Monthly Archives: June 2016

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.

 

A Simple Girl’s Skirt For All Seasons – Sewing Tutorial

simple-skirt-sewing-tutorial-free-girls-elasticated-michael-miller-fabrics-cotton-summer

This pattern for a simple elasticated girl’s skirt is a true classic, with its origins lost in the mist of time!

My mum used to make these skirts for me in the 1970s and many of our customers still make them today for their own daughters, granddaughters, nieces, family and friends.

They are super easy to make, including cutting out they will take you around 30 minutes to make, and they don’t break the bank, typically using less than half a mtr of fabric and under a mtr of 25mm (1”) elastic.

Requirements

We have listed the requirements for standard sizes below, but as we all know children don’t come in standard sizes! If you want to make your skirt ‘made to measure’ it couldn’t be simpler….

Fabric width = waist measurement x2 *

Fabric length = measure from the waist to preferred length + 57mm (2.25”)

Elastic = waist measurement (buy 25mm/1” elastic)

Standard Sizes

simple-skirt-elasticated-size-chart

Notes:

* If the fabric you want to use isn’t wide enough, or if you want to use a border print, you could sew two pieces of fabric together to get the desired fabric width. To work out the size of each piece of fabric simply divide the width figure in the chart by 2 and then add 12mm (1/2”) for the extra seam created when you join the two pieces together.

** Nothing is written in stone with this pattern, if you fabric is not as wide as you need, but buying extra fabric to make a join will leave you with a large off cut, you could just use a piece of fabric which is not as wide as directed above, your skirt will just have less fullness/gathers.

*** If your fabric is not wide enough, cut two smaller pieces and sew them together. Each piece should be half the width figure shown PLUS 12mm (1/2”) for the extra seam.

If you are planning on finishing your seams with an overlocker/serger you can get away with 25mm (1”) less on the length of your fabric pieces.

A Note About Using Border Prints

We have used two ‘border print fabrics’ in this tutorial as they work particularly well in this situation, the first is from Michael Miller’s Sommer fabric collection and is double border, with the same print running along both sides of the fabric. The second is Michael Miller’s Gnomeville Christmas print (this one has the border running down one side only).

When working out your fabric requirements, for most fabrics (with or without a clear direction) you would use the width of the fabric for the width of the skirt, and buy a piece large enough to give you your desired length. However if you are using a fabric with a border print, this would result in the border being on the sides of your skirt instead of the bottom. To get the border to run around the bottom of the skirt, you need to:

  1. Buy a piece long enough for the width of your skirt – you will have a large off cut for another project or your stash.
  2. Or if your fabric has a double border, or a single border but you are happy to have the border only on the front of the skirt, buy a piece of fabric half the width of the skirt piece plus 12mm (1/2”).

Instructions

Step 1

‘Rough cut’ your fabrics by cutting slightly more than you need for your skirt. Then wash, dry and iron your fabrics before measuring and cutting out your pattern pieces (the fabrics will shrink in the first wash by approx. 3%).

Step 2 – For those of you using 2 pieces of fabric (if not you skip to step 3)

If you are using two pieces of fabric you will need to join your pieces together. Place one piece of fabric on top of the other, wrong sides facing each other (you will see the right side of the fabric). Sew a 6mm (1/4”) seam down one side and then trim the seam allowance back by approx. half (see images below).

simple-skirt-step1-joining-sides-french-seam-part-1

Now turn the fabric out, so that you are looking at the back of the fabric, and iron the seam, making sure the seam line runs along the crease.

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Pin the two layers together and then sew a seam 6mm (1/4”) in from the existing seam line, this will trap all the loose threads and raw edges inside the seam allowance.

Turn your fabric out, so you are looking at the right side of the fabric, and iron the seam once more. You can now treat your fabric as one piece.

 

 

 

simple-skirt-overlocked-serged-sewing-tutorial-elastic-skirt-girls-children
Step 3 – For those of you using an overlocker/serger (if not you skip to step 4)

If you are using an overlocker/serger, finish your top and bottom raw edges now.

 

Step 4

Fold your fabric in half (from left to right), with the wrong sides facing each other – you will be looking at the right side of the fabric (see the next image).  Line up the raw edges and pin together along the vertical open side.

Sew the sides together using a 6mm (1/4”) seam allowance, trim the seam allowance back by half and then press the seam.

simple-skirt-step4-joining-two-sides-french-seam-tube-of-fabric

Turn your skirt out, so you are looking at the back of the fabric, and iron the seam you have just sewn, making sure the seam line is on the crease.

