Quick Tips: Glue Basting perfect points, curves, and applique

Over the past few months we’ve talked about quick quilting tips and tricks. Even as a seasoned quilter, I am finding there are so many helpful techniques to learn that not only improve the speed of piecing, but can improve the accuracy and quality of piecing as well. 
I’m so excited today to have guest-poster Cristy Fincher share some tips about glue basting. Cristy is an amazing quilter and piecer. Her technique and accuracy is amazing. She’ll be teaching at Quilt Con in February. I have only just started using these glue basting techniques in my piecing and asked Cristy if she’d share her wisdom here. She is a wealth of knowledge with thorough tutorials and youtube videos.
Hi everyone! I’m Cristy Fincher. I have a fun blog called Sew Much Like Mom where I share my favorite sewing and quilting techniques. I also have an online shop called Purple Daisies, where I sell wonderful sewing and quilting tools, as well fabulous tutorials and patterns by my mom, Master Quilter, Sharon Schamber. I’m so excited to be visiting Amy’s blog and to share my love of glue basting with you!
Glue basting is one of my favorite sewing and quilting tools. It helps me with efficiency and accuracy when I sew, which makes me happier with my results. Most of the time, when I mention glue basting to new quilters, or to experienced quilters who are new to me, I see confused looks come over their faces. But, they change their tunes really fast when they see what can be done with glue basting, and how much it can improve their results. 
My mom introduced me to glue basting when she taught me how to appliqué, 14 years ago. Since then, my love for glue basting has only grown, and I find uses for it in almost every sewing or quilting project. Here are just a few of the things I use glue basting for: precise piecing, appliqué, curved seams, zippers, bindings, and clothing. There are many many more uses for it, too. Basically, you can use glue basting almost anywhere you would use pins or clips.
Elmer’s Washable School Glue, topped with a Fine Glue Tip, is my go-to for glue basting. The Elmer’s glue is easy to find in local stores, especially just before school starts, like now. (If you live outside of the US, I sell Elmer’s in my shop, and happily ship it to you.) The Fine Glue Tips are manufactured by my mom and her husband, and fit perfectly on the 4oz bottles of Elmer’s. They’re made from clog resistant plastic, and I find that they clog much less often than other glue tips out there.
There are other products out on the market that can be used for glue basting. I’ve tried virtually all of them, but the Elmer’s Washable School Glue and Fine Tips combo is, by far, my favorite. 

The accuracy that I can achieve with glue basting, is addiciting. I love when my points match! I know you’ll love it too!

Pretty, right?!

Glue basting is so simple:

  • Simply draw a fine line of glue inside on the inside of your seam allowance. I draw mine about 1/8″ from the selvage. The glue shouldn’t be right on your seam line.

  • Line up, or nest, the next piece with your first.  Be sure that all edges are lined up, just as you would if you were pinning.  Then, heat set the glued edge with a hot dry iron. Heat setting dries the glue completely, and just takes a quick second or two because the line of glue is so fine and thin. The heat setting also prevents any shifting. Awesome, right? Immediately, you’ll experiece more accuracy in your sewing and piecing.

  • Then sew as usual. When I piece, I prefer 1.6-1.8 stitch length. After sewing, press to the side.

That’s it! Super easy! If you want to see glue basting in action, I have some videos for you to watch on YouTube.
This is usually when I’m asked many different questions about the effect of glue basting. You might be asking yourself some of the same questions, so I’ll try to answer most of them for you.
  • Will the glue ruin my iron? No. Absolutely not. Elmer’s Washable School Glue, is water soluble. If any glue were to get on your iron, it washes off easily.
  • Will the glue gum up my needle? No. Absolutely not. As long as you apply the glue close to the selvage, you wouldn’t be sewing through the glue. Even if you did get the glue close to the seam line (like with appliqué), sewing through it is no problem at all because you heat set the glue. Heat setting dries the glue quickly making it no longer gummy.
  • Will the glue wash out of my quilt? Yes, it sure will. I always recommend washing quilts with the textile detergent, Synthrapol.
  • Do I need to pin when I glue baste? No. In almost all situations, glue basting replaces the need for pins. 
  • Can I glue baste if I press my seams open? Yes, if the seam needs to be opened you can easily pull the seam apart or use a sewing stiletto to open the seams. In most cases, I would encourage you to press to the side. Pressing your seams to the side will make your quilts stronger, putting the strength of your quilt in the fibers of fabric as well as in the thread. This protects the seam and creates a stronger hold. When you press your seams open, the strength of your seam is only as strong as your thread. Open seams run the risk of popping with dense quilting, washing, wear and with time. There are times to press a seam open, for example: mitered corners and binding strips, but in most cases pressing to the side is a wiser choice.
  • Is glue basting faster than pinning, or just sewing and “going for it”, without pins, at the machine? I believe so, yes. Glue basting may take a bit more time, before you get to the machine. Any extra time is made up by how quickly and effiently you’ll be able to sew everything together. The time you use to spend having to unpick and resew mismatched seams will be virtually gone. Sometimes faster isn’t better. Sometimes good technique and efficiency is better, expecially if you’re happier in the end.
  • Can I use this type of glue basting to baste my quilts before quilting? No. This type of glue basting is not recommended for basting your quilts.
If you only try one new thing to improve any aspect of your sewing or quilting, please let it be glue basting. I think you’ll love it as much as I do!
Here are some examples of my favorite ways to use glue basting:
Glue basting and machine pieced hexagons are a match made in heaven! (Tutorial coming soon on my blog!)

