Category Archives: Quilting 101

Quilting 101 – Maple Leaf Quilting Block Tutorial

quilting-101-maple-leaf-block-tutorial-main-image-prints-to-polka-dots-free

This block measures 25cm (10″) when sewn with a 1/4″ seam allowance.

Use a plain fabric for the leaf, with a pattern for the background, or vice versa.  For a fresh, clean and bold look why not switch between the two styles to create a chessboard effect across the entire quilt.

quilting-101-maple-leaf-block-tutorial-reversed-image-prints-to-polka-dots-free

Getting Started

Print or trace the templates on the print out (at the end of this post) onto card and cut out.  Then trace the pieces onto your fabrics and cut out (the number of pieces required and fabric suggestions are shown on each of the templates) and the lines printed inside each piece represent the sew line when using a 6mm (1/4″) seam allowance.

Laying Out

BEFORE sewing we strongly recommend spraying all your pieces with starch and ironing them once more.  Spray starch is used by all sorts of sewers, but for quilters it is a total must.  The fabric will stiffen, helping to stop it stretching and making it MUCH easier to sew.

NOTE: You can buy specialist spray starch for quilting, but we find the one from the supermarket works fine 🙂

We normally recommend laying your pieces out in front of you before you start sewing, but that isn’t possible with this block until you have completed the first part of the sewing process.

Piecing Together

The first step of this block is to create your ‘half triangle squares’.  Match up a plain large square with a patterned large square, right sides of the fabric facing each other.  Fold in half diagonally and iron the crease into place (see below).

quilting-one-o-one-maple-leaf-half-square-block-1

You are now going to sew down the middle twice, once in each direction. Treat the crease in the middle of the fabric as if it is your raw edge and line up your needle to create a 1/4″ seam in from the crease.  Sew across the block, keeping the crease lined up as if it was your raw edge.  Turn your block around and repeat this process down the other side of the crease.

quilting-one-o-one-maple-sewing-half-square-triangles

Your block should now look like the one below:

quilting-one-o-one-maple-leaf-sewing-half-square-triangles-sewn-flat

Cut along the crease and iron the seams flat – you will now have two finished ‘half square triangle blocks’!

quilting-one-o-one-maple-leaf-half-square-block

Repeat this process with your remaining 2 large squares, you will end up with 4 half square triangle blocks.

You can now arrange your pieces according to the block pattern, don’t worry that the pieces don’t line up properly around the stem.

quilting-one-o-one-maple-leaf-laying-out-1

The stem piece is made up of 3 pieces of fabric, 2 triangles and a stem.

quilting-one-o-one-maple-leaf-laying-out-stem-pieces

Line the long side of the stem up with one long side of one triangle, right sides facing each other and raw edges lined up (see below).

quilting-one-o-one-maple-leaf-stem-sew-line-1

Sew together and press the seam open.

quilting-one-o-one-maple-leaf-stem-layout2

The next triangle will be too long for the space it needs to fill to make a square, but don’t panic, we can trim this back after we have sewn the square together.  Fold the sewn piece in half to find the middle of the raw edge you will be adding the next triangle too, and repeat this process with the triangle piece (see below).

quilting-one-o-one-maple-stem-folded

Place the triangle on top of the stem piece, right sides facing, lining up the raw edges along the sew line and the fold lines you just made in the middle of the pieces.

quilting-one-o-one-maple-leaf-sewing-second-side-stem

Sew together and press the seam open.

quilting-one-o-one-maple-leaf-stem-square

Place your template back on top of your mini block, or use your quilting ruler and cutting mat, to trim the block back to the same size as the smaller square template.

quilting-one-o-one-maple-leaf-trim-stem-square

Place the completed block back into the main block pattern.

NOTE: The bottom row is not laid out correctly in this image - check the images at the top or bottom of this post for the correct lay out (the triangles are facing the wrong way here!)

NOTE: The bottom row is not laid out correctly in this image – check the images at the top or bottom of this post for the correct lay out (the triangles are facing the wrong way here!)

You are now ready to sew the squares together into rows (the image below still shows the earlier mistake – the triangles in the bottom row are facing the wrong way!  I forgot to retake the picture are unpicking and re-sewing!).

quilting-one-o-one-maple-leaf-rowing rows 1

Sew the rows together, if your blocks are out of shape, it is a good idea to trim the edges you will be sewing straight before sewing them together.

quilting-one-o-one-maple-leaf-sewn

Press your block one more time and then trim the block back square – not sure where to start?  The easiest way to do this is to fold your block into quarters and iron the creases into place (lightly).  When you open up the block you will have the mid point of each side marked with a crease.

Place your square on your cutting board with the vertical crease lined up with the 10″ line on the cutting mat, making sure it is in line at the top and bottom of the block.  Now place your ruler over the block so that it runs along the 5.25″ line to the left of your crease, cut along this line.  Now line your ruler up with the 15.25″ line to the right of your crease, and cut along this line.  Turn your block 90 degrees and repeat the process.

Don’t forget to send us pictures of your finished blocks/quilts, via the blog, Facebook or by tagging us in on Instagram #printstopolkadots. We love seeing your makes!

quilting-101-maple-leaf-block-tutorial-reversed-image-prints-to-polka-dots-free
Fabrics used in our examples: Riley Blake’s Bloom and Bliss (click to view in store) and Kona’s White (click to buy).

