Machine Quilting As I Go – Tiny Stars Tutorial

Awhile back I wrote that my plan was to machine quilt my Star-A-Day quilt in nine panels. Some of you have asked me how that was going so I thought it was time to post a little tutorial showing the method I’m using.

The first thing I did was read Marti Michell’s book on machine quilting in sections.

1. As I complete my stars I sew them into Nine-Patch blocks with the 3″ alternate, plain squares. When I have nine of those blocks, I connect them in three rows to create a nine block section. It will take nine of these sections to complete the quilt.

Here's an example of one completed section

Here’s an example of one completed section

2. Layer and baste the completed section with batting and backing. Leave at least 1″ of excess batting and backing on all sides. I’m using Hobbs Heirloom Cotton 80/20 because it’s my favorite batting and I have a whole bag of smallish pieces leftover from other projects. Either pin baste with 1″ safety pins or use basting spray – I really like the Sulky temporary spray adhesive.

3. Using my sit down, Handi Quilter Sweet 16 I do all of the background quilting and the in the ditch stitching.

Start out by quilting in the ditch

Start out by quilting in the ditch

4. I stitch in the ditch working across the quilt, stopping to stitch around each star as I come to it.

Continuous curves around the outside edge of the stars

Continuous curves quilted around the outside edges of the stars

5. When the stars are completed I go back and do any in the ditch stitching that I missed in the first pass.

6. I tried several different designs in the 3″ alternate squares before settling on a sort of free form flower. Using free motion stitching and not worrying about making every flower exactly the same I can manage without marking anything. Of course each flower looks a little different but I’m okay with that. Start by quilting a 1/2″ circle in the center of the background square. Then quilt a four petal flowered bringing the petal to a point at each corner of the block.

Quilt a circle in the center of the square then add four petals.

Quilt a circle in the center of the square then add four petals.

7. Add a second row of stitching around the flower echoing the shape of each petal.

Stitch a second row of quilting around the outside edge of the flower filling in the space to the edges of the block.

Stitch a second row of quilting around the outside edge of the flower filling in the space to the edges and corners of the block.

8. Stitch around the center circle again, stopping at each petal to add a line of accent stitching in each petal. Cut the threads when you get back to where you started the second lap of stitching around the circle.

Quilt texture lines inside the petals. Cut the threads after each flower.

Quilt texture lines inside the petals. Cut the threads after each flower.

9. At this point I switch machines and move my work to my Bernina where it is much faster to change the color of thread. Using thread that matches the fabric, stitch continuous curves in the star diamonds. I’m quilting inside four of the eight diamonds. I found it works best to start in the center and quilt the first diamond, then the diamond directly opposite it ending in the center. From there I can move on to stitch the other two diamonds starting and ending in the center. When I tried quilting them one at a time in a clockwise manner the centers shifted and I ended up with a bubble. By anchoring the center first, I can keep my stars flatter.

With matching thread quilt four of the diamonds with continuous curves. I am leaving the other four un-quilted.

With matching thread quilt four of the diamonds with continuous curves. I am leaving the other four diamonds un-quilted.

I quilt each section leaving the edges that will be connected later unquilted.

Which brings me to connecting the sections and here’s how I attacked that job.

1. Working on one panel at a time flip the backing of the edge you are going to connect out of the way and trim the excess batting even with the edge of the quilt top.

Fold the backing out of the way.

Fold the backing out of the way.

Trim excess batting even with the front of the quilt.

Trim excess batting even with the front of the quilt.

2. Now fold the front of the quilt out of the way and keep the backing folded out of the way. Use pins if needed.

Fold both the backing and top so the batting is a single layer.

Fold both the backing and top so the batting is a single layer.

3. Trim the exposed batting one more time, this time cutting away 1/4″. The edges of the batting will be butted later. By trimming this 1/4″ now, you won’t have the bump of overlapping batting.

With the top and the backing folded out of the way, trim another 1/4" of batting.

With the top and the backing folded out of the way, trim away another 1/4″ of batting.

4. Smooth the layers so the extra backing shows beyond the edge of the quilt top. Trim away any excess. Theoretically you should be able to trim the backing even with the quilt top but I felt more comfortable leaving a little extra.

Trim the backing. You can cut it even with the top at this point but I was nervous so left a little extra.

Trim the backing. You can cut it even with the top at this point but I was nervous so left a little extra.

5. Repeat steps 1-4 for the second panel.

6. With right sides together and the backing and batting folded and pinned out of the way, pin and stitch the two sections together.

Fold the backing and batting of each section out of the way and pin in place. Match and pin the seam that will connect the two sections.

Fold the backing and batting of each section out of the way and pin in place. Match and pin the seam that will connect the two sections.

The backing and batting of both sections is left free.

The backing and batting of both sections is left free.

7. Press the seam. I prefer to snip into the seam allowance and release the seam so I can press toward the alternate plain squares. You can see from this picture that it’s the way the seam wants to go!

Press the seam

Press the seam

8. Unfold the batting letting the two edges come together. Use batting tape to fuse the two edges in place.

Smooth the batting in place. The edges should meet without overlapping.

Smooth the batting in place. The edges should meet without overlapping.

I'm using this batting tape to connect the two layers. Fuse it in place over the batted edges that are butted up to each other.

I’m using this batting tape to connect the two layers. Fuse it in place over the batting edges that are butted up to each other.

9. Smooth the backing in place over the fused area. Because I left excess when I trimmed the backing I had too much fabric so went back and trimmed a little away. You only need enough to turn under the raw edge on one side.

If there is too much excess backing fabric, trim it now by folding the quilt top and batting out of the way.

If there is too much excess backing fabric, trim it now by folding the quilt top and batting out of the way.

10. With one side of the backing smoothed into place, turn under the raw edge of the other side and overlap the two edges of the backing. Pin in place. I gave it a quick press at this point.

Smooth the backing of one section and overlap it with the backing from the other section. Turn under the raw edge and pin in place.

Smooth the backing of one section and overlap it with the backing from the other section. Turn under the raw edge and pin in place.

Edges ready for hand stitching.

Edges ready for hand stitching.

11. Using matching thread and a blind hem stitch, stitch the edges together.

Hand stitch with a blind hem stitch using matching thread.

Hand stitch with a blind hem stitch using matching thread.

Hand stitching is completed.

Hand stitching is completed.

12. Machine quilt the section, leaving any edge that will later connect to another section unquilted.

Machine quilt the stars and alternate plain squares in the area where the two sections were connected to each other.

Machine quilt the stars and alternate plain squares in the area where the two sections were connected to each other.

13. When you turn the panels over and look at the back you will see that the machine quilting covers the area where the batting was butted and fused and the backing was hand stitched together. It helps to choose a backing fabric that will hide the stitching!

Back after quilting was completed. See the hand stitched seam?

Back after quilting was completed. See the hand stitched seam?

I am using this quilt as you go method because I didn’t want to wrestle my full sized finished quilt under either my HQ Sweet 16 or my Bernina. If you want to try this I highly recommend you get a copy of Marti Michell’s book and read it cover to cover. It is full of tips and several other ways of quilting as you go. Click here to see the book.

There. That’s three sections done, six to go!