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Quilt Tips From Quilters Around The World Taken from Block Central

I n loving memory, 1925-2003. I will always love you, Momma. Nancy's Fabrics 218 West Edgar Avenue Ronceverte, WV 24970 (304).645.0010 www.nancysfabrics.com info@nancysfabrics.com Nancy's Tutorials Twitter Facebook LinkedIn

The LORD is my shepherd; I shall not want. (Psalm 23:1)


Applique How to save your applique templates:  Purchase 5 x 7 brown envelopes or larger. Label envelope front­  Pattern, Date, Content. Use your templates to draw on front of envelope the pattern and insert templates in the  envelope. This way you will know exactly what your templates in the envelope look like if you choose to use them  again. ­ Lorraine in New York Before I press freezer paper to my fabric, I punch a small hole in the paper. After I have finished the applique, I  can put my needle in the hole on the freezer paper, and it pulls right off. ­ Ellie in Idaho When doing hand applique and traveling, simply place your bobbins with the color threads needed and place  them in a medicine bottle. Drill tiny holes through the top of bottle and pull up your thread colors. They will stay  neat and easy to use! One medicine bottle holds approximately 7 bobbins of color. ­ Nancy in Florida To make a handy applique board, I used a polyurethane cutting board and hot glued a piece of sandpaper all  around, cut it to fit, and it even has a handle for hanging or carrying...works great! ­ Bev in Ohio Glad Press 'N Seal is a great tool for applique ­ trace your pattern onto it and use it as an overlay for  positioning ­ it is terrific! ­ Sharon in Montreal I have my local copy shop spiral bind my all appliqué pattern books so that when I want to copy a design onto  my template material...the book lies flat. ­ Deb in Minnesota When making templates, I use a medium sand paper to cut out the template patterns. This does not slip  around or move while cutting on the material. ­ Mary in Colorado When appliquéing small pieces, make an overlay from Glad Press N' Seal as a placement guide ­ it is easily  maneuvered and allows easy placement. ­ Sharon in Montreal If you trace appliqué patterns onto fabric be sure to do it on the wrong side so the lines won't show if you miss  cutting on the line. ­ Ferrell in California I like to blanket stitch with my machine around my appliqués, but hate to stop and start all the time. To avoid  this I have found that I can blanket stitch around one piece, stop and lift the needle, change to a straight stitch  and proceed around the edge until I have reached the next point where I again lift the needle and change back to  the blanket stitch. It does not hurt anything to have those extra stitches, but it does eliminate all those threads  that have to be tucked in on the back. ­ Sandy in Idaho I use a padded board for applique, it sits nicely on my lap. ­ Ginger in Massachusetts I like to applique but to applique onto a block draws it up and therefore it is no longer square. To counteract  this I aways cut my base block at least a half inch bigger than I want the finished block to be, than square it up  after it is done. ­ Ferrell in California When doing machine applique, use a lightweight thread in your bobbin. This will lessen the bulk, especially if  you are using any type of stabilizer. ­ Sue in Michigan


I like to add flat puffiness to 3D flowers. I cut two pieces of the same fabric for each petal, sew them right  sides together, leaving an opening at the base to turn right side out to line each petal. Then cut one piece of thin  batting and two scraps of paper just smaller than the petal. Sandwich the batting between the two pieces of  paper and using long tweezers, wiggle the sandwich into the petal. Pull the paper out with the tweezers gently.  The petal is ready to applique or just tack the back down so it wont flop around. ­ Bertha in Tennessee When doing reverse applique, I find it very helpful to lightly spray with sizing then iron before you start cutting  and turning your fabric." ­ Melody in California If you cut your pieces for applique on the bias they will be much easier to turn. ­ Kathleen in Michigan Plastic gallon milk jugs are great for cutting small applique templates out of. ­ Mary Ann in Winnipeg When I work with small pieces for applique, I work on a rigid placemat I got at the dollar store ­ if I get glue on  it, so what, and it's easy to carry the small threads left on it to the garbage.  I wipe it clean when done and I'm  ready for the next time. ­ Sharon in Montreal, Canada Check greeting cards for great pics of future applique quilts! ­ Mary Ann in Winnipeg I use a glue stick to position applique pieces and while paper piecing.  It doesn't displace the fabric or get in  the way like pins can. ­ Clarissa in Arizona Should you ever use  invisible thread for machine applique, do not use a hot iron on it!  It will melt, but not  come apart until it's washed!  Too late, I learned to use a cool iron or better yet, finger press the appliques, and  iron carefully if you must press the background. ­ Su in California Old CD's can be cut with a pair of craft scissors into small applique templates. ­ Mary Ann in Winnipeg

Basting An alternative to hand basting: A great way to stabilize a quilt while doing decorative quilting is to first use water soluble thread to sew straight basting lines across the quilt surface. Use the water soluble thread for the top thread and in the bobbin. Then, once all the real quilting is done, all you need to do is wash the quilt and the stabilizing lines come out!" - Annie in North Carolina To get your backing and batting smooth when you are using a spray baste roll your batting onto a dowel (about 1.5" in diameter). Then tape your backing down to a flat surface (I use the floor) spray the backing lightly on the end and place the end of the batting on the backing and spray and roll it onto the backing. No wrinkles to fight with and try and smooth out. - Donna in Scappoose I've just learned this and wanted to share. I think it is my favorite tip ever. When basting your quilt, leave thread attached to spool after threading your needle, thus eliminating all that cutting and threading. Can't wait to try it myself. - Peggy in Illinois I had a large quilt to pin baste and after getting all the pins in, started to pin them. Ouch! Never invested the money in one of those nifty tools! It was snowing like crazy and I just didn't want to go out so I tried a crochet hook. Worked like a charm! - Sue in Michigan It seems really commonsensical as a practice but, here goes... When I'm basting my quilt "sandwich" together, I always make sure to use thread in a contrasting colour so that I can be sure to get all of the basting threads out later. - Nikki in Cyprus When I'm attempting to pin or baste a very large quilt I will go to my husband's work shop and borrow his saw horses and set them up in my shop. I then use my cardboard cutting boards and lay across these sawhorses and I have a nice flat and large enough table to properly lay out my quilt for basting or pins. When I am finished I return these items back to his work shop and I now have my space back. These sawhorses are cheap enough to buy at your locate hardware store and they are adjustable to almost any height, so it makes it a little easier on your back. I hope this idea helps other who have space problems when attempting to pin or baste that quilt they have so pains taking stitched together. - Brenda in North Carolina Batting


I keep several rolls of batting on hand as I do a lot of charity or pro bono quilts. To store them I have used the heavy duty shower curtain rods from the discount store and put one through the cardboard tube that holds the batting and it goes above the unused bathtub in the guest bath. When I need a piece, I reach in the drawer at the end of the sink for my scissors and cut off what I need. - Gail in Arizona When choosing batting for machine quilting on my home sewing machine, I choose ANY batting that is 1/4" thick or less (uncompressed). One-quarter inch is the space between my machine bed and presser foot (when it is in the UP position). Even though the presser foot compresses the batting for stitching, it does not leave a "ridge" that I must "fight" when quilting. Although I *CAN* quilt with thicker batting, it just isn't fun when it's a struggle. - kiskat in Texas I take a "hunk" of leftover batting and pin it over my shoulder when sewing. Then, as you snip off those threads. tiny fabric nips, etc. etc., you just put them on top of the batting where they cling very well. After your sewing session is complete. you simply unpin the batting from your shoulder and toss it all neatly away.. It puts an end to all those little thread nips. fabric snips, etc all over the sewing room floor, as well as the table top. Kathi in Michigan I have a ton of cotton batting. One night I was online with a friend complaining that I didn't have a design wall. She asked me if I had any cotton batting and I said of course. Well, the rest is history. My design wall is cotton batting on the only bare wall I have, right next to my cutting table. It is amazing how much easier it is to see what I am doing...lol. - Carol I use small pieces of left over batt for dusting. At first it was just dusting around my sewing machine, but now I use it all over the house. I even cut the batt to fit my Swiffer. Batt picks up dust and holds on to it. - Betty in Virginia My husband has a great tip to share: When you get ready to sandwich your quilt it helps to use a large yardstick to smooth out the wrinkles in the batting. It only takes a few strokes of the yardstick to get a smooth laying batting, the yardstick acts as an extended long arm and works like a charm. Make sure your yardstick is smooth so that is can glide over the batting easy without any damage to it. - Angie in Georgia

Binding After I sew on my binding, I fold it to the back and fasten it with quilt clips. They look like hair clips and hold it in place while I'm handsewing the binding. - Hanna in Indiana Binding is one of those areas I struggle with. I am still experimenting with the width I cut the strips of fabric. I think I will cut my next batch 2.75 inches wide and see how I like that. To join the strips end-to-end I thought up a new trick (to me at least). Instead of putting one strip on top right side down and the second strip on the bottom at a right-angle right side up and drawing a line from the upper left corner of the top strip where the two pieces meet to the lower right corner where the two pieces meet I use a square-up ruler that has a 45 degree line that runs from corner to corner of the square. I put my first strip on a piece of fine sanding paper (makes it easier to draw lines and helps prevent distorting the fabric) right side down. I line up the 45 degree line with the bottom edge (lengthwise) and the right corner of the square-up with the lower right corner of my strip and draw a line (I use a mechanical pencil because I do not have to worry about sharpening them). I draw this line at the end of every strip of fabric I am going to join. Next I pin my first two strips right sides together at a right angle (like an upside down L). I line up the top and the right hand sides of the two strips of fabric. I pin a short distance away from the beginning and end of my drawn line so the fabric does not shift on me. [If I am joining several strips, I pin all of them so I can speed piece.] I sew directly on the line [if I am speed piecing at this point I lift the presser foot and pull the first section about a half an inch out of the way then I put the next joint under the presser foot and sew that, etc.] Clip the threads, press the seam to set it, flip the top piece of fabric back and press. Next flip the top fabric back again and line up the 1/4" line on your ruler with the sewing line and trim off the excess fabric. The result is two strips of fabric joined together which line up very nicely. The next step is to iron the fabric in half lengthwise. To achieve this, insert two very long needles into the ironing board cover. Insert the point of the first needle and come back up thru the cover then back down thru the cover far enough away to be just a little over the width of the folded strip. Insert the second needle in the same manner the width of the iron away from the first needle. Now fold the strip in half and insert it under the two needles. Pull enough of the fabric out of from under the right hand needle so there is something to grab on to and press that section of fabric. Next lay the iron down on top of the fabric between the two needles. Align the raw edges of your strip to the left, grab the edge of the strip on the right while you are holding your aligned and folded fabric in


the left hand and pull the strip through the needles under the iron. Be sure you pick up the iron every other time you do this so the ironing surface can cool a few seconds or you will wind up with a really scorched surface! Step-by-step photos of how I join my strips and press the binding are in my Quilts-Binding folder at http://photos.yahoo.com/whitesl2000 - Sandy in New York To hold my binding in place while hand stitching I use some of my daughter's small butterfly hair clips. They hold wonderfully and look nice, too! - Trisha in Wisconsin I have started using hand quilting thread for turning my bindings. It is made for the repeated trips through the fabric and doesn't seem to fray, knot or break the way other threads do. - Mary in Texas I use paper towel tubes for storing my left over pieces of bindings. It keeps then nice and flat. no need to reiron. - Bessie in Michigan Ever have a hard time setting up for binding? Why not use your Serger on the edges? I find that, by serging the edges first, it allows my binding to go on evenly, thus preventing the fabric from "clumping" up on me... makes a nice cleaner appearance. - Melanie in New Hampshire

Design I made a design board from a 4'x8' sheet of foam insulation (the kind you use under siding for your house) for my sewing room. I cut it down to the size I needed, then I covered it with a flannel- backed tablecloth (flannel side up). I stapled the edges of the tablecloth along the back. You can also use glue. Just lay your quilting blocks on the board…no need to pin! - Barbara in West Virginia If you want an unusual heart shape or a square shape check out the local Scrapbooking shop. They have some interesting shapes that would be great for quilting. - Ernestine in Colwell A flannel-backed tablecloth makes a great design wall and it is easy to store in a drawer when you are finished. - Carol in California I don't have a wall big enough to hang a flannel sheet for my blocks or rows of blocks. I take wire coat hangers and hang the first row lengthwise. Hook it with a clip clothespin and label it with masking tape on which I've written Row # and Sewing instructions, such as sew to row #2 from the top down or bottom up. When I get all of my rows done they are all lined up in a row on hangers with instructions so I can see what it's going to look like, and what I have to do next. - Joan in Vermont I made a quick nursery quilt by using the "pages" of babys cloth books for squares. I edged them with a contrast fabric to unify them and embroidered and added buttons to highlight a part of each picture. - Bernice in Luton, UK Sometimes you can not see what is right in front of your face, so I use my digital camera. I put all my blocks and sashes on to the wall and take a digital picture of it. I put the digital photo into my computer and I can always see where I put a block in the wrong place. - Linda in Wisconsin To keep from having the problem of matching corners of my quilt blocks I decided to stagger my blocks and use a half block at opposite ends of each row. This will work also when you have sashing between rows. You won't need to make cornerstones either. - Ferrell in California I ask for a empty cardboard from a fabric store (the one fabric is wrapped around) and I pad it with batting, cover with muslin. I use it to iron my pieces right next to my machine. It saves me a lot of getting up and down to do that and it sure saves time. I can also pin my pattern to it, a small design wall. - Arlene in New York It is necessary to have a plan on how your going to do your quilting to finish up that project. Don't just jump in without a plan as I did. Makes a major improvement when the quilting design works with the designs on the fabric and colors of thread. My projects usually evolve as I can't see in my mind what it is going to look like. I had to re-educate myself to plan ahead. It is worth it in the final results. Makes it fun and not a drudgery. - Virginia in Washington I was trying to determine the size needed of quarter square triangles for a 12" block. I was unable to find a pattern that size, but in looking at my pattern books I discovered that you only need to add 1.25" to the size of the finished block. So, I cut my 13.25" squares, cut into four pieces, and they made perfect 12" blocks when pieced! - Debbie in Georgia


A great way to lay out your quilt blocks is to purchase some of the plastic table cloth vinyl with the fuzzy backing and tack it to a wall.(fuzzy side out). The blocks stick to it without pinning and you can move them around easily till the pattern suites you. I purchased some cheap at Joann's for $1.88 a yard. - Connie in Arizona A flannel-backed vinyl table cloth makes an ideal design wall (flannel-side out). Pick up some half-price after the holiday season. - Anne in Ontario, Canada

