Here are some tips we’ve gathered on our quilting journey’s. If you have any you would like to add send us an email.
Q. Does it matter what kind of thread you use?
A. Yes. That’s the simple answer. The thread you use will depend on the project and end use. I found that using the thinner threads is wonderful for piecing (and I love the Aurifil threads) but they are not the best for stabilizing fleece projects. I’m sure that you could ask a dozen people and get different recommendations on threads so ask around and try out several to find your favourites.
Things I Have Learned (or Muriel’s Laws) You know, like Murphy’s Law:
- If you want to get threads off a quilt top be sure to wear dark clothing, preferably black, and either corduroy or fleece, and the threads will just jump right off onto your clothing. (This works under the same principle as when your hair is partly black and partly grey – the grey will fall out when you wear dark clothes, and the black will fall when you wear light clothing. Remember, opposites attract.)
- If suggestion number 1 doesn’t do the whole job make sure you take the quilt top to the living room as the thread, and the pins, will naturally be attracted to the living room furniture and the carpet. The threads and pins ‘that weren’t there’ when you entered the living room will get energized and jump right into your husband’s chair, or whatever part of the carpet he walks on.
- If you want ultra cheap fabric, start a chain letter. You’ll get lots of fabric in the mail, even though nobody else in the chain ever gets any.
- If you have fabric “too precious to use” or ‘to die for” and won’t use it now, when you finally get to using it, it’s not half as great as you’d remembered it. Or there’s not enough of the fabric and you can’t find more. Or there’s a great fade line down the middle of it.
- And those great ideas you get in the middle of the night, they’re really not so hot in the morning. Or the things you can’t wait to make, while you’re finishing up something you are only vaguely interested in making, are never as great when you finally get to work on them.
Here are Joan Ford’s “Top 10 Reasons to Use a Tool or Gadget”:
10. More fun
9. Easier to understand
8. Easier to use
4. Impressive to your friends
3. Justification for buying it
2. Your spouse just bought a new gadget for his hobby and you need to even out the playing field.
1. The ‘demo’ made you do it.
These tips are from renown quilter, Libby Lehman, as printed in The Quilt Life magazine October 2010. Libby often enters quilts into shows so these tips are good for correcting those mistakes that creep into our quilts whether we enter them into a show or not.
- Put mistakes in the upper left corner. Since we look at quilts the same way we read, from upper left to bottom right, judges often can’t even see the upper edge. This is also a good place to join binding.
- If seams don’t meet, embellish. A strategically placed appliqué, bead, button or couched yarn can do wonders.
- Use a busy back fabric. The busier the background fabric the less judges can spot mistakes.
- Add a false back. If you turn over your quilt and gasp in horror, add another piece of fabric before binding the quilt. You may have to do some more quilting so it doesn’t buckle.
- Permanent markers are your friend. You can use markers to colour threads that weren’t suppose to show.
- Labels can cover a multitude of sins. If you discover thread nests on the back of a quilt creative labels can cover many sins.
More tips from Libby Lehman from an article entitled THREAD TALES. This article appeared in The Quilt Life , June 2010:
- piecing with cotton thread has long been the standard.
- 100% long stapled Egyptian cotton is the highest quality
- for regular piecing 50wt. is the most popular choice
- art quilts do not get the wear and tear of bed quilts so 60wt polyester can be used. It is colourfast and eliminates bulk
- decorative stitching includes digitized embroidery, free-motion thread painting, programmed decorative stitches, bobbin drawing and quilting
- there are many threads to choose from. Start with 40 wt. polyesters, some 30wt. cottons, some good quality metallics, some thicker threads for bobbin drawing, (12wt. to size 3 perle cotton), variegated threads and anything else that tickles your fancy.
Sort your buttons by colour into glass jars and group the jars on a shelf for a fun, eye-catching display in you sewing room.
Stray Threads – Keep a lint roller in your sewing room. It comes in handy for cleaning stray threads from your ironing board, clothes or black fabric.
Quilting Gloves – A good pair of quilting gloves, cotton gloves with gripper dots on palms and fingers, is a must for machine quilting. They take the stress off your shoulders and neck by making it easier to grip the fabric. Whether your project is large or small, pull them out and slip them on.
Machine Applique – An open toe presser foot is very helpful when machine appliqueing. It allows you to see where you are going and how your stitches are forming.
UFOs (and we all have them) – Here’s an idea for finishing UFOs. Make a numbered UFO list. Then get a friend or family member to pick a number. Finish that item from your list, then photography and show it to your “UFO support group” members. Repeat the process as you knock items off your list!
Hanging Sleeve – Make a hanging sleeve for your quilt out of leftover strips from the project. Then you will have fabric for a repair if it’s ever necessary.
