Do imperfect backtracking and thread buildup drive you crazy? If so, you will want to join me as I share with you my solution that will reduce and/or eliminate backtracking altogether. I will show you how to create stitching paths which will serve as your space to travel from one point to another without having to backtrack or to stop for clipping or burying threads.
As an added bonus, these secondary travel paths will add visual interest and pop your quilting motifs!
Backtracking is a common quilting term that refers to stitching over previous stitching lines. It is generally used as a means to travel from one stopping point to a new starting point without having to stop the quilting altogether. Though sometimes backtracking can add an artistic touch, oftentimes it is undesirable.
Many quilters, including myself, find it difficult to stay in perfect control when backtracking. The result is doubled or wobbly lines which can create an eye sore. In addition, backtracking can create thread buildup. If one is using a heavy weight thread, the backtracked stitches will stand out. Backtracked stitching is particularly obvious in high contrast color situations.
This is a photograph of a quilt that I created many years ago. I wanted to utilize mid weight thread that was in a contrasting color to my background fabric. The backtracked stitching lines are obvious, particularly in the center.
I am a big fan of filler designs. The dense, intricate quilting placed alongside motifs and other more open quilting designs creates a “popping” effect. I love the texture that filler designs create.
Cross-hatched quilting is particularly notorious for backtracking. The numerous separate lines require many stopping and new starting points. I adore both the look of crosshatching and the process of creating it. However, I do not like the look of backtracking along the seams or other spaces so I began experimenting a bit. I began to leave “open road” spaces next to the cross-hatching spaces. Some quilt designs offer alternating block layouts which lend themselves well to this technique as the spaces are already presented and divided for the quilter. In these situations, simply alternate the quilting designs with the varied blocks.
Other times, we have the opportunity to really get creative and make our own spaces to travel. These secondary designs can be simple or elaborate. Accentuate the quilt’s theme and style with the shapes you choose. If your quilt is very geometric, you may wish to soften its look with curves and movement.
I always mark my main quilting designs. It is helpful to have a visual reference as to where the starting and stopping points are. I generally mark my crosshatching design “post-load,” that is, once my quilt is loaded onto my machine frame and I have begun to quilt. In addition to marking the cross-hatching, I also provide a “travel-space” design aligning each of my starting/stopping points as shown above.
Now I am ready to set up my machine for quilting. My Gammill Vision 2.0 offers the perfect stitching mode for this technique. It is the “Coast-Regulate” mode. This mode allows the quilter to utilize both regulated and constant modes with their own setting preferences. Basically, this mode alternates between regulated and constant mode based on the quilter’s stitching speed. When the quilter is stitching the open areas (more quickly), it regulates the stitch length. Then, as he or she slows down their movement to create the intricate filler designs, it switches over to the constant mode at the speed of their choosing.
I have always preferred to use the constant mode when stitching dense, intricate filler designs. The hum of the machine helps me to get into a fluid rhythm in my quilting. However, for larger, open designs (especially ruler work), I prefer that the machine regulates my stitches for me. It is important to vary the speed based on designs. Large, open designs are easier to stitch smoothly at a higher speed while detailed work requires precision and time. “Coast-Regulate” mode gives quilters the best of both worlds with the simple press of a button.
I have stitched the connecting framework to this design and have reached the point where I need to travel to a new starting point. As you can see above, my needle is down at my first stopping point. Ahead is my new, marked starting point.
I utilize the secondary space I created to travel to the next starting point using a basic stipple.
I continue building my design with absolutely no backtracking.
The result is a neat, tidy design with a great secondary design to accentuate my cross-hatching motifs!
I hope that you will explore this technique at home. I think that you will be pleased with the result. Keep your first “backtrack cutback” adventure simple. Use a familiar filler design that you are comfortable quilting without a lot of thought. You will need to have your “multi-task goggles” on so that you don’t pass new starting points. Always look ahead to your new starting point rather than staring at the needle.