Thursday, April 18, 2024

Quilting Tools - More fun essentials

 We're continuing our deep dive look into essential quilting tools for the new quilter.




Thread




To put our beautiful fabrics together in a quilt, we need thread. A topic that gets quilters going. Ha! These essentials and their tips are going to be my opinions, but I encourage you to branch out and find what works best for you.

Neutrals for piecing. I like neutrals for piecing because not only do I get to keep my pretty thread for things like applique and extra touches, I can stock up. I only piece in grey. Whether it's dark or light fabric, grey is my go to for piecing, so I buy in bulk. This also means I can wind a ton of bobbins and have them on hand for piecing. Now I don't have to stop every couple of empty bobbins to wind up again.

Bobbins. Don't forget the bobbins! You should get some with your machine, and those are the type you want to stay with. Bobbin sizes vary, and machines like the bobbins they come with. Make sure to check your manual before buying more.

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When choosing to use a particular color for piecing you can buy large spools of thread. These large spools are also nice if you are quilting on your domestic (regular sewing machine).

Prewound bobbins are a thing! I have never used them, so I can't give you much information on them, other than to remind you to make sure they are the correct bobbin for your machine.

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Large spools will obviously last longer between changes, but can cause issues for threading. You can use different household items to help, like cups, or purchase a large spool holder. There are some very pretty spool holders out there.

Bobbin holders are amazing. I love mine because I can wind up a bunch of bobbins and have them right there, ready to use, and not tangled.


Needles




Sewing machine needles come in different sizes, based on type of fabric and sewing you are doing. To start with I always used a universal and I never paid attention to the numbers, because I didn't know what they meant.

Here's a quick overview of needle sizes. There are two numbers listed 70(10), 80(12), etc. These are the sizes and they simply represent European(American) sizes. The larger the number the thicker the fabric you can sew. 

For piecing and quilting you can use 70(10) - 90(14), most use the 80(12).

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I store my sewing machine needles in a container with multiple compartments that I found on Amazon. It keeps them all in one place and makes it easy to find the right size when needed. You can see I also store my rotary cutter blades in there as well. The compartments are a great size.


Scissors




If you ask a quilter how many scissors she has, I guarantee you it's more than 1. Can you have too many scissors? Probably, but not when you are in the middle of looking for one.

Scissors with a spring loaded handle are so much easier on your hands, so if you can afford a pair, I encourage you to get one of those. If not, "regular" scissors are just fine. They do need to be sharp though. Contact your LQS (Local Quilt Shop) or sewing machine repair shop to see if they do scissor sharpening.

Snips are little scissors used for clipping threads. They are nice because they are easy to hold and be more precise with your clipping. There is nothing more sad than catching your fabric when clipping threads. They can also come with spring loaded handles.

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Lanyards are a great way to keep your snips close by. It's so much easier to have them attached to you than trying to find them under the fabric pieces.

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Thread cutting tools are clipping tools that stand on a flat surface and are used for clipping threads when chain piecing. Instead of clipping each one with a scissors you just pull the thread down on the razor and it cuts it for you.


Seam Ripper




Ahhh, the trusty seam ripper. It's a love/hate relationship. Every sewing machine comes with a generic seam ripper. They work just fine for those starting out. When you are ready for something different though, a seam ripper with a larger handle is going to be much easier to use. These are also available with ergonomic handles. Seam rippers do get dull, don't hesitate to replace yours when it's no long cutting through thread easily.

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There are other tools to use as seam rippers as well. Razors and seam removers can be found at your LQS. It's another tool that you can research and find the one that works best for you.

This is the third article in the Quilting Tools - Essential series. Find the others here:

Week 1

Week 2

See my list of Favorite Tools.

Make something  extraordinary!



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Thursday, April 11, 2024

Quilting Tools - The fun essentials

 Let's dive into the quilting tools that are fun to use.



We went over the very basic, essential tools last week in this post. It can be overwhelming to start with those big purchases, but now we can get into the good stuff. (Although I admit, when I bought my new sewing machine, I did a true happy dance.)

Rulers



So many rulers, so little time, but there are a couple that I would deem essential.

