Tips, Tricks and Techniques
Even more tips are here
Wind your quilt binding around a toilet paper tube and let it feed from a deep jar while sewing it on. I have used this method on my last two quilts and it works great. No more quilt binding picking up dust bunnies from the floor or running over it with your wheels. Lucy
When doing needle turn applique spray a little adhesive glue into a small container and use a q tip to apply to the fabric as you are turning it under and you will not have to worry about pinning the fabric. Judy
I really enjoy hand piecing, but I have yet to find a marking tool that I really like. In lieu of marking on the quilt, I have begun using freezer paper pattern pieces that I iron directly onto the fabric. I cut out 1/4 inch beyond the edge of the paper, and then I sew the pieces right along the edge. I have also found that you can print your pattern pieces directly onto the paper, saving lots and lots of time tracing the shapes. Amy
To reduce a pattern by using your photocopier, divide the size you want it to be by the size you have. For example if you want to reduce an 18" block to a 15" block, divide 15 by 18 and then multiply by 100 to get 83%. This is the setting you should use on your copier. To enlarge, divide the size you have by the size you want it to be and multiply by 100. Not good at math? There is a chart here.
Sew your label into the seam that sews on the binding. This way, there are only two sides to hand sew and it is more difficult to for the label to be removed. Also, put your initials on the seam allowance of the binding. That way, if the quilt disappears and later reappears without the label, you can prove it is yours by simply undoing a few hand stitches.
Anyone can do anything: One step at a time. Diana'
The bad news is that time flies; the good news is that you are the navigator! anonymous
Do your pins snag the fabric of your applique piece? Pin from the back!
I use old thread spools to keep ribbon and other fancy embellishments wrapped around so it's easier to work with
Paper piecing? Try using a light weight interfacing instead of paper.
When my thimble is too large for my finger (large in the morning and Just fits at nite), I just wet my quilting finger and the thimble stays on indefinitely. Maryelise
Buy a 'guitar pick' and use it on the finger under the quilt to stop from getting pricked. Shirley
a smile is an inexpensive way to improve your looks. Erma
When you have to match seams, use a dab of fabric glue (tube or stick) within the seam allowance instead of pins. From the right side, you'll be able to clearly see whether the seams match _ no pins in the way. The bond is not instant so you'll have time to separate the pieces and try again if necessary. Then stitch away. Rachel.
My tip is to use a q_tip to clean lint from your bobbin area _ it won't scratch your machine and lint will cling to the q_tip to be removed easily. Wendy.
A plastic ceiling grid (used for lights in suspended ceilings) is good for basting layers together when using a basting gun
When I am sewing small quilt pieces, i have a corkboard on the wall just behind my machine. it allows me to pin up pieces in order. i take the pieces down when its time to sew them. I find this very useful so I don't have them stacked on my desk. also it allows me to pin notes above my machine that i can see at a glance. Debbie.
Collect glassware! It keeps the dust from falling on the floor! Carol.
An inexpensive baby bottle dryer/holder works great to store multiple spools of thread and extra bobbins when you need more storage space. Kimberly.
Do you have a stack of sample blocks or blocks that you did not use? I did and decided to cut smaller blocks an make hot pads. Sometime I could get the front an back of the hotpad from one block. Had a lot of crazy quilt blocks an they made very pretty hotpads. These make nice gifts.
When I have little bits of fabric on my cutting board, I use a 'scrunchy' (the kind you bathe with that comes with Oil of Olay) and it's so great__removes every scrap of fabric. It's also good for brushing cat fur off your quilts or fabrics. MaryElise
I hung a window shutter on the wall by my cutting table and it serves nicely for all my rotary rulers and the patterns I am currently working on. Nice arrangement. Mary Lynn.
Purchase a clear repositionable book cover from the stationary department of your favorite store to mark you cutting lines or template on your rotary cutter rulers. They stick fine and can be moved around or taken off very easily. These come in lots of pretty colors and are pretty reasonable in cost. Judy.
I use the rectangular teflon glides that go under furniture legs and secure them with blue painters tape to the bed of my vintage machines as a good 1/4 inch guide. It is easily removed and doesn't get in the way while sewing. Marcia
I bought a plastic, six drawers filing cabinet on wheels at a office supply store to store my supplies in. The drawers keep my projects organized.
