Straight Line Quilting


Everyone’s interest in quilting is different.  Some like the pattern, the fabrics, and some like the quilting.  Those who specialize in machine quilting are in that last group.  For them, it’s a blank canvas to explore with a design that can either compliment the quilt or even overshadow the quilt design sometimes.  I cannot imagine the talent that emerges from a machine quilter’s hands when I see an intricately quilted piece.  It is beyond my comprehension.

For me personally, I love piecing the quilt top.  I love the fabrics, the block design, the fabric combinations and the secondary designs that begin the show up when blocks are set together.  The quilting does not interest me very much.  Please, Machine Quilters, do not be offended!  I admire and respect your talent but for me quilting straight lines is enough.  I am mostly interested in the colors of the fabrics as they all combine into one quilt.  

I have had so many questions about straight line quilting that I have decided it just might be good for the quilting industry.  The more quilts a quilter can finish, the more she can make, the more fabric she uses and the better customer she becomes to her local quilt shop.  So with all that explanation finished, I picked a very easy 4 patch quilt to put on the machine and show you how I go about straight line quilting.  I do the very same thing on my Bernina and it’s all freehand so if your longarmer says she doesn’t have a computerized machine so she can’t do it, show her this post.

Here’s the quilt I put on the machine, very simple and the 4 patch will help me quilt in a somewhat straight line.


I do not try to stitch in the ditch – too hard and I can’t do it nicely so I quilt next to the seam line.


This is the first line of stitching on this row of 4 patch blocks.


Then I skip to the bottom edge of the 4 patch block and just hold steady all the way across next to that seam line.



Then I pick the middle of the block and stitch down the middle, possibly wavering a bit, it won’t matter to me.


Then I go back to the top of the 4 patch and “split” the area between the first line and the middle line of stitching.


Then I go to the bottom part of the block and stitch between the middle line and bottom line of stitching.  If I wanted more lines I would go back and stitch in between each again with another row.  You will have to decide how many lines of quilting you want after putting in the top, bottom, and middle rows.  Sometimes I’ve even changed my mind so that the first block doesn’t match the rest of the quilt.  Oh, well.

I feel quite sheepish going to this much detail about such simple quilting.  I am not a machine quilter and I will never be a machine quilter.  Please read this tutorial with an open mind, written by someone who has made hundreds of quilts and now has a longarm machine to complete a quilt from start to finish on her own.  I have no imagination for quilting designs.  Those that do  rule the quilting world with their talent.

And one last picture of the hops vine.  I showed it to you on April 30 and I took these pictures yesterday. In a couple of weeks, look how it has grown!


My home email is if you would like to contact me personally.

The sale is approaching and we are not ready yet.  It is pouring rain today and tomorrow Connie and I are heading to Minneapolis to Quilt Market.  It will be fun to see some old friends again. 

23 thoughts on “Straight Line Quilting

  1. Ann from NC

    Thank you for the straight line tutorial. I, too, love the construction part and the quilting does not
    mean as much–I like basic, very simple and I loved your tutorial. Thanks again! Ann

  2. Jean

    Thank you for this. I love all things about quilts except the actual quilting and that’s the cause of my having too many UFO’s. Then one day I was looking at a photograph in one of your books and saw the straight lines and thought “I can do that”. I don’t like the quilting to overwhelm the quilt. I like to keep it very simple. Thanks again.

  3. Diane

    Mary, thank you for sharing this info. My Bernina has a little tool to help me keep the lines straight–doesn’t always work–hmmm could it be the quilter? Pardon this question; I inherited the quilting gene from Nana; my sister got the garden gene. Are hops vines like in beer? My husband would love it!!

  4. Paula S.

    Great tutorial! I do straight line quilting myself but send it to my talented long-arm quilter if I want something more complicated. I appreciate both methods just like you.

  5. Rose Mikulski

    Nicely done tutorial. I like to add that straight line quilting isn’t just for the modern quilts, it looks wonderful on the traditional quilts too. Thanks for sharing.

  6. Carole

    Great tutorial. I think I’ll try your method of ignoring the stitch in the ditch. I have a sit-down quilter but I’ve started trying to use rulers. Sometimes I feel like I’m herding cats LOL I need a 3rd or 4th hand! That’s why it’s easier for me to roam around free-motion but it’s all a matter of ‘whatever floats your boat.’ I can measure something 12 times and get 15 different answers. (I exaggerate but not a whole lot LOL) And, yes, I got the message – no more chickens.

