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September 22, 2019

Ten Tips for English Paper Piecing

Whether you're new to English paper piecing or a pro, these tips will help make your project go faster and more enjoyable.

1. Try it out. Before you cut pieces for an entire project, start by cutting and sewing a few hexagons to see if you enjoy the process.

2. Utilize hexagon graph paper and color pencils to help visualize layout options (stars, diamonds, multiple rounds, etc.).

3. Save time with precut templates. Check out your local quilt store if they sell hexagon templates in a variety of sizes.

4. Use a cutting tool to cut hexagons. You also can die-cut or paper punch hexagon templates using manila file folders (Tip:  Do not use color folders which could bleed onto your fabric).

5. Choose fabrics wisely. Usually 100% cotton fabrics work best for paper-piecing projects. Batiks are woven more tightly and the joining stitches often peek through. If you paper-piece batiks, when you join pieces use thread that matches the fabrics.

6. If you're fussy-cutting fabric, make or purchase a plastic template to plan your fabric placement and cut the fabric.

7. Use a water-soluble glue stick to temporarily adhere fabric to the hexagon templates, instead of thread basting.

8. Put old thread to use when preparing hexagons. Choose a contrasting color so basting stitches are easy to see. To join hexagons, use silk thread, which “melts” into the fabrics. 

9. Use gray or taupe thread when you are joining scrappy hexagons. These colors match most fabrics.

10. Use mini clips, such as Wonder Clips, instead of pins to hold your hexagons together while sewing.


Here are some must have supplies to make your English Paper Piecing project a success!

1. Thread: A fine, neutral color thread works well for sewing pieces together

2. Paper scissors: If you are tracing or printing templates, use paper scissors to cut the pieces apart.

3. Fabric scissors: Cut fabric using a sharp scissors.

4. Template: Cut several layers of fabric at a time by using a plastic template.

5. Fabric glue pen: Use a water-soluble glue stick to temporarily adhere fabric to paper pieces.

6. Window template: View patterns in the open window. Mark along the outside edge with a pencil and cut on the drawn lines.

7. Precut hexagons: Speed up the process by purchasing precut paper pieces, or cut your own with a die-cutting machine.

8. Paper punch: Make your own templates using a paper punch and recycled file folders.

9. Clips: Mini clips hold multiple layers together.

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September 17, 2019

Seven Tips for Sewing with Batik Fabric


Batiks have been around for thousands of years. Believed to originate in Asia, batiks is a way of dyeing fabric using wax to protect certain parts of the fabric so those parts don’t absorb the dye. This creates unique patterns on the fabric. Here are some tips to make sewing with batiks easy!

1. Batiks have a tighter weave to help them stand up to the dying process. Use a sharper and finer needle than you use for piecing with cottons (such as a 70/10) to make sure the needle glides through the fabric without punching holes.

2. You can also choose a finer thread such as a 50 or 60 weight if you find your stitches are showing too much.

3. In the dyeing process, the batiks have already shrunk, so you’ll get less shrinkage with batik quilts. Keep this in mind if you’re mixing batiks and cottons. You may find it best to prewash your cottons.

4. Prewashing is a personal preference with batiks. Many batik fabrics recommend hand washing and laying flat to dry. It’s always good to test the fabric for dye fastness and use color catchers when you wash your quilts to catch excess dye.

5. Because the wax that creates the design sinks into the fabric you may find both sides look similar rather than there being a clear right side and wrong side.  If you look closely you may find one side has less blurring around the edge of the design so you may prefer to use that as the right side.

6. Because batiks have a tighter thread weave, they fray less and are a great choice for applique. 

7. Consider the design of the batik print when laying the pattern to maximize the fabric style. Cutting in different spots in the same piece of fabric can get very different looks!

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September 8, 2019

What to Do When Your Quilt Blocks are Different Sizes?


Although we all strive for an accurate 1/4" seam, differences in seam allowances always seem to happen!  It results in blocks that are slightly different sizes and these fixes may prevent you from ripping seams and re-stitching your blocks.

Quick Fix:

If the discrepancy between two blocks is small, let your sewing machine ease in the difference. To join the blocks, layer the two blocks on the bed of your machine with the smaller one on top; do not engage the even-feed foot on the top. The feed dogs (the teeth on the bottom that feed the fabric through) will ease in the excess fabric as you sew the blocks together. Remember, this works only if the blocks are just a little off. You can't ease in a 1" discrepancy!

What can you do if some blocks are too small?

  • Discard blocks that don’t measure up and make replacements using accurate 1⁄4" seam allowances.
  • Restitch blocks, making sure to use accurate 1⁄4" seam allowances.
  • Add borders to blocks to bring them to a uniform size. Borders may be added around the entire block or just to one or two sides.

What can you do if some blocks are too large?