Fabric When sewing at night, I often have trouble determining which is the right and back side of some fabrics, such as white on white. To make this easier I have come up with a way to mark them when I cut the pieces out. I bought some self adhesive round labels (some people call refer to them as dots) and I stick them on one right side of the fabric. At that time, I can also mark them according to the pattern piece. You can decide for yourself which works best for you. To make the dots go further, you can cut the dots in half. I always use the colored dots so that they stand out on the fabric. - Sandi in Idaho A very inexpensive way to fussy cut a pattern piece for a quilt or purse is to make a new pattern out of wax paper. It is clear enough to be able to see through it so that you can get the exact flower, etc. that you want. When you are done you can throw it away and you are not out a lot of money. - Mari in Minnesota After washing my fabric I use a liquid starch to press. It gives the fabric that new feeling we all like. I mix 1 part liquid starch to 3 parts water. A 32oz. Bottle (under $2.00) equals 10 aerosol cans (about $2.00 a can.) When mixed in a spray bottle there's no clogging. It doesn't flake on the fabric. And rotary cutting goes much smoother. - Anita in Missouri I save all my scrap fabrics and cut them into small squares before putting them away. They are ready when I want to make a scrap quilt or when I want to decorate a pair of shorts or tops I'm making for grandchildren. Debra in Kentucky Save your smallest scraps, cut into 1" strips and make great log cabin pincushions for presents. - Lorna in Australia I visit my favorite quilt shops about every 3 months. I go with what projects I plan to make, and make sure I buy enough fabric for each project. When the fabric for each project has been cut, I place the project with that fabric and ask for different bags for each. This helps to keep each project together, and I don't have to take the time getting fabric together at the start of each project. OH, I usually buy at least 1/2 yard extra of each fabric so I can add to my crazy quilt/scrap quilt fabric collection. - Barbara in New Jersey For prewashing fabric and "inherited" scraps: I fill the washer with HOT water and laundry detergent, push the fabric into the water, and let it SIT for *20 minutes*, swishing it occasionally (NOT agitating). Then I drain, and rinse the same way - pushing it into the water several times, but NOT agitating. Then I spin, untangle if necessary, and toss into the dryer. If you do not agitate, you have almost no tangling or fraying. - kiskat in Texas Save 6.5" blocks of all the clothes you make for your children. By the time they are adults, you should have enough for a memory quilt for them. - Helen in Georgia I like to use flat sheets for my quilt backing. The tip is to find a complete set of sheets with colors suitable to the top side of your quilt. The fitted sheet can be cut to use for the quilted design side for sashes, borders, cornerstones or binding, or whatever you decide. The flat sheet for your backing and you might also purchase the matching pillowcases for the final touch. For a complete bed, just buy 2 sets of matching sheets. - Sue in Missouri Before washing my fabric I baste the cut edges together. This keeps the fraying down in the washer and dryer. - Carla in Florida Before washing new fabric, I put a pinking blade in my rotary cutter and pink the cut edges of the fabric. I like this better for controlling the fraying. A pinked edge is easier to spot in my stash, too. I tried using pinking shears; rotary cutting is much quicker and easier. - Bonnie in Illinois I like the look of tea-dyed fabric but I'm not a tea drinker. I use coffee instead! The hot coffee I didn't drink in the morning can be used to dye small amounts of fabric. Or I make a pot and use that for larger yardage. Sandy in Michigan I take fleece and use it as the batting and backing for kids quilts. This saves time and money. This makes for a real cuddly blanket. - Connie in Washington


When pre-washing fabric, serge or zig-zag the cut ends (not the selvege edges) together. This not only stops it from fraying but also from tangling into a long rope. - Sharon in British Columbia When I finish a quilt I cut all my remaining fabric into 1-1/2 inch strips. Then at the end of the year, I have plenty of strips to make log cabin placemats, table runners or quilts for holiday gifts. - Karen in Maryland When pre-washing your material (especially good for reds) place a piece of muslin in the washing machine....that way you will be able to tell if the fabric is really going to run. - Mary Ellen in Wyoming To prevent your fabric from raveling when being washed, serge or zigzag your cut ends first. - Linda in Canada When cutting on the bias, place a strip of scotch tape on the fabric and cut down the center of the tape. Now you have a stabilizer on both pieces. Do not remove until sewn together. - Shirley in Wisconsin Applying spray starch to fabric before cutting bias cuts, will help keep fabric from stretching and distorting. Dee in Washington To prevent fraying when pre-washing fabrics, I use my serger to serge both ends. No fraying. - Charlotte in South Dakota I like to buy several yards of a single fabric. When getting ready to prewash it, I tear it in half to be sure to get one edge that is on the straight of grain. Tearing the fabric tends to reduce fraying, too. - Kay in Oklahoma Since I shop at many different fabric stores, I don't always remember where I bought a piece of fabric at. Sometimes I want more of a particular fabric and it is time consuming to try and retrace all your fabric shopping trips. Now when I buy a piece of fabric, I use a permanent marker to write the pattern fabric name, maker, and quilt store on the white selvedge piece. This makes it easier for me to find more of the same fabric very quickly! Glenda in California When I finish sewing a quilt, I cut the left over fabric into the largest strips possible with 6" being the largest. I then store the strips in a plastic container with several drawers each labeled with the size of the strip. They are handy and already cut for scrap quilt piecing. - Susan in North Dakota Use spray sizing instead of starch. Sizing won't build up on your iron or cause flakes on your fabric like starch does. - Clarissa in Missouri After washing my fabric for my stash, I take a black marking pen, and mark on the salvage edge the following information. The date of purchase and the store it was purchased from. That way I have a quick reference if more fabric is needed. - Sandy in Indiana I loved the tip for marking on your material where you purchased it and when. If you also cut little corners off each corner it will not ravel as bad when you wash it and you can tell at a glance that the material has been prewashed and is ready to go. - Virginia in Washington Whenever I am cutting into a new piece of fabric, I cut one additional strip 2" wide. These are stored together for strip piecing and log cabin projects. - Angela in Indiana After purchasing fabric, take a small piece of paper and record the yardage purchased, the price per yard, name of the store, the date and a description of the fabric. Now you will know when and where you got the fabric if you should need more. - Virginia in Iowa When sewing triangles always spray starch the fabric before cutting. This will prevent stretching and will feed through the machine without falling through the needle slot in the throat plate. - Bert in Nebraska If you have access to a photocopy machine, you have the perfect 'value' finder. Just slip a piece, or several pieces onto the glass, close the cover, and copy. Instant values, without the distraction of color! - Sharon in California Never give fabric away! I gave away all my yellows and pinks when I had two boys as I thought I would never need them, and now whatever I make needs a little bit of yellow or pink!!! - Ann in Brisbane, Australia When prewashing your fabrics, clip a 1/4" corner off of each corner to cut down on the unraveling of the material. - June in New Jersey Whether you prewash fabrics or not, spray with Magic Sizing and press, moving iron lengthwise of the grain, in the direction of the selvedges, only. Then cut strips or pieces for your quilting projects. You'll have more accurate cutting and piecing with this little additional preparation. - Carolyn in Texas


To help determine the value of a color (light, medium or dark) look at the fabric through a clear piece of red glass or plastic. The red neutralizes the color allowing you to see only 'black and white'. - Debra in Texas Hand Piecing When you're hand-piecing a project, organize your pieces so they'll be ready to go when you are. Knot a long piece of thread, and stick it through one set of pieces, tie a knot, then bring it through the next set and so on. You'll have a continuous strand of sets! - Amy in Virginia When doing hand piecing and you need to do a quick press of a seam, use a clothespin. Take the clothespin apart and do a gentle press with the slanted end of the wood pin half." - Myrtle in California I know I read this somewhere so just passing this on. If you handquilt or handpiece, thread a package of needles onto your spool of thread-- one right after the other, then knot the end. All of your needles will stay on the spool. As you need one, pull one needle with the length of thread needed and cut and tie another knot on the thread still attached to the spool. You will get fewer knots and tangles in your thread and will not have to stop for a while to thread a needle. - Beverley in Mississippi

Hand Quilting I cut a small piece of jar opener rubber and keep it next to me when I am hand quilting so I can use it to grab ahold of the needle. It helps pull it through several thickness of fabric. Quick and easy. - Juanita in Arizona When hand quilting, I always had a problem with the needle slipping off the thimble when pulling the needle through the fabric. To eliminate this frustration, I wrapped 1/4" quilters masking tape around my thimble and no more slipping and sliding off the thimble! - Patricia in Arizona For hand piecing or hand quilting: Before threading your hand needle, weave the tip into your fabric. If you "drop" your needle, it does not fall to the floor. - kiskat in Texas Buy two 'thumb picks' from a music shop. Roughen one and use on the finger underneath the quilt to save it getting pricked continuely. Glue a piece of leather on the other (to 'grab' the needle) and use instead of a conventional thimble. This makes hand quilting more of a joy than a chore. - Shirley in the United Kingdom Glad Press `N Seal has little grabbers on it that make it work well in quilting. Do not iron it on as it probably would leave more of them on the fabric then you want. I checked it out with a mirror and it might leave a couple of grabbers, but it wipes right off with a damp cloth. It presses in place easily with your hands. It is great for using those stencils you have for designs on your borders and eliminates the math. Make a copy of the design you want and take it to a copy machine and enlarge or decrease your copy to different sizes. Some of those have a corner on it too, or you may have a corner design like a star or heart you want to use. Copy the design on the Press 'N Seal. Press it to the corners of your quilt. The cut the design for borders in sections and copy and press on your quilt a even distance apart and start sewing. Sharpies come in different colors now so the design is easy to follow. You can put it on from the front or back, suit yourself if you are worried. I think it is easier then paper piecing and the wrap comes off very easy. - Virginia in Washington When I hand quilt (nearly everyday) I protect the underneath finger with a leather finger stall that I make easily by machine. Use a piece of soft, pliable but strong leather cut in a rectangle of about 1-1/4 by 3 inches. Fold in half and sew close to the edge down both sides stopping about 1/8 of an inch from the folded edge. Trim away the corners at the folded edge. Trim very close to the sewn edge to eliminate bulk. Place this on the "picking" finger. You can feel the needle picking into the leather but your finger is free from pain etc. I usually sew a narrower piece of leather to the strip on the inside before I fold it to double the area of attack. Use one also on your other hand on your pushing finger. Better than a thimble - flexible and it breathes. One wears out; make another. - Gloria in Ontario Have you ever wondered what you can do with those used sheets of Bounce? Well here one way to use them. If you take a threaded needle and run it through the sheet of bounce it will keep you threaded needle from getting tangled while sewing. It really works well. No more headaches for me!! - Suzie in Texas When I'm hand quilting the outer borders of a quilt, I baste a strip of requited fabric to the sides, so the border will fit in my hoop. This keeps the border straight and smooth for quilting. - Judy in Ohio When hand quilting, I ensure that my cotton thread slides easily through all layers by running the thread through bees wax before beginning a new line of quilting. - Wendy in Australia


Glad has come out with a new product called Press 'n Seal which is like a clear wrap with little grabbers on it. It works great to draw your design on and put in the blank spot on your quilt where you want to place a rosette or something. You can see through it and sew on your drawn lines. When you are done, make a little hole in the center and tear it away on both sides of your stitching. It's wonderful. - Virginia in Washington I've just started using the new product (no affiliation) Glad Press 'n Seal for hand quilting. I rip off a piece, the size of my template, use a narrow Sharpie pen to trace the template onto the non-sticky side of the product. Let the ink dry for a few minutes, then press the new sew-through template onto my block, using my fingers to ensure that the template is correctly placed. It sticks to the block (I'm currently using a lap hoop) until you are all finished quilting, then easily tears away. Especially good for those high-contrast blocks where you would ordinarily have to use both light and dark markers! - Helen Marie in Pennsylvania I save bar soap and old candles. I use them to pass a threaded needle through to make the needle and thread go through fabric easier. - Joanne in Massachusetts I use "fingercots" on the tips of my fingers for pulling the thread through the quilt when I am quilting. This makes even the hardest to pull, come through with ease. I purchase them at the medical supply store for about $5.00 per box. A box can last up to 2-3 years. - Wanda in Kentucky A good way to practice making consistent quilting stitches is to make a practice project out of a backing, batting and gingham material. You can choose the size of the little squares - maybe start out with the 1/4" squares and then go on to the 1/8" squares. This way you will get used to the "rhythm" needed to perfect your quilting stitch. - Bonita in Wisconsin When doing hand quilting and traveling take a bobbin fill with the thread you will be using and place it in a empty dental floss container. Pull thread around the cutter. Glue a double piece of flannel to the inside of the lid to carry a needle. - Judith in North Carolina Try placing a fingercot on your index finger to help pull needle through while hand quilting. Finger cots are inexpensive and available at any drug store. - Pat in Pennsylvannia Place a small piece of contrasting fabric onto a safety pin. When you're done quilting for the day, attach the safety pin to your quilt where you stopped. When you go back to work on it, look for the little piece of fabric sticking up, remove the safety pin, and begin quilting again. - Rhonda http://www.acornhillquilts.com Needle getting dull? Rub the point of the needle lightly (don't hurt yourself!) along your scalp. The oils in your hair & scalp will help the point of the needle slide right through your fabric again. ~Rae Cooper in Arizona To clean the needle you are quilting with (oils from your fingers, etc) save a sliver of bath soap. Thread your needle, & using your thimble, push it through the soap, then use the thread to pull it back out. Leave the soap on the needle & begin to stitch as is. You have no idea how much easier it quilts! - Elaine in Texas When hand quilting, I have tried sooo many different thimbles and not found my perfect one yet. One problem I seem to have with all of them is fit & they are constantly slipping off, very frustrating. I have found a solution to this problem by cutting and wearing the fingertips off the thin, re-usable latex household gloves. They come 10 pairs in a package at the dollor store. Now my thimbles don't come off until I tell them to. They also help grip your tiny needle. Now if only they could make me satisfied with my hand quilting skill! - Kathleen in Indiana When quilting in a big frame a block of wood 2 x4 or what ever is comfortable under your right foot helps a lot. - Daisy in North Carolina I have thimbles upon thimbles, none I'm really happy with...but I got some sculpy polymer clay, fashioned over my quilting finger made the dimples with the HEAD of a pin. Deep too because I control the amount of clay over the needle area of the thimble...bake in the oven...cool and I have a custom made, individually fitted thimble..love it. - Diana in MN When a pin or needle does not want to go into the fabric run it through your hair, and it will slide right in. Susan in Kentucky I made my own quilt and go lap frame after my old one broke by using 1/2 inch PVC pipe and old hair roller clips. The good thing is I could make it any size I wanted. I needed more clips so I found curlers with clips at our local dollar store - they work great. - Denise in Arizona