Pin the two layers of fabric together and then sew a new seam down the same side, 6mm (1/4”) in from the seam you have just sewn. You have just created a French seam, trapping all the raw edges inside – doesn’t it look lovely 🙂

Turn your skirt out the right way and iron along the seam line.

step5-simple-skirt-tube-of-fabric-made-with-french-seams

 

Step 5

Turn your skirt out the wrong way. Fold the top of the skirt over by 12mm (1/2”) and iron the crease into place (if you have overlocked your seams you can skip this step).

simple-skirt-elastic-channel-step1-sewing-tutorial-elastic-skirt-girls-children

Step 6

Fold the top of the skirt over, onto the back, by 30mm (1.25”) and iron the crease into place. This will be the elastic casing.

Sew along the bottom of the casing using a 6mm (1/4”) seam allowance – make sure the gap between the sew line and the top of the skirt is at least 2.5cm (1”) to accommodate the elastic.
LEAVE a gap of approx. 7.5cm (3”) on the back of the skirt, to one side, to feed the elastic through later.

simple-skirt-tutorial-step1-french-seam-first-seam

 

Step 7

Now feed the elastic through the gap you left earlier.

Pull the elastic clear of the skirt and sew the two ends of the elastic together using a zig zag stitch. Trim back the seam allowance and push the elastic back into the casing.

simple-skirt-threading-elastic-into-girls-skirt-sewing-tutorial

Step 8

Close the gap up left for the elastic.

simple-skirt-closing-elastic-casing-sewing-tutorials-girls-childrens-free

Step 9

Finish the bottom seam by folding the raw edge up 6mm (1/4”) ironing the crease in,  Fold the fabric up again by the same amount, hiding all the raw edges, and iron once again. Then top stitch or hand sew the hem.

NOTE: If you have used a serger/overlocker to finish your seams you can get away with only folding the fabric over once before hemming.

simple-skirt-girl-sewing-tutorial-free-sewing-hems

How pretty!

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We love seeing your makes, so encourage you to share pictures of your skirts with us below, on Facebook or tag us in on Instagram (#printstopolkadots) 🙂

Materials Used: Michael Miller’s Christmas Print – Jolly Holly Gnomesville, Michael Miller’s Sommer Collection Double Border Print. 25mm (1″) wide elastic.

Click here to download a printer-friendly version of this pattern

One to One Quilting Course – Look What Tamsin Made!

tamsin quilt made on sewing course
Tamsin attended our 5 week introduction to sewing course here in Witney in Oxfordshire and then decided to try quilting, over a few sessions, with lots of homework and determination she made this – and it really is her first quilt!

Well done Tamsin and thank you for the picture, we love sharing makes and this one looks great 🙂

If you fancy learning how to quilt, join us on 24th June to make a quilted cushion cover over two sessions: http://www.printstopolkadots.co.uk/…/sewing-school-intro-to…
We will cover all the steps involved in making a full size quilt, but by making a cushion cover you can complete the make in less time, with no home work and a smaller cost.

If you fancy making a quilt like Tamsin get in touch via email, this one takes 4 sessions with some homework inbetween, but on a flexible timeline – as you complete a step you contact us and arrange a date to do the next bit etc.. Including all the materials to make a mtr square quilt this bespoke course is £120.

Quirky Quilting Terms With Their Definitions

 

Image reproduced under license from Flickr, Linda

Image reproduced under license from Flickr, Linda

We are currently compiling a quilters dictionary and came across the following fun acronyms which will bring a smile to any committed fabric addict…

STASH – (Special Treasure All Secretly Hidden)

S.E.X (Stash Enhancing eXperiences) committed sewers can’t get enough of this!

SABLE (Stash Accumulation Beyond Life Expectancy) – of course no sewer aims to create a SABLE, we all think we will eventually use every scrap 🙂

Sewing with Double Gauze – Hints and Tips

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Have you Discovered Double Gauze Fabric Yet?

Whilst it isn’t a new type of fabric, it has, until recently, been something of secret amongst sewers, with just a handful of manufacturers making this super soft and breathable fabric.  This year however,  it has exploded onto the scene with many of the top design houses producing their own ranges, including Riley Blake, Robert Kaufman and Michael Miller.

Double gauze originated in Japan where dressmakers were looking for a lightweight, breathable fabric to make clothes from, which would work well in hot weather.  A single layer of gauze, like that used in bandages, was seen as the ideal weight for summer clothes and with a loose weave sewers recognised that the fabric would allow the air to flow around their skin, keeping them cool.  The problem was that when used in a single layer it lacked any weight at all and so did not drape in a pleasing way, due to the loose weave it stretched out of shape easily and it was often very see through.

