Can You Quilt With a Regular Sewing Machine?

Image of sewing and quilting machineQuilting can be both a constructive and rewarding use of time for the hobbyist and a profitable business for the entrepreneur. But for those looking to get into quilting seriously, a quilting machine may prove to be an unacquirable purchase, either because of the cost or because you may not be ready to invest that much money in it yet. For such enthusiasts who may already have a sewing machine at home, the critical question is, can you quilt with a regular sewing machine? 

Yes, you can quilt with a regular sewing machine. With the proper tools and the willingness to learn how to do it, it is achievable. There are two ways you can quilt using a regular sewing machine: straight line quilting and free-motion quilting. When free-motion quilting, you will need to lower the feed dogs and control the fabric’s feeding through the stitches and the stitch sizes. You will also need a darning or free-motion foot. You can again easily do straight line quilting using a walking foot.

While quilting on a quilting machine undoubtedly has its perks, such as convenience, there are some advantages to quilting on a sewing machine. You will not incur any extra purchase costs, and you can freely explore different creative outlets and make custom designs.

What are the Differences Between Quilting and Sewing?

To better understand the differences between a sewing and quilting machine, an understanding of fundamental ways in which sewing differs from quilting is necessary.

Sewing is the craft of using needles and thread to attach objects and fabrics. In garment construction, you attach the pieces of fabric to create the product. On the other hand, quilting refers to connecting a minimum of 3 pieces of fabric through stitching-two pieces of cloth and a batting layer in the middle. Stitches are passed through all the fabric layers to make a padded, 3D surface.

What Is the Difference Between a Quilting Sewing Machine and a Regular Sewing Machine?

While you can use a regular sewing machine for quilting and a quilting machine to sew to some extent, there are still some significant differences between these two machines that make them more efficient at their primary task.

Below are some of the top differences between a regular sewing machine and a quilting machine.

  1. Size of the working area

As quilts are more extensive and much bulkier than regular garments sewed on sewing machines, the working area in quilting machines is also significantly more extensive than those on sewing machines. A smaller workspace may be workable for smaller sewing projects but can be extremely difficult to work with for large quilts. This difference in workspace size can be measured using the machine’s throat- the distance between the needle and the arm’s base. The throat width in a sewing and quilting machine is directly proportional to the machine’s length. The longer a device is, the wider the throat will be.

  1. Expandable working space

Most quilting machines come with an extension table as an accessory when working on substantial projects. If the device does not have the table in the accessory package, you can buy one at the manufacturer’s outlet and attaching it. These extension tables increase the working space and make feeding the fabric into the machine easier. This feature is not readily available in sewing machines.

  1. Sewing speed

While considerably faster than hand quilting, machine quilting is still a long project requiring stitching large fabric pieces.  A fast machine is necessary to get a project done with efficient use of time and effort. The average machine of quilting machine is higher than that of sewing machines. Most home sewing machines have a top speed of around 600-1000 stitches per minute, while some home quilting machines sew at greater than 1,500 stitches per minute. Professional quilting machines reach even higher speeds.

Quilting machines also have the build to withstand these high speeds. The body of quilting machines is sturdy and durable to tolerate high motor speeds. Most quilting stitches contribute to the quilt’s aesthetic on the front and back.

  1. Stitches

The most significant difference between quilting and sewing stitches is that you use quilting stitches to join the fabric layers while also adding to the quilt’s final appearance, which is often the case with sewing stitches.

The straight stitch is the most common in a sewing machine, but this can vary depending on the fabric type and desired effect. Some of these variations include an overcast stitch for loosely woven fabrics and a chain stitch for stretch fabrics.

Some of the common quilting stitches used are:

  1. The running stitch

Quilters that stitch designs manually often use running stitches. The stitches made using this method are rarely even and give the quilt a unique and custom look. Running stitches are created by pushing the needle through the top fabric layer and the batting, getting a small part of the back layer, and then pulling the needle through the top.