Click here to download the templates and short instructions.

Quilting 101 – Clays Choice Quilting Block Tutorial

quilting-one-o-one-clays-choice-block-tutorial-front-page

This block measures 25cm (10″) when sewn with a 1/4″ seam allowance.

Use a plain background and two fabrics to make the star punch out from the middle of the block, as in the sketch below, or reverse it, using a white fabric for the star and patterns everywhere else.

If you are planning to make a quilt by repeating this block over and over, consider rotating the 3 fabrics in the block, giving each one a chance to be the background, central square and star.

quilting-one-o-one-clays-choice-block-tutorial-sketch

Getting Started

king-s-crown-quilting-block-step-1-cut-out-templates

Note: These pieces are not for this particular block!

Print or trace the attached templates onto card and cut out. Now trace the pieces onto your fabrics and cut out (the number of pieces required and fabric suggestions are shown on each of the templates).

Laying Out

Lay out your pieces in line with the pattern.  Don’t be alarmed that all the pieces don’t line up – this is due to the seam allowances for each of the pieces being visible at this point, it will work in the end!

quilting-one-o-one-clays-choice-block-tutorial-block-layout

We strongly recommend spraying all your pieces with starch and ironing them once more BEFORE sewing.  Spray starch is used by all sorts of sewers, but for quilters it is a total must. The fabric will stiffen, helping to stop it stretching and making it MUCH easier to sew.

NOTE: You can buy specialist spray starch for quilting, but we find the one from the supermarket works fine 🙂

Piecing Together

This block is made up of 4 identical mini blocks, each making up one quarter of the finished block.  Start by sewing the two small squares in each mini block together.

quilting-one-o-one-clays-choice-block-tutorial-2-finished-block-squares together

Now you need to sew the other three parts of each mini block together, making rectangles (as below).   This is a little trickier than you might think, but work through the steps below the next image and you will get there without pulling your hair out!

quilting-one-o-one-clays-choice-block-tutorial-2-finished-block-strips

I am only joining three pieces together- how hard can it be, I hear you cry!  Place the two pieces you are sewing together, right sides facing, lining up the diagonal raw edges and you will discover that the shapes are actually different sizes and won’t line up.

quilting-one-o-one-clays-choice-block-tutorial-sewing-diagnol
Place the middle shape in front of you as shown to the right.  Then place a triangle on top, right sides facing each other, so that the bottom diagonal sides are lined up, from the bottom corner, out along the long diagonal side THEY WILL NOT LINE UP AT THE TOP CORNER.

Sew the two pieces together and when you iron the seam flat and turn over, the pieces should be lined up perfectly!

 

 

quilting-one-o-one-clays-choice-block-tutorial-second-triangle
Now turn your shape around, so that the sewn side is at the top of the middle shape and the raw diagonal edge of the middle shape is at the bottom.  Repeat the above steps.

 

 

 

 

Now sew the two squares you completed earlier to this shape, completing each mini block.

quilting-one-o-one-clays-choice-block-tutorial-2-finished-block-mini-blocks

Now sew the top two mini blocks together.

At this point I find it helps to check that the bottom edge of the new, larger, block is straight, and trim it back if not.

Then sew the bottom two mini blocks together, making sure the top edge is straight and trimming back as necessary.

quilting-one-o-one-clays-choice-block-tutorial-2-finished-block-rows

Now sew the two rows together.

quilting-one-o-one-clays-choice-block-tutorial-2-finished-block-finsihed

The final step is to square off the block.  The easiest way to do this is to fold your block into four and iron the creases in lightly.  When you open up the block you will have the mid point of each side marked with a crease.

Place your square on your cutting board with the vertical crease lined up with the 10″ line on the cutting mat, making sure it is in line at the top and bottom of the block.  Now place your ruler over the block so that it runs along the 5.25″ line to the left of your crease, cut along this line.  Now line your ruler up with the 15.25″ line to the right of your crease, and cut along this line.  Turn your block 90 degrees and repeat the process (if you like the block we used for the images this part of the tutorial (below), it is called King’s Crown – click here to view the tutorial).

king-s-crown-quilting-block-triming back-tutorial

 

Ta dah!

quilting-one-o-one-clays-choice-block-tutorial-2-finished-blocks

Don’t forget to send us pictures of your finished blocks/quilts, here on our blog, on Facebook or by tagging us in on Instagram #printstopolkadots. We love seeing your makes!

Fabrics used in our examples: Riley Blake’s Bloom and Bliss (click to view instore) and Kona’s White (click to buy).

Click here to download the templates and short instructions.

Quilting 101 – Piecing Your Quilt Blocks Together – Top Tips

quilting-101-piecing-your-quilt-together-top-tips

Block Pattern/Templates Tips

  • king-s-crown-quilting-block-step-1-cut-out-templates
    If you are using one of our block patterns
    – Print it directly onto card. Your pattern pieces will be easy to trace onto your fabric and over time you will build up a library of reusable quilt block templates.
  • If you are creating your own block patterns – Draw your block pieces directly onto template plastic or card and you will have pattern pieces you can use time and time again. Don’t forget to include your seam allowance!
  • Write the names of each block on each piece, together with the total number of pieces needed for the pattern – ‘kings crown, 1 of 4’ etc… and if appropriate the seam allowance to use.

