In this post I am sharing a few tips and tricks for patchwork success. You may be a novice, a happy quilter, a frustrated beginner or professional piecer. Read through the checklist below and see if one of the points on the list may be the missing piece to your Patchwork Success.
PIECING is also called PATCHWORK: sewing together pieces of fabric to create a quilt top.
QUILTING = The process of sewing together three layers – the quilt top, the batting and the quilt backing fabric, also called a “quilt sandwich”
Use a sharp new rotary cutting blade
Use the side of the cutting mat without gridlines, rely on the ruler’s grid lines for accuracy not the lines on the cutting mat. As you become more experienced you will learn not to confuse the mat/ruler guidelines with each other.
1/4″ SEAM ALLOWANCE:
Use a WIDE 1/4″ presser foot. Some 1/4″ piecing feet are narrow in
width. If the ¼” presser foot doesn’t cover the
whole feed dog on the left and right side of the foot, the narrow 1/4″ foot will not be able to feed fabric as well. After all, it is the presser foot that presses the fabric down into the feed dogs, thus moving the fabric.
Do not assume you are sewing an accurate 1/4″ seam allowance. Sew a seam and measure it with an accurate ruler.
Use a shorter stitch length for piecing 2.0mm
Use a longer stitch length for quilting 3.0mm – 3.5mm
THREAD: Fine thread for piecing (Aurifil 50 weight, 2 ply on the orange core spool)
Fine piecing thread makes a flatter seam and assures your quilt block size will be accurate.
Use slightly heavier thread for machine quilting (Aurifil 40 weight, 2 ply on the green core spool)
Use a heavy thread for a “Bold Look” (Aurifil 28
weight, 2 ply on the grey core spool) Use a Large eye needle such as Topstitch or Metallica 90/14 for heavier threads such as the 28wt.
Frustrated that you run out of bobbin thread
too often when quilting?
Use the finer 50 weight thread on the bobbin. It is so fine so you will be able to quilt further with a much fuller bobbin.
Use the same colour thread in the bobbin as in the needle. The naked eye won’t be able to see as many tension flaws (yes, even if the quilt back colour contrasts the thread colour.
ONLY use 100% cotton thread for piecing (Polyester which is manmade fiber thread, will “cut” the cotton fabric fiber. The quilt will begin to “deconstruct” before your eyes when it is “handled”.
For quilting, the rule: “use 100% cotton thread only” does not apply as strictly. Quilting stabilizes the layers and thus helping to prevent the damaging deconstruction process. The more quilting, the more stable the quilt will be.
Change needles often. A needles life expectancy is 4 – 8 hours of use. A worn needle can damage the fabric.
Use a sharp needle for batiks. These needles will go through batiks as if they are going through butter. Sharp needles include: Microtex, Jeans and Denim
For piecing use a size 80/12 needle. An experienced “Piecer”
can use a size 70/10 (finer) needle. Caution, a fine needle bends easily and is thus more prone to breakage. Tip: Don’t pull the fabric.
For quilting use a bigger size 90/14 needle.
Universal needles have a rounded tip and are generally a good needle for ALL sewing, but switch to sharps (denim, jeans, microtex) as noted above, if you encounter skipped stitches or if the needle struggles to pass through high thread count fabrics such as batiks
No ironing allowed. “Iron” clothing and “press” patchwork during construction.
Accurate pressing is as important as accurate cutting and accurate sewing.
“Set the seam” by steam pressing the seam before opening the two layers. This presses the thread into the fabric.
Press both seams to the same
side. If you press a seam open as you would in garment construction, batting will be able to migrate out of the quilt
AND the seams will not be as strong.
In most cases you will
press the seam allowance to the dark(er) fabric or in the opposite direction of the seam it will butt up against. For example, never sew together two units if the seams will stack on top of each other. Correct this problem by pressing one of the seams in the opposite direction.
ACCURACY – Are your quilt blocks exactly the correct size?
If you have followed all the tips listed above, your quilt blocks should be exactly the correct size as stated in the instructions of your quilt pattern.
If you have cut the fabrics accurately….
If you have stitched an accurate ¼” seam allowance….
If you have pressed the seams properly…
But still are not getting an exact quilt block size!?
The answer lies in the type of thread you are using for piecing. If your thread is too thick, bulk is being added to the seam allowance. The bulk of the thread hinders the seam from being pressed as flat as possible. For example, a Log Cabin quilt block has many, many seams. If every one of the seams is being stitched with thick thread and each seam is hindered from being pressed to an optimum smoothness, the quilt block can shrink in size 1mm – 2mm with every seam, adding up to 1/8” to ¼”
So, switch to fine, thin, thread like Aurifil Mako Egyptian Cotton thread, a 2 ply 50 weight thread and your accuracy problems are solved!
505 temporary adhesive spray
QUILTING IN THE DITCH:
There is no ditch. A seam has a high side and a low side. The high side is the side to which the seams are pressed. The quilting stitches are on the low side. Invest in a “Ditch Stitching Foot”.
How to Free Motion Quilt a Large Quilt on a Small Machine:
Look at any large quilt. Using your imagination, divide the quilt in half, north to south and east to west through the middle. The quilt is divided into four sections.
At your machine, start at the center of the quilt, quilt only in the bottom right quadrant. Do not roll the quilt, “puddle it” on the table around and in the throat of the machine.
When done, turn the quilt a quarter turn, counter clockwise. Start quilting again starting from the center.
Next turn the quilt a quarter turn, counter clockwise. Start quilting again from center. Repeat until you have quilted all quadrants.
Having said all that, you
may not wish to quilt all the way to the edges of the quilt. Follow the directions above, but instead, quilt only 2/3 of each quadrant. Finally, free motion quilt the remainder of the quilt in a clockwise manner.
Happy Patchwork! Carola