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Archived Tips

About ways to help determine fabric types.

If someone gives you an unknown fabric or batting, there are two methods to find out what type it is.

1.  The most reliable method is to put a thread under a microscope and look at the actual fiber itself. An inexpensive microscope will work.

-Cotton is twisty and round and looks like a straw.

-Wool has scales.

-Silk is smooth and round like spaghetti.

-Linen has little horizontal joins.

2.  But there is also the burn test.  Hold a match to a small piece of the fabric and observe the results.

-Cotton burns steadily and smells like burning leaves. The ash is soft and crumbles easily.

-Wool smolders and sputters when near flame. It doesn't burn easily and smells like burning hair. It produces a crisp, dark ash which crushes easily and turns to powder. Wool will also dissolve in chlorine bleach.

-Silk burns slowly and smells like hair or feathers burning. It burns slowly with a grayish ash which crumbles easily.

-Linen is very similar but it takes longer to light and smells like burning paper.

-Manmade Fibers (acrylic, nylon, polyester, rayon, etc.) will melt when exposed to a flame and the ash will form a hard bead (except rayon which disappears.) It smells slightly acidic. This test is not as reliable with blends.

Marking Stains

Test your pencil/marker on scrap fabric before using it on your quilt!

If it's too late and you are having trouble removing the marking lines on your quilt, try mixing this recipe together:

  • 3 oz rubbing alcohol
  • 1 oz water
  • 4 drops clear liquid dishwashing detergent

Take a clean, soft-bristled toothbrush and dip it in the solution and brush onto your fabric.  Blot dry.

(Sometimes, 1/4 tsp of baking soda dissolved in 1/4 cup water will neutralize a blue marker to make it easier to remove.)

About using a dye magnet in your wash.

A great dye magnet to use would be a piece of un-dyed, untreated terrycloth. Untreated cotton will absorb escaping dyes, so the piece of cloth will collect all the dye in your wash water.

Once it is saturated, you can just bleach it all out and keep using it in your future washes. Old, well-used, white, 100% cotton terry washcloths, towels, T-shirts, and underwear will work just as good too.

Be careful.  NEVER expose your dye magnet cloth to fabric softener. Fabric softener will coat the fibers and will interfere with the cloth's ability to absorb dye.

Make your own chenille.

Layer 4 to 8 layers of fabric (cotton, rayon or silk) with the brightest and boldest fabric on top. Spray baste between each layer, or pin baste when you are done.

Mark a diagonal line on the bias crossing the center of this piece.

Using your walking foot, stitch all layers along that line, then stitch 1/4" to 1/2" on either side until the entire piece is quilted.

Carefully cut between the lines, without cutting the bottom layer of fabric, using shears, a slash cutter, or a specially designed mat with your rotary cutter.

To make the chenille bloom once it has been slashed, throw it in the washer then dryer.

All about Stabilizers and how best to use them.  Stabilizers are designed to support, and sometimes replace, fabric under the stress of dense and multi-directional machine stitching.  They can be applied in many ways, but are commonly used with an embroidery hoop to hold fabric as flat and inflexibly as possible.

Best for any fabric that cannot be hooped easily (especially quilts!) like shirt cuffs or collars, socks, bags, etc.  You stick it to the fabric on one side, while the other is covered by protective sheeting.  You can either put the stabilizer in your hoop with the sticky side up and place your fabric on top or place your fabric on the stabilizer and then hoop it.

Best used for light to medium weight woven fabrics like cotton, canvas, silks, sheers or satins, and corduroys and any embroidery project that is "in-the-hoop".  Considered a soft stabilizer for lightweight fabrics but it does come in different thicknesses.  Consider it temporary support that is faster and easier to use, just realize each needle hole lowers the stability.  Choose a bi- or multi-directional tear-away for the easiest removal.  If you are doing a lot of stitching (large design) it is probably best that you use two layers of tear-away, it will help with stabilization, but when you are done, only tear one layer at a time away.  If you have little bits of stabilizer left behind after tearing, either use tweezers to pull them out or, if more difficult to remove, a permanent felt pen the same color as your stitch thread to colour over them.

Best used for stretchy and more unstable fabrics like knits, stretch denim, velvet, corduroy, fleece or towelling.  This is more of a medium weight stabilizer as it is consider a more permanent support that should last through wearing and laundering.  Again, if you are doing a larger design or using a lot of stitching, it is probably best to use two layers of cut-away, but it is a better choice for larger designs or ones with more stitches.  Cut away any excess stabilizer once you are done.  This type is also great for any project to be framed - because you don't see the back!

Most commonly used because it is good for most fabrics, especially lightweight ones, but can be used for medium- to heavy-weight knits as well.  It's not good for designs with tightly packed rows of stitches though because it would make it difficult to remove.  It is a paper-based stabilizer with a waxy film that irons on the back of your fabric.  You can use iron-on stabilizer with tear-away if you want more stabilization.   It's good for getting proper hooping.  You should tear or peel off any excess once you are done.  If you avoid ones with a lot of glue, you will have less problems stitching because it will not gummy up your needle.

Best for any free standing lacework design or for top ups on towelling, corduroys, velvets or knits because it can be used on top or underneath fabrics and any excess should wash away in water.  It is great for use on top of towelling to ensure the fabric nap does not poke through your embroidery designs and also for more intricate designs where it might be more difficult to tear or cut away the stabilizer.  Note:  store in zipper-lock-type baggies as this type tends to stiffen with continued exposure to the air.

There are a few types available.  The most common being a plastic-like film and soluble paper.  Both can be used with hoops.  There are also adhesive-backed and heavier films which are great for embroidering lace and Richelieu, as well as cutwork and designs.  Also there is a type of brush-on liquid as well as a spray-on that makes the fabric firmer than starch without the build up or scorch.  These last two aren't really stabilizers, but you can use them along with tear-away for things like appliqué projects.

Heat Removable
Best for projects that are very delicate or can't be washed.  You can only use this on fabrics that will not burn, as heat removes it.  Good for use on off the edge stitching techniques.  You should really only use this type when your fabric is too delicate for tear-away, too sheer for cut-away, is not washable, or when you're working with special techniques like making lace at an edge.  Note:  store in zipper-lock-type baggies as this type tends to stiffen with continued exposure to the air.

There are two types of heat removeable stabilizer.  Woven or a plastic-like film.  The woven turns brown and flakes when heated with an iron, and the flakes can be gently brushed away. But be careful because the chemical it uses to do this is water-soluble, so a steam iron wouldn't be appropriate.

The plastic-like film heats and melts.  It is used more for topping so stitches don't get lost in dense nap or pile.  It stays under the stitching to support it during washings.  Any excess around the stitches disappears when you use a hot dry iron.  Just touch the surface, don't slide the iron across the film.  Then you can just wipe away any beads on the iron with a paper towel or fabric scrap.