The solution was to weave two separate layers of gauze at the same time, weaving them together at regular intervals to create a single fabric.  The resulting double gauze fabric is:

  • still very lightweight, but has just enough weight to drape softly,
  • very cool to wear, with the loose weave still allowing the air to circulate,
  • very, very soft – with a touch me and cuddle me quality,
  • a fabric which is no longer very see through.

The image below shows you a close up of the back of Michael Miller’s double gauze, you can see the criss cross pattern created by the weaving process.  Depending on your fabric’s colour and pattern, this is more or less visible on the front side (it is never more than on the back).  Once sewn into a blanket, garment or quilt, this criss cross pattern is not visible to the eye – the main image at the top of this post is the right side of the fabric below, if you look very closely you can make out the criss cross pattern, but you have to look very closely.

double gauze weave

How Easy is it to Sew With Double Gauze?

Prepare it correctly and you can treat double gauze pretty much as regular cotton.  The drape is looser so if you like very crisp corners when quilting then this won’t be the fabric for you, but with the right treatment and where appropriate interfacing, it can be used for any sewing project, dressmaking, quilting, even curtains and blinds!

Follow our top tips for sewing with double gauze below, and you will have no issues, and we are sure you will be delighted with the results – the look and feel!

Top Tips

  • Don’t forget to prewash your fabrics, just as with regular cotton.
  • If you are using interfacing iron the interfacing onto the fabric BEFORE tracing and cutting your pattern shapes. The loose weave of the fabric coupled with the action of ironing can lead to fabrics losing their shape, attaching the interfacing first will remove this possibility and instantly stabilize your fabric.
  • If you are not using interfacing, spray your fabrics with starch first, this will temporarily stiffen the fabrics, stopping them from stretching out of shape.
  • Once you have cut your pattern pieces stay stitch everything! Until you have finished sewing your item the fabric will remain fragile and will easily pull out of shape.  Running around the edges of your fabric pieces with a basting stitch close to the edge will stabilize the fabrics and almost completely eliminate this problem.  Once I have stay stitched I start breathing again!  From this point on I know it will be difficult to pull the fabrics out of shape.
  • Do not iron your fabrics from left to right (before they are sewn together) as this will stretch the fabrics, instead press the fabrics, by lifting the iron up and down, moving across the fabric as you go.
  • Don’t pull the fabrics through your sewing machine, just gently guide them, again avoiding stretching.
  • Use a longer stitch length, size 3-3.5 is ideal, this will reduce the risk of stretching and if you have to unpick you will be less likely to stress the fabric.
  • If you are dressmaking and some parts of the garment are going to have interfacing attached and some not (apart from just collars and cuffs), for example if the facing has interfacing attached, we recommend attaching interfacing to everything.  We recently made a tank top with facing from the shoulders half way down the bust, when on, particularly in the evening, you could see the line between the interfaced section and parts without interfacing.  If you are worried that adding the interfacing all over the fabric will take away all that is beautiful about double gauze, don’t be, the fabric remained super soft, like a second skin, and if anything the interfacing improved the overall finish.
  • If you have large darts in your garment, cut them open and iron the dart’s seam allowance open, half on each side of the dart.  We found that large darts, ironed in one direction, add enough weight to slightly pull the garment down and sag at the seam (we are being particularly picky, but this is so easy to avoid!).

I hope this list hasn’t scared you, as long as you follow these steps this fabric will come together as planned and we are sure you will be pleased with the results.  If you have had your fingers burnt sewing with knits and are worried that you will get to the end of piece A only to find it no longer lines up with piece B, don’t be, double gauze is sooo much easier to work with than knits!

Please do share your dos and don’ts with us – we love to hear about your experiences 🙂 and visit our Pinterest board (click on the image below) for links to lots of free patterns and inspiring images.

double-gauze-pinterest-board

 

Quilters Tool Kit – Essential Equipment For Quilting

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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.

olfa-deluxe-rotary-cutter-45mm-uk-supplier
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).

scissors for blog post
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.

pins
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.

seam-ripper-milward-uk-sewing-tools-equipment-stockist-supplier
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.

spray starch
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.

sewing-equipment-essentials-sewing-gauge-measure-tool
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.

reynolds-freezer-paper-uk-stockist-supplier-45cm-wide
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!

basting spray
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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A
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.

prym-mini-steam-iron-uk-stockist-patchwork-sewing-quilting
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.