Keep a pair of scissors tied to your ironing board so they’re always handy for snipping threads.
Marking a quilt – Try running the dull edge of a butter knife along a ruler to ‘indent’ lines onto your fabric to use as a quilting guide instead of marking with a pencil.
Dryers Sheets: They are great for so many thing as we all know, applique work or nice neat label making so I am always saving them so my tip is this….Keep an empty pop up tissue box right by your dryer to store all your used sheets in as they come out and then you can just move box right to your sewing area when its full – easy pop up supply of used dryer sheets for all your quilting needs.
Design Wall – use an inexpensive flannel-backed plastic tablecloth from the dollar store.
Testing for Fibre Content: To test for fibre content of unknown fabrics, cut a small strip, hold with tweezers and burn one end over an ashtray or sink. Put out the flame before you burn yourself!
- 100% cotton burns quickly with a yellow flame and continues burning after flame is removed. Smells like burning paper. Only gray ash will remain, which will disintegrate if you touch or shake it.
- Polyester burns slowly trailing black smoke. Leaves a hard black bead. Has no smell.
- If the fabric contains any polyester or synthetic fibres, the burnt edges will be like plastic as the fabric will have melted rather than burned.
- If the fabric is silk, it will burn but will not ignite into flames, and there will be a distinctive smell.
- If it is wool, it will burn and smell like burning hair.
More detailed charts of burning results can be found at Ditzy Prints Burn Chart
Project Kit: Make your own project kit. After you have purchased or gathered everything you need for a project, place it all along with the pattern in a zippered bag so that it will be ready to go when you have time to work on it.
Save large empty pill bottles to hold thread and bobbins for a take-along applique project. Poke a hold through the cap so you can pull out the thread you need without opening the lid.
Storing Templates: use a CD case for storing templates.
Use wine glass charms to identify scissors and cutters when you take them to a class or retreat.
50 Tips and Tricks for Quilting
1. Use a seam ripper to break every 3rd or 4th stitch then lay a strip of tape over the seam line, press it down, then pull it up to remove all the threads.
2. Use a lint roller to pick up loose threads when you finish a quilt.
3. To protect your ironing board when fusing Heat & Bond or similar products, try one of these things:
• Slip on an old pillowcase
• Cover it with a piece of muslin
• Cover it with freezer paper (shiny side down)
• Use a teflon sheet under the part you are fusing
4. Here’s how to tell if a fabric is 100% cotton: take a small swatch and light it on fire. If it burns to ash then its cotton; if it melts then there’s polyester in it.
5. Kids coloring books, stained glass pattern books and scroll saw books are good sources of simple shapes. Or check out your computer’s clip art.
6. Save your old/dull rotary cutter blades for doing paper pieced projects.
7. The protective rubber tips you can buy for knitting needles make great protectors for small scissors (like embroidery scissors)
8. This trick sometimes works to remove stubborn creases in fabric (like the center fold). Mix a few drops of white vinegar with distilled water and use a Q-tip to moisten the crease. Iron it.
9. Use a soft toothbrush to remove chalk marks.
10. Use little rubbing alcohol on a cotton balls to clean scissors and rotary blades
11. Ever have problems fusing fabrics using Heat & Bond (or similar products). Make sure you pre-wash your fabric and don’t use softener in the washer or dryer. Finishes on fabrics and fabric softener interfere with the fusing.
12. Attach a self-adhering measuring tape to your sewing table or machine so you always have a handy ruler. You can get them in hardware stores.
13. Practice using your left foot on the foot pedal. It will balance the load on your body and reduce fatigue and muscle strain on your right side.
14. Use an old film canister or pill bottle to store used needles
15. To make a quick, cheap wooden presser…take apart a wooden clothespin and you have two
16. Use a piece of non-slip shelf liner or an old mouse pad under your presser foot to stop it from slipping
17. Like to paper piece but hate removing the paper? Try one of these tricks:
• Use tiny stitches
• Try one of the new easy tear papers made for paper piecing
• Dip a Qtip in water and run it along the seam line. Wait a minute then the paper should tear away easily
• Use the new water soluble paper. – works great except you have to wait for the piece to dry before you use it
18. A Flannel back tablecloth makes a great temporary design board. You can even roll it up and take it with you. The blocks will stick to the flannel.
19. Cookie cutters can make wonderful simple templates for quilting designs
20. Chopsticks make great turning tools and can help poke out points
21. Have machine problems? When was the last time you did maintenance on your machine? If it isn’t working 100% check some of these things:
• change your needle. If it’s bent, dull, nicked or not inserted correctly it will cause problems with stitches and tension. Don’t wait until it breaks to change it! Some people think it should be changed every project. Definitely change it after doing a paper piecing project since the paper dulls needles.
