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Tips

Fabric
Stitching (Applique)
Stitching (Stitcheries)
Quilting
General Life Wisdom

Fabric

Choosing fabrics for applique is a different kettle of fish to traditional patchwork I think. Here's some musings on the subject. They are just my musings, and are not gospel.

  • I find with my designs smaller patterns work best, as you're not having to 'fussy cut' and waste material.
  • It's easier to look for fabrics at one location if you can, as you can get a better picture of what works together.
  • It's better to spend $8-$10 more on a great piece of fabric, than one that 'will do'. If you're going to spend hours working on a project, it's worth working with the best.
  • Try to avoid solids, unless it's a miniscule piece, or it's specifically asked for in the pattern. Even if it's black, it's good to use a 'tone on tone' print (this means, a black print on a black background). Solids draw the eye, and can stick out badly. This was my very first lesson in fabric selection, and I think I learned it the hard way.
  • Keep in mind the person you're making the quilt for, but don't be tooo personal. A friend of mine made a baby quilt for an expected little girl, with the parents already announcing the chosen name. After spending hours sewing 'Madeline' in big letters across a pink quilt, everyone was quite surprised to meet 'Thomas' in the hospital!

Stitching (Applique)

  • When working with large pieces with many different sections, it's best to work from the outside inwards towards the centre. This is because you gather the fabric with your hands when stitching, so the outer pieces get more 'wear'.
  • Use a large zig zag with low tension around the edges of your background panels to prevent fraying while working on your stitching. This is particularly helpful if, like me, you have four quilts on the go at once, and take a bit of time to finish things off.
  • Try to do the 'extras' like eyes and inner lines at the same time as blanket stitching the shapes to avoid the CBBs (Can't Be Bothereds) when it comes to finishing off the stitching... which can then turn your project into a UFO...
  • Needle sizes: I usually use a size 8 for normal 2 strand work, but swap to a larger eye size for gold thread work to prevent the thread snagging.
  • ALWAYS anchor blanket stitches around a curve every 3-4 stitches. After 5 years and several washes, you'll thank yourself when the stitches are still nice and neat around that circle. Anchoring is simply taking the needle and thread straight down and then up again inside the stitch before continuing on to the next stitch.
  • Pieces look best when the thread colour is subtly different to the fabric colour. I choose a shade lighter or darker to enhance the edge shapes. (This where my graphics training comes in.) If the shape is black, I use a dark grey, if it's white, I choose a light grey. You can see where I've made a mistake on the pirate quilt, where I didn't use a dark enough stitch on the red sails- the shapes visually blend together, instead of being seen as separate pieces.
  • You can visually 'lighten' or 'darken' a fabric choice by the choice of thread.
  • Usually try and stick to the same thread colour for the same fabric throughout the quilt. However, it's OK to change it if a different background colour is used, and you need more contrast.

Stitching (Stitcheries)

  • Stabiliser is your friend. I use Weaveline, but there are plenty of other light weight brands around. Stabiliser prevents the dreaded pucker, hides knotting, and makes the assembly of the quilt a lot easier.
  • Use different hoop sizes. A smaller hoop is good to use when you’ve got dense stitching areas. The smaller the hoop is, the less wear and tear on your holding hand.
  • When doing longer lines, I often prop up my hoop, and use my dominant right hand underneath, and left hand on top, to speed up the work.
  • Chain stitch is best done without a hoop, but backstitch is best when hooped!
  • Take your work out of your hoop when finished to avoid circle lines on the stitchery. High steam settings with your iron are really the only way I’ve found to get rid of them.
  • French knots are easier to do if you use a one twist around the needle, instead of two. I’ve seen these referred to as Colonial knots, but I’m not 100% sure if that’s correct.
  • Adding fill stitches with one strand of thread can make a big difference to your work, if you have the time.
  • Use Au Papillion gold thread. Anything else is a frustrating waste of time.

Quilting

  • Margaret use an embroidery hoop to quilt around the applique pieces, but AFTER she's machine quilted in the ditches (seams). This prevents the hoop pulling the fabric and wadding skew whiff.
  • Margaret uses a clear (monofilament) thread for machine quilting in the ditches.
  • Margaret suggests washing and ironing the wadding before use so you can get the quilting sitting flat as you possibly can.

General Life Wisdom

  • If you’re in a leotard, don’t take a photo. Or, never wear a leotard.
  • Your child is never going to thank you for a hand stitched iphone case (unless they’re a hipster lumberjack)
  • Dishes can wait. Eventually someone else will do them.
  • Stitching with yellow thread is hard to do at night time.
  • Every now and then, get out of the house. It’s good for your back to have a break from stitching now and again.
  • Don’t hide your beautiful quilt away- use it!

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