Now that we have our fabric picked out, washed or not, and have it squared up and ready to go… it’s time to make those blocks and quilts! I’ve talked previously about reading a pattern through and making sure you have all the fabric you need. Cutting the largest pieces first from the fabric and working your way down was another tip I shared. So let’s move on and get to more tips to make the quilting experience a joyful one. We don’t want stress in our quilting … it’s supposed to be relaxing!
Organization is Key
Organization really helps to keep your quilting time stress free. If you are unorganized and continuously having to stop and look for your next pieces to stitch, it adds stress. I like to stack up the pieces I need to stitch into groups based on units that I am working on or stacks of pieces in a block. This is especially helpful if you are making multiples of the same block. The photo below shows a stack of squares ready for stitch and flip. I have them stacked so I can quickly pin them and machine stitch them.
This next photo shows stacks of cut pieces labeled and separated by the block each stack creates. Whether there is only one block per stack or several in the same color way, this keeps them organized so I don’t accidentally stitch the wrong pieces together.
Each color print stack above has the pieces for several blocks in that color way. I also have the background fabrics cut and stacked as well since this was a scrappy quilt, including the background.
This photo below shows how I have several block units stacked and ready to piece into completed blocks.
Design Walls and Boards
This ties in with organization because it helps with the layout of blocks and whole quilts. This is a key thing to have available especially if you are trying to distribute colors evenly through a quilt and also if your quilt has a secondary design that depends on accurate block placement.
First off, here is my design wall in my studio.
I use this wall to lay out blocks so I can move them around to get the layout I want. It works for small projects and for larger projects as shown below.
The table runner on the left has different colors I wanted separated and a secondary design I wanted to get right. The large quilt on the right has several blocks in the same color way that I wanted distributed as evenly as possible through the quilt.
To make this wall, I affixed foam insulation board (found at your local home improvement store) to the wall, then covered it with felt. Here’s what the insulation board looks like at the store:
This is great if you have a dedicated sewing room with a large wall. What if you don’t have either? You can either use a large floor space or bed to lay out blocks and take a photo so you remember the layout once you are at your machine OR you can make a portable design wall.
I used large foam core boards from the craft store taped together and then covered with scrap batting. You can also use felt on these too. It can then be folded and slid under a bed for storage. If you want a bigger one, purchase a few of the foam insulation board shown above, cover them with felt and take them out and lean them against a wall for block layout. These can also be stored under a bed or stacked in a closet when not in use.
Finally, here’s an idea if you want to keep your blocks laid out separately. Make these mini design boards from 13″ square pieces of cardboard covered in scrap batting or felt.
I used glue stick to affix the batting to the back of the board, although you can also staple it if you want. Once you have several of these made, you can layout block pieces, stack them up and take them to your machine to stitch (photo below).
This way, the pieces for each of your blocks will not get mixed up. Some people use paper plates for this, but I have found those are only big enough for smaller blocks and don’t have a surface that keeps your pieces in place when you are transporting them.
Who among us can get a quilt project cut out and finished in the same day? No one I know! So, here are a few ideas for storing a work in progress. When I have all the pieces for a project cut out and organized and then I need to stop, the best storage I have found are these large art boxes from the craft store.
I can stack up cut pieces, fabric to be cut and also blocks already pieced in this large box and then stash it in a cupboard in my studio until I can work on it again. I have a folder with the pattern and any notes I have made in the box with the pieces so I know where I left off.
For appliqué projects, wool or fabric, that I want to take on the road (since I can’t go anywhere without a project!), I save and use the bags that sheet sets come in.
Here’s my project packed up in the bag alone with my ruler, fabric glue and sewing box that contains thread, scissors, pins & needles.
So, that’s all for this week. Share some of your organization tips that you use in your sewing room or your sewing space. Does this help keep your sewing experience stress free? I’d love to hear your ideas. I will choose the best idea and share it in my upcoming newsletters with credit to you! If I use your tip, I will reward you with a free pattern of your choice from those available.