The 6 1/2" x 24 would be the one I would say you must have, especially if you are cutting yardage. The length of the ruler will make it so you don't have to move it to get one long cut, the width of it will give you extra space for your hand to hold the ruler down.

A square ruler. Square rulers come in handy so often, and I like the 6 1/2" square rulers. It fits well in my hand, can be used for cutting, trimming and marking and is just a good all around size.

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The 6 1/2" by 12" ruler is one of my most used rulers. It is the perfect size for cutting FQ (Fat Quarters) as well as sub-cutting strips.

The 12 1/2" square ruler is another ruler I use often. It's great for cutting larger pieces (7" squares, etc) and for help in trimming the 12 1/2" blocks I make for the Monthly Color Challenge.

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This is where the fun rulers come in. There are so many specialty rulers out there that I would need multiple blog posts to cover them all. So I'm going to touch on the "essential" specialty rulers. As with all things quilting, quilters have their absolute go to specialty rulers and they feel strongly about them. I'm going to share three types of specialty rulers, you will have to find the brand that works for you. My personal recommendations can be found on my "Favorite tools page."

HST (Half Square Triangle) trimming rulers will make your life so much easier. When we make our HST units oversized, which is what I always do for accuracy, we need to trim them down to the required size. You can absolutely do this with the 6 1/2" square ruler, even the large rectangle ruler, but a specialty ruler will make this process a bit faster and more accurate.

FG (Flying Geese) trimming rulers will do the same. It's also the same process, make the FG units larger, than trim them to the correct size.

SIS (Square in a Square) and QS (Quarter Square) rulers are also out there as well as many different triangles.


Marking



You will need a way to mark your units, whether it's diagonal lines or quilting lines, and the quilting world has you covered.

For marking the wrong side of the fabric on light fabric, I like the simple mechanical pencil (or any sharp pencil). It makes a nice thin line to follow and is usually narrow enough that it fits against the ruler nicely.

On dark fabric I like the Bohin pencil. It gives a nice thin line AND it's refillable.

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Frixen pens. *NOTE* use these only on the wrong side of the fabric as the color can return. It has also been my experience that they will take away the dye on batiks and leave a white trail. All of that being said, I like them for marking on light fabric.

Chalk. I started with chalk many years ago and they were my go to for a long time. They are easy to apply, brush off and are also refillable. You can also use them for marking quilting lines.



Hera Marker. I use this for marking quilting lines when I am quilting on my domestic (regular sewing machine).

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For writing my labels I use the Micron pens. These are permanent, so I don't recommend them for other marking.


Markers and Place Holders

When you are making a lot of quilt block units and quilt blocks keeping them organized is essential.

Post it notes are a great way to mark your units. Simply write what it is (unit size, row, etc) and put the note on top of the pile.

For rows, I have also used bits of paper marked with the row number and pinned it to the first block in the row before stacking.

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I found these clothes pins years ago in the Target $1 area. They are great for keeping like units together as well as keeping my rows in order.

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If you want your markers to be as pretty as your fabric there are many options out there. They are a fun way to keep things organized.


Pins and Clips



Eventually you are going to need to hold things together, in your quilting life anyway. Ha!

Pins come in many sizes and lengths. They don't need to be pretty, but they do need to be sharp. I also recommend getting longer pins so when you are putting units together you can get through all of the layers easily.



Safety pins are used for basting your layers. The best type is the curved pin. This makes it easier to get through the layers and then close it.

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Wonder clips are actually a tool I didn't think I needed. They were a game changer when hand stitching my binding though, as well as for keeping layers together when I sew clothes.

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Safety pin covers can provide a larger gripping space to make opening and closing the pins easier. It also makes them easy to see when quilting.


For links to all of my Favorite Tools click here.


This is the second article in the Quilting Tools - Essentials series.

Week 1


Make something extraordinary!



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Thursday, April 4, 2024

Quilting Tools - Essentials

 Let's talk basic, essential quilting tools.



When you walk into a quilting or crafting store you are immediately surrounded by craft goodies. So. Many. Craft. Goodies.

It's easy to get overwhelmed and unsure of what you need to begin this amazing quilting journey. So let's dig into that.

Sewing Machines




Sewing machines are one of the first tools you will be purchasing, and whoa, talk about a plethora of choices!

