Category Archives: Quilting Tips

Secrets/Tips – Fabric Selection & Design 2

Continuing on with Fabric Selection and Design tips.  Some things, I’m not sure what category they belong in, so I just slap it in someplace. Just an FYI.

4.  Had a quilt or fabric drag on the floor and get dusty – Yes, no matter how hard you try to keep things pristine, this seems to happen to any quilt larger than a throw while you are ironing, sewing or quilting.  This is one reason why I like my tile floor, sweep before the big projects, and always wash my finished project before giving it to the receiver.

5.  Bought fabric you really didn’t “need” or have a specific purpose for – I know, you’ve all heard of a quilter’s “stash” – where do you think this name comes from?  Sometimes, you just like that little fat quarter and want to own it, even though you have NO ideas for it and NOTHING else it would go with.  I got a lot of fabric from Mom’s stash, so I’m not as guilty of this as some, perhaps.  I also have a general rule to make all efforts to use something in my stash before going out to buy things.  However, I will say, I do own a few fat quarters that I just “liked”.  Multiply that times a few years or decades, I can see how these things can grow!

6.  Don’t think you have enough fabric  in your “stash”.  I know this seems counter-intuitive to the above #5 – but think about, it really isn’t!

7.  Have so many ideas for projects you want to do, you are not sure you can get them all done in your lifetime.  How many quilt book pages do you have tabbed or earmarked?  How many quilt magazines do you subscribe to?  How many ideas of your own do you have that you just can’t seem to get around to or find out they are more complex than you thought?    I’ve come to realize, quilting is really a creative endeavor, so, yes, you are most likely going to have more ideas than you can finish!  I’m sure when you consider other famous artists, famous or not, they did, too.

That’s all for today.  Let me know of your tips/secrets.  Stay tuned for Fabric Selection and Design 3.  Perhaps I’ll make that post longer.


Secrets/Tips – Fabric Selection & Design 1

I have, and perhaps every quilter has, made these mistakes.  Let’s take them one at a time, perhaps in more than one post, and focus on the solutions, rather than the problems.

1.  Made a mistake in calculations for size of borders, sashing, or even finished size.

  •  What is there to say for this error except, measure and calculate two or three times before cutting, and it’s always better to buy a bit more fabric than you think you will need than less.
  • We all have done this at one time or another, so don’t beat yourself up because you miscalculated.  Figure out a way to add to your fabric, substitute another fabric, or reduce the size of your quilt – and move on.  Bottom line, no one will notice, most likely.

2.  Not pre-washed fabric and had a bleedover to a lighter color – do color catchers really work?

  • I pre-washed a fabric 7 times, and it still bled over onto the white backing fabric.  Is this common or usual?  Probably not.  Some recommend not pre-washing and using color catchers.  Do they work?  I don’t know, I have never tried them.    Still, as a general rule, I pre-wash all fabrics until the water, if the fabric is bleeding color, runs mostly or completely clear.  It’s a pain, added work, but, do you really want your quilt, well, not ruined, but definitely not optimum?

3.  Had to use a calculator to figure block size, binding or finished quilt size.

  • I know this seems lame.  We can all add inches and feet, right?  But, seriously, I just don’t trust my brain power sometimes, so, yes, I use a calculator.  And most times, I make my calculations two or three times, to be sure.  It’s okay.  It’s a tool.  That’s what it was meant to be used for.  Don’t feel bad that you need a tool to help you be accurate!

That’s all for now. Stay tuned for Fabric Selection and Design  2  soon.

Quilter’s Dirty Little Secrets

Even though the final product may be beautiful and appear flawless, every quilter knows, mistakes were made in the process of piecing or quilting this wall hanging, table runner, throw, pillow, potholder, or queen-sized quilt.

Many people look at my quilting pictures on Facebook, receive as a gift (or pay), the finished product, and the oohs and ahhs abound as well as “that’s so beautiful” “creative” “awesome”… or just “wow”.

Even though I feel the perfection of a quilted object lies in the finished product, secretly, I know, the process was anything but perfect.

