Now that you have everything prepared (see my previous blog post titled Sewing Checklist), let's take care of one last thing. Make sure you are sewing with an accurate 1/4 seam!
This is the best quilting tip I think I can share, using an accurate 1/4" seam allowance when piecing a quilt block and assembling a quilt. Unless otherwise mentioned, most patterns require a 1/4" seam allowance when piecing. If your seams are off even by a fraction of that, the error will become magnified by the time you complete your block and it will not measure the size it should be. It's always good to check even if you sew a lot. If you change threads (go from a thinner one to a thicker one), that can even throw off the seam size.
To make sure you are sewing with an accurate 1/4" seam, get some scrap fabric and do a test seam. Measure the seam.
If it measure 1/4", good job! If not, you can create a guideline on your machine throat plate (if it doesn't have one already) by placing a fabric tape measure on the bed of the machine with the "0" line at the point where your needle comes down. As you can see by the arrow in the photo, I already have a line on my machine.
If you don't have a line etched on your throat plate, stick a piece of masking tape to the throat plate under the tape measure at the 1/4" mark.
When piecing, you will line up the raw edges of your fabric with the tape line. Measure the resulting test seam to make sure it is 1/4".
Many machines come with a 1/4" sewing foot (or you can purchase one) and other machines have adjustable needle positions. Check your owners manual to see if you have this option for your machine.
Here's my 1/4" foot:
So, the moral to this blog post is ...... check your seam allowance when starting a new project. Especially if you have changed threads. You don't want to start piecing blocks together and find out nothing is fitting!
Okay...now that you have that accurate seam allowance down...Let's get sewing!
My new book is now available! You can purchase it here at my website!
My book explores the history of appliqué and celebrates it with nine unique and colorful projects.
Starting a New Project?
I’m getting ready to start sewing new project and checking that I have everything I need. This led me to this blog post …. do you have a pre-project checklist? I will share with you the steps I go through before starting a project. Maybe you’ve thought of these? Maybe these will help if you haven’t!
1. Start with a clean and oiled machine. When was the last time you did that? You should do this after every project, if it’s a large one, or after a couple of table runners.
Follow the instructions for your machine. I clean out under the throat plate, in the bobbin case and compartment. Then I oil the parts as recommended.
Yes! That pile of lint under the throat plate is not a part of your machine …. although you may think so!
2. When was the last time you changed your needle? Many quilters do not think about changing the needle until it breaks. We figure …. it’s still in one piece, it should be OK, right? Actually, that is wrong!
To the naked eye, the needle may look like this:
However, under a microscope after one project, it looks like this:
And it gets worse with even more use. A dull, overused needle will snag your fabric or punch larger holes than is needed into the fabric as you are sewing. You don’t want to damage that fabric!
3. Depending on what kind of thread you are using, you may use more than one bobbin of thread. If you are doing a large project, wind some extra bobbins. Same thing goes for when you are machine quilting. When you are machine quilting, you go through a lot more thread than when you are just piecing. So, wind some extra bobbins so they are ready and you do not have to break your concentration!
When it’s time to change the bobbin, that’s also a good time to do some light cleaning that makes your pre-project cleaning for the next project that much easier!
4. Gather all the supplies you need and keep them close by. I keep my scissors attached to my machine with a Command hook!
Cool idea, huh? I can’t take sole credit for this one …. I got the idea from a student in one of my classes.
I also keep my pincushion close by and my wooden “presser”.
I have to admit this is a great tool! I can press smaller seams and not have to keep going to the ironing board.
5. A few last things. Make sure you have good lighting, a comfortable chair and that you take a few breaks to stretch. It’s not good to sit at the machine for hours at a stretch …. although we’d like to get that project done fast!
Well, that’s my checklist to begin sewing. Do you have some things you always do before starting? Share!
Well, Fall Market is over for another year. I have been posting little snippets on Facebook daily but I figured I would do a “wrap-up” post in one place to share with you.
We packed up and hit the road early on Wednesday October 22nd for the drive from Iowa to Houston Texas. My husband is the driver so I can sew or read (such a nice guy!). Of course we have to stop at Panera Bread for lunch (both days!)
Time to set up! The booth is an empty 10 x 10' space when we start ....
This year we did not forget the table legs for my large table. That’s a good thing! So here's how it looked when we got done with the set-up.
I think it came out pretty nice! After setting up, we enjoyed a bit of sun and took in a Houston Rockets game. We love to enjoy the entertainment and the great food (!) around Houston.
My husband, Craig …. my C.E.O. (that stands for “carry’s everything out” Ha!)
