- My APQS George machine
- My fabric stash
- My Dritz rotary cutter
- My Bernina 1260
- My Aurifil threads
Use the right size ruler for the job!
It’s important to pick the “just right” ruler for a cutting job. If you’re cutting strips for example, most times you want to use your 6″x24″ ruler. For squaring up large blocks, a 12.5″x12.5″ or larger square ruler. And for those half square triangles or small blocks, go down to as small as possible ruler (I love my 6″x6″.)
It’s very important that you are cutting at the proper height. Too low or too high and you’re compromising not only the quality of your cutting, but potentially your well being also! I have found the most success when standing to cut, and being just high enough above the surface.
Keep it clean.
Dust, fibers, cat hair, all these things tend to settle on the cutting mat. Not only is this not so great for your cutter or the cleanliness of your fabric, it can also cause the ruler to seem more slippery. So make sure you wipe down your cutting mat with a damp rag often to keep it clean!
Another key to accurate cutting is providing the right amount of pressure to your ruler. Too little and that ruler will move freestyle, and too tight and you’re risking it slipping out just to get away from you! You need a constant, firm pressure. The easiest way to obtain this is to spread your hand/fingers out a bit, and apply pressure all the way to your finger tips. This distributes the pressure more evenly and gives a larger area of stability.
* Extra tip: If you’re cutting using the 24″ ruler, it’s helpful that once you have move the cutter past the area where your hand is, that you lift your hand carefully and then place it down further up the ruler to ensure the stability continues the entire length. Be sure to check that the fabric you’ve already cut is still lined up with the ruler!
When cutting long skinny strips:
In this case you want to be sure and plant your palm down on the table next to the ruler. This gives you a lot more stability and reduces the slipping that can occur when cutting thin strips.
My final tip?
Much like everything else in life, it’s better when you slow down! Slower allows you to really focus on keeping that ruler steady, which will increase your accuracy AND keep your fingertips attached to your fingers!
One of my favorite songs is “Lips Like Sugar” by Echo and the Bunnymen. One of the verses is ringing true in a new way the last week or so, as it points out that gender is two sides of the same coin, we’re all in this together:
“She’ll be my mirror
Reflect what I am
A loser and a winner
The King of Siam
And my Siamese twin
Alone on the river
Recently, I posted the article on Men and Quilting. My temper was high. Commenters tempers were high. Other blogger’s tempers were high. At first, I was worried that my piece wouldn’t do as I hoped, but then it started to happen! I started to be able to communicate with people one on one.
One of those people, was Molli Sparkles. I think we managed to come to a common ground – not agreement on all things – but rather a place from which we could really have a dialogue on the bigger than the quilt world gender issue. Despite how my article came off, my intent at heart is a community that works together and in which gender doesn’t really matter. I’m also a big believer that you need to be the change you want to see in this world, and that you have to start from where you are. I’m a quilter, so why not start with quilting?
So I told Molli that I had an idea. I wanted us to each make a quilt with equalizing rules, to see whether or not gender plays a role in quilt making itself. Molli readily agreed to this experimental challenge. (I would actually love to have an entire exhibition on this idea, perhaps if this small test challenge goes well it could be a reality?)
We set some parameter rules to level the field:
I’m sitting in my dealership waiting for my oil change and tire rotation to get done. I brought along some reading material and my laptop today.
I’m so glad I brought it too! There was a bit in there on Patricia I. Caldwell, aka The Butterfly Quilter. Just look at these beautiful shots in the magazine:
There are instructions on doing these technique in the article, for doing thread art.
I am such a sucker for anything bird related too, but isn’t this just a gorgeous quilt? Be sure and stop by and like her Facebook page and pilfer through the “Photos” on the page, there is so much good work in there!
Clover Wonder Clips – At your local quilt store!
For years (and years and years) I was dedicated to the old school quilt clips that looked like metal hair clips. Flaun of I Plead Quilty finally talked me into trying them, and boy am I glad she did! These things are awesome! They are strong and can hold even pretty thick layers of fabric together (perfect for a full binding!) It eliminates pin holes and puckering. I also use mine to hole quilt blocks together for storage/transport, and to clip projects together.
