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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!!