He also works good as a “design wall”!
I also found a shirt very appropriate for me …. here it is …. doesn't it fit a scrap quilter like me?
All in all we enjoyed our trip to Houston and now it’s time to get back to work and design more fun patterns!
What is your favorite time to sew? What types of projects do you like to work on? Do you have more than one project going on at a time? I usually have a piecing project and a hand appliqué project going. That way I have something I can work on that's "portable" if I don't have the time to sit at my machine.
To take a project with me on the road, first I have to have a way to store all the pieces so I do not lose anything. I use small zip lock baggies, either snack, sandwich or quart size (depending upon the size of my project) to store my appliqué pieces. This also works for wool appliqué, hexies or other hand projects!
Then I use a larger "project bag". You know those plastic bags with zippers that small sheet sets come in? They are perfect to pack a project into. enough room to fit your project and sewing supplies you will need such as rulers, thread and needle storage, etc.
can find tins in all sizes that will fit your needs. I like a shallow one so I don't have to go digging around for what I want.
Here is what it looks like on the inside:
Notice the magnet in the corner. I found this magnet "block" at my local hardware store. It fits right inside my tin and holds needles, a small scissors and some pins. A lot better than having them rolling around inside the tin!
Next, I needed a place to put sewing supplies with in reach when I am sewing in the car. I got this idea from a student in one of my classes. Go to the bathroom section of the store and look for these small suction cup storage items. I think they are used in a shower to hold soap. I stick it on the car window and store my thread ans scissors at an easy reach!
Isn't it amazing what you can do with everyday items, huh?
So, I'm packed and ready for my next car trip at any time. It's a good thing because we will be driving to Houston Texas in about 10 days for Fall International Quilt Market. Come to think of it, I better get going on some ideas so I have something to work on for the car ride!
Happy Quilting all!
These weeks fly by so fast ….
Here’s a great reason to love October …. my new book will be hitting the quilt shops later this month!
Blooming Patchwork from Kansas City Star Quilts
If you like scrap quilting and appliqué, you will love this book! I have included a fun brief history of appliqué in north America and have 9 different projects inspired by this history. Here's a preview of what it looks like inside my book. The photos were taken at a lovely bed & breakfast outside the Kansas City, Missouri area. I love the look! What do you think?
October also brings the release of several new patterns from Snuggles Quilts as well. This pattern has been released but has not visited a Quilt Market yet. It’s making the trip with me to Houston later this month.
It's called Delightful Seasons. The pattern includes instructions for the pieced wall hanging and four seasonal changeable panels. The panels are wool appliqué on fabric backgrounds. You can do the appliqué in fabric if you prefer.
I also have new patterns debuting at Quilt Market at the end of the month. I have had a lot of fun creating these designs over the spring and summer and cannot wait to share them with the quilting world.
From the top, the patterns are: #221 Sister's Reunion - a 74 x 74" scrappy lap quilt; #222 Crisscross Cabin Blooms - a 72 x 72" scrappy lap quilt with border appliqué; #223 Garden Gate - a 40 x 40" wall hanging that can be made with fabric appliqué or wool appliqué and #224 Greetings! - a wall hanging and table topper that can be personalized with a special date!
If you see what you like here ….. request my patterns from your local quilt shop!
New Book on it's way!
I'm excited to announce that my new book, Blooming Patchwork, will be out in October! I am working with Kansas City Star Quilts on this book and I am really happy with it. Here is one of the quilt projects in the book. It's called Star Gazing.
What do you think?
The book has nine projects that range from table runners and wall hangings to lap quilts. All the projects are scrappy and include appliqué that can be done by hand or machine.
There is also a brief history of appliqué in America and tips to help you create you own appliqué masterpiece!
Here are a few shots of other projects in the book:
So.... make sure you mention this post to your favorite quilt shop! Have them look for my book from Kansas City Star Quilts in October. If they go to the International Quilt Market in Houston at the end of October, they can visit me in my booth or visit the Kansas City Star Quilts booth for a closer look and more information.
This book has been a labor of love to my favorite past time .... needle turn hand appliqué. I hope you will like the finished product as much as I do!
Color! How do you pick color for a project?
Many quilters look at a pattern and want the exact fabric shown in the photo. Unfortunately, that is not always possible since fabric companies often print limited quantities of a fabric …. and when it’s gone, it’s gone! Those of you who are shop owners know what I am talking about! It’s even more difficult when a quilter wants the exact fabric for a quilt they have found in a magazine or book. Those quilts are often made 6 months to a year before the magazine or book is published! Oh no!
