Quilting is the act of stitching three layers of a quilt together – creating a kind of sandwich that features a decorative design. The act of quilting can be completed by a machine or by hand.
Machine quilting involves a ‘walking foot’ in order to feed the layers of the quilt through the machine. Free motion or freehand quilting is completed with a darning foot. Frequently individuals who choose to use a machine will pair the threads to the fabric that is being quilted. When pairing is not possible, invisible monofilament is used instead.
Hand quilting is often completed on a quilt frame or quilting hoop with needles called ‘betweens’ and thread. To quilt, one hand is placed under the quilt in order to feel for the needle, and the other hand creates the stitches on top. The best hand quilters will create small, consistent stitches that run over the quilt. Straight and uniform stitches are key to make a successful quilt. In general, the stitches should be the same size on both the top and bottom of the quilt.
The design on a quilt is made through a ‘shadow line’. A different shadow line is created depending on whether when uses a machine or one’s hands. In machine quilting, the line will be straighter and rougher looking that quilting by hand, which gives a puckered dotted line. Each method is not better than the other – they each just have a different appearance.