When you have to match seams, use a dab of fabric glue (tube or stick) within the seam allowance instead of pins. From the right side, you'll be able to clearly see whether the seams match _ no pins in the way. The bond is not instant so you'll have time to separate the pieces and try again if necessary. Then stitch away. Rachel
When you are making 1/2 square triangles always sew a SCANT 1/4 inch (rather than a regular 1/4 inch) from the center diagonal line so that the fabric will have a bit more room to flip over when you press it. Most times you can cut your initial squares a FULL 1 inch larger (rather than the standard 7/8 inch) and then just trim them down to the finished size + 1/2 inch for the seams allowances. Easier 'math' and better to be too big and trim down, than to end up being too small. Cheri
I make lots of miniature quilts and how I hang them without damaging the walls is buy using Poster Tape _ available where regular scotch tape is sold. You use it on painted walls and wallpaper. I am always changing my quilts throughout the year and rearranging so this is the best way to hang them. Lisa
After basting your quilt, roll the backing edges over the batting and pin to the quilt. This will enclose the excess batting and help to defray snagging or picking up unwanted stray threads. Submitted by : Mitts.
For handy storage of quilt projects: buy new (never used) pizza boxes, either from a supply house or carry out pizza store. These boxes store flat, but once folded into shape will hold an entire set of quilt blocks. They stack nicely, and you can write what the project is: right on the box. They are small enough to carry along in the car or wherever. I even add embroidery thread, thread, needles, scissors or whatever for an all in one project box. You could also use a large ziploc bag.
I bought a $3 piece of decorative wood trim from our local hardware, I drove 1 inch nails into it, but not through the back. I hang my rulers, small mats, rotary cutters, scissors, etc from it! Just drive the nail on each end of it into the wall. It's pretty and functional and you can cut it to any length you need.
Use a pipe cleaner to de_fuzz your machine. They can be found in the smoke section of your favorite store, or at a Smoke Shoppe. Unlike some brushes, they do not leave bristles!!
I bought some surface savers used to protect you furniture or keep things from sliding. They are little round felt disks with a sticky surface on the back. I got mine at the dollar store, but you can find these in department stores or probably office supply stores. I applied one in each corner of the ruler and the ruler would not slide at all when I tried.
When washing your material to test for coloring fastness.....put in a plain piece of muslin.....even if the water turns color it doesn't mean that the dye will run.....but, if the muslins picks up the color then you will know that it will attach itself to other fabric. Mary Ellen
Cut a piece of rubberized shelf liner to hold your sewing machine foot in place on the floor and your mats in place on the table.
When clipping threads or ripping out seams, have a piece of batting to put the clippings on and they won't stick to your fingers. Marilyn
When I am machine piecing tiny squares onto another square for diagonal sewing, I always iron the smaller square to the matching corner, then turn to my sewing machine and sew. Ironing keeps the tiny square in place and if I have cut the proper measurement, my corners come out neat and crisp every time. Mitts
My Juki doesn't have a needle threader, so I 'wet' the needle eye, place my finger behind the needle eye and the thread is drawn through. The wet needle acts as a magnet to some degree. You can use the same technique with a hand needle, but don't need to place your finger behind the eye. Cara
When foundation piecing, use removable tape to hold the fabric onto the paper. Please be sure to remove the tape before pressing. The tape can reused several times before discarding. Deborah
Metal picnic table clamps work well to clamp quilt backings to the table when layering backing, batting and quilt top for basting. If you can't find them, try carpenters wood clamps or bull dog clamps from the office supply store.
Buy an extension cord on a reel next time you go to the hardware store. If you need extra outlets (at a class or retreat), you won't have as much cord to trip over.
I keep my water bottle with the pull on cap next to my ironing board, less messy for refilling the water when I am in a quilting frenzy.
I love to burn candles in my sewing room, but am always concerned about a fire. I now use a warmer that is intended to keep you coffee warm while drinking it. I put my 'candle in a jar' on the warmer and it fills the room with the fragrance. Lynn
White Vinegar _ it's not just for coleslaw anymore. It is useful for quilting as well. Unlike me, you probably pre_wash your fabrics. One cup of vinegar added to the wash water will help set colors. It also helps when pressing. Keep some vinegar in a spray bottle. If your fabric is wrinkled, give it a sprits, then press _ the wrinkles will disappear. A sprits on the right side of a seam will also help you press that sucker flat. Yes, it makes your quilt smell like salad dressing, but the scent will dissipate over time. And, if you're impatient, a blast of Chanel No. 5 should do the trick. Rachel
To get down in my machine to clean all the bunnies and threads, I use the brush end of an old artist's paint brush. Works great! Jo Ann
When turning tiny pieces you've sewn try a hemostat. To keep edges from unraveling Dritz Fray Check is wonderful. Rounded Japanese chopsticks are great for stuffing appliqué or piping.
The boxes sold in craft and fabric store to hold photos make a great way to store the fabric and patterns for quilts. The label in the front makes for easy identification and they can be stacked for storage.
