Quilting Tips Addendum

There were many great tips shared by you, our readers, on our National Quilting Day giveaway, and since not all of us have time to read through all the comments, I thought I would pull some of the more general ones which weren’t covered in our original posting to share (paraphrased and combined, in most cases):

  • We probably shouldn’t have to say this, but remember to have fun! It’s okay to step back from a quilt for a bit if it isn’t fun anymore. The inspiration can lead you when it’s ready. One of our readers suggested working on three quilts at once so that if you get stuck on one, you can move on to another. There are no quilt police. Make the quilt that’s right for you.
  • Don’t rush your quilting! Working at a nice even pace leads to better accuracy. And if you can devote even 15 minutes a day to your quilting, even this small amount of time will have your projects finished in no time.
  • There is no one right way to make a block – some are faster, some are easier, but the method that’s right for you may not be right for someone else. Practicing half-square triangles is a good place to start as they are used in a lot of different blocks and layouts.
  • Making a practice block first before cutting out your entire quilt is always a good idea, as is testing your stitch on a scrap piece (whether piecing or free motion quilting) to make sure everything looks right.
  • When using a ¼” seam allowance, it is more important to have it ¼” at the beginning and end of the seam than have it precisely ¼” all the way down the seam. Also remember to hold onto your fabric until you’re at the very end rather than letting go, because letting go can cause the seam to curve at the end. You can use a stylus or awl to help hold it and not sew your fingers. When lacking one of these, the tip of a small pair of scissors, a metal nut pick, or a bamboo skewer can be substituted. These tools also help when pressing seams so that you don’t burn your fingers on the edge of the iron.
  • Remember to press, not iron. Using a flannel covering on your ironing board can help keep the fabric from shifting or distorting. Remember to press your seams towards the dark side (or press them open) so they don’t show through. “Twirling” your seams where four blocks meet also helps with bulk (pressing each seam clockwise or counter-clockwise around the corner). And if your seams are all parallel to each other, you don’t need to press them until you have another seam crossing over the previous ones.
  • When sewing strips (parallel seams), always alternate the direction in which you’re sewing them together in order to keep them straight.
  • Winding at least 3 bobbins before starting a project will keep you from having to stop and rewind constantly.
  • We suggested listening to music or putting in a movie you’ve already seen, but audio books were also suggested.
  • We suggested cleaning your machine every once in a while, but oiling and other maintenance is also important. (Make sure to read your machine’s manual first. Some newer models are self-contained, which means they do not need to be oiled.) Keeping a sticky note on your machine or a document somewhere handy is a good way to keep track of when you last changed out your needle or rotary blade. And remember, your pins get dull, too and need replaced every so often! When needles break or need replacing, have an old tic-tac or mint container or empty medicine bottle to put the old needles in to protect the people taking out the trash.
  • OTHER TOOLS WHICH WERE SUGGESTED:
    • A light weight fusible can stabilize a fabric that’s too thin or loosely woven to use otherwise.
    • Heavy acrylic paper is great for making template patterns and is heavy enough to use as a guide when pressing curves (and can stand the heat).
    • A lint roller is great for picking up loose threads on everything in the sewing room as well as keeping the “snow” from falling off a charm pack when run over the edges before opening.
    • A walking foot is very helpful when top quilting and piecing odd fabrics.
    • A small trash can is helpful for scrap threads not getting everywhere.
    • Great lighting is very useful: OttLites and other true-color lamps can ease eye strain when sewing and help when color matching.
    • A cutting glove or finger-guards on your rulers will help you from cutting yourself. (One suggestion that goes with this is to not bleed on your quilt, but if you do, rubbing your own saliva into the stain, though “gross” will bleach the blood out.) There are lots of products to keep your rulers from slipping, but one reader suggested spraying them with basting spray, then using goo-off and re-spraying when they look dirty. S-hooks from the ceiling or a peg board can help with ruler storage if you don’t have a rack or stand for them.
    • Crayola washable markers can be used to mark quilting lines.
    • Running beeswax (or Thread Heaven) over thread when hand quilting can help if from knotting. (And when sewing by hand, licking the needle rather than the thread will help the thread go in easier.)
    • Glue sticks can be used hold down appliques or binding while stitching and wash right out afterwards. You can also use them to hold down tissue paper if you’ve marked your quilting lines on it.
    • Your camera or cell phone’s camera can be helpful in many ways: looking through the lens will help you get some distance to see the whole project, taking a picture can help you see if one fabric stands out when making selections, and having a saved picture of your quilt on the design wall will help you if gravity or your cat/dog/child has designs on your placements. Taking a black and white photo (there’s a setting on most modern phones and cameras, or else you can convert) will help you see color values.
    • Having the right height chair and work table/surface will make it easier to sew for longer. One reader suggested cheap foam insulation from a hardware store to create a table that surrounds your machine for a larger level sewing surface, reducing gravity’s pull on larger projects. Getting up and moving around every once in a while is also helpful for ergonomics and prolonged sewing without muscle fatigue.
    • Making friends with your seam ripper is a good idea because even the most experienced sewers and quilters need one every once in a while. One reader suggested to marry or give birth to someone who doesn’t mind “upsewing” if you dislike it.
    • One reader suggested to cut through a sheet of aluminum foil that’s been folded several times with dull scissors to sharpen the blades (has anyone else tested this?)
    • And putting your sewing tools away after a day of sewing will help you be able to just start in again next time without having to find things first.
    • Lastly, if all else fails, there is YouTube. (QN is on YouTube – subscribe to our channel HERE.)
  • INSPIRATION AND PLANNING TIPS:
    • Keep a quilt journal to store your ideas.
    • Think about quilting before bed, because the best designs come in your dreams.
    • Inspiration is everywhere!
    • The planning is always the most time-consuming part of a project.
    • Trying a few mystery quilts will help you achieve things you never thought you were capable of.
    • Buying a ¼ yard more fabric than you think you need will help if a pattern or your cutting isn’t quite perfect. If you have a large stash, just buying one new fabric to go with pieces in your stash will help with both “shopping your stash” and having something new to look at. And don’t be afraid to be bold or contrasting in fabric or thread choices.
    • Pre-washing will eliminate shrinkage from your quilts (cotton thread will shrink with the fabric if you’ve sewn with it) and testing color-fastness is always a good idea, especially with reds, navies, and blacks before you’ve sewn.
    • Finding some quilting friends (even if they’re online), sewing buddies, or a guild or quilting group can help you with ideas and suggestions about tools, techniques and ideas. And classes can help you expand your skills and make new friends. A support network is always helpful. Plus, if you know someone who’s interested, passing on your passion can be very rewarding. Local quilt shops will also help with questions and ideas.
    • Remembering to look at your project from a distance will help prevent end-result-regret.
    • Subscribing to good quilting magazines like Quilters Newsletter will help you with both inspiration and learning new tips and techniques. (This really was a reader suggestion, but we are fully behind it!)
  • CUTTING TIPS:
    • Read through the whole pattern first to make sure you don’t miss something.
    • Marking off the pieces you’ve already cut on the pattern will help you keep track. Penciling in steps that make more sense or marking changes first will help you remember what you’re doing different.
    • A lot of you said to measure twice, cut once — but QN editorial assistant Caitlin has been told that this is not the quilter’s way. It’s actually measure three times, cut once, curse, go buy more fabric, … icon wink Quilting Tips Addendum
    • Cutting triangles a little larger and trimming to size will help when 1/8” seam allowances are used or it’s otherwise tricky.
    • When cutting, placing each piece or block with the side to sew first going the same direction will make it faster and easier to chain stitch.
    • Keeping a small cutting board and rotary next to your machine will help you trim something up if it doesn’t match, and a short ironing board and iron handy will keep you from running across the room (just remember to move sometimes if everything’s in reach!)
    • Squaring up each block and section will help the top go together easier.
  • SCRAPS: Organize the bigger ones by color for later projects, and save the too-small-to-use ones for stuffing pillows, stuffed animals, pet beds, etc. Leftover pieces of binding can be later combined for use on a scrap quilt.
  • QUILTING AND FREE MOTION QUILTING TIPS:
    • Don’t be afraid of FMQ! You can pretend you are a 5 year old with a pen when you start, relax and go with the flow, and one reader suggested to have one glass of wine first to relax. Reading tips and videos is great, but just do it!
    • To keep the top, batting, and backing together, you can use pins, safety pins, basting pins, spray basting glue, or a fusible. Find the tool you prefer.
    • When taking a quilt to a longarmer, folding it over a sturdy tube will keep it from creasing. Taking a picture of the top and printing it out with your name and contact info, quilt size, and any special instructions (and even who it’s for, and if it’s for a special occasion) will help with the end result.
  • In quilt shows, judges will check to see if the batting goes all the way to the edge of the binding.
  • A finished quilt is better than a not-yet-perfect work in progress. No one will see your “mistakes” other than you. It’s also what makes your quilt unique. “Embrace the imperfections.” “There are no mistakes, just design opportunities.” Just because it doesn’t look exactly like the pattern doesn’t mean it’s wrong. Mistakes are more common when you’re tired, whether in mind or body. Being well rested helps!
  • Always take a picture of your finished accomplishment so that you can look back on your journey later. (Then share it with us at submission@qnm.com for possible inclusion in an upcoming Quilting Bee!)

