Tips & Tricks
Patterns & Designs
Need a place to lay out your quilt blocks to see the pattern design? Save money on expensive design walls! Pick up a vinyl tablecloth (the kind with felt backing) and hang it on your wall, with the vinyl facing the wall. Your fabric squares will stick to the felt backing, giving you the perfect workspace to see your masterpiece come together!
Whenever you use a pattern for the first time, it’s a good idea to look for the website of the author and visit that website for corrections. Occasionally, an error or typo is found after patterns are printed and sold. The website will have a section that identifies what needs to be changed. The section is usually entitled “Errors and Omissions” or “Pattern Corrections”. Mark the changes right on your pattern or print them out and attach them.
When cutting width of fabric (WOF) strips – or any long and narrow pieces of fabric, press any wrinkles out before you cut the strips. It’s easier to accidentally press a curve in a narrow piece of fabric than in a full cut.
Working with small pieces? Try starch! If your pattern requires piecing of small cuts (like 1 1/2" squares) use a little spray starch on the piece after you cut it. This prevents the piece from stretching out of shape and makes the process so much easier!
Speaking of starch...if you are working on a project that requires you to cut fabric on the bias edge, starch the bias cut to minimize stretching. Not sure if you are cutting on the bias? Check out our "Anatomy of Fabric" handout at the top of this page!
To achieve an accurate ¼ inch seam, verify that the guide you use on your machine really is exactly ¼ inch. Stitch two pieces of fabric with straight edges together, using your guide. Remove the fabrics and carefully measure from the raw edges to the stitching line. Your guide may be slightly more or less than ¼ inch. If so, place small piece of painter’s tape on your machine to indicate where the true guide should be.
Stitching one thread’s width inside the ¼ inch seam allowance may be necessary to allow for the fabric lost in the fold when you press your seams. You can check this by cutting 3 or 4 strips of fabric exactly one and one half inches wide and carefully stitching them together with a ¼ inch seam allowance. Press all seams and then measure the width. If you used 3, the finished width should be exactly three and one half inches. If you used 4, the finished width should be exactly four and one half inches. Adjust your stitching guide if necessary.
Regardless of whether you press your seams open or to one side, press it flat (as it was sewn right sides together) to “set” the stitches first. Then press open or toward the darker fabric.
When adding borders, measure across the quilt in 2 or 3 places and, use those measurements to determine the average width of the quilt. Cut both the top and bottom borders the same size and ease in any excess fabric. Do the same for the lengthwise borders. This helps “square up” your finished quilt.
Just learning to quilt? Try crazy quilting! Put up some basic muslin for the foundation of the quilt. Cut the muslin into large squares - 8x8 or 9x9 for example. Sew scraps of fabric onto the square, in a random pattern. Let the fabric overlap and run off the sides ~ you can trim it when you are finished. Sew the squares together, to make a beautiful, one-of-a-kind quilt.
A fun use for leftover, coordinating fabrics is to make a wall grouping. Purchase inexpensive canvas-covered frames from a craft store and staple pieces of the fabrics over the canvas. Vary the sizes or number of frames or make them all the same size. Group them close together, in a row or column on a wall or under a window in a kid’s bedroom or even in a row over the closet. Be imaginative!