Archive for May, 2010

Our quilt group met today with completed quilts in hand.  A few members haven’t quite finished their binding, but the end is in sight.  On Sunday, the members of our church will have opportunity to enjoy all the beauty of our first set of baby quilts, which will be donated to the local crisis pregnancy center.

There’s so much excitement being exuded by the new quilters in our group.  They love the learning process, which means they will advance quickly.  Additionally, there is a special joy involved in making quilts for new moms-to-be who will receive them during a difficult time in their lives.  Our prayers attend each little quilt.

Judy, Sandy, Teresa Work on Displaying the Labels

Janice, Sandy, Shirley

Abagail and Nancy's Quilts

Judy with Her Quilt (Teresa's Quilt on the Right)

Teresa and Barbara

My Quilt

Choosing Fabric For the Next Quilt Project

Auditioning Fabric Selections



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I applied double-fold bias binding to finish the edges of my quilt.  I really don’t have a binding preference on square or rectangular quilts.  Bias cut or straight of grain both work well.  If my corners were rounded or edges scalloped, I would definitely use bias binding.

Quilt Binding

Applying Double-Fold Binding to Quilt

The final step before I could call the project complete involved embroidering a quilt label.  I wanted something a little smaller for this quilt so I chose a simple bunny design.  As you can see, I used some of the leftover binding to frame the label.

Quilt Label

Little Bunny Quilt Label

I want to mention one more thing regarding free motion quilting.  An even rhythm (hand movement in sync with machine speed) produces even stitches.  If you move your quilt too slowly, your stitches will be too small and possibly bunch up.  Conversely, if you move your quilt too quickly, your stitches will be too large.  Both practice and warm up really help you to find the right balance.

Free Motion Quilting Stitches

Work Toward Even Free Motion Stitches

In the planning stage, try to find designs that flow nicely without too many starts and stops.  Sometimes it’s fun to take traditional quilting designs and convert them for free motion quilting.  As you draw them out on paper, it’s helpful to use numbers for the starting point, direction, and stopping point, simplifying them as much as possible.

I have lots of quilts floating around in my head and look forward to sharing the adventure with you.

Completed Quilt

A Happy Ending


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1 Peter 5

Whenever I machine quilt, I remove the general throat plate and replace it with a straight stitch plate.  I know these aren’t available for all machines, but if one is available for your brand of sewing machine, I do recommend purchasing it.

With the feed dogs lowered and the straight stitch throat plate in place, I then cover the bed with a Sewslip.  The Sewslip and Super Slider are non-stick surfaces with holes under your machine needle.  They have a tacky backing that keeps them in position.  Anything that will eliminate drag on your quilt while it’s under the needle is helpful.  I’ve been using one for years, and I do think they make machine quilting a little easier.


Next, I turn on my sewing machine and lessen the presser foot pressure.  Every machine does this differently so read your manual for instructions.

Pressure Foot Pressure

Lower Presser Foot Pressure

With my machine set, I now take a little time to warm up by using a sample quilt sandwich made for this purpose.  You don’t want to skip this step.  It allows you to test your stitches to make sure they are balanced.  Also, your head and hands get a chance to change into quilting mode before you actually beginning stitching your quilt.

Free Motion Quilting

Free Motion Warm Up

The last thing I do before beginning to machine quilt is apply Tri-Flow to my machine needle using a Q-Tip.  Since I use 505 Adhesive Spray to “baste” my quilt sandwich, I don’t want any skipped stitches.  This brand of spray is pretty good at not gumming up your needle, but I still like some extra insurance.  Tri-Flow puts a Teflon coating on the needle and insures against the build-up of gummy residue.

Apply Tri-Flow to Needle with Q-Tip

I position my quilt somewhere in the middle section and pull my bobbin thread to the quilt surface, leaving enough thread tails to pop back into my quilt later.

