What are some of the key techniques every patchwork quilter should master? Here are some tips to get you started on achieving that perfect finish.
1. Match colours and patterns.
Lay out your fabrics beforehand in a bright light (preferably daylight) to check how the colours match up. Your colour palette can be drawn from one chosen fabric or from a selection of 2 or 3. Limiting your palette to 3 dominant colours will make life easier and the overall piece more cohesive.
Patterns should be balanced but varied. Bring in patterns of different densities or visual weight to add interest to your project. The fabrics below have different visual weight. Note the scale of the design, the "busyness", and the distribution of colour.
2. Cut carefully.
Measure twice, cut once. Or even measure several times. In order for the corners of your patchwork pieces to line up you must take time to cut out carefully and precisely. Measure across your piece at different points to check your edges are parallel etc. A larger quilter's ruler comes in handy here as it provides both horizontal and vertical measurements in addition to angles. Pictured below are some options we stock along with the new Splash coloured rotary cutters.
3. Cut from a straight edge.
Start your cutting process by cutting a straight edge along the grain. Use your quilter's ruler to ensure your perpendicular cuts are precisely 90 degrees to your initial straight edge. This will keep your edges true and your pieces on the straight grain to avoid extra warping or stretching when sewing.
4. Press frequently.
A good iron is your best friend and you should hang out frequently when sewing especially for patchwork. Seams should be pressed to one side or the other and alternated so as not to add bulk to the quilt top. Be careful not to roll your seam and create tucks in your piece when you press. Finally, do not wait until the end of sewing before pressing. Press as you join pieces to your project.
5. Practice your 1/4" seams.
If you are a beginner or used to sewing with a 5/8" seam allowance then practice sewing with a 1/4" seam allowance on some scraps before you begin. Use a 1/4" seam foot on your machine if you can.
The easy sunglasses case.
Making a sunglasses case is a practical summer project that is easy enough for beginners. Know a young person who is eager to learn to sew? Or perhaps you have a few hours and want to exercise your creative muscles?
Try one of the free patterns with instructions listed below and you too will be able to respond to compliments with, "Why thank you. I made it myself."
We have lots of bright, colourful fabrics in store that are perfect for this project. Come in to the shop and you will be spoilt for choice.
Well finished seams are key to achieving a professional look. Do it well and it makes your piece. Here are 5 tips to sewing a perfect seam on a sewing machine.
1. First, press, press, press. The more you take time to iron your fabric and your seam the better your finished piece will turn out. Iron your fabric before you start. Press your seam flat open or towards one direction. Often, vertical garment seams will be pressed towards the centre back. Check the pattern for instructions.
2. Align, pin, sew. Before pinning align your edges. If there is a significant inconsistency in your edge check the piece against your pattern for errors before you continue.
4. Next, pin along your seam. While pinning may seem like an unnecessary chore it will ensure your seam is flat and even. Insert your pins about 1-2 inches apart and perpendicular to your stitch line to make them easy to pull out when sewing. Do not sew over the pins with your machine. This may result in shattered needles or worse.
5. Top Stitching or Edge Stitching. Finish seams or hems with panache by top stitching. While not suitable for all seams this is a good way to add a level of sophistication to your item and secure your seam. The main rule about top stitching - keep an even distance from the seam. Your top stitch line should usually be 1/16 or 1/8 inch from the seam unless the design benefits from a wider gap. Whichever size you choose stick to it precisely otherwise it can look messy and amateur. Before you start make sure you press your seam so the seam allowance is underneath where you will top stitch (either one side or both sides of your seam). Use a slightly longer stitch length for top stitching so the stitches are defined (I use 3.0 on the studio machines).
Photo by Natahsha Priya. Fabrics: Wonderland by Rifle Paper Co. for Cotton+Steel, and Painters Palette Turquoise.
As a beginner the fabric store can offer an overwhelming number of choices of tools and resources to get you started. Here are my top 10 must-have items for your kit. With these you can start sewing. After you get started you will have a better idea of what specialized items you might like to add to expand your capacity for making stitched creations.
1. Dressmaking scissors. A good pair of scissors is a valuable investment. These should only be used for cutting fabric as other items like paper will dull the blades faster.
2. Smaller scissors. A small pair of embroidery scissors or similar are handy for snipping threads, cutting small details, or getting into tight corners.
3. Tape Measure. A must-have to hand for checking seam widths and other measurements as you go along. Attention to detail in measuring makes all the difference to your finished piece.
4. Iron and ironing board. Press, press, and press again. Press your fabric, press your seams as you go along. Another area where attention to detail makes a big difference.
5. Pins and pin cushion. A magnetic pin cushion is useful for picking up dropped pins as well as keeping them safely in one place. Different pins are designed for different uses but for now a box of straight dressmaker pins (with or without a ball head) is all you need.
6. Dressmaker's chalk or pencil. Use blue or pink chalk on light coloured fabrics and white or yellow chalk on dark colours.
7. Clear Quilting or Grading Ruler. You might start with a 6"x24" especially if you want to try quilting.
8. Seam Ripper. For those times when you need to rip it out and try again. It happens.
9. Pinking Scissors. To stop the cut fabric edges from fraying. This is a simple way to finish inside seams without a serger. Other methods include making a French Seam (but that is for another blog post).
10. Needles. You can now buy "easy-threading" needles which are a good all-round basic hand sewing needle. Otherwise embroidery needles are good for most uses. Most sewing stores will also sell variety packets so you will have a range of the most common needles. Choose your needle according to your project: embroidery, darning, etc.
There you have my top 10 must-have items for your sewing kit. There are many more bits and bobs you can collect to make your projects easier. Your local fabric store can give you advice on what is available. Or you can visit me at The Stitchery Sewing Studio in Port Moody. I am happy to chat with you, even offer you a cup of tea, and help you with your creative projects. We also have a range of basic sewing tools for sale in our studio if you are putting together a kit.
That is all for now.
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