  • Discard blocks that don’t measure up and make replacements using accurate 1⁄4" seam allowances.
  • Restitch blocks, making sure to use accurate 1⁄4" seam allowances.
  • If the margin the block is off is minimal (1⁄8" to 1⁄16"), you may trim it. Recognize that you may be trimming into the seam allowance, thus cutting off points of angled pieces or visually altering the finished look of a block relative to the other blocks in the quilt.
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September 7, 2019

The Trick to Sewing Strips


Pre-cut strips are more popular than ever, and there are a lot of sewing projects that use them. But sometimes when you’re sewing a lot of long strips together, things can start to bow and lose their shape. And the more strips you have, the more things can start to curve at one end. Here's the secret to fixing that problem!

Here's the trick:

Watch the direction you're sewing. You don't want to sew from top to bottom, and then start again from the top and sew to the bottom to add the next strip. That's the reason you sometimes end up with bowed strips. Instead, you want to change directions with every strip that you add. So, for strips #1 and #2, start at one end and sew down. When you add the third strip, start with the opposite end and sew in that direction. By reversing direction every time you add a strip, you can make sure that your seams stay accurate and consistent.

So, how do you keep track of which direction you're sewing?

The trick is to place a pin at the end we started sewing at. When finished sewing those strips, remove the pin and place them at the other end, so you will know to start there with your next strip. That way, if you need to take a break from sewing for any reason, you’ll know where to start when you pick your project back up!  So, next time you’re sewing long strips, follow this trick to make your seams straight and accurate! 

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September 6, 2019

Tips for Perfect Triangle-Squares


While some blame math and some blame accuracy, most everyone agrees that triangle-squares can be difficult to perfect. The first challenge is cutting the squares in measurements involving eighths, which aren't always clearly evident on a ruler. Second, extra care must be taken not to stretch the bias seam allowances when handling and sewing them. Here are some tips for making precise triangle-squares.

1. Cut off the triangular dog-ears that result when piecing triangle-squares. This will allow you to add the triangle-squares to other pieces with more precision.

2. A scant seam allowance matters. When making triangle-squares, the distance you sew away from the marked diagonal lines should be just a little narrower than 1/4". This scant 1/4" seam allowance will give you the extra few threads you need to get precise triangle-squares. We recommend you still check the size and, if necessary, square up the block.

3. Make your triangle-squares larger than needed, then trim them down to size. Cut the initial squares 1/8" larger than specified. Using your preferred assembly method, make triangle-squares. Square each one up by lining up the 45° line on your ruler with the seam line and trimming the unit to the designated size. While this takes extra time, the precision is worth it for a lot of quilters.

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September 5, 2019

Tips for Fussy-Cutting Fabric


Isolating and cutting out a specific pattern or print is referred to as "fussy-cutting." Here are some tricks and tips to know when using this technique.

Whether you’re making a kaleidoscope or “I Spy” quilt, or trying to achieve a specific effect from novelty prints, stripes, or other directional prints, when you want to cut an exact part of a print, pattern, or shape, follow these steps for easy fussy-cutting.

Using a Viewing Window

Make a window template from transparent template plastic (available at quilt shops and crafts supply stores).

1. Trace finished-size shape on a piece of frosted template plastic that is at least 2" larger on all sides than desired shape.

2. Using a crafts knife and ruler, cut away the interior of the shape to make a viewing window. Alternatively, cut card stock to the finished-size shape, leaving the seam allowance frame, to create a window.

3. Move the viewing window over the fabric to isolate the desired portion of the print. Mark position with pins or chalk.

4. Remove viewing window and remark as needed. Add seam allowances and cut out the print portion with scissors or a rotary cutter and ruler.

Using an Acrylic Ruler

Use common ruler sizes to fussy-cut square or rectangle shapes:

1. If you can’t quickly tell where the center of your ruler is, temporarily designate the spot with a piece of tape (clear or masking) marked with an X.

2. Center your fabric motif under the ruler, then use the outside of the ruler as a cutting guide.

Five Tips:

  • Fussy cutting requires more fabric, so be sure to buy a little extra if you plan to fussy-cut multiple motifs from a print.
  • Fussy-cut motifs are often cut on the bias, making them prone to distortion. Before fussy cutting, spray the fabric with starch to keep the pieces from stretching.
  • Keep in mind that motifs on a pre-printed panel may not be the exact same size or shape. If you’re concerned, measure motifs that look especially large or small to make sure they’ll fit in a consistent-size piece. 
  • For a quicker alternative, use tracing paper to position the piece you want to cut. Trace or photocopy both the finished-size and seam lines on multiple sheets of tracing paper. Lay a marked sheet of tracing paper on the fabric, placing the desired area within the seam lines. Using a rotary cutter and acrylic ruler, cut through all layers at once.
  • You also can purchase acrylic rulers and templates made just for fussy-cutting common shapes. Or, for squares or rectangles, block off the portion you need with painters tape or vinyl-cling material.
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September 4, 2019

How to Wash and Care for Your Quilts

Rotate quilts on display often to give them a rest. This will diminish their exposure to dust, light, and other potential sources of fabric damage.  A quilt that doesn’t have an obvious top or bottom can be turned periodically to prevent distortion or damage to the fabrics along one end. You may wish to add a hanging sleeve to more than one edge to make rotating the quilt easier.

