We all have our favorite tools we use when quilting ..... some we cannot live without and some that are useful, but we'd survive if we didn't have it. Some tools are traditional ones that you buy in a quilt shop .... and some tools are things from your home that you use ... even if quilting and sewing is not what it is intended for.
My Favorite Quilting Tools
Of course, we all have our mats, rotary cutters and favorite scissors. I'm talking about those tools that make some quilting tasks easier (or make them seem so!).
If you look at my patterns, you'll see I love scrappy and lots of small pieces.
One of my favorite pieces to use in a quilt block is a half-square triangle square. I used to make them, press them open and then trim all four sides of the square to make sure it measures the size I want.
Well, this cool tool is called the Triangle Square-up Ruler by Quilt in a Day®
This tool makes the squaring up task easier by allowing you to trim the squares before you press them open. You only have two cuts to make instead of four! It may seem small .... but when you have a pattern with hundreds of these squares, it's a time saver!
Another favorite tool of mine is this magnetic wand to pick up dropped pins and needles.
I drop a lot .... I mean A LOT of pins on the floor when I'm working on a big project. And since I like to walk around my room in socks .... I need to find these pins before my feet do!
My last most favorite thing is this ruler guide for my long quilting ruler. This is a great addition to your ruler. This keeps the rotary cutting from heading towards you hand if you slip while cutting.
Unusual Things I Use in my Studio
My camera .... yes! Either the one on my phone or a traditional digital one. I like to take photos of different layouts when piecing a quilt top or figuring out the placement of appliqués.
Then I can refer to the photos I have taken so I piece the blocks for a quilt top in the correct order! An inexpensive digital camera just for your quilting is a great tool!
I also use everyday items to store tools on my cutting table.
This is great storage for my pencils, small rulers and scissors. The item that my rotary cutter and scissors are hanging off of is an old coffee mug holder!
This last thing I use helps to keep the pattern I'm working on front and center in my line of site while I am sewing. A clipboard!
I found this cool wooden clipboard at a garage sale and thought it would fit in perfectly in my studio. If your sewing table is against to or next to a wall, you can even hang it on the wall.
Are there any tools you like to use? Let me know your favorites! Win a copy of my latest book .... I will draw a winner from the comments.
Just comment below with your favorite tool or tools you use!
Late fall, Thanksgiving week, and winter has settled upon my town in the form of 6 inches of snow. I'm not sure I am ready for this ..... but I don't think Mother Nature cares if I am ready or not!
Since my current project included appliqué, I decided to do a blog post giving you my tips and techniques. Hopefully that will inspire you to do your own appliqué project.
My first tip is to have good lighting. This is important so you can see the area you are stitching and determine if you are hiding you stitches. Here's a great task light I use. I love it because it has a magnifier on it also.
Other supplies you will need:
Appliqué needles - I use size 8 or 9. The higher the number, the shorter the needle. The size you use is up to you.
Scissors - A fabric one and one for paper to cut out templates.
Threads - Match your threads to the color of the appliqué piece you are stitching. I use 100% cotton with a silk finish. Some quilters use 100% silk. Thread is a personal choice, but good lightweight threads help to create small, hidden stitches.
If you have a multi-colored appliqué piece, you can use a light beige thread. The photo below shows matching the thread to the piece to be stitched.
Basting Glue - This is to hold the appliqué piece in place while you stitch.
Here's one of the pieces I used in my latest project.
As you can see in the above photo, the appliqué is made up of layered pieces. A good tip is to always start out stitching smaller pieces to larger pieces before stitching the whole unit to the quilt top. It's easier that way!
When you are done stitching one appliqué to another, turn it over and cut out the excess fabric inside the seam allowance. This relieves bulk, especially when an appliqué has many layered pieces.
Preparing the appliqué piece is an important step in needle-turn appliqué.
You need to clip in the seam allowance as shown to make the turning under of the seam easier. You need to make more clips and make them closer together on appliqués like circles or curved parts of other types of appliqués. This is to help form the shape of an appliqué.
Always start your stitching on a straight section of an appliqué piece (or on a gentle curve). Of course on a circle, you have no choice but to start on a curve.
So here is the technique:
The pictures below are from an earlier project I did. They show the appliq stitch, which is basically the same stitch you use when you stitch binding to the back of your quilt. You use tiny blind stitches there to hide your stitch .... well, you use the same stitch here! Simple enough!
