If you are a beginning quilter, you may find yourself wondering if your stitches are “right.” What you likely are concerned about is the number of stitches you have made rather than actually making the stitch the right way.
If you are hand stitching, you should set a goal for yourself of a set number of stitches per inch. The standard for a beginner is six to eight stitches in an inch. If you are machine stitching, you can set the machine easily enough. It may take some practice, however, if you are free motion quilting. Count the stitches from the top side of your quilt only. While some quilters count the back side stitches instead, it is never correct to count the stitches from both the top and bottom…just one or the other.
After you have been quilting a while, you can increase your stitches per inch to ten to twelve. Once you have developed more needle control (or fabric feeding control if you are using a sewing machine), the increased number of stitches will be easier to achieve. Once you get a little experience under your belt, you may decide to vary the number of stitches per inch depending on each individual quilt project. For instance, you may want more stitches per inch for a heavily quilted project. Other projects may simply require tying – no stitch per inch concern at all.
The best way to improve your stitch per inch count is to practice, practice, practice! Use a few scrap pieces of fabrics and batting to make mini quilts. For extra guidance, use a fabric marker to designate one inch intervals on your practice pieces. See if you can make the desired number of stitches within those spaces. Practice until you can. What may seem tedious at first will soon become second nature to you.
While you are practicing sewing the correct stitch count, be sure to work on the straightness of the stitches, too. Try to make them in alignment. Crooked stitches will distract from your quilting design if the fabrics and threads contrast.
If you find you are having trouble nailing down that stitch per inch count, there are a few things you can do to help. First of all, make sure that the needle you are using is fresh and able to go through your quilt layers easily. If the needle is not right for the fabric and batting, it can be difficult to manipulate. That does not necessarily mean that the sharpest needle is the best for the job. In some cases, what you really need is a ballpoint needle.
You can also try changing the batting you are using. Polyester battings tend to be fluffier. Perhaps the batting is causing an obstacle. Switch to a lower loft batting or try a natural fiber like cotton or bamboo that tends to be more compressed. The more quilting experience you get, the less likely the batting will cause a stumbling block.
Consider using (or changing) a thimble. If you are not using a thimble, give one a try. They help protect your fingertips and serve as a guide for the needle to stitch through those layers. You have many choices in thimbles. The traditional metal ones still exist. You can get them in a variety of sizes so you can get a good fit. You can also get leather thimbles. Some fit over your fingertip and others are adjustable for comfort. Take a look around at your favorite fabric store to see all your options.
These tips, along with some practice, will have you quilting within the stitch per inch guideline in no time.