5 Golden Rules of Quilting

March 28, 2017

Rules Were NOT Made To Be Broken!

A couple of weeks ago, I talked about the Rules of Quilting That WERE Made To Be Broken.  I received several emails commenting on those rules, and telling me about their encounters with the “Quilt Police”.  There is a difference between developing good sewing habits, and just not knowing what to do.  Here are some of the ‘basics’ that I have always taught beginning quilters.

1. Always Test Your 1/4″ Seam Allowance 

Pretty much everything in quilting requires a ¼” seam. If you learned to sew making clothing, you are familiar with a 5/8″ seam allowance.  Let me say now, forget that. If your seam allowance is an 1/8″ off with large pieces of fabric making up your block, 1/8″ might not seem like a lot. BUT, if there are many seams that make up your block, an 1/8″ times 4 or 6 turns into a 1/2″ or 3/4″ difference. Your alternate blocks won’t line up.

Here are a few methods to achieve an accurate and consistent  1/4″ seam allowance

  • ¼” foot for your sewing machine –
  • With computerized sewing machines, find the perfect 1/4 inch by clicking the needle to the desired

But,  two methods are very easy and practical. First, get a 1/4″ seam allowance foot.
This foot extends exactly ¼” beyond the needle on each side so you can simply line up the edge of the foot with the edge of your fabric and sew. Quarter inch feet are available from most sewing machine supply stores, and many fabric stores.
Second, mark a solid line on a piece of typing paper with your ruler.
**Scant 1/4″

2. The Iron Is Your Friend

Each seam you make should be pressed to one side – usually towards the darker fabric although this is not always practical. Any time you will be sewing together items that already have seams in them, be doubly sure that you’ve pressed the seams before sewing again.

3. Check your work

Do this frequently until you start to feel more confident in yourself. It won’t take long to develop this talent. It is just about as hard as it was to learn to stay in your own lane while driving. Just remember to check! Especially when you are a beginning quilter, you’ll need to verify that you’re sewing 1/4” seams. Just slip whatever you’ve sewn under the ruler and check it out.

4. Measure Twice, Cut Once

Depending on the amount of fabric (or t-shirts) that you have, it is always important to take correct measurements. If you are looking a pattern, double check that what is listed actually makes sense. When I was an early (aka inexperienced) quilter, I made a costly mistake in cutting some expensive fabric according to pattern directions. Guess what. It wasted a LOT of fabric, and I ended up not having enough fabric to complete the pattern as instructed.

5. Use the BEST Quality Materials That You Can

“Cheap is as Cheap Does”, kinda my take on using fabrics. Sure, you can buy ‘cheap’ fabric at Wally World or at Jo-Ann’s. Just dont do it! My very first quilt that I made (Aunt Sukies Quilt) made back in the late 70’s was made from .77 yard fabric from Zayre’s (in upstate New York- don’t know if they are still around….) Anyway, because I wanted a scrappy looking quilt, I bought a half yard of a whole bunch of fabrics at a very cheap price. Not knowing anything about fabric content (100% cotton versus poly-cotton blends) and started ‘my stash’. OK, so I have given away that I have been quilting for 40 years (OMG) That first quilt has been laundered a gazillion times. Some fabrics are faded, and others are disentegrating – the polyesters have held their color!!!

For an heirloom quilt that you would like your family to enjoy for generations, use the best quality fabrics that you can afford. The assembly of the blocks willl work better, and the quilt will last longer.