So, here’s my advice …. just go by color and not the exact fabric. You can take the photo of the quilt with you to your favorite quilt shop and look for fabrics that are in the same color family and have the same scale print as the one in the photo. For example, here’s a red fabric in a quilt:
And here is a fabric that can be substituted. It’s close to the other fabric in color and scale of the print. It will give you the same look.
The print is not exactly the same, but it is on the same scale and the color is the close to the same shade as the original.
Another thing that tends to stump a quilter is when a pattern says “chose 15 fabrics in lights, mediums and darks”. Well, that’s easier than you think! For me “light, medium and dark” is all relative based on the fabrics you chose to use. What I do is pull the main colors I want from my stash and then find different shades for light, medium and dark.
For example, here is a blue I chose.
You may think this is “dark”. But, when you put it next to the next blue I chose, you see it can be classed as a “medium”.
You could use it for your “dark” if your other blues went lighter on the “shade” scale. Get it? Everything’s relative!
So, here’s the 15 fabrics I picked out for my next project. See how the 5 basic colors I chose show up in each stack?
There you go! I hope I have taken some of the fear out of choosing fabrics for a project. Now you can go into a quilt shop and stack up bolts like a pro! Stack the up, stand back and squint!
As you can see by my quilt patterns, I like scrappy quilts. Over the years, I have come up with a few "tips" to make scrap quilting easier and more fun. We can all use more fun, yes?
When you are making a scrap quilt, you are usually using at least 5 or 6 different colors of fabric for variety. But, when you are piecing your quilt top, it never fails, you get the same colors right next to each other or clumped together on one side of a block or quilt. So, here are some tips I have come up with to take care of this problem.
Tip #1: I number the fabrics. For example, if I have a blue, purple, green, pink and gold fabric, I will number them 1 through 5. If you have 20 different fabrics, you can group them by color family and then number them. Once they are numbered, I then take a diagram of the quilt block or quilt top (you can make a copy of the block or quilt from the pattern and enlarge it if you need to) and write numbers on the quilt top pieces. As I am numbering, I make sure the distribution of the colors is even!
Tip #2: Are you worried that you are going to sew rows or block pieces together wrong after carefully planning the color placement above?
As you can see by the photo above, I have the sections numbered starting with #1. Section 1 is to be sewn to section 2 and then section 3 is sewn to the bottom of section 2 and so on ..... I started doing this when I flubbed on color placement a few times when transferring pieces from my design wall to my sewing machine. I would end up sewing the wrong pieces together and not notice it until a whole border was done and I saw the same colors clumped together. Time to "unsew" then!
Here is a complete row laid out and ready to be joined:
I use the sheets of the little square Avery stickers (#5418 Multi-Use Labels) to number my pieces.
Tip #3: Another thing I use these stickers for are "directional" arrows. As you can see by the units above and looking over my pattern diagram above, the triangles face different directions based on which side of the quilt they are on. In order to keep me straight, I draw a little arrow on one of the small stickers and place it at the top of a row so I know which way is up.
Well, it's the end of the month already! Where is the summer going? Hopefully, the summer weather stretches into fall in my neck of the woods (not likely, but one could hope!)
Now to my topic for today. Everyday items in the sewing room. I like to think I am an innovator, however, some of these ideas have come from my quilting friends or from students. These are some ways to make your sewing days easier and more fun.
The first idea keeps your snipping scissors close at hand. I know when I am stitching and need to snip threads, sometimes, I can not find my scissors that I just laid down! This tip uses a command hook attached to your machine to hang the scissors. Pretty genius, huh? And, since command hooks can be removed easily, there is no permanent damage to your machine.
I have to admit, this is not my idea. But I found that it was so useful, that I did it myself as you can see above.
My next ideas deal with fun ways to create storage with everyday items. Those pegboards that you often see in garages really come in handy for hanging rulers and other tools.
I use this coffee mug holder for hanging my scissors and rotary cutters. I found this coffee mug holder at a local thrift store for $1.00!
I found these sewing machine cabinet drawers at some local antique shops (for not much money either!) and I use them to store things next to my sewing table that I may need while sewing. Seam ripper, threads, extra bobbins and needles, etc.
The final thing I want to show you can be fun for decorating or for storing things you need but don't use often. I use these mason jars to store buttons and perle cotton threads that I use occasionally. Also, one of the jars is full of old sewing notions I inherited from my mother-in-law. It's kind of a fun display and a tribute to her.
So, are there any everyday items you use in your sewing room? Share those ideas. It's always fun to learn new things from other quilters!