Apr 232012

Pam is squaring up her very first quilt block

Recently, I have given lessons to many beginner quilters.  They begin by learning correct pressing techniques,  the importance of precise and safe cutting with the rotary blade, the use of all the different tools, and why 1/4 inch seam?  I always have to share when ever that last question comes up.  When I made my very first quilt, I was self-taught, and I made the quilt with 5/8 inch seams.  Not only did it drastically reduce the size of my quilt, but it added much more bulk to the quilt than needed.  LOL…(laugh out loud, not lots of love…thats another story.)  I always teach how to read a pattern, the secret is one step at a time.  So often, we read the entire quilt pattern and then become completely frazzled and overwhelmed.  I don’t want you to think this is a bad idea, on the contrary, reading the entire pattern is a good idea.  It gives you a sense of the direction you are going in making the quilt.  The next step however is take one step at a time.  When the last step is done, move on to the next.  I also never cut my borders or sashing until my blocks are made.  The reason behind this is, you don’t really know how big your blocks or your quilt will be until after it is together.  I will be giving border and sashing instruction tomorrow, so check back for that info.

Once we have completed all the above info, we have a new problem, where so we go for our patterns?  I always suggest trying some free patterns before going out and buying books.  This way you will know the type of quilting you like before you invest.  There are strip quilts, star quilts, applique quilts, quilt as you go quilts just to name a few.  This way you may also be able to find out which designers you like as well.

I find that Miss Eleanor Burns is one of the best designers for the beginner.  Her patterns are simple and concise.  There are illustrations that are in color, and she has different color ways for every pattern.   This is helpful for those who have a difficult time imagining what a pattern would look like in color ways that aren’t displayed.  If you are on facebook, you must like Eleanor Burns quilt in a day page.  When you do, you will have access                            to a free Block of the month club (BOM)  You can get backdated blocks and then you can take a photo of it and enter it in her monthly block drawing and win a prize.  nifty isn’t it?

If you are looking for more freebies… check out on facebook the following pages:

Quilting on the Square, Quilt-Pro Block of the day ( they will email you a new block every day)  there is a place called freequiltpatterns.com , and did you know that you can google various fabric companies and go to their sites and find free patterns?

I hope this was info you valued.  If you have any info you would like me to cover, leave a comment, its easy.  go to the top right of the page and hit on the add comments, right below the services and tips and info tabs.  Also you may want to subscribe, if you enter your email you will be notified of any new posts and info .  You will also receive  discounts when using my services.

I heard a cute joke the other day…

An elderly man was talking to his children about his last wishes.  They asked his what type of service he would like. His reply was ” kids, I want you to cremate me and sprinkle me over moms favorite quilt store.”  the kids were stunned, and then he finished. ” that way I will be sure she will visit me often.”    🙂   Have a great evening and remember, there are worse things than being called and old sew and sew.



Feb 292012

I have recently had quite a few students ask me why their quilts aren’t square, why their quilts pucker, what am I doing wrong?  More often than not the problem is contributed to accuracy in cutting the fabric.

First things first, you need the proper supplies.  A cutting mat, a rotary cutter with extra blades, and quilting rulers and square rulers for squaring up.  Oh my, and the most important ingredient in this recipe, Fabric!

To begin properly, you will want to press all wrinkles out of your fabric.  You may be wondering if you should wash your fabric before you begin cutting and piecing, that is a personal preference.  I do wash anything that is colorfast, and in those quilts I am sure to wash all fabric due to shrinkage factors.  I want to be sure that all fabric in a quilt has been handled the same way.  If one fabric is washed, I will then wash all fabric for that quilt. I do not hesitate to repeat myself on this point because it is a very important instruction.

There are right and wrong ways to press your fabric.  As you can see, Pam is pressing her fabric and has it folded over.  This is alright, but to be really efficient she will want to open up the piece and simply iron it open to avoid any creases.  When fabric is folded like this it is often difficult to see if there are any creases or folds that you are ironing into the fabric.  Once fabric is open you can see wrinkles or creases.  If you have difficulty getting them out with dry heat, feel free to spray a little water on problem area and press.

We use a dry setting on our iron, generally cotton setting because that is

what quilters fabric is composed of.  Once you have finished pressing,

you will want to be sure you are cutting your fabric on grain.

Fabric when it is cut from a bolt is most often not a square-cut.  When

fabric is rolled on a bolt, it is most often rolled uneven.  One sure way to

see if your fabric is on grain is to take a snip out of the cut edge and rip

the width of fabric.  Now you have a squared edge.  The problem doing it

this way?  You tend to stretch the fabric when you rip.  another way to

do this is shown in the photos below.