A few last tips.

A lot of stabilizers look very similar.  If you remove the original packaging and label information, it's in your best interest to put some kind of note labelling its type to ease future confusion.

You can use more than one type of stabilizer in the same project in some cases.  It can simplify a more complex project where you might use wing-needle stitching on a soft fabric with stabilizer before hooping the fabric with a sewn-in tear-away from a digitized design.

If you do a lot of embroidery, sometimes it is good to keep samples on different types you've done to make it easier to figure out what type to use for future projects.

Some fabrics just aren't good for embroidery, so no stabilizer will help that.

As long as your fabric doesn't show holes, sometimes you can also use pins or baste stitches to hold the stabilizer in place on the fabric for a better result.

Wondering if you should use tear-away or cut-away?  The general practice is that if your fabric stretches, use cut-away.  If not, then tear-away.

How to use stabilizers and adhesives more cleanly:

Get an empty container (tailor the size to your project), cut off the bottom and top.

Now when you want to spray something, set the container over the area and spray away!  Residue clings to the inside of the container, not your hoop or cutting table.

Machine-quilting a project doesn't always happen in one sitting and can take several hours.  An easy way to remember your machine quilting settings is once you've determined your project's stitch number, tension setting and length, write them down on the quilt backing selvage in pen.  The information will be where you can see it when it’s time to start quilting again and won't show up on your finished project.

Are you having tension problems?  If knots are appearing on the top of your fabric, try loosening the upper tension.  If there are loops on the bottom of your fabric, tighten the upper tension.

Anytime you find unexpected bird's nests on your fabric, check that upper tension!

Some Free Motion Tips

  • Doodle on paper as often as you can. Set your pen down and don’t pick it up until the page is filled with a single line of pseudo-stitching. It is a great way to get your mind in gear for machine quilting and to come up with new designs.
  • Have a small fabric and batting sandwich by your machine at all times to use as a warm-up and testing cloth. Use it every time you begin to quilt to test your thread tension and to get into the flow of movements that you will be using for your quilt.
  • Practice on a charity quilt. Throw together a bunch of scraps or pull out that quilt you started ten years ago and can’t stand the sight of any more. There is someone in a nursing home right now that will greatly appreciate a nice warm lap quilt.

Cleaning - Keep your sewing machine in good working order by using cotton swabs or pipe cleaners to clean the lint out of all the nooks and crannies including the area around and under the bobbin case. To clean thread tension discs, run a length of cotton thread that has been dipped in alcohol through them.

If all else fails, contact us for help with repairs!

Want to increase your accuracy?  Set your machine on a slow setting if you have a tendency to sew fast. Slower sewing improves accuracy and control.

Prevent your fabric from stretching as you mark it by placing it on 220-grit sandpaper.

About embroidery design.  Simple = Beautiful. A simple design is much better than an ornate one because you are using solid thread colour, not shades like in a painting.

Also, for best results, your lettering should be a least 1/4” in height.  Smaller is usually illegible.

Time Savers

Since the Christmas Season is one of the busiest times of the year. I figure we could use some time saving ideas as tips this month.

Save time looking for the things you need to start a project.
We all have magazines, books and pictures of inspiration. Store them for quick reference in those cheap cardboard magazine holders (you can buy them in Staples.) Organize them by the season of the quilt.
You may want to organize them by title or something else, but when you want to make a quilt for Christmas, you'd have to look through a lot of different holders for something specific. Storing them by season/holidays makes it much easier and quicker to find what you're looking for.

If you want to get creative, you could also use up extra fabric you have lying around by gluing it to the front of the holders to match the decor in your room, or the season itself!

Looking at your stash pile and wondering what to choose or where to begin? Take a couple of hours one day and get all the patterns together that you want to start. Then, since it is the Christmas season, buy some of those 11x17" gift boxes (or wait until they go on sale Boxing Day!) and start matching things up. Using these boxes to store your projects will keep things neat, clean, dust-free and organized.

Gather the fabric for each project and fold it nicely into the box, add your book/pattern, cover with the lid, and put a label on the front with all the info...pattern name, fabric name, colours, etc.


Here is some information about standard mattress sizes and likely quilt sizes.  The actual size of a quilt will vary depending on the drop (how much hangs over the edge, usually 21") and the pillow tuck, as well as personal preference.

Pillows can vary in size, too. A standard size pillowcase is usually
20" x 26", a queen size is usually 20" x 30" and a king size is
20" x 36". A pillowcase made with all seams enclosed is quick and easy and makes a great gift.

Standard Sizes Size of
Size of
Quilt (short)
Size of
Quilt (long)
Crib/Baby 26" x 48" 36" x 60" 48" x 72"
Lap 60" x 60" 90" x 90" 102" x 102"
Twin/ Daybed 39" x 75" 63" x 88" 81" x 107"
College Twin 39" x 80" 63" x 96" 81" x 115"
Waterbed Twin 48" x 84" 74" x 98" 90" x 120"
Full/Double 54" x 75" 80" x 88" 96" x 107"
Queen 60" x 80" 86" x 93" 102" x 112"
King 78" x 80" 104" x 93" 120" x 112"
California King 72" x 84" 100" x 98" 120" x 120"

NOTE:  After determining the quilt size you will need for your type of bed, be sure to add 6" to both the width and length of the measurements when determining how much batting you will need.

Have more S.E.X.!

S = Stash
E = Enhancing
X = eXperiences

(also known as a F.A.R.T. = Fabric Acquisition Road Trip!)

If you have pin basted your quilt together, you must remove the safety pins as you approach them. Do not, under any circumstances, attempt to stitch over a safety pin. Not only does stitching over them make them difficult to remove, but it's dangerous! You could easily break your needle, sending a fragment of the needle into your eye.

About free-motion machine quilting for advanced projects.

To do free-motion quilting, you need a special presser foot called a darning or free-motion foot. This type of foot has a rounded toe that travels just above the surface of the fabric.

Because you feed the quilt through the machine manually, free-motion quilting requires you to disengage your machine's feed dogs:

  • On some machines, you disengage the feed dogs by turning a knob, which lowers them out of position.
  • On other machines (especially older models), you don't lower the feed dogs to disengage them. Instead, you cover them with a metal or plastic plate. You will find this plate in your machine's bag of tricks.

Refer to your machine's manual to see how yours works.

With free-motion quilting, you do not need to adjust the length of the straight-stitch on your machine at all. The speed at which you are sewing combined with the speed at which you move the quilt around under the needle determines the stitch length. This is why practice is so important before attempting a large project in free-motion quilting.