Preparing Your Fabric

  • king-s-crown-quilting-block-step-2-cut-out-fabrics-and-spray-with-startch-tutorial
    Most quilters do not prewash their fabrics, preferring to wash the fabrics once the quilt is finished, any shrinkage adds that slightly crinkly, aged, feel to your quilt.
  • Spray all your fabrics lightly with starch before you start. The starch will help preserve the shape of the fabric pieces whilst you sew them, and will help seams to lay flat when sewing pieces together (you can buy specialist quilting starch but we think the one you get in the local supermarket works fine).

Your Sewing Machine

quarter-inch-sewing-machine-foot
Invest in a quarter inch sewing foot. Standard feet are 5/8ths of an inch wide, and it might not seem that reducing your seams down by just 1/8th of an inch will make a big difference, but when you are sewing a lot of small pieces together (piecing them together) you will be surprised how quickly your blocks shrink into the seam allowance – for example if you sew a square made from 2.5” squares, and you sew rows of 5 blocks, that extra 1/8th of an inch will add up to over half an inch by the time you get to the end of the first row!

Getting Started

  • quilting-101-piecing-laying-out
    Once you have starched your fabrics and cut your shapes out, it is time to layout your block. Don’t panic if it looks like some pieces are too large or too small, it is all to do with the number of pieces making up each part of the block and accommodating their seam allowances.  If you are following a pattern, the likelihood is that this difference will disappear once you start sewing all the parts together.

 

  • quilting-101-piecing-laying-out-2
    If you are using one of our block tutorials there will be detailed instructions on our blog, showing you the order in which to sew everything together. If all you have to go on is a picture of the block, working out what order to sew the block in is simpler than you might think. Look at the block and divide it up into smaller squares, triangles and rectangles, each made of pairs of pieces (see example below).Once they are sewn together arrange these larger pieces into squares, rectangles, triangles and rows made up of your larger sewn pieces, and sew these together.  Keep repeating this process until you have a completed block.
  • Each time you sew two pieces together trim the seam allowances as shown in the image below, this will help the seams lay flat and stop fabric bunching up at the corners.
  • Once trimmed iron the seam allowance out, either to one side (the darkest fabric side) or equally onto each side, as in the image below.

quilting-101-piecing-seam-allowances-ironing

  • IMPORTANT NOTE ABOUT IRONING: This rule holds true whenever sewing, but becomes critical when quilting, as the pieces of fabric are at their most fragile when cut on all four sides and you need them to hold their shape to produce precise blocks.  The golden rule is that you should PRESS rather than push the iron.  The act of pushing the iron back and forth across your fabric pieces WILL push the fabrics out of shape.  Simply lift the iron up and down, across your shapes, to set the seams, and this will eliminate this problem.  We also recommend using a pressing board rather than ironing board, as ironing boards have spring built in, which when quilting, can push shapes out – pressing boards are cheap to make and convenient, as you can keep a small board next to you as you sew – see our blog for our tutorial.

Keeping Going

  • We recommend keeping your block laid out on your sewing table, each time you sew two pieces together, place them back in your block to check everything is OK and identify which pieces need adding next, and where.
  • Don’t panic if your pieced shapes are perfectly square. It is very hard to maintain perfect shapes as you piece together, two triangles that start out looking perfectly shaped and equal in size, should turn into a perfect square, but you don’t have to be very out, or push the iron very hard to push the fabric out of shape.  Before you know it your square starts looking more like a diamond!  Resist the temptation to bin it and start again, or to trim the shape back into a square UNLESS the shape is very wrong.  Wait until you have sewn a number of pieces together, or if possible have formed rows, before considering trimming your shapes straight – or that quilt could turn into a cushion cover or even worse, a pin cushion!

 

 
quilting-101-piecing-your-quilt-together

Finishing Your Block

trimming your quilting block when finished
If your finished block looks less than square, don’t be disheartened, simply place your block on your cutting mat and trim it back to your desired size.

The key to trimming your block is to getting it centred on mat first.  Fold your block into quarters and lightly press, then place your block on your mat, lining the crease lines up with the vertical and horizontal lines on the mat.  Work out from the middle, half the width of your block, and the point you reach is your cutting line, place your ruler along the line on the mat and trim. Repeat this process on all the sides.

By finding the middle and cutting equally on all sides, all your blocks will remain even, and if you are using the same block over and over by cutting the smallest block first and making the rest that size your finished quilt will look like it should always have been that size.

Click here to download a printer-friendly version of this guide.

Love the fabric!  It is Riley Blake’s Bloom and Bliss collection – click here to view in store.

If you are local to Witney in Oxfordshire and would like to learn to quilt, visit our website to find out all about our quilting courses – Click here for more details.

Quilting 101 – King’s Crown Quilting Block Tutorial

kings-crown-quilting-block-free-tutorial-sewing-patchwork-prints-to-polka-dots2
 This quilting block measures 25cm (10″) when sewn with a 1/4″ seam allowance, (after trimming back to a true square when completed).

Use a plain background and two fabrics to make the crown, as in the sketch below, or reverse it, using a patterned background and white/solid colours for the crown itself.

kings-crown-quilting-template
Mix and match these styles to form a really interesting quilt, with or without sashing between the blocks.