So, I haven’t decided, but a lady at the local sewing/quilting shop suggested posting one “secret” at a time.    I think that might not be sufficient for the task, but wonder if all these things can be broken up into categories.

I have never really thought about these “secrets” (read: tips) before, as such, to this extent – until I started sewing and quilting the Grandmother’s Fan quilt and the Christmas throw recently completed (in December.)

It was kind of funny, as I was piecing, sewing, ironing, quilting these two objects, that I made those “errors” that prompted me to visit the notion of making a blog post listing these blunder items.

A few weeks ago, as I finished the Christmas throw and completed the Grandmother’s Fan quilt, I thought about these things, and jotted them down as they came up in the process of completing these projects.

Then, because I was in the process of cataloging my, um, mistakes – I was even more aware of every little thing I did, not to mention remembering every other little blunder, uh, minor error, I had made in the past 2.5 years or so.

I’ve given this a bit of thought since I wrote this whole piece, except for this paragraph, and I’m going to try to take on one, secret (tip) at a time.

I’ve been gone missing for a couple months, so please cut me some slack in my writing and cohesivness.

Stay tuned for the next post which will start my series of Quilter’s Dirty Little Secrets (tips).  Again, please grant me some leniency in changing this up as necessary to keep it interesting.



Happy New Year

I’ve missed the blogging world, for some time now.  I have/had an idea for a series of posts, and even though  I have worked on it quite a few times, December was a very busy month, and January and February promise to be, too.

I do want to kick it up a notch or two, this year, so I best get started.

In the next couple weeks, I’ll be working on my series of posts called Quilter’s Dirty Little Secrets.  Actually, I thought of another name somewhere in the middle of December; however, I didn’t write it down and can’t remember it because – well, if I detail my projects in December, you’ll understand.

So, Happy New  Year 2015 – Let’s do this!

P.S., I’m also still looking for a job, preferably my dream job!


Color Theory

I watched  a block of the month class on Craftsy about Color Theory.  I thought I was really bad at blending colors, but I found out I knew more than I thought

What I learned about color:

1.  Even if it’s a print, a fabric will “read” a certain color.  Usually, it’s the background, but if you have say a navy print, with red and gold stars, the fabric will most likely still “read” as a navy.  Also, white stars or dots may have the fabric “read” lighter than it actually is.  Also, saturation of the print can change the “read” of a fabric.

2.  Analogous colors are groups of colors that are adjacent to each other on the color wheel, with one being the dominant color, which tends to be a primary or secondary color, and two on either side complementing, which tend to be tertiary.

3. Complementary colors are opposite each other on the color wheel, and usually go well together, i.e., red and green, purple and yellow (or gold), and blue and orange.  There are others, obviously, but I’m not going to name them all here.  This I also actually knew, maybe from middle school art class? Gee, Mr. Brown, I may have actually remembered something! (Yes, my art teacher’s name was really Mr. Brown!)

4.  I need to print or make my own color wheel from fabrics.  I think this will help me with color choices for quilts.  Then again, maybe it won’t because I actually am better at color theory than I thought.

That’s about it for what I learned on color theory (click here for a Wikibooks explanation).  Actually, there may be more, but I can’t remember it right now.  Take the Craftsy Block of the Month 2014 (it’s free), and maybe you’ll learn something.   I’ll probably watch the class again, even though the quilt they made was  C R A Z Y !!!

Quiltin Tips

I have been watching Craftsy free classes lately.  I watched a beginning quilting class even though I am fairly seasoned by now, I never assume I know everything or even just “a better way” to do things.

This class was broken up into segments for a total of at least two hours.  I wished I would have watched this class two years ago before I started quilting, but I can still outline some of the things I learned that I may try.

1.  Join sashing and borders as you do binding, diagonally – reason: the basic idea is that the seams blend in better.  I think this would work better with prints, but I’ll try this on my next project, but probably won’t do it with solids.