  7. Sherry Whalen

    Great tutorial Mary! Sometimes there are ‘blocks’ that keep us from finishing a project – mine is choosing fabric for borders and putting them on, I think that is my least favorite of the quilting process. BUT when I saw some of your quilts that didn’t have borders and I loved them – that gave me ‘permission’ to go borderless and that made it easier to get a few UFOs finished and I love them! I just needed a push. So when you show us something simple like straight line quilting – I think it shows that nothing needs to be so complicated, AND that it isn’t your favorite part but you dive in and do it anyway – gives us the courage to dive in and tackle our ‘blocks’ as well! Thank you! Sherry

  8. Lynn Willis

    I don’t have a long arm, just my regular machine so I have a hunch what the answer is on this but I want to double check. When quilting straightline, (which I like your examples or I never would have thought of it) I assume you must continue from the same top to bottom all the way across the quilt? Meaning, I can’t start from the center and go to the right and then turn and go from the center to the left? That would make the quilt “off ” wouldn’t it? Thanks! Lynn

    1. CountryThreads Post author

      I’ve done it both ways but if I don’t have it well spray basted, I sometimes get waves in the quilt when stitching back the opposite direction. I think you could start in the middle and work to both sides if you carefully start in the same direction each time. I use my Bernina for small projects that I can hold without rolling up the project. Crazy Mom blogs about simple machine quilting and her tutorials are excellent.

  9. Lauren

    thanks for those great pictures. Have a wonderful time at market, you definitely deserve it!!

  10. Jeanie

    Thank you so much, Mary, for the straight-line quilting tutorial. After choosing the fabric and making the quilt top, I sometimes feel so frustrated when it comes to the actual quilting. I have practiced and practiced with free-motion, but I just never like the results. I am eager to try your method. Your quilts are wonderful!

    1. CountryThreads Post author

      I am betting you can do this, Jeanie, and you’ll like it because your quilt will be done. Let me know.

  11. Judy J

    The quilting is my least favorite part, so I am going to try the straight line quilting on my home machine. Thank you for the tutorial. When I started quilting over 40 years ago, I could hardly wait to get to the quilting part. Hand quilting was so relaxing, and I loved it. My hands will not allow too much hand quilting any more so I am trying to figure out a machine quilting method that looks okay and is not too stressful.

  12. Carol

    I also find the quilting to be difficult, hence the many UFOs in my studio! I have been thinking about how much I like the quilting on the diagonal so that the quilting becomes diamonds. I think I’ll give it a whirl!
    I think quilters like Angela Walter (sp?) and others are so far beyond what I will ever be able to do that sometimes I am intimidated by their expertise. I just have to face facts…straights lines are fine!

  13. Bernadette Jackson

    Mary, delivery of my email to the address you gave has failed again – today and last week or so.

  14. Launa

    Enjoy your time at market Mary,
    Enjoyed your tutorial…..I don’t spray baste, but use pins. I like in the ditch and also enjoy the lengthened long curve stitch, but I follow some diagonal thru blocks and try to plan my quilting before. Years ago I used my m-i-laws new Bernina and did what my friend said, “Quilted it to death” with free motion loops. You have to start somewhere and quilting has come a long way with special machine needles and such wonderful decorative threads. I just discovered Schmetz has a SINGLE NEEDLE with two holes (one above the other) and I want to try those just to see the effect. Please leave a comment if anyone has tried these single Schmetz needles. Thanks for the tutorial Mary!
    Sometimes if I don’t have a stencil for marking a design, I sketch it on freezer paper, cut out a few and press to a block and free motion around the freezer paper design. Works for me.

  15. Ann Barlament

    I actually enjoy the simplicity of your straight-line quilting. Whenever I view quilt magazines, I always hate those 3 words – “Quilt as desired”, for I don’t enjoy that process of the quilt (completing it)! lol

    Your hops vines are really growing great – they must be the male plant, as I don’t see any hops on them.

    Have a wonderful time while at the Minneapolis Quilt Market!!!

    ~Ann, Buffalo, MN

  16. Pingback: Charity Quilt Finish

  17. Pingback: What I’m Working On….

Comments are closed.