I can’t thank Karen McTavish enough for showing me this ruler. I use this on my sit down APQS George machine for straight line ruler work and it’s honestly the best I have ever used. There is a (washable!!) sticky back to this ruler that makes it grip like no ruler or sticky tapes I have ever used. It leaves no residue, there is no gummy build up, and when it starts to be less “tacky” from lint/fiber buildup you just spritz it with your favorite multi-surface cleaner to loosen the lint, then rinse with warm water and let it dry. (If you’re in a hurry to keep quilting, you can use a hair dryer to speed the process!) I started with the longer ruler, and just ordered myself the short one too. I suspect for a domestic quilter, the smaller size would be most efficient. (Please don’t negate getting this just because you use a sit down or domestic machine, these things are invaluable, trust me!)
Craftsy is great! Not only can your quilter take quilt classes, but there are a myriad of other classes available in drawing, painting, photography, cooking, knitting, jewelry, gardening and more! You can gift anywhere from one to three classes in their “Gift Any Class” option.
I’m a little obsessed with these things. They are well thought out color sets, and come in a fantastic case that stacks well with more sets. Some sets have all the same weight thread, and some have mixed weights within the same set. Seriously, I LOVE these things. I wish I had one of each set to be honest! Aurifil has a hand Where to Purchase page.
This is actually going on my wish list. Apparently even though the rest of me is still 27 (*cough*), my eye are ageing at a rapid rate.
Don’t Forget Someone!
Someone you might forget at the holidays? Your long arm quilter. This is the craziest time of year for them, and they are busting their asses to get your quilts done in time for you to bind them and gift them as Christmas gifts.
Their arms/backs/necks/feet/you-name-it are sore, after all those hours at their machine slaving endlessly on quilts for us all! Why not gift them some nice epsom salts or bath bombs to soothe those aching bodies this winter?
Or what about some nice new squishy socks! Sock Dreams has some fun and fancy socks to keep those tootsies warm and stylish (and maybe even funny!)
Chocolate. Need I say more?
Cash/Tip. Maybe you tip every time, or maybe not at all. The holiday season though, it might be nice to put a little extra in the envelope when you’re quilter has just busted out 2-3 quilts just for you during this holiday season. I mean, how awesome is she?
Can’t afford a gift, or don’t know her well enough? Then perhaps Maddie Kertay of Spool/BadAss Quilters Society has the perfect gift idea for you!
“I would like to know what my quilting has meant to them. What they have loved. Just a card or letter or hell, an email with real words would be so wonderful.”
In fact, regardless of another gift, why don’t we make sure and write a quick note to our quilters and let them know that what they do is very much appreciated!
What will you gift the quilter in YOUR life? What do YOU have on your wishlist this year?
Going through this 31 Day Blogging Challenge has led me to viewing a LOT of quilt blogs that I had not frequented before. Now, I am by no means the be-all and end-all of quilt bloggers, but I have been doing it for quite awhile even before I started IndieQuilter. Here are some tips I think can be useful to other bloggers out there:
Give a way for people to connect with you. In fact, give as many as you can really. Here are widgets that I think are pretty much must-haves:
Follow Via Email:
I have all of these options on my right sidebar, and all of them are used by readers. I myself, am very disappointed when a page doesn’t offer me a way to easy be notified when they update. I often times never end up back at those blogs, because I rarely if ever use my bookmarks for blog viewing.
Another very useful widget is a search box:
This allows people to search for other topics on your blog that they are interested in.
I set mine to a monthly archive list, as it feels neat and streamlined.
When you write your post (at least in WordPress), you have the option to set categories for posts. This is my current list of categories. It can be useful to your readers, if say, they are looking for just posts on “Free Motion Quilting” or “Quilt Patterns”. It’s ALWAYS better to make navigation as easy and fast as possible for readers or they will move on. We are not generally a culture of patience when it comes to reading, especially online.
While this is not a “widget” per say, it’s key to increasing the ability for new readers to find your site. This is the one that I often forget to do, and then go back and fill in after I’ve already published. It’s worth it. Sites such as Google and Technorati, index these key search words and then sort them for searchers. Technorati uses date to organize, while Google organizes based on popularity and relevance. The better and more often you use tags, the more likely you are to start showing up on search engines on those key words, which in turn means increased viewers/readers.
