To celebrate Magazine Issue No. 100:
ONE HUNDRED TIPS FOR QUILTERS
skills and techniques is like practising scales in music, the more
you practice the better you are.
- If your quilts
aren’t quite the masterpieces you see in magazines don’t
feel yours are inferior as long as you have made them with care.
- Keep an ideas
notebook for inspiration and source material as you see them ready
to use at a later date.
- If your time and
energy and quilt making skills are of value to you, then buy
yourself the best material you can afford and make your quilt the
very best it can be.
- For quilting by
hand use a between size 8 or 9 and graduate to a 10.
- When threading a
needle with dark thread, put some white chalk on the last inch.
- Try putting a
piece of white paper behind your needle’s eye for easy
- When cutting quilt
pieces keep a box handy for scraps, which could be turned into
- When machining
attach a small polythene bag to the table with masking tape to slide
thread snippets into saves your back later by not having to pick
them off the floor.
- To keep needles
and pins sharp, keep them in a wrapped bar of soap.
- To use a
strawberry emery sharpener compress the strawberry to compact the
emery and rotate the needle.
- A thin sliver the
end of a bar of soap makes an excellent quilt marking tool.
- When hand
quilting, place the reel of thread into a zipped plastic sandwich
bag and zip it to an inch from the end so that the thread runs
freely. Then tape it to the table front or leg of the chair.
- Start hand
quilting at a pieced seam so that the knot pulls through the seams
and stays underneath the patchwork.
- A substitute for a
light box is a glass baking dish with a flashlight underneath.
Stacks of books make a bridge for the dish.
- Place your ironing
board as far away from your machine as possible and become obsessive
about pressing seams. That will keep you moving and ensure that you
do not stay in one place for too long.
- When doing needle
turn appliqué, use a wooden cocktail stick to turn the
fabric under – the wood grips the fabric better than a needle.
- When hand
appliquéing with several colours keep a pincushion handy with
needles ready threaded with the colours you will need.
- Use a piece of
fabric about 1 ½” x 4” as a leader to sew onto
first at the start of each machine sewn seam to prevent bobbin jam
ups and save thread.
- If you don’t
have a reducing glass, look at your quilt through your camera lens
to spot imbalance.
- Consider making a
hanging sleeve for your quilt from some of the fabrics that you have
used. That way future generations will have a piece of the original
fabric should they need to repair.
- Soak small fabric
leftover scraps in a P.V.A glue and water solution and stick them on
flowerpots, or foam balls to make Christmas decorations.
- The best way to
square a corner on a quilt is not to square it but to round it.
Makes the binding much easier.
- Be sure to measure
patterns that have been photocopied some machines distort.
- Put your quilt in
the tumble drier occasionally to remove any dust.
- To make a
perforated stencil for a quilting design glue a tracing to thin
cardboard then stitch through the lines with an unthreaded sewing
machine (good use for a blunt needle).
- Before cutting
appliqué patches bond some lightweight iron on Vilene or a
new product “Mistyfuse” to the back of the fabric –
makes cutting out easier and prevents fraying.
- When appliquéing
with freezer paper iron several sheets together and draw only the
top one before cutting out – makes several templates at once.
- If you fuse an
appliqué piece in the wrong place use a tumble dryer fabric
softener as a pressing cloth to remove it.
- Put a rubber band
on a spray starch can and slip a small paintbrush under the rubber
band so when you need to starch appliqué pieces the brush is
right there. Just spray some starch in the can lid.
- Before adding
binding to the finished quilt, stitch along the edge to stabilise
the quilt – makes binding easier.
- To display a small
quilted wallhanging use a curtain tie back (it has loops at each
end) and attach to a piece of dowel.
- Travelling on an
aeroplane and can’t take scissors – use an empty dental
floss container to store needles and thread, it has a built in
- Made an accidental
hole in a quilt top? Then cover it with an appliqué piece. A
butterfly works very well.
- A wooden mug tree
is a great place to store tools such as scissors.
- To identify the
thread on a wound bobbin place a hole reinforcing circle on the top
with the make and colour – easy to change when the thread runs
- To relax the
batting in a newly opened pack – run the hair dryer over it.
- Before rotary
cutting spray limp fabrics with spray starch before cutting.
- A plastic tie rack
makes a good place to store strips prior to stitching.
- A small wallpaper
seam roller makes an inexpensive tool for finger pressing.
- If you have
difficulty threading monofilament thread – colour the end with
a permanent marker – this can be cut off after threading the
- Always store
Bondaweb on a roller – take it to the shop when you are going
to buy some and ask them to roll it for you (eg.the inside of a
kitchen roll works well).
- Scoring the back
of fusible web appliqué pieces makes it easier to remove.
- Label your tool
such as rulers, and rotary cutters with self stick address labels to
identify when attending a workshop.