Healthy Tips


Most people operate the foot pedal of their sewing machine with their right foot only. Why? I think you will like using your left and right foot in turn. It doesn't take long to get used to using your left foot half the time and the alternation of feet is easier on your back. Try it and see for yourself! - Kate in Georgia I have back problems, so bending forward over my ironing board is bad. I use a rolling desk chair for my sewing so I just let my ironing board down to a comfortable sitting height, and butted the straight end up against my sewing table, next to the sewing machine. Those ironing jobs get done comfortably. - Twila in North Dakota The best thing I've found to use when my underhand finger is sore after quilting and getting pricked, is Isopropyl (Rubbing) Alcohol. It's great for pin/needle pokes too. The sooner you get it in the alcohol the better. And it helps to keep it out of water too. After an evening of quilting, I just soak my fingertips in the alcohol for 2030 seconds, and keep them away from water until the next day. (It's also a good excuse for putting off doing the dishes). If I get a really bad deep jab from my needle I soak longer. I jabbed a needle about 1/4" under my thumbnail (OUCH) and I forced as much alcohol under as I could, and the next day, I was surprised how little it hurt. Happy quilting! - Stephanie in Arizona I use finger cots on the fingers that have cuts and etc, you can get them at a medical supply store, a box for about $5.00 (I think there is 500 to the box). I got them quite a few years ago and still have the box. - Ginger in Massachusetts Fingers sore from too much hand stitching? Bag balm, an antiseptic ointment for treating cow's udders can soothe your fingers! You will find it in some quilt shops and /or your local feed or farm supply store. - Dorene in Oklahoma Found a great eye-saver in hubby's shop. It is a B&D Snake light. It is long and flexible. Curls around your neck and makes a great spotlight for Redwork embroidery, etc. No need for a high powered lamp nearby and great for traveling! - Marjorie in Missouri Use 2 door stops to raise the back of your machine so that the machine is tilted toward you. Relieves back strain. Usually cost 39 cents at the hardware store." - Jeanne in New Jersey Instead of placing the iron and ironing board directly beside my sewing machine, I have intentionally placed the iron, ironing board, and cutting table at the farthest distance across the room from my sewing machine. This gives me plenty of much needed exercise and helps the blood circulation because I am frequently moving around the room. When working on a quilting project, I try to move around the room as much as possible, taking frequent breaks; this way, I can work much longer and don't tire as easily. - Barbara in North Carolina Use wedge door stops to tilt your sewing machine forward. You have less back strain. - Sandy in Missouri When you go to a home center look for the clear protective corners that are used to do that and then cut it the length of your ruler and glue it on the center of the ruler. This will help protect fingers and thumbs from that sharp and wicked rotary blade. Hope you ladies are careful otherwise! - Carol in Wisconsin Bed lifters are a great way to raise your cutting table to waist height and save your back. They raise the table 5 1/2 inches which is plenty of height for the average person. Works great. - Pat Leveling, Trenton IL Cut 12" pieces of PVC pipe to place under each table leg to raise the table to a comfortable height for cutting your fabric. When you are finished you can take the PVC pipe off and put the table back the way it was. - Dorene in Georgia It sounds kind of icky, but "Preparation H" is great for those painful quilting fingers. Rub in a small amount at bedtime, better in the morning. It is medicated and numbing to heal them quickly. Keep away from your eyes. Angela Prince-Bex,Backporch Friends Ironing & Pressing Tips I use a small travel steam iron as my regular iron now. My florescent lights no longer dim when my iron is plugged in - less wattage - also helps keep the electric bill and usage of power down. - Gail in Arizona To clean any leftover fusibles on my iron, I dampen a terry washcloth and sprinkle a teaspoon or so of salt on it. Then I run the heated iron back and forth over the salt...anything stuck there is scrubbed off safely! - Kim in New Jersey Use fabric softener sheets to clean fusibles from your iron. Heat your iron--no steam and iron the fabric softener sheet until the fusible is removed. It may take several sheets and the perfume free sheets are better as they do not smell when the iron touches them. - Diana in Washington


If you give the back of your block a quick shot of spray starch and press it will lie much flatter. - Sandra in New York You don't have to throw away your ironing board cover if you tried to use a fusible, but ironed it to the ironing board instead of the fabric! Instead, fuse and stitch an applique to your ironing board cover to extend its use. Just pretend you intended to gussy up your ironing board cover! - Brita in Tennessee For those of us that like to use a dry iron when ironing quilt seams and sometimes small, little puckers appear out of nowhere -- Well, I keep a small plastic squeeze bottle with a very fine tip next to my ironing board. Most of the time just one tiny drop of water will ease out the pucker & you don't need to take out the seam. I find it's really a time saver. - Rita in Michigan I keep a spray bottle of 1/2 water and 1/2 vinegar beside my iron. The mixture will take out any unwanted creases (especially "on the bolt line") and will also sometimes give you that extra 1/8" to make a perfect size block. - Jackie in Calgary I purchased a small, clear silicon mat that is sold for use with hot glue guns to catch drips and such. Cost about $2.50. I use it under my mini iron to protect surfaces from the heat if it should slip off it's holder. (It does all the time.) I also use one under my curling iron to protect my antique dresser from heat and scratches. - Linda in Minnesota I covered the top of a wooden TV tray with batting and teflon fabric. I keep it beside my sewing table with an iron and use it to press my blocks as I sew them. It is very handy and saves lots of trips to the other room where the ironing board is. It is also easy to take along on retreats. - Nikki in Texas I do a lot of paper piecing. To help with time management I keep a small ironing pad and cordless iron next to my machine for pressing. I bought my iron used and didn't have to pay much for it. - Trisha in South Carolina I have a small night stand that sits by my machine that I placed a thick towel on top of to use as place to press my pieces after stitching. Can be stored under sewing machine when not in use. One with a drawer is also very useful. - Joanie in Missouri An empty fabric bolt makes a handy portable ironing board. Just wrap it in a thick towel, pin and tote it to your next workshop. Most retailers will give these to you. - Dorene in Oklahoma To avoid hard water build up in your iron, use bottled water. It has the hard minerals removed. I buy the gallon size of store brand and never have to clean my iron. - Shelley in New Brunswick, Canada Alcohol wipes are wonderful to clean the fusibles off your iron. (You could also use rubbing alcohol on a cotton ball.) I have also found the wipes helpful to remove the gunk left by price stickers. - Colleen in New York To keep from burning your fingers from the steam or heat of your iron, use a bamboo skewer to hold open your seams as you press them. - Beverly in Ohio I am one of those quilters who use steam rather than a dry iron when pressing my seams. I keep a bottle of water with the sipper top on it to fill my iron. It makes it easy to get a small steady stream of water and I don't have to leave my sewing each time I need to add water to my iron." - Jackie in North Carolina Have you ever ironed Wonder Under onto your ironing board? I did, and at first while it was still warm I could pull some of it off, but as it cooled I could no longer do that. I tried rubbing it with a wet cloth but that didn't work. So I got rubbing alcohol and used it on the cloth and even spilled some directly on the Wonder Under. I kept rubbing and scrapping with my fingernail and finally I got it all off. - Ferrell in California Turn you ironing board in the opposite direction from normal use. Place the iron on the narrow end, leaving more wide space for fabrics and patchwork pressing. - Carolyn in Texas When making strip sets, be sure to iron out the "humps" in the strips before sewing them together. - Kay in Oklahoma Tin foil is great for cleaning a teflon iron. Crumble up the tin foil and then open it back up and move your hot iron back and forth on the foil. You can even mush up a tip on the foil and clean out around the holes on the bottom. This does not scratch the iron. Not sure how it would work on a non-teflon surface. - Jackie in North Carolina


Machine Piecing I use an electric personal shaver as an electric seam ripper. Just gently pull the two pieces of fabric apart so that you can see the threads, and touch the shaver to the threads. It really comes apart quickly and easily and what a time saver! - Cassie in Louisiana When you need to rip out a seam, use your seam ripper and cut a stitch about every half inch or so. Then pull the thread from the other side, and it will pull out easily without distorting your fabric. You will have to pick out the small pieces of thread, but that's easier than trying to rip out a seam that will distort your block. - Marie in Mississippi If you need to rip out a seam, give it a quick shot of spray starch and press it first. It's easier to rip out and helps stabilize the fabric so it doesn't distort or fray as much. - Sandra in New York When I use a pattern that says to sew and flip corners, and trim the excess, I stitch a second line 1/2" away from the first (closer to the outside corner), then cut between the lines of stitching. This gives me a variety of HSTs (half-square triangles) in various colour combinations and sizes that can be used as filler or to make a miniature quilt. I also use Gladware lunch containers (3 sections to it) to store these HSTs and other cut off triangles, extra squares, pieces cut slightly too small, etc. They make storage easier because they stack and you can keep different sizes separate. - Gerda in Alberta, Canada Getting small block pieces from the cutting table to the machine can cause arrangements to be out of order sometimes. I had my husband cut a piece of paneling about 16" square. I used a thin piece of batting and put this on top of the piece of paneling. Then I covered the batting with 100% cotton about 2" bigger than the paneling. I then wrapped about 1" of fabric all the way around to the back side and hot glued it down on the back. Makes a mini design board portable. Used it when I was teaching some quilt classes so the ladies could pass it around and see how the blocks were laid out. When I stitch "flip and sew corners" (like for a snowball block), I draw (or eyeball) my line on the diagonal of the small square, like the instructions say, but when I sew, I sew a couple of threads LESS than the line (between the line and the corner I am sewing to). When I sew ON the line, the thickness of the fabric makes my "flip and sew corner" too small. - kiskat in Texas If you have trouble threading your sewing machine needle or any needle for that matter try this: for the sewing machine, place a small piece of white paper behind the needle with the left hand and thread with the right. For sewing needles, use any white or very light colored background. This was my Grandmother's trick and it works. Pauline in Arizona It's so frustrating to find your blocks are short in size. I find it worthwhile to make each part a bit larger, then square them to size after pressing. When the directions call for sewing two 2" strips together, I'll make my strips 2-Âź"...sew the seam, press, then slice & square up. I do the same with half square triangle blocks. Make a bit bigger, then trim. - Pat in Ohio I was at a quilt away retreat this past weekend. I looked for my wooden spool for the bigger cone type thread so I could use it on my machine. Well I could not find it so I had just emptied a small spool and so I used the button hole cutter and removed the top part of the spool and put it on the machine spool holder then slipped my larger thread over it. It worked great!!! - Pat in Ohio If you are sewing mini pieces together - in the instances where instead of sewing triangles, you sew a square or rectangle and trim. Do the small pieces tend to loose their shape or warp with the bias when you press them? Try trimming off only one layer of your square or rectangle next time. Leaving one layer to back your small piece stabilizes it and holds the bias. Well worth the little extra thickness. - Vella in Canada When ripping out a seam, cut every second or third stitch, turn over and pull out the seam. - Connie in Colorado If your quilt blocks always come out a smidgeon too small, and you have an incremental needle setting, set it to the right one notch. - Elaine in Nebraska


Cut a small piece of fabric about one inch wide and two inches long and pass it under your needle when you are finished sewing. When you are doing lots of sewing or strip piecing it keeps you from having to cut the thread each time and saves thread. - Muriel in Connecticut I label my quilt blocks the same way the cells in spreadsheets are labeled in the computer (ie. Excel). The columns going across are letters and the rows going down are numbers. The top left hand block is A1, then the ones below it are A2,A3, and so on. The second block from the left, next to A1 is B1 and the third from the left is C1. If I ever am confused, I can pull up a blank spreadsheet on the computer and see which is which. - Lisa in California When in need of a quilting stiletto, use a wooden skewer (used for grilling meats and veggies on grill) Works great in a pinch, holding down the corners of fabric as you sew the seams together so they don't slip." - Bambi in Ontario As I take my rows of quilt squares off the design wall, I pin a sticky note on each row, with the row number and an arrow for the direction to press the row. I put the note so it shows at the top, so I know when I finish a row as I sew them. - Margaret in Indiana When stacking my blocks to sew in rows, I pin together with one pin for the first row, two pins for the second row, three for the third, and so on. - Sue in Nebraska Making flying geese stable -no more stretched out corners! I know that this sounds different but - when you place your square in the corner of the rectangle -make sure that the crosswise grain edge - "stretchy" edge is to the TOP of the square - then after you sew and flip up the triangle - you will have a lengthwise "non-stretchy" edge going all of the way across the top of your flying geese - makes it MUCH MORE stable to have the whole top edge of the flying geese "Non-stretchy". Also - try to make sure that your squares are REALLY squared off helps to keep those little pieces from fraying away. - Dollie in Idaho I have been using the large spools of serger thread on my sewing machine but it was flopping around so much - I have learned that by putting the spool in a mug that it works wonderfully!! - Nancy in Missouri When making quick triangle corners (such as in making a snowball block) I use glue-stick SPARINGLY to hold the corner blocks in place. I then sew and trim as usual. - Cindy in California If you have lost your stiletto at a class or even at home, I have a tip for one that you won't mind losing. Take a chop stick, sharpen it with a pencil sharpener then blunt the end slightly with an emery board and there you have it, instant stiletto. They are free if you eat Chinese or if not, you can usually get one at the supermarket if they sell sushi. Another advantage is that if you get too close to the needle with the wood, it's easier on the needle. Carole in New Jersey If you find it hard to thread the needle in your machine, put a finger behind the eye. The flesh colour will show behind and make it easier to see where to thread. - Cecile in Ontario I keep a bamboo skewer handy near my sewing machine. It makes a great stiletto for holding the fabric as it gets near the needle and saving my fingers. - Judy in Minnesota Use your walking foot when sewing flannel to reduce stretching. - Renee in North Carolina I use light gray thread for just about all my quilting and blends in with all fabric, to make things easy I pre-wind about 20 bobbins at a time so when I run out all I have to do is pop in another. This saves lots of time. - Kimberly in New York I had trouble with my sewing machine always moving on my kitchen table. I bought some rubberized kitchen liners, cut a piece for under my machine and pedal. Works like a charm.... Barbara in Dorval, Quebec, Canada When ending any machine sewing I'll sew onto a small scrap of fabric (as if I were chain piecing) and leave it there...snipping the threads behind it to retrieve whatever I sewing. When I'm ready to sew the next block, I'll just pull this scrap slightly to the back out of the way of the needle and begin sewing. This prevents what could be a 'bunched up mess" with the bobbin thread that I've experienced numerous times before at the beginning of sewing. This method also saves wasting thread. - Opal I use 2 rubber wedge shaped doorstoppers behind my sewing machine to tilt it forward,so much easier to sew and see where you are sewing. - Earnestine in Auckland, New Zealand


