10 Quilting Tips & Techniques to Finish a Quilt—FAST!

Fast finishes header featuring finishing techniques via Grace Company

|Sponsored| I need this quilt finished—fast!

Did the baby arrive a week early? Are you simply OVER feeling guilty about that stack of unfinished quilt tops? Or maybe you have a new machine, and want to a few practice projects to build your confidence! The point is, you’re interested in finishing a quilt FAST!

We’re here for you with a round-up of 10 tips and techniques for finishing a quilt fast! (And we even have a FREE eBook of 7 quick quilt patterns for you— 7 Fast-Finish Quilt Patterns for Babies & More)

We’d like to thank our amazing sponsor, The Grace Company for their support in helping us launch this content resource with easy quilting tips for finishing a quilt fast. Grace Company educator Karla Gerome provides exclusive video content all about finishing a quilt in Tips #1 and #2 below. With over 30 years of tradition in products for the timeless art of quilting, The Grace Company knows its way around both machine and hand quilting frames. Join us in learning how to finish a quilt fast!

10 Tips for Finishing Your Quilts Fast

1. Wave Your Worries Away! A basic wave design is fast, and IDEAL if you’re just getting started with quilting your own quilts. Because it’s such an adaptable free motion design—and because it works so well for both domestic sewing machines and midarm quilting machines (or even a domestic sewing machine on a table-top frame! —this should be one of the first finishes you master.

In this video, Karla Gerome gives you tips on practicing the motion through drawing, how to transfer the design to your quilt top without markers (spoiler—stitch it first with an unthreaded needle!), and how to level-up simple quilting designs in ways that build your confidence! And make sure to complete this section using a Grace Cutie Tabletop Frame!

Thank you to The Grace Company for these incredible quilting tips and for making this content possible!

2. Echo Your Own Words. You already know how to write, and that’s all you need! For a fast finish, write words or phrases across your quilt with chalk or an erasable quilting marker. Free motion-stitch along those words, and then use echo quilting to fill it out as needed. Works like a charm on your home sewing machine, and even better on a midarm quilting machine!

Check out this video from Karla Gerome to see this technique used in a border for a baby quilt! One of our top tips for this type of stitching is using the Grace Qnique 15R Midarm Quilting machine.

Thank you again to The Grace Company for creating these amazing video demonstrations for finishing a quilt!

3. Skip the Pin-Basting. Basting powder, basting spray, fusible batting—all of these are so much faster than pin-pasting! If you’re in a hurry, fuse that quilt sandwich! (Would that make it a quilt panini…?)

Quilting tips for beginners always include using a basting powder! Image shows woman using basting powder.

4. Live Large! A looser, larger meander design will take a fraction of the time—and thread—than a tighter stipple does. You can apply the same principle to other motifs, too. Why not enlarge a pretty daisy or flower motif to cover the entire quilt? Read the packaging on your batting to determine how loose you can go; some fiber blends can be spaced as far apart as 10”!

5. Get Vintage with Yarn Tying! While not recommended for baby quilts (their little fingers can snag on the yarn knots), yarn tying is a fast, simple, FUN way to finish a quilt. Popular during the 1930’s, this old-fashioned finishing technique is also a marvelous way to use up leftover snippets of yarn from your last knitting or crochet project. 

Though not quite as sturdy as machine stitching, tying is simpler and quicker than other quilting techniques. To start, grab your embroidery floss or yarn scraps. Using a large-eyed hand-sewing needle (such as a darning needle), take a stitch into the quilt and then back up, aiming to make the stitch length about 1/4” on the back. Leave a tail of a few inches and knot the two ends together with a sturdy square knot. Trim the tails to about 1/2”, and then continue tying based on the spacing recommended by your batting. This simple technique might be just the trick to help you finish your next project quickly.

Easy quilt ideas like yarn-tied quilts in simple patterns are a fun way to finish quilts.
Simple patterns, like Ties to the Past, are excellent for yarn-tied quilts.

6. Stitch-in-the-Ditch…Or Just Nearby! Stitching in the ditch means that you are quilting right down the seam lines of your block. You can be selective about which shapes you outline with this method; not every seam requires stitching. Some quilters say it’s actually easier to stitch-in-the-ditch with a domestic sewing machine, but if you’re having a hard time staying in the lines, aim to loosely shadow the ditches. Some quilters call this ‘stitching in the neighborhood’!

Easy machine quilting with stitch in the ditch or stitching in the neighborhood.
The line of stitching that runs inside the seam is “stitching-in-the-ditch.” The line inside the shape, which runs parallel to the seam, could be called “stitching in the neighborhood!”

7. Bottoms Up! Pick a backing with a fun, trace-able design—something geometric or floral often works nicely. Load your quilt onto your machine or frame top-side down, then trace the motif on the backside with your machine. This gives you a truly simple and attractive edge-to-edge design—no marking required!

More quilting tips for beginners include picking a backing with a fun and trace-able design.
Quilt the backing’s motif for a simple—and quick!—edge-to-edge quilting design.

8. Quilt…With the Feed Dogs ENGAGED! When did free-motion quilting become the standard? From straight-line quilting to using those oh-so-neglected decorative stitches built into your machine, you have a wealth of options for finishing a quilt—and you can even stick with your basic presser feet! (For extra peace of mind, a walking foot is a helpful add-on, if your machine doesn’t have a built-in even feed. This ensures that all three layers move through the machine at the same pace.) Many prefer a serpentine stitch for baby quilts because they’re quicker and they wash well. Not only that, but they look amazing!

The serpentine stitch is a powerhouse for simple quilting!

9. Maintain Neutrality. When selecting your thread, stick to colors that will blend in. If you can match a coral thread to your coral fabric, the imperfections from your feverish all-night quilting session will melt into the background. But since a perfect match isn’t always possible, keep neutral-colored threads on hand, like battleship gray, off-white, taupe, light mocha, beige, and the recently trendy “greige.” Those shades blend surprisingly well with most colors and prints. Thinner threads help, too. A 40-weight or 50-weight thread is a reasonable choice; some quilters like a 60-weight in the bobbin, so you can load more thread. Many quilters prefer polyester to cotton, because of its strength, and it produces less lint.

Neutral doesn’t always mean black or white. Keep a variety of colors on hand, because you never know when “mushroom” is the perfect choice!

10. “Done” Is Better Than “Perfect.” Don’t stress about small goofs or uneven stitches. Many imperfections will be minimized after the quilt goes through the washing machine, and the fibers relax, pucker, and become cuddly. And remember—the more it’s used and loved, the more perfect an “imperfect” quilt becomes.

Bonus Tip! Practice makes perfect! When it comes to finishing a quilt fast, we have the perfect resource for you. Check out this incredible collection of 7 quick quilt patterns that will get you to the finish line with a quilt that you truly love.

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And thank you once again to our incredible sponsor, The Grace Company!

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