The last few weeks, we’ve talked about cleaning your machine, using the right needles, caring for your cutting mat and building a fabric stash. So, this week I thought I would throw in some tips on fabric and threads and various other tips that will make your quilting experience fun and more relaxing. Let’s get started!
Fabric Facts & Tips
The common belief is that fabric has a width of 44″. But, you can not depend on all of that as usable. One reason is the selvage of the fabric.
Selvage is the tightly woven, finished edges of fabric on the lengthwise grain. This prevents the woven fabric from fraying or unraveling. The selvages are cut off before you cut from your piece of fabric. For that reason, the actual usable fabric width is between those selvages. You can also lose width from pre-washing the fabric if that’s something you do. For those reasons most patterns, mine included, assume 40″ of usable width. So, here’s a few tips:
Tip #1: Don’t assume the pattern writer of the pattern you want to make assumes 40″ width of fabric unless it’s stated on the pattern. If I do not know the width assumed, I will purchase about 1/8 yard extra than noted on the pattern. This also allows for width lost when squaring the fabric up, pre-washing it or for cutting errors … we all make them!
Tip #2: Cut largest to smallest pieces from a piece of fabric. My patterns list all the cutting instructions up front and go from the largest piece to the smallest.
Not all patterns are written this way. So, it’s a good idea to read the whole pattern through, front to back, before you start cutting. That way you can be sure not to run out of fabric.
Tip #3: It’s a good idea to understand the grain of the fabric and bias so you know how a fabric will behave in a unit or block you are creating. It’s also important to know this because some patterns will tell you to cut certain pieces on the lengthwise or crosswise grain. Here’s a brief run down:
The lengthwise grain (warp) of the fabric is parallel to the selvage. This is where the fabric is most stable.
The crosswise grain (weft) is perpendicular to the selvages. It is a little less stable than the lengthwise grain.
Bias of the fabric is at a 45 degree angle from the selvages of a piece of fabric.
On the bias, the fabric is the least stable and has the most stretch to it. That’s why binding cut on the bias is used for quilt tops with scalloped edges or for a circular quilt. Also, any seam sewn on the bias (like in half-square triangle squares) must be handled with care when pressing or ripping out a seam so the fabric is not stretched out of shape. Once fabric is stretched on the bias, it usually stays distorted.
See how stretchy it is on the bias?
Thread Facts & Tips
Tip #1: Remember last week’s post about cleaning your machine of lint? That lint comes from the fabric, batting and thread you choose to use. Let’s focus on thread. The higher the quality thread, the less lint will be created. It’s that old adage “you get what you pay for”. I like Auriful 100% cotton 50wt thread.
I have found this thread has created the least amount of lint compared to other threads I have used. Aurifil is a high quality cotton thread that is manufactured in a way that makes it less lint producing.
Tip #2: I like to keep an array of neutral threads so I can match the shade to the fabric I’m piecing.
This way, if any stitches are visible in the seams, they won’t show as much if the shade is closely matched to your fabric. You wouldn’t want to use a black thread when piecing light fabrics together or white thread when piecing dark or black pieces of fabric together.
Tip #3: Believe it or not, if your needle is old, it can damage your thread. It can help to create more lint, fray the thread or even break it. So, make sure to have a fresh needle for each project. Needles are not expensive, so keep a good supply on hand.
Tip #4: Did you know the way the thread is wound onto the spool determines how you should use it on your machine? Most sewing machines these days come with horizontal and vertical spool holders. Certain types of spools are meant to be used on one or the other. Using the spool on the correct holder allows the thread to unwind as it should.
Cross-wound thread looks like below and should be used on a horizontal spool holder:
This allows the thread to unspool from over the top of the spool pin to keep it unspooling smoothly.
Horizontally wound thread looks like below and is meant to be used on the spool pin vertically.
They can be used on a horizontal spool pin but they perform best on a vertical spool holder so the thread unwinds at a 45 degree angle. This keeps the thread from getting caught in the space between the thread and spool causing tension problems.
Tip #5: Random last tip… snip your thread at a 45 degree angle for easier needle threading! It really works!
So, that’s it for this week. Leave a comment or ask a question below and I will choose someone to win a spool of Aurifil and my pattern, Twinkle Twinkle.
The drawing will be on Monday, February 8th. ***We have a winner! Congrats, Jackie Brooks!***
Barb Onken says
Great tips Deanne! I really like your cutting directions with the largest cuts first down to smallest.
Molly Alaria says
I always enjoy your tips & illustrations. Thank you for sharing. 😊
Rita Manetta says
Really great tips, as always!
June Alton says
Great tips. Thanks.
I never knew much about threads, thanks for the information!!
Donna Schulz says
Great tip about type of threads & how it goes on your machine. I love Aurifil, & it seems to go farther than other types of thread.
Brenda Jeffers says
Thanks for the tips on assuring that the spool is placed on the spindle correctly. Many times, I am in a hurry to thread my machine and simply slap the thread on the spindle and thread my machine quickly. I realize, after reading your blog, that I may not always do it correctly.
Samantha Thacker says
Thanks for the tips! I’m a newish quilter and am always looking to learn the correct way to do things!
Carol L says
Great tips. I also like Aurifil thread. Thanks.
Beverly Lawler says
All great tips! Thank you! Happy sewing!
Kathy in WV says
Great post, as usual! Do you have any suggestions for using cross-wound thread on an older sewing machine that doesn’t have a horizontal spool pin?
I have seen spool pin adapters for specialty threads on Amazon. Here is the one I found.
I can’t attest to if and how it works. But it’s nice to know it exists!
Sarah Shell says
Great tips. Will share with my quilting friends. Thanks.
Great tips!!!! Especially about cutting your thread at a 45 degree angle!!!!!
I really like Aurifil thread to sew with. Always try to keep extra on hand. Thanks for you quilting tips.
Kathy Bonnell says
Great tips! Love aurifil thread!
Thank you for the tip of cutting largest to smallest….makes sense
Lisa Ilcott says
Thank you for all of the great tips
Joni Giancola says
Had no idea about the thread on the machine. Thank you
I suppose I need to buy a new machine so I can use Aurifil thread since the machines I have now should use the thread vertically… good excuse to buy a new machine.🤣 Thank you for sharing your wisdom on many sewing things. I appreciate them very much.
Great information! Thanks.
Karen H says
Great tips this week- always enjoy and learn from them- aurifil thread is really nice to use – loved the tip on which spool pin you should use!
Thanks for sharing
Virginia Guth says
Good information about busses and straighte of grain
Great tips (as usual). I DO use Aurifil thread, but, the machine repair man that I have used said not to use it because it is coated with wax and that builds up in your machine over time. Have you heard of this? So far, I haven’t had any build up, but this made me nervous when he told me this.
Thanks again for all the helpful tips (and reminders). HUGS… and stitches
Interesting. I’ve used Aurifil for years and haven’t heard that from my service tech. So far, I haven’t had any problems. I’ll have to look into that.
Beryl BC says
I learned something today. I did not know about the horizontal vs vertical spool pins and which thread should go on each. I’ve not had a problem using the cross wound thread on my older vertical spool pin yet. Have I just been lucky?
Great teaching tips about thread, spool pins, etc. Thank you!
Zina Mater says
Thank you for the great tips about the thread. Learn something new every day.
Donna Hanneman says
Thx for the great info!
Debra Forsberg says
Thank you for the tips and reminders! Love your work!
Sharon Aurora says
Thank you for the great tips. I love Aurifil thread.
Jackie Brooks says
Deanne thank you so very much for all of the great tips you share with the quilting world. Happy Quilting