Three Tips for Creative Machine Quilting

To me, Elin Waterston's art quilts are instantly recognizable. They almost always feature clean designs with Elin's own brand of creative machine quilting that echoes the quilt's motifs.

creative machine stitching by elin waterston
The creative free-motion stitching on 'Strange Birds, Winter'
by Elin Waterston evokes a wintry day with the wind blowing.

Her unique approach is partly influenced by the fact that Elin came to the quilting world from costume design.

"Since I'm a self-taught quilter, some of the techniques I use aren't necessarily typical in the quilting world," she says.

Elin is also a dancer, and that helps her get into her own groove as she decides how to machine quilt her fiber art pieces, often improvising a quilting motif.

But while Elin's approach to free-motion quilting is unconventional, there are certain basic steps she follows for success. Here are three of her top tips

  • Your machine is obviously your most important tool when machine quilting. I always make sure my machine is clean and set-up correctly, with the appropriate presser foot, needle, and thread, before I start quilting.
  • When first starting out with free-motion quilting, practice on test quilts instead of projects, so you allow yourself the time to get comfortable without the pressure of what the finished product is going to be.
  • And . . . don't take it too seriously! It doesn't need to be perfect. I always say I like the little imperfections because then I see the hand of the artist.

You can get more details about her method od machine quilting from Elin via her hour-long video Creative Machine Quilting, as well as advice from other acclaimed quilt artist/teachers like Carol Taylor, Susan Brubaker Knapp, Pokey Bolton, and many more with a subscription to Craft Daily.

P.S. How much does the theme of your quilt influence the motifs of your machine quilting? Leave your comment below.

Other topics you may enjoy:


Machine Stitching, Quilting Daily Blog

2 thoughts on “Three Tips for Creative Machine Quilting

  1. Sometimes I keep with the theme and fmq a design from the fabric. I made a quilt based on a spiral of 8 breaking fireworks shells. The background fabric had a subtle spiral in the black and gray print. I fmq spirals over the whole background. I also just made a quilt with appliqued circles. I stitched around all the circles and stitched circles in the background also, of different sizes just like the appliqued circles.

  2. The theme of my quilt, as well as the spaces I want people to see, influences every quilt I make. If I have spent all that time making and designing the visual part of a quilt, then I want THAT to be what stands out! I have found that directional lines, designs, and fillers in appropriate places, add to the overall effect. I also have used different color threads for different areas. For me, I want the recipient to see the design, first, and the quilting, second.