Don’t forget to enter our current giveaway, the February/March Staff Picks Giveaway.

The original list of tips was HERE (the giveaway is now closed).

Check out our website to keep up with what’s in our current issue, and be sure to follow Quilters Newsletter on your social networking site(s) of choice: FacebookTwitterGoogle+InstagramPinterest and even YouTube!

About Caitlin

Caitlin Dickey is the editorial assistant for Quilters Newsletter.
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6 Responses to Quilting Tips Addendum

  1. I love the blog you just did.I am a confident beginner quilter,having fun.

  2. Carol Collins says:

    Great tips, I hope you keep adding to the list! I keep a small-ish bowl by my sewing machines to catch threads, easier than a wastebasket (which I miss more times than not). Also, I’d be careful about drinking wine before machine quilting (or any sewing project) … fingers can get in the way especially if you’re going faster doing mq.

  3. mary oddan says:

    Fun to see tips, so many things change ovet the yeats.

  4. suzy maxwell says:

    I agree with your editorial assistant about cutting. That is the rule I ALWAYS follow. (Sometimes, I wish I didn’t. ;) )

  5. Gudrun Benediktsdottir says:

    I would like the green,but the brown is cute too. I live in Iceland far north so I will not bee in the case to winn but lucy them.
    Love to read your letters.

    Best regards
    Gudrun Benediktsdottir

  6. Pingback: Tip Tuesday–04/15/2014 | QuiltMouse

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