This first photo shows how you sweep the seam allowance under with the needle and hold it in place with your thumb.
Next, you bring the threaded needle up from underneath just catching the edge of the appliqué piece.
Then you go back down with your needle right next to where you came up but only in the background fabric.
Notice how in the second photo, you can barely see the tiny stitch. This is what we're going for!
So now you can appliqué! Time to tackle a new project and conquer that fear.
My how time flies ... fall is nearly half over and as the days grow colder and shorter, I find more time to sew! I love summer and warm weather, but when it's nice outside I find more excuses to be out there and not inside.
I have started work on a new pattern design. Here is one of the blocks.
A big part of the design uses the folded-corner technique to create it's look. I thought I would share with you my folded-corner technique steps for the perfect corners. The key to perfect folded-corners is to not alter the size of the unit that you are adding these corners to.
As you can see I have already used the technique for the center of this block and then added some borders. The next step is to use the folded-corner technique on all four sides of the unit before adding the next borders.
Draw a diagonal line on the wrong side of the square as shown. This will be the sewing line.
Next, lay the square face down on the unit you want to add folded corners to. Align the square's edges with the edges of the unit you are stitching it to as shown. I use pins along the edges to keep the square from shifting while I'm stitching. I have found this step important to maintain the size of the original unit.
Now stitch along the line.
The next step is usually to trim away the excess fabric in the seam allowance, but I add another step here. I finger press the corner back as shown in the photo to make sure the corner created is in alignment with the original corner of the unit. To say it in simpler terms, with the corner pressed back, does the unit still look perfectly square and measures the same size as the original unit?
If any of the excess fabric shows then you need to "unsew" the square and start over. If not, you can move onto the next step.
Trim the excess fabric from the seam allowance and press the corner open. And there you have it! A perfect folded corner. I always measure the unit as I add each corner to make sure I am not altering the size of the unit.
So now you can make perfect folded-corners! There are so many blocks that use this technique to create their design. It adds a unique look to any quilt. At least I think so.
Fall is one of my favorite times of the year!
... with pumpkins and mums and fall leaves and crisp air? What's not to like?
I always seem to like to organize in the fall. You know how spring is known for cleaning .... well for me, fall is known for organizing. Maybe it has something to do with the fact that I'll be stuck inside during the winter, so I want my "nest" to be comfortable. And my "nest" is my sewing room!
My best advice in organizing fabric is to keep similar size cuts together and then organize those my color. I have tubs labeled and stacked in cabinets this way. I am able to identify the tub that has the fabric I need quickly!
Here's one of my tubs:
As you can easily see, these are my 1/4 yard or fat quarters of purple and blue.
The one thing I do not like when I am working on a project is not finding my supplies! Here are some of the ways I organize things so they are easier to find.
......... and a peg board made for garage storage works great to hold my various rulers.
So what's your favorite organization tips? Share them with me!
Happy Quilting and Happy Fall!
Well, here they are! My new patterns that I have been working on all summer. I think there's something for everyone here .... lap quilts, table runners and wall hangings. Some have appliqué and some don't.
I had fun still working with my "scrappy" look as you can tell with the lap quilt I call Hugs & Kisses. This is a one block quilt that uses many different fabrics so you end up with very unique blocks.
Of course, I had to add some floral appliqué to the border because .... well that's just what I love to do. If you are not a fan of appliqué, you can just keep a plain border.
My next project is Warm & Woolie Welcome. This is a wall hanging with four seasonal panels. It's wool appliqué!
Fun, fun, fun!!!
Next are two table runner patterns that each have two projects in them! Country Fair and Candy Store. You know I love to do table runner patterns!
Last up ... two more lap quilt patterns. Both of these are pieced only but still have my fun scrappy look.
Here is Skylight .....
And here is Starlit Path .....
Well, we all have to bind our quilts whether we like that task or not. Sometimes in the past I found that I was so anxious to get the quilt finished, I would just slap on any color binding that didn't "offend" the quilt. Now, it's different!
I now think of binding as sort of the last "frame" for the quilts I make. There are several ways you can enhance your quilt with binding. You can have a scrappy binding, using several of the fabrics that were used in the quilt.
Or, you can have a one color binding using your favorite color from the quilt. For example, if you have a red fabric in the blocks, you may want to call attention to that by putting on a red binding. It will appear that you are "pulling" that red out of the quilt for attention.
