Answers from 2011

Mom's Answers - 2011

Summer 2011, Poor Vision
Dear Mom: My vision is not what it used to be but I really enjoy sewing and quilting and wonder if you have any suggestions? Peggy

Dear Peggy: I understand your concern as I also have that problem. Mine is caused by Macular Degeneration and will not improve. My mother also had this problem and I watched and wondered with awe how she managed to get around and, up into her 90s, could still tat. I don’t know if you are familiar with tatting but it is not easy even with the BEST of eyes. My left eye is shot and my right eye is starting to go, so you can see that I have been working hard trying to manage my quilting, sewing and knitting and most recently using the computer to answer questions. I will address the computer at the end.

The most helpful thing I have found for all the problems I have with low vision is the Ott light I bought last year. It is wonderful for people with low vision. I have found that I can still hand quilt using a threader by laying the needle on my finger, rolling it around until I can, by feel, insert the threader. Then (and this gets to be funny) I try to insert the thread into the threader. I have decided that with NASA’s space program doing such wondrous things, they could surely color the fine silver wire so that I can find it. Because of my MD, my perception is also off and getting the thread through that silly silver wire is a real problem. It sometimes takes a number of tries but often times only twice. There isn’t a problem putting stitches on the needle but there is a problem putting the needle down in the right place so that my lines are not zigzagged. To manage, I lay the thread across a colored piece of the fabric and follow it over to where it came out of the material. Then I carefully place the needle there and keep it there until I can push it through with my thimble.

As for using the sewing machine, I discovered that since I don’t have a quarter inch foot for my current machine, I decided to just use the edge of my foot to guide the material and if my 45”x60” quilt turns out to be 42”x58”, well that’s life. When I go to thread the needle in the machine, I simply use a needle threader…put it through the needle from the back so that it pulls your thread from the front to back. Voila! I also use a magnifier to read the directions. I have a new printer now with a scanner and am going to try to scan in the directions and change the font to about 18, print it and make my life easier!

If you use a computer, I hope you have tried the several ways your computer can make YOUR life easier. Hit the start button, click on "All Programs," choose "Accessories," then "Accessibility," and you will find several ways to make your computer easier to use.
Thank you for your question.

Fall 2011, Mitered Borders
Dear Mom,
I am making a quilt with mitered borders. Do I press the seams open on the border, which I think would lie flatter? I have always been taught to press the seams to the side. How should I tackle this?
Thank you. Martha

Dear Martha: I too have always been taught to press the seams to the side, but after some research I have found this principle is a leftover from hand piecing. A seam pieced by hand with a running stitch is not strong, and so it is pressed to one side, not to strengthen the seam, but to cover the holes which would invariably open along the seam and let out the batting. The seam is not made any stronger by pressing it to one side; just the weakness is covered up.

Now, with machine piecing, pressing to the side is not necessary and I for one will keep that in mind from now on. I believe that you are correct; it will lay flatter if you press the mitered seam open. I will be doing it that way now. I suppose it also wouldn’t hurt to make your stitches just a tad smaller…probably less chance that it would pull it apart when pressed open.

Thank you for your question, Martha.  Happy Quilting,

Winter 2011
Macular Degeneration

Dear Readers: I want to thank all of you who have emailed to tell me about your family members or friends who also have macular degeneration and some of the vitamins or treatments they are taking that might help me as well. I appreciate the information and passed most of it along to my ophthalmologist. Thank you also for your kind expressions of hope and encouragement.

Cut WOF or LOF
Dear Mom:

I asked my friend, who was a great quilter, whether it mattered if I cut my strips or pieces across (WOF) or lengthwise (LOF). She told me to always cut across. I asked why and she said, “Because I said so!” Sadly, my friend is no longer with us. Even though I miss her terribly and still value her opinion, I think we would all benefit from a little more information on the subject.
Thank you.

Dear Sandi:
The direction you cut your fabric is important, and it depends on what part of the block you are cutting. If you are cutting strips to sew together and make other parts of the block, you should cut across the grain, or the width of fabric (WOF). If you are using templates, some include arrows that indicate whether they should be cut on the cross or straight (LOF) grain.

If you are using up scraps, you can test them to determine the direction of straight or cross grain. Just pull the material gently. Straight grain will barely stretch, while cross grain will stretch a little more. If it is very stretchy, it is probably the bias. Choose whichever gives you the maximum amount of material you need for the patch you are trying to cut.

When you are making triangles, you need to look at how the piece is going to fit into the block. A triangle may have one or two bias sides, which stretch more than the others. It’s best to make sure the stretchy sides are not on the outside edges of your block or quilt because it’s difficult to press them without stretching them. This can make your block irregular-shaped or slightly larger than specified. Keep this in mind when you are laying out your blocks on the diagonal with setting squares and triangles. For the setting triangles, you need to cut a square diagonally twice so that the two stretchy sides are attached to the adjacent blocks and the less stretchy side is on the outside edge. Sewing the triangles into the non-bias edges will give them strength.

For the four corner triangles, you will need to cut a square diagonally once so you will have two non-stretchy sides on the outer edge. The bias side is sewn into the non-bias corner, giving it added strength. Many patterns give you complete directions on how to cut the pieces. Sometimes I draw my own picture of the quilt so I can make sure I am doing things correctly—although Dad says my drawings don’t really look like quilts! Still, this is one case where a picture is truly worth a thousand words.

So, Sandi, you do not always cut across the grain. Sometimes you may want to cut on the straight grain instead.  As a matter of fact, if you can afford the extra material, cutting the borders on the straight grain (lengthwise) makes for a much stronger border and results in a quilt that will square up nicely.  I hope this lesson on cutting strips helped!

Happy Quilting,