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Quilting Tip #26: Choosing Thread colours

When you are doing your patchwork and not sure what thread to use. It is advisable to go with a grey or beige thread. The lighter shades for light fabrics and the darker shades for darker fabrics.

Quilting Tip #25: Ironing seams

It is always advisable, whenever possible, to iron seams away from the light fabrics towards the darker fabrics.

Quilting Tip #24: Foundation Paper piecing

a. If you get ink from the photostat design, use a baby wipe to remove the ink.
b. Be careful when photocopying many prints, as the photocopy machine heats up there is a good chance that your copies will distort. This will mean your blocks will be different sizes and you will not get the accuracy wanted from using this method.
c. It is advisable to sign your original pattern that you are coping from. You can use the master to check that your copies have not distorted.
d. Use a slightly smaller stitch than you would for regular stitching. This aids in perforating the paper thus making the removal of the foundation paper easier to remove from the fabric without too much disturbance to your stitching.
i. When sewing on foundation paper it is always advisable to have generous seam allowances and trim them if necessary as they are your sewing guide for the next fabric seam to be sewn.
ii. Tack a larger tacking stitch around the edge of the finished block. This will keep the fabric firmly in place when you join the blocks.

Quilting Tip #23: Choosing Quality Fabrics

When making a quilt and choosing fabrics – choose the best fabric you can afford. It is always advisable to like the fabrics you are going to be working with, both the feel of the fabric and prints. The enjoyment of the patchwork and quilting for me is often the fabric choice made.

Quilting Tip #22: Sewing assistance

When sewing projects, like the double wedding ring, you are required to hold seams away from the presser foot while stitching. These awkward seams are often difficult to get to with your fingers. A Bamboo skewer is a nice and cheap alternative to a stiletto or an unpicker. For smaller projects a toothpick is ideal.

Quilting Tip #21: Transferring designs

When transferring quilting designs, trace the design onto tissue paper or tracing paper and stick or pin onto the fabric. Tear off after quilting through the paper.

Quilting Tip #20: Cheaper Appliqué !

In place of an Appliqué Pressing sheet, use the inexpensive Glad Bake

Quilting Tip #19: Makeshift Light Box for tracing

For an inexpensive makeshift light box, place a florescent light under a large plastic box.

Quilting Tip #18: Removing Pellon /magic appliqué

Once you have ironed the Pellon or magic appliqué to your fabric and want to fuse the design to your fabric, use tweezers or a pin to score the magic appliqué backing paper and remove.

Quilting Tip #17: Appliqué

Press bars are useful for appliqué stems.

Quilting Tip #16: Benefits of 100% cotton thread

When sewing a quilt using a 100% cotton fabric, use cotton thread to avoid disappointment. The fabric is ironed on a hot cotton setting and the cotton thread is also more suited to this ironing temperature, thus eliminating the thread from perishing.

Quilting Tip #15: Catch those threads!

Try placing a piece of batting next to your sewing machine while stitching to catch all threads that you snip. This saves time from having to pick stray threads from your clothing or the floor.

Quilting Tip #14: How much Fabric to buy?

“How much fabric do I buy” is the big question we ask ourselves. It is always difficult if you do not have a specific project in mind, but really like a piece or two of fabric. So anything from a meter and up would be a safe figure. Often the cost of the fabric and your budget play an important role in this decision.

Quilting Tip #13: Thin & Fat Quarters

“Do I buy a fat quarter or a thin quarter?” I would advise if you are buying a large print fabric then a fat quarter is better. If you are planning to use it for strips or borders on a small project then thin quarters are advisable.

Quilting Tip #12: Threading Needles

If battling to thread a needle try these few simple techniques before calling for help:
a. Use a needle threader. These are useful and inexpensive. A must for a sewing box.
b. Try and lick the eye of the needle, not the thread.
c. Hold up a white sheet of paper behind the eye of the needle when threading it.
d. There is a flat side to the eye of a needle and the side that “grooves” in. Make sure that the concave side of the needle eye is facing you when threading it.

Quilting Tip #11: Needles & numbers

When buying hand sewing needles it is advisable to remember that the smaller (shorter the needle, smaller the eye) the needle, the higher the number of the needle size.

Quilting Tip #10: Ironing

When ironing your patchwork top it is advisable to iron from the lighter fabrics towards the dark, when ever possible.

Quilting Tip #9: Bias Binding

To make Bias Binding, cut the material into diagonal strips – 45 degree angle.
These strips can be joined, depending on the amount of bias binding you require.

For a 12mm wide bias tape, cut the fabric 23mm wide.
For a 18mm wide bias tape, cut the fabric 35mm wide.
For a 25mm wide bias tape, cut the fabric 48mm wide.
For a 50mm wide bias tape, cut the fabric 80mm wide.

