Coronavirus Crafts: Quilting with an Embroidery Machine

You know those super pretty quilts with super intricate quilting? There are swirls or feathers or boats or what have you. Yeah, I love those quilts. And I am also positive I will never be able to create them. I mean, not without spending thousands and thousands of dollars on a giant long-arm machine and all that comes with it. And I am way too cheap to pay someone else with a long-arm machine to quilt something for me. So I’m left with straight-line quilting on my home machine and that is perfectly fine. Or I should say, was. 

A while back, I got to thinking and wondered if I could use my embroidery machine (I have a sewing and embroidery combo machine) to do the quilting. I wasn’t exactly sure on the details of it, but I was sure it could be done. And as we all know, we’re never lucky enough to be the first to come up with something, so I went straight to the internet and began searching. I don’t remember exactly how or where I found it, but I discovered Edge to Edge Quilting on Your Embroidery Machine. The book (and its many expansions) comes with step by step instructions and a CD of embroidery patterns for quilting. At their most basic level, the embroidery patterns are continuous lines that fill an embroidery hoop with a start and an end point so you can line up the next section. 

As luck (or un-luck) would have it, I made this most fantastic discovery right before the start of the Christmas season. My family has a strict rule in which you’re not allowed to buy yourself anything around Christmas. Instead of breaking this rule and not telling anybody, I forced myself to add it to my Christmas list and hope and wait. Luckily, my wonderful sister drew my name and gifted it to me. It was pure torture having it in my hands and not being able to run up to my sewing room and test it out on Christmas morning (I was the host. It would have been extra rude).  

Then, I guess life happened and I never got around to it… until this week! I’m working on a quilt for a baby girl and one of the quilting embroidery patterns is a perfect match for the fabric in the quilt. Since it’s a terrible idea to experiment with the real thing (and I’m tired of making quilt blocks), I decided to take some time to practice quilting with my embroidery machine.

I didn’t want to test out the pattern on a project I actually cared about, but I also didn’t want to end up with some useless item just taking up space. After giving it some thought, I decided to make a hot pad for a 9 x 13 pan. I’ve made a ton of these things in the past, so I’m well aware of the overall construction and I can always use extra hot pads. Plus, hot pads have two pieces of fabric, a layer of batting and a layer of Insul-Bright in them. This means I’d be experimenting with one more layer than my quilt would have. I figured if it works for 4 layers, it’ll work for 3. 

The first step was to make the templates for the pattern. Each pattern has a pattern A and a pattern B. The templates are used to align the end of A with beginning of B and vice versa while hooping the quilt. I was a little annoyed that I had to waste fabric on the templates, but you only have to make these once and they are reusable.

After creating and labeling (super important) the templates, I cut my fabric. An important point here is that when you’re using the embroidery machine for quilting, you need enough extra fabric to fit the hoop. If your project is only one and a half embroidery patterns wide, you will still need enough excess fabric to embroider two patterns. You can’t embroider half of a pattern. My hot pad was just shy of 3 embroidery patterns wide and shorter than one embroidery pattern. I left enough excess on all sides so I could securely hoop everything.

Use the template to align the start of pattern A with the end of pattern B

I started my embroidery in the middle of the hot pad (per the instruction booklet). Hooping has and I think always will be a struggle for me. I have watched a thousand videos and tried all their approaches. I even decided to try out using double-sided tape to hold the top of the hoop in place. I spent about 10 minutes trying to get the second side of the double-sided tape free before I tossed it to the side in a fit of rage and decided I’d find another way. I ended up taping my template in place using the sticky side of my “double-sided” tape and centering the hoop around the template, then securing it in the bottom part of the hoop. From this point, it was easy peasy. Insert the hoop into the machine, presser foot down, and press start.

While my hooping struggles are apparent where the end of pattern A meets the start of pattern B and vice versa, I cannot get over how cute this hot pad turned out! I was pretty giddy when I finished the 3 embroidery patterns required and as I trimmed and added the binding, it really came together. I’m super excited to use this hot pad in my kitchen (and let’s be real, show it off) and I’m feeling pretty confident about using this pattern to quilt the baby quilt.

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