Getting Started
king-s-crown-quilting-block-step-1-cut-out-templates

Print or trace the attached templates onto card and cut out. Now trace the pieces onto your fabrics and cut out (the number of pieces required and fabric suggestions are shown on each of the templates).

 

Laying Out

Lay out your pieces in line with the pattern.  Don’t be alarmed that all the pieces don’t line up – this is due to the seam allowances on various pieces, it will work in the end!

king-s-crown-quilting-block-step-2-cut-out-fabrics-and-spray-with-startch-tutorial

We strongly recommend spraying all your pieces with starch and ironing them once more BEFORE sewing.  Spray starch is used by all sorts of sewers, but for quilters it is a total must.  The fabric will stiffen, helping to stop it stretching and making it MUCH easier to sew.

NOTE: You can buy specialist spray starch for quilting, but we find the one from the supermarket works fine 🙂

Piecing Together

Start by sewing the bottom left triangle onto the long strip of fabric that forms the bottom of the crown.  Because the two sides you are sewing together are different sizes lining up the pieces can be tricky.  We have tried many different methods for lining up pieces which are different sizes and this is the one we recommend.

Fold the two pieces you are sewing together in half to find the mid point of each of the sides you are sewing along.  Lightly press the fold in and open up.

king-s-crown-quilting-block-step-3-sewing-bottom-corner-finding-middle-tutorial

 

Place one piece on top of the other, with the raw edges of the sides you want to sew together lined up, right sides of the fabric facing each other, making sure the two creases you just made are also lined up.  Sew together and iron the seam flat.

king-s-crown-quilting-block-step-3-sewing-bottom-corner-sewn-together-pressed-tutorial

Place these pieces to one side.

Now piece together the main part of the crown by sewing together the small squares and triangles in the middle of the block.  Start by sewing in rows, then sew the rows together.

NOTE:  Where you have a triangle being sewn to a square (when doing the rows) the sides won’t be the same size, line the triangle up so that the side at a right angle to the sew line, lines up with the same edge on the square, in the example below, we have lined the top of the triangles up with tops of the squares.

king-s-crown-quilting-block-making-crown-section-tutorial

Now lay your block out again.

king-s-crown-quilting-block-step-7-putting-it-together-again-tutorial

The next step is to attach the white strips to the top and right sides of the triangle you just finished making.

Place the top strip on top of the block, right sides facing, with the raw edges along the top lined up.  IT IS VERY IMPORTANT to make sure that the strip extends 1/4″ over the end on the right (see image below), the left edge will not line up – this is fine.  Sew into place.

king-s-crown-quilting-block-step-8-top-borders-1-tutorial

Repeat on the right side, making sure 1/4″ of the border extends over the top edge.  Start sewing at the outside edge, working towards the point where the strips meet, stop where the strips meet (this will be before the end of the strip you are sewing).

king-s-crown-quilting-block-step-8-top-borders-3-tutorial

You now need to sew the white strips together at the corner.  Fold your block in half so that the two strips are on top of each other, making sure the edges of the main crown section are lined up under the strips.  The raw edges of the strips should be sticking out past the fold line.  Imagine the fold line is your sew line, and starting at the end of the fold, continue the sew line along the strips.  Iron the seam flat.

king-s-crown-quilting-block-adding right-border-tutorial

The next step is to add the remaining small triangles to the raw ends of each of the white strips, before doing this you might need to square the strips off, the ends of the strips should line up with corners of the triangles you have already sewn into the block.   Pin your triangle pieces into place, making sure they are lined up with both outside edges of each white strip.  Sew into place and press the seams flat.

king-s-crown-quilting-block-final-triangles-sewing-tutorial

 

 

 

Your block is now made up of two pieces.  Sew the two pieces together.  If they don’t line up, use the same technique you used earlier to find the mid point of each block, and pin out from there.  Press the sew seam flat.

The final step is to square off the block.  The easiest way to do this is to fold your block into four and iron the creases in lightly.  When you open up the block you will have the mid point of each side marked with a crease.

Place your square on your cutting board with the vertical crease lined up with the 10″ line on the cutting mat, making sure it is in line at the top and bottom of the block.  Now place your ruler over the block so that it runs along the 5″ line to the left of your crease, cut along this line.  Now line your ruler up with the 15″ line to the right of your crease, and cut along this line.  Turn your block 90 degrees and repeat the process.

king-s-crown-quilting-block-triming back-tutorial

 

Don’t forget to send us pictures of your finished blocks/quilts, via the blog, Facebook or by tagging us in on Instagram #printstopolkadots. We love seeing your makes!

kings crown quilting block both ways

Fabrics used in our examples: Riley Blake’s Bloom and Bliss (click to view instore) and Kona’s White (click to buy).

Click here to download the templates and short instructions.

Which Quilt Batting/Wadding is Right For You?

 

quilting-batting-wadding-guide-sewing

Wadding/batting has been used by quilters and sewers for centuries to create beautiful, warm blankets, bags, boxes and other projects that need depth and a super soft touch – such as children’s busy books.

There is a wide range of batting/wadding on the market, and the choice can seem overwhelming, here is our quick guide.

Polyester Batting/Dacron

polyester batting
Cheap, machine washable and light weight, polyester batting or Dacron can be bought in a wide range of sizes and thicknesses. It is a man made fibre which won’t shrink in the wash.

