Tips from Our Readers, Group #2

The image above is "Redbird Pincushion" by Nancy Conn, published in our Winter 2011 issue.

This is group 2 of our Reader Tips from our October 24th newsletter survey. These make for enjoyable reading. Tips cover topics ranging from taking your time and enjoying yourself, to various ways of holding pieces in place, to myriad favorite products, and so much more. Enjoy!

  • I grew up with utility quilts made from scraps, recycled fabrics, feed sacks, and muslin. Some were old favorite patterns; a few were meticulous works of art. I was always told to make a quilt to last and to please myself. Nobody I knew worried about technique or how skillful or artful they were. They just wanted warm bedding! So that is what guides me when I make a quilt. I am forever grateful that I have the luxury of choosing beautiful fabrics and notions....and I did not have to pick or process the cotton for the batting. Quilting is truly my act of joy!
  • Using a stapler to hold down my wool pieces until I get them stitched. I am working on Gathering of Friends by Rebekah L Smith from the Winter 2!015 issue and had all the pieces perfectly placed and did not want to move them. Staples work great; are easy to remove and don't poke!
  • Don't try to be perfect. Trying to be perfect is exhausting.
  • Use Heat & Bond lite to fuse down your wool pieces before stitching! No pins to deal with!
  • Using the correct needles and thread. It definitely makes a difference! I was using just anything I could dig up!
  • When I wind bobbins, wind three or four. Then I always have one to ready to go when the bobbin runs out. I also wipe the lint out of the bobbin case and feed dogs when I change the bobbin. Always ready to sew.
  • How to do a back stitch. I have embroidered since I was little and assumed I knew what a back stitch was. Wrong. So happy a friend showed me the right way.
  • Mark the slot on a spool of thread with a marking pen. This makes finding the slot to secure the end of the thread much easier. Because you see the slot when cutting your thread, it is very easy to secure the end and you never end up with a tangle, wasting yards of thread.
  • Take the time to do it right. A little scrape of fabric makes starting a new seam smooth and easy.
  • To enjoy the process - because it makes me slow down.
  • Knot at the eye- keeps you from having rethread constantly.
  • Don't trim your fingernails too close so it is easy to pick up your needle.
  • My best friend’s mother, who was a seamstress, told me this when I was in high school.
  • My best tip was to start out the blanket stitch using varied lengths, some shorter, some longer, until I figured out which length seemed best for me. I did this on a little needle keep, around petals, leaves and flower centers. After that, I was comfortably using a consistent stitch and could adjust according to the size of the appliqué.
  • Take your time on doing any project.
  • When you rush you get uneven stitches and possible puckers. It looks sloppy.
  • I learned how to make half square triangles. Learning this expanded my choices of quilting projects & saved me a lot of sewing & cutting time.
  • I was taught to practice stitching on muslin to get my stitches even before starting on my main project.
  • Using Soft Fuse by Shades Textiles is the best tip. The reason why is the ease of hand stitching. Works well for wool on wool and wool on cotton. Love Soft Fuse!
  • Use good thread! It makes such a difference!
  • Stitch through just two or three threads on the edge of applique© to get a now show stitch. Your stitches disappear.
  • Make a little time every day for stitching. You can get a lot more accomplished than you think in a small block of time.
  • To stop trying to make my quilt piecing perfect so I could enjoy my project.
  • Chain piecing, and Bonnie Hunter's 'leader/ender' system. Saves thread, time, and I work on 2 quilts while I get to sew!
  • Buttermilk Basin's Stacey West told me to use fray check around the edges of velvet before removing it from the fusible. She said to let it dry and then the velvet will not fray, just like wool.
  • Less is better when it comes to the blanket stitch. I remember this so I don’t stitch too closely together or to heavy!
  • If you make a mistake, have the patience to take time to fix it. This has made me slow down and enjoy and appreciate what I am working on.
  • for wool appliqué I use Aurifil wool 12wt thread. you can use it for hand or machine sewing.
  • 'Anything you can do by machine, you can do by hand, probably better.' My quilt teacher said that at my first quilt class when we grumbled about hand-piecing. Now I love to hand piece, appliqué and especially hand quilt.
  • You can run a needle through your hair to make it easier to go through the fabric.
  • Using freezer paper when appliquéing.
  • RELAX YOUR SHOULDERS AND WORK ON A PILLOW OR LAPAPP TABLE TO BRING THE PROJECT UP CLOSER.
  • My newest favorite tip is Starching fabric before cutting. Starch gives the fabric body and helps stabilize possible bias edges. also helps control fabric raveling.
  • It's not how you start, it how you finish. When you start you may have an idea of what you want the finished project to look like. As you continue working on it, new ideas of adding stitches here and there or new colors of thread may supplant your previous thoughts. Creation is not stagnant.