2. Never cut thread longer than tip of finger to elbow for hand sewing – reason, the thread tends to tangle less and is easier to handle.  Now, if you are doubling your thread, you would make two such lengths.  I tried this with the binding on a baby blanket a couple days ago, although I did go a bit longer than finger tip to elbow, probably 18″, but I have to say my thread did tangle less.  So, I’ll probably be doing this more often.

3.  Use spray basting for smaller projects – reason: it really works well for basting, and it doesn’t work for larger quilts.  I wish I had known this a couple years ago, because I tried it for a big quilt, and well, I got fold overs on the back.  Since, I have used it for smaller projects, but it is expensive, and so for really any size projects, safety pins are still fine.  I do prefer the quilter’s curved safety pins in the size 2.  Size 1 is too small, maybe good for potholders and smaller projects.  Size 3 are too big.   I’ve also found that contrary to my belief, regular safety pins work about the same as the curved ones.  I love the Sewology pins at Hobby Lobby, and Dritz are okay, but I didn’t much care for the Singer curved pins someone bought for me.

4.  For basting a big quilt in sections, like on your dining room table (which I do), place down backing first, wrong side up, and use binder clips to secure to sides, manipulating fabric to be taut, but not too tight, but not wrinkled.  Then add batting, smooth out with hands, reset clips.  Then add the top, smooth out, reset clips. Reason: it works better than the floor, and you get a much better finished project.  Now, I use these clamps I got for my husband for some woodworking project, or something, that he never used, and I find they work great – because I can’t get binder clips around the edges of my kitchen table (too thick).  I wish they were all the same size, and I can’t use the really small ones on my table, but otherwise, they work great for basting.

5.  You can hand quilt with or without a frame.  Sometimes, you just want the look of hand quilting, and darn if I haven’t mastered it, or even got it down to the point of saying I could do anything, even a potholder, with it.  The lady said you have to try something 8 times before you have really given it a true test.  I don’t think that applies to EVERYTHING, but maybe my 3 or 4 attempts at hand quilting weren’t quite enough.  I’d still like to learn this art, even if it’s dying out.  Maybe I won’t use it often, but if I CAN do it, without a frame, I’d like to figure that out.  I’m going to try this again soon – at least 8 times!

6.  Pin those joining seams from the bottom on both sides of the seam – so you don’t have to remove the pins.  Now, I wasn’t good at meeting those seams, then I figured out pins are actually necessary when trying to match row seams.  And, I was always a person who pinned along the seam line, until I figured out for quilting, you should do it from the top.  However, you have to remove the pins before you stitch the seam, even if one stitch before, because you don’t want to stitch over your pins (needle breakage and messing up your machine is possible).  This lady pinned from the bottom – thereby not having to remove the pins, they weren’t in the seam line.  I don’t know if it works better, but I’m going to try it next time and see how it works out.  BTW, I finally figured out a way to put in one pin at a diagonal, and my seams always seem to join up right. I’ll have to show that to you if this bottom pinning doesn’t work out well.

7.  For quilts where joining rows and seams doesn’t matter as much, or if you have a lot of seams and want the quilt to lie flatter – and don’t plan to stitch in the ditch, iron your seams open.    We do this on binding so there isn’t as much bulk, and I must admit I’ve done it sometimes on quilts I knew I was going to totally free motion to reduce bulk at the seams.  Now, they did this even when joining rows and such, which I find ironing to one side works better, but I have to admit, I haven’t tried it so much for joining (maybe I will).  Also, I wonder if you might actually be able to stitch in the ditch better?

So, that’s what I learned new or different so far.  Do you have any tips that you don’t see mentioned often that work well for you?

Next time, I’m going to mention a couple things I learned about color theory.

Diaper Changing Pads


So, yesterday, or was it Friday night, after viewing my daughter’s photo stream clearly showing that the baby, my first granddaughter, had dropped, I decided it was time to make some diaper changing pads.  I did a FaceTime with her yesterday, and saw my very verbal grandson also.  She told me she had gotten the changing pads I made 2 years ago out of storage, in expectation of the new arrival, sometime in the next two weeks.