What do your truly need to start this journey? A simple straight stitch. This is a stitch that gives you a straight line of stitching. All of those fancy stitches that come with new machines are just that, fancy.

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Throat size. What is throat size? It's the area between the needle and the right side of the machine. This area isn't important for piecing the quilt top, but if you are thinking of quilting your own quilts, the more space in this area, the better.




Quarter Inch Guide. This is a presser foot that you can attach to your machine that helps you sew with a quarter inch seam allowance.




Walking foot. This is a presser foot for sewing through layers. I use it when attaching my binding because it feeds all of the layers through evenly and easily.

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Needle threader. This is exactly what is sounds like. It threads your needle for you, very handy if you have a hard time seeing that little hole.

Knee lift. This extra is a love it or hate it extra. Some love it, some hate it. I love it. It attaches to your machine and you use your knee to press the bar and lift your presser foot. It took me some time to get used to it, and wonder why I needed this extra piece, but I do really like having that "extra hand" now. 

Iron



An iron is an essential quilting tool, and it doesn't have to be fancy.

There are so many irons out there, and it's another tool that quilters have big feelings about, but the only thing that really matters is that it gets hot. My iron is a Hamilton Beach iron that I buy at Walmart. *Note* Be sure to read the manual for what type of water you can put in your iron if you are going to use steam. It makes a difference on how long your iron will last.

Ironing board. Your everyday ironing board works just fine, there are wider boards out there, but you don't have to have them.

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Spray mister. I do not use water in my iron. Instead I use a mister for both my starch and my water. It does a very nice job of spreading the liquid evenly, while not using too much, thus saving me money on starch.

Starch. I starch everything I'm piecing. It's important to remember to starch only before you cut, not after. You can make your own or buy it.

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Wool pressing mat. Wool pressing mats come in a wide range of sizes. I currently have one that is 14" x 24" and I truly love it. It has more cushion than my every day ironing board and therefore gives a nice pressing area for seams. An ironing board size wool pressing mat is definitely on my list.

Cutting

A cutting mat and rotary cutter will go a long way to making your quilting journey amazing.

A self healing mat. A self healing mat is a mat that, once you've cut on it "heals" itself by closing that cut. They do eventually stop healing themselves and you will need to purchase another one, but they have long lives. You can start off small, but I do recommend at least an 18" x 36" for cutting yardage.




Rotary cutter. Rotary cutters are sharp little buggers that you need to handle with care, but are a great tool that has become pretty essential to the quilting world. This is another tool where there are so many options it's hard to choose. Ergonomically correct cutters are out there and they make a difference with wrist fatigue. If you have friends who quilt and use different rotary cutters, ask to try them so you can see if you prefer one over another.

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Rotating mat. This is a mat on a "lazy susan" type base. You can use it for trimming your quilting units without having to pick up the unit and move it.

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Protective gloves. I am not kidding when I say the rotary cutters are sharp. To start your quilting journey you may want to get a pair of gloves to protect your hands.

Sewing and cutting tables

I know not everyone has room or space for these items. I used to set up in our dining room and have to tear it all down for meals. I've even set up on a card table in the living room to sew on.

If you can, find a place to cut fabric that is the right height for comfort. A countertop works, or a kitchen island. If those don't work and you are at a table that is lower, make sure to take breaks and stretch your back, neck, shoulders and legs.

These are the basic essential tools to get started in quilting. Next week I'll go deeper into the essential tools of quilting. Read: the fun stuff.


You can find my list of favorite tools HERE.


This is the first article in the Quilting Tools - Essentials Series.

Week 2

Week 3


Make something extraordinary!


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Monday, April 1, 2024

2024 April Monthly Color Challenge Block

 This block does not make me feel blue.




Our challenge this month is inspired by tropical fish. Such beauty lays under the water, it's hard not to be inspired.



This month our color is red and we look to the Electric Blue Hap for our inspiration.




From Modest Fish: Electric blue haps have been one of the most popular African Cichlids in the aquarium community due to its coloration. It’s long, slender-body can grow up to 7.9 inches in length and depicts intense eclectic blue coloring and dark blue vertical bars. These are active, territorial fish that’ll fight until the death if given the opportunity.




I love the red of this fish. I bet seeing a flash of red in your tank would be so pretty.