TIP: Evaluate antique quilts individually before attempting to clean them. Improper cleaning can damage a quilt. If a quilt has sentimental or monetary value, consult an expert before cleaning it. Contact a quilt museum, university textile department, or antique quilt or textile expert for references.

TIP: An unused bed makes an ideal storage spot for quilts. Spread your quilts on the bed, separating them with layers of cotton fabric, cotton sheets, or batting to prevent any dye transfer.

Cleaning Methods


Clean and freshen a quilt using one of these methods:
 

Airing Outdoors
Take quilts outdoors once a year on an overcast, dry, and windy day to refresh them. Place towels or a mattress pad on the dry ground and lay your quilts on them. Cover the quilts with bed sheets to prevent debris from falling on them. Avoid placing quilts on a clothesline to prevent stress on the seams.

Using a Dryer
Quilts can be freshened in a dryer on a gentle-cycle/air-dry setting without heat.

Vacuuming
Vacuuming both the front and back of a quilt can help preserve it by removing dust and dirt. Place a nylon hose or net over the end of a vacuum hose and gently draw the hose over the quilt’s surface without rubbing it. Always clean a quilt with at least a quick vacuuming to remove dust and dirt before storing it.

Washing
Many everyday quilts are made for heavy use and therefore require laundering. Take care to use a dye magnet, such as a Color Catcher sheet, in a washing machine on a gentle cycle to absorb any excess fabric dye. Avoid washing an antique or heirloom quilt unless it’s absolutely necessary. Washing, even when done on a gentle cycle, causes fabrics to fade and is abrasive to fibers. As a last resort, cotton quilts can be washed in cold water with a gentle soap by hand or in the machine on a gentle cycle. Do not wring or twist a quilt; instead, gently squeeze out the water. Wet quilts are heavy and need to be supported when you are moving them to a flat area to dry.

Washing by Hand

1. Use a clean tub that is free from other soaps or cleaning materials.

2. Place a large towel or cotton blanket in the tub to support the quilt.

3. Thoroughly dissolve soap in the water prior to adding the quilt to the tub. Be sure you have enough water in the tub to cover the quilt.

4. Place the quilt in the tub. Gently agitate (do not wring or twist) the quilt to release the dirt and soil.

5. Rinse the quilt by draining and refilling the tub. Repeat as needed to remove soap, as residue can build up on a quilt’s surface.

6. Press excess water out of the quilt, starting at the end farthest from the drain and working your way across the quilt. Use towels to blot up excess water.

7. Remove the quilt from the tub, using the large towel or cotton blanket beneath it.

8. Spread the quilt flat on a clean sheet that has been placed out of direct sunlight. Let it air-dry, using a fan to speed the process.

Washing by Machine

1. Fill the washing machine with water and dissolve the soap.

2. Place the quilt in the machine. Let it soak for up to 15 minutes, checking it frequently to make sure the fabric dyes are stable and not running onto neighboring fabrics. If desired, agitate the quilt on a gentle cycle for up to five minutes. Note: A front-loading washing machine will not allow you to soak the quilt in the washer drum. Agitating on a gentle cycle is necessary in this type of washing machine.

3. Repeat steps 1 and 2 with fresh soap and water if a quilt is especially soiled.

4. Use a gentle spin cycle to rinse the quilt and remove the excess water. Continue to rinse and spin until the rinse water is free of soap.

5. Remove the quilt from the machine and spread it flat on a clean sheet that has been placed out of direct sunlight. Let it air-dry, using a fan to speed the process.


Dry Cleaning
It is wise to check references before selecting a dry cleaner to handle your quilts, as dry cleaning can cause cotton dyes to bleed or change color. Take special precautions if you wish to dry-clean a wool or silk quilt. Dry cleaning should be a last resort, used only if vacuuming or spot cleaning doesn’t remove the soil.
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September 3, 2019

Understanding contrast and value of your fabric.

One of the first design concepts to consider when making a quilt is contrast.  Many quilt patterns list the fabrics needed for a project in terms of their contrast or values, from light, medium to dark.  Learning to see fabrics in these categories of contrast can enhance your fabric selection success!
 

Why Contrast?

Contrast clarifies the design and makes depth apparent. Without contrast, the pieces in the quilt blend together and the design appears flat. The pieces in the quilt take on new dimensions when the fabrics have more contrast.

TIP: Fabric manufacturers tend to produce more fabrics in the medium range. When you see light or dark fabrics that you like, add them to your stash.

How to Determine Contrast Levels for a Quilt Block

If you’ve chosen a light background and light block pieces, you’ll achieve a block with low or no contrast. In comparison, a dark background with light block pieces results in a block with high contrast.

Visualizing Contrast

Trying to ignore color and just study contrast is not an easy task. When looking at fabrics in a store or from your fabric stash, try these techniques to determine the contrast or value. Select possible fabrics for a project, then perform one or more of these tests to see if you’ve included enough contrast in the group. If you need more contrast, substitute lighter or darker fabrics until you have a variety of values.

