Straight line quilting

I have to say I am a huge fan of my domestic machine walking foot and straight-line quilting. Its my preferred quilting technique, when choosing a quilt design for my quilts, which are mostly minimalistic in design. I do find it so versatile.


I hear so often from folks how easy it is or how quick it is to do straight-line quilting. The comment of easy or quick sometimes irks me, as it lessens the effort and design thought that can be required for quilting straight lines. So, I am going to respectfully disagree that its easy and quick. Here’s my view-point on straight-line quilting, keep in mind everything below are my experiences and I only use a domestic machine for quilting:

  • For long lines – it is not easy keeping that line straight. There is a skill involved in creating those straight lines even when using a guide. I tend to use 1/2 inch quilted lines or smaller, as I can use by foot as a guide. NegativeCrosswalks_Closeup_label
  • You are constantly checking and re-checking lines to make sure they are straight. This means every few lines taking the quilt out of the machine, measuring, remarking your guidelines. I use painter’s tape and a ruler every 4-5 inches or so, make sure I don’t go too far before correcting if some skewness appears. Most quilters will have a tendency to go right or left as they quilt their lines.  Funny enough, I have an issue of bowing where the center gets warp but my ends are in line.
  • What if your lines to not go edge to edge? I don’t always plan to submit my quilts to a show but just in case, I always try to bury my threads. This is different that most FMQ designs that can be used more continuous motion. I have been known to spend 8-15 hours in just burying threads, after starting lines from the inside and making my way out, ensuring my quilting does not cause any puckering on the front or back of the quilt.
  • Lastly, I want the quilt design to add interest to the quilt and complement the quilt. The quilting for me is not usually the main focus but I do put a lot of thought into this aspect of the overall design. Choosing straight-line quilting, for me, is not just an after thought. Here are some examples where I hope you can see that.
    Fractions: 1 inch quilting of straight-lines. All thread was matched. Design was to make the inner square (on point) as one shape, as the corners of the lines converge where the triangles all meet. The outer quilting lines are color matched with the originating quilting lines, and the lines extend to through the border incorporating the border into the overall design.

    Sunday Best: Variety techniques of straight line quilting was used to provide interest in the various shapes. In the orange peel like block 1/2 inch straight line and crosshatch was used. This was to pull the focus to the various layers and centers of the 4 curved blocks.

    Abstract Trio _1


    Abstract Triangle I: A variety of 1 inch and 1/4 inch lines were used to highlight the triangular aspects to the design. The 1/4 inch quilting, in particular, was denser on the negative space here as it is used to pull aspects of the other two designs into this design – The straight lines on the left in the first image above, and the edge of the pink triangle in the second image.Spoonflower Sampler Quilt
    Spoonflower Sampler: 1 inch straight line angled quilting. The goal for this angled quilting was all the lines point and meet at the centered square of the middle block of the bottom row. Pulling the eye from the center and giving it some movement.



    Altitudinal Ecosystem: Used a variety of straight lines depending on the substrate I was quilting. The 1/2 inch straight lines were used for the mountain to represent strength and rigidity. The lake (dark blue) has a variety of line widths and directions representing the movement and fluidity of the water. The air was still using my walking foot though using ultra wavy lines to represent how air waves move.ItTakesAVillage_Front
    Takes a Village: Used 1/2 inch straight line quilting lines to draw path ways around the village. The center circled lines represents the town square, meeting place and each of the triangles individual quilted with 3 varying straight lined designs represent the roofs of houses in the village.

    Phased circles: Uses all straight lines either as matchstick, crosshatch or 1 inch quilting designs. This quilt took 80  hours to quilt . Thread color matches the background fabrics.  The 1 inch lines were used on the border to incorporate the differences between volume of the border and the centers. The center squares densely quilted, as I wanted a flatter look so that the circles are popping out more, and have the low-volume prints stand out. This denser quilting pulls you in closer to look at the details.


    Neighbourhood: Is a quilt that represents the house and fences in the neighbourhood. The angled quilting in this quilt was designed to add movement to the quilt. Your eye will travel each of the shapes that are formed with the quilting. To add to that movement variegated thread is used.

I know that straight line quilting is not as complicated as various free-motion quilting designs, especially compared to designs by folks like Angela Waters or Kathleen Riggins (who I have used in the past for other quilts). However, I think straight-line quilting does require skill and can be time-consuming (depending on your design). It should get the respect it deserves, and what it does bring to the design.