Bobbin Thread

Pull Bobbin Thread to Surface of Quilt

I know that most people make a few securing stitches at their starts and stops; I’m just not one of those people.  It goes back to my hand quilting days.  I don’t like the look of thread buildup, so I use self-threading hand needles, form a single knot, and feed the thread into the batting until it pops.  Yes, it takes an extra minute here and there, but it’s worth it to me.

Knot Thread and Pop Back into Quilt

For easier maneuverability, I roll the side of my quilt that falls to the right of the needle.

Roll Quilt

Roll Quilt to Right of Needle

I also keep the front and back of the quilt loosely bunched to prevent drag as I’m stitching.  The bed of my machine is even with the sewing table so this is most helpful in the area between me and the machine.

I mentioned in a previous post that music can be an aide to machine quilting.  I believe it relaxes you and helps you to form a smooth rhythm with your quilt as you move it under the needle.

And speaking of the quilt being under the needle, I focus my attention on a small area as I quilt.  Sometimes I make a taut “U” shape with my two hands; other times I might use a quilting hoop made for machine quilting.  My eyes are always looking ahead to where my needle is going next.  And this brings me  back to free motion presser feet.  Some are better than others when it comes to vision, so give them a test drive before making a purchase.

I hope you find something helpful to take away from this post.  But the one thing I can’t help you with is practice.  Practice is the key to successful free motion quilting. Practice makes progress.  Maybe someday practice will be the cure to my butterflies.  Maybe.

Free Motion Quilting

Free Motion Quilting Completed

Happy quilting!


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John 14

I was a hand quilter for years and still love the look of all those little hand-worked stitches.  For me, hand quilting was peaceful and relaxing.  However, I never finished hand quilting an entire quilt top, not even a baby quilt, in one day.  Yesterday, I free motion quilted the Right Inclination quilt and had it finished before dinner.  I believe the popularity of machine quilting is in large part a matter of numbers.  We all have a head full of quilts we want to make and a limited amount of time in which to make them.  Machine quilting makes our goals more reachable.

I confess, as much as I enjoy free motion quilting, I tend to have butterflies in my stomach every time I reach this stage in the quilt making process.  I’m the perfectionist type, which is probably at the root of my nervous stomach.  After a half hour or so, I’m as comfortable as can be and totally lost in the rhythm of my hand movements.  Do any of you have the same experience?

There are many techniques as well as helpful products for free motion quilting.  You can make it as simple or as complex as you like.  This is one area where you will profit from lots of experimentation.  Here is how I do it.

Machine Quilting Supplies

First, I set out all the equipment that I will be using for the particular quilt I am making.  These may include the following:

Quilting gloves or rubber fingers

Quilting needles

Sewslip or Super Slider

Straight stitch plate for sewing machine

Quilting thread and bobbins

Free motion presser foot

Quilt So Easy hoops

Tri-Flow lubricant and Q-Tip

Quilt markers

Quilt stencils and shape templates

Chalk Marking Spray

Self-threading hand sewing needles

Sometimes I mark my quilt top and sometimes I don’t.

Marked Quilt Top

Whenever I’m shopping, I keep my eyes open for unusual items that might work well as marking templates.  Craft stores sell wood cutouts in various shapes that work well.  I’ve also found plastic layering templates made for fleece that I like.  Chalk marking spray and quilting stencils are another option.

Quilt Marking Supplies

Sometimes the print of your fabric lends itself to quilting, which was the case on the dragonfly borders of Right Inclination.  It doesn’t get any easier than that.

Fabric Print Provided Quilting Motif

The main thing to concentrate on is a plan.  Give some thought to your quilt design and the type of quilting that would compliment it.  Sometimes I draw out a motif and practice it with my hands before actually attempting to quilt it with the machine.  I often use a mix of motifs and shapes.  I also take into consideration the type of batting I’ve used and how close the stitches need to be.  Remember, quilting shrinks the layers as they’re being stitched.  Plan for this by evenly quilting your entire project.

Once my quilt top is ready, I then prepare my sewing machine.  Every machine has a different feel to it.  Additionally, the various free motion presser feet make a difference.  After a little experimentation, you will gravitate toward one or two that you like.  At present, I like the clear Big Foot combined with my Bernina machine.  A year from now it may be a different combination.

