Saturday, 28 November 2015
Home Goodies Quilting Hints and Tips
Quilting hints and tips

Do you have a Quilting Question?


As a teacher I get asked a lot of questions, and some of them I get asked quite often.  So I thought I would put some of these questions that I recieve by e-mail here with the answers so that you may benefit from them.


In addition to posting the e-mail questions, I recently started to send tips to you, by e-mail.  If you are not recieving these, and would like to, please contact me.  Otherwise, check back here regularly,  I will eventually add all those e-mailed tips here.


At Quilting Weekly we value your input so if you have a question or a helpful tip to share, and it is not listed here, please send it to  This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it so that I can post it here with the answer.  Remember the only dumb questions are the ones we never ask!


Answers to general quilting questions can be found here:


Q. What is a quilt sandwich?

A. that is what quilters refer to when they are putting together the layers for of the quilt.  It consists of the quilt top, batting and bottom layer of fabric.  The top and bottom can be one piece of fabric, or several pieces of fabric that are sewn together to create one new piece of fabric.

Q. What is batting?

A. Batting is the layer in the middle of your quilt.  It is what gives it warmth and makes it fluffy.  It is the filler in the quilt sandwich.  Batting can be cotton, polyester, wool, flannel or a blend of more than one fiber.  Batting in some parts of the world, is called wadding.  Batting or wadding comes in many thicknesses.  The thicker the batting the fluffier your quilt will look when finished.  For a creative solution to traditional batting, why not try an old flannel sheet?  This is fairly thin to work with, but is really warm and a good way to recycle!

Q. Should I prewash my cotton batting?

A. Instead of washing cotton batting, toss it in the dryer on high heat to preshrink it.  You’ll avoid the risk of it being shredded in the washing machine.  Cotton batting shrinks when washed, giving an antique, crinkled look to your quilt.  If you are not prewashing, air- fluff your batting in the dryer to relax it and take out any large wrinkles or folds.  If you want a smoother look in the finished quilt, prewash your cotton batting according to the manufacturer’s directions.  (When it says “do not agitate”, don’t agitate!)

Q. How often should I change my sewing needle?

A. It is recommended that you change your sewing machine needle after about 8 hours of continuous sewing.  Depending on how often and how long you sew each day, this can be daily or monthly.  I try to remember to change my needle at the start of every new project.  You will know it is time to change your needle if you hear a popping sound, when the needle goes into the fabric or if you start to see skipped stitches.  These are two of the most common signs of a dull needle.

Q. Is a fat quarter the same as a quarter yard?

A. No, a "Fat Quarter" is different than a quarter yard of fabric.  A quarter yard of fabric is 9 inches by the full width of fabric.  (Average width is 45 inches).  A "Fat Quarter" is cut at 18 inches by 22 inches.

Q. Should I prewash my fabric before I cut it?

A. There are two schools of thought on this one.  I will list the benefits of prewashing and you can make your own decision on this one.  Prewashing removes excess dye that may be in the fabric, which can bleed onto your other fabrics.  There may be traces of other chemicals used in the fabric making process that can upset some allergies.  Prewashing removes these.  All fabrics do not shrink at the same rate.  Prewashing will slow down or stop future shrinking.  The choice to prewash also depends on whether or not you will need to launder the finished product.  For example if it is an art quilt, or wall hanging that will not get used than you may not prewash.  As for the shrinking in a quilt it gives it an old puckered feel, like an antique quilt, again if you want that look than that’s fine.  But in the case of high contrast fabrics, like black and white, or red and white, you may not like the effect if the colors bleed once the finished quilt is washed.

Q. What is the proper way to press my blocks?

Press the seams on the blocks from the wrong side of the fabric. When pressing, it is important to lift and set the iron down on the fabric, rathar than sliding the iron over the fabric.  When you slide the iron (like when you press a shirt) you run the risk of stretching the block. 

Most of the time you should press toward the darker fabric.  The reason for this is so you do not see the darker fabric through the lighter one (which can happen if you press toward the lighter one.)  There are  exceptions to this and most patterns will tell you if you need to press differently.  An example would be with a star pattern that has more than 4 seams coming together in the center.  You may want to press them open in this case to prevent having to much bulk in the seam.

Q. I hear people talking about the "Bias" what does that mean?

A.Here is a definition of bias:

Any diagonal line between the crosswise or lengthwise grain line in woven fabric.  The bias grain has more stretch and is less stable than the crosswise or lengthwise grain.  True bias:  intersects the lengthwise grain and the crosswise grain at a 45 degree angle.

Here are some other "bias" facts for you.

