Here are some simple tips that you may use to improve your quiltmaking.
If you would like to contribute more tips to our Library, please email them to Tips@QuiltHome.com.
Always read all instructions before starting the project.
Measure twice and cut once
Check your pattern and sew a test block before cutting all your
Always buy a little extra fabric.
Change your rotary blade often. A dull blade is actually
Keep your rotary cutter out of the reach of children and pets.
Always rotary-cut away from your body.
Get in the habit of closing the rotary blade after each cut.
Be aware that a rotary cutter can slice off the tip of your
finger or fall to the floor and slice your foot so treat it with
If the new blade in your rotary cutter is shredding your fabric,
check to see if you have accidentally put two blades in the cutter.
Change your sewing machine needles often. At least once
every 8 hours. A badly worn needle will actually make a thumping
sound while sewing.
Try using a sharp needle instead of a universal needle for
precise machine piecing.
When selecting sewing machine needles, remember the lower the
number the finer the needle. For hand needles, it′s the
When cutting strips, check them often to make sure they are
straight. If the strip has a bend or swerve it is time to square
up the fabric again.
When quilting, it is important to understand the difference
between ironing and pressing. Ironing is a back and forth
motion. Pressing is an up and down motion. The only time
ironing is appropriate in quilting is during yardage preparation!
After cutting and piecing, remember to PRESS. Ironing
will distort the bias.
If you are making a quilt for a particular bed, it is
that you measure your bed, instead of using conventional bed size
charts. For example, in the past, 84 inches wide was considered fine
for a queen-sized quilt. However, this width is just too skimpy
for some of the modern pillowtop mattresses. In addition,
be aware that the denser the quilting, the more the quilt will shrink,
and size your quilt accordingly.
These three magic numbers will help you rotary cut with
ease: 1/2 inch, 7/8 inch, 1
- squares and rectangles: finished size + 1/2 inch
- half-square triangles: finished size + 7/8 inch (cut once
diagonally for two triangles)
- quarter-square triangles (flying geese unit): finished
+ 1 1/4 inch (cut twice diagonally for 4 triangles)
- Cut 3 1-1/2 inch strips.
- Sew them together lengthwise.
- Press the strip set carefully.
- Measure the center strip. It should measure 1 inch EXACTLY!
The perfect seam allowance is actually
a SCANT quarter inch. This is due mostly to the fold of the
cloth over the seam allowances. In addition, hand sewers use a
slightly larger seam allowance than machine sewers, as there is twice
as much thread in a machine-sewn seam.
The general rule is to never sew over an unpressed seam.
However, during block construction there is a danger of distorting the
bias if seams aren′t carefully pressed. You may find
finger-pressing faster and safer than conventional pressing.
Just turn the seam in the proper direction, and use the heat of your
fingers to press the seam. Just the part of the seam you are
about to sew over needs to be pressed, not the entire seam. Be
gentle and do not pull or distort the fabric. Pin and sew the
next section of the block. After the block is completed, or at
least after a section has been completed with no bias sections on the
outside, press with an iron in the conventional manner.
Sometimes it is necessary to pin before sewing patchwork.
Do yourself a favor and use pins with a thin shank. Thick
pins will only be a nuisance and will many times shift the seam.
Value, the relative lightness/darkness of your fabrics, can be
more crucial to your quilt design than the actual color of the
fabric. You will find your blocks leap to life if you make a
concentrated effort to combine lights, mediums, and darks into
your quilt. For example, blue and green may be a beautiful
color combination, but if you used only blues and greens of the same
relative value your quilt will not come to life. In fact, if may
be hard to see the piecing at all! Why do all that work if no
one can see it?
There are several ways to determine the value of your
- Take your fabrics to a black/white copy machine. The
fabrics will copy in shades of gray and it will be much easier to
arrange your fabrics from light to dark. However, some older
black/white copy machines do not have good color receptors,
particularly for red.
- A digital camera is a better solution than a copier, as they are
required to process all colors. Then use your computer
software to turn your fabric picture to greyscale.
- Another way is to examine the fabrics in a dimly lit room.
The human eye doesn′t see color in dim lighting so this is an
effective and fast way of determining the value.
- Another method works best for the nearsighted! Take off
your glasses, back away from the fabric, and squint!
Try freezer paper for your foundation when
paper-piecing. Iron after each patch, and the fabric will
stick temporarily. No more danger of the fabric pleating or
folding while you are sewing the next patch! But if
you do get in a bind and have to rip seams, use Scotch Magic tape to
repair your paper foundation as it will not gum up the needle.
One nice way to try out a new pattern is to use Christmas prints
for your test block. After a few years you will have a nice pile
of Christmas blocks to incorporate into a sampler.
Whether you are an applique artist or prefer patchwork, try a
little starch before cutting your patches.
Don′t forget to starch both your completed top and backing
heavily before machine quilting. You will find there is
much less risk of pleats when free-motion quilting.
Use either bias or cross-grain strips for making
binding. Cross grain strips are cut from selvage to
selvage. Because of the way the fabric is woven on the machine,
there is a slight stretch to cross grain strips.
Straight-of-grain (or lengthwise) strips are cut parallel to the
selvage. There is very little stretch to the straight-of-grain
(lengthwise) strips and it is not appropriate for binding.
You must use bias binding if your quilt has curved edges.
If you did not quilt all the way to the edge, baste the edges of
your quilt before binding in order to compress the edges.
Avoid putting seams in the binding in the corner of the
quilt. Before sewing on the binding, pin the binding to
the place you are considering starting and quickly lay out the binding
along the perimeter to check where the seams are going to hit.
Always sew on your binding with a walking foot.
Consider cutting bias binding 1/8 wider than what you normally
cut for cross-grain binding. The bias seems to stretch and may
seem a bit too narrow if you don′t.
Batting and backing fabric can help stabilize a wall quilt so it
will lie flat on the wall without ruffling. Try orientating your
backing fabric so that the lengthwise grain is vertical. In
addition, many battings have a grain. Test for stretchiness, and
put the most stable grain vertically.
Are your borders ruffling around the edges? Does your
finished quilt top not lie flat? Is your finished quilt not
square? Try this method! When sewing on your border
strips, NEVER just sew on longer strip and then whack it off at the
end! Many times, the edges of your quilt have stretched.
You must measure through the center of the quilt. Cut two strips
exactly that length (for example, the top and bottom border
strips). Find the center of the strip and the center of the quilt
top. Pin that spot and pin the both ends. Now carefully
pin the entire border, while you distribute the extra fullness
evenly. Disengage your walking foot or even-feed foot. Put
the biggest part next to the feed dogs. 90% of the time the
center will be next to the feed dogs, with the border strip on
top. Let the feed dogs do the work to ease in the larger area to
the smaller area. You may have to hold the fabric firmly while
sewing if there is a lot of extra fabric to be eased in. Press.
Do the other strip the same way. Now measure through the center
the quilt the opposite direction and repeat! No more
ruffles! And your quilt will be perfectly square!