How to quilt using your embroidery machine

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This is a basic tutorial for simple quilting in the hoop without marking your quilt top.  It is good practice if you ever want to move on to doing special designs in specific shapes, blocks and spaces.

For any design you decide to use I recommend doing a test stitchout on a sample quilt sandwich before doing it on the real thing.  This is the best way to test your tension!

Materials needed:

  • A basted quilt sandwich – mine is pin basted
  • Masking tape
  • A single-run quilt design – I get most of my designs from Embroidery Library
  • A printout of your quilt design with grid marks
  • Binder clips
  • Your largest quilt hoop

I use the same thread in my top and bobbin area when I’m quilting. No stabilizer!!


Wrap some tape around the sides of your hoop sticky side out.  Don’t put tape on top of the clip that attaches the hoop to your embroidery arm. The tape will hold the sides of your quilt so you don’t have to worry about the clips popping off. EmbroideryQuilting-2208

Put some masking tape on the bottom of the hoop to cover the sticky area. This will prevent the hoop from sticking as the embroidery arm moves your hoop around.  The only sticky part you want is on the top of the hoop where the fabric will be laying.


I also use binder clips when I can. Sometimes you can avoid using tape on the sides and sometimes the sandwich is just too thick to accommodate it. So I put some masking tape on the insides of the binder clips to make it grip the fabric better.


Printing out your design can be done in most basic embroidery programs. I recommend printing the design using the hoop setting of the same size you’ll be using on your machine to quilt with so that your centering lines are the same.  Stitch Era Universal is a good, free embroidery program. I also use Sew What Pro for simple merging, placement and printout of designs.


Look in your embroidery program and locate your starting stitch.  Mark this with a highlighter. Trim the printout to the edges of the stitching.

If you are just starting a new quilt I recommend beginning in the middle and working your way out. Don’t start on an edge. Treat it like you would any other free motion quilting project.


I’m placing the design on a quilt that I’m working on. Part of the quilt is already quilted – you can kind of see it on the left and top edges. I line up my design as close as possible without overlapping and pin my design.

Here you can see the quilted edges I’m lining up with better.


Now move your fabric around in the hoop until the starting mark on the printout lines up with your needle.


Press down on your quilt sandwich so that the taped edges of your hoop grip the fabric.  Make sure to smooth out the area so there aren’t any bubbles, nips or tucks.



I also clip the top and bottom edges of my hoop.  If your hoop is deep enough you can clip it so the clips stand straight up and down.  My design is mostly in the center of my hoop so I’m using my clips horizontally and it hasn’t interfered with the stitchout of my design. See what works best with your machine.


Once you’ve secured the quilt sandwich to the hooped area remove the printout of your design.


Start quilting your design after pulling up the bobbin thread.


Closeup of one of the stitch out areas.


Okay, so now you’ve quilted a bunch of your quilt and you have a lot of weird edges. What do you do about that?? I’ll show you!

Again line up your printout with the edges that are already quilted. It helps if you have 4-5″ of batting and backing on all sides coming out from the top. It gives you more room to play.


Pin your design in place and start shifting your fabric onto the hoop.


Line up your sandwich so that the starting mark is underneath your needle.  It’s ok if there isn’t any fabric there. We’re just lining up our sandwich in the hoop.

Smooth out and press down your sandwich on the edges so the tape adheres and clip the top or bottom where there is sandwich available to clip. It is best to have three edges clipped so the hoop moves the fabric properly.


Now watch your needle on your machine as you advance your design. What you want to stitch out are the parts that touch the top of your quilt.  Skip the parts that aren’t sewing on the top of your quilt.


Make sure to go slowly as the needle moves around the edge of your quilt top, you don’t want it to get flipped upside down and make you rip stitches out.  You may want to use some spray adhesive if you find this to become an issue.  I just slow down my machine and hold the edge down with a stiletto.


Once you are finished you have a design quilted out to the edge!


Feel free to comment with any questions – I’m happy to answer them. I hope you found this helpful!


  1. Hey Katie
    The quilting looks great. You did a great job. I have a question. Do you buy the xl or lg size designs from embroidery library.

    • Use the biggest size that will fit in your largest hoop. The largest size I can do is 8″ x 8″ so I look for designs that size.

