Quilting your quilt

Quilting your quilt
There are a variety of ways to get different effects on your quilt. For our purposes we will be discussing stitch in the ditch while using your walking foot. The stitch in the ditch is simply sewing your quilt top down the seam lines already in the quilt top. In our mock up, our seam will be the line we drew down the center of the fabric.

As I said you will need a walking foot and if your machine does not have one, please try to get one as it will make your quilting experience so much easier. The reason is that it feeds the three layers evenly under your needle and presser foot. This is so important when you are quilting as you do not want to have puckers on your quilt top. Just as you started pinning from the middle of your quilt, so will you need to start quilting from the middle.

Make your stitch length a medium size, maybe two settings larger than what you used when you were sewing your blocks together. This will reduce puckers.Remove your safety pins as you get near to them, remember you do not want to be sewing over in metal objects whatsoever. Slowly follow your seams

***********pic pg 75 first right side*************

When you come to the end of a line of quilting and you want to change direction, lower your needle, lift your presser foot up and turn your quilt in the desired direction. Note that I’ve used black thread for the rest of these instructions to make the sew lines stand out. You would not want to do this.  This will eliminate lots of loose threads on the
back of your quilt.

When you have completed sewing your quilt together, head back to the cutting mat. You will need to trim the excess backing and batting off of your quilt.  Once again measure your quilt top, middle and bottom to ensure that it is all straight and square and now you are ready to put your binding on your quilt
********pg 76 2 pics left side ******

Tools of the Trade – Part 5

Tools that you need to quilt your quilt.

This shorter episode will be providing a quick rundown on the tools you will use after you’ve completed your quilt top. If you do not have your own quilting frame and machine and need to quilt your quilt on your machine, there are a few tools that you will need to make it a successful endeavour.  I recommend that you invest in these vital tools to make your quilting experience a success.

 Here’s a short list on what we will be looking at today:

  • Different types of specialty timbles used to protect your fingers while pinning;
  • Using bicycle clips to clip your fabric secure;
  • Quilter’s pins and the pinning tool and;
  • Quilter’s gloves for when you need to easily manipulate and move your fabric while sewing.



Tools of the Trade – Part 4

In this segment, we will be studying some more of the quilting tools that you will use every day. We will be looking at three areas of tools including:

  • some of the tools and supplies necessary for your sewing machine;
  • various marking tools and their uses and;
  • special segment on a rotating cutting mat.

Marking tools
Why would you need one in your kit? I use mine to mark out designs, draw a straight line and mark my seams when I am mitering my fabric.  The list is endless on the uses and definitely a good tool to have.   You will see several examples of using marking tools within this course.
There are various kinds of marking tools out on the market today.   You will discover that they can have specific purposes such as marking dark cloth,water soluble, and etc .  One of my favorite tools that I use the most in
quilting is the blue water soluble pen.   The markings will disappear when you spray it with water.   Make sure you do not iron over the markings before spraying water on them, or they will become permanent markings in your quilt!
A chalk pen is sometimes easier to see on dark fabric than the blue.   The chalk will also disappear with brushing or washing

Within this segment, I will be highlighting one of the wonderful marking tools and a specialty cutting mat.



Tools of the Trade – Part 3

Today’s lesson will be looking at more tools of the quilting trade. Today, we will be looking at the following tools:

  • Pins and pin accessories;
  • Fabric weights;
  • Needles and various types of needles;
  • Threads and types of threads plus a DIY thread accessory;
  • Introduction to a quilter’s calculator and;
  • Quick introduction to quilting rulers and some of their accessories.

Quilting Pins and Accessories

Quilting pins are another [private]invaluable thing to have in your quilting room. They are generally longer than ordinary sewing pins and this helps them to get through the many layers of fabric that you will end up pinning together.

When you are piecing your quilt top the use of  quilting pins are essential.  When you are pinning your fabric together you will be able to  make sure that your seams line up before you sew.   Don’t under estimate the importance of this point.  Pinning will really go a long way, in helping you get great straight seam lines every time that you sew.