Sit directly in front of your line of sewing when sewing by machine. It will help to make your seams straight as an arrow. If you sit even a bit to one side or another, your line of stitching will go just that little bit with you. ~Rae Cooper, Arizona I purchased a telescoping magnet at the hardware <available also with car parts> store for about $3-4. I keep it in a drawer by the sewing machine and use it to pick up pins, scissors, etc. that fall when I'm sewing. Otherwise I either have to get up in the middle of my sewing, or I wait to get it when I get up later, and usually forget! - Deborah in California I had trouble wih my sewing machine always moving on my kitchen table. I bought some rubberized kitchen liners, cut a piece for under my machine and pedal. Works like a charm.... - Barbara in Quebec The perfect companion beside your sewing machine is a pair of tweezers. When you just get a fraction of the thread through the needle, grab it with the tweezers and pull it through. Also useful for pulling out the little bits of paper in the seams when paper-piecing. - Anne in Ontario, Canada If you use a carpet underlay cut to fit under your portable machine, it will keep steady. It works very well. Muriel in Oakville, ON When my quilt becomes too large to handle, I set up a card table beside my sewing machine table to support the weight of it while I'm sewing borders. - Zan in Sioux Falls A fabric eraser is ideal for removing those annoying bits of thread left after you have been "un-sewing" - just run the eraser over the seam and the thread comes right out. - Anne in Ontario, Canada Do your fabric pieces slip while you are sewing them together? If you press those pieces with an iron (just press by holding the iron on the pieces, then lifting off), the heat will set them together for you. They won't slip as easily and you won't need pins or as many pins which can distort your seam line! - Rae in Arizona When sewing, slip an old tricot/nylon nightgown on over your clothes. Threads won't stick to your clothing and they will just slide right off. You may look funny, but it works. In case the doorbell rings, don't forget to take the nightgown off! - Linda in Utah Easy to accurately attach triangle units. Fold the triangle unit in half, pinch crease to mark the centre. Do the same to the section you want to attach it to. Simply pin the centre points and sew. - Vella in British Columbia I have a towel bar set up beside my sewing machine. I hang my cut strips over it so they don't wrinkle and they are handy to pull off one at a time! I sometimes use it for trims too if I am using them. - Marilyn in Ashcroft, B.C. Spray starch your blocks before sewing together and they won't slip. - Jessie in Massachusetts When I am "unsewing" seams, whether in borders or the quilt blocks themselves, I keep a lint roller next to me. That way, when I am done, I can just run it across my project and remove all the stitches. This works well with when using a seam ripper or single edge razor blade. - Susan in Michigan Use two of those brown rubber door-stops to wedge underneath the back,bottom of your sewing machine. They will give it a comfortable tilt for long periods of sewing. - Carolyn in Texas I keep a roll of wide masking tape near my machine. It is great for picking up small pieces of thread specially when I have ripped out a seam. I also use it to hold down backing when I layer my quilt. - Mary in New Jersey This is from a friend of mine. She suggested that you keep a supply of half-square triangles by your sewing machine and use them instead of scraps of fabric when you are starting or ending your sewing. No unsightly threads all over and you have alot of half-square triangles to make a quilt with. - Donna in Oregon

Machine Quilting When machine quilting on my home sewing machine, I sit well above my machine. I sit on a step stool - the kind that every 1950's kitchen had. It looks a bit like a baby highchair, but without the tray. The two steps fold up under the chair when not in use. This higher chair forces your arms and shoulders down into a more relaxed position when you are manipulating your quilt. In a normal chair, the tendency is to shrug your shoulders up to your ears. It's very fatiguing on the body.


The first time I quilted on the step stool, I quilted for 2.5 hours before stopping. I was so relaxed that I forgot to take a break! When I quilt with the higher chair, I tilt my machine BACK slightly by placing a tiny one-half-inch book underneath the front edge of the machine. Without this, the machine head blocks my vision from this higher vantage point. kiskat in Texas Whenever I am machine quilting using nylon thread, I put my spool of thread in a baby food jar on the table beside my sewing machine and thread it up through a binder clip that I have clipped on the lift up lid of my Pfaff machine and through the rest of the machine as usual. This provides the proper tension and I never have problems. - Sue in Ontario I use gripper type garden glove for free motion quilting because they cost so much less, but the fingers are long and clumsy so I just cut off the tips. I can machine quilt and still be able to thread the needle, move a pin etc. The other bonus here is that if the fingertips are cut out, it forces you to use your whole hand to move the material, and reduces your risk for carpal tunnel syndrome which is much greater if you use only the tips of your fingers to move the quilt around. - Kathleen in Wisconsin Wind serger thread to the bobbin on my sewing machine, I use a long drinking straw cut to just above the top of the cone and placed on the spindle. This works very well for me. - Mary in Colorado When machine quilting, be sure to position your chair as close as possible to your machine - and still be comfortable - LEGS UNDER THE TABLE. If your chair is too far away, and you are leaning toward the machine to quilt, your back and arms will get very tired, or you might totally pull your back out. I have seen people sit on the very edge of their seat, with their chair a foot away from their machine, to quilt. When your body is not in its most relaxed position, it will show up in your quilting. When you lose control of your body, you lose control of your stitching. I know this seems very simplistic, but it's the little things that CAN make a big difference in your quilting results. kiskat in Texas For the large spools which I can not use on my sewing machine, I use a empty tin can with a plastic lid about the size of the spool. In the middle of the lid I made a hole then I put it beside my machine. It works great, especially for invisible threads. - Lenie in The Netherlands A product called Butler Gum Floss Threaders (available where dental floss is sold) is great to put the thread through holes in presser feet such as a 1/4 inch foot or one with small multiple holes for embroidery thread. It looks almost like a needle with a big eye but is very narrow and flexible. - Carolyn in California I have found that the inexpensive gardening gloves with the little dots on the palm make good machine quilting gloves. - Lucy in South Carolina Disposable latex gloves, like doctors and nurses use, make fabulous machine quilting gloves. They're usually available in a box of 50 for about $5.00 at the local drug store or discount store." - Katherine in Illinois You can make your own machine quilting gloves. Take take a look in your sewing box to see if you have fabric for the feet of children's PJ's. Use Wonder Under to attach the fabric to an old pair of white gloves, and you will have your own machine quilting gloves. - Joan in Vermont Want to try the new 'tiltables' but think that they are too expensive? Go to any hardware store and buy two door stops (wedges) in rubber. Push these under your machine to tilt it to any convenient angle. - Shirley in the U.K. If you feel tense while free motion quilting, try humming! We tend to hold our breath when we concentrate and that makes us tense up. Humming forces us to breath rhythmically and therefore relax. It's a very simple thing that has made a big difference in the quality of my free motion quilting. - Sue in Georgia When doing machine quilting, A firm, somewhat stiff backing fabric helps to prevent those annoying puckers, so if the backing you have chosen is soft, starch it first. - Kate in Wisconsin When machine quilting or stitching applique, fill paired bobbins with your thread. Use one of the pair on top, and you can easily see if bobbin is running too low to finish a line of stitching without stopping to reload and start again in the middle. - Barbara in Arizona


Buy a lot of bobbins for your machine and thread all of your bobbins in commonly used colors before you start a project. There is nothing worse than breaking your concentration by having to stop in the middle of a project and thread your bobbin...AGAIN! It is a time and sanity saver! - Karen in California Tired of stitching in a ditch? Get out your double needle and thread the needle only on the right and leave the left empty for a guide. This will give you a different look if you are a beginner like me. - Virginia in Washington Whenever I am machine quilting using nylon thread, I put my spool of thread in a baby food jar on the table beside my sewing machine and thread it up through a binder clip that I have clipped on the lift up lid of my Pfaff machine and through the rest of the machine as usual. This provides the proper tension and I never have problems. - Sue in Ontario Use white tissue paper for machine quilting designs. Cut tissue paper the size of your finished block x as many blocks in your quilt or the size of sashing and borders, trace or draw your own design onto the tissue paper with dark colored pen or pencil. Pin this to your block at each of the four corners and one in the center. The machine quilt right on top of tissue. When finished with each block the tissue paper tears easily off. This method saves time having to wash out pencil marks on finished quilt. - Barbara in Wisconsin My husband bought a large package of gripper gloves at a surplus/discount store for a very cheap price and I use them to keep control of the material while I'm machine quilting. They are much less costly than at the quilting stores. - Sara in Michigan When quilting with that nylon thread, the type that is as fine as hair, place a small piece of masking tape on the machine just above the needle. When you cut the thread you have a place to stick it, so that it won't come out of the needle. - Carol in New York

Marking Tips Slivers of soap are great for marking quilting lines. - Barbara in Tennessee I keep old nylon knee highs near by. They are excellent for removing chalk markings. They are also good for removing deodorant mishaps on your clothing. - Valinda in New Jersey Before marking squares for half-square triangles, put a small dot on the corners, then align your ruler and mark. - Rose in Florida I keep a mug in my sewing room, along with a tooth brush. I put water in the cup use the brush to dab & remove blue marker marks on my fabric. Works much better than spraying water, and you can put the water just where you want it. - Charlene in Oregon Instead of using a plate, saucer or cup to trace around for curves on the edges, use a CD. There are lots of free ones available for connecting to ISPs. The CD is also very easy to store. - Dixie in Michigan If you want to mark your quilt for quilting - you can use a GREEN INK FLAIR pen and it will wash out. We found that this only applies to the brand name Flair and only the green inked one. - Sara in Tennessee When marking rows to be sewn together I use safety pins. I use the same number of pins in each section or row. For instance I use 1 pin on the rows to be joined maybe each corner, the next row I will use 2 and so forth. I cannot see my marking pen or little nips. It works for me to help keep blocks in order. - Violet in Mississippi I use regular chalk, all colors. I sharpen them and use them when I do free hand designs for marking my quilt. The chalk is great and brushes away when done. - Ginger in Massachusetts When you need to sharpen the tip of your marking pencil, just sharpen it on some sandpaper. If you put the pencil in your sharpener it often breaks this way only the tip is sharpened. - Pat in Connecticut To audition grid or template quilting patterns, mark them on a portion of your quilt with a hera (a Japanese marking tool made of hard plastic). The hera marks by pressure only and can be erased by simply pressing the marked area with an iron. - Suzanne in Arizona When sharpening a quilt marking pencil, use the larger hole on a two hole manual sharpener. This will give you a very short but extremely sharp point. The point won't break off easily as with the "normal" size and your pencil will last longer. - Rhonda in Washington Use the new Glad Press and Seal to embroider words or designs on your quilt. Draw on the Press and Seal, stick to quilt and embroider. Tear away when done. Does not leave any residue and you have no marks on your quilt to remove. - Violet in Ontario, Canada


Trouble with drawing seam allowances on some templates? Rubber band two pencils together. Trace line of template with one pencil and the other will be 1/4 inch out for your seam allowance. - Bonnie in Louisiana Keep a piece of sandpaper on a clipboard, with a thin ruler and mechanical pencil near your sewing machine. When it's time to mark the diagonals for half-square triangles, place the squares on the sandpaper, so they don't move around when you mark. - Carolyn in Texas When marking diagonal lines on fabric squares to make half-square triangles, mark from the inside out on each corner. No more bunching on the corners or uneven lines! - Carolyn in Texas

Miscellaneous After wearing out one Dear Jane book completely I bought a second one and had the spine removed and have slipped each page in a page protector and keep them in a big notebook. There is room to slip each pages blocks inside the page protector so you can see at a glance what you have done and what you can still do. I do this to all the softcover books I buy anymore that I will use a lot. - Gail in Arizona I use the overhead projector sheets in my computer printer to print out the templates for my Dear Jane and other miniature quilt blocks. - Gail in Arizona I took a cross stitch picture with me on the last cruise we were on and had threaded needles with the different colors of embroidery floss I needed and used a needle dome to carry them in my purse. Yes, I went through airport security with them. I had to open my purse and show them what it was and I was told to go on through. I just did my embroidery and left hanging threads until we got on the ship and I could get my scissors (round nosed ones) from our checked luggage. - Gail in Arizona Don't forget to share your quilting projects with everyone you know. You never know when someone (usually the person you least expect) will become interested in quilting and want to learn this wonderful craft. - Cassie in Louisiana I like the patterns that come in the small plastic bags, but they are not always the size I want to make. So when I figure out what I need, I neatly write it out on a paper that fits into the bag. So in the future I already have it all worked out. - Cheryl in Minnesota Since I have a busy life this is way I save a quilt project so I can work on it at my leisure. I have a large piece of felt that I have thumb tacked to one of my sewing room walls. I put sections of the quilt on this felt and can add blocks of the quilt when I have a hour to slip in and make one block and admire my work. Before long I have completed a quilt! - Merilee in Indiana If your thimble is a little too large for your finger, remove the thimble, lick your finger and put the thimble back on...your thimble will not fly off your finger again. - Diana in Washington I have been cutting "charms" (only ONE of a shape), and have discovered that I can avoid the large "overcut" of the rotary cutter by switching to the *TINY* 18 mm rotary cutter for the corners. The blade is SO small that it does not OVER-BITE (and ruin) the uncut fabric. Often, for the main cut, I still use the larger cutter, but switch to the 18 mm size JUST for the corner. - kiskat in Texas Fresh blood on your quilt can be removed with your own spittle on a piece of thread. - Coby in the Netherlands Sunday evening is not the best time to search a small town for sticky back stabilizer for the embroidery hoop. So, on my way home I decided to save some money, for fat quarters, and hoop tear away stabilizer. I was working on fleece and it's to thick to hoop. I used a clear glue stick and wiped the stick across the top, bottom and sides of the hooped stabilizer and place the fleece on top of the hoop and off I went. Fleece did not move and I had a perfectly embroidered butterfly on my Granddaughter's blanket. - Pauline in Arizona I keep a small cutting mat on my ironing board, along with my 28mm rotary cutter and a small rotary ruler. To keep the mat from sliding I use a small piece of particle board. It also works great for marking small pieces of fabric, much better than sand paper. Next time I'm at the hardware store I'm going to buy a large piece of particle board to put under my big cutting mat. - Charlene in Oregon I make my own variegated thread in ANY two- or three-color combinations I want. I just thread all of the threads through my machine and through a #14 JEANS NEEDLE. (It has a large hole, and is very sharp.) If you do not have extra spool holders on your machine, just place each of the extra threads in a heavy mug near the