To separate embroidery floss without tangling: Cut whatever length of floss you need. All six strands. With your left hand, hold the strands t the top. With your right hand, separate just the top of one strand. Now with your right hand holding the one strand at the top, squeeze your two fingers on left hand holding the remaining five strands. Pull the one strand out keeping your fingers kind of tight on the other and it should slide right out.
To put a spark in your quilt, use a bit of yellow or black.
If you cant be kind, be vague.
After a project is completed, take the time to clean the fuzz and lint from your sewing machine. Apply a bit of oil to the bobbin case, and treat your machine to a new needle. When it is time to start a new project, your machine will be ready to go.
Preload needles before beginning a quilting session by sliding several needles onto the wire of a needle threader, inserting the thread through the threader and pulling the needles down the thread on the spool. When you need a threaded needle, just cut off the appropriate length of thread with one needle on it, leaving the rest of the needles hanging on the spool.
If you find yourself on a web page which has too_small text, you dont have to go to the Tools button to change the text. You can go to View/Text size or simply hold the CTRL button down while scrolling on your mouse wheel, if you have one.
Gray thread is a great neutral color for piecing.
An Altoids tin makes a great pin holder _ after it is empty, of course.
An old car mat under your sewing machine foot pedal will keep it from traveling.
Take the time to clean the lint from the screens the hoses and vents for your dryer, even if you have to get a helper do do it for you. This is a VERY common cause of house fires.
Use cut_up straws to keep your bobbin & spool of thread together when not using them.
When doing needleturn applique, use a round wooden toothpick to turn the fabric. The roughness of the wood snags those little tiny, short, fibers and rolls that fabric right under. Then you can do the needlework.
If you are right_handed, hold the applique piece down with your left thumb and applique counter_clockwise around the applique piece (do the opposite if you are left_handed).
A grapefruit spoon is useful in pinning a large quilt. Just put it under the pin part and close the pin. Saves on fingers.
Buy a pair of mens support hose from any discount store. Cut the tops off at the beginning of the heel and fold the long cuff over in two for a perfect support for your wrists while playing/working at the computer!
When sewing together a block with a lot of pieces use removable stickers or Post_It notes to number the pieces.
Repel mosquitoes _ Tie a dryer sheet through your belt loop when outdoors during mosquito season.
To get rid of mud stains, place large iron_on NASCAR patch over stain. Apply heat for 10 seconds.
Plug in your iron to a plug in the ceiling, or to run the cord up on a hook so it is out of the way.
Use a fold_up, wooden, laundry rack for organizing your strips for a project.
Donate that UFO you are never going to finish to the quilt orphanage at http://www.ufo_rphanage.com/
If you are unsure of the relationship between the fabrics you have chosen, photocopy them. You will easily be able to determine the intensity of each fabric when it is in gray scale.
Before you sew on your quilt label, tuck some fabric scraps from the quilt between the label and the quilt then stitch your label on. This way, the fabric scraps get relatively the same amount of wear and tear and washing as the rest of the quilt so you will always have the perfect repair fabrics right with the quilt if ever needed.
To keep rulers from slipping, apply a dab of clear nail polish to the underside of the ruler, then sprinkle the dab with salt and let it dry. Grips without bulk.
Learn from the mistakes of others. You can't live long enough to make them all yourself.
Did you know DMC floss has a directional twist? So if you thread your needle from the other end of DMC floss it won't tangle. This works with separating the strands, too. Pulling from one end the causes tangles. The other way it comes apart really easily.
You can tell if a page is secure by looking for the closed lock or key in the lower left hand corner of the page.The URL will also start with https:// instead of http://.
INTERNET ALERT: Neither Ebay nor Paypal will ever send you a message asking you to visit their website and verify information. If you receive an E_mail like that, it is from a spammer trying to steal your personal information.
AOL Users! Did you know that your graphics were compressed? Go to your settings, then click on preference and Internet Properties WWW. AOL Internet Properties should come up. Go to the Web Graphics tab and pick 'never compress graphics' and click okay. Be prepared to be amazed at the quality of the graphics you now see on the Internet!
Does your back ache after a cutting session on a too low table? Raise it by using Bed Risers, available in most Bed and Bath stores.