  • Try squinting. Closing your eyes slightly limits the amount of light they receive and reduces your perception of color, so contrast becomes more evident.
  • Look through red cellophane. This technique conceals the color and allows you to see the continuum of values from light to dark.
  • Take a black and white photograph. This completely masks color and can give an indication of contrast between and within pieces of fabric.
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June 28, 2019

When needing to make a gift, why not turn to projects using felt?  Because the edges don’t fray, you can often skip several finishing steps and felt makes a lovely base for hand embroidery.  But do you use felted wool–or wool felt? What's the difference?

They are both wool-based and for both, the edges will not ravel. After that, the difference is substantial.

Felted wool is a woven fabric (from wool, in this case) which has been sent through a sudsy, hot water wash which causes the wool fibers to first open, and then bond to each other. Depending on the original fabric, the weave will be tighter and cut edges will not ravel. Felted wool can have familiar wool weaves such as tweed and herringbone.  Wool felt, on the other hand, is made from loose wool fibers (not woven), which are bonded by the same sudsy, hot-water process. Wool felt has no discernable weave.

So now you know and you can use either to make this Flower Pin Cushion. They make great gifts for quilters!

“Flower Power Pincushion” • Jamie Fingal

Directions:

1. Cut 2 circles with 4″ diameters from felted wool.

2. Sew a completed flower to the center of 1 of the circles. 

3. Use a buttonhole or running stitch to sew the 2 circles together. Leave a 2″ gap for stuffing.

4. Insert fiberfill into the pincushion.

5. Close the gap using the same stitch.

Make a whole bouquet of these flower pincushions for friends or to decorate your studio! 


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June 27, 2019

Summer Travel Ideas

Projects You Can Sew in the Car:

Road trips are great for handwork because they involve long stretches of idle time in which to focus on your project. Sometimes you want an alternative to sitting inside and sewing!  I make my on-the-go sewing projects fit inside a peek-a-boo travel bag.  It's perfect to start (and hopefully finish) on a road trip, a plane, or even sitting outdoors.  I also make sure my lipstick needle case is in my bag before I leave town. 

Here are some ideas for passenger seat projects!

 
  • Machine-sew the binding to the front of several quilts prior to your trip, and then use the time in the car to hand-sew the binding to the backs.
  • Try hand-quilting a small project or tackle a larger project if you are ambitious.
  • Hooped embroidery projects are also good candidates for sewing in the car, because you can put them down and pick them back up easily.
  • Many quilters find hand-stitching to be therapeutic, which may also help alleviate any stress that might arise on a long drive.
Speaking of traveling via airplane, airline security regulations constantly changing and I am always wondering what I can or cannot bring with me onto a plane.  I DON'T want to give up my $45 embroidery scissors to security if I knew I couldn't bring them on board. 
 

The TSA allows many sewing-related items in carry-on luggage. Ultimately, TSA agents have the final say in what can be carried onto a plane, so it is a good idea to travel with cheaper notions in case you have to part with them.

Some airports have mail service, so you can also bring a padded envelope and stamps in your carry-on luggage in order to mail back any items that are not allowed through security (you will need to step out of line, so be sure to plan enough time for this).

Here's a TSA-approved list:

YES:

  • Scissors under 4"
  • Sewing needles
  • Nail clippers (can be used to cut threads)
  • Knitting needles
  • Crochet hooks

NO:

  • Scissors over 4"
  • Rotary cutter
  • Circular thread cutter (and other items with blades)

Happy Traveling!!!

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June 26, 2019

Preserve Like a Pro!

As quilting has grown, so has the feeling that modern day quilters are sewing tomorrow’s quilt history. One day, our quilts will be housed in museums for future generations to marvel at this period in quilting history.

Some quilts will be featured at quilt exhibitions, others will be displayed in homes, and several will keep their owners warm at night. For those of us interested in conserving this legacy of modern quilts (or really any quilt, for that matter) it’s important to learn how to preserve your quilts to extend their lifespan.

Here are a few tips for preserving quilts in your home:

  • Use museum-quality storage materials.
  • Avoid storage in wood, or create a barrier using polyurethane varnish on the wood and unbleached muslin on the quilt.
  • Choose a storage location in a dark, climate-controlled space in your home.
  • Clean your storage space regularly. Don’t eat or drink near your storage area.
  • Never use chemicals, moth balls, or cedar as pest deterrents.
  • Light damage is irreversible. If you display quilts in your home, rotate them into storage every 3-6 months to prevent long-term light exposure.
  • Store your quilts folded in a blue board box with unbuffered tissue padding in every fold line.
  • Refold your quilt a different way every six months.

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May 13, 2019

Make the Most of Your Scraps

We’ve all been there, right?  Looking at a pile of fabrics from our stashes and thinking, "What was I thinking I’d do with this when I bought it?" Or, "I love this fabric, but I’m not sure how to use it in a quilt." Or, "I wish I could find more fabrics that match the shade of green in this one."

