Archive for the ‘tips’ Category

simplest ever rules for pressing

Sunday, February 2nd, 2014

There’s always lots of talk about pressing when it comes to quilts… Open or to the side? Steam or no steam? And then there’s the admonition “press, don’t iron!”  So much of it is personal preference, but I’ve realized lately that to get the best results it really all comes down to two simple rules that can be summed up thusly: use starch & press from the right side also.

Being a longarm quilter gives me the privilege of seeing many quilts by many quilters. Being up close with all those quilts, and handling them the way you do for attaching them to a longarm table, you learn things about construction that you might not think about otherwise. About wavy borders, tight vs bulky piecing, things I could teach a whole class on. But pressing is the one thing that is the easiest way to get the best results.

Good pressing will:

  • prevent fabric from shifting, stretching and distorting
  • make it easier to fit blocks together and match seams
  • give you flatter, prettier, less bulky seams
  • help you catch problems like holes, folds, unravels, and crooked seams
  • give everything a smooth, crisp finish that is easier to sew or quilt across

And here’s all you have to do to make that happen.


I always keep Flatter by Soak and Best Press by my iron. These are starch alternatives that are gentle and smell great. (I’m addicted to that Yuzu Flatter!) You may prefer heavy starch from the laundry aisle of the grocery store or your own vodka mixture.  Starch all your fabrics before you cut.  I had a time when I was lazy and quit doing this. Then when I started again, I was so amazed at how much more precise everything was. The little bit of stiffness keeps everything in place as you cut and piece and it all matches up so well. No more tugging and pulling and easing. I also use starch when pressing each seam to get things really flat, but if you’re into dry pressing just the pre-cutting starch will still help.


Most of us were probably taught to set a seam and then press it from the wrong side so you can control where the seam allowance goes.  And then what? Bluntly put, I’m shocked at how many quilters are not also pressing from the front of the quilt. We spend so much time cutting and piecing and cutting and piecing and we want out quilts to look good, so don’t forget to check the side you’ll actually be looking at when it’s done! Even if you think you have pressed your seam flat from the wrong side, you can only see the fold of the seam from the right side. You can press the wrong side to push the seam allowance the direction it needs to go, and then press from the right side to fully flatten the seam. Without that, this is what happens. Can you see it?That pesky little fold will get sewn across and quilted over.  If every seam has a little fold, a block could end up half an inch smaller than it should be which can cause quite some trouble when trying to fit things together. Every time I quilt over a fold, I feel so sloppy. Hopefully this doesn’t sound too nitpicky. At least it’s easy to do. And satisfying! I love turning my piecing over at each stage after I’ve pressed from the back, getting to see what I’ve done and giving myself a little credit for it. (We all deserve to give ourselves more credit for lots of things!)

Maybe you already do just this and you’ve got some pressing tips of your own for us? Everyone has their own little tricks and I love hearing them.

batting basics

Friday, August 30th, 2013

One of the questions we ask when customers drop quilts off at our shop to be quilted is what kind of batting they’d like to use, and more often than not they don’t know what to use or why. Or maybe you’ve never thought to ask your quilter what kind they use. So I thought a post on some common batting questions was in order so you’d know why to care and what to choose.

What brand do you like? The short answer to this is Quilters Dream, hands down. We also love the battings from Moda/United Notions, especially Kyoto Bamboo and Soy Soft. As a shop owner and longarm quilter I have seen lots of not-so-great battings which makes me even more loyal to QD’s amazing quality. It’s so sad to see a well-loved quilt whose innards have become a total mess, when it would have held up much better had it contained better batting. I believe in being picky. I’ll break it down for you.

Why I love Quilters Dream:

  • They use high quality materials, like longer fibers, and methods, like thorough needle-punching. This means those fibers don’t come apart so easily, the batting is stronger, stretches less and doesn’t distort.
  • It has the most consistent thickness and density. Have you ever opened up a batting and noticed that light shines through more at some places and in others it’s more opaque, like in the photo? I won’t say what brand it is, but it’s a very popular one. I’d rather not have a quilt that’s part thin and part thick. QD are so evenly needle-punched or bonded (depending on the content), which also makes them very easy to work with.
  • It has the smoothest and softest texture. No rough or crunchy spots and no little brown bits of the cotton boll left in. And they don’t use thick scrims or yucky bonding chemicals.
  • The price is competitive with budget brands.
  • They are an independent company and sell only to local quilt shops.
  • It is made in the U.S.

Batting up to the light to show unevenness. The dark area is thicker/denser


wool tips & tricks

Monday, June 24th, 2013

In preparation for bringing in Pendleton wools, we got some great advise from the ladies at the Pendleton factory on how to use and care for their wools, and we’re passing their expertise on to you. Did you know wool deflects fleas? Amazing!

Pendleton Wool Care Tips & Tricks

  • Heavyweight wools can be washed in cold water and hung dry.
  • Lightweight jacquards should be dry cleaned.
  • Use Dawn for oil spots on wool; Dryel also works well. Blot, don’t rub, when spot treating.
  • Do not use Woolite on wool. The alkaline strips the fibers.
  • Do not use Tide or similar detergents (because of the lanolin).
  • To felt: use a natural oil wash, like Murphy’s oil soap. (For water felting, not for actual washing.)
  • Use steam heat, not dry heat, when pressing to prevent scorching.
  • Wool is a “spark arrestor.” A spark from a fireplace won’t burn if caught by the wool.
  • Wool doesn’t crease like other fabrics, so don’t worry about folding it for storage. Use moth balls to prevent moth damage in storage, but don’t let them touch the wool directly.

Do you have any of your own tips for wool? Let’s hear it in the comments.


Tuesday, February 9th, 2010

The mastermind behind children’s clothing patterns Oliver+S, Liesl, is genius.  I would probably take advice from her on anything, anytime.  Luckily, she’s given some over on the Oliver + S blog over the last several months with her principles for fabric selection.  She explains how to use color, prints, solids, and a little restraint to get the most sophisticated look for the children’s clothes you sew.  Most of these principles can be applied to patchwork and other sewing as well. A summary:

Read about them in detail here (and start from the bottom).  I’d like to add a “hear hear” to Liesl’s tips.  They mirror the way we approach fabric choices for projects in the shop, perhaps we’ll talk about some of our own principles for picking fabric for quilts one of these days.

Marriane's Oliver+S dress

I think Suppose’ own Oliver+S outfit passes the test.  Meet my aunt Marianne, a clever lady and an adept seamstress.  She made this Birthday Party Dress in Westrade’s classic Tiny Posies print with the button tab in Kaffe Fassett’s Shot Cotton in Watermelon.  Don’t you just want to make a whole bunch! What would you choose to make it in?