Monday, November 17, 2008

10 Things I learned

My sewing spot, all ready to start the workshop...

This past Saturday, I went to a workshop organized by my quilt guild, the London Friendship Quilters Guild. The teacher was Heather Stewart. There were about 20 quilters there and we spent a glorious day sewing and learning. During the process of starting a "Cobblestones" quilt, Heather gave us many tips and tricks, many of which she has developed herself in her 27 years of teaching quilting.

Here are 10 of the many things I learned on Saturday:

1. Use a dry iron (no steam) to press when quilting. The steam can distort the fabric. Always iron in the direction the threads are going . Don't wiggle the iron or iron in circles or curves. This also makes the fabric go off grain. (I have to admit I was a steaming wiggler before Saturday!)

2. Wear leather shoes when using a rotary cutter. Protect your feet while cutting. If you drop the rotary cutter, a lot of blood can be shed. Heather told us of a quilter who had to have surgery to fix a severed tendon in her foot after dropping her rotary cutter on her foot.

3. Clean your equipment. Rulers can be washed in dish soap and water in the sink to remove oils from your hands. Take apart your rotary cutter after doing a lot of cutting (say for one quilt) and clean the blade and plastic parts with a soft cloth to remove fabric lint. Take the blade out of the rotary cutter with a fridge magnet to avoid cutting yourself. Cutting mats can be cleaned with a damp scrubby--the kind you get in the bath aisle at the drug store --using a circular motion and some elbow grease.

4. When cutting with a rotary cutter, hold it like this:
Note the index finger is on the ridges of the handle just above the blade to apply pressure to the right spot on the blade for even cutting. The above picture also shows how to hold your other hand on the ruler--at least one inch back from the edge to avoid cuts if the blade slips up onto the ruler, and with just the tips of the fingers on the ruler for more even pressure on the ruler. She called this her "live spider" as opposed to a "dead spider" where the hand is flat on the ruler.

5. Always stand to do rotary cutting. Your cutting surface should be 3 inches below your elbow to help avoid repetitive strain injuries.

6. Your sewing machine bed should be 2-3 inches below your elbows when you are sitting at the sewing machine. Sit up straight and align the centre of your body with the needle. Your back will not hurt as much after a long sewing session. (I also have to admit I was a hunched over sewer, at least until Saturday)

7. Your foot pedal should be directly in front of your knee with your foot pointing straight ahead--this also helps to avoid a sore back. Heather gave each of us a piece of rubber web (the stuff you buy to put under throw carpets so they don't slide across the floor) to put under our foot pedals so they did not slide across the floor as we sewed.

8. When ironing, let the pieces cool on the flat surface of the ironing board before moving them to the sewing machine. This will help the pieces to keep their shape.

9. Use cascade cutting when using the rotary cutter. We were cutting 1 1/2 inch strips. Heather suggested we cut the edges of the fabric off to create a straight edge (to the right of the ruler in the picture below) and then cut a 6 inch strip (the width of the ruler).
She then moved the ruler to her left and put the edge of the ruler at 4 1/2 inches. She cut here and then moved it over to 3"...
and then 1.5 inches.

All this cutting, and we did not have to move the fabric once! This sped up the cutting process considerably.

10. Keep sewing. They make more fabric every day. Always wash your fabric before sewing with it to wash out the chemicals and to preshrink it.

And now, here are some pictures of my Cobblestones blocks. I finished 3 blocks at the workshop and had several more in various stages of being done at the end of the day. I spend some time last night making some more blocks. Here is a picture of my completed blocks as of last night. There are many different layout options for this quilt. When I have all 48 blocks done for my lap size quilt, I will play with the blocks and take some pictures to post on my blog. The blocks are 8.5 inches before sewing them together.

I'm off to do more sewing...


  1. Your cobblestones look wonderful! I love those fall colours!Great tips, I think I will print those out.

  2. Hey Gail:

    Sounds like you had a fabulous time! Love the colours on your cobblestone blocks...that's going to be a nice quilt.


  3. `Keep sewing. They make more fabric every day.`
    needs to go on the wall....