As a side note, you can also buy glass head quilting pins, instead of plastic head pins. As their description portrays, they are made with a glass pinhead instead of plastic. That will allow you to use a hot iron over top of them without melting the head of the needle. Very handy indeed!

As you see in the picture above, I’ve also purchased a magnetic pin holder as this keeps all the pins easily in one spot! It also makes it easy to pickup stray pins that have fallen as the magnet attracts them. It is worth the price of purchase for storing and saving pins.

Fabric Weights

The wonders of weights, these handy tools are very versatile, and can be used for many different things in your sewing room.  Weights are used to hold your fabric still  when you are cutting.  Some fabrics when punctured with a needle leave a lasting hole.  This is not always desirable and therefore the weights elimnate the need for pins.  It also holds your fabric still if you have a large piece of fabric and you don’t want it to slip and move.

Sewing Needles

The video below makes greater mention, but it is simply important to remember that you will go through needles on your sewing machine. They will dull and could break.  I recommend considering  buying a pair of plain low power magnifying glasses that you can wear, if you don’t wear glasses, when sewing. These can serve two purposes, one is to help you see things a little better and the other is to protect your eyes.   I’ve had needles snap and click off my glasses on a couple of occasions. Not trying to scare you, but safety first!

Seam Ripper

Welcome to the tool that you will hate to use above all others nevertheless it is essential to have.   The dreaded seam ripper.   The function of the seam ripper is to give you the ability to unpick stitching if you’ve made a mistake.  It is not the most exciting part of sewing but unfortunately for most of us avid quilters  it is something that we get very good at in no time. 

There are several different styles of seam rippers and I would recommend going to a sewing store and just giving some of them a try.   None will be fun to use, but make sure that they hook nicely between fabrics to cut the threads.   This is one tool that you should have a couple lying around too.   They do go dull and better yet, they do like to hide with the scissors.


Correct Storage is essential to long lasting Thread.
Firstly, always store your thread in a dark place, away from direct sunlight as this breaks down the strength of your thread and it will break while you are sewing .  Thread has a shelf life of about one to two years, but if left in sunlight, your thread will not last more then six months.   Here’s where shoe boxes or banker’s boxes come in really handy. I like to store my thread in these so it is easy to find, I colour coordinate them and then it is easily available when I need it.  

Good deal or not?

Just because your thread was cheap and you thought that you got a good deal does not make it a good deal .  Often cheaper thread is not strong or durable and will break often.   You also don’t know how long the cheap thread has been sitting on the store’s shelf?

Old Thread, keep or throw out?

Old thread, will not work well for you either as it will break regularly and or form balls on the thread.  The balls that form on your thread will  have a hard time getting through the eye of the needle and therefore causing it to break.  To see whether or not your thread is any good any more, take it between two fingers and pull on it, if it breaks easily, throw it away and try a different thread.   Take caution though, as some types of thread are naturally stronger than others.  Make sure that you test the strength of the thread against a like type of thread.

 So, after all the bad news, the good news is that companies are coming out with stronger thread all the time, and the color variety is fantastic.  As to types of thread, you can find several but when it comes to quilting there will be three that I would recommend: Cotton thread, Rayon thread and Quilting specific thread Cotton thread.  Depending on your budget and your preference you can use the cotton thread or the quilting specific thread thoughout the whole process of quilting your quilt.   From building quilt blocks to the quilting the layers together to binding the quilt.  Rayon thread is generally more expensive than standard cotton but cheaper than quilting thread.  It works well when quilting the top, batting and bottom together.   It is stronger then standard cotton.

  Finally, quilting specific thread is just cotton thread that is thicker than standard cotton thread.   It is commonly the most expensive option, but also the strongest.   You will normally only use quilting thread when you are quilting the top, batting and bottom together.  You could use it for the whole quilt building process, but it doesn’t add any value. I was told years ago that to use rayon thread on the top of your quilt was taboo.  Things have changed as companies have come up with strong rayon thread that really adds a nice shiny look to the top of your quilt and it finishes it just beautifully.  100% cotton thread on the other hand does not have that shine to it but it certainly looks professional when your quilt is complete.

