Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Diagonal Quilting - A Problem?

The line of life is a ragged diagonal between duty and desire. 

William R. Alger

I love the way that diagonal quilting looks.  I have used it on a few quilts.  It looks really good on an Irish Chain Quilt and similar patterns where chains of squares or triangles march across the top in a bold angular line.  There can be a problem with it however as I was told by other quilters many years ago when I was talking about how much I liked it.

Can you see the problem?

I've been trying to photograph all the quilts I have that I've made and are still in my possession.  I have found some problems with some of the older ones.  Now I'm a firm believer in using quilts and not keeping them put away for fear of them becoming damaged.  I think they and art of any sort should be enjoyed everyday of your life.  Today is the only day we have to enjoy anything after all.  Tomorrow isn't here and yesterday is but a memory so enjoy life and ALL it's treasures TODAY!   Excuse me while I go pet my fabric...

OK, I'm back now.  Where was I before I was getting so, so ... well, I'll move on.  Do you need another picture of the problem?  How about the right side.

Sweet kitty face!

One of the things I like about diagonal quilting is that it is possible to quilt an entire quilt with very few stops and starts.  I think that is what I did on this one.  Start at a corner and quilt across to the other edge, pivot sew the the other edge, pivot and so on.  There are some diagrams in quilting books and probably on the web of how to do this.  It is fast, done with a walking foot, and if the quilt is basted well you will not get tucks when you cross the previous quilting.  It looks good when it is done and can be done on any scale and with any distance between lines of quilting.

So what's the problem?  Bias, the first thing a quilter or  sewist should learn is about fabric grain.  Lengthwise grain has little stretch and is very stable.  Crosswise, from selvage to selvage, is stable but has a little stretch but bias, the 45 degree angle of fabric, has a lot of stretch.  Thread and seams sewn with a straight stitch have little give to them.  Therein lies the problem.  As the quilt above has been used, tugged on and loved some of the quilting seams are popping.  The fabric stretches but the thread not so much.

What to do?  I will repair the quilting.  I think I did a couple of places in it a few years ago.  It may need more in the future.  It's an easy fix and I still have the matching thread.

As I surf the web I see many quilts, frequently modern types of quilts, by quilters new and old that have diagonal quilting.  If you love it do it.  There are a few tricks you can do to cut down on the stress on the quilting lines [-just had to use that phrase ;-) -] that you can do.

  • Quilt only one or two rows of blocks at a time.  Go across the quilt with a large 'V' or 'W' pattern.  By using a shorter line of quilting there will be less stress.  The final look will be about the same.  Longarm quilters have to do this all the time because of the limited space that they can quilt at a time.
  • Use a very small zig-zag stitch to quilt with.  This puts more thread in the line of stitching and therefore you have more stretch.  Stretchy knit garments are sewn this way because the seams will have give.  The newer machines have a stitch that almost looks like a straight stitch but is in fact a nearly vertical zig-zag.
  • Use a wave stitch or stitch with a wavy line.  This again uses more thread and is not just stitching on the true bias only.

Now I guess you would like to see what the whole quilt looks like.  The name of it is "My Cats Love Plaid".  It is a tessellating cat that was fun to do.  I used cat prints in one direction and neutral tans and browns in the other.  Large border and backing were plaids.

My Cats Love Plaid

So that's my life lesson for the day.  Would you like to see what I'm working on now?  I'm not telling what it is or what it's for but here is a hint of pretties to come soon.

Playing with More Batik 

Have you had any problems with diagonal quilting?  What did you do?


  1. Thanks for the great advice!I never thought about it but you're absolutely right. Love your kitty quilt! Your batiks are gorgeous and look like a great fall project to me!

  2. Your cat quilt is wonderful and I can't wait to see what you're making with the batiks! I bet it is for the Leafs me Happy blog hop! Thanks for sharing.
    Freemotion at the River Linky Party Tuesday

  3. I see that this is an old post, but I'm looking for an answer to a question. Right now, I have a walking foot, but w/o a guide. I have a quilting foot with a guide, so I'm holding my breath as I stitch diagonally across my wall hanging. I have one direction done and would like to quit while I'm ahead. Can you quilt diagonally in one direction only? "Legally"? Rather than doing both directions, creating diamonds? Thanks!


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