Pam has lined up the salvage and shifted the fabric so the fold lies nicely and doesn’t have any twists in it.  If you look to the left of her fabric, you will see that the cut edge is uneven.  You will be using the folded edge to line up your ruler and straighten that edge.  Do not use the salvage side as that edge is not as consistent as the folded side.  Line the Folded edge up with a line on the 24×6 inch ruler.  Once the edge is straight, at a 90 degree angle from the fold, you will now cut off the salvage.

You may wonder why the salvage is cut off.  The salvage does not shrink or give at the same rate of the rest of fabric.  If you do not cut it off, it will be part of your quilt and after a washing you will find puckering that you won’t be happy about.

Can you see how nicely the fold lies here in the photo?   the photo below shows a piece of fabric that does not lie properly, but as you can see the edge is lined up.  If you proceed to cut this way, your strips will have a curve to them which will either be a waste of good fabric or the start of a very wavy

quilt .


As you begin to cut your fabric, it is important to remember not to use your mat as a measuring tool.  Mats can become warped, and they can be inconsistent.  You also do not want to use them as measuring tools due to the fact that many measurements in quilting are common measurements which will leave ruts in your cutting mats after multiple uses.  This will cause inconsistent cuts and damaging fabric.  You Simply use the mat as a cutting surface and actually use your ruler for measurements.

This may sound confusing, so I will walk you through it and include a photo.  You will lie your fabric with the side you desire to cut on the left side of the mat with the fabric lying to the right ( if you are right-handed, reverse if you are left-handed)  use the measurement you are in need of on the ruler, Lets say 1 inch for demonstration purposes.  line up the 5 inch line with the left edge of fabric, hold ruler with your finger tips on left hand, hold rotary cutter in right hand with your arm resting at a 90 degree angle at your side.

you want your arm to move naturally forward so that your blade does not tip to the left or the right, this will cause uneven cuts if it tips to either side.

You will use the edge of the ruler as your guide, your body positioned so that your arm isn’t in front of your body cutting.  Your arm is at your side, your body is positioned so that your arm moves freely forward as you cut.  When the cut is complete, leave ruler on fabric and pull the fabric to the left away.  You do this in case your fabric hasn’t been fully cut through.  In this case you will still have your intended strip still in place under the ruler, you can now proceed to recut that area that may not have cut accurately or incompletely.

Safety tips for Rotary Cutting…. Alway remember to close your rotary blade when not in use.  Not In Use means… when you aren’t cutting, when it is not in your hands.  These blades are extremely sharp and if you place it down in an open position, you or someone you love could lose a finger or worse.  I actually charge my students $1 every time I catch them leaving it

open after a use.  I hope I covered the majority of accurate cutting.  If you

have any question, leave a comment and I will get back to you.  Have a

great weekend.  Let me know if any of my tips helped you. I would like to

give a very special thanks to Pam, one of my students, for being my model.



Jan 022012

More and more machines carry an assortment of decorative stitches. 

These stitches can change the look of domestic machine quilting, applique, embellishment or binding.

A great idea is to take a fabric sandwich, two pieces of fabric sandwiched around a piece of batting, and stitch rows of various stitches to see what your machine can accomadate for you.  Now, adjust the width selector and do another row.  Do you notice how that may change your stitches?  Now fool around with the length dial, again you will see a change.  These stitches can be used to give your quilt your own sense of style, you don’t have to get stuck in the rut of a straight or zig zag stitch.  When you applique, try a decorative stitch other than satin or blanket stitch.  You will be amazed at the wonders you can accomplish.  It is your quilt, don’t be afraid to try something new for you. Once you are comfortable with the stitches, try different weight threads.

If you have additional ideas on stitches, be sure to post it in the comments so we can share it with others.

Jan 012012

Many of us are self taught quilters, or at least we started out that way.

I had my share of mistakes along the way, that’s when I decided I wanted to get rid of bad habits and take lessons to improve my quilting

That was 8 years ago and many many quilts and classes.  I thought a great way to ring in the New Year would be to share important, often overlooked tips with you.

Our First installment, covers your fabric.

