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Quilt Tips From Quilters Around The World

Machine Piecing

I use an electric personal shaver as an electric seam ripper. Just gently pull the two pieces of fabric apart so that you can see the threads, and touch the shaver to the threads. It really comes apart quickly and easily and what a time saver! - Cassie in Louisiana

When you need to rip out a seam, use your seam ripper and cut a stitch about every half inch or so. Then pull the thread from the other side, and it will pull out easily without distorting your fabric. You will have to pick out the small pieces of thread, but that's easier than trying to rip out a seam that will distort your block. - Marie in Mississippi

If you need to rip out a seam, give it a quick shot of spray starch and press it first. It's easier to rip out and helps stabilize the fabric so it doesn't distort or fray as much. - Sandra in New York

When I use a pattern that says to sew and flip corners, and trim the excess, I stitch a second line 1/2" away from the first (closer to the outside corner), then cut between the lines of stitching. This gives me a variety of HSTs (half-square triangles) in various colour combinations and sizes that can be used as filler or to make a miniature quilt.  I also use Gladware lunch containers (3 sections to it) to store these HSTs and other cut off triangles, extra squares, pieces cut slightly too small, etc. They make storage easier because they stack and you can keep different sizes separate. - Gerda in Alberta, Canada

Getting small block pieces from the cutting table to the machine can cause arrangements to be out of order sometimes. I had my husband cut a piece of paneling about 16" square. I used a thin piece of batting and put this on top of the piece of paneling. Then I covered the batting with 100% cotton about 2" bigger than the paneling. I then wrapped about 1" of fabric all the way around to the back side and hot glued it down on the back. Makes a mini design board portable. Used it when I was teaching some quilt classes so the ladies could pass it around and see how the blocks were laid out.

When I stitch "flip and sew corners" (like for a snowball block), I draw (or eyeball) my line on the diagonal of the small square, like the instructions say, but when I sew, I sew a couple of threads LESS than the line (between the line and the corner I am sewing to). When I sew ON the line, the thickness of the fabric makes my "flip and sew corner" too small. - kiskat in Texas

If you have trouble threading your sewing machine needle or any needle for that matter try this: for the sewing machine, place a small piece of white paper behind the needle with the left hand and thread with the right. For sewing needles, use any white or very light colored background. This was my Grandmother's trick and it works. - Pauline in Arizona

It's so frustrating to find your blocks are short in size. I find it worthwhile to make each part a bit larger, then square them to size after pressing. When the directions call for sewing two 2" strips together, I'll make my strips 2-"...sew the seam, press, then slice & square up. I do the same with half square triangle blocks. Make a bit bigger, then trim. - Pat in Ohio

I was at a quilt away retreat this past weekend. I looked for my wooden spool for the bigger cone type thread so I could use it on my machine. Well I could not find it so I had just emptied a small spool and so I used the button hole cutter and removed the top part of the spool and put it on the machine spool holder then slipped my larger thread over it. It worked great!!! - Pat in Ohio

If you are sewing mini pieces together - in the instances where instead of sewing triangles, you sew a square or rectangle and trim. Do the small pieces tend to loose their shape or warp with the bias when you press them? Try trimming off only one layer of your square or rectangle next time. Leaving one layer to back your small piece stabilizes it and holds the bias. Well worth the little extra thickness. - Vella in Canada

When ripping out a seam, cut every second or third stitch, turn over and pull out the seam. - Connie in Colorado

If your quilt blocks always come out a smidgeon too small, and you have an incremental needle setting, set it to the right one notch. - Elaine in Nebraska

Cut a small piece of fabric about one inch wide and two inches long and pass it under your needle when you are finished sewing. When you are doing lots of sewing or strip piecing it keeps you from having to cut the thread each time and saves thread. - Muriel in Connecticut

I label my quilt blocks the same way the cells in spreadsheets are labeled in the computer (ie. Excel). The columns going across are letters and the rows going down are numbers. The top left hand block is A1, then the ones below it are A2,A3, and so on. The second block from the left, next to A1 is B1 and the third from the left is C1. If I ever am confused, I can pull up a blank spreadsheet on the computer and see which is which. - Lisa in California

When in need of a quilting stiletto, use a wooden skewer (used for grilling meats and veggies on grill) Works great in a pinch, holding down the corners of fabric as you sew the seams together so they don't slip." - Bambi in Ontario

As I take my rows of quilt squares off the design wall, I pin a sticky note on each row, with the row number and an arrow for the direction to press the row. I put the note so it shows at the top, so I know when I finish a row as I sew them. - Margaret in Indiana

When stacking my blocks to sew in rows, I pin together with one pin for the first row, two pins for the second row, three for the third, and so on. - Sue in Nebraska

Making flying geese stable -no more stretched out corners! I know that this sounds different but - when you place your square in the corner of the rectangle -make sure that the crosswise grain edge - "stretchy" edge is to the TOP of the square - then after you sew and flip up the triangle - you will have a lengthwise "non-stretchy" edge going all of the way across the top of your flying geese - makes it MUCH MORE stable to have the whole top edge of the flying geese "Non-stretchy". Also - try to make sure that your squares are REALLY squared off - helps to keep those little pieces from fraying away. - Dollie in Idaho

I have been using the large spools of serger thread on my sewing machine but it was flopping around so much - I have learned that by putting the spool in a mug that it works wonderfully!! - Nancy in Missouri

When making quick triangle corners (such as in making a snowball block) I use glue-stick SPARINGLY to hold the corner blocks in place. I then sew and trim as usual. - Cindy in California