  1. The quilter’s knot

Quilters use this stitch at the start and the end of stitching patterns to prevent unraveling.

How do You Quilt on a Small Sewing Machine?

Quilting with a small machine may be a difficult task, but it is doable. With these recommendations and some practice, you can create high-quality quilts with a small-neck device.

  1. Use a large table surface.

Image of sewing and quilting machine yes You Quilt With a Regular Sewing Machine?One of the major problems of working with a small sewing machine is drag and drop. As the material can’t fit on the table, some of the material may fall off the table and drag on the floor. This problem can cause problems with your sewing machine, and the gravity acting on the quilt will not let you sew well. Your stitches could also get disturbed if the material is dragging.

A simple solution for this problem is using the most extensive surface you can. You can achieve this by arranging the most extensive tables you can find around the machine’s extension table if it has one. The extra working space will help you control large amounts of the fabric without interfering with your work. Also, reserve space on the machine’s left side as your left hand will probably handle the design. This additional space will allow you to move your hand more freely.

Also, if you do not have enough tables to set up around the machine, you can set up your sewing machine right up against the wall so that the fabric does not drop behind the machine.

  1. Scrunch the fabric

Rolling up the quilt you are sewing as you go works to get the excess fabric out of the way. But it also makes the material a bit more tedious to work with and more challenging to move the quilt sideways. Another method you could use to achieve the same results is scrunching up the fabric in the machine’s neck. This method will allow you to quickly flatten the quilt and move the remaining material around easily.

  1. Turn the sewing machine.

Have you ever thought of turning the machine around so that you can have better access and an easier time moving the fabric? While it may sound unorthodox, many sewers have had great success with turning the machine so that they are close to the needle with the machine’s body pointing away from them. This sewing angle may make it easier for you to push the quilt up to the machine’s neck and be more convenient than the standard configuration.

This machine set-up is favored in midarm sit-down quilting machines, so it would be a matter of replicating a tried method. Sewing like this will also create less pressure on your shoulders, allowing you to work for longer hours.

  1. Free motion quilting

The feed dogs are the mechanism in a sewing machine through which your fabric is ‘fed’ to the device. After lowering the feed dogs, you will have control over how much material you move and at what rate. This stitching method is known as free motion quilting. Since the machine is no longer doing the work of moving the fabric for you, the stitches you create are entirely up to you. As a beginner with this method, you might have problems with fabric feeding and getting consistent stitches. But, with time, you will eventually get the hang of it and learn to sew your desired design.

Another advantage of free motion quilting is the uniqueness of the designs. You can create custom pieces with eye-catching designs that you will not see elsewhere. If your sewing machine does not have the option of lowering the feed dogs, you can turn it to 0, a setting that will keep them stationary.

  1. Work on a slippery surface.

A slippery working surface will make moving the quilt around a lot easier. It is easier to move since a slippery surface reduces the friction between the quilt fabric and the machine surface, making motion smoother. To create this slippery effect, you can use a unique slider taped onto the table with the quilt immediately over it.

How do You Quilt a Large Quilt on a Domestic Machine?

While making small and medium-sized quilts on home sewing machines can be hard enough, making large quilts requires an extra level of work and skill for a high-quality product. Below are some tips on how you can make large quilts on your domestic machine.

  1. Pre-wind your bobbins

Larger quilts will use more significant amounts of threads. An empty bobbin is a sure way to interrupt your workflow and cause frustration. For a smooth quilting process, ensure you prepare multiple bobbins in advance before you begin sewing. If the bobbin case is visible in your sewing machine, you can easily monitor the thread supply and quickly replace the bobbin so that you can get on sewing.

  1. Wear quilting gloves

Wearing gloves while quilting may feel counterintuitive, but the advantages far outweigh any reservations you may have. Quilting gloves provide that extra grip on the fabric so that you have even more control over your design. You can then easily maneuver the material without having it constantly slip through your fingers.

