Tips and Ideas
Whenever sewing your blocks, strips, etc., always hold the fabric or use a stiletto and sew all the way off the end of the fabric. Not doing so will cause the feed dogs to pull the fabric, causing the end of the seam to be narrower or wider than 1/4".
When paper piecing, don't be frugal with your fabric. You want to have good coverage for seams – at least 1/4" – to avoid the pieces separating.
Spray starch can be the quilter's best friend. It really makes your fabric behave, ravel less, and cut/sew/quilt beautifully.
Don't be afraid to put some "punch" among the colors in your otherwise possibly mundane quilt – bright red; lime green; yellow.
Back hurting? Use an adjustable office chair for your sewing chair (watch for sales). It provides proper height to your machine and aids in the twisting movement needed to get up and down.
Want to keep those bones and muscles moving and keep the weight down? Move your ironing board across the room, thus forcing you to get up, stretch, bend over and touch your toes, walk, look out the window at a beautiful Oregon day, and not stay seated all of the day.
Bored with doing the same thing in a large project? Do one sequence for 20 minutes and switch to another. [This is especially good if your cat follows you and wants to recline ON your project. If you're cutting, let her lie down and get settled, then YOU move to the ironing board and do some pressing. When she follows, move to the sewing machine. After a while, she'll get tired.]
Feeling uncertain about a project or feeling frustrated about a mistake? Call a "quilting buddy" and ask him/her over for tea (whatever) and help. Don't know whom you should call? Call one of the officers or chairpeople and perhaps one of them can give you a lead or introduction to someone new with whom you've not worked.
What do you do when your quilt back fabric is NOT QUITE WIDE ENOUGH for your quilt? Quilter/author John Flynn came up with a mathematical formula that really works! Here it is:
LF = length of fabric (needed to make your quilt back)
LQ = length of quilt
WQ = width of quilt
WF = width of fabric
LF = LQ + LQ (WQ-WF)
Once you have done the math, then cut your backing fabric to the resulting length (LF). Draw a diagonal line, corner to corner on your backing fabric and cut along this line. Next, slip the two pieces, one against the other, so that a skinny triangle of ‘extra’ fabric appears on each end of your backing layout. Slip them until your desired backing length (LQ) is achieved. Cut off the extra triangles and sew the backing together along this diagonal seam, using a ½” seam. Press open. There is very little wasted fabric using this technique and for some situations it is great! More details are available on John’s website: http://www.flynnquilt.com/freepattern.html.
I have used the formula several times and find it to be ideal for that 48” or 50” wide quilt. In Community Quilts we often size our quilts down in order to fit standard fabric widths…. which does not necessarily make the most useable sized quilt. But, using this technique brings us a new opportunity and conserves fabric! Try it. Don’t let the big numbers scare you off; they divide out and result in a perfect sized backing.
"Threads wound in a stacked manner work best when feeding from a vertical spool pin. Using a vertical spool pin with metalic threads will help avoid fraying and splitting." (from a Bernina manual).
Hint from Betty A regarding Paper-Piecing:
For those of you who love paper or foundation piecing, there are times when you find that your block does not finish at the proper size, a little bit short here and there. Because of the many seams and fabric folded over other fabric, sometimes the block comes out short. Solution: Mark the outside edge of the block with a highlighter before you cut sections apart to sew. Add a 1/2" seam allowance to the outside edges instead of a 1/4" seam allowance. This will give you a little leeway. Once your block is completed, you will then have enough seam allowance to trim to the exact 1/4" recommended seam allowance. It's a good thing!
Project Tips from Norma W-H:
When you begin a new project, KNOW that you may not complete it within the next several days. We all have many interruptions, and we plan more than we can complete in short periods of time. So, ensure that you write notes about the project and keep them in a large plastic bag/cardboard box with all the instructions, pattern, book and fabrics, i.e.:
notes about machine settings regarding stitch length/width;
notes about needle settings and on which machine this project was begun;
suggestions that you may have heard from friends and notes from the class instructor;
reminder to insert a new needle (size?) when you can continue this project;
thread size/color or fusible type you started using;
any ideas you may have today about borders (how many and widths);
additional fabrics/colors you might want to use to enhance the project; location of the stores selling fabrics you may want to buy;
any tweaks you have made in the pattern regarding measurements or fabric substitutions
timelines for this project;
appointment for the project to be quilted;
preliminary quilting ideas/notes, or the names of persons you may want to talk with/books you may want to re-read/websites you may want to view regarding quilting ideas, (if you're going to quilt it yourself) and/or;
any possible fears/thoughts about project completion.
Tension Disc Tips from Lora F
I got this from my Naples, Florida quilting group and thought others might like to know why we are told to do this when we change thread.
Years ago when I took one of my sewing machines in for a tune-up, the repairman gave me a tip. He told me the most common problem with machines is the thread tension going bad, and one thing that causes it is repeated misuse of the tension discs.
When you change your spool of thread, you most likely take the spool off and just pull the thread out of the machine. By doing that, you are actually forcing the thread to go backwards through a path that it is only meant to go forward. Instead, you should snip the thread near the spool, then grasp the other end of the thread and pull it out of the machine so that it follows the same path as it does when you're sewing.
Yes, you might be "wasting" several inches of thread by doing it that way, but the small waste is much cheaper than taking your machine in for service more than should be required. I've been following that repairman's tip for years now and have found it to be true. I only have my thread tension checked/adjusted when I take my machine in for its annual tune-up."
Cutting Mat Care Tip
OLFA Cutting Mats love moisture!
It is recommended that you soak your mat from time to time. Your self healing mat loves moisture.
To soak it, put your mat in a bathtub or large container (would have to be large so it can lay flat) and soak it for 15-20 in a solution of 1/4 cup white vinegar to every gallon of cool water. Let me repeat, cool water. Do this every so often to help extend its useful life.
Then use a squirt of mild dishwashing soap (Ivory) and clean the mat with a mushroom brush (soft is the key word here). The purpose of this gentle scouring is to remove the fibers that get trapped in the cuts marks preventing the cuts from "healing".
Keep 'em clean, keep 'em moist, keep 'em flat and NO heat. Your cutting mat is not a coffee cup coaster!