Free Motion Presser Feet

I choose my needle according to the thread I will be quilting with.  I’ve actually made a chart of needles, threads, and upper machine tensions that work well on my machines.  It’s a handy guide to have around so that I don’t waste time with each new project.

My Thread-Needle-Tension Chart

Normally, I use the same weight thread in the needle and bobbin except when using monofilament thread.  One of my favorite quilting needles is made by Schmetz.  Look for the word quilting on the cover and the green band on the needles.  (All of their needles are excellent.)  Whatever brand you use, make sure it has a sharp tip.

Machine Quilting Needles

Machine Quilting Needles

In the second half of this post on free motion quilting, I will share some more products and techniques that I use and find helpful.

Happy quilting,


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I was introduced to a product named Tri-Flow years ago on an embroidery forum.  If you experience skipped stitches when using fusibles or sprays, you will welcome this product into your sewing studio. I find it especially helpful when using the Bernina BSR attachment since this little accessory is very fussy when it comes to adhesives.

Tri-Flow Lubricant

Tri-Flow is also a great aide when doing free motion work at high speeds since it eliminates friction. Using a Q-tip, apply a thin coat to your sewing machine needle from top to bottom. I usually need to recoat the needle several times during the course of the project when fusibles or adhesives are involved.

Apply Tri-Flow to Needle with Q-Tip

Tri-Flow is advertised for bicycles, bearings, and movable parts on machinery.  However, many sewing machine technicians use this product in their workshops. For home use, Tri-Flow can clean and lubricate your bobbin area (metal parts) as well as remove dirt and dust from the surrounding surfaces. It also displaces moisture and prevents corrosion, which means you can use it on the core of metal bobbins before winding them with thread.

One caveat:  Tri-Flow is NOT sewing machine oil. Follow your manufacturer’s instructions and only use the sewing machine oil recommended in your manual.  Many modern machines do not require oiling.

Look for this product in bike shops, online, and at some sewing centers. For the uses I’ve listed above, purchase the 2 ounce fluid (not the spray).


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Revelation 19:6-7

Lattice, sometimes called sashing, serves many functions in quilt making.  At the most basic level, a plain lattice can separate and frame your quilt blocks.  Plain lattice often has a square unit at the intersections.

Additionally, lattice can be used to form a secondary pattern when combined with your quilt blocks.  Small blocks or appliques can be interspersed within your lattice to add visual interest.  The rule of thumb is to use more complex lattice to enhance plain blocks and plain lattice to frame complex blocks.

Since lattice strips are added vertically and horizontally between blocks and rows, it always adds size to your quilt top.  Depending on whether you’ve chosen to include a border, lattice may also surround your main block setting.  Of course, you can always use both lattice and borders in your quilt design.

In this tutorial, I’ve chosen a plain lattice with intersecting squares for my block settings.  I decided to use inner lattice, not a surrounding outer lattice, since I will be adding borders.  The square blocks measure 8 ½” square.

Lattice and Borders

First, cut ten (10) lattice strips 8 ½” x 2 ½”.  You will probably want to use a plain fabric that differs from those within your block.

Cut Lattice Strips

Cut three (3) 2 ½” squares for the intersections.

Center Squares

Lay out your blocks with the yellow 4-strip section facing north-east.  You will create four rows (top to bottom) with 2 blocks in each row.

Chain piece a lattice strip to each block in the left hand row.  

Tip: Since my blocks have sharp points, I like to sew on the block side rather than the lattice side.  When I come to a point, I sew about two threads into the seam allowance.  This makes allowance for the rollover effect and keeps my points sharp on the front of the quilt.

Press your strips open, with seam allowances toward the lattice.  Now place the right hand blocks on the raw edges of the lattice strips, right sides together, and chain piece.  Press open.

Press Lattice Strips

Sharp Points

For the lattice between the rows, lay out your strips and center squares as shown.

