SUGGESTIONS TO HELP YOUR MACHINE QUILTER

The gentleman who does my machine quilting always has a list of quilts to quilt and tells me when I drop off a quilt how much he enjoys quilting the quilts I bring to him because they are well made and he doesn’t have to struggle to get them quilted. I asked him for some suggestions to help a machine quilter do a great job on your quilt.

Clip art - machine quilted leaves and vine.

His suggestions to help a machine quilter:

  • Pre-wash all the fabric, both in the top and backing.
  • Use proper tension on your sewing machine so the seams are strong and will not start to come apart during the machine quilting process.
  • Use good quality fabrics and sewing thread in your top.
  • Have consistent seams throughout the quilt top.  Do not make smaller than quarter inch seams because they will start to unravel and come apart.
  • Iron the seams as you sew, and the quilt will be (more) straight.
  • If supplying the batting, buy good quality (he prefers Warm & Natural or something similar). Ask your quilter for his/her preferred batting to work with.
  • Make sure your backing is at least 4” bigger than the top on all sides.
  • Know what kind of quilting design and color of thread before he/she starts on your quilt.
  • Your good quality supplies and workmanship plus the machine quilting will make for a quilt you both are happy with when it is complete.
Clip art of machine quilted loops.

You put many hours into making a quilt.  Take time to complete it correctly.  Snuggle up and enjoy – you have earned it.

Happy Stitching.

Clip art of machine quilting - stipple design.

Here are two quilts he machine quilted for me. I request stippling much of the time.

https://indianaquilter40/prayerful-leader-a-george-washington-quilt/

https://indianaquilter40.blogspot.com/2019/07/windmill-blades-one-patch-quilt.html

MY FABRIC IRONING AREA (a folding table for ironing)

I have nothing against a real ironing board, I just usually seem to need more space than what a “real” ironing board provides. Many years ago, I discovered that in my ironing area, I preferred to use a plastic folding table for ironing. Some days, I just do not want to struggle with large pieces of fabric and small ironing boards.

On this particular day, the antique wooden ironing board that did belong to my husband’s grandma was folded and leaning against the wall. It had a piece of fabric hanging over it (it was the border print I did not want to accidentally cut up while cutting the blocks).

Wooden ironing board with border fabric hanging on it.

Recently, a woman (JG) stopped at my home to bring me another quilt to be hand quilted. After directions were given and noted, she asked what was I currently piecing. We went to the sewing room, and as usual, fabric in various stages of being cut, ironed and sewn was scattered around. I am not a neat “working on a project” person.

Obviously she was distracted, because she kept staring at the plastic folding table I was using for an ironing area. I tend to use this folding 6′ plastic table covered with a 5′ piece of insulated iron board cover fabric more than the actual ironing board that was currently leaning against the wall looking decorative.

Plastic folding table used as an ironing board.

I bought the fabric years ago intending to make a new cover for the antique wooden ironing board (can’t find a ready-made cover that fits), but I honestly just never got around to it. It is simple just to use it like this. Amazon has a similar product: https://www.amazon.com/Therma-Flec-Resistant-Cotton-Batting-Silver/dp/B006P5TZW8/ref=sr_1_6?hvadid=78683916624263&hvbmt=bb&hvdev=c&hvqmt=b&keywords=ironing+board+fabric&qid=1573870931&sr=8-6 ).

I realized at some point that I just like having the big flat work area to iron on. Plus, no fighting to keep the fabric from sliding off the ironing board. If I am working with small pieces of fabric, I do use the ironing board with this therma fabric put over it. Either way, I get the fabric ironed.

Plastic table covered with ironing cover fabric, cotton fabric to be ironed, and iron
Strip of 8" blocks being ironed on covered plastic table.

I like having two “ironing boards” available based on the need of the project, and it is also nice to be able to fold one or both up. That way they are not taking up needed floor space.

Another quilter has made a rectangle ironing board. See here: https://quiltingjetgirl.com/?s=rectangle+ironing+board&post_type=post

I have seen women put a bath towel over a wide board and iron. I personally have put a bath towel on a counter and ironed – this is simply being resourceful and using what is available. The important thing is that (1) the fabric gets ironed, and (2) that no surfaces are melted, or catch fire while ironing.

Remember that our quilting predecessors would have made do and it is just fine for us to as well.

WHAT STARTED MY QUILTING OBSESSION?

Beginnings

I was in that difficult 10 – 12 year old stage and was totally stopped in my tracks by an Amish Lone Star quilt that my Aunt Fran had hanging in her antique shop. Wow!! The colors were so bright and the design was beautiful and I can still see the vivid turquoise colored background of that quilt in my mind. This was not a scrap quilt like the one on my bed or in my surroundings. I remember telling Aunt Fran that I wished I could make a quilt like that for myself. Her response was that I “could do anything I set my mind to”. That encouragement was the first step. Little did I know then, but I hold that beautiful quilt responsible for starting my quilting obsession.

I learned the basics of sewing from my grandma and one year of Home Ec in school. My grandma had her sewing machine in a corner of the kitchen, and it always seemed there was some project on it. I don’t remember her making quilts, but she made a lot of clothing. Once I expressed an interest in quilting, she would give me her cotton scraps and lots of encouragement to make a quilt (for many years, she was my biggest cheerleader).

I don’t remember learning the actual quilting stitch. Grandma exposed me to quilting bees. I do remember loving the texture of the quilting.

Clip art - cheer leader

My mom owned 2 sewing machines but hated to sew and avoided it at all costs. She was glad to let me use her machines but was no help when it came to what needed done on the quilt piecing. I think she believed that I would do one quilt and give it up.

