Thursday, September 30, 2010

Quilts in a Barn?

This past Saturday I went to a quilt show in a barn. Yup. But this was no ordinary barn - it was a newer show barn built on a beautiful, century-old estate.  This is an annual quilt show put on by a local group of women as a fundraiser for The Road Home - a local homeless shelter.
So I thought I'd share a little bit of what I saw.  
A charming setting for a lot of lovely quilts.
 Some good circle inspiration now that I have my circle die cut!

 You know me: drawn to the vintage looking stuff.
 These little appliqué flowers were so sweet.
 There was also a craft market with proceeds going to the cause as well.
Love the fabric on that first apron!
 These guys (Shetland Ponies) were made homeless themselves while the quilts overtook their quarters. But they seemed plenty happy basking in the warm sunny day and posing for pictures.
Lovely fall decor, including a live goat who happened to be consuming some of the fall decor. Presumably no quilts were consumed or harmed by small domesticated farm animals in the production of this charitable fundraiser.

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Quilt Along Series: Cutting Fabric

Part 4 of the Beginning Quilting Series

Grab your rotary cutters! (Wait! Please make sure the safety thingy is in place first!) Cutting fabric. Does it scare the heck out of you? Hopefully from this day on you will wield a rotary-cutter with confidence.
Rotary cutters have made cutting fabric much more accurate and efficient.  I love my rotary cutter. Be careful though – those blades are sharp.  Make it a habit to keep the safety cover in position and the cutter hidden away from curious small people.
An important – and sometimes over-looked – aspect of cutting fabric is squaring-up the fabric edges before you start hacking-off strips or squares. Sometimes the fabric is wound funny on the bolt or the busy fabric-store worker may just randomly hack off your yardage.  Above is a piece that I brought home from the fabric shop. When I stopped to match-up the selvage edges I found out how off it was.
Before you start cutting:
  • Match-up selvage edges
  • Press the fabric. This may include re-pressing the center fold if the fabric was stretched out of place.
  • A light mist of spray starch can also keep things crisp and help with accuracy.
After fabric is pressed and lined-up nicely we want to trim any uneven or frayed edges so we start cutting with a clean, square edge. (Why all the fuss? What happens if we don’t square-up the edges? Your strips will end up in a useless v-shape instead of a straight line.)
  • 1- Line up center fold with a straight line on the cutting mat
  • 2- Use rotary cutter to trim off the uneven edge
  • 3- Line up a straight line on the ruler with folded edge to make sure your strip is square
  • 4- Now you’re ready to cut your first strip at the desired width.  Whenever possible, use your ruler (not the grid on the mat) to measure the width of the strip. Place the ruler over the fabric at the desired width.
When using the ruler and rotary cutter, hold the ruler in place with a wide, steady hand. Make sure your finger is not hanging over the edge of the ruler. (Trust me on this one. Blood on nice fabric is not pretty.) Cutting while standing will give you more control.
There are other helps to keep your ruler from sliding around.  The Notions department at the fabric store sells little sandpaper dots you can stick on the back of your ruler. I use Nexcare Flexible Clear Tape on the bottom of my ruler. I like it  because it’s cheap and clear.
Grip the rotary cutter firmly and push it away from your body like a pizza cutter. Be sure to put pressure on the cutter so that it goes through all layers of fabric and keep the blade right next to the edge of the ruler. (The above demo is obviously for right handed folks.  Reverse the image if you are left handed.)
If all this seems like a lot to keep track of, remember, the more you do it, the faster it will get and the more it will become automatic. But don’t be afraid to take it slow at first and remember the old carpenter’s rule: measure twice, cut once. Double check your ruler before you start slicing!
For our Quilt Along project, we are going to need these cut pieces:
  • 81 – 4 ½” (4″ finished) squares. You should be able to get 9 squares out of  1/8th yard. (Or 64 5″ squares if you are using a Charm Pack.)
  • 4 - 3 ½” strips for border fabric.
  • 4 – 2 ½” strips for binding fabric. (see photo at the top.)
I am using different fabrics for my border and binding (in my case yellow pin stripe for borders and red alphabet print for binding), but you could use the same fabrics if you want. For this quilt I would go with a smaller print or solid for borders to frame the patchwork part of the quilt -especially if the squares are busy. Also keep in mind that the border fabric will become the dominant color of the quilt so go with the color you like best.

