Posts Tagged ‘tips’

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



Wednesday, March 7th, 2012

I’ve been spending more and more time quilting on the longarm, and having more and more fun with it. I’m finding that I have my own style and what I like doing best are designs that feel organic as I make them. These are a few of my favorites.

adrienne's heart

heart back closeup


lil webs

closeupI’m keeping more photos of my quilting in this Flickr set, btw. Many customer quilts and a few for display in the shop. (Thanks, everyone who’ve let quilt your quilts!)

Throughout this process I’m learning a lot. And since we get lots of questions about this sort of thing, I thought I’d share some tips for getting the most awesome quilt possible when sending it to a longarm quilter.  And for more info on our longarm services, check out this handy info sheet. Here we go.

  • Use high quality fabric. Budget fabrics can have a brittle texture. What does that mean for quilting? The needle may break the fibers rather than pass between them, creating tiny holes, and the batting can beard through on the back.
  • Square up as you go–each block, each border. You don’t want to have to trim any of that quilt off before the binding goes on!
  • Don’t force the borders. When using a pattern’s border measurements, you may end up with a wavy border, or one that’s pulled to tight.  This doesn’t mean you did something wrong, but everyone’s seam allowances can vary by a hair, and those hairs can add up to a measurable difference. Your actual quilt dimensions may not be exactly like the pattern, so you’d be forcing the wrong size of border to fit your quilt. Cut your border big, then trim it off/square it up after sewing it on.
  • Press from the front, not just the back. Press as you’re piecing, and press the entire quilt again when it’s all finished. You can spot folds in seams from the front that you might not see on the back. You’ll avoid tucks and misshapen-ness in your finished quilt.
  • Stay-stitch finished quilt tops by sewing around the entire quilt top with a regular stitch length and 1/8″ seam allowance. This will keep things from stretching and prevent seams from coming unraveled between now and when the quilting is done.
  • Trim threads on both the front and back. Don’t pull–you don’t want any seams coming undone! Stray threads showing through your quilt can be distracting. This is more easily done before the quilting catches all those strays.
  • Check for loose or undone seams.  Sometimes we miss these things, and it’s always easier to re-sew it before it’s quilted than try to repair it after.
  • Make quilt backs big and square them up. The quilt back should be at least 4″ larger on each side than the quilt top. This allows for proper loading on the longarm, and gives enough room for the way everything is taken up in the quilting. The sides of the back should also be exactly perpendicular to each other–a lopsided backing will be lopsided when it attaches to the quilt on a longarm. We don’t want any puckering or stretching! Don’t be afraid to use minky, interlock knits, or to mix and match different fabrics for the back. Pieced backs and different textures make for the opposite of boring.

These are also not bad to follow if you’re quilting yourself on a domestic machine or by hand. I do have to mention that for those times when I’m not using the longarm for the quilting,  505 Spray & Fix temporary adhesive is by far my favorite way to baste these days. It’s faster and more reliable than pinning or thread basting, and it washes out. It’s re-positionable so you can adjust and smooth out your quilt as needed, yet it holds strong enough that I can tote around a project and not worry about it shifting.

There you have it. Do you have any of your own tips?