After inserting the darning foot and disengaging the feed dogs, thread your machine and bobbin as you would for straight-line quilting. Place the quilt under the presser foot with one hand positioned on each side of the quilt, 2 inches or so from the presser foot. Use your hands to guide the quilt in the necessary direction under the darning foot.

If your fingers feel dry, or if you are having trouble moving the quilt under the machine because your fingers are sliding on the fabric, cover the first and index finger of each hand (four fingers in all) with a rubber fingertip from the office supply store.

Slowly begin stitching, taking two or three stitches in the same spot to secure the thread at the beginning. As you stitch, move the quilt, guiding it with your two hands, so that the needle follows your marked quilting lines or designs. Keeping the machine at a steady speed, move the fabric slowly and smoothly so you don't end up with gaps or overly long stitches. Slow and steady is the key here!

Free-motion machine quilting takes some time to master. Start on small projects, such as pillows, placemats, or wall hangings, before progressing to larger projects. Stipple quilting is a great first-time use for free-motion quilting because you are not required to follow a set pattern. Instead, you learn to maneuver the project under the darning foot and get some much-needed experience.

When purchasing your machine, an experienced sewer can get away with a more basic machine.  A beginner sewer, however, will benefit from a higher-end machine with more features.

If you are quilting a large project, such as a bed quilt, be sure you have a large surface to the rear and to the left of your machine to help you support the weight of the quilt. Large-size projects are very heavy and can easily pull your machine right off the table and onto the floor!

Prepare any quilt larger than 36 inches x 36 inches for quilting by rolling it as follows:

Lay the basted quilt on the floor and roll the two sides towards the center, leaving 12" unrolled. This is where you will begin machine quilting. Secure the rolls with safety pins or bicycle clips.

You can find bicycle clips at the sporting goods store and at some quilting stores. Bicycle clips are flexible metal rings with a small opening. They hold your pants leg against your body while cycling so that your pants don't get caught in the bicycle chain. Bicycle clips function the same way on a quilt. Just think of the rolled edges of the quilt as the "leg" and put the clip over this rolled leg, holding it securely in place.

Begin by inserting an even-feed presser foot in your machine. These presser feet are also known as walking feet. If your machine did not come with an even-feed foot, make a trip to the sewing center to get one. Bring your machine's manual with you so the clerk can help you find the right foot for your model.

An even-feed foot makes machine quilting smoother and pucker-free because it feeds the layers of the quilt through the machine evenly. Without it, the feed dogs (those teeth under the needle) will only feed the bottom layer of fabric through the machine, leaving the batting and top layers open to puckering because they're not being fed through the machine at the same rate.

To start machine stitching, thread the top of the machine with a coordinating shade of all-purpose thread.  If you would like the stitching to be invisible, use clear nylon monofilament as your top thread.

Load the bobbin with all-purpose thread in a color to match or coordinate with your backing fabric.

Set the stitch length on the machine at 6 to 10 stitches per inch.

Place the unrolled center area of the quilt in the machine and take one stitch.

With the needle up, stop and raise the presser foot. Pull the top thread tail so that the bobbin thread tail comes up through the hole in the stitch you made previously.  You now have both tails on top of the quilt.

Lower the presser foot and begin stitching by taking two stitches and then stopping.

Put your machine in reverse and take two stitches backward to secure the thread.  You are now ready to stitch your quilt.

Continue stitching normally (without reversing) along your marked lines or however you have decided to quilt your project.  When you get to a corner that needs to be turned, lower the needle into the fabric and raise the presser foot. Pivot the quilt in the other direction and lower the presser foot again. Continue stitching.

When you reach a spot where you need to stop stitching, take two stitches backward to secure the thread, just as before.

Remember, you need to secure the thread at the beginning and end every time, or you run the risk of the stitching coming undone at these starting and stopping points, resulting in an unsightly 1/4 inch or so that is unstitched.

After you finish quilting the area you unrolled, remove the project from the machine and unroll the sides to expose an unquilted area. Continue stitching until you have quilted the entire quilt.

About quilt binding.  Double the width of the size of your binding.  Fold it in half lengthwise and treat it as single piece.

Reason:  the binding gets the most wear and tear.  If you double it, it will be stronger and last longer.

You know those pieces of cardboard that bolts of fabric are wrapped around?  A lot of times they are thrown away.  You can use them for the base of bags.  They can even carry the weight of most sewing machines!

Who needs Swifter (spelling mistake on purpose) refills?!?!?

Cut your leftover batting into appropriate sized pieces and use them on your flat floor cleaner.  It is cheaper than buying name-brand refills and they do great job on both the floors and walls to remove dust and loose threads in your sewing room.

Those lint roll-sticky pet hair remover sheets are great for more than just getting stray stuff off your clothes!  Use a sheet at your sewing table.  Rip one off at the perforation, fold a corner down and stick it against your sewing table.  Then, any snips of thread, put them on the sticky sheet!  No tiny threads to clean up off the floor, table or project.

Use a computer mouse pad and put it under your floor pedal to stop it from walking away on you.  (Tip...buy one at the dollar store!)

Doing a lot of quilting, both stippling or specific quilting designs, you tend to go through washable marking pens at a high cost. Use washable fine tip marking pens!  You should always test with the different colours of course, but they should all come out of cotton fabrics quickly and completely when washed.  (Crayola fine tip washable markers are cheap and most colours will work on light or dark fabrics.)

If you are a machine quilter, you probably buy queen- or king-size cotton quilt batting.  After you sandwich your bed quilts, save any left over batting pieces. Use old rotary blades in your rotary cutter when cutting the batting. Straighten out any uneven edges, then butt two pieces up together using a wide zig-zag stitch in matching thread to sew the pieces together to make the size needed.
This will works well for baby quilts, table runners, wall hangings, etc. You can also use this method on larger quilts when the batting is just a little short; add strips that are slightly larger than needed, then cut to size.

About types of sewing scissors. Some are for general use when working with fabric; others are for specific tasks.

Buttonhole Scissors: After you sew a buttonhole, these specialty scissors enable you to cut it open safely and easily.

Pinking Shears: These give a zigzag that will not unravel.

Thread Nippers: The design makes these extremely convenient. Slip your fourth finger through the loop and use your thumb and forefinger to pinch the ends together.

Tailor's Shears: At 10 inches, these make longer cuts than standard dressmaker's shears. Some are heavy-duty enough to work with thick upholstery.

Eight-Inch Dressmakers Shears: These are classic shears for cutting fabric. (Tie a ribbon around the handle as an indicator that this pair is for fabric only or simply write the word "fabric" on their side with a permanent marker.) The bent-handled design makes it easy to cut along a flat work surface.

Embroidery Scissors: These are ideal for embroidery and other needlework, as well as for snipping threads and doing precision cutting.

Appliqué Scissors: Use the flat, curved plate to lift the excess fabric to be trimmed from appliqué work.