  • That the eye of a needle is larger on one side so if you are having trouble threading your needle turn it around and try - it just might be easier.
  • Always use the correct needle for the correct project. Better results. Thank you.
  • Take the first stitch, then another. Don't criticize until you've done at least five. That way you'll have started, seen your progress, and will continue because you can start to visualize the future.
  • Using a silk thread for cotton appliqué as it blends right in.
  • How to bury the tails of the thread so the back looks as neat as the front.
  • Take your time and enjoy the process.... because we hurry through so many things in life, it is nice to take the time to enjoy your stitching and think about all your blessings.
  • I like to quickly baste wool or cotton appliqué pieces onto the background fabrics. It makes the work lie flat and stay in place. I can concentrate on improving my beginner hand stitching skills. I also find it easier to bring along to gatherings and not worry about sticking or lost pins.
  • To not worry about everything being perfect!! No one looking at the final piece will pick out that 1 stitch that’s just a little short! Enjoy the process and stand back and admire the results.
  • We often get so embroiled in the need for perfection that it’s hard to let go and just enjoy it!
  • Remember when doing half square triangles if it asks for that 7/8-inch increment to be cut out, go up to the full inch and just trim them down. You will have an accurate size for your quilt that way. No wonky squares.
  • Slow stitching is the best stitching. It is calming and gives you time to truly enjoy it.
  • How to make a quilter's knot is one of the best stitching tips I've received. Before getting this tip my knots were big and ugly, and they often caused large lumps in my quilt.
  • Use the correct needle for the project i.e. milliners for needle turn applique!
  • Go slow, pay attention to details. Have fun. Enjoy the process.
  • Take your time and most importantly enjoy the time spent stitching.
  • Using wonder clips instead of pins.
  • Use 12' pieces of floss to do Sashiko embroidery.
  • Test the quarter-inch seam before piecing a project.
  • The best stitching tip I have ever received was take your time in planning your quilt. I hand quilt and I was taught that each stitch will secure your pieces, but you must make sure that your stitch design should match your quilt, if it's flowers, quilt it so that it reflects flowers, etc. :).
  • The best stitching tip I've ever received was to be sure to use a sharp needle when doing hand appliqué and to make sure the stitches are hidden by going into the same hole in the fabric as you have exited from.
  • How to start off without making a knot.
  • How to tie a quilters knot.
  • You'll laugh, but the best stitching advice I've received is having proper back support and lighting! So basic, but so essential. The more comfortable you are, the more you get done, with no soreness of your back or eye strain.
  • Be consistent in your stitching. Being consistent in my stitching creates a piece where my stitches are uniform and are similar in size which is pleasing to the eye.
  • Putting tape on my sewing machine to get perfect 1/4-inch seams.
  • Rather than using a buttonhole stitch for all wool applique, to use whip stitch which gives it a more primitive look which I like.
  • Use a correct quarter inch when stitching.
  • When hand embroidering with less than 6 strands of floss, pull apart the strands you are using to untwist them before putting through your needle. It is a good tip to keep your stitches neat and keep the thread from knotting up while you sew.
  • I don't press units of a block when I am joining the units – it’s gives a little wiggle room when joining. It works for me for joining blocks too.
  • Before threading floss, pinch it between your fingers and pull it through to determine the smoothest direction. This prevents it from tangling as much.
  • Don't sweat the small stuff- the beauty of wool appliqué is that it easily adapts to everyone's individual style- there is no right or wrong; only the way that YOU like!
  • I travel a lot and my best stitching tip is to always carry the IDEAWORKS folding light that works by batteries (I carry extra in my suitcase). It’s small light weight and fits perfect anywhere especially on an airplane tray. There is never enough light for stitching and this gives off lots of great lighting.
  • I love hand appliqué and when it was suggested to me to try silk thread, I was in love! I sew using a small needle, silk thread, and often, magnifiers that clip to my glasses. Good, close lighting is also a must.
  • Good lighting! Light should come over left shoulder for right handed stitchers and over right shoulder for left handed persons.
  • If the back looks as good as the front you’re doing a great job.
  • To use wax on the thread because it made the floss so much easier to work with.
  • Always check twice before cutting. Sometimes you are not paying full attention to what you are doing and by doing it twice you either know you are right OR wrong.
  • Take your time. It often saves having to rip out stitches and resew.
  • TO be gentle when pulling your thread, the less tension the better the result. By the way this is easier said than done.
  • Marking the embroidery on wool or any medium using press and seal and a fine marker. Place press and seal over pattern, trace. Please marked press and seal on wool it.
  • Whatever project having marked reference points to place correctly. Embroider right through the press and seal. Carefully remove press and seal by gently pulling it towards you. Perfect placement. Easy, and accurate.
