Tuesday, May 09, 2006

Quilting Tidbits

Trust me when I say I'm not a quilting expert by any means. In fact, my first quilt was such a miserable experience for me, it's amazing I kept at it. It was made up of 2 fabrics--a blue floral print and a white floral print. I cut them into 10" x 10" squares and placed them in a checkerboard pattern. Easy enough, right? But here's why it was so miserable. First, I cut all the squares with SCISSORS!!!! Hello? It would have been so much easier with the right tools (rotary cutter, straight edge ruler and self-healing mat). Then I was up to my eyeballs pinning everything and trying to get it all the seams lined up. ARGH. I hate pins. And I was such a newbie to my sewing machine, I didn't know that you should always "fetch" the bobbin thread with the upper thread before sewing. Duh. It's laughable now. I hated that machine and I still have bad feelings about that quilt whenever I see it.

My second quilt wasn't much better. It was a random nine patch made of 2.5" x 2.5" squares. This time I did have a rotary cutter. But get this, I actually cut the squares individually and once again pinned like a maniac. Luckily for me, it was about this time that a friend of mine took a quilting class and taught me a couple of her tricks. So , Capello, when I found out you were going to start on your first quilt, I thought I'd try to come up with some tips/shortcuts for you (and for any other quilting newbies who might be interested). May you be spared from the agony I experienced.

1. STA-FLO. This stuff is awesome. Just add a little bit to your spray bottle (1 part starch to 6 parts water) when you're ironing and it stiffens the fabric and makes it behave a little better when you're sewing. Besides that, the bottle looks so retro and cool in your laundry room. I think I got mine at Wal-Mart.

2. Take shortcuts whenever possible. Don't do what I did and cut out 2.5" x 2.5" tiny little squares. They will drive you batty. Instead, cut long strips that are 2.5" x however long your fabric is. Sew the long strips together and then cut them.

3. Iron like this: this might be hard to see, but the seams are both ironed closed and in one direction, to the right, in this case.

NOT like this:

If you iron your seams open, when it comes time to quilt you've got a weak spot where the batting might show or possibly even stick out.

4. When making a strip quilt, make sure to iron each row in alternate directions. If you iron every row facing the right, for example, your quilt top will start to bow in that direction and you won't be happy!

5. One last ironing tip--and this is the best thing I learned, because as I mentioned before , I HATE PINS!!!! This one will let you avoid the use of pins and speed everything up big time. When you're making a nine (or whatever number) patch, iron your adjacent rows in opposite directions so that when you put your right sides together, they will "nest." You'll be able to see and feel as you sew whether or not things are lining up. If they're not lining up, you can gently pull either the top piece or the bottom piece to make them line up.
So, as I was saying, I'm not a great quilter, and I actually feel a bit silly "imparting" any sort of quilting knowledge onto you. And I hope I'm not insulting anyone's intelligence. But, these are things I wish I'd known before I started, so I thought I'd pass them on. If you can think of any other quilting tips that I should have included, please leave them in the comments section.


Angela said...

WOW! WHat great tips. I didn't know hardly any of that. Thank you. Someday I'll make a quilt...it might be in 10 years...guess I better save this post huh? 8-)

capello said...

Thanks for the help!

You really starch stuff? Seriously?

So far, the biggest faux paux I've done is s t r e t c h out my material while ironing it. Not a good thing.

Ali said...

Yeah - really good advice. I took a quilting class, but you summed it up all I learned in 10 weeks in about 5 mins. Please can you do one for garments now - I'm trying to summon up courage...!

Belinda said...

Thanks, I just got Denyse Schmidt book and was only to give some of the smaller project a go tio start. Thanks for all the great tips!!

rebecca said...

i definitely appreciate these tips -- especially the one about Sta-Flo!! the starch makes total sense . . . nothing i would have ever thought of on my own!!

the painted pear said...

That was great to read, and stop apologizing...you are a great sewer/quilter.

Honestly, I don't use pins either ,and sometimes I should! But I cannot tell you how many things you talked about I did the wrong way!!!! I am excited to make my next quilt!

kmckiernan said...

Thanks for the tips, I just got the denyse schmidt book too and I cut out the pieces for the heating pad as a first quilt project. They're still sitting there though cause I'm not brave enough yet to give it a start! =)

Lora said...

Great Tips Jojo...I am not a quilter and most days I'm sewing machine challenged anyway. I'll keep these tucked away near my sewing machine for the day I venture to do a quilt :)

autum said...

Great tips. Thank you for sharing!

kimberly said...

I've made a ton of quilts and it's one of the reasons I bought my Pfaff quilter's edition sewing machine, but those tips were great!! I knew about the seam allowances going in two directions but I didn't know why. Thanks!!! I also love the starch tip. I think a lot of things seem so obvious but they just need to be said.
Honey, you are an amazing sewer and need a bit more confidence!! I mean it! It's why I heart you so much. :o) I love your creations.

Melissa said...

Thanks for the quilting tips...I taught myself to quilt so gleaming tips from those more experienced is great.

Cathy said...

Those are great tips! I know because I just made all the mistakes you listed on my first quilt :) Another thing I learned is why some quilters like to use safety pins instead of straight pins. Ouch!

Dacia said...

Thanks for this. I always iron my seams open and you're right, there is a weak spot there. Thanks!

DeeJay said...

When my daughter in law and I quilt, the pulling the fabric as you stitch to get them to line up is called "ooching" hehe.

I think it's kind of funny.

erin said...

i am waiting for rotary cutter set to arrive in few days more, and your tips are really great. i saved them in my quilting-notebook :) -- will link your entry from my blog too.

Anonymous said...

I thought I was the only one that made those mistakes on my first quilts. I used the sissors, cut each square, pinned like a made lady, and stretched (ooched) the fabric so it would line up! Terrible.

A few more things that I learned the hard way for what is it worth:
1. If you can - avoid patterns that can be upside down or sideways (like stripes) Nothing is worse than finishing a quilt and finding a sideways peice. I actually saw this in a quilt show. The quilter didn't even notice until the judge pointed it out.
2. There is no need to back-stitch at the beginning or end of each row when piecing.

Anonymous said...

^^ nice blog!! ^@^

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Maureen said...

The problem is that when people become expert at things the very simple basics begin to feel like 'common sense'. A good teacher is one who remembers that very little is 'common sense' when learning a new skill. The learner needs to know everything from scratch!

Just like this very useful information - thank you.

Carla said...

Great tips. I am about to embark on my first quilt... Fingers crossed!

Hey Jude said...

Great tips! I just started sewing a couple months ago and can really use these ideas...thanks for sharing them.