About Safety

When you guide fabric over the throat plate, you should keep your fingers at least one inch away from the presser foot at all times.
If you're going to pause between stitches, you should take your foot off the foot controller so that you don't accidentally set the needle in motion.
If you are taking a longer pause, turn the machine off completely.

Thread Breaking Issues

Nothing worse than when you are hard at work and the thread breaks!  There's usually a fixable reason for this happening.  When it  breaks, it is either a snag or it's at its stress point.

Try these solutions...

1.  Most basic...are you using a quality thread?  There are lots of inconsistencies in quality and strength in the poorer threads.

2. Try a different cone of thread.  Bad spools (or sections of one) do happen, even with high quality thread.  If you use the same type of thread for your replacement spool as your spool that is breaking, then your first cone has a bad section. Pull off several yards and try again, or get a different spool.

3.  Still happening?  Try a thread that you have had good success with in the past. If it sews well, then we need to look at the thread path, tension, or thread quality.

4.  Still happening?  Re-thread the machine.  Go back to the thread cone and start over.  Floss the thread down into the tension disks.  Do not be lazy with this step...but if it still happens:

5.  Insert a new needle.  Sometimes the eye of a needle can be very sharp and shred and cut your thread.

6.  That didn't work?  Loosen thread tension a lot - top and bobbin. 
Loosen the top until the disks are almost flopping and the bobbin case until it falls to the floor. Just try to get your machine to sew without tension.  Don't worry about how ugly the stitches are. You're basically trying to eliminate possible issues.

If the thread does not break with the loose tension, tighten the top again, a half turn at a time, testing quality each time.  Do the same with the bobbin to fine tune the quality.

Thread can break easily if tension settings are too tight for the thread. Starting from loose and tightening the tension will produce better results than from a tighter setting.

7.  No...?  Change the thread path next.

Turn the cone over to reverse the feed.  Thread coming off the cone in a clockwise direction should follow the normal threading procedure with the thread wrapping through the 3-hole guide near the tension disks in a counter-clockwise direction (back to front). However, if the thread exits the cone counter-clockwise, try turning the cone over to reverse its feed.

Or you could try weaving it through the guide instead to take away some of the twisting that can break thread.  From the rear hole, down the middle hole, up through the third and then to the tension disks.

8.  If it's still breaking, examine the thread path for burrs.

You could have a burr somewhere, even if you've never broken a needle but have had near misses thanks to bulky seams and such.  Even one tiny scratch can shred and break your toughest thread.

Age and wear over time can cause this too.  Use a magnifying glass to check the area the top thread rubs against.  Use a fine emery or crocus cloth to smooth it out (400 grit or better.)

Check the pigtail thread guides, needle plate hole, hook assembly and retaining figure and the tension check spring for grooves or burrs.

Grooves in the guides can come from the heavy polyester ones, metallics and invisible threads.  It's a good idea to keep a few spare guides on hand so you can replace them easily.

Temporarily, you could loosen the screw holding the guide in place and rotate the guide 180 degrees so the thread rubs on a different part of the guide.

The top thread can rub on all sides of the needle hole in the needle plate.  If you've scratched the plate with a needle, the top thread will break.  Use emery cloth to smooth it out, but careful not to enlarge the hole.

The hook assembly also has several areas where the needle could strike it and cause burrs.  Check your machine's manual for information on Hook Maintenance to see how to care for the hook assembly and retaining finger.

9.  Really?!?!?  Still happening?   We've got you covered!!  Call us.  We'll help you best we can!  Let's get you back to your quilting as quickly as possible.

Keep a small snipper close by your machine and snip both threads (top and bottom) right from the last stitch point. This keeps the tails you normally snip later and discard on your machine and ready to be the starting thread of your next stitching row! Saves 50% of the thread you would normally snip off later AND you save the time too!

Spool Solution - sometimes the perfect thread for a sewing project comes on a spool that is not sized properly for your sewing machine. To solve this, place the spool in a heavy mug and position it on your work surface directly underneath the spool pin. Take hold of the thread end, and hook it over the spool pin before threading it into the machine as usual (the thread should form a 90-degree angle).  The thread will unravel smoothly as you work.

To keep a button in position as you sew it on, start by looking in your desk: A piece of translucent tape can secure the button to the fabric. Make the first two stitches through the tape, then lift the tape away. Finish sewing the button.

If you need to cut a straight line through woven fabrics, like linen or cotton, tease a few threads loose at the place where you are going to make the first cut.  Pull those threads loose, gently, to create a path of aligned holes in the fabric. Use that path to guide your shears!

Before investing in a sewing machine, consider buying one that suits your skill level.

A basic sewing machine may suffice for a beginner, but intermediate and advanced-level sewers may opt for more complex machines that can perform more tasks.

Beginner Sewing Machine - A simple mechanical sewing machine can perform all basic tasks for beginner projects.

Intermediate-Level Sewing Machine - If you're at the intermediate level, consider a slightly more complex electronic machine.

Advanced-Level Sewing Machine - If you're an experienced sewer, there's a good chance you incorporate more complicated techniques such as embroidery into your projects. Consider investing in a high-end embroidery machine that allows for greater precision.

We have all levels of machines for you to try at USC.  Come in and talk to us about what you need...anytime.

Do you get batting poking through your quilt back?  Want to prevent it?

Seeing little white tufts of batting on the back of your quilt can be very frustrating! Causes include:

The needle is dull or has a burr.
Switch to a new needle, preferably from a different package. If a dull needle is to blame, you’ll see the batting pokies on nearly every needle hole on the back of the quilt.

The needle is too large for the batting type.
Heavy, dense batting is hard to penetrate. When the needle encounters one of the thick areas in the batting, it tends to punch its way through instead of separating the batting fibers. A smaller needle may pierce the batting more cleanly. However, the needle size must correspond to the thread thickness. If your needle is too small for your thread, it will present additional problems like thread breakage and tension imbalance. Don’t go smaller than a 3.5 needle.

The batting is in upside down.
Your batting may have a right side and a wrong side. Your quilting needle should penetrate the batting on the right side. Load your quilting frame with the batting’s right side facing up. To find the right side of the batting, study the surface carefully. The right side will have more indentations or "dimples” where the manufacturer’s needle-punching machine pressed the fibers together. The wrong side of the batting will typically be rougher, with more small "pills” or balls of batting. It will look like a worn sweater that needs a shave.  Heavy, dense batting's right side will be the dirty side.

The backing fabric is loosely woven.
Backing fabric with a low thread count allows the needle to punch both the batting and the thread through the backing. For best results, use high quality fabric for the backing with a thread count of at least 78 threads per square inch.

