100 Top Quilting Tips
Breaking news, there is only 100 days left until this year’s Festival of Quilts! To celebrate we’ve teamed up with The Quilters’ Guild and have picked the brains of quilters from around the globe to bring you these 100 top quilting tips…
Tips for your sewing machine
1 – Wendy Gardiner – Before you start a new project, clean out the sewing machine’s bobbin race by removing the throat plate and bobbin case and defluff thoroughly before replacing everything.
2 – plainstitchdeb – If your machine skips stitches, change your needle and de fluff the bobbin case.
3 – Kristin_laura – Clean your sewing machine when it gets fuzzy! It will come back to bite you if you don’t!
4 – Nicholas Ball – Be sure to oil and clean the machine regularly, change the needle and use a quality, branded thread.
5 – Howard Bogod – Buy a machine from a brand that you know will last …. You will enjoy using a quality machine more!
6 – Helen Outen – Remember to clean and de-lint your machine, as well as change your needle after each project or every 8-10 hours of sewing.
7 – Nicholas Ball – Don’t be intimidated by the many features your machine may have. These are all designed to help you and inspire your creativity. Whether it’s the automatic thread cutter or the wide choice of feet available for free motion quilting, trust in the machine and don’t be afraid to experiment.
Tips for threading your needle
8 – Angela Madden – When you are having trouble threading the machine… put a little hair spray on the end of the thread, roll between your fingers and let it dry (a few seconds) then snip the end with sharp scissors so there are no stray whips… the hairspray will stiffen the thread just enough to help you poke it through the hole.
9 – Sheila Wilkinson –To ensure thread runs smoothly through your sewing machine make sure you are using a correctly orientated spool holder. Most machines supply two, one horizontal, one vertical. Look at the way the thread is wound on the spool. If it is cross wound and you can see “X”’s in the winding it is best used horizontally. If the threads are “straight” it should be placed on the vertical spool holder.
10 – Anonymous – If you need to change your needle frequently to accommodate different types and weights of thread, place your used needle back in the plastic container with the point uppermost. Next time you go to pick out that size of needle you will know that you have already used the one with the point uppermost on an earlier occasion.
11 – Wendy Gardiner – When threading a sewing machine manually, slip a piece of white paper behind the eye of the needle so that you can see it easily.
12 – Wendy Gardiner – When threading a hand needle, cut thread at 45 degree angle and wet the eye of the needle to help easily guide the thread through.
13 – Ann Dibble – Use the correct needle for your thread and project
14 – Tamara Schultz – A balloon can be a good tool! If you are struggling to pull a needle through a few layers of fabric, or are doing crazy quilt embroidery or even slow stitching, use a balloon (not blown up!) to grab your needle and pull it through.
15 – cutandalter – Cut thread on a 45 degree angle for easier needle threading.
Tips for cutting your fabric
16 – The Quilters’ Guild of The British Isles -Never lose your scissors!
17 – Tananda73_sewing – Invest in your scissors, a quality pair is worth every penny!
18 – Tananda73_sewing – Never use your scissors for anything other than fabric!
19 – Tananda73_sewing – Keep a separate pair of scissors for silk!
20 – by.safira – Pin the pin right through the nesting seams to make points exactly match.
21 – quiltscornerstone – Measure twice – cut once! Failing this use the smaller piece to start a mini!
22 – auntiegrandmamakes – When you have lots of pieces to cut, always start with the longest pieces.
23 – Hannelore Nunn – Piece leftover bits of fabric and use them as quilt backing.
24 – Kwiltypleasures – Always use ruler lines and not cutting mat lines to get the best straight rotary cuts. AND flip the mat over!
25 – Elainepappaspuckett – Don’t cut the part your pieces before you take them to the ironing board!
26 – Stuart Hillard – Accuracy is everything! At AccuQuilt we say that “better cuts make better quilts” and it’s true… perfect cutting and an accurate scant 1/4″ seam allowance really make all the difference.
27 – quiltysue19 – Read the instructions through from start to finish before you start cutting and sewing.
28 – Juki_club – Use a topstitch needle for free motion quilting on or off a frame. The topstitch needle has a longer and wider eye than ANY other needle. The bigger eye keeps your thread from shredding.
29 – Gillian Travis – “Using a top stitch needle (one with a big eye) in my sewing machine at all times saves me loads of time. I can switch from using ordinary thread to more unusual thick and woolly threads without changing the needle”.
30 – Toni Fithian Paget – Put those teeny tiny bits and cut threads in an old pillowcase. Stuff it full and sew up the end. The humane society can use them for dog and cat beds.
31 – Carolynmcbenoit – Increase your stitch length to 3.5 when binding to avoid ‘pinched binding’
32 – Amandajanetextiles – For hand-sewing, only use the length of thread that stretches from your finger-tips to your elbow. Any more than that and your thread will go into knots.
33 – Gill Towell – When sewing curves, pinning can lead to puckers. Be brave and try it out without pinning and you will soon find it is far easier.