back of your machine, and thread the machine in it's usual manner. I use my "usual" thread, but embroidery thread is thinner, if you would prefer that. The results are so exciting! - kiskat in Texas If you prick a finger and get blood on your quilt, use your own saliva to remove it. - Carolyn in New Zealand Glue small pieces of sandpaper on the backs of your rulers to keep them from slipping on the fabric when rotary cutting. - Marti in Mexico I love to paper piece, which produces a lot of empty thread spools. I take these to local schools for the art teachers to use with their students. - Belinda in Missouri Rubberized shelf protectors are wonderful to prevent your sewing machine foot pedal from slipping all over the place. Just cut a piece larger than your foot pedal and place it underneath the foot pedal. Also, if you have trouble with your sewing machine 'walking' across your table, this same product will help. - Joan in Tennessee For the people who carry their thread with them to applique while traveling. With a black marker, mark the spot on the thread spool where the thread hooks in to secure it from raveling. At a glance you can see where to start the thread from and where to hook it back. - Joyce in Ohio Here is an inexpensive way to make templates. Trace the shape onto freezer paper, iron it onto thin cardboard from around the home. Food boxes, coloring books etc.. , then cut them out. If you use gridded paper, the grids are all in 1/4 measurements and you can easily include your seam allowance without having to mark the inside line. - Barbara in Indiana I use blunt tipped Fiskars kid scissors for snipping threads. No chance of accidentally snipping through the fabric but the blades are sharp enough to easily snip threads. - Carolyn in British Columbia A great way to keep your cutting mat clean, just a sponge/scour pad you can get at the dollar store. 10 for a $1.00. The scouring pad works great for cleaning the little threads left behind. Just be careful you don't scrub off the lines on your mat. - Bambi in Ontario I've been pinning flannel fabric to the top of whatever I'm wearing that covers me from shoulders to past my knees and it catches a considerable amount of loose threads helping to keep a lot of the threads from falling on the floor. - Carlene in Illinois Use rubber matting, like you use under your fine china....double-stick tape a piece to the underside of your sewing machine pedal to prevent it from sliding across tile floors. - Carol in New York Sometimes as I am making a rag quilt, I will use three layers of flannel to give it that full appearance. I find in doing this it isn't as heavy as one with batting in the sandwich. The middle flannel is usually one of an accent color. I do this with any appliques I put on the quilt also. - Lisa in California I have a new way to check seams on my rag quilts. After I have washed and dried the quilt, I take it outside and hang it on the clothesline. If you hold it up towards the sun the light will shine through the open seam. It also helps with trimming off the lose threads that tangle themselves. Relieves pressure on the arms and hands, I think. I hope this helps any one who tries it. - Lisa in California After I have sewn a square to a rectangle, I sew another seam one- fourth inch from the original seam between the seam and the outside corner. Thus I have a half-square triangle and one fourth of a pinwheel square. - Nancy in Indiana I came up with this idea when I had a small quilt that I wanted to hang on my closet door in my sewing room, of course! I got out my plastic hooks that hang over the top of the door that I hang my Christmas wreaths on. You will need two of them. My husband finished a dowel (cut about 4 inches longer than the width of the quilt-he even put fancy ends on it) and I slipped it in the sleeve on the back and placed the rod in the hooks adjusting them to fit. My hooks are clear plastic and you can hardly seem them. This makes it very easy to change your quilts. Judy in Nevada Those pesky cards that come in all magazines make good "emergency" templates. - Kathie in Oregon A sampler quilt covers my bed in my sewing room/guest bedroom. I lay a sheet over it and use the top to lay out my blocks during assembly. Keeps my quilt from being covered in strings. I can fold up the sheet if guests are expected. - BJ in Texas Create your own fabric! Just put whatever you want on top of your color scanner/printer, put a piece of white fabric over it (it will have a white background, or if you want put a piece of colored fabric over it and really spice it


up!) Iron a piece of white muslin to freezer paper, cut down to 8 1/2" x 11" put it in your printer and you have now created your own fabric. You can use pictures, fruit, anything that will sit on the printer area!!!! It works great!! Cheryl in Tennessee When using freezer paper templates, it works best if you make a tin foil board. Take a piece of thin board (paneling is good) and cover with tin foil. Then make a sleeve out of muslin to slide over the whole board. the freezer paper sticks really well from the iron on top to heat coming back from your tin foil board. Works like a charm. - Jackie in Ontario, Canada When making quilts for children (or friends) add a secret pocket with a little love note in it...only you and the recipient will know where it is if you disguise it well. This is lovely for grandchildren, you can add a new note each time you visit them. - April in Ontario Stay-stitch bias edges of setting pieces before assembling blocks into quilt top. This prevents stretching. I read this a while back and didn't try it until recently...what a change! I draw a line through the centers of the square and stitch about 1/8" on either side before cutting. - Susan in Michigan For quilters who like to keep the bobbin and thread spool together when storing, I have an idea that works and costs you nothing. I have purchased many gizmos for keeping the correct bobbin with the top thread spool. One day I found myself in need of one of those gizmos and all of mine were in use. Instead I took a twist tie which came with my garbage bags and ran it up the hole in the thread spool and then through the bobbin center hole and gave a twist. Now I use nothing but this method and save myself a lot of money. Any quilter who has had to dig through their stash of bobbins to match the top spool will appreciate this as well. - Kathy in Indiana Keep your old rotary cutter and mat if you buy a new one. I use the old one to cut paper patterns, photos or other craft things. - Leslie in Nebraska When I have small strips or odd shapes of fabric, I go ahead and cut them into 2 1/2 or 2 inch squares. I keep separate bags and then I will make little doll quilts for our grandchildren. A quick project always ready. - Rachel To get excellent and clear pictures of my quilts, I take them outside on a heavy overcast day or in deep shades. This way the sunlight won't fade the colors. - Kaye in Oklahoma Heard this one from aunt who has quilted for over 50 years. She uses those vinyl place mats for templates. I took her advice and they work. A good time to get them is buy the holiday ones on sale for great prices after the holiday is over. - Alice in Montana When your small cutting mat has a kink or wrinkle, turn on your oven 250 degrees for 10 minutes, shut it off, then put in a cookie sheet upside down with the mat . You need to keep it in for a short time and it will be nice and flat. - Nancy in Missouri For ripping out stitches: I find if you take your seam ripper and cut every fourth stitch on the stitching line, when you pull the two pieces apart it goes really fast. - Terri in Kansas Make the sleeve in two pieces, having a 1 inch opening in the center. Place your rod through, the opening will accomodate a nail to hang it from. This works well for the small items as well as for the larger ones. - Carolyn in New York A tip to save cats from thread dangers...I use a coffee can that has a plastic top. I take the plastic top and cut out a circle in the center of the top that is big enough for my hand. A circle seems to be more discouraging for a cat to put its paw through than a square. I put this by my sewing machine, take it to sit & stitches, carry it around the house and put threads in this container. The cats never bother it. I empty it into the larger trash can and make sure other trash is on top or discard it only on trash days. However, for an additional tip, if you use it through an entire quilt and keep punching the thread down in the can, at the end of the quilt you will have what looks like a bird's nest. You can actually stitch this down onto a contemporary quilt or put it where the birds can find it. - Linda in Virginia In order to view your quilts or blocks etc. from a distance, use a monocular or binocular turned backwards. Makes everything farther away instead of closer. - Dollie in Idaho I use those inexpensive little thread snips by my sewing machine, rather than scissors, to cut the threads when I am at the end of a seam. This works faster for me than fumbling around for the thread cutter at the back of my machine. - Cindy in California


Keep your wall hangings laying flat by making a sleeve on the top and bottom large enough to put a freebie weight yard stick portion through. You can cut these light weight sticks to size with an old steak knife on your cutting matt. No need for a saw. Wrap stick with plastic wrap to protect the cloth. - Rhonda in Washington I use rotary cutter for taking seams apart instead of a seam ripper, much easier to find when needed. - Ada in New Hampshire While traveling, use a tooth floss container to cut your thread. - Pam in Indiana My tip is a follow-up after finishing your quilt. When making a dust ruffle to compliment your quilt, use an old, worn contour sheet as a base for the ruffle --- put the sheet on the box spring (as though the spring were a mattress. Your ruffle will never slip around even if the mattress is pushed around on it. I don't even consider doing mine any other way. - Dorothy in Montana It's easier to make half-square triangles slightly larger size than the finished requirement, and then square them to size. - Rusty in Georgia Keep a roll of duct tape handy. Just roll a piece sticky side up around 4 fingers. Great to get all threads when you have to tear out stitches or remove pet hair. - Carlene in Pennsylvania I loose track of time while sewing so I use my clock radio to pace myself. I "hit" the sleep button which will play music for one hour. When the radio shuts off I know I have to get up, stretch, look off into the distance, etc...maybe even speak to my family and put the dogs out! - Julie in New Mexico For many years I have used my sewing pins for hanging lightweight pictures. Just clip the thin point off. I have found they work great for Quilted Wall Hangings because you can insert the pins in each top corner and just push them into the drywall (not plaster!) The tiny holes are not noticeable in the wall. - Kay in Michigan To resharpen your rotary cutters, fold up a piece of silver foil so that you have several layers and then just cut through it several times and your cutter will be resharpened.. Works great!! - Beverly in Australia Here's a simple way of hanging seasonal quilted wall hangings. Make your hanging pocket in two pieces so there is a center opening. Take a yard stick or piece of wood strapping and cut it to the width of the quilt. In the center of the stick either drill a hole or attach one of those jagged picture hangers. I don't know the technical name for them but they look like a strip of metal with jagged teeth on them. You can buy packets of them at the hardware store or where they sell picture frames. Slide the stick through the pocket and have the picture hanger or drilled hole showing in the center pocket opening. The people who get the wall hanging can just take another picture off the wall and hang the wall hanging for the holiday or season without having to buy any fancy rods. After the occasion they can take it down and just rehang their picture. One thing I did find is the little nails that come with the jagged picture hangers are a little long for a yard stick so I had to bend them with pliers, but it worked. - Mary Ann in MA Use a small piece of the self-adhesive sand paper that is sold for skate boards to keep your rulers from slipping on the fabric. I made neat little circles with a paper punch and placed one in each corner of the ruler. Kay in Michigan I made my daughter some placemats. I used Mary Englebreit fabric. After I finished them I had a lot of good sized scraps so I took 2 pieces with some Warm and Natural in the middle and drew with a permanent marker a teapot for coasters. I zig-zagged around it and cut them out. If you accidently cut the thread put clean nail polish on it so it doesn't ravel. You can use any shape for a template and enlarge small one. I even drew around real maple leaves. Spectacular to decorate with too. - Virginia in Washington I use a 12 inch see-thru ruler to do all my cutting of fabrics when making a quilt. - Karen in Michigan When using freezer paper for templates, cut a little nip along a long smooth side. You know the line is straight and when you go to remove the paper after ironing and cutting out you have a spot to hold on to the fabric and lift the freezer paper without any problem. Keeps from damaging edges of paper and fabric. - Pat in Connecticut Rubberized shelf protectors are wonderful to prevent your sewing machine foot pedal from slipping all over the place. Just cut a piece larger than your foot pedal and place it underneath the foot pedal. Also, if you have trouble with your sewing machine 'walking' across your table, this same product will help. - Bettye in Tennessee I love to paper piece, which produces a lot of empty thread spools. I take these to local schools for the art teachers to use with their students. - Belinda in Missouri


Uses for broccoli rubberbands...use to put on wheel of sewing machine for better grip when positioning needle. Also for a needle grabber when hand quilting. ~ Pam E. in Central Texas If your sewing machine is not in a stand or you carry it to quilting classes, use the rubber type shelf liners to put under the machine to keep it from moving while sewing. - Kathie in Pennsylvannia I am a new quilter who finds that the threads and scraps were ending up on the floor and being dragged around my house. I purchased a small basket to sit by the side of my machine so that I can put my trash in there.....it works great and no more loose threads floating around the house! - Johnna in Connecticut I scan my templates into computer and then print out using photo quality paper. I not only have accuarate templates but they are as strong as plastic templates without the hassles of tracing. It works every time. You can also set scanner to increase the sizes for different finished size blocks. - Jenny in Queensland, Australia My husband bought a 5 ft. section of kitchen countertop at our local home improvement store. It was in the "cutoff" section for about $20. I placed in on top of a couple of 2 drawer metal file cabinets (just center it)and I placed my cutting mat on it. On the other end, I laid batting down and bought a piece of that silver ironing cloth on top. Presto! A very cheap but very functional sewing station! - Marcy in Cape Girardeau, MO I was trying to determine the size needed of quarter square triangles for a 12" block. I was unable to find a pattern that size, but in looking at my pattern books I discovered that you only need to add 1.25" to the size of the finished block. So, I cut my 13.25" squares, cut into four pieces, and they made perfect 12" blocks when pieced! - Debbie in Georgia Do you have a baby or child's quilt that you use as a wallhanging and on the bed? If it has a hanging sleeve, little ones can get their arms or hands caught in the sleeve's opened ends when on their bed. To prevent this, I added velcro strips to the open ends of the hanging sleeve. While used on a bed, the velcro securely holds the openings closed and keeps those little arms and hands safely outside the sleeve. - Rae in Arizona At quilt shows when you can't stand back far enough to appreciate the patterns on the larger quilts, use a door peep-hole. This lets you stand up close and see the whole quilt. You will be amazed at some of the secondary patterns that emerge. - Anne in Ontario, Canada Save those flat tins that the new AOL cds come in! You can use them to store your plastic templates in! The cd its self is just the right size to make a yo-yo pattern but the tin will hold other templates! Don't like the cover? Take a swatch of your favorite fabric and glue to the top! Be sure to label it with the contents! - Liz in Virginia While quilting a white on beige whole cloth pillow, I pricked my top index finger and (you guessed it) got blood on the fabric. A little hydrogen peroxide on a q-tip and daubed on the spot gets the blood right out of fabric. Bonnie in Oregon Wet the eye of the needle, not the thread to easily thread the needle. Works on sewing machine needle, also. - Alice in Tennessee I save all my scraps of fabric and give them to the local kindergarten for the childrens handcraft work Ernestine in New Zealand If you want to use fabrics paints or fabric pens to decorate a quilt block, try stabilizing it first by ironing on freezer paper to the backside. The plastic side of the freezer paper will temporarily fuse to fabric by ironing it on, and it will peel right off when you are done. This is also great for making quilt labels. - Clarissa in Arizona I made my own portable ironing board to take along to class. Just wrap and glue leftover cotton batting around an empty fabric bolt. Cover with flannel and glue edges. It's very handy and light too. - Judy in Florida Since you can't take scissors on the plane take your dental floss container along to cut your thread. It really works!!! - Judy in Indiana To make a portable lightweight ironing board, cut the cardboard tube that fabric comes on in half lengthwise. Cover it all around with batting or terry toweling. Now cover with fabric by pinning in place with glass head pins or T-pins. Great to keep by the sewing machine for those little quick ironing jobs! - Angela in Indiana Shaped confetti in litte bags make great sequins for crazy quilts! - Mary Ann in Winnipeg I keep a little wad of "sticky tack" - the stuff you use to hang posters - near my sewing machine. I have a small piece on top of my machine to hold my seam ripper, a small piece on the upright area holds a magnetic strip to stick pins on as I pull them from seams while sewing. You can use it to stick your pattern instructions onto the wall for quick reference. Doesn't harm surfaces and comes right off. - Nancy in Texas


