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Tips and Tricks to be a better quilter

  1. Starting a project
    1. Always start a new quilt with a new sewing machine needle. You don’t want any nicks or bent tips to snag your fabric. A size 80 is a good size for piecing the top. Use a 100 or 110 for quilting and binding.
    2. Dispose of used, broken, or bent pins and needles into an empty pill bottle with a childproof cap. When the bottle is full, tape it securely closed with strong tape, and dispose in the trash.
    3. Change or sharpen your rotary cutter blade when it starts chewing instead of cutting your fabric. Put used rotary cutter blades back into the plastic box they came in. You can usually get more blades back in a box than came in it. Mark that box with an X so you know those are dull blades. Tape the box securely closed with strong tape, and dispose in the trash.
  2. Avoiding a Rat’s Nest on the back when starting a seam
    1. First option: you can just hold the tails of your thread tightly for the first few stitches. For most older machines, you have to manually pull the bobbin thread up to the top anyway, so just grab both the top and bobbin thread and hold them tight as you start sewing.
    2. Second option: If your machine doesn’t require you to manually bring the bobbin thread up, still hold the top thread tightly. Assuming you have used the thread cutter on your machine, sweep your closed scissors or your seam gauge under the raised presser foot to catch the top thread and bring the end back up, hold it tightly as you begin to sew, and you usually won’t get a “rat’s nest”.
    3. Third option: Start sewing on a small scrap of fabric when you get to the end of that scrap, DO NOT cut your threads. Simply stop sewing, raise the presser foot if you need to, insert the pieces you want to sew, and then resume sewing. The stitching on that scrap of fabric will keep enough tension on the threads that the “rat’s nest” can’t form.
  3. Avoid waste when doing flip-and-fold corners.
    1. Make some extra HSTs that you can use later instead of wasting the triangles that you need to cut off from flip-and-fold corners.
    2. Either draw a line ½" away from the first seam, in the seam allowance, and sew once again on this new line
    3. Or use this little piece that comes with nearly all machines. It’s called either a seam guide or a quilt guide.
    4. Most newer machines will have a little plastic-lined hole in the presser foot holder. (An older machine that I used to use had the hole in the body of the walking foot, not the presser foot holder, so using the seam guide wasn’t near as handy.)
    5. Insert the bar of the seam guide into the hole.
    6. Line up the toe of the seam guide with the ½" mark of the throat plate, then insert your pieces to be sewn under the presser foot and seam guide.
    7. Line up the first seam with the seam guide, and sew!
    8. Cut between these two seams, leaving each piece with a ¼" seam allowance.
    9. Press all the pieces open, and voila, you have the piece you wanted and and extra HST from each flip and fold corner!
  4. Pinning Techniques
    1. If your machine is one in which the fabric tends to slip, pin as frequently as you need to. My older machine was like this. My first quilting instructor told me that “Real quilters don’t pin,” so I tried to not pin. I got so frustrated at my fabrics slipping apart sideways! Don’t let quilt snobs shame you if your machine requires you to pin!
    2. If your machine is one in which the fabric stays lined up properly, you may only need to pin where seams cross causing a hump for the presser to go over. My new machine is like this and it is so much nicer to not have to pin so much!
    3. When seams cross, “nest” the first seams. Have the seam allowances of one piece going either left or right, as you hold it, and have the seam allowances of the second piece going the opposite direction. Manipulate these pieces until you feel the seams just “kiss”.
    4. Pin each side of seams that cross, pinning down the first seam allowances, and also ensuring that the fabric won’t slip under the sewing machine.
    5. If you sew at a moderate speed, you can sew across your pins. At a moderate speed, if your needle hits a pin, it will deflect and slide beside the pin.
    6. If you sew full-speed ahead, you will need to remove your pins before you sew over them. When sewing flat-out, if your needle hits a pin, it won’t have time to deflect and may bend or break the needle and/or the pin. Be warned, if you remove your pins before sewing over them, this may allow your fabric to slip and your points to no longer meet.
  5. Pressing Tips
    1. Always press your seam allowances to one side. This is a stronger seam than when you press the seam allowances open, and it also doesn’t leave tiny gaps where fibers of the batting can work their way through.
    2. Press the seam allowances the direction they want to go. The fewer layers of fabric, the flatter your seam allowance will be.
    3. To reduce bulk where a seam allowance forms a T with another seam, press the “crossbar” of the T away from the “upright” of the T.
    4. It’s ok for part of a seam allowance to be pressed one way and then to twist to be pressed the other way. Simply apply extra force to the iron to flatten the twist.
    5. Where your seams cross, twist the seam allowances so that on one side of the crossing, the seam allowances lay one direction, and on the other side of the crossing, the seam allowances lay the other direction. To do this, you will need to “pop” or unpick the first seams, but do NOT cut the threads of these seams, as you will still want those threads to be caught by the crossing seam.
    6. You can even do this with Flying Geese, or Square-in-a-Square units that meet point to point. It will take a bit more fiddling with that join, but it can be done.
Find Us!
Contact Info
    • Charmed Needles LLC
    • 541-889-6215
    • 222 South Oregon St.
      Ontario, Oregon 97914
  • 11 am-5 pm Tues-Sat
  • Other Days and Times by Appointment

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