When I bought my sewing machine a few years ago, the sales lady gave me very thorough instructions on machine use, even though I didn’t think it necessary…then one particular thing got my attention—how to ‘unthread’ the machine. I’m sure it’s not really known as that, but changing thread is something we do all the time.
Until then I always pulled the thread from the spool back through my machine, but thanks to Karen I now know that can cause tension issues as the machine is made for thread to go out in only one direction via the needle. That said, the proper way to remove thread is to cut it from the spool and pull it through the bottom. Am I the only person who didn’t know this? Probably. 😉 It makes perfect sense, and I’m glad for the tip because tension problems are the worst.
As time went by and after several thread changes, I realized it’s a lot of waste to throw those strands away. Since thread is expensive and I don’t like waste, I had to ask myself ‘what can I do with these strands?’ I didn’t know at first, I just started saving them on my pincushion.
My thread cutaways measure about 24″ long, so it doesn’t go all that far, but I’ve come up with a few tips on putting them to good use.
Keep a needle or two threaded, it’s a great way to save time when in a hurry.
Use threads for basting. I always baste my binding before machine sewing, I mainly use these strands for stitching them down.
Sew on buttons. A short thread length is plenty.
Clothing repairs. They’re just right for a minor fix.
If you hang on to your cutaway strands, you’ll be surprised how quickly they accumulate and in so many different colors, too. And mostly, you’ll see how much it’ll save on thread waste. 🙂
In 2017 I told my daughter I would make her a bed size quilt, but to be honest I never got around to it that year. Enter 2018 and I knew I had to keep my word. That said, I had her choose both the fabric and the quilt pattern because if I was going to take a lot of time to make something so big (and expensive), I wanted her to be happy with it.
After searching around she decided on Robert Kaufman’s Artisan Batiks/Retro Metro by Lunn Studios. This would be my first time working with batiks and I was ready to try something new.
Her pattern choice was the Hunter’s Star quilt based on the video tutorial by Missouri Star Quilt Company. We all love Jenny Doan, don’t we? I know I’m a fan of her videos and patterns, and store too, for that matter. The video tutorial I followed is Hunter’s Star Made Easy. It’s a great tutorial but there were a couple of things I found challenging and I’d like to share them with anyone who decides to make this quilt from the video.
First, making the half square triangles (HSTs). By using the method in the tutorial you need to know that all the fabric edges will be on the bias! Meaning everything is going to be stretchy so handle with care. Personally, I don’t like making HSTs this way because of that, but in this case I just used extra caution. If you’re a beginner quilter be aware if and when you use this method.
I needed 720 HSTs for the entire quilt, that’s a lot! Here’s a stack of just 168, trimmed and ready for blocks.
How to press your seams is important, and I found it worked best pressing the HSTs seams open—but—if you’re using a Bloc-Loc ruler, trim them first, then press seams open. I pressed a few open first and they were off, so I didn’t end up with a ¼” seam once sewn. It wasn’t until afterwards that I realized why that happened, but thankfully I didn’t do too many.
After I got that right everything lined up nicely! The pressed open seams made for a nice, flat lying block.
Here are a few more tips from my experience that are really useful.
After laying out the blocks, take a photo. It’s easy to get blocks turned around and having a photo reference is a lifesaver.
Pin, pin, pin! Some quilters don’t like to pin because it slows them down. I like the accuracy of pinning so I’ll take the extra time. It’s definitely worth it.
Before I began sewing rows together I numbered the back of each block in the seam, in order per row using a Frixion pen (you can see my sideways #8 in the above photo). If you end up making a mistake, having had the blocks numbered will definitely help. I actually sewed one entire row upside down AND backwards! I was glad I had the blocks numbered as it helped me fix the problem and it helped me to realize I had done it wrong.
I also pinned at both side seams and the center seams within the top block before I sewed my rows together. This keeps everything aligned.
Lastly, when I sewed the blocks into rows, I pressed seams to the four patch. That way, blocks in every other row were pressed opposite and my seams nested perfectly. Also, when I sewed my rows together I pressed seams to the row that had the most four patch blocks because pressing the star block seam flat cooperated better.
Here are a few photos of my process as I went along.
I absolutely loved the batiks. They’re so nice and crisp and are just a dream to work with. This collection has such vibrant colors that even the scraps were gorgeous. 🙂
Because this quilt was so large I needed 9 yards of backing. So much fabric!