Bias press bars are the perfect tool to use to make small bias tubes.

Making Bias Binding Tubes using Bias Press Bars

Cut the end of the fabric straight.
Fold over the corner down creating a 45degree angle - the crosswise grain meets the lengthwise grain of the fabric.
Mark the fold and cut, forming a bias edge.

Using a ruler, measure from the bias edge and cut the bias strips the width that is needed for the bias tube.

Making the Bias Tube

Fold the bias strips in half wrong sides together.
Measure from the folded edge and draw a line slightly wider than the press bar.
Stitch along the seam line and trim the excess seam allowance.
Insert the rounded edge of the Bias Press Bar into the tube. Roll the seam allowance to the centre of the flat side of the Bias Press Bar.
Press the seam in one direction slipping the bar through the tube as you press.

Quilting Tip #8: Basting

There are various methods of basting a quilt. The method by which one is going to quilt will depend on which basting method is to be used.

Machine Quilting

If you are planning on using a sewing machine to quilt it is recommended that you use safety pins to baste the quilt layers and not basting thread. The thread is inclined to get tangled in the presser foot making things unnecessarily complicated.

It takes a lot of safety pins to layer a quilt for stitching by machine:
Approx. 75 pins for a crib and a minimum of 350 pins for a queen size quilt.
Start pinning from the middle of the quilt and pin every 4 inches or palm width apart.
Do not place your hand under the quilt whilst basting, as this will move the quilt out of position and cause puckering.
There are various sized safety Pins that can be used, the preferable size is number 1 or 2.

When you insert the pin you will feel the tip of the pin on your work surface, pull the safety pin back through the quilt layers and use a Quilt spoon or Quick Klip to close the pin.

Note: Only close your safety pins once you have inserted all the pins and are happy with their positions.

Hand Quilting

Any strong thread will be suitable to use when basting a quilt for hand quilting. It is preferable to use a light - coloured thread that will contrast with the fabric and quilting thread. It is also easier to identify and remove the basting thread on completion of the quilting. It is not recommended that dark thread is used as it leaves a shadow once the basting is removed.

To baste your quilt top first place safety pins through the layers to stop them moving. Use a long strand of basting thread, knotted at the end. Start in the centre and work outwards towards the edges of the quilt diagonally, horizontally and vertically. Long stitches are used.

It is important to remember the following:

Whilst basting you need to go through all three layers to secure them.
The backing must be kept smooth at all times.
If you are basting through a Quilting hoop it is recommended that you add additional basting lines.

Quilting Tip #7: Machine Needles

The Quilting Bug stocks a wide selection of machine needles and the two preferable makes are Schmetz and Klassé, both needles are highly recommended and of German origin.

Ball Point

Used to when sewing cotton knits, interlock, rib knits, fleece, double knits and most other knit fabrics. The ball point tip prevents the needle from piercing and breaking the fibers. Available in assorted sizes.

Microtex / Metafil / Embroidery

These are ideal for sewing with Rayon and Metallic threads on woven or knit fabrics. The larger eye accommodates these specialty threads as well restricted eyesight, as it is easier to thread.

Various sizes available from 60/9, 70/10, 80/12 and mixed.


This needle has a slight ball point tip making it an ideal needle to use for most woven fabrics, knits and synthetics.
Available in various sizes. Size 80/12 is the most widely used.


Ideal for piercing and quilting layers of cotton fabric with batting.
Available in size 80/12.

Ideal for heirloom sewing and decorative top stitching. The distance between the twin needles is available in the following sizes: 2mm, 2.5mm, 3mm and 4mm.
They are also available in Universal, Ballpoint, Stretch and Metafil.

Note: Twin needles are fixed in a nylon block and should be used at slower speeds and not for prolonged periods.

Quilting Tip #6: Pins

Craft Pins

These are 14mm in length and often known as sequence pins.

Dressmakers Steel Pins

These are steel pins, 34mm in length and used for general pinning of fabric.

Silk Pins

These are fine 0.5mm steel shafted pins and used to pin delicate fabrics.

45mm Quilting Pins

These are long pins and used to pin through layers of a quilt sandwich.

Quilter’s Flat Flower Pins

Similarly to the 45mm Quilting Pins these are slender in their shafts and have a flat head making it easier to pass through the sewing machine.

Safety Pins

These come in various sizes and are used when basting a quilt. They can be straight or slightly curved. The Quilting Bug also stocks brass and nickel in sizes from 0 to 2.

Quilting Tip #5: Quilting Needles

There are so many needles to choose from and so many sizes. Remember that the higher the number of ANY needle, the smaller the needle.

