Hi, I’m back this week to share more of my favorite handy and time saving tips! These are things that I do when I am working on a quilt project, things that came out of my desire to make my quilting experience more fun and relaxing. Some of these tips will save you from future headaches and assure that you can complete that quilt. Let’s get started!
Have you ever begun to piece some units and either lost your top or bobbin thread or ended up with a jumble at the beginning of the seam? To combat this, use what I call a “leader/ender” scrap.
This is actually a good use of some of those scraps you accumulate from trimming units like flying geese. Start your stitching with this leader/ender scrap first, then stitch how ever many units you have in your stack and then end with this leader/ender scrap.
This has the added benefit of conserving thread. Instead of pulling the units you’ve stitched out away from the machine and clipping off a long section of thread, just snip the thread behind the presser foot after the leader/ender is part of the way through, and your units are completely through, to release your stitched units!
Staying with the stitching theme, always backstitch at the beginning and at the end of a seam. It takes just a second to do this, but it makes a big difference. All you need is a few back stitches for security.
The unit on the left was stitched without back stitching. Notice how I can pull the seam apart quite easily. This can cause trouble when you are joining units and are trying to nest seams. If one of the seams is pulling apart, you will also have trouble aligning seams for the block you are stitching. The unit on the right shows the strength of backstitching.
Pin units before stitching! Seems like I am being “Captain Obvious” here but I used to skip this step and I advise you not to. Especially if you really want crisp points and aligned seams.
First, align and pin the seams for the units you are joining and then pin the ends of the units. Yes it takes a minute, but if you stitch without pins and then have unaligned seams that ruin the look of your block. Then you will have to rip out stitches and start over, wasting more time.
The pinning also works great in helping to align diagonal seams, like when you are joining half-square triangle squares.
Align those diagonal seams first as shown in the photo on the left. Next, pin that seam before pinning the rest of the HST units together. As you can see in the last photo, the diagonal seams are aligned perfectly and come to an even point 1/4″ up from the edge.
I have a confession. I have never been adept at using a seam ripper without putting a hole in my fabric. So if you do have to rip out stitches, or “un-sew” as we quilters like to say, I have a tip that makes that chore a little easier for those of us who don’t use a seam ripper. All you need is a small, sharp tipped pair of scissors like these:
The smaller and thinner the better to avoid ripping your fabric. Then use these scissors as shown. Insert the tip under a stitch and snip. Snip stitches about 4 or 5 stitches apart. Once this is done, you can carefully pull apart the seam from the top and then snip the remaining threads.
Now for some other random tips:
Use a small notebook stashed by your machine to record when you last cleaned and oiled your machine and also when you changed your needle last. This will help you with the maintenance of your machine and keep you from having unexpected breakdowns. I also use it to record what thread and stitch length I am using for a project in case I need to pull it off the machine before it is finished to do something else.
You know those bookstands they make for recipe books for the kitchen? They work great for holding patterns or magazines. If yours doesn’t have the handy holders on the bottom, use a binder clip to keep the pattern or magazine in place.
Finally if you have a small magnet laying around, like one of those souvenir magnets you get on vacation, you can use that as a pin corral! Just attach it to your sewing table, with a removable Command strip, by your machine and your pins will go nowhere.
Another pin solution is to go to an auto parts store and buy the magnetic dishes used by mechanics to corral screws, nuts and bolts. These work great for pins and have a weighed bottom so they’re fairly hard to knock off your table.
Well, that’s it for this week! I hope some of these tips are ones you find helpful and time saving. Enjoy your next quilting project by putting some of them to use. Share some time saving tips with me in the comments below and you will be entered into a drawing for my new pattern Strips & Stars:
The drawing will be on Monday, November 28th. Good luck!**We have a winner! Congrats, Joan!**
JOAN WORKMAN says
Instead of a leader/ender, I have 2.5″ squares beside my machine. I grab a light and dark, sew it together, stitch my seam, then another light and dark. Doesn’t take long to have lots of sets to make four patch or nine patch blocks. It’s bonus sewing!!
That’s a great idea! You’re creating an additional project while stitching another.
Best tip for me is the notebook beside the machine! I will use that one! Many thanks!
I already follow most of these tips which really help. I need to add the notebook by my machine though. What a great tip! Thanks.
I’ve changed the sewing machine light to led which is helpful but an additional light directed in front of the needle is very helpful!
Love your tips! Here’s one to share. I covered a sturdy piece of cardboard with flannel, securing it with tape on the back (mine is 17″x 22″). I arrange my ready-to-sew units on it and carry it to the sewing machine. The flannel keeps everything in place.
Donna Schulz says
Always great tips! Never thought to use a command strip to attach things to sewing table. I had use tacky. Your idea is so much better. Thanks.
Sally Garon says
Great tips! Can’t add a thing right now.
Shirley Stille says
Thanks again for excellent tips, really like the tips notebook…will try that!
I like the note book to keep a log of maintenance! Great idea!
Larine Dunham says
I like all the tips listed, some I already do but planning to add both the note book log idea and using the small sharp scissors in lieu of a seam ripper. I also like your pinning technique for HST’s, pin coming under the seam allowance on the back – instead of having your pin go through all four layers of fabric like I’ve been doing. Your method will work much better!
Great tips! The notepad log next to your machine is something I need to start.