Another eye-catching binding is a stripe. Cut binding strips on the bias from a fun stripe fabric for a cool design effect.
A final option I have used is a contrasting binding like using black fabric to frame a scrappy quilt. The black "outlines" my quilt!
Finally, if you are more interested in having your binding just fade into the background, choose a binding that is the same color or close to the same color as the outside border of your quilt.
Do you use single-fold or double-fold binding? That is usually up to the quilter. But, here's how I decide to use it. I use single fold binding on quilted projects that will be mostly decorative, like wall hangings, candle mats and table toppers. On quilted projects that may get more use like lap quilts and bed quilts, I will use a double-fold binding for more durability.
My single-fold binding is made from 1 1/2" strips of fabric seamed together on the bias.
My double-fold binding is make from 2 1/4 to 2 1/2" strips, seamed together on the bias and then pressed in half lengthwise.
So you know how it's really hard to wrangle long strips of binding while you are attaching it to your quilt? Well, roll up your binding around a cardboard toilet paper roll and secure it with a large pin to hold in place! You can also just roll it up and secure it with a large binding clip. This keeps it under control!
So, what are you waiting for? Time to tackle that binding! Get to work!
Pick Fabric Like a Pro!
Have you ever picked up a quilt pattern and wondered "how am I going to get my quilt to look like the sample"? Well, it's easier than you think!
First, I'll share a secret with you ... maybe it's not such a secret ... but when you see fabric in a quilt, whether it's an individual pattern or in a magazine, most likely that sample was made 6 months to a year ago! Unless a fabric company has a sample made with new fabric not in stores yet and plans to have the fabric and the pattern debut at the same time, you might not find the exact fabric shown in the pattern. Often fabric companies print limited quantities of a line and when it's gone, it's gone! So what's a quilter to do?
Search for fabric by color family and print size so it reads like the original fabric!
See this red fabric?
If you can't find this exact piece of fabric, then you look for something in the same color family and shade. So here's a piece of fabric that is close to the same shade of red and also had a print about the same scale.
What if you pick up a pattern that says to choose 15 color print fat quarters; 5 light, 5 medium and 5 dark? Stumped? Don't be! This is where the fun starts! Light, medium and dark is all relative. Here is a blue from my stash:
This can be considered a dark blue if it is paired with a lighter blue fabric. But look what happens when I choose the next blue fabric:
That first blue now becomes the light blue, if you are only using 2 blues in the project. Or it can be a medium blue if you are using 3 blues in the project.
Look at this next picture. I have 3 stacks of fabrics next to each other. Lights, mediums and darks. Now you have 15 color prints! You may only have 5 colors, but with the shade and print variation, you have a lot of variety here!
So head to the fabric store and start stacking up bolts!
Once you get that fabric home, make sure it's prepared and ready for when you want to start your next project. If you are a pre-washer, get them washed, ironed and folded.
If you like scrap quilting, cut your larger pieces of fabric into fat quarters, fat eights and strips. Then you are ready to pull out smaller cuts when needed or pile up a rainbow of strips for that log cabin quilt!
Store your fabrics by size and color in labeled stackable tubs. This makes finding the fabrics you want easier so you can get to the cutting and sewing. Here are some of my tubs:
Organization keeps the fun happening!
Why I Love Scraps!
I love scraps because .... I always have a lot of them! I don't think many quilters are actually without scraps. When I cut out a project, I usually end up with the side of my cutting table looking like this:
Quite a mess! I can put these to good use. Here is what I do when I am left with a piece of fabric that is smaller than 1/8 of a yard. I cut strips! Either 2 1/2" or 1 1/2" strips. I store them in bags, usually separated by light and dark colors and tans. Here's one of my bags:
And with strips, there are endless possibilities! You can make my favorite block, the Log Cabin ...
... Or you can use the strips to add a scrappy pieced border to a quilt!
Another great use for leftovers is to use them for a scrappy binding!
If it does not work to cut a leftover piece of fabric into strips, I separate those pieces by color and put them into bins to use in appliqué projects. Instead of having to cut into a larger piece of fabric for a small flower, I just dig into my appliqué bin of the appropriate color!
Here's some of those bins:
Another way I put scraps to use is to use them to make test blocks. I make these when I am trying out color ideas for a block. Instead of cutting into "fresh" fabric, I dig through my scraps for colors I want to audition and make the block. I can even make two or three different variations. Once I have chosen the color combo I want, I can purchase the fabric and make the quilt with no worries.