Prepping my strips with glue basting, before sewing, makes chain piecing more accurate and pretty darn quick.

Glue basting to attach rows together keeps my points matched up, and I never accidently sew over pins.

 Glue basting makes Paperless Paper Piecing possible. This technique will rock your world!

I use glue basting with Piec-lique to make any type of curve, including inset circles.

When I glue baste my appliqué pieces to the background fabric, I can easily sew them down by hand or by machine. Without pins in my applique pieces, I get no puckers or distortion. Love!

Using the Fine Tips on Liquid Stitch (permanent fabric glue), replaces the need for fusibles with raw-edge appliqué.

I also glue baste when I make clothing. Here, I used glue basting to attach the binding/strap onto the edge of the bodice of a dress for my daughter.

Quilt bindings is probably the most popular place to use glue basting, largely due to my mom’s wonderful binding video. The best part of the video is at the end, when my mom shows you how to do that final join for the binding strips. It’s life changing!

When I glue baste my binding, I can stitch it down by machine or by hand, without the need for any pins or clips. It stays in just the right place, until I sew it down. Magic!

If you have the fine glue tips, my favorite way to keep the clogs away is to use the thick end of a price tag holder. Clip off about an inch and put the stick of it into the glue tip to prevent clogs. To make it easy to find on your pressing board, you can color the “T” of it with a Sharpie, or put a washi tape flag on it. (Big thanks to my friend Becca at SewPixie for these fabulous ideas.)

Glue basting can be a life changing tool. It might take a little bravery to give it a try, and when you do, I’ll bet you’ll never go back! I am having a sale in my shop where everything is 10% off through July 20. (No coupon code needed)
Thank you for joining me today! Come visit me at Sew Much Like Mom, sometime soon! You can also find me on InstaGram, Flickr, and Pinterest as CristyCreates.
Happy Stitchin’

Strip Piecing Basics

I’ve talked a lot recently about some of my favorite tips and tricks for quicker and more efficient piecing. One of my favorite techniques – and one that I used a lot of in the patterns in my book Fabulously Fast Quilts- is strip-piecing.

Strip-piecing usually consists of sewing long strips of fabric together, usually width-of-fabric strips, and then rotary cutting across the strips to create smaller, uniform units that are already pieced.

In the post I’ll be demo’ing strip-piecing a simple and traditional Rail Fence block for a 21″ x 21″ mini quilt. This block has so many layout options. I also give cutting and piecing instructions for a baby quit version measuring 40″ x 40″.

Strip-piecing can also be used to create smaller units that can then be sewn back together to create new blocks such as traditional 9-patch blocks. The options are endless, but knowing a few basic tips like how to square-up your fabric before you cut strips, etc. will make a huge difference in the accuracy and efficiency of your piecing.

Click on this link for the full strip-piecing and Rail Fence block tutorial. I’ve also been collecting more Rail Fence quilt inspiration on this pin board where you can get more inspiration.

Another favorite strip-pieced block is in this easy, but eye-catching Pinwheel tutorial.

Virtual Quilting Bee – Quilt-Making Technique Basics

Welcome to Part 3 of the Virtual Quilting Bee!

Today we’re going to discuss quilting tips and techniques as we prepare to sew our blocks. Next Friday will be our first quilt block tutorial designed by Sherri of A Quilting Life. Sherri is such a talented and experienced quilter – I can’t wait to see what she has up her sleeve!