  2. Katie where did you get a design like that? I have never seen any like that Kris

  3. That looks awesome! I love the design! I might have to play around with my embroidery machine again. 😉

  4. This makes me what to get an embroidery machine!
    VERY Nice!

  5. Jeannine says:

    I use the red plastic Clover clips instead of binder clips and clip the quilt sandwich to the outer hoop. I do not use the inner hoop at all. This works great. Thanks for the great ideas for all over quilting, up to now I have only heard of placing motifs in orders and blocks.

    • I thought about trying it without the inner hoop but haven’t gotten that far yet. That might work better with using clips.

  6. Jeannine says:

    Do you spray baste your quilts? I didn’t notice any pins….

  7. That is great Katie! Thanks for sharing!

  8. Laura Filbeck says:

    I was wondering if you can help me with the stitch era software. I downloaded the program and can’t seem to figure out where or how to get it open. Thank you for your help.

    • Did you install it? I don’t really know – it installed easily on my computer and then I just opened it like any other program.

      • Laura Filbeck says:

        I installed it and it said finished. When I click on the icon it opens up to an advertisement type page with the liscesne agreement (which I did). Maybe I just need more time to search. Thank you for showing more on your embroidery. I keep telling my usband that maybe I need the classes that has been offered. Or just more “time” to play with my machine. It always comes down to time. Thank you again. Have a wonderful and blessed day.

      • Yes it’ll open that screen each time (because it is a free program). You just click “yes” and agree to the user agreement and it loads. That’s all.

      • Laura Filbeck says:

        Have I told you thank you lately. One click away and I didn’t try it again. I’m sure it was in the download instructions somewhere if I would have read them completely. I guess I should get off the computer and get ready for work. My students start the STAR testing today. Have a blessed day.

  9. This is really great! Thank you for taking the time to post this 🙂 I may have to learn how to use the embroidery hoop after all. I really like all of the embroidery projects you have posted.

  10. Thanks for clearing illustrating the method you use for embroidering by machine. I tried it once on a small piece. I used tear away sticky back stabilizer with the center cut away so that the sticky back held the quilt sandwich down, but did not cover the area where the design stitched. It worked out well, but I think I will try using your method with a larger piece.

    • I’ve experimented with leaving out the inner hoop and just using clips… not sure which method I like better. Try both and see what works for you.

  11. Laura Filbeck says:

    Another question for you??? Do you use the 5D progam that came with your machine or the SEU from the free online? I was thinking the 5D Organizer CD that came in the book was a program, but it doesn’t seem to do anything.

    • Mine came with the 4D organizer – I don’t really use it much to be honest. The only thing I ever used it for was to convert from one filetype to another. I organize my files by designer and filetype (quilting, font, shape, etc). I’m sure once I get a whole bunch I might need something like an Iconizer so I can visually see the files but right now my organization system works for me.

      I mostly use SEU (for adding lettering to designs) and Sew What Pro (for merging designs, printing, and changing location in the hoop).

      • Laura Filbeck says:

        Thank you once again. I’m sorry for being such a bother, it’s just so new to me having a machine this neat and fun. What I would like to be able to do is add lettering to designs and then to put the design onto the memory stick and just embroider away. 🙂 I will continue to play with the SEU and check into the Sew What Pro. Have a blessed day today. Wish I didn’t have to leave the house and I could call in sick and just work with my machine. 🙂

      • SEU will add lettering without a problem – they have nice pre-digized designs and tutorials are right on the welcome page when you load the program.

        Have fun!

  12. Very cool! Your mom will love it 🙂 Can’t wait to try quilting one of mine with the embroidery machine!

  13. I don’t own an embroidery machine, but read your tutorial from A to Z 🙂 It’s totally awesome! I love all the details and the clear pictures they make this sound like a breeze.

  14. Laura Filbeck says:

    Another question for you about fonts and downloading. Using SEU for the lettering… I’ve figured out how to write, but now having problems with saving it to the stick. What file type do you save your writing to your stick and then use in your Viking? I’m having so much fun with embroidery and making things for everyone. Thank you again and have a blessed rest of your day.

    • That’s the only issue with SEU for me – I have to save it to .pes and then open it in another program and convert it to .vp3 because Stitch Era doesn’t have that filetype available to save to automatically. 4D and 5D organizer has the ability to convert easily to your filetype though.

