Thursday, January 3, 2008

Step 1: What I've learned

I know that most of you are experienced quilters who don't need any tips, but I thought I'd post mine for the benefit of those of us who are still beginners.

Don't cut your 1 1/2 inch strips the width of the fabric.

  • It's too hard to sew an even seam on a 1 1/2 inch strip that is 42 inches long. Also, using shorter strips, say 12 inches or so, allows you to mix fabrics in more combinations. prevents your making 20 identical blocks at a time. (Yay, scrappy!)
  • Also, if you cut the width of the fabric, you are automatically sewing a strip that is cut on the crosswise grain which is slightly stretchy. And if you don't "ease" the stretchy strip it will stretch and your pieced strips will be curved. (Ask me how I know!)
  • If you did happen to cut a crosswise strip, match it with a strip that was cut on the straight grain, and put the crosswise one on the bottom when you sew. The feed dogs will help it to ease in.
How to find the straight grain of your fabric.
  • On a large piece look for the selvage. (That's the woven edge of the fabric that doesn't ravel.) The straight grain will be parallel to the selvage.
  • If you're cutting strips from odd shaped scraps, here's how to test for straight grain. If you look closely at your fabric you'll see that the threads are woven in a grid. The direction that is diagonal to this grid is called the bias. If you pull on the fabric along the bias you'll see that it's really stretchy. You never want to cut strips on the bias! The two grid directions are called the crosswise and the straight grain. Pull on one of them. If it's just slightly stretchy it's the crosswise grain. If there's little or no stretch it's the straight grain, and that's the direction the strips should be cut in.
Mix it up!
  • Don't do all your cutting at one time. Or all your sewing, all your pressing, etc. Mix it up. Cut some strips, sew them, press them, subcut them. Then repeat. It's tempting to barrel ahead in a factory-line attempt to speed piece this fun quilt. But avoiding long stretches of one particular, repetitive motion helps to prevent muscle strain and injury.

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