Don’t do as I do, do as I say!
I broke most of the rules in making my latest quilt, but I have ended up with a decent quilt in spite of this, rather than because of my shocking imprudence. Here are the rules for perfect quilt making (and why I don't do this to make a living):
- Go to quilting classes first.
- Use a proper quilting sewing machine.
- If at all possible, use ready cut quilt pieces.
- If you aren’t going to use ready cut pieces, don’t compromise on the quality of the fabrics. Especially don’t buy very loose-weave fabrics.
- If you are going to cut your own shapes, use proper tools.
- If you are left-handed, get proper left-handed scissors with the blades reversed, not just the handles.
- Don’t lay out your cut pieces on carpet to pin them. You will get creeping pieces.
- Do check as you pin that your lines are straight and the pieces already attached are perpendicular.
- Don’t be afraid to unpick and re-sew seams or bits of them.
- And finally, don’t trip over your pin tin.
I broke at least half of these. Find out more about the rules below.
Go to quilting classes first.
Rule: broken. Who has time? I don’t plan to make a life’s work of this, I just want to make some nice baby quilts for my grand-daughters. Labours of love, you might say.
Use a proper quilting sewing machine.
Rule: broken. Well, I don’t have one, and I can’t afford one. So I make do with my sturdy 45 year-old Frister and Rossman (brilliant but weighs a ton) or my simple Jonelle basic light-weight portable.
If at all possible, use ready cut quilt pieces.
Rule: broken (for my fourth and latest quilts). There is only a limited choice, in the UK at least, of ready cut squares, and I wanted something different this time. More about that later.
If you aren’t going to use ready cut pieces, don’t compromise on the quality of the fabrics. Especially don’t buy very loose-weave fabrics.
Rule: broken. I did compromise. I wanted washable polycottons, and to get the designs and colours I wanted, I had to choose whatever there was. Some of them, especially those from the internet, were looser-weaved than I would have liked, and they were extremely difficult to cut straight. But very pretty!
If you are going to cut your own shapes, use proper tools.
That’s a rule I didn’t break. I bought myself new measuring and cutting tools before I started. You need a good set-square for right angles, at least one non-slip metal ruler, (I also have a very long one that is not non-slip.) A large non-slip cutting mat marked with squares is very helpful, too.
And a good, sharpened washable marker. I use an ordinary lead pencil a lot of the time. I'm writing on the reverse of the fabric, and the lines come within the seam allowance anyway. A very sharp rotary cutter, if you can use one. I can’t. I've proved myself completely incompetent with a rotary cutter, having sliced the edges off numerous rulers, bits off fingers, and often ending up going back and forth till the cut edge is a mish-mash of several almost parallel lines. If you have the same problem as me, you need very good sharp scissors. In fact you probably need those anyway.
If you are left-handed, get proper left-handed scissors with the complete blades reversed, not just the handles. Scissors that say they can be used with either hand are lying, for dressmaking purposes. It was a revelation to me when, for the first time in years, I bought some new, correctly bladed and handled, left-handed scissors. I can now actually SEE the line I am trying to cut along, instead of just guessing. I managed to cut nearly all of my squares along the lines I had marked.
Don’t lay out your cut pieces on carpet to pin them. You will get creeping pieces.
Rule: broken, as you'll see from my photos. I don’t have anywhere else big enough to layout the design. So I just have to be very careful to check everything is straight.
Do check as you pin that your lines are straight and the pieces already attached are perpendicular.
Yes, I did do this. Especially important as some of my loose-weave pieces wanted to shift their shapes. Below you can see a part-sewn quilt. I'm about to pin and sew the right-hand seam (there are two layers back to back here). So I make sure all the lines going in both directions match up squarely before I pin.
Don’t be afraid to unpick and re-sew seams or bits of them.
My unpicker is my second-best friend (after my new left-handed scissors).
And finally, don’t trip over your pin tin and spill the contents when you have three crawling / toddling grand-daughters visiting.