I know a lot of you are mainly garment sewers and not quilters so I wanted to take a minute and talk a little bit about a few basic quilting techniques you might find useful if you’re making a Tamarack Jacket, as well as a few alternative quilting options.
You don’t need a ton of supplies to get started quilting, most of them you likely already have from garment sewing. There are of course a lot of specialty tools you can buy for quilting, but these are the basic tools I personally use.
1. Rotary mat: For the Tamarack you can cut your pieces out with scissors with no trouble, that’s what I did, but you can also use rotary tools. I usually use a rotary cutter and mat to cut my bias binding, I find it a lot easier than tracing and cutting with scissors since the bias can be finicky. You’ll need a mat to place under the fabric you’re cutting to prevent your rotary blade from scarring up your cutting surface. For more information on cutting mats, Amy has a great post called Adventures in Cutting Mats you might want to check out.
2. Walking Foot: When quilting you’re stitching through multiple layers of fabric and batting. If you’re using a regular foot it’s easy for the fabric to become puckered because the rate that the upper and lower pieces of fabric are going through the machine are slightly different due to the feed dogs and friction on the foot. A walking foot helps to equalize this by moving the fabric through evenly meaning you can quilt without puckers.
3. Marking Chalk: You’re going to need this to draw your quilting lines. I recommend traditional white chalk because it will definitely wash out. I get a bit nervous using dyed chalk because that’s how I roll, but I would recommend you avoid using a Frixion pen when quilting. Those pens are great for things you’re going to cut away, but when you iron them you’re not actually removing the markings and they can reappear when the fabric is exposed to cold. Not idea when making something you’re going to use in cold weather like a quilt or jacket. I’ve seen this first hand on one of my mom’s quilts and it’s a well known problem in many quilting circles (including my mom’s guild).
4. Rotary Cutter: Pretty self explanatory, helpful when cutting bias especially. Make sure you have a sharp blade and you’re good to go.
5. Needle & Thread: If you’re going to hand baste this is a must. For my Tamaracks I like to hand baste one line perpendicular to the center front connecting to the armhole and another parallel to center front from the top of the shoulder to the hem. These lines give me a reference point when tracing my quilting lines that won’t shift or move as I work.
6. Safety Pins: This is a really popular basting method. They stay in place nicely and won’t fall out or poke you as you work. You can also buy special quilting safety pins that are curved to make placing and removing them much easier. Bonus points if your safety pins are coil-less as your fabric won’t run the risk of getting stuck in a coil. I usually borrow my mom’s when I’m working on a quilt, but for a small jacket like this these worked just fine.
7. Straight Pins: I don’t recommend using straight pins for regular quilting on an actual quilt. You run the risk of the fabric getting stuck on the pins, them sticking you, or them just falling out. For something as small as the pieces of the Tamarack though, you’ll be just fine. I had to use them on my lighter jacket because of the weave of the chambray I used. The safety pins were slightly too large to go through the fabric without leaving a mark and I needed a slimmer needle.
8. Acrylic Ruler: If you’re using a rotary cutter and blade you’re going to want to make sure that you have a thick acrylic ruler made for use with a rotary blade. Don’t use your 18″ clear gridded ruler, just don’t. Even a semi-sharp rotary blade can cut through one of those so it’s easy to ruin your ruler. More importantly though, you need a thick edge to keep the rotary blade on the fabric and off the ruler. Once the blade hits the top of the ruler it’s only a short distance to your hand and you do not want to slice off part of that.
In the Tamarack pattern I talk a bit about something called the “Quilt Sandwich” which is basically three layers of fabric. The first is your top, this is the outside of the piece you’re quilting. You’ll want this facing up as you quilt. Below the top is the batting, and below the batting is the backing. You can think of the backing as your lining.
I briefly talked about about the ways you can baste your fabric above, but here’s what each method looks like in practice. For all methods you’ll want to make sure that the fabric on each side of your stitching line is secured. I also recommend starting at the center of your piece and working out towards the edges. This way you can make sure things are in alignment and your fabric isn’t moving one way or the other while working.
On our Tamarack Jackets we used straight line machine quilting. There are many different and interesting ways to quilt using straight lines in addition to rows of straight lines. I highly recommend making a few test pieces with your garment fabric and the batting you intend to use so that you can get an idea what works. Each fabric and batting combination will look slightly different so test a bunch out and see what you like!
In swatch 1 we did a basic diagonal diamond pattern, each line is 1.5″ apart from each other. Swatch 2 is the same pattern but on the straight and cross grains rather than the bias. You can see how different the two techniques look just by stitching the same pattern in different directions. Swatch 3 is one of my favorites. It’s made by stitching vertical lines 1.5″ apart from each other, then when the whole piece is stitched, going back over the piece on the 45 degree diagonal to the straight lines.
If you’ve got a quilting machine on hand you can totally try free motion quilting. My machine has something called a Free Motion Foot (3) which allows you to move the fabric around under the foot and essentially stitch free hand. It’s completely unnatural to me and I find that keeping the stitches even without a stitch regulator is almost impossible. I have to say, this is something that, in addition to a quilting machine, requires quite a bit of practice and some talent. You can see in swatch 1 my first attempt in the lower squiggle. After practicing a bit I managed to get swatch 2 but that’s also a bit meh. My mom did the upper portion of swatch one which is definitely the most even and best looking part of these. It’s really fun trying to get it to work though, and if it’s something you’re already good with, it could really open up some fun quilting opportunities for jacket!
The last method of quilting I have for you is Sashiko quilting. Sashiko is a form of stitching from Japan that was traditionally used for reinforcement and repair. It’s also used for decorative stitching in quilting, sewing & embroidery and has a really great texture and lots of visual interest. It’s surprisingly quick as well which I found out while making this swatch. You can buy Sashiko thread (2) and needles (1) which I really liked working with, or you can approximate the look with embroidery floss.
I hope you found this basic guide to quilting helpful! If you have more specific questions just let me know in the comments below.