Today was one of those days……you know the kind where nothing goes as planned. Have you ever been tempted just to crawl back in bed and hope to start the day over?? Yes, it has been one of those….
Sadly, all the distractions and problems of today interfered with the quilting activity I had planned. But I wanted to get in a few minutes today of some quilt related activity.
I set the timer for five minutes. I pulled out a few scraps from the bins that I wanted to cut for the next scrap quilt.
Next, I set the timer for 10 minutes and ironed those scraps. I hate to iron (am I allowed to admit this?) even though I do so much of it. I tend to get stalled right here trying to pretend I really do not have to iron those wrinkled up scraps (they are so much easier to cut and sew when ironed first). The timer went off just as I was ironing the last scrap.
These lovely pieces of fabric will have to wait until tomorrow for me to cut up – I don’t trust myself to cut the fabric accurately tonight. I am tired and headed to bed.
I know all of us have these kinds of days occasionally and I just think it is important that we just do the best we can. Try to end the day on a good note. It makes for a good night of rest and a fresh start for tomorrow.
Not to dishonor Shakespeare’s “to be or not to be”, but as quilters our question is more likely to be “to clip those loose threads or not?” We all know they can make a mess if just allowed to hang on the back of the quilt top.
This is my take on loose threads, and you don’t have to
agree, but I am rarely bothered enough by those threads to take time to clip
You either gasp in horror at this point or break out laughing.
I am aware they can make a huge mess, and if I am not careful as I sew, a good portion of them end up in the seam and show up on the front of the quilt. Sheesh….now they really do need clipped, right?
I rarely use white or any other light color for a quilt background – because I know this about myself. The first quilt I ever made with a white background I learned the hard way about not clipping those threads because I had it completely basted and in the frame for hand quilting and gasp…. I could see the darker threads. Many hours later, I had un-basted the quilt sandwich and clipped all those threads. Then to put it all back together……Ugh….
By now you are either so horrified you stop reading, or you are rolling on the floor laughing because you do the same thing.
I decided long ago that I was more concerned about accurate cutting and piecing than about always matching the thread to the fabric, or clipping all those nasty loose hanging threads that appear on the back of my quilt top.
I am careful to take the time to pull them back out of the way when sewing the seams and since I usually use darker background fabrics it is rarely noticed if I choose to ignore the clipping step.
Quilters, whether you are a beginner or very advanced in
your quilt making exactly what part of the quilting process is priority is up
to you. No one is going to die if we do
a shortcut on our quilts. Yes, they
should be well made, but some things are not worth the time.
I refuse to stress about loose hanging threads on the back of a top that once it is quilted will never show up anyway. So now you know my awful secret…
To clip those loose threads or not? I encourage you to make your quilts, your sewing process, and your priorities while quilting your very own. Only you can decide what causes you stress while sewing or quilting, and if ignoring some small irritant is right for you.
People ask me what my favorite “quilting” gadget is frequently. I know they are hoping I will name some tool they saw advertised in a quilt magazine or website. My answer is generally met with disappointment, after all it is a very common household item.
And my favorite “quilting” gadget is……….(drum roll please)……….my stove timer (when home) or the alarm on my phone (when traveling) !!!!!! Before you roll your eyes and give a disgusted snort…
Let me explain my reasoning:
I work full time, and I spend hours many weeks traveling. I carry along parts and pieces of quilts that I can work on while in an airport or hotel. In order to prepare for this, I need to have items sorted, cut, and organized. This includes thread, needles, and small scissors. Setting the timer/alarm allows me uninterrupted time to concentrate and prep the supplies I need.
2. Setting the timer allows me to concentrate solely on the task at hand. It is amazing how much sorting, cutting, or even sewing on the machine I can get done in 10 or 15 minutes.
3. If I am lucky enough to be home working, instead of traveling, before I start working for the day I sort, iron, cut, or sew for 15 minutes to start my day already feeling like I have accomplished something. It gives me a good mind set for the rest of the day.
