Perfect Your Skills | AllPeopleQuilt.com Staff Blog
 

Perfect Your Skills

18 posts.

Perfect Your Skills: Squaring Up Blocks

 

It is essential that all quilt blocks be squared up before they’re assembled into a quilt top. If you piece together your quilt top with some blocks that are too large and ease in the excess fabric, you’ll end up with a quilt that has waves. If you piece your quilt with some blocks that are too small and try stretching the fabric to fit, you’ll have a quilt that isn’t square at the corners and pulls in, creating drag lines across the surface.

 

Measure each block to be certain they are all the same size. Check to be sure they have 1/4″ seam allowances on all edges and that the corners are square. Use a large, acrylic square ruler atop the block to check your work. If you have cut accurately and used 1/4″ seams throughout the piecing process, the blocks will be the correct size.

 

If you are squaring up a block to a dimension that is not easily visible on the ruler, use pieces of narrow masking tape on the underside of the ruler to create a guide, like in picture above. Place the inside edge of the tape on your measurement line, so you can see at a glance if a block is too small.

 

 

What can you do if some blocks are too small?

• Discard blocks that don’t measure up and make replacements using accurate 1/4″ seam allowances.

• Restitch blocks, making sure to use accurate 1/4″ seam allowances.

• Add borders to blocks to bring them to a uniform size. Borders may be added around the entire block or just to one or two sides.

 

What can you do if some blocks are too large?

• Discard blocks that don’t measure up and make replacements using accurate 1/4″ seam allowances.

• Restitch blocks, making sure to use accurate 1/4″ seam allowances.

• If the margin the block is off is minimal (1/8″ to 1/16″), you may trim it. Recognize that you may be trimming into the seam allowance, thus cutting off points of angled pieces or visually altering the finished look of a block relative to the other blocks in the quilt.


Perfect Your Skills: Bias Binding

 

Quick-Cut Bias Binding

To quickly cut binding strips on the bias, start with a fabric square or rectangle. We used a stripe fabric, resulting in a barber pole effect.

Diagrams below show a 5/8-yard length of fabric. If your fabric piece is a different size, the folded fabric may look different, although the instructions will be the same.

 

1. Lay out the fabric so the selvage edges are in the upper right and lower left. Fold the lower selvage edge to the cut edge, creating a 45º angle.

 

2. Fold the bottom corner up on top of first fold.

 

3. Fold top corner down on top of first and second folds.

4. Using a rotary cutter and acrylic ruler, trim off left-hand folded edge.

 

5. Cutting from trimmed edge, cut the desired-width bias strips.

 

6. Strips will be a variety of lengths; piece strips to equal the desired length of binding strip.

 

 

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Perfect Your Skills: Adding Labels

 

Preserve the heritage of your quilts for future generations while expressing your creativity with labels.

 

Here are some ideas for what to include on the label:

  • who made the quilt
  • the quilt pattern name
  • date and place where it was completed.
  • whom the quilt was given to
  • the occasion, such as a graduation, retirement, or anniversary, that prompted the making of the quilt
  • care instructions

 

Here are some ideas for making a quilt label your own:

  • Draw or embroider the words and add embellishments, such as vines, flowers, or French knots.
  • Incorporate one or more extra blocks from the quilt top into the label.
  • For a framed finish, bind the label edges like a mini quilt. Sew leftover binding from the quilt around the label edges, then turn the binding over the edge to the wrong side. Hand-stitch the bound label to the backing, taking care not to stitch through to the top.
  • To ensure a label can’t easily be removed from the quilt, stitch the label to the backing fabric and quilt through it.
Here are 8 tips for writing on fabric:
1. Choose a smooth-surface, 100%-cotton fabric. Permanent ink pens perform better on all-cotton fabrics than on blends.

2. Select fabric in a color that allows the ink to show. Avoid white-on-white prints because the pattern is painted on the fabric rather than dyed into it.

3. Prewash your fabric (cotton fabrics usually contain sizing, which acts as a barrier to ink penetration).

4. Purchase pens that have permanent ink and are made for use on fabric. A fine point (size 01, .25 millimeter) writes delicately and is less likely to bleed as it writes. Lines can be made thicker by going over them more than once. For larger letters or numbers, a size 05 (.45 millimeter) pen works well.

5. Test the pen on a fabric sample, then follow the manufacturer’s directions for setting the ink. Wait 24 hours for the ink to set, then wash the sample as you would the quilt. The extra time it takes to run such a test will pay off in years of durability.

6. If you don’t care to use your handwriting or just want to ensure nicely spaced letters, type your words using computer software. Adjust the size and spacing to fit your label size; space out letters a little more than normal to allow for the width of the marker tip. Print out the words onto paper and trace.

7. Practice on fabric scraps first. Write slowly and with a lighter touch than you would normally use when writing on paper. This allows time for the ink to flow into the fabric and lets you control the letters.

8. Stabilize the fabric and create guidelines for words with freezer paper. To do so, cut a piece of freezer paper bigger than the label. Use a ruler and a thick black marker to draw evenly spaced lines on the freezer paper’s dull side. Press the shiny side of the freezer paper to the fabric’s wrong side with a hot dry iron. After marking on the fabric, peel off the freezer-paper guide.