My suggestion would be to always have a little stash of black and white cotton thread.   The white will go well with lighter colored fabrics and black will go well with darker colored fabrics.  These are great default colors when you are stuck.

This month’s video will cover most of what we’ve talked of here plus other topics as mentioned in the intro.



How To Make A Quilt

Learning how to make a quilt can be a lot of frustration without the proper instruction. I remember the first time I saw a quilt in a store, I made a rough sketch of it’s pattern and brought it home for my husband to trace and straighten up. That was the easy part.

I then proceded to do everything incorrectly trying to make that quilt. I was so frustrated at times while making it that I eventually gave up and stashed it away for another day. It didn’t take me more then a couple of months to dig it back up and try again. Upon looking at the mess that I made of the fabric I had originally purchased, I quickly realized why I stashed it away initially.

The blocks I had made were terribly crooked. They were all slight different sizes and already in some of my seams, the cloth had pulled apart. Not a pretty site. I figured it was time to get serious and find out how to make a quilt the right way. I enrolled with a local quilting shop on a course to make quilts.

This course definitely helped me get started, but the more I learnt, the more it seemed that I had to learn. Several more courses and a bunch of quilts later, I’ve become much more proficient at it. I’ve now been quilting for about 14 years, but I’m getting a little ahead of myself.

About a year and a half ago, I was approached by a charity to make quilts for orphans in Tanzania. These children had very little in the way of possessions and I was thrilled to contribute to their lives with some beautiful quilts. But I then discovered that they wanted me to make sixty in total! Knowing how long it still took me to make a quilt, I knew that I was going to need some help.

I did get a couple of ladies that were experienced quilters to help, but most of the ladies who volunteered barely knew how to sew, but had a desire to learn and just wanted to help! Seeing myself in those ladies way back when, I decided to get them going.

I never realized how little I knew when it came to quilting, until I had to teach it to others. I had to find ways to simplify and speed up the procedures that I had learnt over the years, before I could even consider teaching these ambition ladies. I had to be totally clear in my own mind when it comes to the right tools and procedures.

I ended up teaching close to twenty ladies how to quilt but I learnt more then all those ladies combined. I’ve learnt how to make quilts quickly and easily that are beautiful and very professionally made. I’ve also learnt how to teach these same skills to others.

Take a peek at my site www.makebeautifulquilts.com and see what I’m putting together to teach you how to make a quilt!


Tools Of The Trade – Part 2

Continuing our look at tools of the trade, we will now look at cutting mats, quilter’s rulers, and scissors. There are a variety of available tools in this area at your disposal, so your choices can be quite varied. I’ve decided, at this time, to introduce the bare necessities. The only tool beyond the basics that I’ll be showing today is the rotating bottom cutting mat.

Cutting Mats – Your Rotary Cutter’s Best Friend

You will definitely need to purchase a good quality cutting mat. They come in different sizes. You will want to purchase one that is about 36″ wide. This will permit you a good amount of space to cut without it being too big.

Quilters Cutting Mats

In the above picture, there is a picture of my main cutting mat on the bottom and on top, a neat, nice to have cutting mat that has a rotating bottom. I’ve also shown a rubber blue mat that I cut to put under the rotating cutting mat to stop it from slipping on the surface it is put.

Your cutting mat should be self-healing. This basically means that it will heal after a cut. Do note that with repeated use you will start to cut grooves in the mat, but don’t worry, you should get at least several years of use. In my project to make the eighty quilts for charity, I’ve finally cut through my mat.

You must make sure to keep your cutting mat away from sources of heat, which includes direct sunlight. You will ruin your cutting mat if it is keep in a hot car in the summertime or if you try to iron on it. I have discovered that the mat is ruined almost immediately with an iron on it because the mat will swell and will leave a hump in it when it cools.

