While I’ve been sewing a long time, I’ve only been quilting for a handful of years. Learning how to successfully machine quilt all those layers of pieced fabrics together with batting and backing was quite an experience! I prefer straight line quilting in my quilts as opposed to free-motion quilting, mostly because the straight lines compliment the simple, geometric designs in my quilts.
Like the quilting in the Sunrise Baby Quilt (find the free tutorial here), which has straight lines following along the rays out from the center.
And the quilting in the Triangle quilt which follows along the leading edges of the shapes. I’ve learned many tips and tricks to help quilt in a straight line, and I’m sharing my top tips with you here today!
Meet The BERNINA Walking Foot #50
Hello there little Walking foot #50! This is one of my favorite and most used of all sewing machine feet and accessories. The BERNINA Walking Foot #50 has three interchangeable soles specifically made to help you perfectly space your stitches. The standard sole is closed around the needle, a special quilting sole is open in front to allow full view of the needle, and a sole with a central guide for edge-stitching and stitching in the ditch. Here I am using the standard sole, which is closed around the needle. The sole measures exactly 1/2″ from each side of the needle, and also includes a center needle mark, and 1/4″ marks.
There are several methods to use this foot with straight lines, these are the methods I like to use the most.
Quilting Half-inch Straight Lines
To get perfectly spaced 1/2″ quilting lines, use either side of your Walking Foot #50 sole to follow the previous line of stitching with the very edge of the foot. To make your first straight line of quilted stitching to follow, use one of the methods mentioned below. Or, you may have a straight line seam your quilt to follow along with.
Quilting Randomly Spaced Straight Lines
This method can create interesting straight lines that are not all the same width apart. Use the edge of the Walking foot #50 to guide you along the edge of the previous row of stitches, but change the needle position randomly to the left or right for each new row of stitching.
Quilting Straight Lines with the Seam Guide
The BERNINA Walking Foot #50 comes with both left and right seam guides to help you follow along previously stitched lines. The guides attach on the back of the Walking Foot #50 with the thumb screw. And you might notice my “marks” on the back of my foot—made with a permanent marker so I can distinguish my foot from others at classes and retreats!
The guide rests down on the fabric with the blade flat on the surface (if you’ve accidentally installed the guide upside down, now is the time to flip it around!). Use a ruler to help you find the exact spacing to set the guide between stitching. Be sure to line the end of the ruler up with the needle.
This is a great way to get wider spaced straight line quilting, and I’ve used this method to finish many baby quilts!
Quilting Straight Lines with Painter’s Tape
This tip may seem pretty self-explanatory, but I have learned a few tricks to this technique. First, it’s difficult to stitch with the needle right next to the tape. If you accidentally stitch over the tape, it can be near impossible to pull out those little bits stuck under your stitches! Instead, use the tape edge as a guide for the edge of your Walking foot #50. Secondly, if you are taping off a long straight line free-hand, the tape can wobble and not create a true straight edge. To make sure you are taping the line straight, take time to make sure it is smoothed flat on a table or flat work space. Then, use a long straight edge (like a yardstick or extra long acrylic quilting ruler) to mark where you want the tape line, and lay the very edge of the painter’s tape against the straight edge when applying to the quilt.
I have also used this method to make sure my multiple straight lines of quilting stay straight when using the edge of the Walking foot #50 to make half-inch stitching. I have checked my lines of stitching for straight by smoothing out the quilt on a flat surface, then checking my last stitched straight line with the straight edge. If it looks like it’s starting to go wonky, I apply a line of painter’s tape with the straight edge to follow along with my next pass with the Walking foot #50 to get me back on the right path.
Painter’s tape can also be used to mark totally random straight lines. Just pick a direction, slap down the tape, and follow the line with either edge of the Walking foot #50.
With this method you can quilt all kinds of random shapes, even stars!
I hope you will find some of these tips useful, and if you haven’t yet tried straight line quilting I hope you will give it a try!