If you have lost your stiletto at a class or even at home, I have a tip for one that you won't mind losing. Take a chop stick, sharpen it with a pencil sharpener then blunt the end slightly with an emery board and there you have it, instant stiletto. They are free if you eat Chinese or if not, you can usually get one at the supermarket if they sell sushi. Another advantage is that if you get too close to the needle with the wood, it's easier on the needle. - Carole in New Jersey

If you find it hard to thread the needle in your machine, put a finger behind the eye. The flesh colour will show behind and make it easier to see where to thread. - Cecile in Ontario

I keep a bamboo skewer handy near my sewing machine. It makes a great stiletto for holding the fabric as it gets near the needle and saving my fingers. - Judy in Minnesota

Use your walking foot when sewing flannel to reduce stretching. - Renee in North Carolina

I use light gray thread for just about all my quilting and blends in with all fabric, to make things easy I pre-wind about 20 bobbins at a time so when I run out all I have to do is pop in another. This saves lots of time. - Kimberly in New York

I had trouble with my sewing machine always moving on my kitchen table.  I bought some rubberized kitchen liners, cut a piece for under my machine and pedal.  Works like a charm.... Barbara in Dorval, Quebec, Canada

When ending any machine sewing I'll sew onto a small scrap of fabric (as if I were chain piecing) and leave it there...snipping the threads behind it to retrieve whatever I sewing. When I'm ready to sew the next block, I'll just pull this scrap slightly to the back out of the way of the needle and begin sewing. This prevents what could be a 'bunched up mess" with the bobbin thread that I've experienced numerous times before at the beginning of sewing. This method also saves wasting thread.  - Opal

I use 2 rubber wedge shaped doorstoppers behind my sewing machine to tilt it forward,so much easier to sew and see where you are sewing. - Earnestine in Auckland, New Zealand

Sit directly in front of your line of sewing when sewing by machine. It will help to make your seams straight as an arrow. If you sit even a bit to one side or another, your line of stitching will go just that little bit with you.  ~Rae Cooper, Arizona

I purchased a telescoping magnet at the hardware <available also with car parts> store for about $3-4. I keep it in a drawer by the sewing machine and use it to pick up pins, scissors, etc. that fall when I'm sewing. Otherwise I either have to get up in the middle of my sewing, or I wait to get it when I get up later, and usually forget! - Deborah in California

I had trouble wih my sewing machine always moving on my kitchen table.  I bought some rubberized kitchen liners, cut a piece for under my machine and pedal.  Works like a charm.... - Barbara in Quebec

The perfect companion beside your sewing machine is a pair of tweezers.  When you just get a fraction of the thread through the needle, grab it with the tweezers and pull it through.  Also useful for pulling out the little bits of paper in the seams when paper-piecing. - Anne in Ontario, Canada

If you use a carpet underlay cut to fit under your portable machine, it will keep steady. It works very well. - Muriel in Oakville, ON

When my quilt becomes too large to handle, I set up a card table beside my sewing machine table to support the weight of it while I'm sewing borders. - Zan in Sioux Falls

A fabric eraser is ideal for removing those annoying bits of thread left after you have been "un-sewing" - just run the eraser over the seam and the thread comes right out. - Anne in Ontario, Canada

Do your fabric pieces slip while you are sewing them together? If you press those pieces with an iron (just press by holding the iron on the pieces, then lifting off), the heat will set them together for you. They won't slip as easily and you won't need pins or as many pins which can distort your seam line! - Rae in Arizona

When sewing, slip an old tricot/nylon nightgown on over your clothes.  Threads won't stick to your clothing and they will just slide right off.  You may look funny, but it works. In case the doorbell rings, don't forget to take the nightgown off! - Linda in Utah

Easy to accurately attach triangle units.  Fold the triangle unit in half, pinch crease to mark the centre.  Do the same to the section you want to attach it to.  Simply pin the centre points and sew.  - Vella in British Columbia

I have a towel bar set up beside my sewing machine.  I hang my cut strips over it so they don't wrinkle and they are handy to pull off one at a time!  I sometimes use it for trims too if I am using them. - Marilyn in Ashcroft, B.C.

Spray starch your blocks before sewing together and they won't slip.  - Jessie in Massachusetts

When I am "unsewing" seams, whether in borders or the quilt blocks themselves, I keep a lint roller next to me.  That way, when I am done, I can just run it across my project and remove all the stitches.  This works well with when using a seam ripper or single edge razor blade. - Susan in Michigan

Use two of those brown rubber door-stops to wedge underneath the back,bottom of your sewing machine. They will give it a comfortable tilt for long periods of sewing.  - Carolyn in Texas

I keep a roll of wide masking tape near my machine. It is great for picking up small pieces of thread specially when I have ripped out a seam. I also use it to hold down backing when I layer my quilt. - Mary in New Jersey

This is from a friend of mine. She suggested that you keep a supply of half-square triangles by your sewing machine and use them instead of scraps of fabric when you are starting or ending your sewing. No unsightly threads all over and you have alot of half-square triangles to make a quilt with. - Donna in Oregon

Quilt Tip Categories:

Applique  |  Basting  |  Batting  |  Binding  |  Design  |  Fabric  |  Hand Piecing  |  Hand Quilting  |  Healthy Tips  |  Pressing  |  Machine Piecing  |  Machine Quilting  |  Marking Tips  |  Miscellaneous Tips  |  Needles  |  Organization  |  Paper-Piecing  |  Quilt Care  |  Quilt Labels  |

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