Owning a longarm quilting machine opens up a new creative quilty world full of luscious curvy organic lines that are incredibly easy to make with an APQS machine. That doesn’t mean that straight line quilting shouldn’t also have a place in your repertoire. Our machines move so freely that it is easy to forget how to effectively use straight line quilting to add drama and emphasis to a quilt top.
The most common type of straight line quilting is stitching in the ditch. This is accomplished by carefully guiding the quilting machine to run a line of stitching along the seam intersections of your patchwork. When the top is pieced and each seam is ironed to one side, it creates a small ditch with a high side and a low side. Ditch stitching is kept in the low side of the seam intersection. This type of quilting adds bones to a quilt but it can be tedious. Keeping your longarm quilting machine perfectly positioned in the seams of your patchwork is challenging because of the small variations in seam accuracy when the top is pieced. Most of the time this type of straight line quilting doesn’t draw the eye but it can be essential in providing structure to a quilt.
The modern quilt movement uses channel quilting to add linear texture to a quilt top and draw attention to the balance of shapes and colors in the piecing. This type of straight line quilting is incredibly easy to do with a longarm machine equipped with channel locks as found on the APQS Millennium. Channel locks mounted to a machine provide a way to lock out the wheels on a machine so it can only move left/right or front/back, which provides perfectly straight lines. This type of quilting can be made more creative by changing the spacing, density and angles of the straight lines.
Traditional quilting can also use straight lines quite effectively. For example, a piano key border or bead board border design is an easy way to frame out a quilt that even a brand new longarm quilter can accomplish. Straight lines emanating from the center of a motif can add high drama to a block by demanding the eye radiate outward. If used as an outline stitch it can frame out patchwork to highlight areas of quilting that act as a container giving defined shape to your quilting.
Straight lines can also be used as an alternative dense filler design when a microfill is required. The quilter should carefully choose which direction the lines should follow as it will demand the eye follow certain paths along the patchwork. The choice of thread will also be a major decision point as a dense line filler can fade into the background of a block or it can stand up and shout depending on the color contrast and thickness of the thread.
The next time you are at a quilt show keep an eye out for straight line quilting and see how strongly it can impact patchwork. Have you used straight line quilting for emphasis in your projects? We’d love to see it! Post your photos over in the APQS forums or on our APQS Facebook page.