Your mat will need to have a grid on it to help you cut your blocks accurately. There is a new addition to the cutting mat realm. It is a cutting mat that is about 12″ square and it has a carousel mounted to the bottom of it. It’s a great addition to your collection when working on individual quilting blocks.

[private]Basically it’s strength lies in the fact that you can rotate the whole mat quickly and easily without moving the quilting block from the mat. This allows you to keep your quilting block on the grid lines on the mat and move the whole table.

Quilters Rulers

Quilters Rulers

It is not a necessary tool, but it does save a ton of time when squaring quilting blocks.
Rulers. And you thought that you just used them for school!

There are even a larger selection of rulers than rotary blades these days. You can find straight ones, ones that have curves, square ones, triangle rulers, and on and on. I think you are getting the picture. Most of these rulers are sold under the brand name of Omnigrid ©.

For our purposes we will be staying with the straight ruler, 6 inches by 24 inches. The straight ruler is primary used for cutting strips, squaring blocks, etc. It can be your universal ruler and will cover most basic needs.

Quilters Ruler - 6" x 24"

We will also be using a 8 inch by 8 inch square ruler. This ruler is primarily used for squaring blocks, measuring a six or seven inch block. You will see both shown within the picture.

Quilter's Ruler - 8" x 8"

In general the features you will be looking for in your rulers are grid in one inch increments, see through, and heavy weight plastic. Handles can be bought that has suction cups on it that you can attach to your ruler for greater control.

When you move into specialty rulers, many more features come into play. Briefly such features include:

  • Rulers for cutting circles and diamonds
  • Rulers with slots for cutting strips
  • Guides for cutting more complex shapes.

Scissors, great and small

This is as always a great tool to have with your sewing kit. The reason for this is that it has so many versatile uses. Make sure your scissors are completely dedicated to your sewing or quilting. If there is a second place for the sharpest object in your house after your rotary cutters, it should be your scissors.

To this end, do yourself a favor and do not cut paper with these scissors as it will dull them very quickly. Also, the paper will leave a film on the scissors and the scissors will be harder to cut with. To remedy this problem, wipe off the blades with a piece of fabric and your scissors will work much better. Trust me there is nothing more frustrating than having dull scissors to do a job with.


If your scissors, through repeated use become dull, take them to someone that can sharpen them for you. Or if they were cheap scissors then it would be more expensive to sharpen them than to buy new ones. Discard or re purpose them to jobs outside your quilting room and get another pair!

I tend to have many various sizes in my sewing room. The most common size I have in my sewing room though is small, as they are great for cutting threads and getting into small spaces. The reason that I have so many is that I keep walking away with them and cannot remember where I put them, so I end up having to buy more. This drives me crazy. I had once read an article from a fellow quilter and she had mentioned that a hundred pair of scissors is not enough! The darn things keep hiding!

Scissors are another place where you really need to go to a quilting or sewing supply shop and try them out. I would recommend at the very least you have a larger pair of scissors and a smaller pair. But don’t rule out the hundred pair!

Today we covered cutting mats, rulers and scissors. Our look was a very quick introduction only. Further lessons will dive much deeper into their use while building future projects!

Coming up in our next article in these series, we will be taking a look at some of our smaller, but no less important tools!


Make Beautiful Quilts with Brenda

Once again, welcome To www.MakeBeautifulQuilts.com! I’m quite excited to create this site for you and I hope that you find it extremely useful in your quilting career!


Unlike many quilting books and quilting Internet sites, I’ve deviated from the norm and presented many topics that never seem to get the proper attention. Thus many quilter’s find their quilting experience to be less then stellar.  I’ve tried to arrange the subjects to cover things from the ground up.

To start we will be talking about the tools of the trade. We will be covering the essentials and some of the nice to have toys. It is not an exhaustive list of tools, as I couldn’t keep up. I will however, continue to provide reviews on new quilting products that can really enhance your quilting experience.