Lay Out Lattice Strips and Squares

Flip each of the center squares to the left and onto the adjacent strips, lining up the edges. Chain piece them together.  Press open, with seam allowances toward the lattice strips.

Sew Center Square to Lattice

Align the remaining strips with the raw edges of the center squares, right sides together, and chain piece.  Press open.

Sew Remaining Lattice Strips

The direction of seam allowances is an important factor in the construction of a quilt top, especially when working with more complex designs.  Planning ahead takes some extra time, but it’s well worth it in the end.

Now align the seam intersections of the first block row with a lattice row, right sides together.  Pin in place and sew together.

Pin Rows to Lattice and Sew Together

Notice how the seam allowances face in opposite directions, allowing you to match them easily as they butt up against each other and evenly distribute the bulk.

Align the second block row with the first lattice strip, pin, and sew together.  Continue until you have finished sewing all of your block rows to lattice rows.

First Row of Lattice

The main section of your quilt top is now complete. Doesn’t lattice set the blocks off nicely?

To complete the quilt top, I added 6 ½” borders to the left and right sides of the quilt, and then added 2 ½” borders to the top and bottom.  These borders were cut from a plain blue fabric.  When that was completed, I added an additional 5″ border to the left and right sides.  I cut this from a darker blue dragonfly print that also appears within my blocks.

Completed Quilt Top


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In part one of this tutorial, we completed the center of our block.  We could stop here and use this simple block to construct a quilt top.  Here is what our quilts might look like using this one block arranged in various ways.

In blue and yellow


In red and blue


In pastels

Pastel Baby Quilt

However, by turning this into a twist block, a more dynamic look emerges, giving a sense of motion to the surface of the quilt.  There are several ways to accomplish this, but in this tutorial I will show you one way I use that insures perfect block measurements without resorting to paper piecing.

Creating a twist block:

Our blocks from part one measure 6 ½” square.

6.5 inches x 8 blocks =  52 inches

For two sides of your blocks, cut two (2) different strips 3 ¾” x 54″.  I’ve added a little extra for comfort.  You don’t have to use different fabrics for this step.  I just like to use a variety of fabrics in my quilts.

Cut Strips for Twist

Chain piece your blocks to one of the strips as shown, altering their directions.  As usual, use a scant quarter-inch seam allowance.

Chain Piece First Strip

Cut them apart with a ruler and your rotary cutter.  Now chain piece the opposite sides of your blocks to the second strip of fabric.

Chain Piece with Second Strip

Cut them apart as above and press.

Cut and Press

Trim each of the blocks so that their edges are even on both long sides.

Trim Edges Even on Long Sides

Now cut two more strips (same fabric or different fabrics, your choice) 3 ¾” x 68″.  Cut these strips into 8 ½” sections.

Center a strip on the right or left side of your blocks, right sides together.  The edges of the strip should overlap the two previous seam lines as shown.

Overlap Edges of Strip

Sew the strips to the blocks.  Repeat this step with the remaining eight (8) strips on the final side of your blocks.  Press each block, being careful not to stretch the fabric.

Now it’s time to cut the twists into our blocks.  Using a rectangular quilting ruler with a marked 60-degree line, place the 60-degree angle line on the straight seam of your inner block as shown.  At the left edge of your ruler, make sure you leave a quarter-inch seam allowance.  Trim off the excess fabric.

Trim Strip Using 60-Degree Angle Ruler

Turn your block to the next side and place your ruler in the same position, with the 60-degree line on the seam of the inner block.  Trim as before.  Continue this step until you have trimmed all four sides of your block.  Make sure you allow a quarter-inch seam allowance to remain at each inner block point.

Continue Around Block

Depending on the size of your ruler, you may have some extra trimming to do to square up your blocks.  This is perfectly normal.  Also, keep the triangle shapes that are being trimmed away.  These make easy work of those tricky birangles or long triangle units, which we will work on in a future tutorial.

And there you have it:  eight twisted squares ready for the next phase of your quilt top.  In the next tutorial we will add lattice to our quilt blocks.

Completed Twist Block


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