A Whole Mess of Questions From A New Quilter

>Is there any reason why I would not want to make a crazy quilt without blocks?

Making it up in blocks help you 1) get even placement of the scraps, 2)divide your work into smaller, maneagable pieces and 3) helps keep you "on track" with getting the whole top together in a square (or rectangle.)

>Do crazy quilts pieces always need to be sewn onto something?

No, but working with small, odd sized scraps can be frustrating to set into a "shape". You could sew the pieces together like normal, with seams, but it gets tricky to put in the odd-sized pieces and weird angles that arise.

If you are working with delicate fabrics, having a foundation will help them wear better and hold up longer.

>What is the best way to quilt a miniature quilt? Would an embroidery hoop work?

There is no reason why you couldn't use a hoop. Be careful with the tension, so it doesn't distort your top. For something that small I don't bother with a hoop or frame.

Don't use a batting, or use a very very thin layer, or you'll find it too thick.

>How does one sharpen a rotary cutter blade?

With a rotary blade sharpener, sold at fine quilting stores and catalog houses.

> Is it easier/cheaper/better to just buy a new one?

Hmmn. Judgement call.

>Are new blades easy to find?

All my local craft/sewing/quilting stores carry them. They are also available through mail-order, so you should not normally have trouble getting new blades.

>Does anyone have any tips on rotary cutter care? Am I correct to assume that I should only cut fabric with it (avoid cutting paper, for instance)?

Absolutely. Avoid cutting over pins or you'll get permanent nicks that won't sharpen out.

> Does anyone have any safety tips? (I've already cut myself once, in spite of being careful.)

Keep your fingers out of the way. Instead of tracing around templates the traditional way, learn to strip-cut. Cut strips as wide as you need them, and cut the strips into your squares or triangles...

Always keep your blade covered when not in use (even when you just lay it down for a second to grab that fabric....) and out of reach of little hands when you're away.

>How hard should I press against the ruler?

The ruler should be held down firmly enough to keep the fabric from shifting. You should not press against the ruler with the cutter, other than to follow the edge.

> How hard should I press down?

Enough to cut the fabric. Don't cut more than three or four layers of fabric at once.

> Should I not be making those lines in my mat?

No, you SHOULD be making cuts on the mat. Beware of cuts full of fabric fibers. It is a sign of an overly worn out blade.

>Do "self-healing" mats really exist?

Yes, Olfa makes a fine one.

>Do mats need replacing after they've been used for a long time?

Not really. Not the Olfa, anyway. I'm told they'll last more than 10 years with regular use.

>Should I get a small mat for travelling, or is it not that hard to cut fabric accurately with scissors?

Many quilters like a smallish mat for next to the machine to cut threads or trim up pieces while sewing. Others also like one to take to class or for travelling. At home you should have the biggest mat you can afford.

I find it impossible to cut accurate quilting pieces with scissors. But that's me.

>I read that to keep fabric from bleeding you should soak it in salt and vinegar water. How much salt and vinegar should I use? Should I rinse it afterward? Do I have to do this each time I wash the fabric (and later the quilt)? Does this work with silk? Will it damage the fabric?

I believe salt was used to open the fabric fibers to take natural dyes. Many of today's fabrics are made with chemical dyes that do not react to salt or vinegar. To prevent bleeding use a commercially available product (Retayne is often recommended) specifically for setting colors. You should only need to use it once, if you follow the directions.

Don't confuse bleeding with excess dye in the fibers. Excess dye will wash out in one or two washings, with the water getting lighter and lighter as you rinse. A bleeding fabric will continue to leak color into the water, and you'll notice the fabric fading.

>Does anyone have any tips for working with silk (how to keep it from coming unravelled or bleeding, for instance? How to keep it from bleeding? I read that you should use larger seam allowances... how much bigger? Should I use an iron-on stabilizer or sew it to muslin first, or is that not necessary?)?

I have not done a lot of work with silk. However, I do know that there are types of silk that MUST be dry cleaned, and I would not suggest their use in a quilt that will be used or washed. If the fabric is ravelling and you really want to use it, you can get a product called "Fray-Check" to use on the raw edges. However, it is probably better to buy a well-woven piece of material to begin with.

Any lightweight fabrics or delicate fabrics should be stabilised for the overall strength of the finished quilt top. You should also avoid using very light fabric, such as silk and lace, in the same pieced top as heavier corduroy or denim. The difference in weights will cause the lighter fabrics to tear.