34 – Arlenemdebuck – Don’t sew over pins!
Tips for choosing your fabric
35 – misselvey – Don’t be afraid to experiment- it’s only fabric and thread!
36 – Chris English – Charity shops are also a great source of fabric and you can get loads of interesting fabric and support great causes at the same time.
37 – Pickingdaisiesinslo – Use quality fabric!
38 – Pattymurphyhandmade – Use more coloured fabric!
39 – Chris English – Take the opportunity to use your quilting to help recycle fabric. Use that shirt or dress that’s been languishing at the back of your wardrobe never to be worn again as the basis for your next quilting project.
40 – Ruth Singer – For art quilts, there’s no need to stick to quilting fabrics, you can try pretty much anything. Texture is as important to me as colour so I use a whole range of natural fibres from silk organza for sheer work to antique linen to provide texture, and it is a joy to hand stitch!
Tips to get you started on your first quilt
41 – Janet Bevan – Always make a scrap sample of your project to test out threads, tension, colours, stitches.
42 – Pauline Barnes – My top tip would be to always do a separate sample/test piece of your stitching/applique/quilting before you stitch the actual quilt to make sure you get the effect you’re looking for.
43 – Tracey Pereira – If you are learning to machine quilt the best tip I can offer is to practice “little and often”. Practicing for ten minutes a day is better than an hours’ worth of practice just once a week.
44 – Sheila Jones – If you are a beginner, go small. Beginners are often tempted to attempt a large bed quilt but can get fed up with the time it takes to make such a large item.
45 – frenzy – Just try it!
46 – Jackie Ledger – Always make a sample first. Whether it’s making a block, or auditioning a stitching design, or making colour choices, spending a little time making a sample can save so many errors and bad decisions.
47 – Lizziebetho – Take a picture of your layout before starting!
48 – Hazel Saunders – If spray starch makes your fabric too stiff, spray several squirts into a spare holiday spray bottle and mix with a little warm water. It makes your work stable but less firm and your spray starch goes much further.
49 – Carolyn Gibbs – Plan your patchwork pressing so that ALL seams (including diagonal ones) meet others pressed in opposite directions to ensure perfect points
50 – Lis Binns – If you get muck like bondaweb on your iron, use a paracetamol tablet to clean it off – hot iron, rub with the tablet, wipe off residue onto kitchen towel. Works like a charm!
51 – Bekybran – When you press a block, let it cool under the weight of a ruler and it will stay flatter.
52 – gillymacdesigns – As soon as you feel your rotary cutter blade is getting blunt, change it immediately. Always have a spare blade ready!
53 – Studiokatedesigns – For smooth, curved seams use LOTS of pins with small ‘bites’ of fabric!
54 – Cindy Smith – I always make the edge of my quilt top at least 1″ bigger than it needs to be. For instance, any points that would normally meet the binding are actually 1″ back from the raw edge. This allows your machine quilter to easily clamp to the edge of your quilt and will allow her to quilt closer to where the binding will be sewn.
55 – Nicholas Ball – When it comes to basting your quilts, if you struggle to get a taut and wrinkle-free quilt sandwich, try spray basting. I find I can baste quilts quicker and more easily using temporary fabric adhesive than I can with pins. My preferred brand is Odif 505. This non-toxic, repositionable and leaves no residue behind.
56 – Sandra Johnson – When stitching a straight edge to a bias edge, stitch with the bias next to the feed dogs so it won’t stretch out of shape.
57 – Isobell Hall – When working on handmade 3D casts it is a good idea to retain the original mould so that you can keep returning the cast to the original mould. This is a great advantage if you are applying mixed media and it also helps to maintain the shape whilst resting from quilting round the cast.
58 – Sheila Wilkinson – Marking dark fabric – Use a sliver of dry soap to mark fabric – the thin piece left at the end of a tablet. Scrape it with a scissor blade to sharpen. It virtually disappears as you sew over it, smells nice, does not damage your fabric and washes out well.
59 – Sheila Wilkinson – Sewing in thread ends – Use a self-threading needle when sewing in the ends of machine quilting threads. It has a slot in the end of the eye so you just pop the thread through it. Insert the needle in place between the layers before threading it. Since it can sometimes come unthreaded as you pull it through, twiddle the needle between your finger and thumb as you pull and all should be well.
60 – Stuart Hillard – Pins and pressing really help! Match ends, match points and pin well… “pin, tack…then sew!”
61 – Anonymous – If you use blue water erasable pens for marking up designs on your work, these marks can be easily and permanently removed by spraying them with a freshly made solution (1 cup of water and 1 heaped teaspoon of baking soda) and allowing to dry naturally.
62 – Allie tate – My favourite tool for quilting is Spoonflower’s Fill-A-Yard tool. It allows for creating beautiful whole cloth quilt tops or gives sewist increased flexibility when curating and purchasing designs for their next project.