Mr. Man has completely outgrown the changing table attached to the crib. So, this time, I decided to make some whole cloth diaper changing pads with more of a pink, girly theme, although I am becoming more and more uni-sex thinking.  I went through my “stash” and found an old pink and white striped sheet, a couple pieces of floral material, a pink gingham floral, and a couple pieces I had bought for random reasons.  I cut them to sizes approximately 15 1/2″ x 24, some more like 18″ x 26, some less or more.

Yesterday, I matched up backs and fronts.  I had to cut from my new batting roll that I bought for a friend, but she wasn’t  using, my second now.  After matching up backs and fronts and placing batting accordingly, I started free-motion quilting different designs.  First a straight stipple, then one with stars, one with hearts, one with spirals, a Super-Daisy, and one with a grid pattern with the walking foot.

All the binding is from previous projects, totally scrappy, some just meshed well with each pattern or design.

I told my daughter I was sending them all and she could pick and choose which she wanted to keep and use.  Then, maybe, I’ll have some to add to my “stash” of things “laying around“.

Q-Tip #?  You can make extra things to have “laying around” or “sitting around” in case someone wants to pay you money to buy these things.

Don’t cross the streams

From the Top

Today, write about any topic you feel like — but you must reuse your opening line (at least) two more times in the course of your post.

“Don’t cross the streams!”

Remember that line from Ghostbusters?

Ghostbusters (1984) Poster

Ghostbusters (1984)


Dr. Egon Spengler: There’s something very important I forgot to tell you.

Dr. Peter Venkman: What?

Dr. Egon Spengler: Don’t cross the streams.

Dr. Peter Venkman: Why?

Dr. Egon Spengler: It would be bad.

Dr. Peter Venkman: I’m fuzzy on the whole good/bad thing. What do you mean, “bad”?

Dr. Egon Spengler: Try to imagine all life as you know it stopping instantaneously and every molecule in your body exploding at the speed of light.

Dr Ray Stantz: Total protonic reversal.

Dr. Peter Venkman: Right. That’s bad. Okay. All right. Important safety tip. Thanks, Egon.

So, I’m quilting along today, doing little quilt sandwiches which will be diaper changing pads, and I come to a point where I have no choice but to go back over an area which I already quilted.  This, in the quilting world, is “bad”.  No, maybe it’s not “Total Protonic Reversal”, but there seems to be something “bad” about crossing your meandering lines.

I came to the point and said “Oh darn, I’m crossing my meander line!”  I hope I don’t disintegrate!  Well, I didn’t, so I figured, it’s probably not that big of a deal.  After all, I’m still here.  My changing pad didn’t dissolve before my eyes, and when I looked at the finished product, I figured, “no one will probably ever notice!”

So, fellow free-motion quilters, don’t sweat it!  “Don’t cross the streams”  or in this case, your free-motion meander line, “life as you know it stopping instantaneously and every molecule in your body exploding at the speed of light” will not actually happen, and probably, no one will ever notice that you did this on your place mat, baby quilt, full size or queen size quilt.  Seriously, don’t sweat this, it’s not that “bad”.

Q-Tip # I forgot – It’s okay to cross the streams, or meander lines.



The Serial Killer – Finding something

On day four, you wrote a post about losing something. Today, write about finding something. Today’s twist: if you wrote day four’s post as the first in a series, use this one as the second installment — loosely defined.

So, I went to my local computer deli, yeah, that’s what they called it, and bought a used USB keyboard for $10.  Now that I was getting into the writing habit, it was kind of hard NOT writing.  I tried it on the iPad, but I’m not into onscreen keyboards.   I learned how to type on a typewriter. As an added benefit, for you, the reader, however, because I’m now behind, I’ll be focusing on brevity, too.

So, let’s see if I can get some posts up.

On day four, I wrote about losing a quilt.  I suppose I could write about finding a quilt.  I have written a lot about things, sort of,  I “found” while cleaning dad’s house.  I was thinking about profiling by post each of my quilts. Here we go.