I like to mark my quilts with the water soluble markers. I keep a glass of water and a hefty watercolor paint brush handy to paint out the marks. I even use these markers to mark the lines for HST's and just swipe the lines before I press them. I've never had the lines show up again. Nancy
And I also have a Q_Tip that made my quilt stash look like a million dollars! All of that fabric that you buy, you have one yard here and two yards here... and even 1/2 yard here and there, it gets all piled up and you cant tell what you have anymore... one easy way to organize your stash is to take your fabric like it comes off the bolt folded and use your ruler (mine is 5 X 24) you roll your fabric around your ruler until its all 5 inches wide, then you slide out your ruler and fold it in half length wise and you have a perfect stackable fabric, no matter how many yards you have of it. Then your fabric can sit on the shelf and you can see what you have!! Made my shelf so organized its GREAT!! Pam
I took apart a wooden snap type clothes pin and use one of the halves to press seams. It has a beveled edge so it works great! Karen
Used, clean baby food jars work wonders for holding small items such as pins, bobbins and buttons. To fancy up the jar you can paint it or just simply tie/glue on a pretty fabric scrap to the lid. You can also turn the top of the jar into a pin cushion by stuffing batting or a half round floral foam under the lid before you tie/glue it down. Kimberly
I have taken an old prescription bottle and drilled a small hole in the top. These are the kid safe ones. When I break a needle or have to replace a dull needle I just drop the old needle into that bottle. Afterwards if I need to hang something I will take out a needle to use instead of a nail. Makes a smaller hole in the wall and is stronger than a nail! Maxine
Winning tip_ Store small projects in decorative tins or hatboxes _ they blend with your decor as well as serve for extra storage! Karen
An over the door towel rack in your sewing room makes the perfect spot to hang cut strips, or binding sort by color and no wrinkles! I purchased a little metal towel rack, the kind used to display guest towels in the bath. The one I have has three little bars. I am using it to hang miniature quilts on. It is so cute. Cathy
Use one of those wine charms you see everywhere now to identify your scissors when you take them to classes _ just hook it on.
Have lots of scraps and they are over loading your sewing room? Collect them and call the local elementary school or Head Start or even the local child care center. They will take them off of your hands to make collages from. The children love the bright colors, odd shapes, and even better, the teachers love not having to use their precious resources to tear up paper for this project.
When you start or stop a chain sewing project _ instead of sewing on a scrap _ sew two pieces of 2.5 or 3 pieces together and then later sew the third to those two _ soon you will have a nine patch with little effort. Related tip: When sewing strips and then cutting squares or halfsquare triangles together, I save the scraps, which I then sew together to make 1/2 square triangles and put them in a basket. Later I just trim them all to the same size and sew them together to make a scrappy quilt. Barbara
I sew my label into the seam that sews on the binding. This way, there are only two sides to hand sew and it's more difficult to for the label to be removed. I also started put my initials on the seam allowance of the binding. That way, if the quilt disappears and later reappears without the label, I can prove it's mine by simply undoing a few hand stitches.
While in a mad rush to make a quilt for granddaughter's kitten, I noticed a small hole in the backing. I grabbed a roll of lightweight fusible hem tape to keep it from fraying but then got the idea to tear off small pieces and lay about the batting, spritz with water and voila! instant fusible batting! The tape was lightweight enough that it didn't show thru and held everything in place while I quilted like a maniac.
When I do applique, I use the heavy round end toothpicks to tuck in spots that don't want to tuck. Anonymous
When you are uploading a picture to share it, make the picture smaller so it will load faster by reducing the number of pixels in the width and height using a photo processing program like Irfanview. Don't worry about resolution (pixels per inch or dpi - they're the same thing.) It doesn't matter what it's set to. Resolution only matters for printing.
Take a small brown bag like you would use for lunches. Fold a cuff down toward the outside about 1 1/2 inch TWICE. This gives the bag stability. Tape one wide edge of the bag opening on the front of your sewing table just to the right of the throat of your machine. As you sew it is easy to drop snips of thread, bits of scrap fabric and fuzz into the bag. No cleaning up the floor! Especially handy for when you are paper_piecing! N. Ross.
Use a door hole peeper to view your blocks or entire quilt. Adds distance and perspective, which helps with color choices, values, etc. I like the extra large peepers from Home Depot best.
Use a design wall........a flannel backed tablecloth is my favorite. I have them stacked 6 deep on the wall to hold my quilts in progress. You can roll them up to take along to class or to sew with a friend, very portable if you don't have a permanent place to keep one up. Nothing beats viewing your blocks or entire quilt from a vertical view point.