Quilting needles are also called “betweens.” They can be purchased in a number of sizes ranging from 7 – 12. Remembering that the higher the number of the needle, the smaller the eye of the needle, the thinner and shorter the shaft of the needle. The average needle size is a number 8.

The tightness of the weave, the size of your hand and the thickness of the batting will dictate the best needle size.

Needles with large eyes can also cause “drag” through the fabric layers, making it difficult to glide the needle through the fabric. Quilters with deteriorating eyesight often choose these needles, but unfortunately the larger the eye the thicker the needle. A solution here would be to get a needle threader to assist with threading through the smaller eye.

Replacing a Needle

It is advisable to replace a machine needle after 8 hours of sewing. The following advice is given by Klassé.:

Needles should be replaced more frequently when sewing synthetic fabrics, appliqués or machine embroidery. This will avoid skipped stitches and frayed threads.

Breaking Needles

Machine needles are designed to break for the protection of the sewing machine hook mechanism.

If your needle is bent throw it away immediately.

When a sewing machine needle breaks, it is a warning to check the following:

1. Is the needle type and size correct?

2. Is the thread unsuitable or too thick for the needle size and application?

3. Is the upper thread feeding freely?

4. Are the thread tensions perhaps too tight?

5. Does the machine need cleaning?

6. Is the correct presser foot fitted?

7. Is the fabric being pushed, pulled or dragged during sewing?

8. Twin needles usually break due to excessive heat build up whilst sewing.

9. Avoid prolonged usages and reduced speed is advisable when using a twins

Quilting Tip #4: Removing blood stains from your quilt.

Yes, this will happen to you: often, while quilting you will prick yourself and bleed on your quilt. How do you get it out? Your own saliva! Just dab it off with some white cotton fabric. Don't scoff - it works!

Quilting Tip #3: Caring for your Cutting Board/Mat.

This is a really basic tip: Never expose your cutting board to extreme temperature conditions, especially direct sunlight - your board will warp and make cutting on it, extremely difficult. I have not come across any tips/tricks for flattening a board completely - if anybody has managed this, please e-mail me and I will share with the rest of our readers.

Quilting Tip #2: Washing Fabrics.

First a few basics: Always use a reputable washing powder when washing your fabric, and always ensure that you rinse all soap powder out of the fabric afterwards - soap powder and sun may lead to bleaching of your fabric.. Remember that 100% cotton fabric should only be washed in cold water - hot water may lead to shrinkage and even colours running in certain instances.

When it comes to (hand) dyed fabrics, soak the fabric in a mixture of cold water, salt and vinegar - approximately 1 tablespoon of salt, 1 tablespoon of vinegar in 5 lt of water. This should "set" your colour and prevent any running. Theoretically, your colours should not run if the dyer has set it properly, but a slight water discoloration is not abnormal.
Updated comment: I have been informed by experts in the field that this does not work with reactive dyes, and that any properly trained hand dyer will have done the job right in the first place!


Quilting Tip #1: Easy Measuring.

Have you ever had a square piece of fabric and wanted to subdivide it into equal-sized, smaller squares and had difficulty in doing so? Often the problem is that the number of squares that you want to create does not lead to an easy division for the size of fabric and you are forced to search for a calculator. Try this method instead:

Example: Consider the case where you'd like to divide a square piece of fabric - 50 cm x 50 cm - into 9 equally sized squares: Normally you'd cut the fabric into 3 strips and then cut each strip into 3 again, giving you your total 9 squares. The problem is that dividing 50 cm by 3 is a bit problematic - you would have to grab your calculator and divide 3 into 50 cm, giving you 16.666666...cm and then go and measure as closely as possible.


Step 1: Think of a figure closest to 50 cm (larger than 50 cm, though) that would have made it so much easier - in this case 60 cm would have worked perfectly...60 cm divided by 3 is 20 cm...an easy calculation!

Step 2: Take your quilter's ruler and lay it over the fabric, with the 0 cm mark on the bottom, left edge of the fabric and rotate it until the 60 cm mark is at the top, right hand edge. See Figure 2 below.

Step 3: With you quilter's or other fabric pencil, make a mark at 20 cm intervals along the ruler. See Figure 3 below.

Step 4:  Draw vertical lines through your marks.  See Figure 4 above..

Step 5:  Rotate your fabric through 90° and do the same as above (Step 2).  See Figure 5 above.

Step 6:  Once again, draw vertical lines through your marks.  See Figure 6 above.

    .................and Voila! You have finished!

PS:  Once you have grasped the concept, you can apply it to any size fabric and any number of divisions.  Have Fun!







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