Up next Tuesday in our Quilt Along Series: Piecing Squares

Originally posted at Make and Takes

Monday, September 27, 2010

Accuquilt Go! Cutter Review

 I was recently give the opportunity to test drive an Accuquilt Go! Cutter.

Saturday, September 25, 2010

Bee Blocks

 A few recent Bee Blocks that I never posted.

These spiderweb blocks are for Natalie of Beyond the Reef. I've always wanted to try the spider web block. My work is not perfect (sorry to be your guinea pig, Natalie).  Part of my defense is that I was blinded by her amazing choice of fabrics. Lots of Denyse Schmidt, a little Joel Dewberry - and they all looked so cool with that charcoal gray to set them off!  You can see some of the blocks assembled here.
This quilt-as-you-go block is for Erica of Crafty Blossom.  Again, my first time trying a new technique I've been eyeing and admiring for a while now. This is based on Penny's Quilt-as-you-go tutorial, which is great. Erica sent lots of vintage fabrics which also made it very fun.  I even added a small piece of my own vintage fabric find. Can you spot it?
I think every bee block I've done has been a total pleasure.  I've tried blocks that I've had my eye on without having to commit to a whole quilt. And I got to play with other people's cool fabric.  My month is coming up in November. Which means I need to finally decide what I want to do. Clearly I have commitment issues.

PS If you want to see other quilt-as-you-go awesomeness check out Heather at Alamodefabric.

Thursday, September 23, 2010

The Quilt Pattern is finally ready!

Remember this quilt? 

First off - thank you for all the kind wishes you extended to my friend. It's clear that most of us have been affected by issues with neurological disorders - either ourselves or someone we love. I hope that we can all continue to be open and frank about the reality of those issues because I think that is what will bring the most healing and help in those difficult situations.

Second - thank you so much for the kind quilt love! I have to be honest - I wondered if anyone would even like this quilt because in my mind, it was rushed and imperfect. So thank you for the lovely boost to my self-esteem.
I found a copy of the picture with the throw pillow that inspired the quilt.  I was working against a fast approaching deadline (the wedding!), so I had to simplify the design a lot, but someday I still want to do something with as many borders, etc. as that design has. Mmmm... the wheels in my brain are turning . . .

Finally- thanks for the awesome pattern name suggestions!! Some of my favorites included Plinko (by Jen O), aMAZEing Grace (by Gremma), and Life is Like a Box of Chocolates (by quilter girl).  But the one I finally chose was Chain Linked suggested by Kacey. Love it! Catchy and memorable. Kacey, send me an email and I'll send you a copy of the pattern!

Kacey wasn't the only person who mentioned 'links'. (But she was the first to suggest Chain Linked.) So all you other Link-inspired people (Rhonda, Marcia, Erin, Mary, Sooz and Alice R.) the pattern is yours at half-price. Send me an email and I'll tell you what to do.
Chain Linked by Amy Smart is now officially available for purchase for $8.00
in downloadable .pdf format.

  • The finished quilt measures 61" x 82". (Would be very simple to make bigger by adding borders or additional blocks.)
  • This quilt is definitely falls in the "amaze and astound your friends category" because it's very simple to put together; it only looks much more complicated than it really is. 
  • This pattern is Charm Pack friendly - you don't need a huge stash to achieve the multi-fabric look.
  • Solids require about 2 yards each of a dark and light fabric. Details in the pattern.
This pattern consists of  4-pages of color instructions.  The pattern can be purchased by clicking on the Buy Now button above. It will also be available in my new Pattern Shop.  (See button over there --->? Towards the top??)  I will also list it in my etsy shop, but it's cheaper if you buy it here.  The pattern will be emailed as soon as payment clears.  Please let me know if there is interest in a hard-copy version and I will list that too.