I also had my daughter choose what quiliting pattern she wanted. Here’s a close up of the mod squares motif she chose. I think it goes great with the fabric’s retro look.
And finally, the finished quilt! By far, it’s the largest one I’ve ever made. It’s queen size and measures 95 ½” x 104 ½” which is pretty massive for a quilt!
My daughter was so happy with it and it brings tons of color into her bedroom, just like she wanted. And I’m pretty pleased with how it turned out too. I do have to admit that this was a huge undertaking and I’m pretty sure I’d only work that hard for one of my kids!
I promised my son one this year…I guess I better get busy. 🙂
When I started to quilt, some of the quilting language had me really confused. Everyday words referring to animals, winter and food with a quilting-related meaning….huh? It just didn’t make sense. If your experience is one of the same, this post will help clarify some of the terminology used that has other meanings.
I chose my top ten favorites, or I should say, my top ten most confusing quilting terms. 🙂
1. Dog ears – Dog ears are those small pieces of fabric that appear in quilt block corners and edges when two triangular pieces are sewn together—results of a diagonal seam. Always trim dog ears before finishing a quilt block.
2. Feed dogs – The feed dogs are the metal teeth located in the slots in a sewing machine’s needle plate. Feed dogs are comprised of metal bars, crosscut with diagonal teeth that move back and forth; they grip fabric and pull it through the machine and away from the needle.
3. Flying geese – Flying geese is a traditional quilt block pattern created by sewing a triangle at each end of a rectangular piece of fabric, forming a peak in the middle. Finished flying geese blocks resemble geese flying in formation, hence the name.
4. Nesting seams – Seams that line up precisely at an intersection of a block or quilt are known as nesting seams. To achieve nesting, press seams in opposite directions to reduce the bulk created by the seam allowance.
5. Snowball – The snowball technique is used when a quilter chooses to give a square a rounded effect (like a snowball). To achieve this result, the quilter draws a diagonal line on a background fabric square (white or light colored), sews on the line, cuts away the corner and presses back the triangle. This process can also be done in reverse, using a central white square and a color triangle in the corner.
6. Quilt sandwich or sandwiching – Sandwiching is assembling the quilt top, batting and backing, then securing the layers together by basting with either quilting pins or glue–readying it for quilting. The batting and quilt backing are always cut a few inches larger than the quilt top to allow for fabric shifting while quilting.
7. Chain piecing – Chain piecing is sewing together squares in one continuous length of thread instead of sewing piece by piece. This method saves time and is popular among quilters. Once multiple squares have been sewn in a strand, the thread is easily cut to separate individual pieces.
8. Sashing – Sashing is a strip of fabric sewn between blocks on a quilt top. It gives a windowpane effect and shows off blocks individually. Most often lighter-colored fabric is used for sashing to make the other colors pop. As a variation, sashing can be used to contrast quilt block colors.
9. Stitch in the ditch – Stitching in the ditch is a technique where the quilting stitches on the quilt top are minimized by quilting ‘in’ the seams that were created when the quilt blocks were pieced together. Using a specialized foot helps makes this process neater with more accurate results.
10. Fussy cut – A fussy cut is used when a quilter wants to showcase a specific section or element of a fabric pattern, e.g. a flower, an animal, etc. A fussy cut should always include a seam allowance.
I hope this blog post helped clarify some quilting terminology confusion.
I plan to continue my Quilting 101 series with my next post delving into the variety of precut fabric.
Hanging mini quilts is a must-do, right? Whether you’re a quilter who hangs minis all over your walls or one like me who hangs one at a time—having an effective method of displaying them is essential no matter how many or how few. This corner technique is so fast and easy, in no time your minis will be ready to show off!
Required materials include two squares of fabric and a round dowel rod. I usually use 3/8″ width (oak) as it’s sturdy and doesn’t tend to bend or warp. It’s not necessary to go any larger than 3/8″ with most mini quilts. I’ve also used a 1/4″ dowel rod on a very small mini and through my experience, it held up well.
Dowel rods can be purchased at any big box home improvement store for under $2 each (36″ length/oak). There are a variety of sizes and types of wood so you can choose what best suits your needs.
Let’s get started. Once your mini quilt is quilted and trimmed (but before binding), cut two 3″ x 3″ squares from your backing fabric (or from scraps). Press squares in half diagonally.