20 thoughts on “Straight line quilting

  1. Yvonne @Quilting Jetgirl

    Straight line quilting takes a lot of skill! I personally think that quilting on a domestic machine, regardless of technique (straight line or FMQ) is a huge accomplishment and is often downplayed. Not only is it something that takes time to make look as crisp and wonderful as your quilts, but each machine that you work on has its own quirks and learning curve. Speaking of which, I’m off to order a new walking foot for my machine to try to find that happy space, myself!

  2. Pam

    Agreed! Walking foot lines may look simple but they can be just what fits the quilt design. I haven’t learned FMQ because I love lines, straight or curved, and the structure they provide. Every time I think maybe this time I’ll do FMQ, it just doesn’t work with the quilt design (for me).
    Thank you for sharing your thoughts, especially with your beautiful quilt photos!

  3. lorindadavis

    I agree with you 100%. Of all my quilts, the one I spent the most time quilting was straight lines, similar to your Fractions and Neighborhood quilts. Lots of taping off and checking that the long lines were straight.

  4. Sophie Zaugg

    It’s a great post Michelle ! I love the effect of straight line quilting on modern designs. Actually I went into machine quilting when I discovered straight lines in Lucie Summer’s book. Before that I worked by hand. I especially love your Neighbourhood and Phased circles quilts. Thank you for sharing on the subject !

    1. mlwilkie Post author

      Thank you Sophie, I love Lucie’s book. It was one of my first purchases when I started quilting. I am so happy you liked those projects.

      Thanks for stopping by.



  5. jcintx65

    I’m so glad you wrote this post. I have tried to straight line quilt, thinking it’d be the easy way out….NOT! I’m still learning the tricks to this style and realize how easy it is to ‘hide’ a glitch in FMQ. I have learned my machine tension needs adjusting to keep it smooth. Where to start is always a question for me to keep from distorting the quilt shape. I will be saving this post to refer back when I start again. Thank you!!

  6. Shannon Fraser

    I love straight line quilting! It’s my go-to 🙂 And I totally agree that it is deceptively challenging to keep everything straight!! Thank you for sharing your beautiful work and the thought behind each design motif.

  7. aquilterstable

    I agree it’s not that easy – keeping things straight and smooth – which is why I often go organic. I do love the look of straight line tho, and strive to perfect my technique. Thanks for sharing about your process.

  8. Sue Laufer

    Michelle, I couldn’t agree with you more. Love your quilts & your quilting. Side note- I just completed a Mad Dash quilt and I absolutely love it.

  9. Izzy

    I agree with you completely! In fact, when I want an easy and quick finish, I go with FMQ, not straight lines with my walking foot.

  10. Lori

    Amen! I couldn’t agree more. Thanks for sharing this valuable point of view and illustrating it with your wonderful work.

  11. Connie

    This is an excellent article – with which I completely agree! I also really appreciate all the photos and descriptions of how you decided to quilt your tops to make the most of each design. I greatly enjoy the look of straight-line quilting, and doing it myself on my domestic machine. I’m fairly new at it, and deciding how to quilt my lines is still quite a challenge. I am inspired and educated by your article!

  12. Lisa

    Thank you so much for this very detailed and informative post.I’ve book marked it for future reference. I love all the quilts you design by the way. Very inspirational.

  13. Michelle @ From Bolt to Beauty

    I’m a straight-line quilter, too … And I get a twisted sense of accomplishment from burying thread after thread, when it’s necessary. : ) Thanks for giving straight-line quilting its day in the sun!

  14. Elin Torvik Grov

    What an interesting blog Post! And such lovely quilts! I have one question about burying threads. Why not just make some few stitches on the spot instead, which is so much quicker andre easier? Would love at comment on this…..

  15. Leigh Anne

    OH my goodness, I would much rather do an all over FMQ than straight line. FMQ is much more forgiving! Like you, I bow in the center but also struggle with intersecting straight lines and puckering. I’ve gotten better over the years but it’s still a struggle.

  16. Lisa C in Dallas

    I totally agree with your post and do a lot of straight line quilting. I haven’t been quilting that long and wonder why you use painter’s tape vs. the pink disappearing ink (I can’t remember the brand but it disappears in about an hour). I have found the painter’s tape doesn’t still well for some brands of fabric (Art Gallery, for one) and I get better results with drawing the lines on the fabric. I’ve been wanting to try marking with a hera marker but never think to buy one. Again, great post!

  17. rl2b2017

    I stumbled upon your post in WP Reader. What great information you have shared, and what lovely quilts. I love straight-line quilting myself, and agree with all of your points. Especially the burying threads point. I am going to follow your blog – I have a lot of posts to catch up on. ~smile~ Roseanne


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