In interviews, people are often asked “What do you wish you had known when you first began xyz…?” Let’s pretend that someone just asked “What do you wish you had known when you first started quilting?”
Quality of your fabric really matters. Yes, sure it’s nice to get three times as much for the same price, but you’ll pay for those savings somewhere along the line eventually. When I first began quilting I would buy the cheapest fabrics, partly because I was poor but also because I was afraid to invest in my quilts in case I didn’t like them.
Unfortunately, I didn’t like many of those quilts. Not because of my skills, but because the fabrics were either damn ugly, or felt gross to touch. (You know the kind I mean…the kind that feels like it’s mixed with a plastic feed sack.) If I had just invested a few more dollars per yard, I bet I would have loved my first projects.
Potholders can be your best friends:
When my mom was teaching me to quilt, she got me a book on potholders. It’s probably a good thing too, because I get bored pretty easily. (I still loathe making a gazillion of the same block for a quilt!)
Using one of the potholder books, I was able to learn the process of making blocks (measuring, cutting, sewing a scant quarter inch, trimming, half square triangles, you name it!) I also learned a LOT of different blocks. I did not get overwhelmed in my projects, because I only had to make one little 12.5″ block. I could stop after that if I wanted, or I could go on and cut a bunch more out to make multiples.
I will forever be grateful that my introduction wasn’t doing full sized lap quilt or anything. In fact, it would be years before I learned how to actually QUILT! I spend a good 2-3 years just piecing and doing block exchanges online!
The Scant Quarter Inch:
You can break a lot of rules, but I don’t recommend breaking the quarter inch rule.
I quickly switched over from traditional quilts to art quilting, art is in my nature. But one of the things I took with me, was a dedication to the quarter inch rule.
You might want to tell yourself that it doesn’t matter..and that following the SCANT quarter inch rule is just too much work. If you don’t grasp and adapt to this though, you’re not going to get any pattern out there to work for you without a lot of damn converting and trial and error. This HAS to be accurate, or being slightly off on each seam, is going to make a HUGE different at the end of a row. Messing up the scant quarter inch becomes a problem of exponential proportions. Trust me.
Those are probably my top ones. What about you? What things do you wish you had known before you started making quilts?
One of my biggest pet peeves is, “I can’t.” Seriously, I can’t stand that ideology. Before you think ,”Well, isn’t she just Miss Perfect who does everything right and has confidence”, I’ll tell you that I have often had that loathsome phrase fall from my lip. I hate it when *I* say it, even more than hearing it from others.
“I can’t free motion quilt.”
“I can’t figure out fractions.”
“I can’t design my own quilts.”
“I can’t learn to knit.”
“I can’t learn a new skill at my age.”
My big one for a long time?
“I can’t parallel park.”
Years and years and year (and probably years) ago, I was taking my driver’s license test (for the second time.) When it came to the parallel parking, I started crying because I knew I couldn’t do it. I had tried and tried while still learning and just could not get my brain to process it all in the right order to park the damn car. You have to understand, I had initially failed my driving test when I was sixteen years old. (That’s a whole other story!) In this story, I was now TWENTY years old. I had kept up my learner’s permit the entire time from 16-20 to avoid paying to take the class again. So, this driving test guy knows this. I’m still thankful for what he did that day.
He saw me crying and said, “What’s wrong?” I said, “I can’t do it. I can’t parallel park. I panic every time and and the instructions all boggle together and I mess it up.” I must have looked and sounded dreadful, because what he did next was nothing short of a miracle.
“I will let you pass, if you promise me that you will never parallel park.”
Now, obviously making me promise to not learn how to do a skill in driving that can make getting around much easier is not that great of a thing. But at the time, it is what I needed. Getting my license started a process of finding a confidence and autonomy that I had not previous known. A process that led to November 16th, 2015. The day I freaking parallel parked a mothertrucking car. Not JUST a car, my Honda CRV.
I was meeting Flaun of I Plead Quilty for lunch, and there was only one spot left in an insanely busy Minneapolis parking lot. It was raining. The spot was barely big enough for me to fit. I just did it. I did it without thinking about how to do it really. And I did have to edge back and forth to fix it a bit once I was in there. But I damn well did it. (And I did it again a week later too!)