I seldom wash my fabric unless it is color fast, in which case I make sure I wash all the fabric… like colors together.Many people like to snip a triangle off the corners of fabric to prevent raveling.  I like to serge my raw edge, before I had a serger I would zig zag it.  It certainly makes it slick to remove from the washer and press, you will want to use some sort of sizing when pressing.  It makes your fabric crisp and easy to work with.  If you don’t prepare your fabric in some way, you will likely be trying to detangle the threads from your fabric.

If you are using the fabric for backing, be sure to rip and not cut the fabric, it is the best way to square your backing.  Keep your backing in one piece if you only need one seam.  Make a snip and then rip only one of the salvages off.   Snip and rip both ends off of fabric so it rips all the way across width of fabric on both ends.  Now you should have 3 sides ripped.  Take both ends and butt them up to each other right sides together making sure that fabric is not twisted.  sew down salvage side of fabric to create seam.  Stop about 6 inches short of fabric fold.  Snip on fold and then rip across width of fabric.  Continue to sew down  the seam. You will now have a backing that is perfectly square.  Rip off remaining salvages.

This is the best way to get a square backing if you only need to piece one seam.

Let me know if you like this technique…. remember to set seam and then press it open.

Have a great Day!

Dec 212011

Here is a hint for bindings. 

What do you do with the extra binding after you finish off a quilt?  Stick it in a bag, these scraps will make a fun binding for an art quilt, child or baby quilt, or scrappy quilt.

You will find that you can even mix flannels with cottons.

You could also iron the seam out of it and make a strip quilt.

Dec 202011

I always have last minute shopping to do, but in the wee hours of the morning I don’t always feel like hitting the stores.

Here are a few ideas for gifts for your loved ones. 

Do you have a piece of fabric that you really like?  do a little free motion on it and put it in a frame.  It makes a great gift and you may be surprised at the reaction you will get from your loved one.  I recieved one like this from Angie Hayworth years ago and it sits in my sewing room in its frame, I really treasure it.

Another great idea is make a pin cushion.  You can use your scraps or choose a special fabric.  You can find numerous patterns on freepatterns.com   include some pins with the cushion, can we ever really have enough pins?

Last but not least, every quilter is in constant need of rotary blade and needles.

A quick run to your local fabric store, and waalaa, a perfect christmas gift.  Its always a good idea to look around for the best prices.

Micheals often has a 40% off coupon, Hancock currently has a 40% off coupon, and often times walmart is very reasonably priced.

Dec 162011

I have heard so many of you wanting to start experimenting with free motion on your domestic machines and yet you don’t know where to begin. 

A great idea is keep a sketch pad handy, actually keep them all over the house and in the car.  If they are strategically placed in the house, you are more likely to pick them up and start doodling designs.  If you aren’t sure what to doodle, you may want to pick up some books by Deloa Jones or numerous other freemotion quilters. We start the doodle process first to get the muscle memory in place.

Once you have doodled and feel comfortable with your design, now you can begin to practice on your machine. 

The first thing you will want to do, prepare some fabric sandwiches. The way I like to do this is cut 9×12 inch rectangles of fabric.  Cut some batting approximately 1 to 2 inches larger than fabric rectangles.  Place batting between two pieces of fabric, wrong side of fabric to batting.  

You can safety pin corners to keep fabric from shifting. 

Next lower feed dogs on your machine.  If your feed dogs do not lower, you can put a piece of template over the feed dogs and masking tape around it.  

If your stitches are too long, you are going too fast.  If they are too short, you aren’t going fast enough.
It is also a great idea to purchase a pair of gloves, it just seems to make the movement much smoother.

So this is the way to get started.  Its always a great idea to take classes. 

There are alot of great instructors on the circuit, watch as the quilt shows start to pop up again. 

If you have any other questions, leave a comment and I will get back to you. 

Nov 042011

Do you ever wonder why your borders on your quilt are wavy?
Do you just cut a very long strip and apply it on your quilt and cut off the excess?
Do you square up your blocks as you go so they are the same size?
Do you cut your sashing into wof strips and sew them on and cut as you go?

If you find yourself having problems, I have a solution for you.

First.  Always square up your blocks before constructing your quilt.

If you are working with the same size blocks, you will be less likely to have problems with a square quilt.When you place the sashing on your quilt you should be sure to measure through the center of your blocks for correct measurement.

Do the same when you place your borders on and you will find your quilt will be square.
The trick is measuring through the most stable part of your quilt… which is alway the center.

*Never cut a long piece and apply as you go, you will end up with a quilt with dimples and puckers and possibly have to redo for the quilter. 

Now, go out and play in the sun… its beautiful out on the lake

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