4. Setting the timer for a short amount of time allows me to hand quilt without distractions too.
5. I try to utilize all those little spans of time between other things on my schedule to do something quilt related, but I get so engrossed in what I am doing that I forget to leave on time, or make a scheduled phone call, or get to an appointment, etc. However, if I let the timer pay attention then I can relax and just enjoy the process of quilting.
I would encourage you to try it
Stack the pieces you want to sew together in order by the sewing machine. Remember the machine needs to be in good repair and threaded correctly at all times so you don’t waste time on that when the timer is counting down. Set your timer for 15 minutes and sew.
When the timer goes off, get up (this also breaks the concentration you had) turn off the timer, and go to work or the next thing on your “to do” list for that day. It might take a little practice, but if you get in the habit of setting a timer for those little bits of time within your day, you can get so much more accomplished on your quilting.
Are you new to quilting? What are must haves for a basic quilter’s tool box to get started piecing? If you have been reading my blog for anytime at all, you know I am all about keeping my life fairly simple. Several readers ask recently what I absolutely have to have in my basic quilter’s tool box to piece a quilt top.
There are so many gadgets in stores, quilting websites, and advertisements that claim to be “must haves” for the beginner quilter. It makes it hard to decide, and it is easy to get distracted. For those on a tight budget there is no money to waste on something not really needed.
Forty years ago, I started quilting with my sewing box from Home Ec class. All these years later, I am using many of the same tools because they still do the job. However, as I have gotten older and have a bit more money to sink into better tools, I have… if it is something I will actually use.
I am more about my tools being functional than pretty or the “newest and greatest”. There is nothing wrong with those things, but there is also nothing wrong with using simple things to get a project done. It is not a contest, decide what works for you.
As stated numerous times in various posts – get the best supplies you can afford now. You will be happier than just buying whatever is cheapest to save a few dollars. If you continue to quilt then upgrade as time, interest, and budget allow for better tools and gadgets.
Forget the fabric and thread for right now – this list is the “prequel” to that.
A super basic list for (in my mind at least) the basic quilter’s tool box:
This can be a separate table, an old desk, or any other flat surface. You just need a flat space that will hold your machine safely and allow you enough room to use it.
In my life time of sewing, I have used the end area of a long table, an old sewing cabinet, a small kitchen table, and a plastic picnic table. Now an sturdy old wooden desk with drawers is home to my sewing machine and tools. Post on old blog about my desk (and other useful stuff) is here .
Something to use as an ironing board, and an iron.
I own an ironing board, but the reality is I rarely use it. Why? Because I like more room when ironing. See here . If you prefer to have an ironing board, then get one. They are readily available and not expensive.
However, in the past I have used a table top covered with several layers of towels. I have also (when much younger) spread an old wool blanket on the floor. Think outside the box here, if you do not have space or a budget for an ironing board, what can you use that is already on hand?
For me personally, I don’t spend a lot of money on irons. I am hard on them plus they get dropped routinely (no one ever said I was graceful). I do use a spray bottle for water instead of filling the iron. This one has lasted longer than the normal (for me) six to twelve months. What you need is what will be comfortable and usable for you.
A reliable sewing machine that is easy to use and maintain.
Find one that fits your budget with features you will use. Some people get a machine with all the bells and whistles, others go with what can be purchased at Wal-Mart or JoAnn’s.
I openly admit I own and use a Pfaff sewing machine. I use my sewing machine constantly. The machine needs to be a work horse. It needs to be easy to clean and maintain. Another requirement is simple to use. Before you say, those machines are way out of my budget, look at the less fancy ones. Mine has useful stitches, but mostly it is just a hard working machine. No computer to crash, it is functional without lots of extras I will not use.
I just looked at the shop in Indianapolis where I bought this one in 2011 and the new price for the current model of this one is $649 + tax. Ok, not cheap but not unreasonable either.
Rotary cutting mat in a size that works for the area you must use it in.
These mats come in all sizes from a few inches to large enough to cover a table top. The original mat I bought was 12″ x 18″. When I had more space and money to upgrade, I got one 24″ x 36″. I still have the smaller mat and it is great for those times I am traveling and take fabric with me to cut. Get a mat that fits for your needs.
