What follows here are definitely not the rules of patchwork, just snippets of information that may be of help to the beginner quilter, most of which you probably have heard before, and some of which states the obvious.
- I always use a rotary cutter and cutting mat for cutting fabrics. It is handy to have a range of large and small mats and rulers. My favorite ruler is the 6.5 inch x 24 inch ruler as it is great for cutting strips across the width of the fabric. My most often used cutting mat measures 24 inches x 36 inches. Big. My best cutting mat tip: keep it out of the sun or the car in warm weather as it will buckle!
- Press fabric before cutting.
- When cutting strips across the width of the fabric, align selvedges, smooth out, and straighten the raw edge. With the use of a long ruler you will not need to fold the fabric again. Align the trimmed end with the markings on the ruler; keeping the ruler firmly in place, push the rotary cutter away from you. When cutting patches, first cut a strip the width of the square, then cut the strip into squares.
- If you are left-handed, invest in a left-handed ruler. Numbers read from left to right and which makes cutting without mistake much easier.
- Cut fabric squares/rectangles on grain either lengthwise or cross wise to minimize stretching during cutting and sewing.
- Accurate cutting is essential, and whether you use the ruler so as to cut on the line or alongside the line, be consistent. Be as accurate as you can as tiny fractions of difference will come to haunt you when machine piecing.
- Replace the rotary blade regularly.
- Use a neutral color thread. I prefer to use a light grey, beige, white, or off-white color thread. I always use cotton thread, either Gutermann or Aurifil Mako 40/2 thread without preference for either.
Gutermann Cotton Thread
- Use a 1/4 inch seam allowance. This is a universal quilting standard when using cotton quilting fabrics. It is sufficiently wide enough that your seams will not pull apart, but not so much that they will be bulky.
- I recommend the use of a 1/4 inch presser foot. This presser foot will allow you to run the edge of the foot along the edge of the fabric to achieve the 1/4 inch distance, or it may have a bar along the side to run along the fabric edge. If you do not have a 1/4 inch presser foot, some sewing machines will allow you to move your needle to different positions. Sew and then measure to get it right. A scant seam allowance is ideal as some of the fabric is "held up" in the fold or by the thread.
- For patchwork piecing I use a stitch length of 1.8 to 2.0 mm.
- I don't pin. Gasp! I only use pins for securing quilt binding to the back of the quilt and unfortunately to block my knitting. This means a lot of my pins are rather bent.
- When piecing I align the patches together from edge to edge, right sides facing and sew. No pinning. Never have. I guess that makes me from the "hold and sew" school - breaking all rules!
- I press seams to one side - which side depends on what other seams are required to be matched up, and also take into consideration that I would prefer to iron to the darker side.
Butting seams together
- To match seams I press opposing seam allowances in opposite directions (at times this means I press seams to the lighter side). I then take the two pieces in hand right sides together, match or "lock" the seams by butting together. Pinch together with index finger and thumb. You will soon get a feel for how the seams lock together and how it feels when they are correctly abutted. This gets easier with time and practice. Again I don't pin.
- I do not back stitch at the beginning and end of each patch as the stitches will be secured by crossing seam lines when joining the pieces together.
- Change your needle regularly - I try to do so every time I start quilting a new quilt. Blunt or damaged needles can tear fabric, cause skipped stitches or snap! I use Universal Point needles for both piecing and quilting either an 11/75 or 12/80.