Monday, September 28, 2009

Making Borders

The border of a quilt often acts as a “frame” around the body. It can coordinate or contrast. There may be multiple borders. It (they) may use the same fabric(s) as the sashing, or different fabric(s). Each border may be a single fabric or it may be pieced (like the body). The border(s) may have a “square” seam or a mitered seam. When they have a square seam, the side borders are usually sewn on before the top and bottom borders.

To create the border pieces: Measure the side you are doing and add 2” or 3”. (Don’t measure the top and bottom length until you’ve added the side borders, because you have to include the width of the body plus the width of those borders!) Lay the border piece on the body piece so that the excess hangs off each end about the same length. Pin in place just as if you were pinning two smaller pieces of the body. No tugging, no stretching, no puckers. Sew and press away from the body. Then do the other side and the top and bottom the same way.

For multiple borders with square ends, do each border separately. DO NOT sew the inner and outer border strips together first. When measuring, add an inch or so on each end, and trim (square up) after sewing.

For multiple mitered borders, you can do each separately or you can sew the multiple strips together first and sew them to the body. When measuring mitered borders, measure the quilt body, then add 2 times the width of the border, then add an extra 4”. This is done for all four sides!

Using directional prints in the border(s): If the quilt body has a definite top and bottom orientation (e.g., animals arranged in rows), then the top border and the bottom border should face the same way. The side borders can face in OR can be cut lengthwise (so top to bottom as well); this may require more fabric! However, if you have designed well (or are lucky), you may have enough left over from the body and / or back to use lengthwise without having to buy more.

Re borders with corner squares: For these I do a hybrid approach: I put on the side borders as I described (cut long, sew, press, square/trim). For the top and bottom ones, I measure the width of the body, add 1/2" (for seam allowance) and cut that border piece. So let's say my border is 3" wide finished. I would cut my 4 corner squares at about 4". Sew each one to the ends of the borders. Then I can pin the borders in place and match up the side border seam with the top (bottom) border-corner seams (pressed in opposite directions of course). Sew and press AND then square and trim the excess off the corner pieces.

Look at various quilts in my quilt blog for examples of each!

Sunday, February 22, 2009

Using Templates

You can use a template when you need to cut the same shape(s) many times.

Let me qualify that: if your pattern calls for squares, rectangles, equilateral triangles (60 degree), or right triangles (45 - 90 - 45 degree), then you don't need to use a template.

But if you are cutting odd shapes (say a hexagon or isosceles triangle), then you probably do want to use one.

You can purchase templates in many sizes and shapes (for example, see: ). These templates are thick (like your cutting rulers). If you know that you will be making the same shape in more than one quilt, then these might be a good investment. These also allow you to cut several layers of fabric in one pass.

Also available is thin “cut it yourself” plastic. This may come with grid lines (to make defining the shape you want to cut easier). This product is ok, but if you are going to make your own templates, I prefer to use thin cardboard.

When I say "thin cardboard", I am talking about card stock, not the kind of cardboard you would get from a carton. For example, I use the "envelopes" that I get when I have my photos developed at Walgreen's. You can also "double" it (put two layers together) to make it a little thicker. If you do that, use double-stick tape to put 2 pieces together before you cut out the template shape.

Whether you use thin plastic or cardboard, make the template like this:
1. Draw the shape you want or use the paper template shape provided in your pattern.
2. If possible, make a photocopy!!
3. Cut out the paper template from the photocopy. Compare it to the original to make sure it is exactly the same size and shape.
4. Use double-stick tape to fix the paper template to the cardboard (or thin plastic) sheet.
5. Use your rotary cutter (you may want to use the small 18cm size) to cut out the template material.
6. Put a thin pencil line around all edges of the template to make its outline easier to see.

If you do make your own templates:
a) put double stick tape on the bottom to grip the fabric as you cut it. Add more tape as the
stickiness wears off.
b) Use your straight edge [ruler] on top of the template when you cut fabric! Use your finger to make sure that the edge of the ruler is lined up precisely with the edge of the template (not hanging over - which would make your cut fabric piece too big, and not covering the template completely - which would result in the template being trimmed!).
c) Check every so often that the template is not getting smaller! You do not want to start out making 4" octagons and end up 100 fabric pieces later with 3.5" octagons! Compare it to the original template shape. You can also check to see if the pencil outline has been cut off. If necessary, make a new template by repeating steps 2 - 6 above.