  • When doing primitive style appliqué like Maggie Bonanomi does, do not change the color of your thread. Just stitch everything with a soft light brown color. It simply melts into the background.
  • Use a quarter inch foot for the perfect quarter inch stitch.
  • If it's an intricate pattern, stitch early in the day. Your eyes won't be tired and there is bright sunlight.
  • Do what makes you happy. If you don’t enjoy the piece you are working on, it will show. Your best work will always be seen on a project you enjoy,.
  • I have found this to be so true, if you lose your patience put it down for a while!
  • I think you make more mistakes if you’re not in the right frame of mind and stitching should be joy filled not frustrating.
  • Have plenty of filled bobbins for the machine or pre-threaded needles for hand stitching.
  • Be daring and make each project your own whether it be by changing the stitches or color combinations. By choosing what you like, you have a unique project instead of something someone else created and you copied.
  • I learned how to buttonhole stitch going from left to right. Years later, I took a class and the teacher showed us that if we went from right to left, the thread would not tangle or twist. What a revelation!
  • You will never get bored if you keep your projects going. Have one you are planning, one you are piecing, one you are quilting and something portable to work on by hand, like embroidery or beading. Someone said this to me years ago, when I told her I was stuck in a rut about a quilting pattern. This advice has always helped me keep moving along...
  • Use good lighting, such as an Ott light. Take your time. It is not a race. Imperfect is ok.
  • Don’t be afraid to take it out and do it again.
  • Wear a thimble. You’ll be able to stitch longer!
  • The best type was how to do no waste flying geese. I was never able to make an accurate flying geese block and not only am I able to do them now with the no waste method, but I also don't waste fabric.
  • Be patient and easy with your stitches.
  • Practice new stitches on scraps before trying on your project so that you don’t have to remove what doesn’t work! Don’t be afraid to try different fabrics/ thread combinations.
  • When I hand sew, I remember my mother telling me to use the bees wax to keep the thread from knotting.
  • Make your half square triangles a little big, you can square them up to the perfect size. This makes everything fit together better.
  • I love to do paper piecing and was always stumped when starting. Great tip from a wonderful teacher, for my first strip of fabric, 'wrong side of fabric to wrong side of paper pattern'...works like a charm for me. I also use a 'Add-a-Quarter' ruler. Just finished a paper pieced pumpkin wall hanging. Love it!
  • Work with wool! I love it.
  • Go slow and enjoy the process.
  • With each stitch rotate your needle slightly to prevent twisting your thread.
  • How to get a 1/4 seam allowance and a scant 1/4 stitch seam allowance.
  • Do not point out your mistakes. No one sees them. Now I just let people lol and I say nothing. Looks better than I thought.
  • For machine stitching, always use a 'starter' and 'stopper' [small piece of fabric at the beginning and ending of the seam] to save thread and to keep threads from tangling.
  • If I am machine appliqueing I found that using the Stitch in the Ditch foot works fantastic on curves as well as straighter lines. A great tip from an instructor.
  • Each little imperfection makes a piece perfectly yours.
  • Using 12 weight thread to do the blanket stitch by machine on wool or cotton. I can’t do hand stitching any longer and missed that pearl cotton look on my projects but now get almost the same look by machine :-).
  • To thread multiple needles when sewing on bindings, then you can just keep going once you have started and are on a roll, rather than having to stop and re-thread needles all the time.
  • Always keep your thread at a maximum of 18 inches.
  • Was told to use an Elmer's glue stick to hold pieces in place before hand stitching. It works great!
  • Take your time and read directions. You spend less time removing stitches and you will get the results you want.
  • it doesn't have to be perfect!
  • My best stitching tip was a book I got a lot of years ago on invisible appliqué. That info has served me well for years and on many projects. There are several methods out there, but my method is a good fit for me.
  • How to do blanket stitch evenly. I try not to rush it and have worked on getting my stitches of the same length and width. I do lots of primitive appliqué in both cotton and wool. And when I do blanket stitch on my machine and then to do more difficult pieces, I match what on my machine with my hand stitching.
  • In prep for stitching - use Roxanne's glue instead of fusibles for wool and use freezer paper as templates. After that, stitching is that much easier - either by hand or with sewing machine.
  • Make sure your thread is no more than 18 inches or you will get tangles.
  • Sometimes the first one it not perfect. I used to belittle myself if the first thing was not perfect. I have lightened up, and make multiples. One or more will be perfect.
  • Don't be afraid to change a design to fit your own personal taste and style. This could mean simply changing a color or mix and matching parts of other patterns such as a border or even eliminating some elements of the original pattern all together. This will satisfy your own sense of creativity and originality while stitching something you would be proud to hang in your home or give to a friend as a gift.
  • Measure twice and cut once. This tip from my mom has probably saved me many dollars.