 

 

Printing By Computer

1. To print a quilt label directly onto fabric using your computer, look for printer fabric sheets, which feed into an ink jet printer, in fabric and quilt stores. Or prepare your own fabric using a fixative, such as Bubble Jet Set 2000, to ensure the printing will be permanent.

2. First print the label on paper to ensure the design and words appear as desired and there is room for seam allowances. Follow the manufacturer’s instructions for printing, peeling off the paper backing, and setting, then trim the label to the desired size.

3. To create a custom label design, use word processing, desktop publishing, scrapbooking, or label-making software to combine text, photos, and clip art.

 

Tracing By Hand

1. Make sure the design you want to trace is dark enough to show through your fabric, or locate a light box or sunny window on which to work.

2. Lay a piece of fabric over a paper printout of the label. With masking tape, anchor the fabric and the paper to your writing surface so they won’t shift.

3. Using a fabric marking pen, trace slowly, drawing a steady line. Darken the lines by drawing over them again, or add color with permanent-ink pens or brushes.

 


Perfect Your Skills: Seeing Contrast

Trying to ignore color and just study contrast is not an easy task. When looking at fabrics in a store or from your fabric stash, try these techniques to determine the contrast or value. Select possible fabrics for a project, then perform one or more of these tests to see if you’ve included enough contrast in the group. If you need more contrast, substitute lighter or darker fabrics until you have a variety of values.

 

 

1. Try squinting. Closing your eyes slightly limits the amount of light they receive and reduces your perception of color, so contrast becomes more evident.

 

2. Use a reducing tool. Purchase a reducing lens or a door peephole. These tools reduce an image, making color less obvious and contrast more apparent when the fabrics are viewed. Taking pictures with your phone or looking through a camera also works in this regard.

 

3. Look through red cellophane. This technique conceals the color and allows you to see the continuum of values from light to dark.

 

4. Make black and white photocopies. Photocopying completely masks color and can give an indication of contrast between and within pieces of fabric.


Perfect Your Skills: Choose Batting

Each month, learn a fun trick or tip to make your quilting easier and more polished! This month, learn about different batting choices and how to choose the best one for your project!

Batting is the soft layer between the quilt top and backing that gives a quilt dimension and definition and offers warmth. Because it comes in various thicknesses and fibers, it can make a quilt flat or puffy, stiff or drapable. It is available by the yard or packaged to fit standard bed sizes. The batting you use should complement the nature and use of your finished quilt. Check package labels, talk to other quilters, and test samples to find the batting with the qualities that are important for your project.

 

 Low Loft Batting———->High Loft Batting

 

General Batting Characteristics

 

100% Cotton:

  • Characteristics: Can give a puckered appearance if washing after quilted. Soft, drainable. Good for experienced quilters’ fine, hand-quilting stitching or machine quilting.
  • Advantages: Natural fiber so batting breaths. Resists fiber migration. Readily available.
  • Disadvantages: May have seeds and plant residue that can release oils and stain the quilt. Often cannot be pre washed. Shrinks 3% to 5% when washed. May be too dense for beginning hand quilters to needle.

 

Cotton/Polyester Blends 80/20, 50/50:

  • Characteristics: Low to medium loft. Drapable. Good for hand quilting and machine quilting.
  • Advantages: Some natural fibers so batting breaths. Resists fiber migration. Easy for beginning hand quilters to needle. Readily available.
  • Disadvantages: Some shrinkage, which can be avoided by prewashing.

 

Wool and Wool Blends:

  • Characteristics: Blend of fibers from different animal breeds. Resiliency enhances quilting stitches. Soft, drainable. Good for hand and machine quilting.
  • Advantages: Natural insulator. Preshrunk. Available in black.
  • Disadvantages: May have inconstant loft. May need to be encased in cheesecloth or scrim if not bonded.

 

Silk:

  • Characteristics: Has excellent body and drape. Lightweight. Good for hand quilting and machine quilting.
  • Advantages: Good choice for quilted garments. Does not shrink. Can be washed.
  • Disadvantages: Expensive. Not widely available. Damaged by exposure to direct sunlight.

 

Flannel:

  • Characteristics: 100% cotton. Lightweight, thin. Good for machine quilting.
  • Advantages: Lightweight alternative to traditional batting. Readily available.
  • Disadvantages: Extreme low loft limits quilting pattern development.

 

Polyester:

  • Characteristics: Available in many lofts. Suitable for hand quilting and machine quilting. High lofts is good for tied quilts, comforters.
  • Advantages: Resilient, lightweight. Cannot be harmed by moths or mildew. Readily available. Available in black.
  • Disadvantages: Synthetic fibers lack breathability.

 

Fusible:

  • Characteristics: Good for machine quilting. Eliminates need for basting.
  • Advantages: No need to prewash. Eliminates need for basting. Good choices for small projects.
  • Disadvantages: Limited batting options and sizes. Adds adhesive to quilt. Difficult for hand quilters to needle.

 

Bamboo and Bamboo Blends:

  • Characteristics: Thin scrim and smooth drape. Ideal for machine quilting.
  • Advantages: Soft, silky, eco-friendly. Lightweight. Made from one of the fastest growing plants. Natural antibacterial properties.
  • Disadvantages: Limited availability. Limited options and sizes.