Use a stiletto to hold down your fabrics as they approach and go under the presser foot. You will find your seam allowances will be that perfect 1/4 inch from the start of the seam all the way through the end. LuAnn
If you're running out of wall space to hang your wall hangings, get two wreath holders and hang from your door and run a dole rod thru your wall hanging and hang in place. It makes a great space to hang different seasons wall hangings. Joan
When possible press your blocks and quilt rows with opposing seams. When piecing the blocks into rows the opposing seams just nestle together and the seams match up beautifully and there is no bulky seam to sew over. LuAnn
I use the hard plastic from Bacon packages to use for templates! Of course, after I wash it! Linda
Use a sandboard, inexpensively created out of very fine sandpaper glued down to foam board. By placing the fabric on the sandpaper it will keep it from shifting when you are tracing onto the fabric such as: writing on quilt labels, drawing a diagonal line on squares to create 2 bias squares. LuAnn
If you are making a quilt out of mens ties, remember those ties are cut on the bias. Consider paper piecing them.
One of the first tips I share with my students is to use a leader square to begin and end all piecing......just a square scrap of fabric that will catch all those threads, as well as lead your fabric smoothly under the presser foot. Sharlene Jorgensen refers to them as "security blankets." LuAnn
To match up seam to seam when putting blocks together, one day I happened to flip over my drink coaster. It has a cork back. I place the two block pieces, right sides together over the cork. I poke a pin through the center seam into the cork. Then I can pin the bulk fabrics (4 thickness) on each side without them slipping. Finally, I remove the center pin, pick up the piece, and pin through the center seam. This has greatly improved my seam matching! Rebecca
My tip is to use a drying rack (the ones that fold vertically, not the ones that fold horizontally) to display your UFOs on. They are in plain view, handy and I find looking at a project while working on another sometimes inspires me to finish both! I have one (it is an antique like dealers use at antique shows to display quilts or needlework) that I currently have 8 UFOs on. Makes for a colorful room divider as well. Sue
I discovered this method for applique work (new to me anyway) and wanted to share it. I trace out the shape on freezer paper and iron the wax side on the back of the fabric. I then cut around the shape with a seam allowance. I then place the applique piece on my ironing board and spray the entire piece with spray starch. I wipe up the excess starch with a paper towel so the freezer paper doesn't curl up. With a toothpick I turn the edges over as I iron the seam allowance to the back side. The toothpick aids in helping with curves and in tight places and saves on burning my fingers. Using a can of spray starch covers the entire applique in one quick shot and is a huge time saver. I also don't have to buy a fancy iron or curse at Q-tips as they fall apart on me while I'm trying to go around the shape. Bethany
My Q-Tip: Wind your quilt binding around a toilet paper tube and let it feed from a deep jar while sewing it on. I have used this method on my last two quilts and it works great. No more quilt binding picking up dust bunnies from the floor or running over it with your wheels. Lucy
To flip out Mylar templates from a quilt, I have a hole in the center of the template and I insert the wooden end of the old artist's paint brush into the little hole and flip it out. Doesn't hurt the template or the brush. Jo Ann
I bought a $5 belt hanger and use it to hang my rulers on they come off real easy and hang next to the wall nicely also had a piece of wood about 18" X 8" and put slant slots in it to put more rulers. and hung it on the wall works great Jan
The baby's sippy cup leaked inside your new bag? And when bag dried, the cardboard warped? Instead of using cardboard to add strength to the bottom of your bag or tote, insert a piece of plastic canvas cut to size minus the seam allowances. Sandwich this plastic canvas between the purse bottom fabric and the inner lining fabric. You'll have a sturdier, liquid-friendly purse that can handle apple juice and a west coast downpour! You can also use various sizes of plastic canvas to add stability to fabric jewelry cases, change purses and wallets. Susan
Save large empty pill bottles to hold thread and bobbins for a take along applique project. Poke a hole through the cap so you can pull out the thread you need without your spool running away!
Empty pill bottles are good to keep on hand to store bent and broken needles. When it fills up, throw it away without worrying about poking yourself through the garbage bags. Empty film canisters, Altoid tins and that sort of container will work as well.
Do you have those plentiful free-advertising, flat refrigerator magnets? Put 'em to use; they safely handle rotary cutter blades... instead of risking a finger, the magnets will safely hold the blades while removing from the package or loading the cutter, etc... easy and free. Finola
I went to throw out an empty Reynolds foil box and for some reason I turned it and looked at the end of the box. And written on the end it said, “Press here to lock end”. Right there on the end of the box is a tab to lock the roll in place. How long has this little locking tab been there? I then looked at a generic brand of aluminum foil and it had one, too. I then looked at a box of Saran wrap and it had one too! I can’t count the number of times the Saran warp roll has jumped out when I was trying to cover something up. I IMMEDIATELY WENT AND PUSHED IN ALL MY TABS. Now it will never happen again! Linda
When doing applique, try pinning your pieces from underneath. It's a bit awkward, but it saves your thread from getting constantly tangled in the pins. Delores
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