Many thanks again for your encouragement.  I don't know if I would have had the guts to go forward with this  whole pattern business with out it.  Thanks also to Quilt Story for featuring this quilt and its story this week.

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

How to work with Quilt Patterns

When looking for a quilt design, there are a myriad of quilt pattern options to choose from. That can be a little overwhelming. Here are a few basics that might help.  Most quilting patterns have some things in common: A list of fabric requirements and directions for cutting the fabric, assembling the pieces, and laying out the quilt. 
Some tips to consider when working with most quilt patterns:
  • It’s a good idea to read the pattern all the way through before you start cutting into your fabric or sewing – helps to get ‘the big picture’ of the project.
  • Some patterns give experience levels such as Beginner, Intermediate and Advanced. Start with something simple for your first projects and save the more advanced designs after you’ve gained some confidence. Saves some possible frustration.
  • Patterns can be found individually packaged, in books, magazines or online. among others are great resources for free quilt patterns and tutorials.
One of the fun aspects of quilting is coming up with your own design. Some things to consider:
  • Graph paper and a ruler are helpful tools.
  • Keep in mind the basic rule of quilting: always sew with a ¼” seam allowance. (This might seem really small if you are used to sewing clothes.)  Therefore, you need to add that seam allowance on to all four sides of your shape.
For example, if you want to make a quilt out of 4” squares, you need to allow ¼” of fabric on all sides of the square for the seam allowance. This means you need to cut a 4 ½” square.  If you want to create a 4” block out of four different squares you want four 2”finished squares, which means you will need four 2 ½” squares. This will create an unfinished block at 4 ½” and a finished block at 4”.
Yes, quilting does require math. (See? Your elementary school teacher was right!) I look at it as a way to keep my brain from total atrophy and an effort to stave-off Alzheimers.
For this project, as we continue on our Quilt Along, we are going to make a baby quilt measuring 42″ x 42″ using 81 4″ squares with 3″ wide borders on all sides. Therefore we are going to cut 81 4½”squares. The quilt will be laid out 9 x 9 squares.
Fabric requirements are:
  • nine 1/8th yard pieces for blocks
Most stores will cut 1/8th yard pieces, but not all. Might be a good idea to ask first. I am using 10 different fabrics because I want two prints in each color, so I’m getting ten 1/8th yard pieces. Because I’m nerdy like that. If it’s easier, you can use 5 ¼ yard pieces. Just depends how many different fabrics you want in your quilt.
  • ½ yard for border
  • 3/8 yard for binding (this is the outside edge that finishes the quilt)
  • 1 ¼ yards for back
[If you choose to use Charm Packs instead of cutting your own fabric squares: these squares come pre-cut at 5". You will need 2 Charm Packs. You can either cut them down to 4 ½” squares and use 81 squares like the quilt above, or you can leave them at 5" and will only need 64 squares for a quilt layout of 8 x 8 squares. Either option works. Everything else will be the same: sewing, borders, quilting, etc.]
Up next Tuesday in our Quilt Along Series: Cutting Fabric
In other random thoughts:  
I'm quite pleased with the result.  But now I need an autumnish quilt.  I have scraps left over (and more fabric) and I think I'd like to make one like Denyse Schmidt's string quilts. A new project to add to the bottomless list! A couple of weeks ago I taught a Table Runner class based on the infamous Table Runner tutorial. (I love quilt/sewing classes. It's so fun to visit with other women and sew at the same time.) I decided it would be a good time to make a new autumnish table runner. I also like that it still looks good with my vintage turquoise pot-thingy.

