Fabric is the most important ingredient when it comes to quilting. You can make a quilt without a pattern, but you can’t make a quilt without fabric. Since it’s the key ingredient to making quilt, I want to cover some of my favorite fabric tips this week.
Picking out Fabrics
Tip #1: When you go to the quilt shop for fabric, bring the pattern with you make sure to buy enough fabric. I typically tell quilters to buy around 1/8 yard more than stated on the pattern, especially if you are a pre-washer. This also gives you extra fabric to square up and account for cutting errors. Nothing is worse than running out of fabric and going back to the shop to find it’s sold out!
Tip #2: This kind of ties into the first tip. Before you go to the shop, pick out fabric you think you want to use in your quilt and take that with you to match with the additional fabrics you need. This helps you to avoid coming home to find out that the fabric you bought doesn’t mesh with the ones you already want to use.
Tip #3: Don’t expect to find the exact fabric that was used to make the quilt sample pictured on the pattern. Especially if it’s an older pattern. Here’s an example what you can do if you need to find similar fabric.
If this orange fabric in the above quilt is what I am trying to match, what I want to do is find an orange fabric that has a similar shade and scale of print. Here are 3 fabrics I have chosen:
Can you tell which one works the best? Yes, it’s the one on the far left. The print scale is similar to the orange used in the original quilt and it’s the closest in shade. Of course, the other orange fabrics would still make pretty blocks, but with those the quilt block would look more unlike the original.
Tip #4: Just as I have advised you to audition fabrics at home for a project, you can do the same at the quilt shop. At home I do this to make sure fabrics “play” well together:
You can do the same at the quilt shop by either stacking up bolts or looking for fat quarters cut from the bolts of fabric you like and stacking those together for your “audition”. Once you decide on which ones you like, you can grab the bolts and have the fabric cut for you. Since you auditioned these at the shop, you know they are the perfect for your quilt project when you return home.
After you Pick the Fabric
Tip #1: Whether you are a pre-washer or not, the first thing you want to do is to press your fabric prior to cutting. Pressing out creases and wrinkles with help give you more accurate cut pieces. Cutting unpressed fabric can result in strips and pieces that don’t measure correctly and will cause fabric waste.
Tip #2: Square your fabric. Always! Do not skip this step, especially if you are cutting long strips for strip sets or borders. Otherwise you will end up with a strip that looks like the one on the left.
Notice how that strip bows away from the line on the cutting mat. That shows that the fabric was not squared properly before cutting. If you are cutting a large amount of strips from a piece of fabric, you may have to re-square it after cutting several of them. Fabric can shift from the ruler movement or when you move it around on the cutting mat.
Tip #3: Read through your pattern completely and find all the cutting instructions for each piece of fabric if it’s not all up front on the first page. I recommend cutting out the entire quilt’s pieces before starting to sew so you know you have enough fabric. Once you have it all cut, organized and labeled, you can store the pieces in the order you will need them.
I store my projects with the pattern instructions in one of these art bins:
While you are Stitching Blocks
Tip #1: Be careful when sewing bias seams like when making half-square triangle (HST) squares and stitch & flip corners. If you have to remove stitches from a bias seam, you are more likely to stretch fabric out of shape and make that piece unusable.
For this reason, I like to use a scant 1/4″ seam when stitching HSTs so I can trim the resulting squares down to the correct size. And when I’m stitching stitch & flip corners, I make sure the resulting unit measures correctly before trimming any excess fabric from the seam allowance. See my mini video below:
Tip #2: Have block pieces laid out for easy chain stitching and make sure you are matching right sides together before feeding them through the machine. I have had many experiences ripping out stitches when I have not been paying attention!
Tip #3: Speaking of ripping out stitches, my way of doing it will minimize damage and distortion to your fabric. Whether you use a seam ripper or a small scissors (like I often do), snip a few threads on the seam line as shown on the left. Then you can gently pull apart the seam. This easily exposed the threads to cut so your sharp point of the seam ripper or scissors stays away from the fabric.
So that’s all I have for this week. Leave a comment below or ask any questions you may have. You will be entered into a drawing for my quilt pattern, Scrappy North Stars.
This will provide the opportunity to have a lot of fun with fabric! The drawing will be on Monday, October 9th. Good Luck! **We have a winner! Congrats, Judy!**