Pins and Needles If you find the needle hard to thread on your machine put a piece of white paper behind it and the hole seems to pop out for you to see! - Dorene in Oklahoma When hand quilting, I like to load at least 10 needles to have them ready at hand, to make threading the eye of the needle easier I first run the end of the thread across the top of a candle or soap holding it (the thread) down firmly between my thumb and the candle or soap as I draw the it across the candle or soap, this makes the tip of the thread slightly stiff and therefore makes threading the eye of the needle much, much easier, especially after you have been quilting for awhile and your eyes are tired, and of course for those of us who's eyes are just not that "young" anymore :0), then for easy keeping, I insert each threaded needle side by side into a thread card (like the ones you use with counted cross stitch to wrap your skeins of thread around) and wrap the length of thread around the needle so that nothing gets tangled up and then place it in a zip lock bag. This allows for easy access, saves time so that I don't have to stop and re-thread a needle each time I reach the end of the current thread I am quilting with, helps keep my stitch accuracy going because I don't have to break my momentum, and if I want to take my work with me, I just pop the zip lock bag with the pre-threaded needles and my project in my quilting bag and away I go! I have found that I really do get a lot more handquilting done this way, because it is easy to "find" something else that needs to be done if I have to stop and rethread each needle every time I run out of thread or try and hit that tiny eye 10 times and fail 10 times. Having the pre-threaded needles just makes it so much easier and fun. - Pam in Iowa When changing the needle, place a small mirror on the bed of your sewing machine and you will be able to see where the flat side of the needle goes. - Rose in Florida To keep track of the various types of machine needles I use, I took a pin cushion and divided it into sections using a permanent ink marker. I then put an initial in the divided section (i.e. U for universal, S for Sharps). When I switch needles during projects, I simply stick the needle in the appropriate section on the pin cushion. - Jen in Chicago If you have a hard time threading a needle from one side, try turning the needle around and thread the other side - every needle has a front and back side - sometimes this helps. - Rose Mary in Washington If you're having trouble threading the needle on your sewing machine, take the needle out and thread it, then put it back into the machine, being sure that it is installed in the right way. - Mary in New York If at first you do not succeed in threading a needle...turn it around. Because needles are stamped in their production, one side is easier to thread than the other. - Lois in Illinois Department stores with makeup counters will often give samples of makeup in little plastic vials that are great for keeping quilting needles in. Wash out the makeup, stick a label on it as to the size of the needle and carry it with you in your on-the-go sewing box! - Amy in Virginia I use Velcro to keep my machine needles organized. Take the fuzzy and non- fuzzy side and stick together, put the size on the sandwich, in goes the needle and "Ta Da"â&#x20AC;Ś.Organized! - Connie in Washington If you trim any type of thread, even for machine threading, to leave a beveled edge with a sharp point to it, it will go through any needle! - Paula in Texas I use a long barbecue tongs to pick up things from the floor around my sewing machine. I also attached a magnet to it to grab pins, etc. or I can hold my magnetic pin cushion with it and gather them up that way. Saves bending and eyesight. - Marlene in North Dakota After seeing a used sharps container in my doctors office, I made one for my sewing table. I took an empty white plastic aspirin bottle, drilled a small hole in the cap, and stuck on a bright label that says used sharps. Now I can safely dispose of broken needles and bent pins, right through the hole in the top. For something larger, such as used rotary blades or razor blades, I can unsnap the top. When its full, I can safely throw the whole container away. - Bryn in Massachusetts When my needles need replacing, I use them to hang pictures. Makes a small hole in the wall and are very strong. - Joyce in Alberta After every project I throw away my sewing machine needle and I put them into an old prescription bottle. That way nobody can get hurt when you dispose of a needle. - Linda in Wisconsin


I use a grab-it magnetic pin catcher (empty) to glide over the carpet when I happen to break a machine needle or drop a hand needle to the floor. It grabs the piece easily and I know that my family or pets won't get stuck. - Dorothy in Florida Thread needles with the (leading end) of the thread as it unwinds from the spool. You will be taking advantage of the natural twist of the thread, making the job easier! - Dorene in Oklahoma I use one of the small white spoons that is given to you at food sample booths to put behind my sewing machine needle. Makes it very easy to thread your machine. - Linda in New York I've found the best pin cushions in the world to be the magnetic ones. Best of all, if a pin is dropped on the floor one sweep over it with the pin cushion and your feet will thank you next time you walk there." - Eliza in Winnipeg I keep my needles in those lead containers you get when you buy refills for your mechanical pencil. That way you can carry the needles around without hurting anyone!" - Mary in Texas I keep my magnetic pin holder right behind my sewing machine. When I pull my pins out of my project, I just gently push them right off my machine base instead of picking them up and placing them on the holder. Very fast & easy! - Susan in Florida If you have a hard time threading a needle from one side, try turning the needle around and thread the other side - every needle has a front and back side - sometimes this helps. - Rose Mary in Washington Rather than digging into a pin box or trying to pull one out of a cushion, I took a flat refrigerator magnet and turned it upside down beside my machine. I keep about 20 pins on each one. They come in very handy and move from room to room when you just want a few. - Bettye in Tennessee A handy tool that I keep close is a magnetic bingo wand! It's handle is easy to hold and it picks up all those stray needles with just a swipe of your hand!" - Kay in Virginia I've been using a plastic wristband-type pincushion and never seemed able to get as many as I need and hate to have stop to "reload" when working on a watercolor quilt. I was waiting at the car parts store my son works at when I saw the perfect solution! It's a set of gloves where the whole back of the hand portion is magnetized! You can put a lot of pins on it and it'll even hold small scissors for snipping off stray threads, anything that'll stick! It's recommended for holding nuts, bolts, screws, etc but its great for use when pinning on lots of little squares on a design wall. - Phyllis in California When a pin or needle does not want to go into the fabric, run it through your hair and it will slid right in. Susan in Kentucky

Organization Save your old prescription bottles and put a small hole in the lid and put your hand quilting or applique thread inside. It keeps it clean and is easy to pick up if you drop it. Great if you work when traveling. - Gail in Arizona Sewing all day can lead to millions of little threads on the floor. Not wanting to vacuum, I put two of the lint rollers on a paint roller and attached the handle to an extension handle. I run this over the carpet, bingo, it's tidy for tomorrow! I store it by hanging it on a hook behind the door. - Jacque in California I use a nice long napkin holder to hold all of my rulers. I found a wire one that is used for picnic tables, Since it is wire, it can be hung on the wall next to my machine. So with the mobile one and the one on the wall I can always keep my rulers near me and in one spot. - Linda in Florida Use skirt hangars and plastic bags to organize projects, display Quilt Guild newsletters, etc. - Barbara in Illinois We recently purchased new drapes. When the drapes arrived, the panels and valances were each in a zippered clear vinyl bag. I cleaned off the sticky residue from the labels and used the bags to store my quilting projects. I put my pattern so I can see it through the clear vinyl and as I accumulate my fabric for the project, I just insert it into the bag. Zip it closed and I'm off to my fabric store to purchase what I still need or off to my guild or class. - Lea in Wisconsin


When I see a pattern that I like, I print it out along with the instructions and pattern then I place it in a clear 8x10 plastic sleeve so that it stays nice and clean. I place it in a hard bound notebook like the one kids use in school for loose leaf paper. - Corena in Missouri You know those little tubes that contain miniature M&Ms? they're just the size to hold bobbins... I fill about five bobbins, before I go to guild, and they're ready to use, and they don't unravel in your sewing box. - Christine in California I put all used/broken needles and pins in an empty Tic Tac container... it's clear, so you can see what's in it, then, when it's filled, tape over the opening before discarding. - Christine in California To save computer space, storage space and also paper when downloading free patterns from the internet. I store them for a short time on my computer and then copy them onto a CD for storage. Each CD is labeled differently. For example, Applique, BOM, Mystery Quilts, Christmas quilts, etc. If there is a particular designer I like or web site that I follow year to year, they get a CD all their own. For example, Block Central has a CD all it's own. You can store a lot of quilts on 1 CD. Always remember that the patterns you download off the internet are for personal use only and not for commercial use. And always give the designer the credit for their work!! - Truth in Pennsylvania My very favorite piece of "furniture" in my quilting room is a re-painted, rolling, LOCKING, Craftsman toolbox. (Usually on sale around Father's Day and Christmas.) The shallow top drawer holds scissors, needles, rotary cutters, and pins -- things I use continuously throughout the day. I work with the drawer open, and put items where they belong -- even if I put items down, just for a moment. It keeps my table from becoming cluttered, and I never lose my tools. The shallow second drawer holds markers, pens, pencils, glue sticks, magnifying glasses -- items that are used often, but not continuously. The third drawer, a little deeper, holds templates and rulers that are not hanging. The fourth drawer holds plastic jars of basting pins, colored pencils, extra rotary blades/sharpeners, Clover iron, and specialty quilting tools. The fifth drawer holds stacking plastic trays of my thread. The fourth and fifth drawers are deep enough to hold cone thread. Drawer contents are labeled with stick-on vinyl letters. I use the top of the cart as a pressing station, and as a "staging area" when choosing fabrics. The cart rolls to wherever you need it, and it can lock out family members that might try to "borrow" your good scissors. - kiskat in Texas I love all the great tips! I copy/paste and organize them in Microsoft Works. I have categories--applique, piecing, machine quilting, fabric, finishing, storage, notions I want to try, etc. I can use bold, italic & underline for key words, or even color code. I can also add the great tips I find in quilt magazines. I print up full page categories and keep in a loose leaf organizer. When I want to try a new technique or just need a reminder, the tips really help. I'm even making a copy for my daughter who wants to try quilting! - Paula in Wisconsin I store my quilting magazines in empty detergent boxes. They are sturdy, have handles and smell good. They can be covered with contact paper or spray adhesive and fabric. - Rose in Florida I love the patterns i find on line. when I really like one I print it out and put it in clear plastic sleeves (normally used for school reports), the sleeves have holes already punched in them. then I place the sleeves in a 3 ring notebook. One pattern per sleeve keeps all the pages together until I'm ready to use that pattern plus keeps it clean and protected. - Debra in Kentucky I save shoeboxes. As I work on different projects, I store my completed blocks in the box labeled for such. I also in my spare time cut out the snips of fabric I need for each project or each block that I plan to do next, place them in the box, then when I plan on sewing it, I just pick up the shoe box and take it to my sewing machine. Its all there and ready to go. So small its easily transported and fits right on my sewing table. - Barbara in Indiana I have dramatically increased my quilting productivity by setting up a Quilting Journal. I have a 3-ring or spiralbound notebook resting in a lucite cookbook stand ON MY SEWING TABLE (in my face), so I will always remember to write in it every day. I divide each page into two long columns, and pre-write the dates/day of the week at the top of the column. I feel guilty about "wasting" the space if I don't write something... and I can't write something if I don't do quilting.


EVERYTHING quilt-related goes into the journal. If I spend 4 hours on the Internet in a quilt "chat", or an hour looking through a magazine, or if I dream a quilt... everything goes into the Quilting Journal. I even attach receipts from quilt-related purchases here, too. MUCH of quilting is INVISIBLE, but TIME-CONSUMING. If I feel myself getting depressed over not having COMPLETED something, I pull out my Quilting Journal and read that I spent a day pulling fabrics, or I trimmed paper-piecing patterns for three hours, or I sorted scraps, or I washed fabrics, or I unstitched something that was not quite right... and I realize how MUCH I got done. It's an instant "upper", and I'm off quilting again! - kiskat in Texas To make rotary cutting easier, l use an old TV stand that swivels (like a lazy susan). No need to move your fabric to turn! - Goldie in Iowa I tape a brown paper bag to the edge of my table next to my sewing machine for my threads and scraps. When it's time to put everything away for the day, I pull the tape off the table and fold it over so that it's taped to the bag. I can either use it over or just throw it out when it's full. - Carol in Michigan When trying to get small loose threads off your project, use a roller type lint remover and the threads will come off easily. - Donna in Missouri When I make a quilt using exchange blocks from other quilters, I subtly machine quilt their name, somewhere into their block. Over time, I can always "recall" who made the specific blocks. THEY are so impressed that you "remembered"! - kiskat in Texas When you finish making a quilt, use some of the scrap fabrics to make a "pillow case" for the quilt to be stored in when it's not in use. I like to make a zipper closing so that the quilt can't escape. The zippered pillow case acts as a dust cover, but the scrap fabrics help identify what's inside. If the quilt should need repairs, the fabric from the dust cover can be used. - kiskat in Texas I keep a lint roller (the masking tape kind) by my ironing surface to keep the surface thread clear. - Sandra in New York I keep a small pair of scissors hanging from an adhesive hook on the front of my sewing machine. That way they are right where I need them and never get misplaced. - Sandra in New York I keep a magnet close to me when sewing. it helps in picking up dropped pins. even better it holds my needles when i'm doing hand work. i thread several and stick them to the magnet. - Debra This might not be anything new but I was given a free standing cup holder. Instead of using it for cups, it is perfect for hanging all my scissors on. - Carla in Florida When ever I see a good tip, I jot it down and then review my tips every now and then. If I can't remember one of the tips, I just review my list and find the one I want. Works every time. - Elaine in North Carolina When I am getting ready for a new class or workshop, I throw in several Ziploc bags which can be used for organizing project steps, stowing trimmings, etc. - Maureen in Canada I use a 24 pack coke box to put my cut pieces in. I can sort my colors, and shapes, and sizes and easily pick out the ones I need to use. Sometimes I match them together and lay them so all I have to do is pick the pieces up and sew them together. - Corena in Bloomfield I have one of those multi-color wooly pincushions attached to my machine with velcro which is sticky one side. I place two strips on the machine and two strips on the pincushion. I find this very handy and the pins are at my fingertips. - Sylvia in Connecticut From my florist, I use the netting that comes on the flowers over my spools of thread to hold it all together for storage. No loose ends, everything neat as a pin. - Deborah in Missouri Rather than digging into a pin box or trying to pull one out of a cushion, I took a flat refrigerator magnet and turned it upside down beside my machine. I keep about 20 pins on each one. They come in very handy and move from room to room when you just want a few. - Bettye in Tennessee A handy tool that I keep close is a magnetic bingo wand! It's handle is easy to hold and it picks up all those stray needles with just a swipe of your hand! - Kay in Virginia I've been using a plastic wristband-type pincushion and never seemed able to get as many as I need and hate to have stop to "reload" when working on a watercolor quilt. I was waiting at the car parts store my son


works at when I saw the perfect solution! It's a set of gloves where the whole back of the hand portion is magnetized! You can put a lot of pins on it and it'll even hold small scissors for snipping off stray threads, anything that'll stick! It's recommended for holding nuts, bolts, screws, etc but its great for use when pinning on lots of little squares on a design wall. - Phyllis in California Ever chased your quilting thread all over the room? You won't do that again with this great tip. Recycle baby food containers, Gerber fruits come in a plastic container with a lid. Simply wash out the container, put your quilting thread in it with about 4-6 inches of thread hanging over the edge and place the lid on the container. You can easily pull your thread out. To make it even better, glue a small magnet to the top of the container to hold your needle when you have to momentarily stop your quilting! Happy stitching! - Debbie in Mississippi As I read through the manuals/instruction books for my quilting software I highlight the main information on the subjects that I think I will be referring back to regularly. It doesn't take very long to find them again. I use a fluorescent yellow highlighter. - Darlene in Michigan The old dishwasher was done and before disposing of it, I removed the silverware holder. It had to be good for something!! I hung it on the side of my fabric cabinet, within arms reach of my cutting table. I holds my small rulers, markers, pens and pencils, small scissors, teflon pressing sheet, a small and roll of parchment paper (cover ironing board when pressing fusible web things) and rotary cutters. Very handy. - Judy in Michigan I use small pieces of colored electrical tape to keep my thread spools and bobbins neat and free from thread tangles. I use 1/2 in tape cut across tape just wide enough to slip over end thread of bobbin and on end of thread on thread spool. When I need to use the tread I take the little peice of tape off and place it on the sewing machine to be put back on spool. - Lorraine in Minnesota I've made a U-shaped sewing area by placing a 2-drawer filing cabinet on either side of my chair at my sewing table. On the left cabinet I have a 12x18 cutting mat where I can cut strips and trim blocks. Then I can turn to the cabinet on the right, where I've placed a small ironing pad, and press my blocks. I can also store lots of supplies in the filing cabinets! - Joan in California Go to your nearest "auto repair store" and purchase a magnetic tray for bolts & nuts....Great for needles and pins. - Wanda in Illinois Scotch tape applied "backwards" to a sponge mop will pick up those wondering threads from carpet, saving your back!! - Wanda in Illinois I use the travel case from Huggies wipes to hold my pencils, marking pens, and sharpener. Works great for traveling to and from workshops/classes or just to keep things together in the sewing room. - Bambi in Ontario I tape a small plastic bag on the side of my cutting table with the front open. This way when cutting a pattern the scraps can go in for the next scrappy project. When full, tie the top and put in my scrap box. - Carla in Florida I like using lots of different fabrics when designing quilts. My current project has about 60 fabrics. I start with one to three fabrics or colors and build from there. To make shopping easier, I use an 8" X 10" post photo album into which I put a draft of my quilt, notes, and 2" or 3" swatches of fabrics I have chosen. I take this album with me when I visit quilt shops and use it as my reference guide. This way I can make sure that as I choose new fabrics, I stay "on theme or color course", properly vary my values and shades, and don't buy the same fabric twice by mistake. On one page might be my reds, marked with the amounts I bought of each and the store that I bought it from (in case I need to buy more). Other pages will hold other colors. When I finish the quilt, I add photos and put these "shopping" album pages into a larger, permanent album that is left at home for display and for history. It's my coffee table book. I am quilting a cover for it to make it even more special. Watch out at quilt shops - your shopping album will be a major hit that everyone wants to look at. I have met and made some wonderful new friends thanks to my album. - Kathy in Texas A small empty tissue box (the square ones) kept on my cutting table is great for a tabletop wastepaper basket. Perfect for small pieces of thread, etc. - Annette in Florida When laying out a complicated patched square that is being repeated in a quilt - lay it out but don't sew it up as at this point its not necessary. Put an acrylic or glass square (e.g. a cutting mat or a clear breadboard) over the top of it and use it as a reference. It's now easy to layout another square on top & then sew it up without having to work out what shape goes where each time. Much less chance of error of mixing the directions of the different triangles/squares etc in the block. - Debby in Australia