The batting is the wrong colour.
If your backing fabric is dark, but you’ve selected a light coloured batting, you may suffer from an Oreo effect. This is when you can see the batting (the filling) inside the hole made by the needle. In this instance the batting hasn’t actually poked to the back of the quilt, but your backing seems covered with small light-colored dots. While the needle holes will often close up once the quilt relaxes or is laundered for the first time, the best solution is to use dark batting in the first place.

For your own Measuring Table

Any table or countertop used for crafts or sewing projects will be improved by the addition of a measuring tape along the edge, just as you see in fabric stores. Purchase a metal measuring tape backed with peel-off adhesive from a home center, hardware store, or craft shop. Apply tape around the perimeter of the work surface, uncovering the adhesive as you go. Snip excess tape with utility scissors.

How to sew on flat buttons (top holes) with your sewing machine

While there is a presser foot that is designed for attaching buttons, you don't necessarily need it for these types of buttons.

What you do need to do is drop your feed dogs so they’re out of the way. Those are the metal bars with the ridges that come up from the metal plate below the needle. You don't want them to pull on your buttons.

If you don't have the option to drop them, you could do a quick fix by taping an old credit card down (or something with some strength to it) over them, but you'll have to make sure to drill or hole punch a hole where the needle would normally go through and be wide enough for your zig-zag stitch.

Decrease your stitch length to zero so that the needle doesn’t advance forward at all and make sure you are on the straight stitch setting.

Place the button under the presser foot and line up the center of the button with the center of the presser foot. Lower the needle down with the hand wheel to see if the needle hits down at center, but do not sew because the needle will break. This is just to reference the button in centred.

Being careful not to move the button at all, switch your stitch setting to zig-zag and adjust the stitch width.

Start with the stitch width at the largest setting. When you hand-lower the needle, you'll see if it needs adjusting. Adjust the width as required until it is centred over the button hole.

Lower it right into the hole by hand and drop your presser foot down to clamp the button in place. Advance your needle a bit more, look from the top to make sure the needle is centred over the hole, and slowly lower the needle down.

Turn the hand wheel a couple of times to ensure that it goes in the hole each time and then start sewing. Hit each hole about 7-8 times to make it secure.

Once you are done, lift up the pressure foot and go back to the straight stitch setting. The needle will go back to centre. Reposition the button under the foot so that one of the holes is right under the centre. Lower the needle down into the hole like before, lower the presser foot and sew with your pedal about 4-5 stitches.

Lift up the foot and place your needle back into the hole, but in a slightly different spot. Lower the foot and sew another 4-5 stitches. This will lock your threads in place. Lift up the foot and pull your fabric out. Trim the threads to tidy up.

(If sewing those last few stitches with your straight stitch didn’t lock your threads in place, thread any loose ends that are coming out the top onto a hand-sewing needle and thread them back down through the button holes. Tie the loose ends in a knot from the bottom side.)

For 4-hole buttons, start the same way. After you do two holes, lift up your presser foot, but don’t pull on the thread too much. Rotate your button (and fabric) until the second set of holes are lined up and repeat.

Once you've done this a few times and learned what to do, it's not a long process and will probably save you time over hand sewing!

Do you save all those tiny thin strips that are left after trimming down a block?  How about making a rag rug from the cut off edges by tying them together into a continuous strip and use them to weave rag rugs!

Have some pieces that are too thin?  Wrap some leftover yarn pieces around them.

You don't even need to have a loom - use a huge piece of cardboard to weave!

Hang Your Thread

A neat way to hang your thread, is to go to the local hardware store and buy a piece of wood about 18' x 24" (or whatever you determine.)

Buy long nails and nail them at a slant and hang all your spools of thread.

You could even paint the wood or cover it in fabric or a quilt pattern before driving in the nails to match your sewing room!

You can nail it to the wall or use picture hanger wire on the back of the wood.

Non-traditional sewing tools

Ponytail holders - use them to attach a bobbin to its matching spool of thread. It keeps them paired, but it also keeps the thread from unwinding from either spool.

Glue stick - use a glue stick to hold fabrics together when using a straight pin is not practical. Like when stitching down the back facing over a gathered seam. Usually you have to press under the seam allowance, pin it in place, and then stitch in the ditch from the topside hoping that you catch that facing. Use a little gluestick instead, and it’ll all stay flat while you’re topstitching. Just be sure that the glue is dry before you stitch through with your machine. Sticky glue in your machine workings would be bad. A glue stick is also helpful for keeping bias tape in place when you’re topstiching it down around tight curves.

Water sprayer - use it when you need a little steam to press fabrics. Instead of pouring water into your iron and spilling it all over just spritz the fabric with the water. Much easier and you don’t have to empty the water out when you need to iron with dry heat. It’s also helpful when removing erasable marker.

Erasable fabric marker - use for temporary marking on fabric. It’s also great for teaching children to sew – just draw the stitch lines on the fabric with the marker. It’s easier for a child to line up the stitch line with the center of the presser foot than to keep the fabric straight and align the edge with the seam guide on the side of the face plate. Can also be used when measuring elastic for an elastic waistband.

Sharpie - to make a mark that’s permanent. Use them to write on the top of bias tape makers, the size of the finished tape that it will make and the size of the strip to cut to keep that information where you can see it easily.

Thin craft stick/popsicle stick - use this to help poke out corners and curves when turning something right-side out.

Scrapbooking bone folder - same use as above, but has a slightly sharper point. Use this when you need corners sharper than what the craft stick can do.

Old TV antenna - to turn some long fabric tubes. It telescopes out for longer tubes, but pushes together smaller for easy storage.

Packing paper - use for pattern-drafting paper. (You can also use discounted wrapping paper after Christmas when they go on sale!)

Misprints from your printer - those extra sheets of paper that get printed by accident when you print out a website or a recipe. Save and use as scrap paper or for drafting smaller patterns, like doll clothes

Large mailing envelopes - store self-drafted patterns in large mailing envelopes. You can usually find them inexpensively at the dollar store. They’re large enough for clothing and purse patterns, but still organize neatly with purchased patterns.

Baggies - for smaller patterns. The smaller pieces are easier to see and retrieve from the smaller baggies, as opposed to the larger mailing envelopes. Use the Sharpie to label them.

How to get pet hair off of your quilts

When it's okay to wash:

•  Green washing products are excellent for hair and dander removal from quilts that can be washed.
•  Adding a bit of washing soda to the cycle seems to help the hair slide off.

Homemade Washing Soda
Ingredients:  Baking Soda  (that's it!)
1. Fill a wide baking dish with baking soda.
2. Heat in the oven at 400 degrees until all the baking soda becomes washing soda. Occasionally mix it so that this process happens faster and more uniformly.
3. Use as needed!

•  Don't over-pack the wash tub, and be sure to use an 'extra water' setting if available.
•  Removing as much hair as possible before throwing items into the wash helps, too.

