'Dear Geraldine' on Consistent Machine Quilting Stitches

'Dear Geraldine' on Consistent Machine Quilting Stitches

Dear Geraldine,

I’m a beginning quilter. I decided on straight lines to quilt my first quilt to make it easy on myself. 

But no matter what I did I could not keep the stitch length looking consistent. Ugh. Some stitches were long, some were short. What should I do next time?

-Inconsistent in Iowa


Dear Inconsistent,

Fear not, girlfriend! It's not you. There's hardly a quilter alive who can keep a consistent stitch length on something as wily as a quilt without some help. What help is that you ask? A walking foot!

It screws onto your machine where your regular pressing foot goes. Every time the needle lever goes down, the walking foot's 'spring' presses extra hard on your quilt layers to keep them moving consistently with your machine's feed dogs. (Consult your manual if these parts are unfamiliar.) This keeps your quilt moving under the needle at a rate that matches your machine speed, which you control.

It also helps stabilize your quilt so that it doesn't slip around while you are quilting, giving you greater control to keep those stitches in line. Make sense?

As a bonus, some walking feet, like the one here at Love Sew, come with a removable bar guide. Simply position that guide over a previous line of sewing, and you will be able to sew a perfectly parallel line to the previous one! Magic!

Walking foot

I always recommend warming up for machine quilting. Try making a quilt sandwich with scrap batting and fabric. Or better yet, quilt a small project like a placemat or hot pad.

Another tip is to pre-mark your quilt tip for quilting with heat erasable pens. That way your quilting plan is clear and you won't go astray if you follow the marks. When you're done quilting, simply pass an iron over the marks and they'll disappear!

I hope that solves the mystery for consistent straight stitching on quilts.

Readers, thank you for being here, and as always, I welcome quilty questions in the comments.

Until next week, happy sewing! 



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To Prewash or Not to Prewash- That is the Question
Geraldine Settles Sewing Pin Squabble


Terri Washburn

Terri Washburn

My suggestion to a beginner quilter is: DON’T WORRY ABOUT STITCH LENGTHS! Enjoy the process of making the quilt, admire the interplay of colors and shapes and love the final product! Ok, then my question is are you machine quilting (in which case, I totally agree with the suggestion to get a walking pressure foot) or are you hand quilting. I have been quilting since 1973 and I still don’t have absolutely even hand stitching or machine stitching either…lol…but I do love the quilt making process and I still can’t wait for the next quilting project. I have found machine free motion quilting is a lot like learning to write. It takes a lot of practice. Need placemats? Great FMQ practice pieces! Enjoy ALL the stitches!



Carolyn, that is an EXCELLENT point! If I’m working on a big quilt I will sometimes rest the bulk on an ironing board that I’ve positioned next to my sewing machine.



Make sure the quilt is not dragging. Hard to make consistent stitches when it’s being pulled in a direction opposite from the one you are trying to sew.

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