We quilters are like any other human…. we like shortcuts! I’m definitely in that category. I’m always looking for a way to make sometimes tedious steps of stitching and quilting go quicker with a shortcut. So, let’s talk about some of my favorite shortcuts this week. Share some of yours with me in the comments.
Shortcuts for Hand Work
Tip #1: When doing stitching on a hand appliqué project, I like to load all the needles I need ahead of time with the different color threads I’m working with.
I have a tin of threads and have mounted a thin magnet, found at my local hardware store, on the cover. I load needles and hang them here. Each time a color runs out, I re-load. You can do the same with perle cotton threads if you are doing a wool appliqué project.
Tip #2: When doing fabric appliqué if you have appliqué pieces that entirely fit onto another, larger piece, appliqué that smaller piece to the larger piece first before stitching the entire unit onto the quilt top.
Smaller pieces are easier to handle when stitching, instead of struggling to stitch a small flower center to a large quilt. In the above example, I stitched the red center to the larger gold center, then stitched that unit to the blue flower. Later, I stitched the whole blue flower unit to the quilt top motif.
Tip #3: For wool appliqué, something you can do that you can’t do normally with fabric appliqué is to layout the entire design and fuse or glue it into place before stitching. By doing this, you can insure that your design is laid out within the seam allowances and the pieces in the design are all in the correct place.
This makes the project portable too. I can pack it in a small container with my threads and stitch on the road. I take along my small Roxanne’s glue to affix anything that comes loose.
Tip #4: Whether you are working on a fabric or wool appliqué project, a good time saver is to prepare templates by copying those template pattern pages onto heavy card stock.
This reinforces them for multiple uses and then you can store them in the bag with the pattern for when you want to make the project again.
Shortcuts for Quilting
Tip #1: Stock your fabric stash with pre-cuts. This is a great way to fill up your fabric stash and have fabrics to grab quickly while making blocks for scrap quilts. You can get charm packs, jelly rolls and layer cakes from quilt shops and those are great to have in a scrap stash. But here’s my version of precuts. The pre-cut I stock up on the most are fabric strips in 1 1/2″ and 2 1/2″ width size. Here’s how I store them:
I use these size strips in a large variety of blocks, in borders and for binding. Having them ready cut and sorted by size lets me grab what I need quickly instead of having to cut them from large pieces of fabric.
Also in my version of pre-cuts, I like to keep a stash of fat 1/8s, fat 1/4s and half yards. I have those sorted into tubs by color as well so I can quickly grab the right size in the color I want and not have to stop and cut it from a larger piece of fabric.
Tip #2: Now that you are ready to start on a pattern, I suggest cutting all the pieces for a pattern before any sewing happens, even if your pattern doesn’t require it. Doing this is a time saver because you can make sure you don’t run out of fabric. If you are short, you can run to the fabric store right away and get more instead of trying to match that piece of fabric months later.
Tip #3: This goes along with cutting out all the pieces before starting. Be sure to organize the pieces based on what block they are for and in what part of the quilting process they are needed. I do this by labeling stacks of pieces and then storing the whole project in a bin like this (right photo):
In the bin, the pieces for the border will be on the bottom and pieces for blocks will be on the top.
Tip #4: Use chain piecing when you can. This was the best shortcut ever invented by a quilter. It’s a time saver as well as a thread saver. Stacking up block unit pieces or whole block units for chain stitching is a tip I recommend:
They’re all ready to go!
Tip #5: Here’s a random time-saving tip. When you are piecing a large project, fill multiple bobbins and have them on hand. That way, you can just pop a new one in for the empty one and keep on stitching. We always seem to run out of bobbin thread at the most inconvenient times!
That’s one of my favorite signs to post in my quilt show booth. It gets a lot of attention!
Well, that’s it for this week. Like I said earlier, share in the comments some of your shortcuts. I may do a post in the future that covers some of those.