A rotary cutter and ruler that is a “general” all purpose.
Rotary cutters come in different sizes and with various types of handles. If you spend hours cutting what you want is one that fits your hand and is comfortable. I prefer the straight one above and a 45 mm blade. Be safe with your tool, they are sharp and a nasty cut (with possible stitches) will slow down your quilting project.
Rotary rulers come in different sizes and shapes for different projects. I encourage you to get a general size and shape for the first one. My favorite is still the 18″ x 3″ pictured above. When you shop, think in terms of one that will work for strips and squares, is easy to handle, has a safe area for your fingers to hold the ruler down, and is comfortable.
The yellow handled one is my original and it still sees a lot of use. The gray one is a commemorative model for 25 years of Olfa cutters. The handle is a bit thicker and feels different. I use both, but am looking at the ergonomic ones that are available now. My wrists and elbows are not as young as they once were.
Fabric scissors that you like and will use.
Even with the rotary cutter, you will need at least one pair of scissors. They will be used for cutting threads, small amounts of fabric (like for applique), and just general fabric cutting. Mark them as only for fabric, or store with your sewing supplies. Cutting paper, wire, and cardboard will make them too dull to cut fabric or thread easily.
Sewing scissors come in various sizes with different kinds of handles. Again, try them out if possible and get the pair that feels good in your hands. Make sure you get right handed or left handed scissors depending on your need.
Quilting pins and a container to safely hold them.
Quilting pins are a must for pinning blocks together at intersections. They are helpful for bindings, and pinning rows or blocks together. They are just a great tool with numerous uses. Sometimes I think mine act like extra fingers.
Along with a pin cushion or some form of container to hold the pins is necessary. Unless you find the game of “pick up pins” to be fun. I store my pins in a regular canning jar. When I am using them they get put in a magnetic cup that I bought for $2 at the Dollar Store in the automotive section.
This basic quilting tool comes in various sizes and shapes. Find something that fits your hand. When sewing it is easy to make mistakes or not sew a straight seam. A seam ripper is tons easier to use to fix this then a pair of scissors.
A BASIC QUILTER’S TOOL BOX Needs a container to keep all the small items in.
This can be a clear plastic box with a lid, a cardboard shoe box, a fancy sewing box, or something else. The important thing is to have a container to keep all the small tools in.
I use my ugly orange Tupperware sewing box that originally held all my sewing tools for Home Ec class in school. It still does the job, and with a tight fitting lid can travel or be moved around without loosing items.
A good reference book or website that will walk you through the steps to making your first quilt top.
I still have these books for reference and ideas. Do some research and talk to other quilters to see what they use for instructions. There are some really good books. If you prefer videos, see what you can find on YouTube.
The important thing is to find an instructor or instructions that help you. I remember seeing an Eleanor Burns video and being so excited because she was fun and made the quilts look easy.
Finally for your basic Quilter’s Tool Box…
There is a learning curve to using the tools and getting comfortable with them. The most important thing is for you to like the tools and practice with them. This is especially true with the machine and the rotary cutter.
But it is something you can learn. Quilting is not rocket science. It is very do-able. Just remember to have fun with it. Find another quilter who can mentor you when you get stuck. The most important tool is you being willing to learn, and enjoying the process.
PLEASE NOTE: ALL PHOTOS AND WRITTEN CONTENT ARE MY OWN UNLESS OTHERWISE NOTED.
The past few days have been interesting to say the least when it comes to the media panic over corona virus and how people around the USA are re-acting. I live in a rural area and am currently working from home instead of traveling for work. Any excuse for taking time to quilt is always good, but quilting during a crisis is productive and helps relieve the stress.
I want to encourage you to take care of yourself including eating properly, getting enough rest, some form of exercise, and of course quilting. If you are not sick, the most important thing is to stay well. If you are already sick, rest and allow yourself to get well.
This is great time to drag out those quilting UFOs you have shoved to the back of the closet. Pick one or two to work on and get busy. Busy hands tend to help us have better moods and being able to see progress on a project is always great.
