On occasion I like to share tips for quilting that I think are important and make your quilting experience more enjoyable. At least that’s what they do for me! Last week, we talked about keeping your sewing machine in top condition by cleaning and lubricating it and having it regularly serviced. I also threw in a few other tips to get you started. Check out that post here. This week, I’ll talk about some more helpful tips. You may already use some of these, but some of them may be new to you. What’s that old saying… you learn something new every day!
The number 1 most important tip is to make sure you are sewing with an accurate 1/4″ seam allowance. Most machines today come with a 1/4″ foot to help achieve this. But, did you know other things can effect whether you have an accurate 1/4″ seam? Thread thickness and needle position are two of those things. That’s why you should check the seam on a scrap piece of fabric, especially if you have changed the type of thread you are using.
Here’s my 1/4″ foot:
Here is my process. I take two scraps, sew them together and then measure the seam:
If the seam measures 1/4″… great! If it doesn’t, then I can make adjustments to where I place the edge of my fabric that I am stitching to allow for the difference.
The line my scissors is pointing to (above) is the 1/4″ line on my throat plate. This also can be used as a guide along with your 1/4″ foot.
In summary, just make sure to test a few seams before you start to stitch. Otherwise you will be giving your seam ripper a workout!
Related to above, I like to measure my units as I complete them. For example, if my 12 1/2″ block is made up of units that should each measure 4 1/2″, I make sure they do measure those before I attempt to piece the block together. If a unit does not measure accurately, it can lead to a block that doesn’t measure accurately. Accurate measurements also prevent things like cut off points. This is why I keep a few small rulers and my pressing stick by my machine.
A small measurement mistake in units and blocks can add up!
Audition fabric color before shopping or cutting into fabric you have already purchased. Fabric is expensive! I like to make sample blocks of the block I will be ultimately making for my project to audition colors. You don’t even have to make the full size block. If the pattern block is 12 1/2″, make a 6 1/2″ version. I use scraps and strips from my stash to make these blocks. Here’s an example:
I made these four samples to decide what color scheme was the best for this design. I decided I liked the version with the green star (lower left) and off I went to cut fabric! What can you do with the remaining blocks? You can sandwich and quilt them and use them as candle mats. They make great gifts for your non-quilting family and friends!
Stay organized when you are starting a project. I like to label my pieces and have them stacked by block and fabric color. If it’s a scrappy quilt, I will stack up the pieces for each set of blocks I want to stitch so I don’t pull a wrong piece out of a stack in error. As I am cutting a project, I will label with painters tape or masking tape.
As you can see in the photo above, I have the green and pink stacked together and the red and blue stacked together because that’s the colors I want together in each set of blocks. The top piece in each stack is the “B” piece, but I have labeled my colors with numbers, the blue is 12 and the green is 6, to help me keep everything separated.
This kind of fits with the last tip. Once you have all your blocks done and you’re ready to sew them into rows, use a marking system that will keep your rows organized. I use pins with taped numbers so I know which block row a block belongs in:
As I lay out my block rows on my design wall (or floor space) I pin a “1” to the blocks that are in row 1, a “2” for the row 2 blocks, and so on. That way as I am pulling blocks off the wall or the floor, I’m not accidentally sewing them into the wrong row. This is especially important if you are making a scrap quilt where you want a specific color distribution or if your quilt blocks make a secondary design once they are pieced together. You can also use pieces of painter’s tape or masking tape here like in the previous tip.
So, those are some of my important tips to follow when you are starting a project. They are by no means the only ones. Share with me some of your favorite tips in the comments below to be entered into the ongoing drawing for my pattern Loop-d-Loop.
The drawing will be on Friday, September 4th this time since next Monday is Labor Day.
Great tips. Once I have my blocks arranged on the design area, I not only number them by rows, but also by columns, for example, 1A, 1B, 1C, … 2A, 2B, etc. That way I also know which blocks connect with each in the rows as my design area is not that close to my machine and I can so easily mix the blocks up if I have taken more than 2 down at a time, which I normally do.
Great idea on labeling the columns with letters. That definitely keeps things organized!
My best investment was the 1/4 inch foot, what a big difference !!
I use masking tape in many ways, on rulers; on quilt top to mark quilting lines; and to mark rows when mounting the quilt.
Appreciate the tips. I have used the flower head pins to mark rows. I use them over and over again.
Why I can get confused sewing rows together can sometimes be the Twilight zone. No matter How hard I tried to keep all rows in order….it happens.