When you are done with the test blocks, you can add a few scrappy borders to it and have an instant mini quilt! They make great gifts!
So do you want to try a scrap quilt and are not sure how to get started? Try a "planned" scrap quilt. Take a quilt pattern for a quilt made with one block make each block separately using different colors (but still coordinating). Another way to get scrappier is to do it while buying fabric. If a pattern calls for 1 yard of blue, consider buying 4 fat quarters in different blues or other colors in that color family. Do the same for the other colors in the pattern. You've instantly made it scrappier!
The key to enjoying scrap quilting is to let go and have fun! Buy smaller cuts of fabric in many colors from your local quilt shop instead of larger cuts of just one color. Once you build up a stash, it's fun to go "shopping" there and experiment.
Check out my patterns on Quiltwoman.com
I have a new pattern in Quiltmaker magazine!
My pattern, Garden Geese is in the September/October 2015 issue that will be on newsstands in August. Here it is!
Look for this issue when you go to the store. There are a lot of lovely projects!
To celebrate this, I've decided to give away a copy of the magazine and a free pattern! Just tell me your favorite quilting experience, whether it's serious or funny, and I will draw a winner from these! I will choose the winner on Tuesday, August 4th and post it then.
Well, as you can see......
I have lots of machine quilting ahead of me! This leads me to sharing some machine quilting tips I have picked up over the years.
First thing I do, is practice on a scrap quilt sandwich, especially if it has been awhile since I have quilted anything. This gets me familiar once again with the motion of quilting and also gives me time to work out some design ideas.
I sometimes also draw designs on a photocopy of the blocks I will be quilting. This helps to get the ideas flowing as well.
Next up, check my machine for readiness. If you haven't already, now is a good time to check the needle. There are actually needles made specifically for machine quilting. If you are quilting a large project, it's a good idea to just toss the needle you use after you are done. Needles wear out, believe it or not! You can do several smaller projects with one needle.
Once the needle is taken care of, now pick out the thread. I like to use a dark neutral thread on my quilt tops because that goes well with my Civil War reproduction fabrics. My favorite is an Aurifil 50 weight. It works for me! Choose your favorite thread. I like these threads because they do not create a lot of lint in your machine.
Make sure your machine is oiled, "fuzzies" cleaned out of the bobbin area and that you have a few bobbins wound and ready. This is a good habit to get into especially if the project you are quilting is going to be a large one. No stopping for bobbin filling! Just pull out the empty and load in a full one.
Baste your quilt top with pins or with a large basting stitch. Your preference. I use pins to based my quilt sandwich.
Now it's time to put on my machine quilting gloves. These are a great tool to have. It helps you to grip and pull your quilt sandwich tight as you are quilting so you don't get puckers on the back of your quilt.
Now, it's time to quilt!!
I use a darning foot (most machines come with them). Either a closed toe or open toe darning foot will work.
The feed dogs on your machine need to be dropped. See your owner's manual on how to do that if you have not done it before.
To start, pull your bobbin thread to the top of the quilt. To do this, put your threaded needle down in the spot where you want to begin and drop your presser foot. Tap your foot peddle so the needle comes back up, pull on the end of the top thread and this will draw the bobbin thread to the top of the quilt. This is so the bobbin thread does not get caught in the stitching on the back and create a mess!
Now you are ready to go! Start with a few small "locking stitches". Since you feed dogs are dropped, they are not moving the quilt sandwich .... you have to. So to make these small stitches, just move the quilt top slightly while stitching. Since you are only moving it slightly, the stitches will be very small. Once you do those beginning stitches, you can now move on to the motif you have chosen. Be sure to move the quilt top at an even pace with the speed of your machine. That is how you keep the stitches even (unless you are one of those lucky quilters who have a stitch regulator on your machine!). Once you reach the end of your design or are at a place where you need to stop, end with a few small locking stitches again. Snip the threads as close as you can to the quilt top as you can. Now you are ready to move on to the next area!
You are now machine quilting!
Check your local quilt shop for some in person quilting classes or look some up on YouTube. There are also many machine quilting books available for a more comprehensive lesson. The main thing is to have fun! Start off with easy overall designs and work your way up to more difficult ones. Practice makes perfect! Here's a fun motif I've been working on.