There always seems to be a novelty print that speaks to your favorite, color, a hobby or theme. Deciding what to pair with it or how to cut it into a quilt can be tough. Use every print to its best advantage.  A huge pattern could be destroyed by cutting it into 3" squares, and it would be a shame to relegate a favorite theme print to be used as only a quilt backing.  Treat the print as the scene that it is and cut it to capitalize on it as a series of illustrations.  Try to frame it with another medium-scale and small-scale print.

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April 27, 2019

Five Efficient Tips for Quality Quilting Time

There are very few of us that have all the time in the world for sewing and quilting.  Getting your quilts completed, while still enjoying it and doing a good job, is often a matter of efficiency rather than speed.

Here are five ways to work smarter and more efficiently without rushing or taking shortcuts that could compromise your quilting time.

1. Get set. It is helpful to gather together all needed supplies without having to traipse all over the house looking for your scissors, seam ripper, pins, iron, etc., so that everything is in one spot. That way, you’ve got everything handy when you begin.

2. Pre-prep. Wind a dozen bobbins and cut all your pieces before you begin. This is a good way to stay in the flow without having to stopp to wind or cut.

3. Stick to glue for basting (most of the time).  Instead of pinning or hand stitching, use spray adhesive to baste your quilt sandwich–or use fusible fleece as your batting. A fabric-friendly glue stick used lightly will also help keep binding in place as you stitch.

4. Batch your sewing and pressing steps.  Chain-piece all of the half-square triangles together without cutting them apart and then move the entire string to the ironing board and press assembly-line style.

5. Embrace precuts and die-cuts.  Precuts like jelly rolls and charm packs give you more time for designing, stitching, and quilting as the cutting is already done for you!  And if you are one to use die-cuts, they are terrific in not only helping you design but make applique and custom piecing a breeze.



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April 10, 2019

Do you want your quilts to come out looking fabulous?  Who doesn't!   Here's some tips and tricks from the pros:

Machine/Equipment Prep:

Check the machine tension often because something as simple as a thick seam can temporarily throw it off. Here are common causes and solutions for tension issues:

  1. Dull needle. Change your needle about every 8 hours of quilting.
  2. Wrong size needle for thread. Check the thread manufacturer's suggested needle size.
  3. Quilt top and/or backing are too tight. Loosen the tension.
  4. The machine's timing is off. Check with the machine manufacturer for instructions to time your machine.
  5. Machine and/or bobbin not thread properly. Rethread them.
  6. Not moving the machine at a consistent speed. Practice will help you become constant with your speed. Some machines offer a stitch-regulating option.
  7. Bobbin case and bobbin area clogged with lint. Brush out lint regularly, preferably every time you change the bobbin.

Stitching Tips

  • To start, bring the bobbin thread to the front or top (otherwise it can tangle on the back and you might catch it in the subsequent stitching) and tie it off with a few little stitches, barely moving the machine. 
  • Use clips that come with the machine to hold the backing taut. To some degree you can smooth out the quilt top with your hands, but the backing needs to be taut so no pleats are stitched into it. 
  • Test your combination of thread, needle, and tension in the batting and backing area to check the tension and to make sure the thread isn't going to break. 
  • Machine-baste the top and side edges of the quilt top to the batting/backing, stitching close to the edges. Stitch the desired design across the section of the quilt sandwich that is showing, moving from left to right, or in the direction the quilting machine  "likes" to go. 
  • Take regular breaks to give your body and eyes periodic rest. Wear shows that support your feet. To prevent muscle fatigue, relax and go with the flow of your design; don't grip the machine handles too tightly.

Design Decisions

  • Think about the personality of the quilt: Is it formal or whimsical, modern or traditional, elegant or casual? Consider stitching motifs that match the mood of the quilt. 
  • Evaluate the quilt's intended use and recipient: Are you making a quilt for a baby or child, which will get plenty of use and likely be washed and dried? In this case, an allover design might be best. It it an heirloom quilt that will be displayed on special occasions? More elaborate quilting may be called for in that case. 
  • Keep a three-ring binder of quilting designs, including sketches or printouts of designs you want to try or actual "stitchouts" of patterns you've mastered. If you're sending a quilt out to be finished, see if your quilter has such a book showing what allover, edge-to-edge designs are offered. These may be free-motion designs or pantographs (patterns that are rolled out behind the machine and followed with a laser stylus). 
  • Get creative with custom quilting. If you want more than an allover design, consider custom quilting, which can range from stitching in the ditch to feathered wreaths to interlocking circles or other shapes. If you're sending a quilt out to be finished, see if your quilter has photos of custom quilt previously done.