Saturday, September 18, 2010

Saturday is a Special Day

Now that soccer schedules are done and college football keeps us around home a little more on Saturdays, I have high hopes for a productive day.  On my list:
  • get ready for an etsy shop update (think I-spy)
  • finish proofing the pattern for this quilt
  • tidy-up and organize my sewing space
  • maybe even finally hang these hoops on the wall!
But first, I'm off to sweep out the garage, finish getting the house ready to host family for my mom's birthday tomorrow and take a shower! Whew. I love Saturday's like this.

(Who am I kidding. Those hoops will probably still be waiting for me Monday morning.)

PS Thanks for the new red quilt love. The fabric line is mostly French General's Lumiere de Noel by Moda

Thursday, September 16, 2010

Works in Progress

With school back in session I have been a busy girl. (Feels great.) Here are a few peeks at some of the things I'm working on. (I can't take any credit for the painted rock.)
Half square-triangles. Random wanna-be stylish picture hastily taken while I should have been making dinner before our last soccer double-header of the season.
Kind of mixed emotions about soccer ending. It will be nice not to have our Saturdays and week-nights dictated by two kids' soccer schedules. But, it was a gorgeous night with great views. And how can you not root for a team of 6-year-olds called the Gray Squids?

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Beginning Quilt-a-long Week 2 - Choosing Fabric

This is post 2 in a 10-part Beginning Quilting Series.

For most quilting projects I use 100% Cotton.  Occasionally I will use vintage sheets or something else that is a cotton/poly blend.  Try not to mix fabrics as 100% Cottons and Blends will wash and wear differently. That said, if you are making something like a memory quilt out of old clothes or something similar where you are mixing a variety of fabric types it will probably be fine - just keep in mind that different types of fabric will wear differently over time.

I generally do not pre-wash my fabric I like the sizing that is in the store-bought fabric because I feel like it makes it easier to accurately rotary cut. If you stick to high-quality 100% cotton quilting fabrics that come from the independent shops or the higher-end selection at JoAnn, Hancock, etc. you should not have a problem with colors bleeding, etc. If the fabric is older or lower-quality I would suggest prewashing before you start cutting. There is more information about washing finished quilts here.

Probably one of the most intimidating parts of beginning a quilting project is choosing just the right fabric. Here are a few simple tips to help in that process.

There are two main factors to consider when picking fabrics for a project: color and scale.
  • Color: Above is a collection I used for a recent quilt. First I picked a balanced variety of colors – especially lights vs darks (or in this case lights vs brights.)  Then I picked different shades of the same color. Look at the oranges – they are all part of the same color family, but they are all different shades. This will give your quilt a lot more visual interest. Fabrics colors that are too matchy-matchy (i.e. all the oranges are the same shade) will make your quilt feel flat.
  • Scale or sizeCurrently there are some gorgeous large-scale graphic prints available. They are so fun to work with and make a really interesting quilt. But if every print you use is the same scale (size), your quilt will look out of control. There will be no place for your eye to rest and the beautiful big prints will just get lost. What we need is contrast. Not only in color, but in scale.  So again, I divide my fabrics into groups by scale: Large, medium, and small.The large and medium scale prints are both busy and colorful but the design repeats are closer together in the medium scale prints. The small prints almost read as solids.  They aren’t solid, but if you step back and squint your eyes they look like a solid color.  These prints provide thecontrast for the busier large and medium size prints to really show them off.  They provide a place for your eye to rest.  You can use actual solids – which I sometimes like – but the design becomes more flat. With a small print ‘solid’ you get more ‘texture’ or interest to the quilt.
Above are the fabrics I chose for the project we’re going to work on for this series. The 10 different fabrics are in the top left corner. I chose an equal balance of colors (2 fabrics per color) and tried to vary the prints’ scale for each color. When breaking down the fabrics by scale alone, there is also a balance of small, medium, and large.
With the myriad of fabric designs out there to choose from, it can still be overwhelming to narrow down your options. I suggest picking one focus fabric first, then building your quilt around that one fabric. In this example above we chose the jungle print first and used it as our jumping off point for choosing matching colors.  From there we went for a variety of scale options.
When you’ve assembled your fabrics – and before you start cutting – stand back and look at the collection as a whole. Squint your eyes to change perspective. Is something too dominant? Something lacking? Now’s the time to change.
If you are still experiencing some analysis paralysis about choosing fabrics there are some excellent products on the market right now that make great shortcuts. First of all, most designer fabrics come in collections with coordinated colors and a variety of print scales. Stick inside a collection and it simplifies your decision.
Even better, fabric companies like Moda now feature pre-cut coordinated fabrics in squares and strips.  One product called Charm Packs (above) contain about 40 different 5″ squares – at least one print from an entire collection. They also come in a pack of 10″ squares. I frequently recommend Charm Packs to beginning quilters as a simple way to get a large variety and easily coordinated collection of fabric, without having to buy a lot of yardage.
I have more detailed information on fabric stores, quality, collections, and lingo at this Fabric Shopping 101 post.
Up next Tuesday in our Quilt Along Series: Designing the Pattern