      • Laura Filbeck says:

        Thank you, it worked. I printed out your email so that I can remember what to do. I’m having so much fun with this machine. I need to stop and finish fmq a quilt and also finish my swap blocks and get them mailed off. Oh how I wish I could stay home from work tomorrow and sew. 🙂 Thank you again. Blessing to you.

  15. Barbara says:

    Why is the paper pinned on. Isn’t the pattern loaded in to the software? Just like embroidery motifs.

    • If you read the tutorial it explains that the printout is used to lineup the next stitchout of your design.

  16. You Rock Katie!!!! I just found your website and am amazed!!! I did try over the weekend by actually hooping a small sample quilt (big mistake, it was so hard to hoop and barely fit underneath the presser foot – BUT I was afraid to put tape on my brand new machine’s hoop). So today, I re-read your directions and now I get it!!! I can’t wait to try it without hooping it!!! I’m so excited to try this, as I just bought my brand new embroidery machine (Bernina Deco 340) 2 weeks ago at the AQS show in Grand Rapids, Michigan. Yay Katie, for not only pioneering this method, but demonstrating it, and more importantly, sharing your knowledge with the rest of us out here who never had a clue we could even do this!!!! Many thanks my friend and happy quilting!!!

    • No problem! I’m glad you found it helpful. Any embroidery hoop you use will need to be cleaned occasionally but I’ve found the masking tape doesn’t leave a sticky residue. You end up having to change it out while quilting since it loses it’s stickyness overtime so it never stays on your hoop for very long.

      Have fun quilting beautiful designs using your embroidery machine!

  17. I am wondering what you do about the thread ends when the machine cuts the thread at the end of the design. How do you deal with that? I have a Brother Innovis -5000 Laura Ashley Isodore machine.

    • My machine doesn’t automatically trim threads so I bring the bobbin thread up to the top, start the design, trim the thread when it prompts me at the 10th stitch and then let it continue. The designs I use end in the same place that they start so you will get a little bump there. I don’t quilt for show so that doesn’t bother me too much. If you are show quilting you may have to find a different way to bury your threads without the machine tying it off for you.

      When possible I try to bring the bobbin thread up and trim it at the beginning of the design so I have minimal thread to trim at the end.

  18. Bingo! I found out how to turn off the thread trimmer!

  19. Johanna Toole says:

    What stitch length did you use? My stitches came out in different length even though I used 3mm. Do you think I should have gone slow?


    • The stitch length is set in the embroidery design so you shouldn’t have to change any settings there. The only issue that may have caused big stitches is if you resized the design on your machine which I don’t recommend for these. It really messes them up in my experience.

  20. this is such a brilliant idea!!! you totally saved my project thanks!!

  21. Katie
    This was very helpful. Is the quilt in the photo a small quilt? Have you had a difficult time with a large quilt (queen size)?

  22. Just found your wonderful site! Thanks for all the great information. I have an embroidery machine and I’m very interested in quilting with it so I’ve been reading lots about how it’s done.

    Yours is the first explanation that I’ve read where the quilt is not actually hooped. I like that idea and your detailed method is very helpful.

    Is there a specific reason you did your quilting with the clips on the hoop rather than hooping the quilt?

    • Hi Connie!

      I tried hooping but the layers are so thick it was difficult to hoop without creating distortion. I also found it tricky to line up the design when all three layers were hooped. For some embroidery machines you can purchase a “magnetic hoop” that makes things like this easier but I don’t have one for my machine so floating it on top was easiest and I didn’t have many issues as long as both layers were smoothed out and properly pin basted to prevent tucks getting quilted in on either side. The tape helped keep everything taut and the clips helped to keep the quilt attached to the hoop so it moved easily.

      This method of clipping to the hoop is also MUCH faster and when you have to do 90 hoopings like I did time is of the essence.

      • Thanks for the quick reply. Your explanation makes so much sense. I wondered about the thickness of the 3 layers in the hoop. I’m excited to try your method! : )

  23. I have to thank you for this genius idea!! I am doing some simple outline designs on a quilt and the re-hooping with every block was just too time consuming. Since my embroidery pattern is very simple I am just attaching the quilt with 4 medium sized paper clips (with no tape at all) and off I go! It is going so quickly now! Thanks for the wonderful tip!!

