Machine or Hand Quilting?
I'm a machine quilter (it's fast becoming one of my favourite parts of the quilt making process), so most of this post will be more relevant to that. But there are some really great hand quilting tutorials out there - one of my favourites being Kate Conklin's fantastic tutorial.
Either quilting method would work beautifully on the QAL quilt - just be aware that hand quilting is probably going to take a lot longer than quilting by machine ;o)
Choosing Your Thread:
I always use 100% cotton thread for piecing and quilting - but there are quite a few people who swear by polyester thread, or poly-cotton (Angela Walters being one of them). Really I would use what you, and your machine like. Personally I love using Aurifil, but I've also used Mettler and Gutermann thread and gotten great results, so it really comes down to personal preference.
When it comes to thread colour, it depends on the quilt. Most of you doing the QAL are using a single background colour. I would suggest matching your thread to the background if possible, or choosing a colour that will blend fairly well on the print fabrics as well. If you have a variety of background colours, try to choose a thread that will blend fairly well on most of the fabrics. A great way to do this is to lay a strand of each of your potential threads across your quilt top, stand back and decide which one is going to look best.
If you're keen to change threads between the print and background parts, I would suggest choosing a thread that's lighter than the print fabrics, rather than darker, as this will tend to blend better. A light grey is often a good choice on busy fabrics - it tends to blend fairly well into a wide range of colours.
Deciding How to Quilt:
Straight Line Quilting:
I love the look of dense straight line quilting - I just don't have the patience to do it ;o) If you're keen to do vertical straight lines, I would do my first line about 1/4" away from the seam between Section 1 and the rest of the quilt, and then use the edge of your walking foot as a guide to keep the lines reasonably straight. You could also do horizontal lines without having to mark your quilt - if you follow the seam at the bottom of Section 2 and across into Section 1, and then echo this line using your walking foot.
Finn's Quilt - straight line quilting.
Diagonal straight lines would also be great - you will need to mark your first line if you're going to do this.
Some great tutorials on straight line quilting are:
Free Motion Quilting:
Choosing a Design:
The options for FMQing are endless. If you're newish to FMQ you may like to choose and all-over design such as stippling, which really does give a wonderful texture to quilts.
Just Wing It - large stipple
But really, don't be afraid to try a different all over design. I was pretty new to FMQ when I quilted my 1001 Peeps quilt last December - I used an all-over Echo Shell motif (which is now one of my staples in my quilty repertoire). It is just as easy as stippling, and the texture is superb. I find it's pretty easy to avoid getting trapped in a corner with this one, too.
1001 Peeps - Echo Shells
A brilliant source of FMQ ideas is Leah Day's Free Motion Quilting site - it's my go-to site for getting ideas.
The other alternative is to do 'custom quilting', with a range of different motifs in different areas of the quilt. To plan this out, I would take a front-on photo of your quilt, and print out a few copies in black and white and sketch, sketch, sketch.
Just FYI, I have absolutely no idea how I'll be quilting mine yet - although I adore how Jane quilted her Desperate Housewives quilt a couple of months ago, and I'm kind of tempted to try something like that :o)
Tackling the Quilting:
For a large quilt such as this one, I would approach all over quilting like this:
By starting at the centre and quilting a quarter at a time, you'll have most of the quilt supported on the table and you won't be dragging too much weight with your arms. So for the first quarter, I would roll/fold up your quilt from the bottom side in this image, quilt down toward you, unroll a bit, quilt back up and repeat until you reach the middle or corner. Then repeat for the other quarters, turning the quilt for each quarter so most of the weight is supported on the table.
Right, sorry if your brain is now mush from information overload. Any questions please comment here or send me an email and I'll get back to you ASAP!