Natural fibre battings have to be sewn (quilted) to the top and bottom layers of fabric at regular intervals, to prevent the batting bunching and twisting over time. Polyester wadding’s structure is less prone to moving so you can get away with little or no quilting.

For a really clean and wrinkle free finish, you can buy fusible fleeces, which fuse to one or both sides of your project, eliminating quilting altogether – look out for our range of Vilene fusible fleeces, perfect for projects where you want a smooth, clean finish, without quilting, such as bags and boxes.

Remember – once quilted polyester batting will reduce in height, by between 0.5-1cm (1/4-1/2″), & the thicker the wadding is, the warmer it will be, possibly too warm, & the harder it is to sew through, particularly when using a sewing machine and sewing a large item.

Cotton Batting

batting-wadding-in quilt2
The traditional choice for quilters, soft, durable, breathable and as warm as polyester batting but flatter.

Unlike polyester, cotton batting will move within the quilt, to get around this quilters sew (quilt) the top and bottom layers of fabric to the batting at regular intervals, the top stitching/quilting can be very beautiful and add interest, but it does take time. Most cotton batting manufacturers recommend quilting at least every 20-25cm (8-10 inches).

When washed standard cotton batting shrinks slightly giving quilts a vintage, crinkled, look, which may not suit you project (if that is the case & you want to use cotton batting, look out for shrunk/non-shrink varieties).

Wool Batting

wool batting
Wool is very warm & breathable, and has been used for winter weight quilts across the centuries, it is not recommended for use in Spring or Summer quilts.

It is a premium product, which retains its height (loft). It should be quilted at intervals of no more than 5 inches (12cm).

Like cotton it shrinks when washed, giving projects a puckered/ vintage feel, making it less suitable for projects other than quilts ( if you plan to wash them).

Silk Batting

silk wadding batting

The ultimate in luxury, silk batting gives you a light weight and airy result, you will need to quilt this product every 10-12cms (4-5″) and the finished product will need careful looking after, including hand washing and air drying.

It typically shrinks about 5 percent when washed.

Bamboo Batting

batting-wadding-close up
Available as a 50/50 cotton/bamboo blend (we stock this one) or made from 100 percent bamboo fibre, bamboo batting is naturally anti-bacterial & is a lighter fibre than cotton.

Quilting lines can be 20-25cm (8-10”) apart, it is machine washable, breath-able and although it does still shrink, it is by less than some of the other types of batting available.

Bamboo is the most environmentally friendly option, it is fast growing, and a sustainable fibre that is relatively eco-friendly.

Fusible Fleece
hh650-fusible-double-sided-fleece-interfacing-vilene-500x500

Vilene manufacture a number of fusible fleeces that can be used to add padding to your makes, H650 is fusible on both sides, making it perfect for quilting.  Simply sandwich the batting between your quilt layers and press to fuse the layers together – and there is no need to quilt the top and bottom together, just add binding to the raw edges and you are done.

Other Options

Up-cycle old and unloved blankets by using them as free batting!

Click here to download a PDF of this guide.

 

Quilters Tool Kit – Essential Equipment For Quilting

quilting-101-quilters-guide-to-equipment-tools-new-starting-review
When you first start out with a new hobby it is almost impossible to know which pieces of equipment and tools you really should invest in, which you can buy at a later date, and what features to look out for.

Here is our list of must haves and nice haves for quilting, with buying hints and tips.

MUST HAVES

Alongside general sewing supplies there are three pieces of equipment that a quilter cannot live without – their quilter’s rulerrotary cutter and cutting mat.  Whilst you can ‘make do’ and ‘work around’ not having other items on our shopping list, you will really struggle to produce accurate quilts and remain in love with quilting without these key pieces of equipment.

quilting 101 rotary cutters
Rotary Cutter

Rotary cutters are used for cutting fabric in straight lines, accurately and crisply without the need to draw lines onto your fabrics first.

To use you simply place your quilting ruler on top of your fabric, put pressure on the ruler to stop it moving, and run the rotary cutter along the edge!

They are perfect for cutting strips, squares, rectangles and triangles, and can cut through several layers of fabric at once.  You can also use a small rotary cutter to cut curves but it is questionable if they are better than scissors in this situation.

There are a number of great quality brands on the market but the market leader has to be OLFA.  OLFA produce a number of different rotary cutters, we recommend buying either the standard 45mm rotary cutter, or the deluxe model.

Check out our separate blog post exploring the pros and cons of each type before buying – click here.

Cutting Mat
cutting-mat-self-healing-milward-uk-stockist-inches

A cutting mat is essential if you are planning on cutting with a rotary cutter, it will protect your table, is designed for use with a rotary cutter and has self-healing properties. It is also a valuable tool when trying to get fabric pieces squared off and accurately marked.  Place your fabric on the mat, lining the edge of the fabric up with a straight line on the mat, and use your ruler and cutting mat lines to measures and cut the other sides – perfect lines and angles!

A cutting mat is also a great surface for tracing pattern pieces as it is smooth and none of the knots or ridges in real wood tables will come through as you trace over your patterns.

Look out for mats with inches on one side and cms on the other.  The mat should have a variety of diagonal lines on the mat as well as vertical and horizontal ones (the diagonal lines help with cutting a range of shapes including triangles and hexagons, as well as with cutting fabric on the bias).