Seems like every day, someone comes out with a better quilting tool! Although, the tools of the trade section, will give you a pretty good understanding of what is out there. You will be able to talk with the quilting shops at their level being sure of what you really need and what just looks very nice to have.
In coming months, we will be talking about your biggest tool, your sewing machine. I’ve really focused here simply because of the fact that a lack of understanding in regards to the sewing machine is probably the largest reason why quilter’s spend more time frustrated then fulfilled.

General operation will be discussed with a brief description of the functional parts on your sewing machine. My objective is to ensure you are completely familiar with your sewing machine and we can properly focus on the ins and outs of making quilt blocks when we arrive at those topics.

Next, we will be discussing fabric, in terms of choice of color and properly determining the amount you require. We will get to the nitty-gritty of figuring out how much fabric we  will need for a project. This really will go a long way to saving money when it comes to purchasing your fabrics.

Cutting will also be covered. I will be showing you the proper function of the tools mentioned in the tools chapter. I will be also disclosing a lot of the real secrets of cutting to save time, energy and frustration.

Finally, we will proceed at sewing the blocks together ensuring they are straight and square! You will begin to see all the steps covered are part of a whole. I’ll touch into some advanced patterns and techniques, but to be honest, once you’ve gotten to this point, you will find a lot of your previous issues will have been overcome.

Please enjoy, and be sure to send me your questions and your quilt pictures! I would love to display them on my web site for all to see!

If you wish to find out more details about subscribing, please click here to further details.

Tools Of The Trade – Introduction

This is one of my favorite sections as I get to tell you about all the great tools that we have at our disposal for creating that perfect quilt.

Quilting ToolsYou will find that your tools (or lack of) will be one of your biggest reasons for poor or sub-standard results. Just as much as a craftsman depends on high quality tools and the right tool for the job, so will you.

We will be covering the following topics over the next couple of articles:

  • What tools are essential to have.
  • What tools are nice to have.
  • How to maintain your tools.

Beyond your general tools, we will be taking a detailed look at your sewing machine and how it ticks. This is one section that I recommend you do not skip as it will save you a ton of problems and potential service calls for issues you could have rectified on the spot.

It is my objective to make you educated enough to know what to buy or what not to buy when you enter a sewing or quilting store. You will find some of these tools quite expensive, so it is prudent to only spend money on what will help you the very most.

The Bare Essentials and The Nice to Have Toys

If there is any tools that are synonymous with the carpenter’s tape measure and hammer, the rulers and rotary cutters you will obtain are it. They are your most basic tools and most important in function.

[private]My grandmother told me of the time when all she had to sew with was a singer sewing machine, a pair of scissors and some pins. YUCK!

But these days we are actually spoilt for choice and I have to admit, I love it. Thanks to some brilliant people who have gone before us, we have a wide variety of useful and fun tools at our disposal. But saying that, let’s look at what is essential and what will make your quilting experience just much more fun!

The Essentials

So I will start with the essentials. I’ll introduce them to you then we’ll dig deeper to do’s and don’t's later.

  • A good working sewing machine (we will fully covering this in the up and coming months)
  • A cutting mat.
  • An Omnigrid © or like rulers.
  • A good comfortable to your hand rotary cutter.
  • Table space to allow you to properly set up your sewing area and your cutting area.
  • Excellent Lighting. No matter how much light I have, more light is always better!
  • A good set of scissors
  • A good unpick tool

With these essentials you can create a beautiful quilt. But life is made easier with a few of the tools (toys) I will mention next.

The Toys!

There is a ton of things you can purchase that can add to or take away from your quilting experience. I’m trying to keep to bare essentials with the teachings presented here, but you will need to experiment beyond the essentials to see what helps you.

I’ve come across several tools that truly were not worth their time and money. Saying that though, I’ve found some wonderful tools that have greatly augmented my toolbox. My recommendation again is to play with what’s available. Some of the best places to see tools that are new and revolutionary are at your local community quilting shows.

