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.
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
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
Each month, learn a fun trick or tip to make your quilting easier and more polished! This month, learn to sew perfect curved seams. It’s the perfect way to add motion to your quilt!
1. Joining pieces with curved edges presents challenges. Cutting a small notch in the center of a curved edge makes it easier.
2. With right sides together, match the center notches of curved edges. Pin together at the center point, at seam ends, and liberally in between, gently easing the edges as needed to align.
3. Sew together the curved edges. Clip into the seam allowance of the edge that curves in (concave) as needed, but do not cut into or beyond the seam lines. Do not clip the convex edge.
TIP: Some quilters prefer not to clip curved seams. Instead they use a longer stitch length and sew slowly, which helps ease the fabric layers together (the center notch is still necessary).
4. Press the seam allowance toward the piece that has the inner (concave) curve.
Each month, learn a fun trick or tip to make your quilting easier and more polished! This month, learn to add mitered borders to your next project! This is a great technique for when you want a standout print to match up at the corners.
1. Determine the yardage and measurement for your border strips.The yardage needed depends on the pattern repeat of the border print across the width of the fabric, the pattern repeat of the border print along the length of the fabric, and where the border strips will join. Cut the two side border strips first from the same lengthwise repeat of the border print, selecting a motif to be at their centers.
2. Fold each side border strip in half crosswise and press lightly to mark the center. Fold the assembled quilt center in half and press lightly to mark the center of the side edges.To ensure accuracy when pinning border strips to the quilt top, measure the length of the quilt center on each side. Divide the quilt center’s length by 2, and measure this amount in both directions from the center crease on the border strip. Make a mark at each measured point, which should correspond to the quilt center corner. With right sides together and centers and corner marks aligned, pin a side border strip to one side edge of the quilt center, allowing the excess border strip to extend beyond the corner edges. Sew together, beginning and ending 1/4″ from the quilt center’s corners.
3. Fold the border strip corners back at 45º angles as if to miter.
4. Cut the top and bottom border strips from the same lengthwise repeat of the border print, selecting the same motif used at the center of the side border strips for the centers of the top and bottom border strips.
5. Lay the quilt center with its attached side border strips right side up on a work surface. Align the centers of the top border strip and upper edge of the quilt center, allowing the excess top border strip to extend under the side border strips.
6. Make a pleat at the center of the top border strip and pull the border strip fabric into the pleat until the desired motif appears at a corner. Pleat an equal amount of fabric from each side of center on the top border strip.
7. Fold the pleat to the wrong side of the top border strip and pin. The pleat should align with the marked midpoint on the top edge of the quilt center.
8. Pin the border strips with right sides together at the corners.
9. Sew the pleat along the fold lines. Trim the seam allowance to 1/4″ and press open.
10. NOTE: different fabric used to demonstrate for the next steps for easier viewing. With the wrong side up, overlap the border strips at one corner. Align the edge of a 90º right triangle with the raw edge of the top border strip so the long edge of the triangle intersects the seam in the corner. With a pencil, draw along the edge of the triangle between the border seam and the raw edge.
11. Place the bottom border strip on top and repeat the marking process.
12. With the right sides of adjacent border strips together, match the marked seam lines and pin.
13. Beginning with a backstitch at the inside corner, stitch exactly on the marked lines to the outside edges of the border strips. Check the right side of the corner to see that it lies flat.
14. Trim the excess fabric, leaving a 1/4” seam allowance.
15. Press the seam open.
16. Repeat steps 5–9 to add the bottom border strip.
17. Repeat steps 10–15 to mark and sew the remaining border corners in the same manner.
Each month, learn a fun trick or tip to make your quilting easier and more polished! This month, learn to make a two-color binding for a quilt that looks just as pretty on the front as it does on the back!
French Braid designer Becky Cogan in American Patchwork & Quilting April 2013
To make two-color binding that finishes a scant 3/8″ wide, complete the following steps:
From binding fabric that will show on quilt front, cut:
- 7/8″-wide binding strips in number and length specified in your pattern
From binding fabric that will show on quilt back, cut:
- 1-5/8″-wide binding strips in number and length specified in your pattern
1. Sew together 7/8″-wide strips with diagonal seams to make one continuous front binding strip. In same manner, join 1-5/8″-wide strips to make one continuous back binding strip.
2. With right sides together, join front and back binding strips on a pair of long edges with scant 1/4″ seam to make a pieced binding strip. Press seam toward darker print.
3. Fold pieced binding strip in half lengthwise with wrong side inside. Sew pieced binding strip to quilt, placing front binding against quilt front.