Today I will share some quilting tips and basic techniques. As I’ve mentioned previously, if I have written more indepth about these topics, I will link to those posts, rather than re-hash everything again, but hopefully this will be a good reference point for lots of different quilting basics.
Working with Patterns
For more in-depth information on working with Quilt Patterns, refer to this post as part of the Beginning Quilting Series, but here are a few handy tips whether you’re working with a printed pattern or using an online tutorial:
·         Read all the way through the entire pattern before you do anything. It’s always good to get an idea of the ‘big picture’ before you start.
·         Check the experience level so you don’t get frustrated. Complex quilting takes practice. I would suggest starting with something simple at first – larger shapes, simple design, etc. just to get the hang of things before jumping into something more advanced. But that’s just me.

Preparing Fabric
To pre-wash or not to pre-wash? Growing up my mom pre-washed everything, but once I started working in a quilt shop about 9 years ago, we never pre-washed and didn’t worry because we were always using high-quality fabrics. There were a few occasions where something bled after everything was pieced, but those were very, very few and far between. Occasionally I’ll wash a solid red or black, or something from a manufacturer that I don’t trust, but that’s very rare. I wrote more here about my Pre-Washing experiences and Shout color catchers. But basically, if you’re using new, high-quality quilt-shop fabrics you don’t need to pre-wash. I actually prefer working with the fabric right off the bolt because it has the sizing still in it and it’s easier to cut accurately. 

Also, you do not need to pre-wash pre-cuts. Besides being a huge pain in the rear to re-shape and press, they are likely going to fray and you’re going to loose a lot of fabric real estate when they shrink slightly.

Cutting Fabric

Accurate and careful cutting can save so much frustration down the road, not to mention wasted fabric. Take the time to cut your pieces accurately. Here are a few tips, but for more detailed information and pictures, refer to the Cutting 101 post as part of the Beginning Quilting Series. 
·         Respect the rotary cutter. A good quality rotary cutter will make a big difference in your cutting. (I use Olfas.) Change the blade – don’t try to milk that blade to death, you’ll only get frustrated. I’m always amazed at the difference a new blade makes, and I always wonder why I waited so long to change it. (Watch for coupons and sales on blades so that you can buy them in bulk for a better price.) Also, be careful. Those suckers can draw some serious blood if you’re not careful.
·         Hold the ruler applying steady pressure with your left hand (make sure no fingers are hanging over the edge of the ruler) and use the rotary cutter like a pizza slicer – push it away from your body – with your right hand. (Opposite hands if your left-handed, obviously.)
·    Cutting multiple layers of fabric at a time is a great time saver, however I try not to cut more than 4 layers at once. The larger the blade, the more accurately it will cut through multiple layers. I generally use my medium-sized Olfa blade (pictured) for most projects, but I have a large blade that I LOVE for cutting lots of pieces at once. Use the mini blades for small projects like trimming or squaring up blocks.
·         Square up your fabric before you start cutting strips or pieces. It takes a minute more of your time, but makes a huge difference – especially when cutting pieces like long strips. Start by matching up your selvage edges – that may require re-pressing the center fold – so that you can use the straight edge of the selvage as a guide for squaring off the raw ends. (A lot more in depth explanation and photos found in the Cutting 101 post).
·         Use the ruler – not the grid on the cutting mat – as your guide for cutting.  The ruler is going to be more accurate, especially when cutting small pieces. 
·         When cutting strips, pieces, etc., place ruler over the top of fabric at the desired width/size your need to cut. You can use multiple rulers if you need more width, etc.
Piecing is the actual sewing the pieces of the block or quilt together. Go here for the Piecing post of the Beginning Quilting series.
·         The key is a consistent ¼” seam allowance!  Always keep the edges of your fabrics matched-up and against the edge of your presser-foot as you sew. It will feel tedious at first, but the more you do it, the more natural it will feel.
·         A SCANT ¼” seam allowance is best. Measure your seam allowance with your ruler.  Your seam should fall just inside the ¼” line of your ruler. This will help so much with accuracy with creating your quilt blocks.  Your piecing will just fit together better.  Many machines have a ¼” presser foot available. I just adjust my needle to the right one notch and it’s perfect with my regular foot. Go here for more details on and pictures of a Scant ¼”. I can’t emphasize this one enough – especially as we plan to make quilt blocks for this quilt along.
·         Chain piecing is a great method when you are sewing lots of little pieces together at once. Just feed them through the machine one right after the other without breaking the thread or raising the presser foot.  Then trim between the pieces when you’re ready to sew the next step. Saves time and thread. I will sometimes take the whole chain to the ironing board and press them open before I clip the threads.
·    Pinning can help a lot with keeping your pieces matched up accurately. I’m a rebel and often sew right over the pins (because I like to live on the edge). Clover makes really thin pins for quilt makers that are a dream. Invest in good pins – long with easily grip-able knobs at the top are the best. (Also, they’re easier to find when your drop them on the floor.)
Please note there is a difference between pressing and ironing. You definitely don’t want to iron your quilt piecing or blocks as it could stretch and misshape the fabric, but pressing makes a huge difference in a neat, crisp-looking block or quilt. Pressing is more careful and gentle, but using a lot of heat and sometimes some steam is a great asset.
·         I press seams to the side, unless it is a heavily pieced block where the seams create a lot of bulk, then I will occasionally press my seams open. Sometimes patterns give pressing directions, sometimes I just do my best to guess.
·       “Set the seam” –- this means to press over the seam first with seam still closed. I don’t know the science of “why” behind “setting the seam” but it really does make a difference.
·         Then open up blocks and press again from the top (front) to get a nice clean press. This way you can also make sure the seam is open all the way and nice and flat. 
·         To steam or not to steam?  I don’t always steam, just because I don’t like to keep water in my iron. (leaks, wrecks the iron after a while, etc.) but it’s an option if you have really small pieces and/or need something to lie really flat. Just be careful not to stretch or distort the fabric.
Square up blocks
Squaring up your quilt blocks means to measure and trim them so that they measure accurately and are all the same size. I get it – squaring-up can be tedious work- but it makes a HUGE difference in keeping things accurate and square. I like to piece my block portions like flying geese, half-square triangles, etc slightly large just so I have the room to square them up with nice, straight edges.

