Quilting For Dummies
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Quilts today, while continuing to add warmth to a household, are no longer a necessity, but rather a means of self-expression — a glorious work of art in fabric! Quilt-making today is a hobby enjoyed by men and women alike. Machine techniques have replaced tedious hand-piecing and appliqué, but modern quilt-makers still take inspiration from quilts of days past, adapting those designs and techniques to today's lifestyles.

Here are some time-saving ideas to help you develop your personal stitching style more quickly and smoothly.

  • Keep your machine clean, oiled, and in top condition. Nothing wastes time faster than having to restitch a seam because the needle is skipping, adjust the tension during a project, or pick lint out of a seam because the machine wasn't cleaned before use.
  • Set up an efficient workspace. The "kitchen triangle" that interior designers insist upon works for quilting, too! Instead of a "sink, stove, work surface," set up a "machine, pressing, work surface" triangle. Position everything so you only have to take a few steps in between. This saves time and energy when working on large projects.
  • When piecing, choose one neutral thread color that works well with all fabrics. This saves the hassle of changing thread color for every fabric.
  • Divide the work into manageable units that can be completed in 10 to 15 minutes time. Then you can work on them when you know you have some wait-time ahead of you, such as when waiting for a phone call.
  • When working on small units, finger-press the pieces open rather than running to the ironing board each time. To do this, simply run your fingernail over the seamline of the opened unit to press the seam allowance open. You can press the pieces at the ironing board later.
  • Chain-piece whenever possible. You can cut the units apart later, perhaps while watching television or helping the youngsters with homework. Likewise, trim all thread tails at once.
  • Work in shifts. Divide your time by cutting out all of the pieces at once, followed another time by stitching units together, then the units into blocks, and finally the blocks into a quilt top.
  • Stitch on the run. Are you working on a project which requires hand appliqué or hand piecing? Pack a resealable plastic bag with your fabric, thread, extra needles, and a small pair of scissors so you can work on your project just about anywhere. Tote your project with you during those endless lobby loungings at the dentist's or doctor's office. Keep it in the car and work on it while waiting outside the schoolyard during carpool duty.
    If you're bringing your project along on vacation or an overnight visit, bring a 75-watt light bulb along so you know you'll always be stitching in good light. Hotels are notorious for using low-wattage light bulbs.
  • When doing hand appliqué, piecing, or quilting, keep several needles threaded at all times. Threading needles is a great job for the kids.
    If you're interested in measuring the amount of thread you put into a quilt, a great time to measure is when you thread your needles. Simply cut enough one-yard lengths of the thread at one time for any number of needles (working in 10s would help). Thread the needles and place them in a pincushion. Keep track of the number of yards cut in your notepad. Hey, some quilters go in for this stuff!
  • Buy prepackaged binding rather than making your own. Binding is usually sold in 2- to 3-yard units.

About This Article

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Cheryl Fall is the author of 12 how-to books, has designed more than 2,500 projects for publication, and is the host of The Creative Life with Cheryl Fall on PBS.

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