Dad’s quilt – While dad and I were cleaning my old room, back in 2008 after Mom died, I found something.  I was standing by an old desk, him on a kitchen chair tearing covers off magazines and telling me what to keep and what to throw out when I asked him. I found a gift box, picked it up, opened it, and peeled back the aged tissue paper.  Inside were 12 embroidered leaf blocks, 18″ size, all done in a variegated green.   I exclaimed, “Look at this!”

Dad said, “Oh, my, I wonder when she did those, I don’t remember those.”

I took them out of the box and laid them on the cluttered desk, and turned them over to see how well stitched they were, because my mom was a tidy stitcher, and I saw dates written in the seam allowances on the side of each block.  They all had a date of start and finish.

I said, “Well, it looks like she did most of them in 1966 and finished them up in 1972.  I don’t remember them either.”

But, there they were, all done, a couple had spots on them.  I don’t know how old material seems to pick up those dime size yellow or brownish stains, but they almost never come out.  One of them had what looked like a rust stain, a small arc – now who would sit a can on top of a quilt block?

Dad said, “Well, that would still make a pretty quilt.”

I lost my mind and blurted out, “Yeah, you want me to make that into a quilt top for you?”

Of course, he said yes.  And, most of the rest of the story , I have told previously.  We went to the quilt shop next time I was in town, and bought material for borders, sashing and backing.   Since I was new to this, we had the ladies at the quilt shop help us with the selection.  I came home and drew out a couple designs.  Played with it a little more, found out I didn’t have enough of one kind of material, went and bought some more fabric, and then set it aside for 4 years.

That’s when I went and got all Mom’s material, sewing and quilting stuff, bins and bins of it, brought it home, went through it all, got rid of a lot of it, and decided to finish some of Mom’s projects.  My daughter’s t-shirt quilt was first, mine second, in order of being promised.  Actually, I did mine first because I was determined that it finally be finished and I wanted Dad’s quilt to be nicer.  I needed at least one free-motion quilt under my belt before attempting his.  I figured after a couple laps blankets and my quilt, my experience would be much greater and his product would be better quality stitching.

Hindsight is 20/20 so they say.  I look at it now and I know I would do it differently, but I did get it done and presented it to him in August 2012 so he would have it for the winter.

I know now, I would have used a small colored border before the white border, but for my second quilt, it’s not too shabby – or wait, isn’t that a thing now, “shabby chic”?

I would quilt it a bit differently now, too, but again, these blocks that waited 40 years to be put into a quilt are now being displayed as they should be. I’m quite sure, regrettably, that Mom would have made a much nicer looking quilt than I did.

Q-Tip # 18 – When thinking, “I should have done this instead” looking at a finished project, don’t be too hard on yourself.  Most people, except quilters and artists, probably won’t notice.


Too much tension

And now back to our regularly scheduled program – quilting!


I’m not talking about the kind of tension you get when you are sitting in the dentist chair awaiting that root canal, or the kind of tension needed on a yo-yo string to make it walk the dog .

I’m talking about sewing machine tension – top and bottom, or, for those of us in the know, bobbin.

We have all, most likely, had problems with this, at one time or another.  If the top tension is too tight, the bottom thread comes to the top.  If the bobbin is too tight, it draws the top thread down.  Either way, your stitches aren’t meeting in the middle of your quilt sandwich and don’t have that bumpy feel to them on one side because it’s just a straight line of thread!

Having a Brother PQ1500 hasn’t saved me from this.  On the contrary – trigger warning – you may experience moments of deja’ knew (I had that happen to me once or more!).

Whether free-motion quilting or sewing seams, occasionally, something goes wonky.  Usually, for me anyway, it was a line of thread on the bottom, meaning, the bobbin tension was too tight or the top tension wasn’t tight enough.  But, since my top was set at 3.5-4, I figured that wasn’t the problem, was it?  I had heard once that when it comes to sewing machine tension settings, you want the least amount needed to get the job done.

So, the theory is, if you have the straight line on the bottom, tighten your top tension or loosen the bobbin tension.  And vice versa, if you have the straight line on top, loosen your top tension dial OR, heaven forbid, tighten your bobbin tension.