As a quick guide to tools beyond the essentials, here is my short list of tools that are nice to have;

  • A measuring tape
  • Good light box to trace designs with.
  • Fabric weights definitely come in handy to hold fabric in place when working with it.
  • Specialty rulers, triangles, diamond shapes, circle rulers – well you get the point. You can fill a closet with the quilting rulers and templates you can find.
  • Sharp needles for your sewing machine – universal needles are the most common type used here.
  • Lint brush for your sewing machine.
  • Oil for your sewing machine
  • Extra bobbins for your sewing machine.

Rotary Blade Cutters

A good rotary blade cutter is a very important tool for making quilts. I would have to say, that you can quilt without a rotary cutter, but you really don’t want too. One of quilting’s greatest innovations in recent history has been this wonderful tool. The rotary cutter is the main tool you will use to cut your fabric into strips and ultimately into perfectly square blocks. You literally cannot get the same accuracy and results using normal scissors. Scissors, as you will see, have their place, but this is not it.

Rotary cutters come in a range of styles, and blade sizes. When it comes to styles, go to your nearest quilt store and ask them to “test drive” their rotary blade cutters. You will find that some are a good fit for you and some are not that comfortable. What I would recommend may not be your favorite fit. Also make sure that you accommodate the hand you prefer to cut with. Some rotary cutters are designed for the left or right hand and some will work in either hand. It’s pretty self evident when you try them out.Rotary Cutters

As mentioned earlier, rotary cutters will come in a variety of blade sizes as well. Depending on the function, you will have a different preference for blade size for different jobs. As a template, in North America, you will find blades that range from 18 mm to 60 mm in diameter.

Smaller blades are good for cutting around curves or in tight spots and larger blades are much easier to slice through fabric when cutting strips and blocks. I have tried a wide variety of rotary blade cutters and have personally settled on the 45 mm blade size, the reason is that it is easy to use and because it has a large blade it will slice through your fabric easily. The cutter with the larger blade will be the one you will use the most, so make sure you like the feel and features.

What to know about your Rotary Cutter

The blades are extremely sharp. I can personally guarantee that if you or husband is not a butcher, it will be the sharpest object that you will have in your house. For that very reason, make sure that you don’t leave it around for children to find. Also take extreme care when handling the rotary cutter. I would recommend wearing a covered toe shoe or slipper when cutting. The cutter will more then likely drop blade first. I can attest to the fact that toes bleed like crazy when you drop the cutter on your foot.

The best advise that I can give is jump out of the way when you drop it by accident. Don’t try to catch it! It’s much easier to buy a replacement if you break it then to visit the local hospital have them stitch you back up.

Please don’t use it as a paper cutter, it will dull the blade. Blades, you will find, can be quite expensive and you will want to allow for the longest life span that you can get from them. You will know that your blade is dull, when you are trying to cut a straight line with your rotary cutter and it only cuts sections of the fabric, it will also feel hard to push. If this happens carefully remove the blade and replace it with a new one. Even a dull blade can slice through skin very nicely.

You can purchase blade sharpeners as well, to sharpen your blades. This is a good option but you need to be careful with sharpening your blades as you could create little nicks in the blade and then you have to throw it away. Nicks in the blade will not cut the fabric correctly at all. I’ve tried both and I find that replacing the blade is the most expensive option, but overall the best. Your blades will always cut nicely when you replace with new.

If you can afford it, keep a couple of cutters on hand. You will find that one style of cutter will work better in certain situations or it’s nice as a quick spare if your blade goes dull or you break your primary rotary cutter. You will need to maintain your cutter by keeping it clean. To clean your rotary cutter, remove the blade and clean out the lint, this will allow a free flow motion of the blade.

Finally, carefully inspect your rotary cutter when you clean or replace the blade. They do fail and you may be able avert a premature failure or a possible injury.

We will pick up our discussion on the page, Tools of the Trade – Introduction – Part 2.


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