When it's not possible to wash your quilt, these tools can help:

•  Pet Hair Lifter Sponge - a little yellow sponge that is more dense than your typical sponge.  It grabs almost all hair in its path when you slide it across a quilt surface.  It won't harm fabrics and it's not too expensive.

•  Make a pad from cloth-like paper towels and dampen slightly -- not soaking wet, just a bit damp. Swipe the fabric and watch the paper towels grab the hair. Dry paper towels work, too. Make sure you use a fairly strong brand though otherwise they'll just fall apart.

Quilt Storage Solutions

1. Store Quilts on an Unused Bed - It's easy to store multiple layers of quilts on an unused bed, and that method allows a fold-free storage solution that prevents permanent fold lines.
a) Separate quilts with white cotton sheets or pre-washed unbleached muslin to keep them from rubbing against each other, a process that could contribute to wear and produce marks from crocking.
b) Cover the top quilt with another white sheet, and finish with any type of sheet to help protect the top quilt from fading that occurs in light.

2. Roll Quilts for Storage - If you have a safe place to store a long tube, roll your quilt for storage, again eliminating folds. Place a white sheet on the quilt top and roll towards the sheet layer; the backing will still be visible. Finish by rolling the roll in another white sheet and store flat in a clean, dry location. Turn the roll occasionally to prevent a 'flat spot' from forming. Try to find acid free tubes and roll quilts around the tube.

3. Fold the Quilt for Storage - Fold the quilt with as few folds as possible using a white sheet against the front and the backing. Store in a dry area.  Cooler is better, but dry is critical. Unfold the quilt from time to time and refold, changing the position of the folds.

Note:  A quilt that's been left folded the same way for a long time may develop permanent lines.  Try not to fold the quilt along seam lines as they can tend to become flat. If you can't help it, refold the quilts even more often.

Also, don't stack too many quilts on top of each other.  The weight of the top quilts can flatten quilts at the bottom of the stack.

You might be able to keep the folds less flat by inserting logs made from acid free tissue paper in those areas. Acid free boxes are also a great choice.

4. Store Quilts in a Dark Place - Sunlight and interior lighting will fade fabric colours over time.

5. No Plastic - Try to avoid storing quilts in plastic. Plastics release vapors that can eventually lead to fabric deterioration.

However, if you're moving, if storage is temporary or you worry about flooding, plastic bins can be used to keep out water and dust. Just don't plan on them for long-term storage. And MAKE SURE quilts are absolutely dry before placing them in any storage solution.

A Few Quilt Storage Cautions - Don't store an unwrapped quilt on an unsealed wooden surface.  Avoid storing quilts in areas that might be prone to mice or insects, like the garage or attic.  Not only do you have to worry about creatures, but the moisture in these areas is not good for your precious creations.

About backing up your computer data.

It always seems like 'it will never happen to me', but then...POOF!  Everything you've ever put on your computer can disappear in moment.  Sometimes you'll be lucky and only a quick computer repair and few hundred dollars will save what you've lost.  Other times, it's more serious and you're looking at $1000s worth of data recovery (if it's that important to you.)

Pictures, reference material, emails...I highly suggest you back it up to a source other than your present computer at least once every few months, so you don't end up in a position of greater loss.  We don't often print pictures anymore.  So many memories can be stored on your computer.  And lost forever, in a heartbeat.

Types of storage:

1.  Back up your data to a CD or DVD (if your computer has that hardware.)  You can purchase external CD/DVD recorders as well if your computer doesn't have one and the discs to burn the information to.

2.  Use a USB stick drive (can be purchased almost anywhere these days) and copy the files from your computer to the USB.

3.  External hard drive.  If you have a great amount of data, you can purchase an external hard drive.  Just remember that this can go too, so while it's great for a lot of storage, I still recommend an additional method once or twice per year, just in case.  You connect it via USB cord to your computer and just copy files from one to the other.

4.  Online storage.  A lot of people are opting for this in today's world.  Many types are free, at least up to a certain amount of space.  Look at https://www.google.com/drive/download/ as one example.  Or just Google "free online storage" for others.

In any case, I highly recommend doing this and not putting it off.  Take it from one very sorry and wallet-drained web designer...it can happen to you.

Five common issues that lead to quilting errors.

A good bit of all common quilting errors involve accuracy.  Quilt-making accuracy isn't about a single skill or technique, it's dependent on how the entire set of skills used during construction flow together to create a project that's just right at its completion. Take the time to learn how to make these skills work together and your quilts will come out looking as you planned.

1.  Mixing prewashed with unwashed fabrics - not because of colourfastness, but because of shrinkage. Quality cottons do not shrink much, but when you mix unwashed fabrics with prewashed fabrics a slight amount of shrinkage could distort patches the first time a quilt is laundered.

2.  Cut properly sized pieces and use correct seam width.  There are a few exceptions, such as paper piecing techniques, string quilting and a few quick piecing methods, but most seam allowances used in quilting are 1/4" wide. It's important to set up your sewing machine to sew a correct seam, but at the same time recognize that inaccurate cutting can result in components that are the wrong finished size, even if seams are perfectly fine.  Practice cutting and be sure to prep your machine. Test the results to figure out exactly where to position matched pieces as they flow under the presser foot.

3.  Timid or aggressive pressing.  Make sure to gently work the tip of your iron into the seam allowance. Firm pressure and slow and controlled movements are key.  "Press, don't iron." 

4.  Sewing too fast.  Quilt-making is not a race.  If your seams seem to become more narrow as you reach their endpoints, slow down and that will help correct that issue.

5.  Starting with a difficult pattern.  Learning doesn't need to be hard!  Don't get so frustrated with your pattern that you stop working on it and decide quilting is not for you.  If you choose a pattern that is simple, when it's complete, you'll feel good about the process and maybe ready to tackle a quilt that's just a bit more involved.  Simple isn't boring.  A lot of contemporary patterns are simple and beautiful.  A great first quilt would be one that's made of straight-edged pieces, no triangles.

Caring for an old quilt

Quilts are a beautiful addition to any home whether you use them on beds or as art for the walls. Antique or heirloom quilts require special care to be preserved for generations to come. For newer quilts, both hand-quilted and machine-quilted, always follow care instructions carefully.

1.  Before you clean your vintage quilt, you'll need to repair any rips or tears in the fabric. Spread the quilt out on a bed or on top of a sheet on the floor and examine carefully for any worn patches, tears or stains.

2.  Old quilts require special care during cleaning. Do not dry clean or machine wash an heirloom piece. Dry cleaning chemicals can permanently harm old fabrics and the agitation action of a washing machine can cause fibers to shred.

Instead, air your quilt outside on a sunny day to restore freshness. To remove dust, vacuum with a nylon stocking over the end of vacuum hose and hold the hose slightly above the top of the quilt. If the quilt has beading, embroidery or appliqué, do not vacuum because you could damage the work.

