How I Quilt—Supplies, Techniques, and Reasons

Since I have written Improv Patchwork–Dynamic Quilts Made with Line & Shape, I have received a dozen or so emails asking me all manner of questions about my quilting.

Today, to the best of my ability, I will try and answer those questions.

I use Warm & White by the Warm Company. I like it because, even though I heavily quilt my work, with Warm & White the final result is still thin and flexible. 

I use Aurifil 28wt. in my bobbin and I use Aurifil 40wt in my needle. I do this because I want to thread on my backside to stand out, but I do not want thread build up on the front of my quilt. I have tried many combinations, and this is the one I always come back to. I have every color of Aurifil thread. I love this thread for so many reasons—my machine likes it, it hi-lights my quilting, it glows, and there are dozens of colors to choose from. 

I always use Cross Weaves for the backs of my quilts. A cross weave is a fabric where the warp and the weft are different colors. My favorite brand is Kaffe Fassett Shot Cottons by Free Spirit.  After much experimentation, I have decided that I like the lighter shades best. They truly help my quilting look its best.


I use a Gammill Classic Plus for all of my quilting—even on little itty bitty quilts. Her name is Priscilla, and she is purple. 


I create a lot of drag on my Gammill by making sure the uptake bar is tightly next to throat of my machine. Not all long arms have adjustable uptake bars. This snugness creates drag—resistance—which gives me the control I need to stitch carefully.

I outline each area that I am quilting twice. This creates a firm outline while also locking my stitches. I do not buy my threads. Many years ago, I attended a lecture about tips for creating award winning quilts. The lecturer was a credentialed quilt judge. She said that it was not a requirement to bury threads. That was a good enough reason for me to stop burying.

Mirror Ball Close Up Back

I change out my top and bottom thread for each color. I use the same color of thread in my bobbin as in my needle. I always try to match the color of the thread to the color of the fabric.

Mirror Ball Close Up Front

When I am stitching a large piece, I will start with a common color—usually black or white—and I will stitch from the upper left corner of my quilt towards the lower right corner, working slowly back and forth across the entire quilt. Then I will select another common color, but this time I work from the lower right to the upper left. I do this again and again.

I am a quilting turtle. I go slow.

I consider my quilts to be two sided objects. The fronts of my quilts are full of color, line, shape, repetition, and usually celebrate the traditional quilt block.


The backs of my quilts are all about the stitched line.


I often describe the backs of my quilts as the negative of my quilt. Not negative as in bad, but negative as in photography.


According to Wikipedia, “In photography, a negative is an image, usually on a strip or sheet of transparent plastic film, in which the lightest areas of the photographed subject appear darkest and the darkest areas appear lightest.” 

This analogy is not perfect. The backsides of my quilts are not the reverse of color, but rather the absence of the piecework.

The first real experiment with creating a double sided quilt was Family Plaid. You can read the entire story here, but the jest is this. I had a hypothesis that giving each pieced color on the front of my quilt a quilting “motif”—circles, feathers, lines—would create an interesting backside.

That experiment lead me to make the whole cloth quilt Albert Hoffman’s Obit, which you can read more about here.


Albert Hoffman’s Obit is essentially the back side of Family Plaid.

This is the back side of Albert Hoffman’s Obit where I experimented with using a pieced background in shades of blue.

If there is enough space in the piece work, I will often fill each pieced color with a different motif. You can see that happening here in Lines + Triangles = Squares.

Tribe is another example of that.

If the quilt contains printed fabrics, I will frequently outline the printed image. Haru is a good example of that.

At some point, people began asking me why I didn’t exhibit the backsides of my quilts. That is a good question.

I realized that I wanted to do that, but in order for it to happen, I needed to regularly photograph the backs of my quilts. I started doing that a couple of years ago.

If the piece work is very small I will frequently fill the space with lines instead of motifs.

That is it. All of my quilting secrets in less than 1,000 words. If you have questions, please ask. I will try my best to answer them.

This entry was published on February 10, 2018 at 2:54 PM. It’s filed under Color Grids, My Process-Quilts, Quilt Stories and tagged , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. Follow any comments here with the RSS feed for this post.

21 thoughts on “How I Quilt—Supplies, Techniques, and Reasons

  1. Thanks so much for sharing your quilting secrets.

  2. You are so generous to share your supplies and techniques, and explain your thought process or reasons why, your secrets. Your quilting is intriguing, and I am fascinated with Albert Hoffman Obit. Muchas Gracias.

  3. Linda Doss on said:

    Learning about some of the techniques not included in Improv adds to my amazement of what you do in the process of creating artful quilts. Thank you for sharing.

  4. Oh wow Maria, thank you for showing us these beautiful quilts and explaining your process. xo

  5. Thanks for sharing your techniques and the photos of both sides of your lovely quilts!

  6. Wow! Your post simply raises my level of admiration and appreciation for the talents and hearts long arm quilters and domestic machine quilters! Your work is beyond gorgeous! Such generosity in sharing your skills shows your heart! Thank you!

  7. Sharon Tucker on said:


  8. You are the first person I’ve heard that uses heavier thread in the bobbin than on the top. That is very interesting to me and I will have to give it a try.

  9. Jacqueline Galleymore on said:

    Thank you. It is very generous of you to share this information.

  10. Maria, thank you for writing about your unconventional approach to your quilting. I’m surprised the “quilt police” have not raided your studio and confiscated your 28 wt thread! Your work is tremendously inspiring to me. I will be trying some of the exercises from your book, and I am also going to add a little drag to my longarm and see what happens.

  11. I am inspired by your process! Thank you so much for sharing.

  12. Thanks for all of your tips and ideas!

  13. Thank you for sharing this. While I am not a machine quilter, the info is still very useful (and I love your quilting pieces!)

  14. Susan Long on said:

    This is a great post! Thank you for sharing your thoughts and technique.
    ~ susan

  15. Lenore Guajardo on said:

    Thank our for sharing. Your quilts are eye candy….love um…..

  16. Wow Maria. You are truly a unique artist and I admire you all the more. I truly admire and adore your work. Thanks for sharing just a bit more of yourself with us.

  17. What a fabulous post!! Thank you so much for sharing with us, super information on how and why from you!!

  18. Beautiful & Creative Quilts. Helpful & Interesting Blog. Thank You!

  19. Kathy on said:

    I was going to ask about how you finish the back and how you finish edges when not using a binding. I see from the photos that you use a facing to finish edges. I don’t see any hanging sleeves. How do you mount your quilts. And, thanks for this post…so, so informative!

    • Kathy- thank you for commenting. I am glad you found the information useful. I sent you an email with links to two other of my blog posts that cover hanging and facing a quilt. You can also go to my about page and type Facing Your Quilt or Hanging A Quilt in the search engine box. I hope you find that information useful too.

  20. Nancy Cook on said:

    Loved reading this: even though I don’t quilt. xxx

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