- Make name tag
loops for scissors with leftover fabric and permanent pen.
- If you have
difficulty keeping your best scissors from the family. A sound
investment is a combination lock set through the handles. That
- A piece of rubber
bath mat cut to the size of your sewing machine foot pedal and
placed underneath it will stop it migrating whilst you sew.
- When machine
quilting place your ironing board alongside your sewing table to
support your quilt.
- An empty lipstick
or Lipsyl tube is a good place to store unwanted needles.
- After threading
your needle giving the thread a quick tug stops it twisting.
- Before pre-washing
fabric cut a small triangular piece from each selvedge to prevent
- Keep those pieces to build a colour swatch.
To pre-wash – run hot water over dark fabric in a small basin
– this will determine if it will run.
If you have a fabric that ‘bleeds’ give it a vinegar
rinse – a cupful of white vinegar to a bowl of hot water.
To keep project templates together either pierce a hole in card ones
or punch a hole in plastic ones and put them on a safety pin.
Put both sewing lines and cutting lines on templates making it
easier to check for accuracy on a pieced block.
A small piece of masking tape on the back of a plastic template will
keep it from slipping.
After cutting plastic templates place them over the original
patterns to be certain they match.
When using a blue water-soluble pen to mark your quilt make dots
instead of a solid line making it easier to remove.
To remove blue water soluble marker use a fine
spray bottle of tepid water.
Keep your marking pencil very sharp to make lines closer to the
template – sharpening both ends makes less use of the
A sandpaper board will make the fabric stable for marking –
sticking two pieces of sandpaper to a file holder can make a simple
Try to cut all fabric pieces on the straight of grain – if you mix
straight of grain and bias the pieces will not fit together as well.
- Cutting borders on the lengthwise grain may eliminate ripples.
When sewing a bias edge to a straight edge, make sure the straight
edged piece is on top.
When cutting with a rotary cutter try to cut all pieces of the same
size at the same time also use the same ruler throughout – that way
the width of lines should be the same.
When rotary cutting more than one layer, ironing the layers together
first keeps them together.
When cutting points as in leaves and flower buds cut the point
across the grain – the fabric lies flatter and is easier to
Use spray on glue on the pattern pieces to hold them in place and
you can reposition if necessary.
I keep two rotary cutters – the one with the sharpest blade is
for fabric – the other has the old blades from my best cutter
to use for paper, plastic and even cardboard.
- Bias binding makes excellent flower stems for appliqué.
To hand piece a block whilst watching TV pin all pieces to a pillow
case and lay it on your lap.
It is a good idea to make a sample block for a pieced project and
then measure each finished block against the sample for an exact
Points trimmed away from triangular and diamond corners allow for
precise matching of seam lines.
A very small seam allowance 1/8 inch for appliqué means a
minimum of clipping so corners and points are nice and smooth.
When you change your machine needle (ie to one for metallic thread)
tape the needle case to your machine to remind you to change back to
an ordinary needle.
Where possible stack fabric right side together before cutting to
reduce handling – pieces are than ready for stitching.
- Good pressing is a shortcut to accurate piecework.
Doing a layer appliqué like Sunbonnet Sue stack the pieces in
reverse order and run a knotted thread through – makes it easy
Arrange all pieces in the order in which you will sew them before
you begin to piece.
- It is a good idea to spray starch and iron it dry before cutting.
- Remember to measure twice and cut once.
Threads kept in a plastic beg in the freezer will not develop dry
If you use machine embroidery thread for machine appliqué you
will not get puckering.
When joining light and dark fabrics use thread to match the darker
–this makes the thread almost invisible.
Use quilting thread when hand piecing it makes the seam less likely
to come undone.
Pin hand appliqué from the back- then
there will be no tangling of thread.
100% silk thread is perfect for hand appliqué. Use neutral
colours and you only need a limited number of colours for it to be
Use your seam ripper as a stiletto to help fabric under the presser
foot when machine piecing.
When quilting in the ditch or through seams keep a bar of soap on
the quilt top- occasionally sticking the needle in the soap makes
the quilting easier.
If you have difficulty threading your needle (hand or machine) wet
the needle, not the thread.
- Slivers of soap making good marking tools on dark fabric.
- Masking tape is excellent for marking straight quilting lines.
Children’s colouring books are good source of appliqué
Iron a seam the same way as it was sewn before pressing it to one
side – it relaxes the seam.
Each person’s saliva has an enzyme that neutralizes proteins
in his/her blood. Wet a Cotton Bud with saliva and rub it on the
bloodspot to make it disappear.
Baking powder will remove grease spots without harming the fabric.
Rub it in gently and then vacuum it out.
To remove rust spots moisten them with lemon juice then hold over
- Use alcohol or hairspray to remove marks from a ballpoint pen.
If you have difficulty with a project, leave it for while –
when you return to it you will not be nearly as mad at it!!!.