I think it helped that both times I was alone in the car. I panic when people are watching, and/or trying to “help”. But all the knowledge I needed was in my brain, I just needed the right moment and atmosphere to process and access it.
How does this relate to quilting?
When people are beginning quilters, they often say that they can’t do it. That they will never be as good as their teacher or idol. But, they are observing, taking classes, reading, looking at Pinterest boards of quilting, they are absorbing the information and knowledge they need to quilt. What they REALLY mean is that they can’t do it right now, that they aren’t as good as so-and-so yet. But one day, they will be at their machine, their mind will relax and settle a little and the next thing they know, they will be free motion quilting like a madwoman (or madman!) They will do it when their mind and body are working in synchronicity, they will get it when it’s just the right time.
So please, try not to say “I can’t” and stop there. Change your dialog to, “I can’t do that yet.” It’s so much more encouraging, and will likely help quicken your journey to mastering that new skill!
As a quilter/knitter/crocheter I hear this a lot. I get it, to someone who has never done it, it must seem like an overwhelming task to make something from scratch. They see all the tiny fabric pieces, or the little knits and purls and just see time consumption and frustration.
I am still bewildered every time someone says, “You must have a lot of patience.” You can ask anyone who knows me (especially anyone who has ridden in a car I am driving), and they will tell you I’m probably one of the least patient people on the planet (with one of the filthiest mouthes.) And for the most part, I am a huge instant gratification personality, despite my trying to work on that. (I mean, come on…it takes patience to change a personality trait and we’ve just established I like instant gratification!)
The thing is, I love doing these things, so it doesn’t feel like I am exercising patience at all. To me, patience is more like suffering through something that isn’t really pleasant (like driving in rush hour traffic or listening to the ‘quilt police’ bitch and moan.) It makes the process sound like it’s stressful. For me, at least, that’s not the case. I suppose there are some techniques or quilts that have challenged me frustrated me while learning them, but then, I would be more likely to use the word perseverance than patience.
I get it though! I know I have looked at people that do other things that look tedious to do from my perspective. But I know from my own experience, that if that it’s their passion, they aren’t feeling that way when they are in the throws of creation. In fact, when I am in that mode, it’s as if time is standing still. When I start quilting a quilt that I really love, six or eight hours can pass before I realized it’s time to eat and settle for the night.
It’s all about loving what you’re doing. It’s about doing what you love. I love quilting, and knitting and drawing. Those activities are invigorating, time skewing and make me feel awesome.
Do you feel that quilting means you’re a person with greater patience? Do you get told this often too?
I will admit that I am a knowledge geek. If someone poses a question about something and we don’t know the answer, I am the first to whip my phone out like a gun at the O.K. Corral to look it up. In fact, just in writing this first paragraph I have fallen into the trap of looking up the O.K. Corral phrase, which I had never given any thought to before when using it verbally. In case you’re wondering, wikipedia starts out with this: “The Gunfight at the O.K. Corral was a 30-second gunfight between the semi-outlaw group the Cowboys, and lawmen, that is generally regarded as the most famous shootout in the history of the American Wild West. The gunfight took place at about 3:00 p.m. on Wednesday, October 26, 1881, in Tombstone, Arizona Territory.”
I was looking at a quilt I made for an exhibition I took part in, for an MQX show many years back. It’s a Log Cabin quilt. I realized that all I knew about the block was that I’d always heard the center was red to symbolize the fire in the hearth of the cabin. So, I looked it up and found a nice article on Womenfolk.com that talks about the Log Cabin design. Turns out, they might have a much longer history than pioneer days even!
In the early part of the 19th century the British found thousands of small animal mummies when they began to
open pillage the tombs in Egypt. The linens wrapping the small animals were wrapped in had the log cabin design on them. Sadly, a huge number of these mummies were sent back to England where they were distributed to farmers to use as fertilizer. (When you wonder why we are now slaves to our cats, I think information sheds *cough* some light on the situation. Pun fully intended.) The article points out that perhaps this is how the log cabin design initially came to be in our collective knowledge for quilts.
There are a couple other theories too, but I really want to just believe and go with the cat version. But then, I am a crazy cat lady.