Questions I Get Asked

I have an antique silk quilt, which was quilted around 1935. It is pale yellow stitched with black thread in floral designs. There are two small bacteria spots about the size of a penny. Do you have any idea how I can remove these spots without harming the quilt? Also, do you have any idea what the quilt may be worth? I realize without a photo it is hard to see the quality of the quilt, but I would just like to get a ball park figure. Thank you!

If it is black mildew nothing will get it out. Bleach will turn it to a grey, but you don't want anything with bleach to go near this quilt. I'm afraid it is a permanent stain.

Value of old quilts is relative, to the region, the workmanship, and the buyer's tastes. The design may be one that is popular right now, and command a higher price, or one that there are many versions of that everybody has seen. It's really so subjective. If you need an insurance appraisal or if you want to sell it, you should ask around for an expert in antique textiles. (Sadly, I am not one)

Can you tell me if there's a simple at-home test for fabric of unknown origin to discover if it's silk? I appreciated the information about the cotton method and would like similar information on silk.

Pure silk has a unique feel that is almost impossible to duplicate in other fibers. Whether it is woven into a satin, or a coarser fabric, it will feel slightly soft and oily. Of course, you have to feel a lot of silk to get the hang of it!

If you do a burn test on silk you'll see it smoulder and burn slowly. It's supposed to smell like burning hair and leave a shiny black bead that you can easily crush.

The best way to figure it out is to compare with known fibers, like cotton and polyester.

If you have a silk blend you may see strange things happening. I once tested a poly-cotton that burned on the warp and melted on the weft --both at the same time in the flame-- but it only lasted a few seconds so you have to pay close attention.

Do you know an easy way to prepare a wall hanging for hanging. I made my son a quilt and I am using the left over fabric to make a wall hanging and really don't have any instructions. Do you know where I might find that sort of info on line? Never really found anything specific yet.

It's not collected into one organized page or anything, to my knowledge. It sounds like a good topic for another DawnPage, though. Generally, if the hanging is small enough you can use straight pins or even thumbtacks to hold it up, though the pins are preferred because they are thinner. I put wall hangings of up to 36" up with straight pins.

Larger hangings you can put a sleeve on, just make a hemmed tube of fabric large enough to get a dowel through, and whipstitch that to the back of your hanging. You can attach string or picture wire to the dowel, or thread the tube through like you would on a curtain rod. You might also consider making a tube across the bottom for another dowel to keep the edge flat on the wall.

I have one main question as a beginning quilter: How do you cut quilt pieces with EXACT accuracy? I use a good quality cutting mat, a rotary cutter, a quilting ruler, etc. and mark the fabric first but I still get inaccurate pieces. Maybe I just need more practice. If you can shed any light upon my "plight", I would appreciate it.

What do you consider "inaccurate"? If it is off by less than 1/8 of an inch you are doing pretty well. That's something you can make up for when sewing the seam. If it is off by more, you need to look at possible causes:

Is the cutting mat accurate? Measure it against other rulers. Some of them can be off by 1/8 or 1/16 of an inch, which adds up when you are cutting larger pieces. Same with your rulers and other measuring devices.

Second, when you measure and mark everything, and put the ruler down, be sure it goes straight down and nothing moves. Hold that edge flat and tight on the table, and run the edge of your blade right against the side of the ruler. Always use a rotary cutter with a straight edge.

Don't try to cut more than 4 layers of fabric at once. The undermost layers will shift and be slightly out of line with what you think you are cutting.

If you are cutting a lot of strips or pieces, stop occasionally and reposition the main piece of fabric and make sure it is aligned properly.

Personally, I don't use all those fancy quilt rulers. I have a straight edge from an art supply, and I line it up with the markings on my mat, on either end of the fabric I am cutting. For smaller pieces, I use one end of a 90* triangle template which has 1/4 inch markings to help align it.

I am making a quillow from a printed "quilt" panel. I like the puffy effect you get when stitching but do not know where to get a basic stitching design. How do I do this? Are there designs to copy or use as transfer?

You can sew along the lines of the shapes printed on your panel, this is called "stitch in the ditch" because you are sewing along the fold created by the seams --even though you don't have seams. It can really help a printed panel look like it was pieced. Or you can sew a quarter inch outside of each "seam" line.

Other patterns are created by tracing around overlapped circles, or making grid lines, or diamond-slanted lines. If you just have a large piece of calico which is not marked, you can draw on it with chalk and make circles or other shapes to sew. Anything geometric will work.

There are books which have patterns to copy, fancy things like flowers and birds and intricate designs. You might see if there are any in your public library. They sell them in quilting shops and some bigger bookstores, but they might be a little too much investment if you are just going to do the one quillow.

The second question I have is : On a quillow, which way does the opening on the pocket face? Does it face toward the quilt or towards the outside.

It should face in toward the body of the quilt, not the edge. Like a sandwich baggie.

Hi. I found your measurement page and think its a great help. I am specifically looking for lap quilt measurements. Do you have any help in that area? Thanks.

You want a lap quilt to cover your lap comfortably. I find at least 45x45 is required. You might sit down with a measuring tape and see how much drape you need.

I also made one lap quilt the size of the top of a single bed, so it could be used to cover a child who was napping, or be an extra full layer in winter.

But, if you want to use a particular block, say something that's 8" across, and you use six of them and a border, it's going to be larger than 45", but it's not something you have to worry about. Go with what works for you.