3.  If you feel that you quilt must be washed, begin by checking the fabric for colorfastness. Testing is simple, wet a piece of white cloth with cold water and gently rub it over each different color or fabric in your quilt. If there is any color transfer to the white cloth, don’t wash your quilt at all. Washing will result in discoloration and fading.

If you have hard water or iron bacteria in your water source, you should use distilled water for washing your quilt. You don’t want to risk having minerals stain your fabric.

To hand-wash, fill a deep, laundry sink or bathtub with cold water. Be certain that the sink or tub is very clean and has no residue from cleaning agents that could cause damage to the quilt. Use a liquid detergent that is gentle and free of dyes and perfumes. A liquid detergent will disperse in the water and leave less residue on the fabric. Add 1/2 cup vinegar to the water to both brighten colors and soften the quilt.

Place your quilt in the water, being certain that the entire quilt gets wet. Gently move your quilt around in the water. Allow the quilt to remain in the water for about 10 minutes. Next, drain the wash water and fill the tub again with fresh water. Repeat draining and refilling the tub until the water and quilt are soap free – clear water and no suds.

4.  If washing the quilt did not remove all of the stains, you can remove most stains by mixing a solution of oxygen-based bleach and cool water. Follow the package directions as to how much product per gallon of water. Completely submerge the quilt in the solution and allow it to soak for at least eight hours. Check the stain. If it is gone, rinse well and dry. If it remains, mix a fresh solution and repeat. It may take several soakings to remove the stain but it should come out.

5.  Proper drying is key to keeping your quilt at its best. Wet quilts must be handled gently. Pulling can break seams and cause damage. The quilt will be heavy and should be dried flat. To lift the quilt from the tub, use a white sheet to create a sling. Allow the excess water to drain than place the quilt on a bed of heavy towels. Cover with more towels and roll up to absorb water. Move the quilt to another bed of dry towels, spread out flat and allow to dry. Placing a fan in the room will help to speed the process.

If you have space, place a sheet on the grass outside and spread out the quilt. Cover the quilt with another clean sheet and allow to dry. Do not dry in direct sunlight, which can cause fading, without the top sheet in place. Never suspend a wet quilt from a clothesline. This causes too much stress on seams and cause tearing and can displace batting.

6.  If you plan to store your freshly laundered quilt, be certain it is completely dry. Allow an extra 24 to 48 hours for drying before storing. One of the best ways to store a quilt is on an extra bed. Keeping the quilt flat will eliminate creases and wear on folds. Simple cover the quilt with a clean sheet or bedspread.

If flat is not an option, store the quilt in a cotton or muslin bag or in boxes sold for archival storage. These are usually made of acid-free paper and are perfectly safe to use. However, if you are concerned about the box getting crushed, purchase a plastic storage box. The box must be made of cast polypropylene to be safe for your keepsakes.

Do not store in the attic or basement where moisture and temperature levels will fluctuate. Before you fold the quilt, use acid-free tissue paper as padding to prevent sharp creases. You can also roll your quilt around an acid-free tube and slip it in a cotton bag.

If you are storing your quilt in a wooden box or dresser, wrap it in the acid-free tissue to avoid contact with the wood. Oils and acids in the wood can cause spotting and damage. Once a year, bring your quilt out of storage to air and to check for damage. Refolding will also prevent permanent creases and damage.

Proper care of your beautiful quilt will insure it will last for generations to come.

Looking for ways to speed up your quilt-making process?

Use precut fabrics because When the majority of cutting has already been done, you can get right to sewing.

Use a quilt kit. All of the fabrics have been chosen and beautifully coordinated for you.

Let the fabric do the work. Choose patterns that incorporate large pieces where you can show off a favorite fabric or collection of prints as the focal point. Less blocks to sew.

Some quilters like to start and end every session of chain-stitching with another project cut from scraps that otherwise might have been thrown away. Trim your leftovers into useable squares and strips before you put them away and you’ll accumulate enough scraps for another quilt in no time.

Machine quilting is much quicker to do than traditional hand quilting and can add depth and dimension. Apply some creative walking foot quilting to add graphic texture to your quilts with straight or gently curving lines.

Use a die cutting machine. Finish a quilt made from fused and machine-appliquéd circles. It takes no time to cut all the circles with a die cutter and they're perfectly round.

Some things to know about quilting

There can be a lot to learn about quilting in the beginning...lingo, techniques and all the different ways people have of doing things!

The best way not to become overwhelmed is to realize you will discover which methods work best for you as you become more experienced, and that takes practice and time.  Some of these skills however will help you sew accurate quilts from the beginning:

1. Learn About Fabric

Fabrics are the backbone of our quilts, but you might be surprised how many people begin to assemble their first quilt without putting fabric characteristics to work for them. It's much easier to make a quilt once you understand how to care for your fabrics and why quilting patches are cut using specific guidelines. The 2 more important things are understanding fabric grain and the pros and cons of prewashing.  Talk to us at USC and we'll help you understand these.

2. Sew a Quarter Inch Seam Allowance

Beginning quilters, especially people who are accustomed to sewing garments with 5/8" seam allowances, sometimes have a hard time visualizing and sewing the 1/4" seam allowance used to make quilts. There are tricks to help you get the seam just right -- but you do need to do a few tests before you start sewing patches for a quilt.

3. Develop Rotary Cutting Skills

Rotary cutting is a technique that every new quilter should master, because it allows us to bypass the time-intense method of constructing templates to mark and cut individual pieces of fabric. You'll love the freedom that rotary tools provide, and speedy cutting is fantastic motivation for continued success.

4. Learn Strip & Quick Piecing Techniques

Strip piecing and other quick piecing techniques let you sew large chunks of fabric together, then slice off sections to create pre-sewn units. It is so easy! Learn the basics and you'll be able to create a quick pieced version of just about any quilt block you see. Ask us about the different techniques you can try!

5. Get Pressing Basics Down Pat

Your piecing accuracy will improve immediately when you take a bit of time to press your quilt blocks as you make them. You might think extra pressing will slow you down, but you'll find that you actually save time when your quilt blocks fit together just like they should, without grabbing the dreaded seam ripper.

6. Don't Pitch Those Quilt Blocks Just Yet

We've all sewn quilt blocks that aren't quite accurate. Most often, they're smaller than they should be, perhaps because we've either sewn a slightly large quarter inch seam allowance or haven't pressed adequately. Don't feel discouraged if that happens to you, because a high percentage of 'off' quilt blocks can be rescued.  Bring them in and let's see what we can do...

