Basic's - should we go back to them?
We all know the basic's, or a few of them any way. But, should we resort to them often, or just once in a while?
What are the basic's of quilting / sewing - Quarter inch seam, square cuts, sharp points, good thread, relaxed position, and pressing seams. A few of them anyway.
Of course the 1/4 inch seam allowance is a given we use it every day in our projects unless otherwise called for. But, do we really pay attention to it, until it may be too late? I mean have we become complacent in thinking it was there yesterday and it was fine, sew I won't check it today. That is a no no, we should check regularly; things shift. Fabric differs and tensions change and all those can change your seam allowance. If you use one of those guides believe me they change, a slight bump to the blade guide can put it off, or something gets on our machines (i.e. fur babies) and they can hit it and bend it, it is not a very strong piece of metal thus called a blade. Also, I caught a thread on mine and BAM bent had to throw it out. I get those that are generic for a few dollars as I am not most careful person at times. But check it regularly to be sure you are still on your mark!
Square cuts, what I mean by that is - are you cutting a straight line? Is your rulers edge worn or frayed from being hit with the rotary blade? YES, it shaves a little off each time!!! But how do you know? Get yourself your own YOUR own square, they are inexpensive at the box stores. If you are unsure what I mean here is a pic of the one I use. it is a builders square. I take my straight edge and lay it against the edge and look for any space in between, a light under it or bright color will help you to see. If you are off, it is time for a new straight edge, no sense in trying to re-square unless you know someone who can do it for you very well. The least bit off, and your blocks will be off every one of them, and that adds up in the end. So check this as well to be sure. Nothing more confusing as to why your project is not square when it is meant to be. I know I have done it too many times, then realized what it was!
Now points - the bane of our very existence at times. Do they really need to be sharp because they sure hell don't stay that way! Well to begin with yes they do, it helps in lining up your blocks to piece well together. Have I used any that were not pointed? You bet your ninny I did, and regretted it every time, but I still do it. I can't waste fabric - I know cut it to a smaller piece, but when you buy just enough and have no more for the project- you do what you have too. I placed them in spots you could not seen right off hand, then said CHARACTER piece! But seriously if you start with good points you will end with decent points, points take practice for sure, and all those practice pieces you are now planning to do, well those become a killer crazy scrappy quilt throw project. Take your scarps of good size and practice with those for sure! I have to do it still, and have been quilting for some time. Now how to do you get good points? Ender and leaders! Ender and leaders are pieces of fabric you use at the beginning and end of a row of piece's you chain stitch, they help get the needle going and do not push your points down into your feed dog compartment on your machine. At the end, they keep you from pulling the thread too tight on your last piece in the row you just chain stitched. Chain stitching is the best when you have a lot of pieces to make that are the same. HINT: get your self one of those slitter's for opening mail and use that to cut them apart after! I attached mine blade up to side of my table I iron on, and just go one after the other and then iron them right there! Works great! And they are usually free!
Relaxed position? Well that just means have good posture, be relaxed and and have your self set up in a comfortable position for you, it varies for sure, but be sure to find what is best for you. A chair that rises and falls is a good thing to have at your sewing machine. If you use a table you eat on too, you can still do this. Also, if you do not have one, get an extension table to give you more surface to work on, since we all know not every one has the 6 thousand dollar with hydraulic lift sewing cabinet. So at the kitchen table you have a good surface space to keep your hands and forearm onto work and stay stable at. I personally have an inexpensive cabinet I cut a hole and added a shelf for my machine to sit into my cabinet so it has a larger sewing surface. Just get comfortable, don't slouch and hunch up your shoulders you will regret it for sure. YES, I speak from experience. Also, get up often to stretch your legs and lower back. Do not always sit with your iron next to you, you need to move to keep good circulation and give yourself a de-stressing stretch!
Why would I say good thread and not good fabric? fabric is threads put together, but thread holds the fabric together. DO NOT GET THOSE 10 for a $1.00 specials ever, you will have a mess in the end, they tend to break easily, wear out fast, and machines really do not like them for long term use! These types of threads are really for quick fixes. Yes they are good price, and yes I usually say get what you can afford, but I know for sure they do not last! I have a quilt to re-quilt and re-piece due to threads breaking and wearing out! Get a good affordable thread. Poly blend is made to last, cotton is good too but I personally do not ever use 100% cotton on quilts, because mine are used, and washed and re used! 100% cotton is good for show pieces yes, but not utilitarian use. It can wear just like it does in clothing. Poly is man made and is made to out last cockroaches! Poly blends are affordable and will be in a multitude of colors which will go with your projects, does not bleed when washed and is long lasting. $3.99 a spool is an investment for your larger long term investment, unless Like I said you are creating a show piece which rules may require non man made materials to be used. Check the rules on those for sure!
Okay, now what is left? Is it a pressing matter we have for last? OH YEP - pressing.
Often you hear press to the dark side - what does that mean? Press to the darker of two fabrics, even two tones of white will have one darker than the other. Most often we do this. But we still press seams open. I remember this being the rule when I first started to press open all your seams. SERIOUSLY - They meant burn the crap out of your fingertips! But, there are some instances this does help to press open, pin wheels are one that comes to mind, it helps to reduce the bulk of the center of the finished block. Sew if using a pattern read the pressing instructions. Get a small tip iron - I have these at http://haverislanddesign.com very affordable temp regulator and stand all in one. These can range in price from $9.99 to upwards of 199.99 YES for this little iron, but it is made differently from this one, so get what you can afford and for your uses. The one almost 200.00 is for seamstresses who use them A LOT! It is cast iron, with a wooden handle and is very VERY hot! They come with interchangeable tips too. But you can also get an everyday iron with a pointed tip nose for the same thing, but watch your finger tips.
PRESS do NOT iron! What is the difference? Pressing as in press down. IRONING moving the iron plate around and shifting fabric - which will lead to very wonky square or parts. PRESS PRESS PRESS PRESS I can not say it enough and you will learn the difference very quickly when you see you have squares that are well NOT squares. Steam irons can lead to stretching as well, so decide if you need it! Your choice. Often you hear of finger pressing as well, this is good for a quick slight press to open a block up but not to set your seam! Remember that, good to open a block NOT to set a seam. Its your finger for gads sake, not an iron! Unless you are one hot mama it won't due in the end.
Look for the needle guide too. That helps you understand what needle to use for what fabric and thread you are using. It helps to know this! Too much information to add here today. I will have an entire section in the up coming Beginners guide book this spring! Look for it - Quit yer bitchin an start stitchin - Beginners guide to quilting!
One last note here - get your space to your liking as well. Good lighting, comfortable chair easy to access space for you! If it gets messy it gets cleaned up at some point. As for me after a project is done!
Remember an unfinished quilt is waiting to love, and it will be let me tell you. Words do not need to be said for it to be known, it is the faces of those who receive and love it. If you do not hear I LOVE IT - because your love is in it, you made it to be loved and if it gets passed on the next one will love it! I promise!
Keep creating, keep loving what you do. Til next time - peaceful creating...