>All of the members of my family use down duvets, winter and summer (we >live in Canada), so I worry that if I made them quilts they would not be used. My plan was to make them patchwork duvet covers. I thought I would make the tops like summer quilts, with no batting, the back would just be to protect the patchwork from wear and tear when the duvet was taken in and out. Would be too heavy? Does anyone have anytips for quilting summer quilts?

Making a pieced or applique duvet cover is becoming a popular alternative method of getting quilts into the house. You might want to avoid the layer of batting between the top and the backing (which is the top of the duvet cover)and just quilt through the two fabric layers.

A summer quilt is just two layers of fabric, a pieced top and the backing, without an inner layer of batting. Because of this it won't need the close quilting that a regular quilt would need. You can tie or lightly quilt a summer quilt.

>I have twenty or thirty quilts planned in my notebook already. But I restrain myself from buying fabric for them, in case they don't get made, or the plan for that quilt evolves between now and when it's made (in fact, I haven't even bought the backing or border fabric for my current quilt). Is this a good idea?

There are two schools of thought on this. One says to buy anything and everything you might need in case you never find it again later when you're ready to use it. The other one says to only buy what you know you will use in the immediate future. Your ideas for quilts will come faster than your ability to produce them. Personally I limit my large fabric purchases to only what I need at the time, with a couple of quarter yard impulse buys every now and then. This way, when I see new fabric and get a fresh idea, I don't have to feel guilty about the closet full of fabric I bought last year and will never use.

>I've noticed in my books and on the few quilting shows I've seen that many machine piecers don't cut the thread between pieces, and all the pieces end of held together with little chains of thread. Do you keep sewing between pieces, or just pull the pieces out a bit? I tried sewing without fabric there, and everything got hopelessly tangled.

This is called chain piecing, and it is a great way to sew a lot of repetitive pieces quickly ('cause you aren't stopping to cut each piece) and to save some thread (again, you aren't pulling each piece out of the machine and leaving 3" tails)

Yes, you keep sewing between pieces. How much you can sew depends on your machine. Generally it's just a couple of stitches, so you want to have the next piece ready to go in the machine right away. I usually leave less than a quarter inch between chained pieces. If you have to stop, do it in the last inch or so of the last piece of fabric.

>Is there any reason not to use quilting thread for piecing and vice versa? Is it hard to find different colors of quilting thread? What's the difference between quilting thread and thread for piecing? Will quilting thread always be labelled as such? What thread should I never use for piecing and/or quilting?

Quilting thread is waxed, and maybe a little thicker than regular thread. It is waxed so it is easier to sew it through the layers of the quilt. It is not recommended for hand piecing. Just use regular good cotton or cotton-wrapped poly for that. I have seen quilting thread in a small range of colors and it has always been labelled as quilting thread.

You want to avoid using cheap thread -- the 10/dollar spools of poly from discount stores. It's just not good quality thread. Also, you may want to test brightly colored spools, like red, for bleeding before using them on a white quilt. Some quilters have reported that _some_ spools of Coats and Clark do bleed if they get wet.

> If I use dark colored thread to piece light colored pieces (or vice versa), will it show? In applique should the thread match the applique or the background?

Your threads will only show if you press the iron onto the seam too hard. Otherwise they'll be safely hidden under the folds of fabric. It is still a good idea to use light or white thread on light pieces and dark thread on dark fabric. If you use dark thread in the seam of light fabrics, it could show through from behind the fabric after you press the seam.

In hidden applique the thread should match the background, but it really isn't going to be seen. If you are doing decorative stitching onto appliqued pieces, the thread is meant to be seen and can be any color you want.

>I know that quilting needles are smaller than normal sewing needles. Is that in length or diameter? What will happen if I try to use a normal needle to quilt? Why are quilting needles so small? They look very difficult to work with!

Quilting needles are smaller in both dimensions, so they can be worked more easily through the layers of fabric. A "normal" needle is just large enough that you might find yourself straining to get it through the quilt sandwich. Try sizes you think you might be comfortable with, and compare the differences. You'll also find that different brands of needles will sew more easily, or harder, for you. Try various sizes and brands, and practice, and pretty soon you'll find what you're comfortable with.

>What's a serger?

A serger is a type of sewing machine which uses three, four, or five threads to sew with. It is most often used on knits when making clothing. It makes an overlock stitch, which binds threads over the raw cut edges in order to finish them off.

You do not need a serger to piece quilts, although you _could_ use one if you had to.

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