• clean your machine. Your manual will show you how and what to oil (the new electronic machines don’t need much if any). You should also remove the throat plate and clean out the feed dogs (every few projects). Use a brush, tiny vacuum tools or canned air. A little bit of lint under there can cause lots of stitch problems. It will also cause your fabric to bunch up at the start instead of feeding evenly.
• try re-threading your machine – both top and bobbin. Sometimes thread comes out of the tension discs just enough to cause problems
• use the correct needle size and type for what you are doing – this really makes a difference, especially when working with metallic and specialty threads
• If you’ve transported your machine to class, open the bobbin casing and make sure everything is seated correctly before you turn on your machine. Things do get jostled around.
22. Use a tiny Post-It note to record the current needle in the machine, and the date you started using it. If you remove a specialty needle stick it in a piece of paper with a notation that it’s been used so you know its life span.
23. Try using a carpenter’s chalk line to snap grid lines onto a quilt – but use regular dressmaker’s chalk instead of the carpenter’s chalk. You can quickly mark the grid.
24. You can also use slivers of soap to mark a quilt. Soap will wash out.
25. Hot glue a small round magnet to a golf tee. Slip the tee into the hole of your hand sewing thread spool and you have a handy place to store your needle
26. Or glue a thick felt circle to the spool (like the ones for protecting floors from furniture legs) and you have a tiny pincushion on your quilting thread.
27. Or, cut a strip of peel and stick magnet and stick it to the top of a spool of quilting thread. You’ll have a handy place to leave your needle.
28. Bad color or design choices always ‘jump’ out if you look at something from 10 feet away (which is hard to do in some rooms). To ‘see’ your quilt from 10 feet away try looking through the wrong end of binoculars, or using a peephole or squinting when you look at it.
29. This tricks sometimes works to remove Heat & Bond residue from the bottom of an iron – iron over a fabric softener sheet with a hot iron. It should dissolve and remove any residue
30. To set the dye in fabric where the color seems to run – use 1/4c vinegar to 1 gallon wash water
31. Thread 2 different colors through a single needle to create your own version of 30 weight variegated thread.
32. Tie a ribbon or fabric scrap on your scissors or rotary cutter so you can easily identify yours in a class, since most of us have similar tools. Also put your name on scissors, rulers, rotary cutters and mats.
33. Bright colored Post It notes make great temporary seam guides. Use them on your machine or on rulers
34. Trouble threading a needle? Did you know most needles are stamped out so its always easier to thread from one of the sides – so try turning the needle over and see if its easier. Or try wetting the needle, not the thread.
35. Hold a white paper behind the needle so you can see better while threading
36. Use a nylon kitchen scrubby to de-fuzz your mat. It will prolong its life by removing lint stuck it cracks and help it heal.
37. If you do freezer paper applique try this: cut out your applique shape from freezer paper and iron it to the wrong side of the fabric. Cut the shape from fabric, adding your seam allowance. Then peel off the paper and reposition it but with shiny side up. Iron your seam allowance to the paper – you’ll get a nice crisp edge. Position the piece and touch with an iron to temporarily bond it to the background. Now applique and remove paper as you normally do. Note: if you have an asymmetrical design then you’ll have to recut the template as a mirror image to use with shiny side up.
38. Put some bandages or a tiny First Aid kit in your sewing kit
39. RubberMaid vertical storage bins for wrapping paper rolls make great storage bins for rolled up wall hangings
40. If you don’t like to wash small pieces of fabric by hand, try putting them in a mesh laundry bag
41. To sew plastic or leather try using a roller foot or teflon foot. Or put tissue paper over the seam line and sew through it (both sides of fabric if necessary). Then rip it off. The paper will stop your foot from sticking. Use a leather needle.
42. To relax wrinkles in a polyester bat, unfold it then briefly warm it with a hair dryer.
43. User fabric scraps and Heat & Bond to create a nice gift card to go with a quilt you are giving as a gift.
44. Make a special label by scanning in a photo of yourself with the quilt and use a computer graphics program to add your name, date, etc. Print it on your computer printer.
45. When you give a quilt as a gift, include some small scraps of all the fabrics in case it has to be repaired.
46. Also include washing and storage instructions with the quilt gift
47. Audition different quilting designs by drawing them on clear plastic tablecloth sheeting. Use a marker that can be removed. Or roughly layout different threads in the quilting pattern to check their color.
48. Keep all the threads ends and tangles you get when you wash fabrics. They make wonderful 3D bushes or flowers.
49. Keep a scrapbook with pictures of quilts, designs, floor tiles with nice designs, blocks you like. They can all be inspiration for a future project.
50. Start a Christmas project now and it might be done on time!