Money was not readily available for extras in my younger years and so it took awhile of saving scraps from Grandma, and buying fabric or good used clothing (it had to be interesting fabric) at yard sales to have enough to make my first quilt, and that one just fueled my need to quilt.

Keep at it…

The years have taught me that anyone who wants to can learn to quilt. I have heard many people say it requires patience. Yes, I suppose but more than that it simply requires the need to not give up on one self. Quilting has helped me through tough times, happy times, and just day to day life.

Clip art - sewing machine with quilt pieces and sewing supplies.

I hope I can encourage and inspire you in your quilting journey:

  • This is not a stuffy office job, have fun.
  • Do not break the piggy bank.  Basic sewing supplies are fine – just use the best you can afford.
  • Check at a local fabric store, the extension office, or the library to find other quilters. You are not alone in this journey. 
  • Start with a simple project. Something small like a table runner or baby quilt is usually quick to finish and boosts your confidence.  If you really want to start out with a bed quilt, the easiest patterns are squares or rectangles.

The best thing is that after all the hours that go into a single quilt I have something wonderful to show for it. Each quilt is an individual object. I also do not have to follow the rules when quilting – other than using good quality supplies and making sure my seams are even. This is a wonderful hobby and stress relief and I fully enjoy it.

And the journey continues…

I have never regretted my journey through quilting. It brings great joy to my life. I hope it gives you great joy in your life too.

Quote: When life hands you scraps - make quilts!

THREAD & FABRIC – SHOULD THEY MATCH?

Clip art -  thread and needle

Should the thread and fabric match? I have been asked this so many times, especially by beginning quilters.  We were taught in a sewing class taken back in the dark ages that the thread and fabric should match. And honestly, if I am sewing clothing, I want the thread to match. However, we are talking quilting here.

Should the fabric and thread colors match? Does it really matter? I decided years ago that it was more important to me to cut and sew accurately, then be concerned about matching thread color for piecing the pattern.

Here’s my take on matching threads to fabric (and remember this is simply my opinion) – it depends on what part of the quilting process I am working on.…

If I am piecing, I do not care what color of thread that is being used.  Oh, the scandal!!  Every time I changed fabric colors, I would have to change the thread and bobbin. In my mind that is such a waste of time, and I would rather be happily sewing.

Container with many spools of different colors of thread.
Partial spools of beautifully colored threads

Your quilt is about you, and only you can decide what steps in the quilt making process are priority to you.  You will need too decide what you are willing or not to do. I know I am in the minority on the subject, and I am comfortable with that.  I really notice this each fall when a group of us get together every September in Maine to quilt for several days – I am the only one who does not spend time matching the thread to the fabric.  Clearly it is not a priority for me, but a high one for the others.

However, when I am piecing a planned top with purchased fabric for that project, I try to find some neutral color and use that for the entire top. 

Right now, I am trying to clean out my scrap bins – how would I even begin to match the fabrics and threads?  I already feel my head starting to hurt. When I am piecing with scraps, I use it as an excuse to use up all those partial spools and bobbins of odd colors. 

Plastic tub of 2.5" scrap strips of fabric
2.5″ strips all cut and ready to sew
Plastic tub of 3" fabric squares.
3″ squares cut and ready to sew

This is the biggest reason I rarely use white as a background fabric – combined with the use of many different colors of thread, there are all the loose hanging threads. I just make sure they are at the back when I am sewing those seams. (See other post: https://indianaquilter40.com/to-clip-those-loose-threads-or-not/)

Other quilters’ thoughts about this issue:

https://www.generations-quilt-patterns.com/what-color-quilting-thread-should-i-use-for-piecing.html

https://www.quiltersworld.com/basics.php#Thread

This is a good time to address sewing thread – buy the best you can afford.  My own mistakes showed me a long time ago that usually the store brand is not quality which lead to frustration as I sewed (knots and shredding) and it did not hold up to use. The other issue was that some of the color was not set right, and it bled through the quilt top after the first washing.

I do match the thread if I am doing applique, or a binding. Why? Because I want to see the design, not obvious stitches.  For both applique and bindings, I usually like to use a thread that matches the background because it seems to blend in better. This is also how I end up with partial spools and bobbins of various colors.

I personally use Coats & Clark machine thread because the color range is fantastic, and it holds up well for both hand and machine sewing.

There is also the budget issue, after all I have spent money on quality thread, and I can’t see letting it just sit in a cupboard unused.  My goal is to use the fabric up until it is gone (those glorious scraps need a home, right?) so I personally want to have the same attitude about the thread.  

Now I am going to really be controversial (!!) with the next comment.  Once I discovered thread adapters (I bought mine at JoAnn’s) I went to using neutral serger threads for much of my sewing. I still buy quality, but the cost is so much less than buying the same amount of thread on regular spools. My grandma told me that the only thread colors I would ever need were black, gray, light brown, white, and navy and those are the colors I buy in serger threads because they really are versatile and neutral.  Only you can decide if this option works for you, but I have done it for well over 30 years with very satisfactory results.

Thread adapter with 4 spools of serger thread.
Thread adapter and serger thread
Four spools of serger thread.

Only you can decide if matching threads for piecing is a stress or a joy to you. 

Remember that quilting should make you happy.  If you are distracted or stressed by some part of the quilting process that does not matter once the quilt is finished, then maybe it just is not worth it. My grandma would say “don’t stress the small stuff”.

Quilt block with saying "Decide for yourself what matters to you and what doesn't"
Source: Quiltville

Quilting folks, please comment – do you match your fabrics and thread?