Do's and Don'ts


  • Don't use sheets as backing. Sheets have a higher thread count than quilting cottons and the difference can cause skipped stitches and broken threads or needles. 
  • Do realize that a backing with a border, a pieced backing with a design, or a reversible quilt means the quilt top needs to be centered with the backing for quilting. A reasonable effort can be made to do this, but the quilt layers shifting as they are rolled up, bias in the quilt, or a quilt top that is not quite square can lead to the backing being off-center. 
  • Don't put embellishments (crystals, buttons, beads, etc.) on your quilt prior to quilting as they might get broken during the quilting process or they could break the needle and damage the quilt. 
  • Do make sure you press backing seams open. Because there's no way you can predict exactly where seam lines on the backing will fall in relation to the quilt top seams and because most seams on the quilt top are pressed in one direction, pressing backing seams open prevents bulk where seams might overlap. Use a 1/2" seam or a true 1/4" seam (not a scant 1/4") for the backing seams. 
  • Don't baste quilt layers together prior to loading them on the long-arm frame or taking them to a long-arm machine quilter. 

Prep Quilt Layers


  • Both the batting and the backing should be 6"-8" wider and longer than the quilt top. Confirm this measurement with your quilter if you're sending a quilt top out for finishing. 
  • Make sure the quilt top lays flat by using consistent 1/4" seams, pressing seams to one side and watching for seams that twist and cause a bump. Give a finished quilt top a final press to ensure it is ready to be quilted.  
  • Clip all loose threads and fabric, and trim dog-ears. Any of these can cause a shadow behind lighter fabrics if not removed. Loose fabric can bulk up in a quilt sandwich and make it look bumpy. 
  • Repair raveling seams and stay-stitch quilt top edges. Especially if you have a pieced border, it's a good idea to stay-stitch a scant 1/4" from quilt top edges to secure un-intersected seams. It prevents them from popping open when the quilt layers are loaded onto the machine.
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April 9, 2019

Tips for Needle Turn Applique

1. If you are new to appliqué, look for designs that are bold or larger in scale. Turning the seam allowances to the back becomes a challenge when the pieces are tiny. Remember, you can modify any pattern to fit your skills. For example, if turning sharp points on leaves is too challenging, simply round the ends.

2. It is easiest to work hand appliqué when using appliqués of finely woven cotton. After much practice, experiment with loosely woven homespuns and specialty fabrics.

3. Use a straw or milliners needle for best results. The extra length of these needles aids in tucking fabric under before taking stitches.

4. Work with thread no longer than 18" and in a color that matches the appliqué piece. Use fine cotton sewing thread for appliquéing. 

5. A dry iron on a cotton setting normally is used to adhere freezer paper to appliqué fabrics. But be sure to test this process on a scrap first.

6. Hand-basting shapes to the foundation can save time. If pieces are pinned in place, you can lose time untangling threads caught on the pins. And glue makes it difficult to reposition pieces if things shift a bit.

7. Work in a clockwise or counterclockwise direction, whichever is more comfortable for you. With the point of your needle, sweep the seam allowance under about 1" ahead of your stitching, and secure the fabric with your thumb. Use the drawn line as your guide for how much fabric to turn under.

8. Curved edges turn out far smoother if the shapes are cut on the bias grain. For instance, cut leaves with the leaf center placed on the bias.

9. Clip inside curves and points to within a thread of the marked lines, making clips closer together in tightly curved areas. Small, sharp embroidery scissors are great for clipping inner curves. Don’t clip curves until you have stitched to within about 1" of the area. Try to make your clips on the bias grain of the seam allowance, which means your clips often will be on the diagonal rather than perpendicular to the marked lines. Directional clipping prevents fabric from raveling while you're working with the edges.

10. At inside points, make your stitches closer together to prevent fabric from raveling where you have clipped into the seam allowance. Secure a deep inside point with a single stitch.

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April 8, 2019

Tips for String Piecing

String piecing (also sometimes called improvisational piecing) involves sewing fabric strips together. The strips, or “strings”, can be any color combination, from scrappy to graduated color families. The strips do not need to be a uniform width, which makes it a great technique for using scraps!

1. Before trimming each strip unit, spritz it with spray starch, press it again, and let it cool on the pressing table before handling it.

2. To prevent distortion, press and trim small (8"-8-1/2" long) string units. If you try to sew an 18" or 20" long unit, then press and trim it, you can easily warp it and it will not be straight. 

3. Randomly grab pieces and sew them together with little regard to color. Once you join a stack of strips, you may decide you need more or less of a color. If so, add or remove the color from the next batch of strips you join or use that color when joining strips. I like to start and/or end my string strips with a slightly wider strip. This reduces bulk in the seam corners.

4. To create truly random string sets, you need to sew individual strips together. Do not sew 21"- or 42"-long strip sets, then cut them into units.

5. To build up a stash of string-pieced units, keep a pile of string pieces by your sewing machine and sew them together at the beginning or end of a seam when making blocks for other quilts.

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April 7, 2019

How to Perfect Triangle Squares

Most everyone agrees that triangle-squares can be difficult to perfect. The first challenge is cutting the squares in measurements involving eighths, which aren't always clearly evident on a ruler. Second, extra care must be taken not to stretch the bias seam allowances when handling and sewing them. Here are some tips for making precise triangle-squares.

1. Cut off the triangular dog-ears that result when piecing triangle-squares. This will allow you to add the triangle-squares to other pieces with more precision.