63 – Nel Eyre – Enjoy the process. Wonky seams, blunt points, unpicking seams happens to everyone at some point: even the most experienced Quilter.
64 – Pat Nicholls – “There are no quilt police in my class” seemed to be the tip which relaxed my students.
65 – Claireturpindesign – Enjoy your sewing journey!
66 – Debbie_camp – Change your mind-set about seam rippers!
67 – Carrie_ellens – Let go of your inner critic and have fun!
68 – Giddy99 – KEEP GOING, Some colours or blocks are a bit dull or tedious to work on but the finish makes it all worth it!
69 – Kathystrawson – Embrace chain piecing and stay organised!
70 – Leslietuckerjenison – Make lots of mistakes because they’ll teach you more anyway!
71 – Theclothparcel – Experiment!
72 – Jessicaquilter – Time Management!
73 – Ami James – Don’t be afraid to try something new and push the boundaries. Sometimes you can lose motivation with a quilt but put it away for a while and get it back out a few months later…… it’s amazing the ideas you have once you’ve had a break
74 – Angela Daymond – My tip for hand quilting is to be kind to yourself. Aim for your stitches to be a consistent length rather than worry about size. Different thicknesses of thread will affect the size and length of stitch.
75 – Laura Kemshall – Do enough quilting! It’s the quilting that really makes your quilt. Try combining hand, machine, freehand, even digital quilting to get the look you’re after. We find that when it comes to quilting, more is nearly always better.
76 – Patricia Simmons – In the end, it doesn’t matter whether you did it “right” or not. What matters is…Did you enjoy yourself? So as long as you are enjoying yourself, does it really matter if it is “the proper technique” or not? Does the person receiving your gift of love care if it is “proper technique”? Or do they just think it is fabulous that you gave them a gift of love! Your enjoyment of your craft will shine through to the finished piece and that is what REALLY matters!
77 – Stuart Hillard – Finish it! Even if it’s not perfect, a finished quilt will please you more than a UFO stuffed in a cupboard. Finishing projects and working through some of those areas we might be less proficient in are all great learning experiences.
78 – Paula Doyle – Forgive yourself – Try not to unpick. If you make a boo boo, blink and promise yourself to do better next time!
79 – Paula Doyle – Look – look and keep photos of quilts which have interesting quilting in an “inspiration file”. You can look at this anytime as a catalogue of patterns and designs.
General hints & tips
80 – Di Auckland– Iron to the dark side. Check the sharpness of your needle. Relax and enjoy.
81 – Sallieann Harrison – Unpicking seams with a Wahl trimmer! Works like a charm
82 – Elizabeth Allan – New project….new needle!
83 – rebecca – Starch, starch and starch again!
84 – Pattymurphyhandmade – Cut pieces slightly bigger and trim the block to size!
85 – Fijimamaquilts – Use numbered flat head pins!
86 – Lazymadecrafts – Always cut corners!
87 – Loveinthecure – Press / set your seam before you open it up to press it open! ( Especially for piecing)
88 – Katelyndsews – Use a walking foot to attach binding
89 – Chenilleit – New way to use all those quilting stencils…mark your block and follow the continuous line stitching
90 – Hilary Gooding – Never sew across a seam you haven’t pressed.
91 – Jolanda Zeimer – ‘Hand quilting with a smaller needle produces smaller stitches
92 – Sandra Johnson – When sewing by hand or machines, use a small needle to make invisible stitches.
93 – Aggy Burczyk – Never stop learning! Always try out classes from different teachers for the same technique. Not all classes will give fundamentally new information and some might just not become the preferred way of doing things, but I can assure that every single one will give you a new seed to grow on to become a perfect quilter.
94 – Julia Gahagan – My absolute top tip for making miniature quilts is to use a dry iron when pressing seams – a steam iron can easily distort the shapes and make it harder to piece together several blocks.
95 – Jannet Tillet – I think it is important to stop for lunch. It is easy to get so involved with the process of making a quilt that you don’t want to stop. Having a break though means that you can re-charge your batteries and you are less likely to make mistakes.
96 – Paula Doyle – Doodle – if you doodle on pieces of paper while you are on the phone or watching TV a lot of those doodles could be used as free motion machine quilting patterns.
97 – Mick Stead – Aurifil have a thread that is a 80 weight, it is excellent for hand applique
Tips for the perfect quilting room
98 – Gill Towell – I find setting up a small iron next to me a bit of a nuisance, but I have recently become a convert to using a seam roller. There are lots out there – and they provide an excellent flat seam without having to get up or plug anything else in!
99 – Its_a_wander_ful_life – Pack it up! Take your machine out of your house and sew with friends! You will learn, you will teach, you will grow friendships and you will keep the love of quilting having momentum!
100 – Anonymous – If your sewing room has a carpeted floor, keep an inexpensive, round-headed loo brush. It will pick up the stubborn bits of thread far quicker that the vacuum cleaner.