On the back of the quilt, pin one pressed square onto each top corner.
Attach binding, sewing carefully around the pins, making sure to keep the all the edges flat.
Finish sewing on the binding using your preferred method.
And it’s finished!
Measure from one end of the binding to the other, cut the dowel rod to measurement. Sand off any rough edges.
Insert and hang!
Got a lot of mini quilts? Need a few tips on storing them? Click here!
The month of May always brings out patriotism here in the US, with Memorial Day kicking off the summer season then Flag Day and the Fourth of July not too far behind. Right now I have two quilts in the making, a Christmas gift and a new pattern of mine, and I could use a break from larger projects so I set out to find something patriotic that I could finish quickly using left over fabrics.
I usually don’t sew with blue (I don’t know why, I just don’t seem to choose it) but since I made my Americana Stars & Four Patches quilt last year, I had enough blue fabric for something small. Same with red, I don’t use it a lot, but I had some on hand from previous projects plus I got a small fat quarter bundle freebie with some lovely reds included. 🙂
After quite a bit of searching, I decided on a free flag tutorial from Cluck Cluck Sew. While she made a lovely pillow, I wanted something for my sewing room door so I added a light blue border and made mine a mini quilt.
For the star and stripes, I used a white low volume fabric with handwriting that reminded me of old-fashioned handwritten letters and historic signatures; I thought it was fitting for a flag. It’s kind of difficult to see it unless it’s close up…
Before I began quilting, I did some ‘thread painting’—my quilting tip that consists of laying out thread on a project to help decide on a quilting pattern. To read more about it, click here. I do tend to gravitate toward crosshatch quilting, especially on rectangular blocks because the end results are diamonds, and I love the look! So yes, I went with crosshatch quilting, yet again.
When basting a mini quilt, I always use my flower straight pins instead of actual quilting pins. Reasons being: they’re easier to put in and take out, they’re nice and sharp and long, and they seem flatter than other pins.
I used my guide for quilting accuracy and it gave me very precise results!
I was happy to have had enough red and white striped fabric for this project, left over from a Christmas tree skirt. And of course, striped binding is always a favorite.
And speaking of binding…how lucky was I to get this tiny stripe to align when I finished off my binding? Absolutely pure luck! Doubt that ever happens again. 🙂
For the back, I had this very appropriate fabric from my Stars & Four Patches quilt. As far as backing goes, it’s easy to match up prints, especially on a small project. I have more information on this topic on my Matching Fabric Patterns blog post.
And…here’s the finished project!
I love everything about this mini—it’s cute, a great size for my sewing room door and I can get it out to enjoy several times a year. Lastly, it was a small but significant scrap buster!
One thing that’s for sure is I’m all about recycling and reusing, and I especially enjoy repurposing. With the help of my husband, I turned an ugly unused piece of plywood into a cute, portable lightweight ironing board.
After watching videos of quilters using wooden boards transformed into actual ironing boards, I knew I needed one. I really liked the idea of something lightweight and easy to move around, and it was time to say goodbye to my metal tabletop ironing board (via donation).
So, I did some research and made my own. Here’s how you can make one, too, and here’s what you’ll need:
*A board of your chosen size (plywood recommended)
This DIY = 13 ½” W x 24″ L piece of plywood (reused from irrigation pump packaging)
*Two pieces of cotton batting
*Cotton fabric for board cover
*Aluminum Foil – Enough to cover top with approximately 1″ wrap around back.
*Wood Glue – To glue down aluminum foil edges on back.
*Staple Gun / Staples – To attach batting and fabric.
This DIY = Heavy Duty Staple Gun and 3/8″/10mm staples (a less powerful one would also do fine).
Additional materials: scissors, measuring tape, toothpick, sewing machine and general sewing supplies.
Once supplies are ready, there are just six easy steps from start to finish!
Cut both pieces of batting: Cut ONE approximately 1″ larger than your board, on all sides. This DIY = 15 ½” W x 26″ L
Cut ONE approximately 1 ½” larger than your board, on all sides. This DIY = 16 ½” W x 27″ L
Place the smaller one on top of the larger one (it will be against top of board). When it’s folded around the board, edges will be hidden under the larger one.
Cut fabric: Cut approximately 3″ larger than your board, on all sides. NOTE: Subtract 1″ for selvage edge, if included in the cut fabric. This DIY = 18 ½” W x 29″ L (fabric included selvage edge)
Press a ½” hem along all edges, sew a straight stitch.