Bias bars:  Purchased metal or heat-resistant plastic bars in varying widths that are used to make bias stems.

Bias bindings:  Binding strips cut on the true bias (see above) grain, resulting in a binding that can be easily positioned around curved edges.  When striped fabrics are cut on the bias, the result is a "barber pole" effect.

Bias seams:  When bias edges of fabric are sewn together, a bias seam results.  This seam can be easily stretched and distorted and must be handled with care.

Bias stems:  Fabric strips cut on the bias grain so that they are flexible enough to bend without wrinkles or puckers when making floral stems or vines for appliqués.

Bias strips:  Long, thin pieces of fabric cut on the bias grain.


Answers to your machine quilting questions can be found here:


Did you know that our "Machine Quilting 101 Class" can answer many of your machine quilting questions?  Here are the answers to just a few of the most commonly asked questions.


Q. What is a walking foot and when do I use it?

A. The walking foot also known as a even feed foot, is a special foot which is attached to your machine in place of the standard or ¼ inch foot which is typically used for piecing.  The walking foot is used when you are doing the top stitching on your quilt, or when you are adding the binding to the quilt.  It helps to prevent puckers by moving the multiple layers of fabric and batting through the machine at the same time.

Q. What is a darning foot and when should I use it?

A. The darning foot is a special foot that is used for free-motion quilting.  With free motion quilting you are in control of moving the quilt, as you will need to cover or lower your feed dogs when using this foot.

Q. I am still learning free motion quilting.  How can I make the stitches less noticeable?

A. Quilting does take practice, and while you are practicing I suggest using a busy print.  The busy prints will hide the stitches.  That is true for the top as well as the backing.

Q. Do you want to improve you quilting stitches?

A. Use those “leftovers” Want to work on improving your hand or machine quilting without practicing on an actual project?  Make quilt sandwiches from scraps of fabric and batting and practice your stitching techniques on them.  This is an excellent way to use your scraps and experiment with different quilting designs and stitches before trying them in a project.

Use scraps of fabric, or even leftover test blocks.  Muslin is another inexpensive option to using up quality fabric scraps.

Q. I have trouble gripping my quilt when I machine quilting, what can I use to help with this?

A. There are machine quilting gloves sold in most quilt shops.  But if you do not have a shop near you or do not want to spend the money for these, there are some other options.  You can use a new pair of garden gloves with rubber dots on them, rubber kitchen gloves work well too.  You could also try those rubber secretary finger tips, or surgical gloves.


Answers to your cutting questions can be found here:


Did you know that many of our classes include video instructions on rotary cutting? Read our class descriptions to see if it includes these invaluable videos.


Q. How can I keep my ruler from slipping when cutting with the rotary cutter?

A. Place "rubber dots" which are sold in most of the stores where you bought your ruler. Some of the rulers come with non slip surfaces now, but if not place a few of the dots on the back of the ruler this will keep it from sliding on the fabric.  Also make sure you have enough pressure on the ruler as you cut.  If you are cutting with a large ruler, place your hand near the bottom, move the cutter to where your hand is, then slide your hand further up the ruler, then cut some more.  Always keeping the hand on the ruler ahead of the cutter,  this will give you more control on the ruler as you cut.


Answers to all the other questions not found in other catagories can be found here:

Q. What is trapunto?

The following paragraphs are taken from a book called “The Quilters Ultimate Visual Guide” by Ellen Pahl.

The terms trapunto, Italian trapunto, cording, stuffed work, and stuffed or padded appliqué are commonly used interchangeably, although there are differences in the way they are created.  They all refer to the technique of stitching a design and stuffing it for a padded, sculptural effect.  The play of light and shadow created as a result of the high relief patterns can be stunning!

Trapunto is the process of outline stitching a motif and stuffing the resulting areas of the design with cotton, wool, or polyester stuffing material.  Traditionally, this painstaking method was accomplished by gently spreading apart the threads of the coarsely woven quilt backing and inserting bits of batting until the area was raised.  A stiletto was the tool often used for this task, as it aided in working the holes closed after each area was filled.

Corded trapunto is used in narrow areas such as stems, vines, cables, or channels.  After stitching parallel quilting lines, a blunt tapestry needle threaded with lengths of cotton or synthetic yarn is inserted between the threads in the back of the quilt and run through the channel to raise the motif.

Stuffed work involves stitching individual fabric appliqué designs to a quilt top and filling each with batting, tufts of polyester fiberfill, cotton, or wool.


You can give Trapunto a go for your self in our guest tutor - Tennye's Quilting class called "Trapunto'd Box of Chocolates"