Why bother with inches? Even if you grew up only using cms, a lot of sewing terms, references and patterns are still written in inches and having to make the conversion every time you measure something is a nightmare you can easily avoid with a double sided mat.

Buy the largest size mat you can easily store.  We use 60cm x 45cm mats at our Sewing School as they are easy to store and transport and large enough to cut most pattern/quilting pieces on without folding the fabric.  We have a larger 1mtr long mat back at our HQ, but storage is a nightmare as it really needs to be stored flat to stop it buckling.

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Quilting Ruler

A good quality quilting ruler is a must for quilters and anyone who plans to cut squares and rectangles for other sewing projects.  Without one you will struggle to produce accurate right angles.  You can also use it to cut more complicated shapes such as hexagons and triangles as all the angles are printed on the ruler!

They are see through which helps when trying to line up the pattern on your fabric and the measurements are printed in two directions, allowing you to read from left to right, or right to left, which is more helpful than you might imagine!

They come in a wide range of shapes and sizes, we recommend starting with a ruler 16cm x 60cm.  It is long enough to cut binding strips from folded fabric in one go, and wide enough to cut the most common square and strip widths, but is still easy to store.

You can buy rulers with either cms or inches printed on them so make sure you buy the right one for your needs (we have both here and swap to and throw depending on the type of pattern we are using).

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Scissors

We recommend quilters have two pairs of scissors in their tool box, a pair of multi-purpose scissors or dressmaking scissors for cutting pattern pieces and fabrics (like our 21cm or 26cm scissors) and  a pair of embroidery scissors for trimming seam allowances, snipping into curves and cutting out fiddly applique.  If you are just starting out and have limited resources, or you don’t want to commit just yet, use a cheap pair of multi-purpose scissors and embroidery scissors, in the UK Dunelm sell great, cheap sets, and invest your money in a good rotary cutter, upgrading your scissors when you can.

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Pins

All pins are not born equal.  For quilting, we recommend using flat headed pins.  The pros and cons of different types are explored below…

Plastic-headed pins – these pins are a good length, easy to spot when in use (or on the floor!) and due to their colourful heads, they are easy to grab.  On the downside the heads are plastic and this means they will melt if you iron on top of them.

Glass-headed pins – these are great for anyone who wants to be able to iron over their pins as the heads won’t melt, on the downside, they are more expensive than plastic headed pins and normally shorter.

Flat-headed pins – these come in handy when you need to lay a quilting ruler or tape measure over a pinned area. They are also a good choice for lace, eyelet, and loose weaves, as the large heads won’t slip through the holes in the fabric.  Our flat headed pins are also longer than our regular pins, making them a great choice for quilters who want a longer grip.

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Seam Rippers

Where would we be without our seam rippers!

If you are new to sewing, take it from us, your seam ripper will become one of your best friends. Regular sewers accept that mistakes will happen.  When they do you need a good quality seam ripper to rescue the situation without fear or ripping or distorting the fabric, this is particularly important when quilting as, until sewn, those little pieces of fabric are easily stretched and distorted.

We have thoroughly road tested this one at our sewing school and love it.  Its handle is soft to the touch and ergonomically designed, making unsewing almost a pleasure!

To read our tips and hints for using a seam ripper click here.

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Sewing Machine Feet

There are two main sewing machine feet that quilters use, a quarter inch foot, which is covered in the next section (Making Life Easier) and the one we consider a must have – a walking foot.  A walking foot really helps to keep the layers of your quilt in the right place as you sew them together.

Use your regular foot (or quarter inch foot) to sew the top of your quilt together, then, when you have pinned your top to the wadding and back, swap to your walking foot to quilt layers together.

If you want to do free motion quilting you will also need a free motion or darning foot.

If you plan on adding applique to your quilt it is useful to have a plastic see through foot with a wide gap for the needle, so you can see more of what you are sewing.

 

MAKING LIFE EASIER

The following tools are ‘add ons’ they will make your life easier and we really do use them all the time, but when you are first starting out you can manage without them.

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Spray Starch

The number one ‘extra’ I would advise you buy is spray starch, it is readily available at your supermarket and smells nice too 🙂  (you can buy spray starchs designed for sewing but we find the one from the supermarket works fine).  Spray your fabrics before you cut them, or if using pre cut fabrics, before you sew with them.

The starch will stiffen the fabric temporarily, minimising any stretching, producing really crisp creases when you iron seam allowances over and will make the fabrics generally easier to work with.

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Sewing Gauge

A sewing gauge may not look like much, but it’s the sort of tool that once you use, you can’t live without!

USES:

  • Measuring seam allowances as you turn fabric over and iron in creases.
  • Adding seam allowances to patterns and quilting blocks.
  • Double checking you are using the right seam allowance on your sewing machine.
  • Measuring buttons and marking spaces between button holes.
  • Turning out sharp corners, including the ends of bunting triangles!

Template Plastic

If you are a committed quilter we recommend buying your templates cut from template plastic, or buying template plastic sheets to cut your own.  Unlike cardboard:

  • Template plastic is see through, so you can see the fabric underneath and make sure it is lined up correctly and you can fussy cut your shapes.
  • Template plastic won’t get dented or curl, the shape will be the same on piece 100 as it was the first time you traced round it.