  24. Thanks for the tutorial, I learned a lot, I often wondered how to do this. Can you tell me where I can find stitch era universal? I am going to add your blog on on my favorite list. Thank you again!!

    • Stitch Era Universal is going away sometime this year – they will be deactivating all the free versions so people won’t be able to use them anymore. My next best suggestion is to get a copy of Sew What Pro for $65. It’s pretty easy to use, they have a Facebook Group page for support and you can also e-mail them for help on the website. It’s easy to convert files, merge files and merge letters together for words in the program. I kind of like it better than SEU.

  25. Hi, What’s the biggest size quilt you have done and how did you squeeze it into the area of the machine?
    Thank you for this great idea,

    • I did a twin size. To get it to fit you just kind of adjust everything and get it to lay as flat as possible with minimal drag on the hoop. The middle parts were the most difficult since you’d have a lot in the throat area to deal with but you just kind of make it work, much like free motion quilting on your machine.

  26. I’m trying to do this but I can’t seem to get the quilt to stay tight. I’m using the tape and 2 clips, but the quut is moving.

  27. I just tried this and it worked great with a 12 inch quilt sandwich. I used MINI clamps that I found at home depot in the tool department. They were 37 cents for each mini spring clamp. I used 4, 2 on top & 2 on bottom.
    I used the little clamps for everything, great cheap tool.


  28. Laurene says:

    Katie, looks great. Hope I get enough nerve to try it. Would you consider doing a class on craftsy using this technique?

  29. This blog was SO helpful! Thank you so much! I couldn’t decide if I wanted an embroidery machine or a quilting machine. It’s nice to know I can use one for both. Thanks for helping me make up my mind. Your quilt looks beautiful by the way.

  30. Rebecca Finch says:

    Thank you very much for these tips. I bought my embroidery machine a year ago and did not have the slightest idea how to proceed but found your tutorial very helpful for getting started. I have quilted four complete quilts on the machine this year and find it quite satisfactory for most of what I do. For those who are trying to figure out if they need an embroidery machine or a quilting machine, I would say that it depends on two things:

    1) How much quilting will you be doing? If you are planning to do production quilting (for others) I would say that a quilting machine is the way to go. It takes a good bit of time to do a full size quilt on an embroidery machine. I am not a production quilter so the embroidery machine works very well for me.

    2) Do you need embroidery stitches? If so, you will want the embroidery machine.

  31. Hi, I am really excited about trying this all-over quilting technique on my Bernina 830. QUESTION- How/where would you start the quilting on a LARGER quilt? Any/all tips on this would be greatly appreciated, Thanks!

  32. Thanks so much for posting this tutorial. It is exactly what I was looking for. I was especially looking for where on the quilt to begin. I also LOVE Embroidery Library!

  33. Darlene Gerber says:

    Katie, this posted was suggested on the Embroidery Help Facebook page. Great post, but what type of thread do you use? Cotton or Embroidery thread?

  34. Great information Katie. I love my embroidery machine and have been using it for quilting for the past year. What recommendations do you have for adjusting thread or bobbin tension as the underside never looks as good as the top side?

    • So glad I found this Blog! “Before I knew better” about 12 years ago, I used my then-brand-new Viking Rose to quilt a heart outline on a small wall hanging. I’d never used it again for quilting, until just this week, when I added the same heart (or should I say, 40 of them!) to the Merry Mayhem New Year’s Day mystery quilt. It’s awesome! But I wish I’d found your tape and clip hooping ideas before I did so, as I ended up putting the *^*&* quilt into that hoop 40 times!!

      Unfortunately, my Rose machine is dying; I was afraid I might not get all the hearts done. So I’m looking around–may invest in the Brother PE770. And thanks for the recommendation on Sew What Pro–I had an ancient (no longer usable) copy of Embird but wow, have their prices gone up!

  35. Thank you so much for sharing these directions and tips. This will definitely help me move away from the standard stitch-in-the-ditch and minimal free-motion on my quilting projects.

    Take care and best wishes.

  36. Ann A. Jones says:

    Just saw this tonight after working with a quilt and my Janome machine, which has magnetic clips. But I fought no end with trying to center the quilt in the hoop when I couldn’t see the hoop underneath and had few things to go on but trying and trying! Do you have any secrets to make that easier? Thanks!

  37. Nancy Freeman says:

    what is the name of the design it is so pretty have to try it


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