Another advantage of quilting gloves is that they help you take some of the weight off your shoulders and your arms as you quilt. This feature helps keep your body from becoming tense and allows you to quilt comfortably for long hours.

  1. Work in small units

If you feel like a quilt is too large for you to handle comfortably in its entirety, you could always break it up into smaller pieces and then join the units later. When deciding on these units’ size, the trick is to choose a size that you can work with efficiently while ensuring that the unit is small to add a lot of unnecessary workloads and wasted time. An ideal size you could start with could be between 36 t 50 inches.

  1. Start quilting at the center.

Another excellent tip for quilting in a domestic machine is to start stitching at the center. Starting from the center and moving to the sides makes the process easier since, at any given time, you will only need to fit around half of the quilt in the machine’s throat. This feature can prove especially useful when working with large quilts. To quilt the opposite side of the fabric, all you need to do is rotate the quilt instead of scrunching it up.

  1. Invest in the right tools.

The right tools, in the hands of a skilled worker, can produce extraordinary results. To get the best results when quilting, you will need to purchase, if you do not already have- some accessories. Some of the tools needed when quilting on a domestic machine include:

  • Free motion foot– this is the best foot for when you want to do free-motion quilting. Using a free motion foot ensures that you have proper stitch formation, fewer skipped stitches, minimal fabric puckering, and protects your fingers as you move the fabric.
  • The walking foot is an excellent accessory for when you want to stitch in straight lines. It acts as an extra pair of feed dogs and is great for moving heavy, thick, and multi-layered fabrics through the machine.
  • The quarter-inch foot- this foot is handy when quilting projects that have a narrow seam allowance. It also helps achieve high levels of accuracy.

Most quilting machines will come with these accessories, but you can likely get them at the nearest manufacturer outlet if you are using a sewing machine.

What is the Best Stitch Length for Machine Quilting?

The matter of the best stitch length is varying and subjective to the quilter. You will decide which stitch length to use depending on the aesthetic you are going for, the material, and the thread.

Regardless, the general recommendation for stitch length when machine quilting is 2.5 to 3.0. This measurement changes to 8 to 12 stitches per inch.  If you are a novice quilter, stick to this length at first, but you will develop your style and preferencesas you gain more experience.

Other factors will influence the stitch length you use, such as thread thickness. If you are using a fine thread, smaller stitches are the better option, while when using thick thread, very short stitches make the fabric look like it has multiple holes, so longer stitches are preferred.

Can I Quilt Without a Walking Foot?

 A walking foot is an invaluable accessory when quilting thick, multi-layered fabrics. It helps to keep all the fabric layers steady and moving smoothly. In this, it acts almost like another set of feed dogs. When you quilt without a walking foot, the fabrics’ bulk will cause the machine’s presser foot to move the top material towards you, causing rumpling.

While the walking foot is essential, you can quilt without it. You could use a darning foot which would require you to drop the feed dogs and do some free motion quilting. It will be up to you to move the quilt through the machine and regulate the stitch length.

Do You Backstitch When Machine Quilting?

Backstitching is a process that comprises sewing back and forward at the seam starts and ends to secure them and prevent unraveling. If you are piecing, you do not need to backstitch since you will be stitching across the same seam later on, and backstitching may cause an unsightly appearance. If the seam you are sewing will not intersect another, such as in the final quilt borders, then you can backstitch to secure the seam ends.

Final Thoughts

When quilting on a regular sewing machine, you will not be compromising on the work quality or the design. With enough practice, you can learn to produce just about any design at the same level of quality that you would achieve with a quilting machine. Still, the vital question is,

Can You Quilt With a Regular Sewing Machine?

Yes, you most definitely can. As mentioned above, all you need are the right tools and carefully cultivated skills to achieve this efficiently.

I hope this article has provided any information you needed and addressed any concerns or questions you may have on quilting with a sewing machine. The comment section below is open to receive any queries, thought, or suggestions on the subject.

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