Another important thing to do during this time is check on other people to see how they are doing or if you can help. Obviously the best way to check on people right now is using the phone or other technology. As quilters we tend to be generous and this is a great time to show that.
It looks like I will be working from home at least two weeks. I am understandably happy to not be traveling right now. Here is what I am doing that is quilt related during this quarantine time:
Weeding old quilt magazines
Cutting scraps into standard sizes and putting into plastic containers
Catching up on reading other quilting blogs
Some encouragement about Quilting During A Crisis:
Quilting Books for Tiny Scraps – I am not really sure how it happens, but I start with one shelf for quilting books and pretty soon they have taken over two. I recently decided that some weeding and/or organizing of these books was necessary. Doing this actually forces me to really look at the books – which can be a distraction because then I start thinking “I could do this quilt, or this one…….” And sometimes I even wonder what in the world I was thinking when I brought a book home.
Over the past 2 or 3 years, I have been trying to use up my scraps and also my stash. These two books have wonderful patterns or ideas that I have based a couple scrap quilts on. They have patterns from easy to expert. They are “keepers” for my personal library.
I was asked how I get books with spiral bindings. After purchasing, I take the books to the local copy shop. There they cut off the binding and put on this spiral binding. I like my quilt books this way because they lay flat when I am working on a project. The cost is very reasonable – generally about $2-3 each book.
I truly encourage quilters to collect quilt books that are helpful to you, whether it is techniques, patterns, or inspiration. There are so many wonderful quilting books out there to choose from.We don’t need all the books, but building our own reference library of books that help us as quilters is a great boost to our quilting journey.
Getting more time to quilt – in our crazy, busy lives this can pose a real problem. People have emailed me recently asking me how I get so much time to quilt each day. I don’t have any more time than you do. However, I have learned to be a very good time manager and multi-tasker. We must make each minute count. Here are some simple things to help get more time to quilt each day.
compare what you get done or not to anyone else. None of us have the exact same responsibilities, schedules, or lives. Do what you can do. Remember that quilting is supposed to be fun.
get discouraged. Look at Pintrest, quilt shows, Facebook, magazines, books, etc as ideas for yourself. Look at the colors and patterns and enjoy.
keep several projects going simultaneously. I try to have a project in cutting stage, another in sewing stage, another in binding stage. Also, one that can be completely by hand like English paper piecing or applique.
always keep the sewing machine maintained and threaded so it is ready to be used whenever I(or you) have a few minutes. Keep a project that is ready to be sewn beside the machine (right now I have a stack of tumbler blocks ready to go). I keep a container with all the pieces cut (and pinned) there ready to be sewn.
use assembly line sewing if possible.
set a timer for small amounts of time to sew. Even 5, 10, or 15-minute blocks give you a little more done on a quilt.
limit social media and TV time. If you are not good at this, set a timer and be firm with yourself about stopping when the timer goes off.
limit time talking on the phone, especially if you cannot multitask while visiting. I iron and sort fabric while on the phone. I put the phone on speaker while cutting.
keep a small project and supplies in a bag always ready to go along. While waiting on the doctor, picking kids up, at the airport, at breaks between meetings, etc work on a project. Small amounts of time add up quickly to a completed block or project.
Quilting should be fun. Even a few minutes each day brings enjoyment into your life. Have a wonderful day.
Are you drowning in scraps too?? For January, my goal was to totally clean and organize my sewing room… the cleaning is complete, but along with all the nice looking shelves is four (yep, really – sheesh) plastic tubs of scraps.
I took every single piece of fabric off the shelves, went through every drawer, looked in every project box……Scary stuff. Some of those things I hadn’t seen in years. So after the dust cleared I decided that even though I have a list of 12 UFOs I want to finish this year – I am going to stress using as many of the scraps in those projects as possible.
Don’t get me wrong, I love all my fabric and that includes the scraps. While cleaning I went from two tubs to four because I added all the quarter yard or less from the shelves to the tubs. In my world, small fabric pieces (no matter how pretty) get lost among the bigger pieces of fabric.
