Last month I showed you my books on hand quilting and promised a peek at my machine quilting books this month. I think next month I will have to continue with quilting books – the ones with ideas and designs in them.

But, for the time being, I’ll talk you through the technique ones. I realised fairly early on in my patchwork and quilting ‘career’ that hand-sewing was not my forte. Once I found it was possible not only to piece my quilts by machine but to quilt them as well I was delighted. It has to be said though that early attempts were not that successful. I had an elderly Singer with nice large gap to squash a quilt through and it only did straight stitch so it seemed ideal. However I did not have a walking foot; in fact I had never heard of a walking foot, and even if I had I would not have been able to get one to fit that machine (the same applies to an embroidery/free-motion foot too).

Then in about 1987 or ’88 our Region of the Quilters’ Guild held a Regional Day at my local secondary school and one of the people who was invited to attend from America was Harriet Hargrave. She had a stand selling her book (Heirloom Machine Quilting) and thread, and was demonstrating her style of free-machine quilting. It was a revelation! I bought the book (she signed it for me) and some threads and then went to the local sewing machine shop and acquired a new-to-me machine – a Bernina 830 that did zig-zag stitches and buttonholes and, even better, had a walking foot and a free-motion foot with it. That machine was genius – my machine quilting has never been so good since the day it blew up (from overuse?!); somehow the modern machines just don’t seem to do such excellent stitching as the older models, especially the computerised ones that are convinced they know better than you do.

When Harriet’s book came out in a second edition, “revised and expanded”, I went straight out and bought it.

In between those two purchases I bought The Complete Book of Machine Quilting by Robbie and Tony Fanning which was published in 1980 by Chilton. That has been my go-to book for technical stuff about the machine and settings for years. It is only now that I look at the rest of the content again that I realise just how much is in there – including making the quilt top by machine, binding techniques, tacking/basting techniques (including double-tacking which I might just have to try on my next big quilt) and different methods of quilt-as-you-go.

For a long time those were my only machine quilting books but over the last few years I have bought a few more – partly to help with teaching and partly to help improve my machine quilting using modern machines. I can’t say I am getting far with the last bit! The first one I bought was the Rodale book, published in 1998, Easy Machine Quilting edited by Jane Townswick. This has a variety of projects to make and then quilt using different techniques.

Still struggling to master anything other than straight(ish) lines and squiggles I bought Pathways to Better Quilting by Sally Terry and published in 2004. This shows you how to stitch the five basic shapes you need to create dozens of different quilting designs.

Finally I bought The Complete Machine Quilting Manual by Joanie Zeier Poole, published in 2012. This is an updated version of the Fanning’s book, although far less comprehensive in its coverage, and also includes a few small projects to make as practice pieces.

I wish I could say that I can now machine quilt – but I have realised the one thing that I am lacking is an ability to draw! Not only that but I panic at the sight of a clear space that needs to be filled with something – I just can’t visualise it. This is where all my books of designs and ideas come in handy so we’ll have a look at them another time.