Many thanks to Lissa and to Moda for sponsoring the fabric for this series!

This was originally posted  at Make and Takes.

Monday, September 13, 2010

Another Homemade Back-to-School Shirt

The other finished top. Again, this one was sitting in this pile for way too long. Once I finally sat down to do it, it came together really fast! Except for one big thing - I cut the top too short! So I had to add the bottom fabric to lengthen it. But why am I telling you this? I should just let you think I planned  it that way. It actually made the hemming even easier. I am anxiously awaiting the 6th-grade-girls response on this one.
This is the pattern I used: Simplicity 3835. Don't let the Cyndi Lauper inspired cover fool you. It is an awesome pattern! I was inspired by all the cute things Lera makes with this one.  I need to do more. The fabric I used is seersucker from the Sweet (or was it Swell?) collection by Moda that I found on clearance.

One other tidbit: Last Friday I was featured by AnneMarie of GenXQuilters. (When my husband saw that name, he thought it was genius.) Thanks again, AnneMarie! AnneMarie is starting a Christmas fabric swap. Check it out!

Saturday, September 11, 2010

Beginner Fabric Shopping Advice

Recently I was with a group of women from my new neighborhood and they started talking about their fear of fabric stores and how intimidated they felt to go in one.  It was interesting for me to hear their thoughts because I occasionally work in a fabric store - something I don't think any of them knew.  (Nor did they know how much fabric I have in my own basement!) I began to wonder if a lot more women felt intimidated as well.

So I am going to share some tips and insider knowledge to help anyone else out there who might be feeling the same fabric-store-phobia. I must also openly disclose the fact that I work mainly with quilting fabrics and I am not an expert in apparel fabric, but I think some of these tips still apply.
(image here)
Finding the right fabric store 

First: Not all fabric stores fill the same needs.  My own experience is that the bigger chain outlets are going to be a little more overwhelming and a lot less personal.  There are fewer employees per customer, so they can't feasibly hold your hand through the process of picking fabric or get you started on that first sewing project. But the pluses are cheaper prices, coupon availability and larger selection.  I also like their selection of Home Decorator fabrics. I definitely get most of my notions, batting, pillow forms, etc. at these stores.
Finding a smaller, independently-owned store you will increase your chances of finding employees who can answer questions, contribute opinions or explain techniques. An independently owned store will also carry higher-quality fabric options in most cases and therefore have higher prices. There is a reason you pay higher prices at independently owned fabric stores - the are more likely to carry the well made goods.

Choosing Fabric

Yes, it is true: all fabric is not created equal. There really is a difference in fabric: the thread count, the dyes that are used, the way the fabric is produced, all affect the quality of the finished product. Frankly, you get what you pay for. The bigger box stores are going to carry cheaper, not as well-made fabric - especially in the quilting cottons.  There's no reason why you can't use the cheap stuff.  If you're making something like a Halloween costume that is only going to be worn a couple of times, or a carseat cover that is just going be thrown-up on or be a home for smashed crackers, then I personally would not invest in super expensive fabric. But if you are making a wedding quilt that you hope to become a family heirloom make the investment in high-quality products. You won't regret it - especially considering the time you'll invest in a project like that.

