Sewing a large quilt on a regular sewing machine as a beginner, including the Feathered Arrows quilting pattern review

Sewing a large quilt on a regular sewing machine as a beginner, including the Feathered Arrows quilting pattern review

Those of you who have followed for a while will have seen my journey of making a large quilt from my starting point of complete novice to finished quilt (a very long journey of over a year as I had to store away the project twice!). Seeing as those posts have been spread out over quite some time, this is a summary for anyone who is newer to quilting and is wondering if or how they can sew a large quilt on their machine, or anyone thinking of using the Feathered Arrows pattern and how I found it. I'm covering bases from complete beginner, so feel free to skip ahead if you are more advanced! I've put links to other posts which have more details on other projects in case they pique your interest as well.

Sewing large quilts on a regular sewing machine...Why? How large?
I bought my machine, a Janome 7025 or also known as a 525s after I had been dressmaking for about a year. It was about £250, which was about as much as I could invest in a machine at the time. I know there are lots more around that are more expensive, but to be fair, this machine has all the stitches and functions I need. Plus, even if I had gone for the slightly fancier model at £500 which is computerised, it still wouldn't have any more space for quilting. I hadn't considered quilting at the time, and though I'd like to make some, it's not enough to buy a new machine for which has lots more space for quilting! The biggest problem is getting the quilt though that small space between the needle and the rest of the machine as you're sewing it (and being able to sew straight still!) 
The quilt I was intending to make was 60" square, and after making it I now know it could have been larger.

Sewing a large quilt on a regular sewing machine as a beginner, including the Feathered Arrows quilting pattern review



Lessons from previous quilts:

I had made a couple of quilts before. These were as simple as they get, using equal sized squares, quilted together in straight lines. One was a baby quilt, which you can read about here and may be helpful if you are a complete beginner, never having sewn a quilt at all (because that's where I was at that point!). From here I had enough basics of how to construct a quilt, about 42" square (so not teeny tiny, but not big enough for a bed).

sew your first quilt

Though I managed to sew this quilt on my machine, I did think a larger project would be difficult. For this quilt I used a method that I had seen recommended in lots of places, which was to roll the edges up to get them though the gap (sorry, can't find an photos, but sure I took them!?). You keep that roll nice and tight at the inner edge and sew away, adjusting each time. It feels like a very neat and professional way of doing things when you do this, but is bulky. 

My next foray into quilting was at the request of a family member looking for memory quilts out of t-shirts and sweatshirts.

Sew a t-shirt memory quilt



These projects took a bit of researching because they used knit fabrics instead of cotton, and the request was for them to be bigger than a baby quilt, large enough for a child's single bed. I could keep a similar width at 45", but needed to extend to 60". From this I learned two helpful things that I took forward with me when sewing my large quilt. Mainly, to ditch the roll at the sides method because I thought the roll would be too big to get through the gap. From looking online I finally saw some videos on You Tube that showed how to literally stuff the quilt through instead. I had initially been under the impression that this wouldn't be possible with the volume of fabric, 5 feet's worth, but it totally works. To make sure all the layers stayed in place I used spray adhesive as well as curved safety pins and that kept everything together whilst it was being squished around.

Sewing a large quilt on a regular machine


I used the same method on the larger Feathered Arrows Quilt, which was 5 feet square, with no problems at all. You have probably noticed that the previous quilts I made use only straight stitching. At this point all I had was a walking foot. For the Feathered Arrows quilt, I did use a free motion foot for some more intricate designs. I practised a lot on scraps first using tutorials from Craftsy (then Bluprint) and YouTube, and made a mat for my sewing machine as a prototype (link here for details of classes accessed)

Sewing a large quilt on a regular sewing machine as a beginner, including the Feathered Arrows quilting pattern review


I was concerned about being able to sew in free motion whilst also squishing all that quilt through as well, and at times it took some consideration of start and end points beforehand to make sure I wasn't ending up with the entire quilt attempting to be squished through, but by and large was fine. I was so surprised that this could be done successfully. (It might be obvious to lots of you, but free motion quilting a large quilt for the first time, and managing all that bulk through a regular machine felt like it was going to be a disaster). Some shapes were easier to manipulate through the machine than others but I could get the main look I wanted, and a couple of features in there too. I know it might be hard to see some of the stitching because it's cream on cream, but that probably also helped. I wasn't quite confident enough to use an alternative colour!

Sewing a large quilt on a regular sewing machine as a beginner, including the Feathered Arrows quilting pattern review


Also, on my memory quilts, I found Wonder Clips. I used these for the binding and definitely recommend these for sewing large quilts. You can still use pins, but these just made the job a little bit easier. One thing that I forgot on my Feathered Arrows quilt that you do need to do is to hand sew the last side of the binding. It's ok to use the machine to fix the first side of the binding in place, but insanely difficult to get a good finish and line everything up on the other side. Hand sewing is what is needed here.

Sewing a large quilt on a regular sewing machine


Over to the pattern itself...


Part of the reason I wanted to sew this quilt was that I was looking to learn and practise new skills. This pattern is free on Craftsy and there are videos there and on YouTube that guide you through each step of the process. Cutting the strips is simpler, but the videos were handy for seeing how to join them together at 45 degree angles. There were also ideas on what types of free motion designs to use, which was especially helpful given all the negative space that you have on this quilt. It does show off your free motion quilting skills because of the lack of patterned fabric to quilt over, which I felt was a good thing. If you aren't confident though, you might want a pattern that has a lot more going on in the background. Personally, if I can do it, anyone can, but I did take time to practise quite a bit first.

I downloaded the pattern for all the measurements and found it really easy to follow. I added an extra column to make my quilt wider, but there wasn't a lot of deviation. I think if you are new to quilting, but have some sewing experience, it's totally accessible, and a great excuse to use jelly rolls if you have them. You get quite a lot of impact from simple shapes.

Sewing a large quilt on a regular sewing machine as a beginner, including the Feathered Arrows quilting pattern review

PS. It takes a lot longer than the videos look !!!


Thoughts on my final project....

As you can see, the original pattern has only 3 columns. I added a fourth column, increasing the width by 13 inches to 57 inches wide in total. (I was aiming for 60", but that's how it turned out!) This quilt is a good size and fits over a double bed, or just right for snuggling on the sofa. I also managed to sew the whole thing on my regular sewing machine which was an achievement. It goes to show that you don't need a lot of fancy equipment if you want to try new things. What really helped was having the right feet for the machine - the free motion foot and the walking foot (which I use in my regular sewing a lot anyway). In case you are interested, I made sure to lower the feed dogs when I was free motion quilting, set the stitch length to a 3 and had large reels of thread in the machine as it uses up a lot!

I think I should have been more restrained with my colour choices, sticking to either pinks or blues rather than both for a more striking effect. I couldn't help but want all the pretty things though!!

Sewing a large quilt on a regular sewing machine as a beginner, including the Feathered Arrows quilting pattern review


A contrasting border would also have been better (hand stitched at the end of course!). The design I picked for the backing worked well with the free motion quilting so I think that was a good pick. It had a lot of similar designs and used a colour that also matched my main thread, so the quilting blends in nicely.


Sewing a large quilt on a regular sewing machine as a beginner, including the Feathered Arrows quilting pattern review
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Welcome to Sewing and Other Stories; my journeys with sewing and knitting; pattern reviews, tips and guides for beginners. I'm also the designer behind West Beach Knits knitting patterns and I host a Knitting and Sewing channel on YouTube where you can see all of this in person. Come have a look!

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