2. A scant seam allowance matters. When making triangle-squares, the distance you sew away from the marked diagonal lines should be just a little narrower than 1/4". This scant 1/4" seam allowance will give you the extra few threads you need to get precise triangle-squares. We recommend you still check the size and, if necessary, square up the block.

3. Make your triangle-squares larger than needed, then trim them down to size. Cut the initial squares 1/8" larger than specified. Using your preferred assembly method, make triangle-squares. Square each one up by lining up the 45° line on your ruler with the seam line and trimming the unit to the designated size. While this takes extra time, the precision is worth it for a lot of quilters, including many of our designers (and they're the pros!).

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April
3, 2019

Rotary Cutting Basics:
Rotary cutters allow you to make accurate cuts through multiple layers of fabric with speed and precision and speed. As with many techniques, the more you practice, the easier and more natural the process will become. Practice rotary cutting on fabric scraps until you develop confidence in your cutting accuracy.

Tool Basics:
  • To rotary-cut fabrics you need three basic pieces of equipment—a rotary cutter, acrylic ruler, and cutting mat.
  • A rotary cutter should always be used with a cutting mat designed specifically for rotary cutting. The mat protects the cutting surface and keeps the fabric from shifting while it’s being cut. Cutting mats usually have one side printed with a grid and one side that’s plain. To avoid confusion when lining up fabric with the lines printed on the ruler, some quilters prefer to use the plain side of the mat. Others prefer to use the mat’s grid.
  • The round blade of a rotary cutter is razor-sharp. Because of this, be sure to use a cutter with a safety guard and keep the guard over the blade or in the locked position whenever you’re not cutting. Rotary cutters are commonly available in multiple sizes; a good all-purpose blade is a 45 millimeter.

How to Properly Hold Your Rotary Cutter:

Hold your cutter with the handle at a comfortable angle to the cutting surface and the exposed silver side of the blade snug against the edge of the ruler.
Keep even, firm pressure on the rotary cutter while pushing it away from your body. Never cut with the blade moving toward you.
Bending at the hip rather than at the waist when rotary-cutting is easier and puts less stress on your back and arms.To facilitate this, place your cutting mat on an appropriate-height table or countertop.

Proper Care for Your Rotary Cutter:

  • Always store your rotary cutter with the blade closed or locked. Keep it out of the reach of children. Be certain to cut on a clean cutting mat; pins and other hard objects will nick the blade.
  • Periodically remove the blade from the cutter and carefully wipe away any lint and residue. Take the cutter apart, one piece at a time, laying out the parts in order. Add one drop of sewing machine oil around the center of the blade before reassembling the cutter.
  • Replace blades as needed. Take the cutter apart one piece at a time, laying out the parts in order. Reassemble with a new blade. Dispose of the old blade using the new blade’s packaging.
  • High humidity can cause the rotary cutter blade to rust. To prevent this, store your rotary cutter in a cool, dry place.

 
Tips for Cutting Multiple Layers of Fabric:

  • For best results, layer only up to four pieces. More than four layers may mean less precision.
  • Before rotary-cutting, use spray sizing or spray starch to stabilize the large fabric pieces.
  • Press with an iron to temporarily hold the fabric layers together.

 
Troubleshooting:

Is your cutter not cutting through all the layers? Check the following:

  • Is the blade dull? If so, replace it and carefully dispose of the used one.
  • Is there a nick in the blade? You’ll know if you discover evenly spaced uncut threads, the result of a blade section not touching the fabric during each rotation. Replace the blade.
  • Did you use enough pressure? If you don’t have a dull blade but still find large areas where fabric layers weren’t cut through cleanly, or where only the uppermost layers were cut, you may not be putting enough muscle behind the cutter. Try cutting fewer fabric layers at a time.
  • Is your mat worn out? With extended use, grooves can be worn into your cutting mat, leaving the blade with not enough resistance to make clean ­cuts through the fabric. 

April 2, 2019

The Benefit of a Design Wall

A design wall or board is so helpful in the sewing process.  Having an area to lay out fabric choices or quilt block pieces can help you visualize how they will look in your next project.  It can also keep all your pieces organized as you sew.  It can be a vertical surface like on a wall or a lay down one such as a board.  Your design surface can be any size that works for your space.  For a permanent design wall, cover a surface of foam-core board with a napped material, such as flannel or batting.  Some sewers use the flannel back of oilcloth or a flannel-backed tablecloth for a design wall, rolling it up between projects or hanging one in front of the other to view different quilts.

