It is such a frustration when you are having fun quilting away and suddenly you realized that you’ve actually quilted folds and pleats on the backing.
Or even more frustrating: you suddenly come across an area with a bubbly puffy surface on the quilt top with no way to ease the puff away except to just quilt it down.
Which resulted in some unintended folds of fabrics, which is pretty annoying (mostly this annoys only the maker, sometimes enough to discourage a maker to just stop and stall.)
This problem may only happen to those quilting on their domestic machine as the quilt is not stretched flat like the long arm frame (makes us wish we had a long arm or the frame – right?) but no sweat, I have the solution for it.
Honestly, I have been there. Many, many times. But now I’ve discovered a technique that works well for me on how to avoid it from happening.
I’ll share this very technique with you in this post. I hope that’ll you find it helpful the next time you are attempting free motion quilt on your domestic machine.
There are affiliate links in this post for your convenience. Please refer to my full disclosure here.
Before we go into the solution, here are some of my favorite must-have tools for Free Motion Quilting:
1. ☑ Superior Threads.I literally changed my mind about threads when I started using this thread. Just read what others hav to say about it too ☑ HERE. They come in big cones, which means they don’t need to be replaced that often as they last a lot longer. I use an embroidery thread stand for it. You can get cheap thread stands like this one here.
2. ☑ Superior Threads Top Stitch Needles. I use this for all of my sewing and FMQ. Literally. In fact, I kind of find it a bit odd when I have to use a needle that is not coloured gold as these needles are. Try out different sizes with ☑ this pack.
3. My trusty sticky Glove. Any brand works for me, but I personally love the ones made of breathable cotton like this one ☑. If I don’t feel like wearing gloves, I make sure I have my ☑ Supreme Slider on the machine. Works like a charm.
4. ☑ Spray Baste. I am not a fan of taking off safety pins. This makes it so much quicker and allows me to cruise without fear of getting onto a pin. I personally love ☑ 505 Spray baste.
5. My large throat Janome Horizon machine ☑ of course!
However, you don’t actually need all of these tools to start. I myself started with a very basic sewing machine and just a regular free motion quilting foot. Yet, I still managed to quilt a queen-sized quilt. So just upgrade gradually as you feel more confident and based on your needs and wants accordingly.
If you are looking for a generic free-motion quilting foot that suits a regular domestic machine, HERE is one with a great 5-Star review ☑ .
How to avoid unintended pleats and folds while free-motion quilting on a domestic machine.
The solution is pretty simple.
First, baste well and baste as flat as possible.
and secondly, always, always quilt it from the inside out.
I did mention this in one of the top TLMC favorite posts HERE, but I would like to elaborate further on second point.
Besides, I have just come across this problem recently and I thought I’d do a quick video on it too to show you how I fixed it.
So, what does it mean to quilt it from the inside out?
Quilting from the inside out
I have tried many ways and strategies on how to tackle quilting a big quilt on a domestic machine and this is the method that I find works best especially for large quilts.
[Related: See some of the large quilts that I made on my domestic machine HERE, HERE and HERE.]
From the moment I first discovered this method, I started practicing it in all of my quilting. Be it for small or large quilt.
I would plan carefully before making a move in each section and this has definitely paid through. Using this method, I was able to avoid unintended pleats and folds. Also, the best part is; even if I do make some mistakes, they are fixable!
Why does it work?
Because, even if you form a bubble surface, there are always areas to ease it out. Since you are quilting from the inside, the outside and edges are still left unquilted. So, you can always flatten the bubble by pushing it away towards the edges.
If you don’t quilt from the inside out, you are likely to get into a situation where bubbles or puff are bounded by quilted areas. When that happens, there is no way the bubble can be eased out and you will have to just push the fabric down and simply quilt on it. Or, make a lot of unpicking to correct it.
See the example diagram below.
How to quilt from the inside out:
In order to quilt it from the inside out, you will most likely have to plan your way in sections.
Here is how I do that:
A. I would first divide my quilt into quarters, tackle it quarter by quarter in a systematic way.
B. In each quarter, I would quilt radiating out, starting from the centre moving towards the edges of the quilt.
C. After a couple of shift under the machine, usually about a bobbin or so, I would take it out and plan my way again, taking notes on how I would want to move from one area to another. I will need to make sure that I always have the edges free and unquilted so that I am able to ease out any scrunched up areas. (I will likely need a break anyway, so I take the break session as a time to evaluate my plan.)
D. As I reach close to the edges, I would decide on whether I should continue quilting the areas around there or make my way all the way to the edges and restart again from the centre. This step is important because you may start forming boundaries by continuing to quilt around the edges; creating an unquilted centre (refer the diagram below). Once you start quilting from the outer edge, you may be dragging fabric in which creates these puff and bubbles.
I would do this to cover all areas in quarters.
Here are the above steps in a visual format.
How to fix unintended pleats and folds
Even if you quilt it from the inside out, sometimes you are bound to come to this situation.
Partly because you may get carried away with FMQ-ing a certain area that you got lost from the initial path plan. It happens. FMQ can be quite fun and sometimes when we are eager to finish quilting certain area we forget the bigger picture.
This is why steps C & D mentioned above is important. Stop for a while and think of where you should be heading to and covering next.
If you skipped the steps or misjudged your plan, mistakes are still fixable.
If you have from the very beginning followed the technique of quilting from the inside out, you should not be far from the unquilted edges. Therefore, you won’t have much to unpick till you can fix it.
Since I have recently solved this problem, I thought, I’ll show you how I did it in this short two-minute video.
This is the seam ripper I used. I love the rubber end to remove the threads easily. You can also use an eraser to do this.
If you can’t or don’t want to fix it?
It is totally A-okay.
Having to sit down and remove free motion quilting stitches is a hard and boring work. I agree.
I chose not to do so in a few of my earlier quilts,
ONE reason is because I did not follow the “quilt from the inside out” rule which means there was too much to unpick to fix it,
Secondly, i thought “if ripping out these stitches will give me a hard time, I would rather accept it as it is”.
Learn to move on.
Once washed and used, it may actually go unnoticed anyway.
Make mistake rather than not trying at all
[related: briar rose quilt – the pic above is a quilt where I practiced lots of pebble and swirl quilting, no, I do not have pleats in this quilt – I quilted it from the inside out; using the stars as a reference for the centre and moving outwards from each of them.
Make mistakes and learn from them to improve on your future projects. That way you are not building bad habits, but learning from mistakes.
Don’t fret too much about it. I have been there. I have grown out of those mistakes and learned.
I would not have learned if I didn’t try; if I was too afraid to do those quilts by myself, on my own domestic machines.
There are lessons in each practice you do; in each quilt you make. So, embrace it.
Take this as a challenge if you have been fearing free-motion quilting your quilt tops. I know you can do it!
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