Rule of thumb, typically, what I found in numerous internet searches – DON’T MESS WITH THE BOBBIN TENSION!  Adjust the top tension accordingly.

I know, this is confusing isn’t it! Not if you sew or quilt, though! You know, YOU KNOW what I’m talking about!

Oh, and I forgot to mention the other thing that can happen – your thread breaks, often.  Wait, what?  Yes, you know, you are quilting along, free motioning all over the place, and you hear a funny sound on your machine and thwack! Your thread not only breaks, but kind of shreds.  The only thing to do is hit that cut thread button which is supposed to mean you are done, and figure out what the heck just happened.  Maybe the bobbin was wound too tight – take a few yards off the bobbin to get back to normal.  Maybe a loose piece of fuzz got caught in the bobbin – clean bobbin area with brush and brush and brush, oops, there was a tiny piece of lint!  That must be it.  Maybe the top thread got caught on something, is near the end, or horror of all horrors, somehow it got out of one of the guides! Fix it, all good now, right?

Do dah do dah day, everything goes along swimingly, and thwack! It happens again. Sh**!

Well, darn, you’ve done everything else, the tension looks fine, so, now it’s time to change the needle. Yadda yadda yadda, done,… so…

Do dah, do dah, day,  THWACK!  AGAIN?  WTF!  Now, what could it possibly be? Mustn’t like this thread, no wait, I quilted a whole frigging king sized thing with this same thread – frigging, uh? Now what?

Clean everything once again, oil the machine profusely in all spaces, especially the bobbin hook, put in a newly wound bobbin, re-thread the top, bigger needle.

Do dah, do dah, day –  THWACK!   Aaaaagggghhh!  Must be too humid today, or this fabric is too thick, or I shouldn’t have tried this new batting!

OR, I’m going to let you in on a little secret.   Shhhhhh!

But, really, don’t keep it a secret- spread the joy, spread the news!  The wicked old witch at last is dead!

Long, long awaited, but you want to know, don’t you?   What, what do I do?

Frigging loosen the bobbin tension.  Yes, take your little screwdriver that came with the machine, and take that bobbin casing out, and turn that screw, not just a little tiny 1/16 of a turn, but try this – 1/8th or 1/6th or even, saints be with you 1/4th of a turn.

I know, I know what you are saying – but that’s wrong, it will cause me all sorts of problems.

Yes, if you hold the thread from the bobbin in your hand, in the bobbin casing, and let the casing fall, it’s supposed to drop a wee little bit without the bobbin falling out.

Well, I thought so, too, until I watched a YouTube video where they were setting the tension on a long-arm, yeah, I know, a long arm isn’t the same, but, instead of letting the bobbin fall just a bit, it fell smoothly, like a spider spinning a web. No problem, no bouncing, no jerking, just dropped right into her hand, slowly, and I was like “WTF? That’s not what I heard was right.”

Another way you can do this is to lay the bobbin case with bobbin inside in your hand, either way, up or down, lift the thread, and the bobbin casing should first upright itself, and then the thread as you pull gently and smoothly, should just come right out. If the bobbin casing lifts off your hand, the tension is too tight. If it doesn’t upright itself, it’s too loose. Watch this video to see what I mean.

Well, I said, why not? Friggin A.  It was like a miracle! All this time, I had been NOT touching the bobbin tension, and sometimes, things were fine, and sometimes, they weren’t.

Now, I can use whatever thread I want, don’t have to change my needle mid-quilt, loosened my top tension quite a bit, and guess what?  Thread breakage – not so much anymore.  Wow! Thank you YouTube.  Thank you, thank you, thank you, etcetera, etcetera, etcetera said the King of Siam. Yay me!

So, there it is, too much tension.  Try it. I found what works for me.  Let me know if it works for you.

Q-Tip #17 – Bobbin tension, don’t be too afraid to mess with it.

Adding the Daily Prompt, as this was a “favorite mistake” that was life-changing when I fixed it! I already thought of this one before the prompt, too – spooky!