Tips for a Design Surface:

  • Your design wall should have a neutral background color, so it doesn't interfere with your view of the fabrics or quilt blocks.
  • Make sure your design surface has a napped (or slightly clingy) material, like flannel or quilt batting.  Fabric pieces stick to this material, so you can keep pieces displayed longer.
  • Think about size.  Do you want something permanent on your wall or something smaller you can carry from your sewing machine to the iron?  Your size space and intended use will help you choose which type of design surface is best for you.
Happy Quilting!!
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March, 2019
      
History in the Making of a Log Cabin Quilt
 
When it comes to quilt blocks, few are as widely known as the Log Cabin.  This block became popular in the United States the late 1800s, and was a symbol of home, love, and security for pioneers traveling west across the American frontier.  These blocks were traditionally hand-pieced using strips of fabric around a central square with dark fabrics on one side and light on the other.  According to legend, a red center square symbolized the hearth and heart of a home, while a yellow block represented a welcoming light in a window.  The arrangement of simple shapes made Log Cabin blocks easy to piece and incredibly versatile, allowing quilters to use the materials they had on hand yet leaving room for unique designs.

Log cabin quilts are a "can’t go wrong" quilt pattern. The great thing is, they’re beginner-friendly and easy to make.  Secondly, they have innumerable variations and can be tailored to any taste.  Thirdly, arranging these blocks in a curvy or wonky design makes the log cabin block perfect for the intermediate to advanced quilter.
 
Log cabin quilts have such a wide variety.  They can range from scrappy or minimalist, to modern and improvisational.  Blocks can be turned sideways and upside down, set on point or made with Half-Square Triangles to create fresh designs that pay homage to the classic while constructing something new.
 
So no matter what your skill level, you just can never go wrong with a log cabin quilt.


March 17, 2019
Making Colorful Quilts!
 
Sometimes deciding which color to use in your next quilt can seem like a daunting task.  There are soooo many to choose from!  Whatever you decide, your color choice will change the look of your project to be either bold and vibrant or soft and calming.
  • Get Your Purple On:  Use purple as a standout color in your projects.  Whether it's amethyst or lavender, this color with give your project a beautiful rich tone like no other.
  • Add Sunny Yellows:  Whether you like marigold, lemon or mustard, these colors will add some energy and happiness to your quilts!  Who wouldn't want that?! :D
  • Use Ocean Teals:  Teal can either be a calming color or a bold pop of color.  No matter how it is used, it definitely makes an impact on any project.
  • Go Classic With Blues:  Blue is such a classic color!  With so many hues and prints, adding this color to your project is sure to give it a bold modern look or use fun prints for a touch of playfulness and whimsy.
  • Warm Up With Red:  Red is the perfect color to add a punch to your quilts.  Whether you like mixing scrappy prints or solids, red will make any quilt stand out.
  • Go With Green:  From forest green to bright lime, green is such a refreshing color.  Every hue of green is found in nature, making it the perfect color to be combined with both rich and natural colors, and making green its own unique and standout style.
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February, 2019

Twelve Essential Quilting Tips!  

 
When it comes to quilting, even the smallest details can have a big impact on a finished quilt top. Here are twelve small, yet essential quilting tips that can help quilters of all skill levels make gorgeous quilts quickly and easily.
 
1.  Read instructions thoroughly before you begin. Understanding where a pattern is headed and what supplies you will need before you begin will help you get through each step with ease.

2.  Use an accurate ¼" seam allowance.  Accuracy is key in quilting, so always double check that your seam allowances accurately measure ¼". Investing in a ¼" foot on your sewing machine can help. When all of the seams are the same, correct size, fabric pieces will fit together easily and seams will match up neatly.
 
3.  Always pin before you sew.  Pinning will help you align seams properly, which will help you avoid having to rip them out later, a time-saver any quilter can appreciate!
 
4.  Always set seams.  To achieve a straighter seam, press the sewn seam flat, then press it in the direction you need it to lay. The finished top will be worth any extra effort.
 
5.  Replace sewing machine needles regularly. Change your needle every 8 hours of sewing time or for every new quilt top.  Using a nice sharp needle will ensure it moves smoothly through fabric and helps prevent snagging, skipping, and pulling.
 
6.  Get organized before beginning a project.  Make sure you have all the notions you need on hand, pre-wind your bobbins, iron your fabric before cutting, and so on. Paying attention to these details will help keep you moving through a project rather than having to keep stopping and starting.
 
7. Keep scissors handy.  For convenience, store a small pair of scissors near your sewing machine for snipping loose threads.
 
8.  Buy the best your budget allows.  Choosing good quality fabrics and notions will help you enjoy making projects so much more.  It will also help you avoid the frustrations that can arise from using inferior fabrics, notions, or equipment.
 
9.  Start small. If you're new to quilting, making smaller projects, such as pillows, mini quilts, and runners, is a great way to build confidence and skills. 
 
10.  Make oversized blocks.  When making classic blocks, such as Half-Square Triangles or Flying Geese, sew slightly oversized blocks (if the pattern doesn't already account for it) so that you can trim them down accurately to the correct size. The finished look is worth the effort!
 
11.  Save leftover batting.  Scraps from larger projects are often a good size for pillows, pot holders, runners and mini quilts.  Keeping those leftovers in your stash can save you from having to run out and buy more batting for future projects.
 
12.  Take a class.  Check out your local quilting store like QP!!  Getting some help and advice is a great way to hone your skills as well as meet other creative, like-minded people who share your interests.
 
Happy quilting from QP!!