I have never quilted before, this will be my first one. My question is, "What size blocks should I make for a Crib size quilt using either the Nine-patch or Puss-in- the-corner pattern? Could you please e-mail me back or refer me to a good quilting book for beginners.

What I find works well is to plan the blocks in nice even numbers. For example, I would do the 9-patch in 2.5-inch strips, and end up with a 6-inch square block. Place the blocks in a 5x7 setting for a roughly 2.5 ft by 3.5 ft rectangular quilt.

You might want to use 3-inch squares for a finished 8.5 inch block, and place them in a 4x5 setting.

In other words, when making the 9-patches, cut strips of a width you are comfortable with, and aim for a finished quilt of about 36x48 inches. Exactly how big it turns out will depend on the size of the blocks you use, and whether or not you want to add a border to get it to a certain pre-determined size.

The book "Quilts quilts quilts" is often suggested for beginners. I also think the Singer book on "Machine Quilting" is a good one to start with. Just don't mess with anything that wants you to trace cardboard templates for each piece!

I've fallen in love with the Hidden Wells pattern, but I'm having a bit of a problem with the colors. I had chosen 6 colors when a friend noticed that this was a dimensional quilt, and that a lighter color was needed to make that one block rise above the rest of the quilt. So now for the help that I'm asking for.... Could you tell me what values you used (light to dark). Starting with 1 as the top strip and ending with 6 as the bottom strip. I'd really appreciate any help you could pass along. I've already been shopping 4 times for material for this quilt and I'm just not happy with the combination. I'm trying to get it done for my grand- daughter's birthday in Sept. HELP!!!!

I didn't put nearly that much effort into it. I just alternated contrasting colors. Light-dark-bright-dark, etc. in random widths. I think in the example on my web page there are two darks, a bright blue and an olive green next to each other. Where they become the center square it really stands out, but I didn't put that much into planning it that way.

They go:

Just think in terms of CONTRAST, and pick a range of colors that sort of go together, but don't match them too much. You want the differences to be part of the pattern.

Where do I get the dyes at reasonable cost? And can it be done in a family laundry room or will I risk discharging on the family clothes?

Single best source: Dharma Trading Company, at You can browse their catalog online, or get a paper copy delivered to your home.

I would say that under most normal conditions you'd risk getting either loose powder or residue on the family laundry. If you wanted to get strict about cleaning up before and afterward, you could probably do it in the laundry room. Most folks move to the garage, basement, or outdoors because of the soak and dry times involved -- you could have to leave the project "up" for a day or more. It also makes accidents less of a problem.

I am a beginner quliter, teaching myself as I go. I have just cut the pieces for the Drunkard's Path pattern, but now I am not sure how to sew the rounded pieces togther. Any tips?

What I do is to fold each piece so that I can crease the center a little bit with my fingers, then use that to line them up, the convex piece on top of the concave piece. Pin in the center and at the ends. If you are doing them by machine, feed one end in a few stitches, then hold the bottom piece (concave) so that the curve straightens out and you sew more or less straight. The pins should keep everything in place. It takes a few to get the hang of sewing them properly, so expect to practice a little bit first.

My Mom loves quilting and has been looking for a pattern called Crazy Anne or something similiar.

The Crazy Ann block is shown in two variations in the book _849 Traditional Patchwork Patterns_ by Susan Winter Mills. This is a Dover book currently in print, and any good bookstore should have it or be able to get it easily. The book shows a picture, but does not provide assembly instructions for the pattern. If your mom is familiar with patchwork she should be able to figure it out, though.

I am a painter/sculptor who wants to make a wedding ring quilt for myself and my soon to be husband! I've been searching for a pattern of a double ring quilt and found your double ring image. I saw the wedding ring quilt in the movie "RUBY." I was watching it with my mother and said "I love that quilt." She said, that's a wedding ring quilt. So now I know I must make one! Let me know if you know of any books with great patterns of this wedding ring quilt. I have worked as a costume designer and built hats etc.. but I am a rookie to quilt making!!

There are any number of books with the pattern. Either the public library or a quilting/craft/sewing shop will have them. If you really want to make this quilt, get a good set of heavy-duty plastic templates from a quilt shop. The curved pieces, and the number of arcs make it a difficult pattern to complete sucessfully. Having a template piece be off by a tiny fraction will give you the wrong angle on the curve and the top will never lie flat.

I suggest you start with a pillow sham or other small project to determine if you want to tackle this as a quilt.

I would like to have your opinion on basting. I'm a beginner and for the first baby quilt I've done I use security pins. What do you think about the gun with the tacks instead of thread and needle? Which technique is the best to use?

Either method is acceptable. The benefit of the pins is they can be cheap and easy to find. Or they can be hard to use if your hands are not up to it. They go through the fabric easily, but should not be left in for a long period of time as they might rust or tarnish.

For the tacks you need to make sure you get one of the "good" guns, and I'm not sure off hand which brand that is. It takes a little bit of practice to get used to using them, getting the tacks in all the way without breaking them. Once you get the hang of it you can baste in minutes what used to take hours. Some people have reported that the tacks leave little "holes" in the fabric because they are wider than pins. Others say they have been able to ease those holes out, or that they disappear in the wash.

With both methods you need to space your basting so that you firmly hold the layers together. Loose basting leads to a poor ability to do fine quilting.

I have a FW and wondered if you think I could find a darning foot to use on it. I have a little foot but want a darning foot.

You should try in the FW forum. I think the address is still:

Folks there should be able to get you headed toward parts for your machine.


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