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Yvonne's Top Tips

Planning

1. When you are choosing your next project and see a quilt that you like, don’t be distracted by the colours. Just take a black and white photocopy of the quilt. You will then be able to see the grey scale, which will make choosing your own fabrics much easier, as you will be able to see at a glance where the light, medium and dark fabrics are placed.

2. If you are looking for templates for simple, bold appliqué shapes, there is nowhere better to look than in a child’s colouring book.

Needles

Needles are very important tools in patchwork and quilting, usually taken for granted until the favourite hand sewing needle is lost or the machine stitching becomes uneven and you realise how long that particular needle has been in use. You should change sewing machine needles after each project or after approx. 8 hours machining time. It makes a tremendous difference to how your machine sews.

1. On a quilting needle, the eye is positioned a little further up the shank , which makes extra room for the machine to form the stitch through the thickness of the quilt sandwich.

2. Having difficulties threading your needle? Remember...embroidery needles have larger eyes and are a little longer, but are still fine enough for intricate sewing.

Rotary Cutters and Cutting

Using a rotary cut, acrylic ruler and self healing mat allows you to: make clean accurate cuts, cut several layers at a time and cut wadding and backing to tidy up the edge of a quilting project before adding the binding. It also measure you don’t have to use templates in many instances.

Always Safety First - only use your rotary cutter with the proper mat and ruler, only expose the blade when actually cutting and always put the blade cover back over the blade when you finish each cut. Always cut away from yourself. Keep your fingers and thumb away from the edge of the ruler. Don’t rush take your time, measure twice cut once. 

1. When cutting, don’t use the markings on your cutting mat to measure your fabric. For maximum accuracy, always use the markings on your ruler.

2. Make sure your rotary cutter’s blade is vertical when cutting. If it is at an angle, you risk altering the measurement of the piece, or pushing against the ruler and making it slip.

3. Spray your fabric with spray starch before cutting small squares and triangles. This will stabilize the fabric and help to make your work more accurate.

4. If you are left handed, then have the fabric on the left and your ruler on the right. If you are right handed then have the fabric on the right and the ruler on thr left.

Machining

1. Always cut and sew one quilt block before cutting everything out. Then you will know if something is not quite right before wasting all your fabric.

2. To achieve better accuracy, and to avoid it slipping, have your walking foot on your machine when attaching your binding.

3. When winding a bobbin, make sure your machine is at full speed. This will avoid a “spongy” bobbin and tension problems.

4. Love your sewing machine! Always change the needle after each project. This can avoid all manner of problems, such as missed stitches and tension issues.

Pressing

Firstly pressing is not ironing! Most projects will need to be pressed repeatedly through their production with the possible exceptions of silks and velvet pieces.

Wherever possible seams should be pressed to one side and preferably towards the darker fabric. Remember press to the dark side. 

When you are joining seams that meet, always press them in the opposite direction. This will reduce bulkiness in your work, and allow more accurate machine piecing, because they will ‘nest’ together.

Agressive use of a steam iron can stretch fabric especially along bias strips or bias edges of triangles so it is important to use a dry iron.

All the parts of the quilt, sashing, borders etc should be pressed before it is assembled and the top and backing should be pressed again before layering up for quilting.

A money saving tip is to use baking parchment instead of a Teflon sheet to keep your iron clean when bonding appliqué.

Piecing

1. When making ¼ square triangles, cut the original square 11/4” larger than the finished square. Don’t forget to starch the fabric before cutting to give it extra stability.

2. When you are cutting half square triangles, cut the square 7/8” larger than the required finished square. So for example, if you need a 6” square made up of two triangles, cut your original square at 6 7/8” and then cut it diagonally to yield two triangles.

General

1. Photocopying a copy will can result in slightly distorted images, so where possible, always photocopy from the original.

2. Before marking your quilt, always test marking pens/pencils on a scrap of the fabric used in your quilt top, to be absolutely sure that it will wash, iron or rub off.

3. Cheap thread knots, breaks and tangles all the time, and messes up the tension on your sewing machine. Why not build up a stash of good quality thread, and avoid sewing machine stresses. Also, always store your thread away from dust and high temperatures.

4. If you prick your finger when sewing and get blood on your fabric, don’t despair! Spit on it, and the enzymes in your saliva will break down the stain. Sounds gross, but it really does work!