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Freezer Paper

Freezer paper was originally designed to wrap around food before your freeze it – IT IS NOT THE SAME AS GREASEPROOF PAPER.  The paper is wax coated on one side and some clever sewer way back, found that if you cut your pattern pieces out of the paper and iron the shiny side of the paper onto your fabrics, the paper sticks!  Once you have cut out your shapes you can peel the paper off, there is no residue and you can reuse the template several times before it no longer sticks.

It is also great for paper piecing and applique as there is no need to pin the papers to your fabric – just iron into place!

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Basting Spray

Quilter’s basting spray is a temporary adhesive that you use to stick your quilt top and bottom to the wadding whilst you quilt the layers together – eliminating the need for pinning!

If you hate pinning but can’t get hold of basting spray, consider using Vilenne’s double sided fusible fleece as your wadding, you can iron both the top and bottom sides of your quilt on to the fleece and can choose whether or not to quilt the layers together (as unlike wadding this product does not need quilting at regular intervals).

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Pressing Board

If you look under your ironing board cover, odds are you will see a metal frame with a criss cross pattern running across the board. This mesh construction helps steam disappear through the bottom of your fabrics when ironing, and gives your ironing board a degree of ‘give’ which is really helpful for normal ironing.  But when you are ironing parts of a quilts the bounce built into the ironing board can distort your fragile fabric pieces and you really want to retain the heat in the fabric for as long as possible.

If you use a hard pressing board rather than an ironing board, you will eliminate the stretch and retain the heat.

You can make a pressing board cheaply at home, using fabrics from your stash, a small piece of wadding, piece of hardboard, such as MDF – and a stapler!

PLUS if you make your pressing board the right size, you can have it next to you when sewing, allowing you to sew a seam and iron it, without having to get up and down, up and down.

Click here to view our pressing board tutorial.

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Sewing Iron

If you are a committed quilter we recommend buying a sewing iron.  These nifty little irons get hotter than most travel irons, but are a similar shape and size.  Prym ones come with their own travel bag and have a water chamber built in to use steam.

These irons are small in overall size and have a small point for getting into corners, inside soft toys, bags, baskets and dressing making parts.  Plus the smaller plate is easier to control when trying to keep multiple seam flat for pressing.

We use these irons at our sewing classes and love them!

Sewing Machine Feet

We talked about the walking foot in the must have section above.  In addition to this foot there are three other feet that quilters use:

  • A qquarter-inch-sewing-machine-footuarter inch foot – this one is slightly narrower than a standard foot, helping you create seams with smaller allowances. It also has a straight piece built into it for your fabric to butt up against for accurate sewing.
  • Free motion or darning foot – if you plan to do free motion quilting (this is when you quilt a random swirly pattern on top of the quilt rather than stitch in the ditch or use a pattern made out of straight lines) you will need a free motion or darning foot.
  • A see through foot – if you plan on adding applique to your quilt a see through foot with a wide gap for the needle is very useful as you can see more of what you are sewing.

If you already quilt and there is something you can’t live without, we would love to hear about it below!

Pellon Quilters Grid 820 Review & Tutorial

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Have you discovered Pellon’s Quilter’s Grid 820 yet?

It is a lightweight fusible interfacing with 1″ (2.5cm) wide grid lines printed on the back to help you line up your quilting/patchwork squares.  Because you fuse your design onto the top of the interfacing before you start sewing, you can quilt quickly, easily and accurately – without pins!

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Why use it?

Whether you are making a whole quilt out of squares and strips, a panel for a bag or purse, quilting blocks to use in mix and match quilt design or other crafty make, Quilters Grid will make your life easier.

  • There is no need to pin your pieces together as they are fused to the interfacing.
  • Once you have plotted your design you iron it into place on the Quilters Grid – ensuring you don’t get bits mixed up between the table and the sewing machine.
  • Because the design is fused onto the interfacing it doesn’t get pulled out of shape during sewing and ironing processes.
  • You sew your patchwork together in lines, rather than pairs, speeding up the sewing time.

How it works…

Quilters Grid is 115cm wide, so it can handle most quilt sizes.   You can use the grid to make up separate quilting blocks and then sew them together, or lay your whole design out on one large piece of Quilters Grid and get sewing!

If you want to make a wider quilt you can butt two pieces of interfacing up against each other, you can always temporarily hold them in place with masking tape on the smooth side, we don’t recommend overlapping pieces as it will add bulk.

Start by cutting out your strips and squares, or visit us at printstopolkadots.co.uk where you can buy almost all our fabrics precut in a range of popular shapes and sizes.

Cut a piece of quilters grid large enough to take all your squares when their raw edges are butted up against each other – THIS WILL BE LARGER THAN YOUR FINISHED QUILT SIZE as it needs to include all the seam allowances.

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Lay your design out on top of the bumpy side of the Quilters Grid, so that the raw edges of each of your pieces butt up against each other – use the grid lines on the interfacing to help you keep straight.

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When you are happy with your design, iron it onto the interfacing.  Use a pressing rather than ironing action, lifting and placing the iron, up and down, across the fabric, rather than pushing the iron around, this ensures that the fabrics stay put.

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Now time to sew your fabrics together to hide all those raw edges 🙂  Fold the top edge of the quilt over along the line where the first two rows of squares meet (along the raw edges).  The fabric squares will be facing each other, and you will be looking at the back of the interfacing.

