Archive for the ‘Quilting Tools’ Category

Psalm 139:17-18

This quilt was a delight to make from start to finish.  Constructing the blocks proved the most fun since they consisted of such beautiful, colorful fabrics (many of them by Michael Miller).

Cheery Oh Quilt

Once my center section was complete, I added a 1 ½-inch print border to frame it.

Added Print Border

Next, I added a 3-inch outer white border.  I used the same print fabric for the binding as I used for the inner framing border.

Added White Outer Border

To make my first quilting lines, I used a Hera marker.  This is a handy little tool to have around since it creates a very visible path without leaving any residual effects.  I find it works best on solid or solid reading fabrics.

Hera Marker Quilting Lines

Hera Marker

Hera Produced Marking

Since the blocks were placed on point, I quilted the top with a close horizontal and vertical grid pattern using a small wave stitch.

Here’s a close up of the quilting.

Grid Quilting

And so another happy ending that leaves me with the question of what quilt I want to make next.

Cheery Oh Quilt Folded

Joyful quilting!



Read Full Post »

Psalm 121:1-2

In part one of this tutorial, I demonstrated how to construct the Cheery Oh quilt block.  It’s a very simple as well as fun quilt block to make. Although you could use print fabrics for the background units of the “O” shape, I really like the pristine appearance of solid white surrounding the focus points of these colorful blocks.

I made the design choice of setting the blocks on point.  That means there is a need for setting triangles and corner triangles in order to complete the quilt top.  If you’re new to the on point design setting for your quilt blocks, the diagram below may help.  Of course, you can always choose a horizontal block setting and still produce a beautiful quilt with the Cheery Oh blocks.

Setting and Corner Triangles

Setting triangles (sometimes called side triangles) and corner triangles do add more complexity to the construction of a quilt, but setting blocks on point can really introduce variety to your quilt designs and produce increased visual interest.

Yes, there’s math involved unless you purchase a specialty ruler sold for this purpose.  But it’s similar to doing the math for half-square and quarter-square triangles, with a little multiplication and division added.  In fact, I prefer the math method for making setting triangles over the ruler method, but I’m getting ahead of myself.  Grab your calculator for the following steps.

You will be using the calculation below to arrive at the size square you need to produce two corner triangles.

Formula for Corner Triangles

Size of finished block  ÷  1.414  +  0.875″

Round up the number this calculation gives you to the nearest 1/8″ (0.125) and cut a square this size. For example, my finished block measures 7 1/2″.   7.5 ÷ 1.414 = 5.304 + 0.875= 6.179.  Rounding it up gives me 6.30 so I will cut my square about 6 3/8″.

Divide the square in half by cutting it diagonally, corner to corner.  Repeat this step for the remaining two corner triangles needed.  Rounding up is important because it adds a comfort zone to the size of the triangles, taking care of the rollover effect at the seam allowance.

If math is a scary thing for you, there are rulers on the market that simplify this step.  I have the Diagonal Set Triangle Ruler by Marti Mitchell.  I prefer it over the math method for corner triangles.  You simply find the size marking on the edge of the ruler for your finished square and cut the triangles needed.  It’s a handy tool not only for on point quilt settings but also for Square in a Square blocks.

Diagonal Set Triangle Ruler

Formula for Setting Triangles

Size of finished block × 1.414  +  1.25″

Round up the number this calculation gives you to the nearest 1/8″ (0.125) and cut a square this size.  For example,  7.5  x 1.414 = 10.605 + 1.25 = 11.855.  I rounded the number to 12″ for my square.  In the case of these triangles, better a little larger than too small.

Cut Square for Setting Triangles

Now position a ruler diagonally from corner to corner and cut the square in half.

Cut Square in Half Diagonally

Without moving the two triangles, reposition the ruler diagonally at opposite corners and cut in half again.

Cut in Half Again

You now have four setting triangles.  Repeat this step until you have as many triangles as your quilt top requires.

Four Setting Triangles

I mentioned earlier that I prefer the math method for this step.  The ruler method is fine; you just cut one side of the triangle and then flip the ruler over to cut the other side.  Personally, I find quartering the square easier.  Which method you use is entirely up to you.

Now take all your blocks and triangles and place them in sewing order.  I usually do this on my bed.  You have a couple of choices to make at this point—sew the rows together diagonally or sew the four corner units and then sew the center blocks together.  I like the second choice and that is how I constructed the quilt top.

Position Quilt Units in Sewing Order

Sewing the corner units together first for this particular quilt takes care of all the setting and corner triangles.  I find the units of the quilt are easier to manage this way.

First, sew the two setting triangles to the corner block.  Second, fold the corner triangle in half and finger press a small crease line at the center edge.  Do the same with the block unit.  Pin the corner unit to the block unit at the center point, right sides together.

Crease and Pin Center

It’s now easy to sew the corner triangle to the block unit with it perfectly centered.

Sewing the Corner Triangle to Corner Unit

After you’ve constructed all four corner units, begin sewing the center quilt blocks together in groups of three.  Match up and pin each of the seam intersections.  Next, sew the three rows together in the same manner.

Sew Blocks in Groups of Three

Position all of the sewn quilt units in order.  Sew each corner unit to the center quilt block unit, pinning at seam intersection.

Sew Corner Units to Quilt Top

You now have the main section of your quilt top completed.  Notice the secondary square and diamond shapes that the on point design has produced.  I love this setting!

Cheery Oh Quilt Center

If you’ve never attempted to place your quilt blocks on point, I hope you’ll take a deep breath and give it a try.  Like so many first-time experiences, you’ll feel a little unsure of yourself as you‘re cutting all those triangles, but soon you’ll be right at home with the process.

I’m now ready to work on the quilt borders so off I go.

Happy quilt designing,


Read Full Post »

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!


Read Full Post »

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,


Read Full Post »

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).


Read Full Post »

Seam Rippers

For anyone who sews or quilts, death and taxes aren’t the only things that can’t be escaped in this life.  Ripping stitches is high on the list.  I learned how to hand sew when I was six years old, so I’ve owned lots of seam rippers over the years.  The one I find most useful is the Snip-a-Stitch.


The Snip-a-Stitch is actually shaped like scissors, but its salient feature is the hook at one tip of its stainless steel blades.  The curved hook glides under your stitch without grabbing the threads of your fabric, allowing you to snip the stitch with ease.

Havel also sells a Snip-a-Stitch with an easy grip handle, which you can view here.  For the regular scissor handled Snip-a-Stitch pictured above, just do a Google search and you’ll find many online businesses that sell them.

When my stitches take an unexpected bypath, this is the seam ripper I reach for.  Others may do the job, but not like the Snip-a-Stitch.  Come to think of it, I’ve been using these for over twenty years now.  Need I say more?


Read Full Post »

There are lots of marking tools available for quilters, but the one I use most is the Chaco Liner Marker by Clover.  It’s sold in both regular and slim size.  You are given numerous color choices:  white, pink, blue, and yellow.

Quilting Markers

The Chaco liners contain loose chalk powder that is refillable.  A metal chalk wheel glides across your fabric, leaving a thin chalk line.

Chalk Wheel

After your stitching is complete, you simply dust the powder off with your hand or a soft cloth. I’ve never experienced any trouble removing the chalk lines nor having them stain my fabric.

I love using the Chaco liner for grid lines and other simple quilting designs.  Additionally, it comes in handy for those quick diagonal lines you mark on your quilt binding tails and half-square or quarter-square triangles, making all these techniques quick and easy.  The white marker is a permanent member of my catch-all sewing tray, but the other colors are always within easy reach.


Read Full Post »

Older Posts »