7. Measure and Sew Borders

Adding one or more borders to the edges of a quilt does more than provide an attractive frame for your work, it offers an excellent opportunity to square up slightly skewed edges. It isn't unusual to see beginning quilters determine border length by measuring along the outside edges of a quilt. If the quilt is skewed, that technique ensures it will remain skewed. You can learn how to make great borders in our border class!

8. Be Sure to Try Mitered Binding

Sewing mitered binding to the edges of a quilt has developed a bit of a reputation of being difficult, but is actually a very easy technique.

9. Become Familiar with Quilting Lingo

Keep a basic quilting book around when you're making a quilt or reading quilting articles. When you encounter a term you don't understand, look it up. It won't be long before you're familiar with all the terms you need to know in order to follow quiltmaking instructions. The internet is also great for looking up the lingo and even seeing examples and demonstrations of some words.

10. Don't Obsess Over Errors

We've all made one of those "what was I thinking?!?!" quilts.  No matter our intention, it turned out awful because of bad colour choices or the wrong type of fabric.  We are more than happy to help you out choosing colours and recommending fabrics! 
We all make errors, both technical and in our choice of fabrics, but our boo-boos nearly always lead to a better understanding of the quilting process. Mistakes are really just learning experiences, analyze them and tuck that knowledge away for your next project. Your skills will grow with every new quilt you sew.

Maintaining your machine

Remember to periodically clear any lint and oil the bobbin case of your machine. A well-maintained machine is one that will provide years and years of trouble-free sewing. One easy way to regularly take care of this routine maintenance is to clean and oil after you have emptied five bobbins (keep empty bobbins together so you know.) Most manufacturers recommend a regular cleaning once a year.  Bring your machine into the Ultimate Sewing Centre for a “spa” day!  We'll treat it right!


For appliqué, use thread that matches the colour of the patch, not the background fabric.  It will turn out better.

Also, if you have a special thread you bought because it looked so pretty, you can showcase it on your quilt by increasing your stitch length a little to leave more thread on the top of your quilt.

Make your thread behave!
To make thread behave for appliqué or regular sewing, run your needle and thread through a fresh, folded dryer sheet. Voila! No tangles or nasty little knots.


Hemming fleece

Now that the colder weather is coming, fleece is great for a lot of cuddly projects. It is a knit though, so tends to misbehave when using it with a sewing machine.
Fusible tapes can take all the fuss out of hemming fleece. They give a perfect fold and minimize stretching during sewing.
First, cut your fleece to the desired size. Remember when buying your fleece, you will probably need to trim off the selvages and even up the cut edges.

Tear off a length of the tape you can handle easily and align it to the edge of the fleece. Fold the edge over the width of the tape.
Set your iron to THE lowest temperature that produces steam because fleece is synthetic and can melt. (If you have a scrap, test the heated iron on it first to ensure it can handle it.) Place your iron on the folded edge and steam, leaving about 2" at the end unpressed to work in the next section of tape. Keep going all the way to the corner's edge. Resume the taping process at the folded edge. Go all the way around the perimeter.

You don't have to, but folding the edge over twice will give a heavier edge (think blankets) and hide any cut edges. If you're using the fleece for a garment, keep to a single fold.

Grab your universal needle (one you'd use for medium to heavy weight fabrics) so that you don't skip stitches. A zig-zag or a staggered zig-zag stitch will do the best job. Stitch down the center of the fold. Just before you get to the corner, fold the next edge over a second time (lifting the foot manually to get it up over the thick corner) and continue until you reach the starting point.

Quickly mark a seam allowance by putting an elastic around 3 pencils together for 5/8" , or 2 pencils for 1/2". Trace the edge of your pattern piece for a perfect seam allowance every time.

Did you know that thread matters if you're using older fabric?

You should only use cotton threads when stitching any older fabrics because synthetic threads will most likely damage or cut your precious stash.

Tension Issues

Is your bottom thread laying flat? Check if:

  • there's lint in the bobbin tension spring
  • if your bobbin is wound poorly
  • if the tension isn't set correctly
  • the upper thread tension is too loose
  • your machine isn't threaded properly

Is your fabric puckering? Check if:

  • your top or bottom tensions are too tight
  • the bobbin's too full or poorly wound
  • you're using the right size bobbin for the case

Is your top thread laying flat? Check if:

  • there's lint in the upper disc or bobbin tension spring
  • the upper tension dial is too tight
  • your machine isn't threaded properly
  • you have a poorly-wound bobbin
  • your bobbin tension isn't set correctly
  • the thread isn't in the the tension spring

Is there loops on the bottom of your quilt? Check if:

  • you have any burrs on hook
  • your machine isn't threaded properly
  • the top thread tension is too loose
  • your thread isn't flossed in top tension disks


This month's tip is a simple one.  When you need to stop, make sure your needle is in the down position in the quilt before shifting the quilt for further stitching. This will help to keep your stitches even.

Sewing over textured fabrics, fur or leathers

Next time you’re sewing over lumpy fabric like terry cloth, fleece or fur, use a plastic bag.  Place it over the fabric you are sewing and watch that presser foot glide!

If you're using a grabby material like leather, use wax paper instead!
Use wax paper for grabby fabrics like leather!

Sew over piley/fur/lumpy fabric.

Do you want a smoother stitch with waxed thread?

Waxed thread will sew smoother if you run it under an iron first. Do this on a brown paper bag though, so you won't get wax on your ironing board.  This is good for sewing buttons on and for any hand-quilting.

Bees wax is the best, but any wax will do in a pinch. It really stiffens the thread!

Working on a large quilt?

If you fold the majority of your quilt into folds (like an accordion) and use clips to hold it together, you can make it much easier to work with and manoeuvre your quilt!

Did you know it's good to have alcohol on hand while you're working?

No, no, no...not that kind.  Alcohol pads!  Like the kind you'd find in medical first aid kits.

Keep some of those individual alcohol prep pads near your sewing supplies. They come in handy when you need to clean off the glue or fusibles from your needle!

Hairspray to the rescue!! 

Need your thread to stay straight to get it in the eye of the needle?
HAIRSPRAY the tip!

What's in a pin cushion?

There are lots of things that get put into a pin cushion.  BUT!  If you want a really good pin cushion and are making one of your own, we highly recommend using steel wool as stuffing. This keeps your pins and needles super sharp because every time you poke them back it, the steel wool acts as a sharpener!

Want to make it even MORE effective?  Use rice (yes, rice!) in the filling as well.  Those uncooked grains are amazing at absorbing any excess moisture.

How to find the grain?

If you clip into your selvage (a very small amount) and pull on a loose thread, it will tug at your fabric and gather a little.  Carefully pull it all the way out.

The line this thread left behind is what's called your cross-grain and is perpendicular to your grain line. (When you fold your fabric in half this line should match up on both sides.)




For more great ideas....contact the creative crew at Ultimate Sewing Centre!

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