Imagine relaxing in a log cabin listening to a crackling fireplace, covered by a patchwork quilt that you recently made yourself. Fantastic! Indeed, quilt making is a very rewarding art project and it makes for a very precious gift for your friends and family too. In a recent article, we also described the Many Amazing Benefits of Quilting for your health and mental well-being.
From the careful choice and preparation of fabrics to the placement of the last stitch, quilt makers give a lot of love and attention to details. As such, some home-made quilts are passed on from one generation to another and are highly cherished as family heirlooms.
Making your own quilt is a time consuming process but the result is almost always worth all your efforts. We've had a lot of readers express interest in learning how to quilt so to make it a bit easier, here are some quilting hacks and tips that every quilt maker should learn.
Choosing Your Fabrics and Colors for Quilting
Let’s say you have already decided on the pattern for your quilt. The next step is to choose your fabric and if you have problems matching the colors of your quilting fabrics, you can buy one fabric first and use the color code that comes with it in buying the other matching fabrics.
Most fabric manufacturers indicate a pattern match for their product by printing a color code on the selvage edge of their fabric. These codes appear as colourful dots which you can cut off and take with you when you buy the rest of your fabric needs. If selvage color codes are a mystery to you, stay tuned as we have an article on the topic coming soon.
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Also, make it a habit to always buy a little more fabric than you are going to use. In this way, you will not have the problem of running short of materials. You can always make a rag quilt with all the scraps from your quilts later. Or just keep it in your ever-growing stash like I do..
Experienced quilt makers use all scraps of fabrics that they can find in their sewing rooms, so don’t throw those strong selvage strips. You can use them to tie your coordinated quilting quarters to keep your matching colors together. This is because the selvage edge of your fabric is woven tightly and as such, they don’t stretch like your actual fabric and are excellent materials for tying your fabric pieces together.
Storing and Organizing Your Fabrics
As mentioned above, most quilters end up with pretty sizable fabric stashes. We've already written a lot about a Neat way to fold and organise fabric as as well as Organising your stash, how to keep it neat, so we'll just link to those articles and strongly recommend that you check them both out.
Organizing Your Bias Bindings
One of the most troublesome to organize when quilting is when you accumulate hundreds of inches of bias binding. You can manage your bias bindings better by wrapping them around an empty paper towel tube. You can then secure one end with a piece of masking tape and make sure to slightly overlap each wrap until all your materials have been looped around the tube. If you are planning to use the binding immediately, there is no need to be very particular with this wrapping procedure however, it is always better to make enough bindings for your project. Make sure to store your bias binding on top before you call it a day so that when you continue quilting later, you do not have to look for the pieces of fabric that you need.
Also, don’t throw drop-off bias strips out because you can use them for your other small quilting projects. Instead, save all your excess pieces measuring a minimum of 12-inches. They are especially useful as Celtic appliques, applique of stems on flowers and for stained glass quilts. You can also sew them together and use as binding for a scrappy quilt or a wall hanging.
Maximize your storage space by stacking all short or fall off lengths of bias bindings together in a shallow drawer or a paper box lid. There is nothing more frustrating than looking for a small strip of cloth that you are sure you have somewhere in your sewing room!
The Importance of Quilting Rulers and Rotary Cutters
When cutting your quilting pieces, use your ruler in combination with your rotary cutter effectively by positioning the lip side down securely against one edge of your template for precision. Some rulers also allow you to trim excess fabrics by providing a straight line for the placement of your next quilting fabric piece. Make sure to read the instructions that come with your quilting rulers to make your quilting easier.
Put Labels On Your Pincushions
Experienced quilt makers know that keeping quilting needles organized, sharp and straight can be frustrating tasks. Remember that most sewing machine needles only have a sewing life of about six hours and dull needles can cause skipped stitches while bent needles can damage your bobbin case.
So never put a slightly used quilting needle back in its original case since you will have problems to determine which one is slightly used and which one is brand new later on. When you change a needle, stick the slightly used needle in pre-marked pincushions to help you identify the sizes and point types of your slightly used needle. The rule of thumb is if you are in doubt about your quilting needles, simply dispose of them. This will certainly save you some time and frustration. So make a practice of putting labels on your pincushions.
Batting, Padding or Wadding Your Quilt
This is the middle component of the quilt sandwich and you will have to carefully choose its thickness, texture and composition. Cotton batting is ideal for small quilts and for beginner quilt makers. Aside from being easy to work with, it is also easier to achieve that even look with this natural fabric.
Lightweight and not very expensive, polyester battings pack extremely well and will add that desired swelling to your quilt. It just has the tendency to work its way out through the weave of your fabric.
Wool batting is ideal if you are making a quilt for use in a cool and damp weather. It provides warmth and absorbs moisture easily. Just be careful when you wash your wool quilt as it warps easily so be careful to read instructions when you buy your wool.
It is also helpful to take note that a thin light weight batting is best for beginners because it is easier to sew. Try to make small and even stitches over the whole quilt so your needle and thread only have to go through a thin batting piece. And if you want a thicker batting and are making a quilt for your bed, it will be a lot easier if your batting is tied and not quilted.
So, if you are a beginner quilt maker, I hope these quilting hacks and tips will help you discover the joys of quilt making. If you're an experienced quilter and have any additional quilting tips to share, please leave a comment in the notes below.