Just make sure that you square up evenly on all sides.  Those square rulers with the diagonal line are a big help for squaring up because you can use that line to find the diagonal center of the unit and keep the block from getting trimmed in-accurately.

For squaring up something with a point, like this flying-geese block, make sure you leave a 1/4″ seam allowance at the tip of the point. A Pineapple or Flying-geese ruler like this one will have a guide to help you maintain that 1/4″ at the point. Also note how I squared up evenly on all four sides so that the point remained centered.

Finally a little bit of advice before we start sewing next week:

Quilting theory according to Amy Smart

Finally- remember this is all about having FUN. Cutting and sewing accurately will minimize frustration down the road, so they are definitely worth practicing, but at the same time, don’t be obsessive about perfection. It can take all the fun right out of the experience. 
It’s not a race or a competition and there is no Quilting Gestapo that are going to come check every seam allowance or measure every quilt block or make sure you’ve followed the pattern perfectly. I’ve learned not to fret too much if a few star points get lost along the way while I’m doing something creative. Then again, I don’t usually enter any of my quilts in the State Fair – for the most part they’re for me or for friends and family who generally don’t quilt.

For me quilting is about playing with color and design and a creative outlet. Your purpose might be different than mine – just do what makes it a fun, creative experience for you. Play with different colors, don’t be afraid to stretch yourself a little, but make sure it’s still something you are enjoying along the way.

A little business:

I have set up a Virtual Quilting Bee Flickr group. There’s not much to see right now, but as we start having blocks to share, please feel free to upload your creations. One of my favorite parts of going to a quilting class is to see the variety of fabric choices people bring to the same project. It’s so inspiring! This Flickr group will be like our ‘classroom design wall’.

Thanks so much for participating. I really want this group to be as helpful as possible! Feel free to leave tips or links to other quilting techniques in the comments below. Also, if you have questions, I will leave my responses in the comments as well.

Happy weekend!

Quilting tip: Scant 1/4 inch

As you know, a 1/4″ seam allowance is the gold-standard in quilting.  Keeping your seam allowance consistent is an important key to good-looking quilts but using a scant 1/4″ seam is even better. Let me explain.

Typically lining up the edge of your fabric with the right side of your presser foot is a good guide for keeping your seam allowance consistent.  You can buy a specific quiter’s foot with a 1/4″ seam allowance for your machine (newer ones may come with it) but if you’re like me, I didn’t want to spend the extra money and it seemed close enough.  Then I took a class from Leslie Ison where she explained how much more effective it is to use a scant 1/4″ when pieceing – especially when you are piecing a more complex block.

Above is are two seams on either side of a drawn line. On the right I just used my regular presser foot with the needle centered. On the left I adjusted my needle one space to the right and still used my regular presser foot.

Here is the difference. On the right you can see that the seam allowance is actually slightly bigger than 1/4″. On the left you can see that the seam lies just slightly inside the 1/4″ line. This, my friends, is a scant 1/4″.

So get out your ruler and measure your seam allowance.  Making adjustments may be as simple as moving your needle one notch to the right, but sewing with a scant seam allowance will make a difference in your piecing. Especially if your piecing smaller, detailed blocks – like those cute Farmer’s Wife blocks. Give it a whirl and let me know if it makes a difference for you.