Gorgeous Amy Butler fabric I scored for 50% off

You can often get good quality fabric on sale as well. I always check the clearance sections at my local quilting shops and often find really great stuff!

How to pick the right thing - asking for help

I find the next great dilemma for most newbies is picking the perfect fabric. When people are beginning a project and are paralyzed by the thought of starting a new project, I encourage them to walk through the shop and pick at least a couple of bolts that "speak to them."  As the humble fabric-store employee, I have no idea what your individual tastes are, but if you can give me a place to start I can help you build around those favorites.

 One of my recent favorite collections: Freebird by MoMo for Moda fabrics

Another really great thing about designer, high-quality fabric is that they come in collections that are pre-coordinated. Colors, patterns, scale - everything is gathered together for you.  One note about designer collections: they are released only once, so if it's something you love get it when you see it.  We frequently have people come in and ask if we still have a fabric they bought last year, or if we can order more.  The fabric companies generally print one run of the fabric collection. The store owners order the fabric months before it arrives in the stores and by the time it does arrive it is usually difficult to order more of that collection.  A few months later, it's generally impossible to order more.  Just remember, you wouldn't ask The Gap why they don't have the same pants that coordinate with the outfit you bought last year. Generally the same thing applies to independent fabric stores.

One recent innovation by the bigger fabric companies (like Moda) is the creation of pre-cut fabrics.  These little bundles of fabric come in strips, squares or triangles and contain a sample of each fabric from then entire collection. For example the picture above is of a Charm Pack.  This charm pack contains 42 pre-cut 5" squares.  Another product called a Jelly Roll contains 40  2.5" x 42" strips. These pre-cuts are a great way to get a great variety of prints with out having to buy a lot of yardage.

What the heck is a Fat Quarter?
Craft stores and quilt stores both carry pre-cut pieces of yardage called Fat Quarters.  A Fat Quarter is a quarter of a yard of fabric, but it is cut in a different shape than a regular quarter yard of fabric.  When cutting a quarter yard of fabric off the bolt, you are getting a piece 9" wide x the width of the fabric (around 42"-43.) Four of these cuts, create a yard.  A Fat Quarter is a piece of fabric cut 18" off the end of the bolt, and then cut in half on the fold.  Four of these put together still make up 1 yard of fabric.  Imagine a piece of paper cut into four equal horizontal strips compared to a piece cut once horizontally and once vertically to get four equal square-ish pieces.

One is not better than the other but one size might be more useful depending on the pieces needed for a particular pattern.

To wash or not to wash

If you are making garments or items that need to be preshrunk I would wash all cottons first.  If you are going to be cutting fabric for piecing a quilt I would wash any cheap fabric you buy (i.e. from the bigger chain stores) but most of the more expensive yardage is going to be fine cutting into it before washing.  I personally would not wash any of the pre-cuts before sewing.  Deep reds and blacks, however, you may want to wash first. I love Shout Color Catchers.  I throw them in with every quilt I make during it's first wash, just to be safe.

I hope all of this makes everyone a little less scared of the fabric store.  Also please feel free to leave any favorite tips or suggestions of your own.  The goal is to remove all fear of choosing your fabric - although I will tell you now, fabric addictions have been known to take over people's lives and storage space. Consider yourself warned.

{This post was originally posted at Or So She Says. . . but I wanted to re-post it here as a resource on Diary of a Quilter.}

Thursday, September 9, 2010

Easy Applique T-shirt

Back-to-School Shirt #1
This simple little project had been on my list for weeks. Last weekend I finally tackled it. SO EASY - and I love the finished result. Char of Crap I've Made has a great applique tutorial. For me it was WonderUnder and machine sewing. That's it.  Fabric is from Valori Well's Nest collection for Free Spirit. T-shirt is from Target - I think I got it for $4 on sale. Nice.