Tip: Save time—skip hemming salvage edge, if included.
Cover your board with aluminum foil (like wrapping a present). I used a toothpick to apply the wood glue under the folded edge on the back side. Gluing down the foil really helps keep it in place.
A side note about the foil…I was skeptical if this actually helped to protect the wood, as I had covered this board a while back (this is a redo). Fast-forward a year and a half until now, when I removed the cover and batting. The fabric and batting were water-stained and scorched, but the board was untouched! It definitely works, so I don’t recommend skipping this step. 🙂
Staple on the batting once the glue has dried. Start by pulling in at the point of the corner (helps reduce bulk), staple once. Trim off point. Fold in the sides, staple down each side. You can see what lovely corners you get! Repeat for each corner.
Continue along stapling down the sides, wrapping the batting nice and snug, but not too tight. Once my batting was attached, I chose to trim it back so the fabric would completely cover it when stapled on.
Lastly, center your fabric over the board. Using the same method as above, wrap and staple the fabric onto the board.
As an option, you can apply felt pads to the four corners. I put them on mine as it gives the board a bit of a lift and helps it set even on your table.
I love this DIY project because it puts an unused item to good use, and it uses materials most people have on hand. As for me, I was happy to use adorable stash fabric that I wouldn’t have used otherwise.
I also discovered that my board doubles for measuring. It’s 24″ long so if I need a quick estimate on how much fabric I’m working with; I can use it as a general guide. You might want to keep that in mind when choosing your size!
Enjoy your portable ironing board and kudos to you if you salvaged an unused board and raided your stash!
I finally did it—I made a quilt for my mom. After making several for other family members, non-relatives and donating a couple, I felt it was about time. (I think she might have been waiting for one for quite some time, too).
When asked what she wanted, I got a few easy requests: the quilt be made from my own pattern, Boxed Candy Toss Quilt (tutorial here); that I use pastel-colored fabrics; and that I do my own quilting, design included. Done, done and done.
At first I thought I’d work on it with no time frame, then I resolved to have it done by Christmas. Since I started early enough, I decided to document the process and share some of the tips and techniques I used when making it.
First, the fabric. The quilt top fabric collection is Colette by Chez Moi for Moda (an older collection that I had to have, luckily found on Etsy). The background fabric is Kona Cotton Snow.
The backing (left) is Fleur by Brenda Riddle Designs for Moda and the binding is also Chez Moi from the Nanette collection. I used Aurifil 50wt 2026 for piecing and quilting.
I have to admit it was a bit weird following my own tutorial, but soon the blocks were done and my quilt top was finished and sandwiched. Before I began quilting, I sewed a basting stitch along the top edge, approximately 1/8″ down, to help to keep everything from shifting and pulling. This is the first time I ever did this and I highly recommend it; it worked great.
I often think it would be interesting to know how much time we actually spend making a quilt, especially if we do the quilting ourselves. I spent several hours quilting this one, mainly because I used a hera marker for marking the lines (I had to go over them a few times) and the rounded quilting design is more of a challenge than just a straight line—but still fun!
For the wavy lines, I created a quilting template by drawing the design I wanted then tested it to make sure I’d be able to maneuver it through my machine with fluidity. Once I determined it was manageable, I transferred the pattern onto poster board. Something sturdier would have been better, but it worked out OK.
I always make my binding 2 ½” wide and sew it on using my ¼” foot. Once attached, I secure it with wonder clips and run a basting stitch by hand before sewing it down. In the past, I’ve tried removing the clips while machine sewing, but I ended up with crooked binding on the back. The basting stitch keeps everything secure when sewing, especially if machine sewing the binding. Sure, it’s another step but it’s well worth the extra time and effort.
I chose to machine bind this quilt using my stitch-in-the-ditch foot (as I always do when machine binding). In this case, I put my needle setting on 7mm instead of ¼” when I attached the binding to the front.
I only use the 7mm setting if there is a border or if cutting off points on blocks is not an issue (as 7mm is a bit wider than ¼”). And here’s why I chose to do this…
the stitching on the back ends up nice and close to the binding edge. That extra width makes quite a bit of difference!
At last, the finished quilt!
I hope you’ll try out some of these methods if you haven’t used them in the past. Feel free to leave me comment if you do try something; I’d like to know how it works for you.