I needed some inspiration on how to deal with the scraps. Guess what I saw? Others have too many scraps too and are trying to find a way to use them. Looking at Pintrest, Facebook, and other blogs has been fun and I have come up with some ideas to start with.
I don’t have a scrap organization system however. The scraps are simply thrown in the bins. I actually like this system for now because I am just taking out handfuls, ironing them, and cutting them into 3″ squares or tumbler shapes. I have progressed to 1 see through container for each shape.
I am challenging myself to use as many of my scraps up in 2020 as possible. I made a list for myself of 12 UFOs that I wanted to complete this year. Hopefully I can actually push myself to make a few more than that out of the scrap bins. Come join me in this fun personal challenge – let’s use scraps. I know it is a year away, but let’s start 2021 not drowning in scraps.
So, here are some links to ideas. Please comment on your scrap issues and tell me what you are going to do about them. Send or post pics. Please, let’s use 2020 to use our scraps. Let’s encourage others too.
How to Make Easy Coasters – seriously. They are quick and easy, and they can be made from fabric that is personal to the person receiving them or that you just like.
Step 1: Choose at least two fabrics.
Step 2: Iron the fabric.
Step 3: Cut four 5″ squares of both fabrics. Lay out four sets of squares right sides together.
Step 4: Lay the four sets of 5″ squares on batting. I like the batting to be bigger than the fabric squares at this point. Pin at corners. I also use 2 pins to mark where the opening will be so I don’t sew all the way around and have to rip out stitches.
Step 5: Sew around all four sides of each coaster, leaving enough open on one side to turn right side out.
Step 6: Trim off extra batting. Clip corners close to stitching to get rid of the extra bulk so that when turned right side out, the corners will look like corners.
Step 7: Turn each coaster right side out. Make sure corners are as square as possible (use a semi sharp pencil to gently poke the corner out). Pin the opening closed. I pin the corners for extra stability while sewing.
Step 8: Over-stitch in thread of your choice one half of the width of your pressure foot all the way around each coaster. Trim threads.
YOU ARE DONE WITH A SET OF COASTERS – GOOD JOB !!
I did this set in a bit over an hour because of noting the directions and taking photos. The first set may take a little longer, but I doubt once you do a couple sets that this will take you more than an hour to complete. A great way to make gifts, or to make yourself an easy new useful item. Can be made to match any interest or decor.
Finished size: About 4″ each.
Machine wash in cool water, and dry in medium heat dryer.
Here are some other ways to make quick, easy coasters:
Quilting Goals for 2020 – I cannot believe how fast 2019 flew by! It was such a crazy busy year on so many levels: job, personal, and quilting. However, I can honestly say that I completed all my quilting goals for the year. I need to really pat myself on the back!
So how did you do on your quilting goals for 2019? It’s alright if you didn’t get them all done – any progress is better than nothing. If you are one of those rare people who actually got more done than what your goals were – yippee for you!!
I am a list maker, and it really does help me get things done in my life. I made myself a new “fancy” list template for quilting projects in 2020. You are welcome to use it too if you like:
I spent yesterday going through UFOs (Unfinished Objects) and deciding which ones I wanted to get done in 2020. Here are my quilting goals for next year:
My 2020 list is hanging in my sewing room where I can easily see it. I didn’t write any “prizes” in yet because I will decide on that as I go.
I don’t necessarily do the UFOs in any order – a lot of how they get done depends on my time and travel. The ones that need a sewing machine I have to do while home, but the ones I can do by hand (like applique, or bindings on small items) can go along on job trips.
The important thing is that I am working on the items all year and staying focused – it is so easy to get distracted and want to move on to another project before one is completed. Yep, that is how I ended up with so many UFOs in the first place….
Hopefully I have encouraged you to get busy on those projects you want to do for 2020, whether they are UFOs or a new item. Set quilting goals for 2020. Remember to have fun with your quilting.
P. S. Another helpful source on writing down goals for 2020: