Quilting · Random Thoughts

Do the Math……PLEASE

calculatorNot all things, like patterns, are created equal. (yes, that could be a math pun, but it’s not.) This is unfortunate. What really frustrates me is when I get into a pattern and things just don’t add up. No matter how many times I do the math, unfinished blocks minus seam allowances do not equal what the pattern says it should. Can’t someone take the time to check this out before it goes to press?

I will admit that sometimes striving for perfection gets the better of me. I tell my students that their quilts don’t need to be perfect. I honestly believe this to be true. The problem is when the pattern isn’t perfect, and it should be.

Good designers have others test their patterns for them. They use the same image size for the applique layout AND the applique template. They make sure that the finished block size times the number of blocks equals the border length. They do the math.

Great designers take the average quilter’s checkbook/credit card into consideration as well. A little math goes a long way when cutting fabric. Fabric companies often given designers free fabric.  This way the consumer can see the fabric in a quilt, which not only sells the fabric, its sell the pattern as well. Think of the times you have gone into a quilt shop and bought a pattern and fabric because you have seen it hanging on the wall. Sorry, back to the math. If you don’t have to pay for your fabric, you probably don’t really care how much is wasted. I do. I don’t collect fabric and I don’t want to start.

Sew, what do you do?  Support the designers who create patterns that go together nicely. Support designers who engineer cutting methods that don’t waste fabric. If the mood strikes you, contact the ones who don’t and let them know how you feel. Maybe all they need is a calculator.



My Go To Project

Spring Bouquet Block 1
Spring Bouquet Block 1

Sometimes I just want to sew. Doesn’t really matter what. I decided that I would start a project that I can easily put away and go to whenever I want something to work on. I have a quilt kit called Spring Bouquet. All of the applique pieces are laser cut and pre-fused. How awesome is that!

I cut the blocks and am starting the fusing process. Since the blocks are large, I plan to hang them from a pants hanger or use clothes pins. The blocks will stay nice and neat and whenever I get in the mood….I’ll just work on stitching down the applique!

I bought (ok, yes expensive, but beautiful and it was on sale, and….) silk thread that I will keep all together with a bobbin full of Bottom Line. I love this thread. I originally learned about it as a thread to use in the bobbin for machine embroidery. It is a 60wt poly thread, which makes it perfect for using in the bobbin when sewing decorative stitches. I have found that using grey means you don’t need to switch out your bobbin when you change your top thread color. I have both a dark and light grey so I’m ready for any color of fabric. Yes, I also have white and black, oh and cream.

If you come from the school of cotton only thread, please ignore the following statement. I have also used this thread when quilting in the ditch. (sinking the quilting threads into the seam).

I’m excited. I like the idea of having something to go to while having the freedom of working on whatever else may strike my fancy.

A final thought.

I started writing this post before I finished fusing the first block. There’s 9 blocks and over 6 yards of borders.


It might take me all year to finish and I’m sure I’ll get sick of it now and then.Who am I kidding, I’ll be lucky if I get it done this year. Don’t get me wrong, I love this pattern and the finished quilt will be amazing, even if I screw it up. And believe me, if there’s a way to screw it up, I’ll figure it out.



The Pros and Cons of Pre-Washing


washing machine

Quilting would be simpler if there were hard and fast rules, but there’s not. So, now the big question, should you pre-wash your fabric? It’s a choice. When I first started quilting, I prewashed all my fabric. This more often than not resulted in a tangled mess. Then I learned to trim the fabric with pinking shears prior to putting it in the washer.  This only needs to be done on the cut edge, not the selvage. This practice led me to purchase a pinking blade for my rotary cutter; much healthier for my hands.

Then one day, I ventured into a Quilt Shop on Block of the Month day. How fun. I paid a minimal fee to start which got me a short demo (this is a nice way of saying a commercial featuring the newest/greatest/need to sell item) and fabric to make a block. I had to provide the background, but still fun! The bonus? Every month I got the fabric for free if I brought in last month’s finished block.

The fabric pieces were really really small. I was afraid they would join the black hole of socks if I washed them and since I don’t hand sew, hand washing wasn’t even close to an option. So I eagerly attacked the block with unwashed fabric! No one scolded me and the block came out great. Tell that to the Quilt Police!

Giant light bulb moment!

What is the point of prewashing? What are the pros and cons? Will anyone know? Do they really care?


Pros: May be necessary for those with sensitivity to some chemicals which may be on the fabric.  This goes both for the creator and the recipient of the quilt. Can help with colors that bleed.  If not allowed to completely dry, the fabric can be steam pressed without additional water. Your finished quilt won’t shrink the first time you wash it.

Cons: It takes a long time. If you wash any of the fabric, you need to wash all of your fabric for that project. This includes the backing and binding. Almost impossible to get all the wrinkles out of good cotton fabric without using steam, and even that sometimes doesn’t work.  More likely to fray unless you starch the fabric. I like starch so maybe that’s not a con.

Not prewashing:

Pros: You can start the project right away. Fabric less likely to fray; unless it is loosely woven in which case you may want to starch. Everything will shrink together and give your quilt that over all loved look.  You don’t need to wash the backing and since some backings require piecing….well enough said.

Cons: The colors may bleed the first time the quilt is washed. This could be heartbreaking. I use special sheets in the washer that are made to collect color and that has proven very successful. In fact, I include them with quilts that I give as gifts. The person receiving the quilt may have a sensitivity to any chemicals that may be on the fabric.

Well there you have it. As for me, I no longer prewash. I honestly don’t have the patience for it and trying to keep track of what has been washed would probably send me over the edge.  I often steam press and/or starch prior to cutting. I treat the backing the same way. Depending on the project and how I’m going to quilt it, I may water spray the batting and toss it in the dryer. Then again, maybe not.

Honestly, I don’t think anyone cares. And if anyone can tell, I doubt they’ll say anything.

So, wash or don’t wash…..like everything else, it’s your choice.



The First Step: Pattern and Fabric


There are two ways to start a project: you can start with a pattern or fabric.

I don’t think there is really a right or wrong way to approach this. Quilters collect fabric and patterns. I personally collect notions; more on that at another time. No matter where you start, having a pattern (or a least an idea) and fabric to make it with is generally the first step.

When choosing a pattern, your options include tried and true (the pattern you’ve used before) or something new, and easy vs. challenging. I think anytime you try a new technique it is challenging. This can range from working with triangles to a scalloped border.

Now let’s find some fabric. I’m not really a fabric hoarder, so this usually involves a trip to my LQS (local quilt shop.) The process is the same whether you find your fabric in your stash or elsewhere. You can stick with a collection of fabric, which is “collected” for you by the manufacturer. This is safe and works every time, because the fabric is manufactured with the same color dyes and is designed to go together. If your LQS adds new fabric regularly, this choice is often trendy as well.

A good lesson in color starts with the color wheel. A good lesson in quilting adds texture and value. These are great ways to pick fabric, but are often daunting especially to beginners who haven’t mastered the concept or those that are not comfortable with color or making decisions. The following is a great guide for choosing your fabric successfully the first time.

Pick a print with at least 3 colors in it that you like. This is your focal fabric; that doesn’t mean it will be the most used fabric.  Next select a color from your focal fabric print and find fabrics in that color family. They can include solids, prints, tone on tone. Pull out more than you know you will need. Continue with this process, selecting colors from the focal fabric and adding on to them or add on to other fabrics you have pulled. Pretty soon you will have a cart full of fabric. In the quilt below, the floral print is my focal fabric.


Focal fabric: floral print
Focal fabric: floral print









The last step is weeding out what doesn’t work. There is no science to this, ok there is but we are not delving into color snobiness on this post. Take out what doesn’t quit go or you don’t like. This process is easy as I find the fabrics that don’t work sort of jump out. Basically if your eye automatically goes to a certain fabric, chances are high that you should pull it. It is OK to shelve the focal fabric.  Now, refer to your pattern for yardage requirements. Unless I’ve made the pattern before or really trust the designer, I will tend to buy a little more than the pattern calls for. This gives me extra fabric to allow for mistakes.


Bottom line; it’s your quilt.  You have the ability to throw away any and all suggestions and pick what you like.

Have fun selecting the fabric for your next or even first project.


What Now?


I spent yesterday reflecting on 2014. I met my goal of finishing a project a month and blogging about it. Yeah Me! I will admit that there were times I got so caught up in the goal, that I lost sight of enjoying the process. I would say that applies both to my sewing and blogging. Perfectionism got the better part of me. Letting go of perfect seams and perfect grammar is something I would like to practice moving forward.

Re-engineering is an activity that not only excites but also relaxes me. When I was young, my mother would give me a math book to calm me down. I believe focusing all your energy into thinking allows the remainder of your body to loosen up. Letting go for the sake of completion is difficult for me and usually only wins when there is a deadline approaching. I did, however,  manage to curb my “there has to be a better way” mentality on a few occasions.

Looking Forward:

The list is long. Diversity is a theme I would like to focus on in all aspects of my life.

Professionally, the plan is to create more blog topics; products, tips, techniques, and notions…..lots and lots of notions. I would like to expand technologically. Grow as a teacher. Apply new sewing techniques.  Design and write.

Many years ago, my New Year’s resolution was: Don’t Give Up. That statement lives on and guides me to this day.

I wish everyone the best in 2015