Pros and cons of purchased vs. home-made templates:
Cost $$.......................Yes..........................No
Can be reused...........Yes..................Yes, but why bother? Make a new one.
Disposable..................I doubt it................Yes
Make precise
fabric shapes.............Yes..................Yes, if you work carefully

One last point about using templates:
Often, you will need to cut fabric pieces in a certain shape and then also cut pieces in its reverse. These types of shapes might be labeled (for example) "A" and "A-R", where the "R" stands for reverse. So "A" might be a triangle with its point on the right and "A-R" might be the same shape with its point on the left.

If the pattern on your fabric is the same on both sides (as in most batiks, which are dyed), then you can cut your templates when the fabric is folded. This would give you one "A" shape and one "A-R" shape in one cut. If the pattern is NOT the same on both sides (that is, if the pattern is printed only on the top), then you can NOT double (fold) the fabric. If you do, you will have to throw out the "reversed" piece.

Of course, you can always stack your fabric (folded or unfolded as appropriate) to get multiple pieces from one cut.

Monday, February 2, 2009

Make a large quilt in sections

Rather than struggling to squeeze your queen-size or larger quilt through the small throat space of your machine as you quilt it, make your quilt in smaller sections instead! Then join them together at the end to make the full-sized quilt.

Here's how:

1. Let's say the quilt will be made in 2 sections, a top half (T) and a bottom half (B). So first, create T, including the borders (3 sides only, of course!)

2. Put a basting line of stitches (in a contrasting color) 3/8” from the bottom (raw end) of T.

3. Cut the batting and backing fabric to size (about 4" bigger all around).

4. Quilt as usual, but do not go beyond the basting line.

5. Repeat steps 1 - 4 for section B.

6. Trim extra batting and backing as usual, except on the sides to be joined.

7. Put T and B right sides together, matching the raw ends.

8. Fold back the batting and backing fabric from both T and B.

9. Pin the raw edges of T and B together.

10. Sew with a 1/4" seam, being careful not to catch any batting or backing.

11. While still right-to-right, unfold one side of the batting (NOT THE BACKING FABRIC) and, using a small scissors, trim it even with the seam line.

12. Flip the whole thing over (so the other raw edge - batt - backing side is on top.

13. Unfold the batting AND THE BACKING FABRIC and trim BOTH even with the seam line. Be careful not to cut through the quilt top!

14. Open the quilt (back side up).

15. Remove the basting thread.

16. Press the seam to the side where both the batt and backing were trimmed off.

17. Unfold the remaining loose piece of backing fabric, carefully trim to 2” or 3”, fold under the raw edge an inch or two, press, pin in place, and slip stitch to finish.

If you want to split your quilt into more than 2 sections, just expand the steps above.

Thursday, January 29, 2009

Buying Fabric On-line

Using the internet to buy fabric is a wonderful option if:
a) you don't live near a quilt store
b) your quilt store does not have exactly what you are looking for
c) you need more of a specific pattern of fabric and your quilt store has also run out!

But there are two big things to be aware of:
a) Buying on-line means that you (almost always) will pay shipping fees. So this adds to the cost of your fabric. Since these fees are often based on weight, you might want to buy additional fabric (which you will certainly use for something) and not incur any additional shipping fees.
b) The on-line pictures of the fabric swatches are not always 100% accurate! If you are buying a fabric that you know (for example, if you need more of something), then there should be no problem (other than a possible dye-lot issue). But if you are buying sight-unseen and trying to match other fabrics, what you see is not always what you get.

Sunday, January 25, 2009

How much fabric should you buy?

Always buy a little more than you need!


You don’t want to run short.

Dye lots may vary.

You may make a mistake (or even change your mind about a particular fabric once you have started and decide you want to use more than you originally planned). When this happens, it is almost 100% certain that if you go back for more they will tell you they just sold the last piece!!! The internet helps…you can often track down more, but you may have to wait several days for it to arrive and pay extra for shipping (and then there's that dye lot issue!).

And, of course, whatever you don't use in this quilt goes into your stash and becomes FREE fabric for another one down the line!

Saturday, January 24, 2009

Avoid set-in ("Y") seams

Whenever I do a tumbling blocks pattern it is ALWAYS with equilateral triangles sewn in rows.  No hexagons, no set-in ("Y") seams.  It is so much easier this way and, from a few feet away, no one can tell anyway.  
In other words, the method of construction DOES NOT have to be the same as the finished pattern itself!  
Look at this quilt. You can see from the black triangles (and the star that magically formed in the center) the size and arrangement of the triangles that make up the cubes. They are sewn in rows (left - right - left....) from top to bottom (at a 60 degree angle of course) and then the rows are joined. All straight line seams! But the finished product looks like much complex piecing was done.