How Much is Enough?

It’s no secret that Editor Kit Robinson and I *love* elaborate  machine quilting, no matter what the style. Many of the quilts shown in MQU feature expert level, dense quilting. But really, how much quilting is enough? That depends on how you’re going to use your quilt.

Show quilts are frequently very heavily quilted. The sculptural effect produced by areas of dense quilting, combined with less densely quilted areas for relief, is the result of plenty of practice and a devotion to the process. Columnist Margaret Solomon Gunn’s quilts exemplify this aesthetic.

A detail from The Twisted Sister ©Margaret Solomon Gunn, shown in MQU September/October 2017 issue.
A detail from The Twisted Sister ©Margaret Solomon Gunn, shown in MQU September/October 2017 issue.

Wall quilts in any style are also often densely quilted, whether for exhibition, show, or just for your own pleasure. Quilts that are intricately pieced throughout, particularly if the piecing is accomplished entirely with patterned fabric, may not showcase elaborate quilting very well. Consider whether or not dense quilting will be visible in the end result, and whether or not it’s worth the time and effort to do it. If you do want to the quilting to show on a “busy” top consider using a heavier thread in a contrasting color.

Earlier today Kit and I were talking about bed quilts and baby quilts. Our consensus was that they don’t need to be densely quilted, though they certainly can be. In fact Kit, who’s made many more baby quilts than I have, was quite emphatic that baby quilts should be quilted sparingly. Why? So they’ll be soft, drapey, and cuddly. She recommends simple meandering. If you’re not comfortable free motion quilting this would be a great project to practice on. Using a walking foot to create a large grid of quilting would also work great.

Thales' Quilt ©Kit Robinson
Thales’ Quilt ©Kit Robinson , shown in the January/February 2016 issue of MQU. Kit made this quilt for her grandson.

Here are some considerations when trying to determine how densely a quilt should be quilted:

  • For show quilts and wall quilts any density is fine. This is definitely a situation where you can “quilt as desired.”
  • The thicker the thread and the more densely you quilt, the heavier and stiffer the quilt will be.
  • Batting selection is key to creating a soft quilt. Polyester battings and wool produce the softest quilts. Hint: Packaged batting usually has a recommendation on the label for how far apart you can quilt using that batting. It’s a great way to estimate the minimum amount of quilting you can get away with while still producing a durable quilt.
  • No matter how densely you quilt, try to keep the density evenly distributed throughout. It’s OK to have dense areas and less dense areas, but keep them balanced so that the quilt hangs or lays evenly.

Bonus! Here’s a link to a Web Extra! for a pattern for another baby quilt Kit made called  Julianna’s Diamonds . The cheerful colors and feminine prints provide plenty of style without the need for a dense quilting design. Enjoy!

Julianna's Diamonds ©Kit Robinson, shown in the January/February 2015 issue of MQU
Julianna’s Diamonds ©Kit Robinson, shown in the January/February 2015 issue of MQU

2 Responses to How Much is Enough?

  1. I love seeing beautifully heavily quilted quilts. When I make a quilt I use many different quilting designs, but do not heavily quilt. One of my most beautiful quilts I only stitched in the ditch.

  2. Bravo Ann! Every quilt, and every quilter, is unique. I hope that all quilters develop the same confidence you have in deciding how their quilts should be stitched.

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