Use a rubbery foam "toe spacer" (you put them between toes so that you can paint toenails) to keep your wound bobbins in (each "toe" space holds two bobbins)...holds thread in place on bobbins and keeps all bobbins together and its cheap!!! - Kate in Australia Wondering what to do with that little strip or square of fabric left over after a project? If you have a piece large enough that you hesitate to discard but you can't think how to use it, use the Glad type plastic storage cartons, mark sizes 1", 1 1/2 ", 2" strips or 2", 3", 4" square on them, cut up the remaining remnant to one of these sizes and deposit the piece in the appropriate container. When container is full, sew the pieces together and you'll have a good sized piece of fabric to cut into blocks to make a very 'scrappy quilt'. Great way to use leftover fabric and make a comfort quilt to donate without added expense. - Sydney in California Be sure you have everything you need together before starting your quilt. That keeps you from making a last minute trip to the fabric store. unless, of course, you enjoy those trips. Ha,Ha! - Twila in North Dakota Get a nice journal from the craft store and use it to make notes of all the great patterns you will eventually use from the magazines you buy. Write down the magazine, issue #, pattern and page. It is also a good way to shop for fabrics for the project with just one notebook instead of several magazines. You won't have to tear out any pages and preserve the magazines for future generations of quilters! - Kathie in Oregon I use a shirt size gift box to store my quilt cuts for transport to class. I also use folder labels on the top of each separate group of cuts and tie off in bundles until needed for the current quilt. - BJ in Texas When I am working on a block of the month project as the one ongoing here on Block Central, I keep small separate containers inside the large container of the project, of certain widths of fabric strips. Such as 2-1/2" and 3-7/8" etc. in case I would need that size again in the quilt later on. It saves me a lot of time and fabric, and keeps me organized, until my quilt is finished. No digging through my scraps to see if I can squeeze another cut out of a pile. - Tina in Missouri One more reason to buy more chocolate and recycle the container. I use the M&M mini tubes (clear one if I could find them) to store needles, buttons and bobbins. Anything small that could get misplaced. Most quilters enjoy their chocolate, this way they have an excuse to buy more. - Regena in Texas Use a wall file holder to put your rulers, and rotary cutters in. You can install it on the wall next to your cutting area, and free up counter space for more fabric! - Kathy in Montana If I have several pieces of fabric at home that will work in a quilt top but I need something more or different, I cut a swatch of each, safety pin them together in the corner and put in in my purse. Then I can swirl them out to lay on a new piece of fabric to see if everything works out well together. Works great. - Marlene in North Dakota Last weekend I received a lovely bunch of flowers and around the daisy buds were these neat little net socks very much like the ones sold to put around the large spools of quilting thread. These are smaller and fit my spools of piecing cotton thread. And free, too. - Nancy in North Carolina I have several skirt or pant hangers. I use them to hang up my unfinished wall hangings, BOM's, redwork items, and even some of the paper patterns for my BOM's. This works out great for me. - Sandy in Michigan I pick up clip style pant hangers at thrift stores and use them to hang finished and unfinished projects so that I don't have to iron crease marks from folding. - Chelle in Iowa I like to label quilt books with my mail labels, so my books will come back home to me from folks who borrow them. They look neat, too! - Bev in Colorado To make my sewing machine even handier I have added the following : better thread cutter attached to the left side of the head little spongee thing on the right side to park a few pins cup hook on the right side to hang a small pair of scissors little match box sized holder on the front for thread snips. - Donna in California I have SOOOOOO many "favorites" on my computer so I bought some floppies. I have one for general quilting, another for favorite retail business, applique, tutorials, mystery quilts, and so forth and so on. It fr*ees up my computer and when I need to find a certain site, I go to the designated floppy. - Nancy in Missouri I keep an extension cord in my traveling sewing machine case. I never know if I'll need one when I go to a class or a friend's house to sew. - Julie in New Mexico


I store completed blocks clipped to a pant hanger and then hang it in my closet. This keeps my limited shelf space free for other things. - Fran in Wisconsin I use a peg board that my husband made to keep all my threads spools on. To keep them clean and from fading, I use the small bathroom cups that you get at the grocery store. I punch a hole in the bottoms and slip the open end over the thread. I also write the color and the thread color number on the cups. Works like a charm. Barbara in New York I keep all of my rotary cutters in old eye glass cases. Saves a lot of unwanted cuts. - Barb in South Dakota When you have a small area and you need shelf space, use sturdy cardboard boxes. I took good sturdy boxes and lines them with freezer paper shiny side down, you can glue or tape the paper down. Then lay them on there side and stack your fabric in them. In my space, I can stack 4 boxes. - Marianna in Missouri I have placed a tape measure on the front edge of my sewing cupboard with wide scotch tape so now I can measure fabric, quilt blocks, etc. without getting out a ruler. Works great!!! I also use sheets whenever possible for quilt backs - no seams - nice fabric!! - Marlene in North Dakota To remember all the quilts that I have made and given away, I take a photo and cut 2 inch square of all the fabric used then these are ironed to freezer paper. Then these are put in plastic page protectors. Its a great way to really see the true color of fabric 5- 10 years down the road. Of course each page also contains the date, size and who I gave it to, etc. - Kathy I use an old Bread Slicing Rack to store my rulers etc. Perfect size and gives me a use for the rack I never use anymore. - Dollie in Idaho I have another use for the cardboards that fabrics are wrapped in at the store. I ask for the empties and bring them home and use them for wrapping my stash of fabrics. When stacked the fabrics are easy to see. By mistake I got some of the extra wide ones, so instead of discarding them I cut them in half and folded short pieces of fabric in half and wrapped them too. - Ferrell in California Whenever I see a great quilt pattern idea or free pattern download on-line, I copy it to a cd that I keep near my computer marked 'quilt ideas'. Now I have everything 'filed' in one place instead of having papers sticking out of every quilt book with 'must do someday' projects. - Debra in Georgia Tuck a pad of stick on return address labels in your purse before heading to a guild meeting or a quilt show. Labels save lots of time- and prevent writer's cramp- when you are registering for quilt drawings and door prizes. They are also handy for identifying quilt books, magazines, rulers, mats, and other quilting gadgets! - Dorene in Oklahoma I do not have a sewing room or storage............so, I go to our local pizzeria and buy pizza boxes to keep my blocks in for a project in progress (unused or course, $0.50 each). Then I write on a label (in pencil) the project name and put it on the edge of the box..... since the lid closes, this keeps them clean and dust free.....when they are stacked in whatever available space I have, I can quickly see which box has what in it, and when that project is completed, I can erase the name and write a new one! The medium sized boxes are good for blocks up to 12" finished and the large boxes are good for even larger blocks...........you can fit quite a few blocks flat in a box, and for smaller blocks, you can layer them to fit even more in! I also have a panzerotti box beside me to put all my scraps in as I'm trimming and when I need a small scrap of something to complete a block, I know where they all are! - Sherry in Ontario I love my pets and to keep them safe from licking their feet and swallowing thread, I simply "Swiffer" my sewing area each day. I also keep a rolled piece of packing tape stuck nearby for catching stray clippings, pins and thread. - Joanne in Illinois Use a toilet bowl brush (dry/clean) to pick up loose threads around sewing area on the carpet. - Barbara in Kansas I have a friend who works for a chain store. She brings home the boxes that the shirts are shipped in. I find they work excellently for sorting/storing fabric! I also use shoe boxes as well, but the others are wider and more flat. I designate each one a color and then stack them to save space. - Jenn in Pennsylvania


For storage, I like to use clean unused pizza boxes. I have a number of them. Line them with felt. Your pieces won't shift or slide. Great for unfinished projects. I will also use them for storing blocks that are finished and haven't gotten to getting them together for the quilt top. The stack up great and label the out side and don't take up a lot of room. They can even slide under my couch so my project is right there when I get a moment to work on it. :) Endless ideas for uses in quilting! Check in your local pizza place for a new box, some places will give you one! - Dawn in Minnesota Make a quilted (or not) hanging for your sewing room with pockets for your different sized rulers. Make the pockets about one inch wider than the ruler you're going to put in it. - Margot in Oregon Some inexpensive waist high book cases (the kind you have to put together yourself) and put a 36" bi-fold door across them for a terrific cutting table. The great thing is that you can stow the door easily in a closet and put the book cases against the wall and you have your room back for guests or whatever!" - Caron in Illinois Out of fabric scraps I made myself a scrap bag. From 2 pieces of fabric, I make a finished rectangle by sewing them wrong sides together. It should measure about 6X20" when turned right sides out. Turn one end up about 5 inches and whip stitch the sides closed. This is the "bag". On the other end also fold the fabric up, this time about 3" and whip stich all around, not just the sides. But before you get it closed all the way, fill with dried beans. The "bean bag" part sits on the edge of your cutting table or next to your sewing machine, and the "bag" dangles there, waiting patiently for scraps. I have 2 in my sewing room, and LOVE them!"- Caron in Illinois After making my quilt blocks for an applique quilt, I store them in clean pizza delivery boxes. My son worked for a pizza shop and brought me a couple of unused ones. They stack nicely on a shelf until I have all of the blocks completed. - Terry in Illinois When you are cutting several pieces of different sizes of pattern pieces at a time, keep small pieces of paper and pencil near by. Label each pile with how many and the measurements of each. (For example, 5-2" square) It saves a lot of frustration and panic when it's time to sew everything together. - Carol in Montana I keep a small basket of things like seam rippers, small scissors for trimming thread, a gauge, and tape measure beside my sewing machine for easy access when I am in the middle of a project. No more searching for little odds and ends in the middle of a seam!! - Eliza in Winnipeg I have a sewing cabinet with only an extension to the left. I have a square card table to my left to help hold up the extension and to use as a cutting table. I have a 2'x4' card table-type behind the cabinet to help hold up the weight of a big quilt (along w/the sq. card table). I also have another 2'x4' card table-type to my right to hold other quilt equipment, etc. and it enables me to put bins under it for more storage. The tables are inexpensive and allows you to configure your work space to suit you. Hope this helps. - Alice in Washington If you have a sewing room or just an area that you use for sewing, place a small astro turf rug so you have to walk on it before you leave the area or room this will catch all those annoying threads that seem to get away when you cut them. - Donna in Oregon Every time I purchase a quilt pattern, fabric, and thread I use this trick to stay organized. I put them in a 2 gal. ( ziploc or other brands). This way I can see what I have, plus it protects my fabric, pattern, and thread! - Faye in North Carolina I use those tall storage containers with all the plastic drawers to sort out all my different coloured fabrics-one colour per drawer! I have them all lined up by my sewing machine. - Eliza in British Columbia Pick up a quilt rack for a good price at yard sales. Use it for all the pieces of quilts or any other articles you are making. You can see at a glance what you have sewn and what is left. - Jean in Indiana I have a very small house and storage space is at a premium. My quilts seem to keep multiplying and I have found that I can hang them and thus they take up less space. I use the hangers you get when you buy pants, children's clothing, etc. They have a plastic clip on both ends with a metal clasp that pushes down and holds the quilt securely. I fold the larger quilts in thirds and it works really well. I have my daughters saving them as well as friends. When I am looking for a particular quilt I can find it at a glance. - Jackie in North Carolina When we go out for pizza, I always ask for a new pizza box and I always get one. I use these to keep my finished blocks. I also use the $1 plastic shoe size boxes to store my cut strips in, so they are always ready to go. - Susan in New Mexico A good way to keep patterns and templates together is to use a manila folder to hold the papers and to use double-sided tape to attach the template pieces to the inside of the folder. Happy quilting! - Sharon in Montreal


