If I had my druthers, I’d handquilt all my qulits myself. But I make way too many tops and have such little time that this is a bit of an unreasonable expectation. Still, though, after about 9 years of patchworking, I’m a novice at machine quilting. I held out as long as possible—until just about 4 years ago—before even trying it. Straight lines (usually without using a walking foot) are just about the height of my ability right now.


One goal for the year ahead is to practice free-motion quilting and get back into more regular indulgence in handquilting. Anyway it makes sense that my first project is experimentation at the extremes of linear quilting. Why not know what little I know fairly well?

Matchstick quilting is just channel quilting where the channels are at most 1/8″ wide. It can be also characterized as “quilting the crap outta your top.” Sometimes it makes the quilt stiff, but with looser-weave fabrics, decent drape remains. Now, one ought to do this quilting parallel with the weave whenever possible.


Let’s explore what happens when we matchstick quilt on the bias…I made this improvised, but very square quilt top precisely to measure the warping lean that develops. Put a wide plain border on so that course corrections may be made later.


I like to do a first pass with 1/4″ channels. You see that there’s no perceptible bias; the square remains square.


The second pass to split the channels in half, however, stretches the square out of perpendicular at the same angle as the stitching. Mind you I did stitch the first pass in one direction and the second pass in the opposite direction so this balance of pull on the weave didn’t make it the perpendicular remain true. In fact, I might have reduced the lean a little, though just a little.


Embrace the lean. Square up and bind. And never do this accidentally in the future. I washed the quilt in the washer with hot water and then just let it lay flat to dry overnight. It’s almost truly square without blocking.


The paralellogram looks to me like an energized square winding up to start a sprint through the wind. It feels like the anticipation I have about my own year ahead.

Let’s go…!

The Details

Pattern: precision and improv patchwork
Materials:scraps from the bin: handdyed indigo flour sack and osnaburg
Techniques: machined pieced; “matchstick” machine quilted in lines about 1/8″ apart; and hand-bound
Finished size: 18.5″ x 21″
Started: May 27, 2014
Finished: May 28, 2014