’ to the world of quilting. Really like that Gina gives her recommendations for thread, batting and basting. Great advice for sending out a quilt…check out the quilter first, ask to see examples of their work. I learned the hard way that not everyone does good work!

« »

Subscribe to the sewmamasew.com newsletter

Sewing inspiration, projects, events and offers delivered conveniently to your email.


Get the latest sewmamasew.com news via