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Sew (through the interfacing) using your normal quilting seam allowance (measuring in from the folded edge).

We position the fabric so that the fold is in line with the edge of the sewing machine foot, and the needles is in the middle position – see image below.

As you sew you will be capturing the raw edges inside the seam allowance.

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Iron the seam to one side, then fold the quilt/square over along the next line between the fabric squares and repeat. Continue in this manner all the way across the quilt/block.

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Iron again and then start the process over, this time sewing across the join lines between square in the columns.

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Once you have finished, iron the back and turn your quilt over to check that all but the outside edge raw edges are hidden, if you have missed any lines go back and sew them now.

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Check your quilt/block is still square – because you have used the interfacing you should find the block/quilt has not moved very much at all.  Trim back as necessary.

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You can use the quilt top/block as it is, but many sewers like to finish off by snipping into the seams on the back to reduce the bulk.  Some people cut along the creases in the seam allowance so they can open the seam out flat, but we think that is too fiddly.  We prefer to cut the bulk away from each point where the vertical and horizontal sew lines cross.  Simply fold the quilt back up as when you were sewing it – leaving the seam allowance sticking out at the top, and cut little squares out where the seams overlap, taking care not to cut into the main seam line – try it, it is easier than it sounds!

  

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Then press your block/quilt again and all the bumps will have gone!

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It took us less than 20 minutes to make this square, made out of 25 x 2.5″ squares, including planning the design!

Love the fabric?  We used Riley Blake’s Bloom and Bliss collection – vintage heaven!

We love seeing your finished projects so please tag us into your pictures on Instagram #printstopolkadots, or share with us via Facebook or email 🙂

Rotary Cutter Buying Guide


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If you are thinking about buying a rotary cutter but are not sure if it is the right tool for you, or if you want to know more about the differences between the different types of rotary cutter, then this is the blog post for you.

The most important things to remember when thinking about buying a rotary cutter are:

  • You will need a cutting mat and a suitable ruler when using your rotary cutter– we recommend investing in a quilting ruler but to start with you could use any strong, straight edge with your cutting mat.
  • Rotary cutters can be used to cut curves but it isn’t easy, most sewers use scissors for curves and keep their rotary cutter for cutting straight lines, quickly and more accurately than when using scissors.
  • Rotary cutters can handle up to six layers of thin materials.

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Types of Rotary Cutter

We stock market leader OLFA rotary cutters and so will be talking about the differences between their cutters in this post, but the principles hold true for all brands.

Features to Consider – Handle Type

OLFA rotary cutters have two main handle types, standard/straight and deluxe.  Both include covers for the blade to keep it, you and your family safe when not in use.

The deluxe handle is ergonomically designed, with an anti-slip rubber grip to reduce or eliminate hand fatigue and stress, while the squeeze trigger allows the blade to self-retract for safety.

The standard handle is still easy to hold and use, but if you are planning on cutting a lot of shapes your hand will start to ache after a while!

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Features to Consider – Blade Size

Olfa sell a range of blade sizes, from 28mm to 60mm.  The smaller the blade the easier it will be to cut curves, the larger the blade the quicker you will be able to cut straight lines, as each turn of the wheel will travel further 🙂  They all cut upto 6 layers of fabric at a time.

THE MOST IMPORTANT THING TO REMEMBER is that you CANNOT use different blade sizes in the same rotary cutter – if you want to use a 28mm blade and a 60mm blade you will need to buy two rotary cutters, a 28mm one and a 60mm one.

Features to Consider – Blade Types

You can get 3 different types of blade for your OLFA rotary cutter, a straight blade, pinking (zig zag) blade and a chenille blade.  If you buy a 45mm deluxe rotary cutter you can use all three types of blade with your cutter, keeping them in their own little plastic cases when they are not in use.

Regardless of the brand or type of rotary cutter you buy, you will need to replace the blade from time to time, if it gets dented or loses its sharpness, so when considering which cutter to buy, remember to factor in the cost of replacement blades.

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How to Choose

If you already use a rotary cutter, or know you will be using one regularly, it’s worth spending the extra money on the deluxe model.  It is easier to use, you are less likely to ache from constant use during a long day or night of sewing and the cover shuts down to protect you, your family and the blade itself when out of use.

If you have never used a rotary cutter but are a committed quilter we would still recommend going for the deluxe model, you will be glad you did with all the binding and sashing strips you cut, let alone the quilting shapes.

If you are new to sewing and are not sure if you need a rotary cutter, we recommend starting with a good quality pair or scissors, remember, rotary cutters really only out perform scissors when you are cutting lots of straight lines, if you plan to sew clothing you won’t get a lot of use out of one.  Until you have worked out what sort of sewer you are, we would recommend saving your money.

If you find you like to dip in and out of a range of sewing styles, clothing, homewares, quilting etc.. and sewing is a hobby not a business, we would recommend buying the standard model.  It’s not that you wouldn’t notice the difference, but you may not get enough use out of the deluxe model to justify the extra expense.  If you fall in love with quilting or are planning on cutting hundreds of bunting triangles with your rotary cutter – definitely go for the deluxe one – it will be kinder to your hands!

REMEMBER, if you want to ‘pink’ the edges of your fabrics (cut with a zig zag finish) you will need the deluxe version, for which you can buy straight and pinking blades.