The shirt received rave reviews from the 6th Grade Girls, which is even more validating than 1,000 blog comments.

Linking up to Amy's Sew and Tell!

I'm also linking up to Today's Creative Blog.
Get Your Craft On Tuesday

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

Basic Quilting Supplies

This is part 1 in a 10 part Beginning Quilting Series.

I am excited to share some very beginner-level steps to making a quilt. We’re going to move slow and simply through the quilt-making process from beginning to end. There will be a 10 week series, dissecting how to make a simple patchwork quilt. We’ll start today by talking about basic supplies.
One look at the quilting aisle in any of the big fabric stores and it would be easy to feel overwhelmed.  You don’t need every tool on the market for a successful quilt-making experience, but there are a few that will make a significant difference.
  • Rotary Cutter –  this tool is like a pizza cutter for fabric. The blades are very sharp and cut fabric quickly and accurately. There are many different sizes.  I use the medium-sized cutter most and recommend this one for any beginners.
  • A Self-healing Cutting Mat – allows you to use the rotary cutter for cutting fabric.  A printed ruler-grid can also help with measuring fabric pieces. Mats come in many different sizes, but an 18″ x 24″ mat is a good size to start with.
  • Scissors – sharp sewing scissors are helpful however, most quilt projects are cut mostly with a rotary cutter so fancy, expensive scissors aren’t necessary.  Do try to keep a pair of scissors purely for cutting fabric/thread so they won’t dull as quickly cutting paper.
  • Seam Ripper – no shame here!  Even the best of quilters/seamstresses stand by their seam ripper. I have at least 4 located strategically throughout the house because I use them so often.
  • Fabric - we’ll talk about this more in the future, but 100% Cotton is best.
  • Thread – again, use 100% Cotton thread for quilting.  Some thread is better than others.  Cheaper thread will break easier and could create a lint farm in your machine.  I don’t buy the most expensive thread, but I don’t buy the cheapest either.  Because I use so much thread, I started buying in bulk – hence the big cone in the top of the picture. One neutral color works well on most piecing projects – cream, tan or gray.
  • Pins – I like the longer straight pins with plastic heads. They’re much easier to grab while working and to find when I drop them into the carpet. Safety pins (not pictured) also come in handy in the finishing stages later on.
  • Rulers – These are an important part of the quilting process.  They help cut pieces quickly and accurately. I suggest starting with a longer ruler 5″ or 6″ x 24″.  This allows you to cut efficiently across the width of the fabric.  I also recommend a smaller ruler (5″ or 6″ x 12″) to make it easier to cut smaller pieces.
Now, I know you are thinking that this is going to add up fast, and it definitely can.  I suggest using those 40-50% off coupons for the larger chain fabric or craft stores to get your supplies. That can save you a ton of money.  And remember that these tools are investments you will use over and over again.  (I have had my rulers for almost 10 years and have used them almost every day. I even use them for paper crafts – my rotary cutter too!)  If you’re not sure you want to invest in something until you know you enjoy the task they’re for, ask a friend if you can borrow theirs to try them first.

Finally, a word about irons and sewing machines. Neither of these need to be fancy or expensive. Almost any iron will do, but one with steam is an extra nice feature to have.  Some of my favorite irons are one’s that I’ve found at thrift stores for very cheap.
If you have a sewing machine that will sew a good, straight line, you are ready to go!  My machine is almost as old as I am and I love it.  If your machine is giving you trouble, take it in to get serviced. It’s like a car – a little maintenance  and some oil will keep it running well for a long time.
You can buy sewing machine needles specifically for quilting, but don’t have to. Most of the time I use Universals. Changing the needle regularly makes a big difference.  In fact, if your machine is skipping stitches or not sewing well, try changing the needle before you do anything else.  It’s often a simple, and cheap, solution.

This series was originally posted at  Make and Takes