I found an old tool box made of wood with a divider down the middle. It works perfectly for my tools when sewing on the kitchen table. One side holds a small tin, a small canning jar, and a small long basket. I hold my rotary cutters and exacto knife in one container, pencils and quilt markers in another, and in the basket my pins, measuring tape, pin cushion, etc. On the other side, I hold my cutting board and rulers. No running back and forth for items I need for my current project. Saves time when you don't have a sewing room! I love it!!! - Vicky in Wisconsin I keep a lint roller by my sewing machine. It is great for picking up thread, fuzz and lint from sewing. - Cathy in Pennsylvania Use a square tissue box for cut threads and small snippets. Place next to your sewing machine and when full, throw it away or empty and reuse. - Sharon in Indiana Cut a drinking straw to the desired length and slip it on one of the spindles of a thread rack. Slip your spool of thread onto the straw and then the matching bobbin(s) on top. This saves time when starting a project because you have the bobbins ready also. - Stella When I was setting up my sewing room $$$ was in short supply. To have a design wall the cheapest way possible I bought a flannel backed table cloth from WalMart for $2.00. Wrapped one end around a piece of light weight wood (long dowel, etc.), stapled it to the wood and draped it across a book case and let it hang down. It wraps up easily and can be stored in a closet. - Cheri in Washington A fishing tackle box makes a great quilt notions case. It has lots of little cubbies, it is portable, and it is very inexpensive. There are lots of shapes and sizes to choose from. They are sturdy because afterall, they were made for fishing and the out of doors. You can use it at home, or take it to classes. I have tried a number of things and this works the best. - Melinda While sewing, I scotch tape a paper (or plastic) bag to the right of the sewing machine. I can put all my threads and cut off pieces of fabrics (i.e. the selvedge). This keeps my sewing room floor neat and clean. - Cheri in Washington I have made a folder with several subfolders for all the tips I read or hear. That way I'm able to find it again, when I need it - e.g. wasn't there something about an easy way to make rotary cut easy triangles - I look in the folder for tips - subfolder for rotary cutting tips. I also have a subfolder for paper piecing, english paper piecing, applique, and so on. - Anne-Marie in Denmark For storing fabric scraps, I use a collapsible ("pop-up") mesh hamper -- available in discount stores often for under $5. Since you can see through the mesh, you can quickly get an idea of what to "grab" when you need a particular color/print. You can store an amazing amount of scraps by just pressing down on the pile, and the contents don't spill out when you reach in and "grab". When you need a large selection of scraps for a project, you can just pick up the hamper by the handle and carry it to your sewing area or to class. The "frame" gives it sturdiness, but the mesh gives a bit of flexibility for easy storage. They come in several sizes, but my 14x14x24 fits perfectly in several "nooks" in my sewing room. - Cheryl I used to keep all of my fabric in a dresser drawer. Now I use an old bookshelf. I took my large pieces of fabric and wrapped them around cardboard that had been cut to fit each shelf. Now I can see them ,and find the right color I need without going through the drawers and pulling out fabric. - Kellie in Ohio I place a grocery bag (handles) under the sewing machine so I can catch my scraps when I cut thread or grade seams. When full, all I have to do is pull off and throw away, then put on another one. - Darlene in Florida Those 7 day pill organizers, you can get from the dollar store, make great bobbin holders, when getting ready for a project or class. - Linda in South Carolina I used the old silverware basket out of a broken dishwasher and attached it to the wall behind my sewing machine to hold all my scissors, pencils, etc. Works great. - DeAnn in Texas From my florist, I use the netting that comes on the flowers over my spools of thread to hold it all together for storage. No loose ends, everything neat as a pin. - Deborah in Missouri When marking rows to be sewn together I use safety pins. I use the same number of pins in each section or row. For instance, I use 1 pin on the rows to be joined maybe on each corner, the next row I will use 2 and so forth. I cannot see my marking pen or little nips. It helps keep my blocks in order. - Violet in Mississippi Make up a list of your UFOs in chronological order (from oldest project to newest). You can also give yourself permission to not ever finish a project. If you do that, just put the fabric back on the shelf and the pattern where


you store your patterns. Then work on a quick project and then a more time consuming one, then an quick project again, etc. until they are all finished. Keep this list where you will see it each time you are cutting or sewing. As you finish each project, mark it with a yellow highlighter so that you can easily see how much you have accomplished. You will be surprised at how many more UFOs you finish with this technique. - Janet in Nevada I use a set of storage boxes that used to hold the floss for embroidery sold in the stores to hold my threads, chalks,and other notions. My scissors even fit in one of the compartments. You can use one of those clear fronted storage cubes that are sold in hardware stores to hold screws etc to do the same thing. I can see whats inside the drawer but its safe from little fingers. - Deb in South Dakota When using plastic templates for marking quilts, I use double stick tape on the back to secure the template while tracing the pattern. This works great with large templates as well as small. - Roxann in Missouri When I get a whole load of scraps from different projects from quilting I seperate them into colour groups and put them in a zip lock bag so if i want a certain colour for applique or a quilt block its at my finger tips. Right now I am getting clear tote boxes to put them in so they will become stackable. - Frances in Calgary, Alberta, Canada First of all, my tip is to purchase a huge photo album to organize quilt squares. I am part of a Study in Color pass around quilt. We are making blocks, then pass it to the next quilter and she adds a fat quarter and makes a block and then passes it on to the next. She adds fabric and also uses fabric that has been collected through the exchange and so on and so on and son on! In the end I will recieve a collection of blocks for a quilt top! I found it easy to start by putting my finished block into a large photo album and then wrote a short story. I will be getting my quilt album back soon and have seen it throughout the exchange and the blocks have remained very neat and the stories are ready to put into a journal of my quilt's story. - Lynn in Minnesota When you look through new quilt magazines, bookmark pages of special interest with bright sticky notes. Add any notes you want for quick references to the sticky note. Then file your magazines in binders by inserting the plastic, 3 hole magazine holders in each magazine. Label the spine of the binder with magazine title. - Carolyn in Texas The small hangers that come with socks are ideal for hanging strips or binding. Just hang them close to your sewing machine and they are ready to use. - Anne in Ontario, Canada I purchased a portable tackle tote (from the fishing department)in the sporting goods department of a local department store. I use all the zipper compartments to hold my sewing/quilting tools that I use for classes or need if I am traveling. It holds scissors & snippers, rotary cutters and extra blades, thread and bobbins, tape measures, and other necessary items such as change and chocolate! It folds up very neatly and has handles so you can carry it around with ease. The $10-$15 price was right. My fellow sewing/quilting friends love this easy way to carry around all their STUFF! - Lynn in Minnesota This is a tip to help you when you are shopping for the right fabrics to coordinate with a project or stash that you have at home. Keep a business card folder in your purse/bag/or car and insert into the plastic dividers, a small rectangle or snip of the fabrics you are trying to coordinate. How many times have we gone to get a blue fabric and realized there are hundreds of shades and values of a particular color. - Stella in New York Organize fabric by color. Wash all new fabric (after basting cut edges), dry, and iron. Use a color wheel for order of arrangement--include all precut pieces (triangles, squares, strips, etc.) in order of size regardless of shade or tint. (For example all shades of red are considered "red"). Put each group of fabric in labeled boxes, on shelves or in drawers. Label by color if necessary. It may take a couple days to set collection in this order, but it saves loads of time later and enables you to not over buy in a color. - Marita in Kentucky Use old type metal shower curtain rings to hold together your quilting stencils. You can access any single one without removing the others! - Mary Ann in Winnipeg To keep your sewing and quilting area less cluttered and to have easy access to needed items, (i.e. scissors, tapes measure, quick quarter, small rulers and templates, lotion, etc.) keep a small flat basket by your machine or in the near vacinity of your machine. You would be amazed at the steps you will save and everything is handy. - Lynn in Washington Photo albums with 5"x7" clear drop into pages are great for storing "Dear Jane" blocks till you have them all made. - Mary Ann in Winnipeg Whenever I receive my quilt magazines in the mail, I grab an ink pen and a plain white address label. I stick this label on the outer back cover. As I look through the magazine, I jot down the page number and a mini-


description of the pattern that catches my eye. Then when I am ready to start a new quilt project, all I need to do is flip my magazines to their back side and read my labels. With just a glance I know where a favorite star pattern or scrappy pattern may be in my magazines. All this is done on the back cover which allows me to keep my beautiful front cover as is! - Marcia in Iowa When storing your fabric put it in clear plastic drawers or storage boxes and instead of piling it into these containers- file it. When you go to get a colour it is visible at a glance without emptying everything out. - Bonnie in Ontario, Canada I bought a metal utensil rack at the hardware store for $2 (like you use in the kitchen for hanging spoons etc.) I placed it on the wall near my sewing machine and hang my rotary cutters, scissors, pinking shears, etc. right beside my sewing machine. No more fussing through the drawers to find these while sewing! - Marcy in Cape Girardeau, MO I keep swatches of current projects or UFO's in a mini spiral notebook in my purse. I always will be able to match up fabric. And not miss a sale or a "maybe this will work" fabric. - Angela in Indiana I recently discovered a new use for an old four peg mug stand. It is perfect for my scissors and rotary cutters. It keeps them in the open and easy access next to my machine. Small snips and rotary cutters go on the two lower pegs and full size scissors and cutters on the upper pegs. - Debbie in Florida

Paper Piecing I make my own foundations for blocks, so after I've drawn them (on graph paper) I photocopy enough to make at least two blocks, then store them in the clear plastic covers that are generally sold at stationery shops. I keep them in 3-ring binders, and they're ready when I need to make another block. In the front of each binder, I have index-pages that show the patterns in that binder - a page of 4-to-an-inch paper will show 6 blocks, reduced to 3 inches. - Christine in California For paper-piecing I purchase tablets of parchment tracing paper and cut the paper down to the appropriate size to go through my printer. It really helps to be able to see through the paper when you are piecing. - Sandra in New York Keep the scotch tape handy when paper piecing....holds that first piece in place...easier to deal with than pins...just remove before pressing. Also...good for basting bindings....I hate getting jabbed by pins! - Jeni in Vermont Test the accuracy of photocopied paper-piecing patterns by drawing a line measuring 1" somewhere outside of the paper-piecing pattern. Measure the photocopied line and make adjustments if necessary. - Carol in Maine Freezer paper is great for paper-piecing! Draw or print your pattern on the paper side and press your first fabric piece in the #1 spot on the waxy side. Sew your next fabric piece as your normally would and press to "lock" it in place. Continue on until pattern is finished. Fabric does not slip and the design comes out perfectly! Joan in Georgia When doing paper piecing, to be sure your fabric is big enough, crease on sew line, turn over and if the material is covering the piece you are adding - it will fit!! - Renee in New York Use half of a regular wooden clothespin to finger-press the seams of small applique or paper-pieced blocks. Just a few passes over the seam, easy and quick. - Rebecca in Idaho When I do paper piecing, I make the foundation block an inch larger than the finished block. Place a thin piece of batting over it and do the paper piecing as directed, sewing through the batting and backing foundation. This way, I have my quilting done at the same time and no quilting stitches on top to distort the design. Fold the foundation back from the finished block, sew the block to the next one, trim off excess batting and foundation from one side of the blocks. Stitch the excess foundation from the other block to sew them together. I make a row across, use the same method to sew the rows together. Takes a little longer, but saves a lot of time quilting, and looks so much better. - Audrey For paper piecing: go to your local newspaper and ask to buy the end rolls of paper, sometimes they will just give them to you, a nice weight and tears away easily. Lots more on an end roll than you think, suitable for quilting groups or just you. - Faydell in Texas


When paper piecing, use sharp pointed tweezers to remove the paper when all is finished. - Peg in Tanzania, E. Africa Use tracing paper for paper piecing. It is much easier to see through and tear away than freezer or typing paper. - Barbara in Texas When you are foundation piecing, use plastic coated paper clips to hold two parts of a block together. Pins distort the paper and the block, and it is easier to remove the clips than it is to remove pins. - Hilary in Saskatchewan I love paper-pieced projects. However, I had a hard time finding affordable, easy to tear & see through paper for the foundation. What I found was wax paper. The best way to use it is to iron off the wax between old news paper. ** ironing off wax is important** Other wise it is hard to write on. I also print on the ironed wax paper in my computer printer. I print patterns right on the wax paper. I like to scan my patterns into my computer then print the scanned image. It works wonderfully and tears easily. Oh and it is affordable too. The scanner also makes increasing & decreasing pattern sizes easy. Enjoy!! - Carollen in Massachusetts When paper piecing, try to have ironing board set up behind you & lowered to the height of an office-type swivel chair. Easier to turn around. Don't have one...good suggestion for Christmas or birthday. - Dot in NSW Australia When doing paper piecing with points or seams to match, machine baste the area or seam line. You can leave it in or take it out when you have it sewn. - Judy in Indiana Instead of buying expensive tissue paper for paper piecing, ask your doctor for the end of the rolls of table paper. They often throw out the last few feet and it works like a charm. You can even roll up your pattern tracings and keep them inside the roll, so they are ready when you want them. - Wendy in Ontario For paper piecing paper, go to the kids school department and pick up a Doodle Tablet (9x12). These papers are thin like "Big Chief" tablets and rip away easy, not to mention they 80 sheets for less than $2.00. They go through your printer too. it is the gray looking paper with no lines. In fact, it reminds me of the feel of newspaper. It works great, especially if you use a tiny stitch it just about comes off for you! -Larisa Malone, TX Sew-and-Sew's Patterns To make removing the paper foundation from paper-pieced projects easier, use lightweight paper and set your sewing machine's stitch length to a short setting. This will make your foundation tear away much like a postage stamp and will prevent the block from being pulled out of shape. -Kim Noblin, BlockCentral.com Make several copies of a paper-piecing pattern a snap by using your sewing machine. Lay the sheet of paper containing your foundation pattern on top of several sheets of plain paper and sew along the sewing lines with an unthreaded sewing machine. The perforations in the paper will be your sewing lines for the paper piecing pattern. Leave your paper foundations in place until all blocks have been sewn into a quilt top. The result will be greater precision and less distortion due to fabric being stretched when the paper foundation is removed. Use a short stitch length when sewing your fabric to the paper foundation, but use a regular stitch length when sewing blocks together. Fabric foundations should be marked with a permanent marker to avoid "bleeding" onto the front of the block. A Pigma pen is an excellent choice for this. To make removing paper foundations easier, try lightly dampening the seam with a sponge. When joining sub-units or blocks, use vinyl coated paperclips instead of pins. Color code your foundation patterns for faster piecing. Use an open toe or clear foot on your machine if you have difficulty seeing the lines on your foundation. Machine-baste around the outer edges of your finished block, just inside the seam allowance. This will keep your fabric pieces anchored when you join blocks. If you use fabric as your foundation, cut the foundation square even with the grain of the fabric. Test the accuracy of photocopied foundations by drawing a line measuring 1" somewhere outside of the foundation pattern. Measure the photocopied line and make adjustments if necessary.


For greater accuracy when joining blocks with matching points, try basting the blocks before sewing. Check for accuracy. If all points are matching, sew again using a regular stitch. If points don't match, remove the basting and try, try, again!

Quilt Care I store my many wall hangings by wrapping them around the paper tubes from wrapping paper (right side out). Then I place them in a pillow case and that keeps them from rolling off the shelf. - Carol in Michigan How to get blood out of your quilts: Dip a cotton ball in hydrogen peroxide and rub it in to stain and it will vanish." - Lora in Oklahoma Roll your quilts on wrapping paper tubes covered with acid free tissue paper to make them safe for your quilt. - Rhonda in Washington Save your empty cardboard tubes from Christmas wrapping paper and roll your quilts onto the tubes to store them. The quilts will not wrinkle on the closet shelf. - Anne in California Don't fold quilts in half and then in quarters--the dent in the middle shows quickly. Fold it in thirds horizontially and then vertically. There is less less wrinkling if the pieced side is out. - Nancy in Florida

Quilt Labels For quilt labels, set your machine to alphabet stitching and sew your name and other information right into the fabric. Quilt over the top of the lettering. - Carolyn in New Zealand To make sure that the label you add to your quilt cannot be removed, stitch to the back of the quilt before the quilting is completed. Quilt through the label. - Noreen in Massachusetts


Quilting Tips from Around the World