We’ve asked our Technical Editor, Laura Pritchard, to gather up some of her favourite advice from the magazine….
Add a little extra to your quilt blocks
Instructions for cutting squares for triangles generally tell you to add 7/8in to the finished unit size. This does not leave any margin for error, so if you’re not confident in your ¼in seam or just like a little more breathing room when you work, try adding a whole 1in to the finished size, then trim to the correct unfinished size afterwards. It takes a little more time but can be worth the extra effort for accurate blocks. It makes the maths easier too!
Start smoothly & put those scraps to good use
Use small fabric offcuts folded in half as ‘leaders’ when starting a seam. Nudge your patchwork up against it as you would if you were chain piecing, and then continue to sew – this will prevent fabric corners getting chewed up and thread ‘bird nests’ at the start of the seam. End on a scrap too to help conserve thread – the same piece can be used over and over.
Blocks with lots of seams or curves sometimes need a little extra help to make them lie flat. Pressing with starch can help, as well as using something heavy to make the fabric behave. Find a large heavy book and put it on top of your block immediately after pressing, while it is still hot. Leave to cool then remove the book for perfectly flat blocks.
Use graph paper to plan your quilts
Use graph paper not only to plan blocks and quilt designs, but to work out fabric quantities too. Take the usable width of fabric (WOF) – minus selvedges – and draw a rectangle to scale i.e 42 squares wide, for 42in for each fabric used. Physically draw in all the squares, rectangles and triangles needed for your blocks and then see at a glance how much yardage you need.
Hold off on your borders fabric!
Choose border fabrics after your patchwork is finished, especially when creating a scrappy quilt. Once all your blocks are made you may find the fabric you originally had in mind no longer works. Audition different options to find the best match. Don’t cut border strips until everything else is assembled, as this means you can measure your own patchwork and cut them the exact size you need, avoiding any discrepancies.
Speed up bulk cutting
When cutting lots of shapes the same size, try using masking, washi or ruler tape to highlight the appropriate markings on your ruler for quick identification.
Keep track of your foundation paper piecing
It is easy to get mixed up with fabric placement when foundation paper piecing, due to the back-to-front way of working. Writing fabric colour ie ‘background’ or ‘blue’ onto the paper can help ensure you place pieces in the right sections.
Joining rows? Start in the middle
When sewing long rows it is easy to create bowed seams. One way to keep these straight is by starting to sew from the middle of the seam to the edge, then rotating and sewing the other side from the middle out. Check seams are straight at regular intervals with your quilting ruler.
Get your log cabin in order!
When making Log-cabin blocks, it is useful to stack matching strips in piles laid out around the centre square as they appear in the block. This will help you make sure everything appears in sequence as expects and it is then easy to work around the block, picking the right-sized strip each time.
One block at a time
Quilts with lots of different units, such as frame or sampler quilts, can benefit from cutting and piecing one block at a time and keeping units in labelled piles for easy identification. This also gives you an opportunity to audition fabric combinations and check block sizes as you work.