I'm using Benartex's "Burlap" fabric line. I love the texture of the fabric, sooo much.

 

Our featured blogger this month is:

Gail - Quilting Gail

Find her on Instagram


Ready for the  block? I love a good star block, don't you?




Join the Quilt and Learn with Patterns By Jen Facebook group (make sure to answer the questions so I know you are a real person 😉) where you will get a lot of support and questions answered! If you aren't on Facebook you can also follow Patterns By Jen on Instagram. Use #2024MonthlyColorChallenge when sharing so I can be sure to see your block.



I hope my feed is swimming in blue this month!

Ready to get the pattern? Go to Payhip and download it now! The block is free for the month of April! Each set of instructions includes a "How To" video.

It's too late to receive the January through April block instructions through email, but you can still sign up to have the May - December Monthly Color Challenge blocks (and the layout!) sent directly to your inbox. Sign up HERE.

 

Let's make something Extraordinary!

 

Jen


New to Patterns By Jen?

 

Don't forget to sign up for the Bites of PBJ newsletter while you are here for early releases and sales just for subscribers!

 

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Thursday, March 28, 2024

Color and Quilts 4 - Borders and Binding

 Finishing color touches, the border(s) and binding.



Borders


Diamond Run


I love a good border. There are a few of my patterns that don't have borders, but if I can add a border, or two, or three, I do it with joy.



Borders can give your eye a stopping point on a quilt that has a lot going on.



They can frame a gorgeous design, making it the center of attention.



Borders can add to the design of the quilt.



They are a great place to add that large print you fell in love with, but would not have worked well within the pattern, like we talked about last week.


Sometimes, the border fabric is picked before the rest of the fabrics, simply because it called your name.

How do you pick a good border?

1) First it's important to remember, just because a pattern does or does not call for a border, doesn't mean you have to do what it says. If you think your quilt top needs a border, or more than one, go for it. If your quilt top is telling you it doesn't want a border, skip the border.

2) If you are choosing a border based on fabric you have already chosen, lay it out across all of the fabrics. Even if the border won't be next to a certain fabric, it will be seen with it, so should compliment it.

3) Did you fall in love with a large (or small) print that you want to base your fabric colors off of? Just like the tip above, you want to lay those fabrics over the border fabric. You don't have to pull every color from that border, that could get very overwhelming, but the few you do should compliment it.

 
Binding

Binding is THE final touch for your quilt. The more confident I've gotten in myself as a quilter, the more stripey my bindings have gotten. 😂


Seriously, I love a good striped binding. So much so, I'm not a fabric collector, but I do buy striped fabric whenever I see one I love. Other than flamingo fabric, it's the one fabric I will buy without having a plan for it. Ok, I do the same with purple.

Before I fell in love with stripes though, I was a matchy, matchy girl with my binding, and for the most part I still am.



I have a hard time not matching the binding fabric to the border fabric. While I can play a bit with borders, I truly want a stopping point to my quilt, and feel binding is that stop.



When there isn't a border then I usually do a dark fabric to make sure it does stop the eye at the edge.



I have been know to switch it up a bit, though and use a bright fabric color pulled from the top. Just like the border fabric, you will find what you like, just be open to try different binding options. Sometimes a quilt will make you do something you don't usually do, and it makes you a better quilter. 💜

So how do you choose binding if the quilt isn't talking to you?

1) You can always use the same fabric you used for the border, for the binding. It will blend in nicely and you know it works with the quilt.

2) Pull a fabric that you used in the quilt. The teal binding I used on the Quilt Crush quilt  above was the same fabric I used in the center of the blocks. While it made the binding pop, it was a continuation of that fabric and so still brings your eye to a stop.

3) Go stripey! 😉 Seriously, a stripe or patterned binding can add a special, uniquely you touch to the end of your quilt. Find one that is tone on tone, two colors or multicolored. If you can find one that has the colors of your top in it, go for it.

4) If all else fails, go for a solid binding that is the darkest color in either the quilt top or the border. It will say this quilt is finished and that's just the way I like it.

Make something extraordinary!

Jen

Did you get my 5 Free Tips for Accurate Piecing yet? I would love to send it to you, sign up HERE!


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