Category Archives: Discussions

Is silk thread better? Should you pre-wash? Sort out the quilting issues of our day.

Not Just Another Ugly Duckling

Do you remember the story of “The Ugly Duckling?”  It started with a nest of duck eggs.  Somehow, another egg ended up in the nest…a much bigger egg.  Once they hatched, the lucky new mom had some cute yellow ducklings and a not so cute big brown…duck?  As they grew, those yellow ducklings were quite mean to the brown duck because he looked so different.  Time passed and that ugly little duckling turned into a gorgeous, white swan.  Imagine their surprise when something not too attractive turned into something beautiful.

walkingfoot

When I bought my sewing machine a few years ago, it came with a bag of attachments.  Most of them resembled the 1/4″ foot I was familiar with.    I couldn’t imagine why I’d need so many attachments or what most of them were for.  I certainly couldn’t fathom why I’d need the big clumsy looking one.  I took out the 1/4″ foot and put the bag in the drawer with the owners manual.  And there it stayed.

About a month ago, I was chatting with a customer as I rang up his purchase.  We were both in the process of attaching binding to a project, and he was raving about something called a “walking foot.”  Hmmm…sounds interesting…pretty sure I don’t have one.  A few days later, I happened to be talking to my mom about the small projects I quilt on my machine…and she mentioned a “walking foot.”  After two years, I decided it was probably time to pull out the sewing machine manual and find out exactly what a walking foot looked like, if I had one,  and what it did.

walkingfootcloseup

After a quick read of the manual and a desperate phone call to my mom (who has the same machine), I finally had the walking foot installed.  The walking foot doesn’t attach quite as easily as the others, but it sure is worth the extra work.  I noticed a difference in my quilting right away.

withoutwalkingfoot

When I piece a small project, like a baby or lap quilt, I usually strip quilt it on my home machine.   Sometimes I quilt in nice, evenly spaced lines, and sometimes I prefer wavy, random-width quilting (see above).    Before I discovered the walking foot, I had to be very careful to alternate the side from which I started each line of quilting.  If I started each line of quilting on the same edge of the quilt, I’d end up with a skewed quilt.  To avoid this,  I’d quilt a line from the left to the right side of the quilt and the next line would start on the right and end on the left.   However, as you can see in the photo above, I always ended up with a bit of a wave between the quilted lines.  This was due to the fact that the top and back of my quilt were not moving through the machine at the same speed.  Oh, but now…

withwalkingfoot

…now the top and the bottom move through the machine at the same pace, resulting in beautiful straight lines without any shifting or wavy fabric between the quilting lines.  With any other foot, only the feed dog underneath the fabric is being used.  The walking foot creates an upper feed dog, which moves the top of your quilt through the machine right along with the back of your quilt.

bindingwithfoot

Since I already had the foot attached, I decided to try sewing binding on with the walking foot.  It worked perfectly!  On my machine, I move my needle to the right one notch and run the right edge of the foot along the edge of the binding…resulting in a perfect 3/8″ seam.  (I personally prefer using a 3/8″ seam allowance…but you can move your needle over another notch if you prefer using 1/4″ seam allowance.)

If you have a walking foot and haven’t used it, I highly recommend pulling it out and giving it a try.   It’ll be the big, bulky, odd-looking attachment in your collection.  Don’t judge it by it’s looks, though!  Sew a few straight lines on a practice piece, and you’ll discover why it is, indeed, a beauty.

 

 

 

Ombre Pixel Quilt

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We now have the Simply Color line by V & Co for Moda Fabrics. The line includes several colors of ombre prints (where the color graduates from dark to light) which make really unique quilts.

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Jane, our Moda rep, gave us a great, modern idea on how to use the ombre fabrics. I knew I had to try it out. Here’s a quick tutorial on how to make a “pixel” quilt. It’s a really fast and easy project. I used just one color of ombre, but picking two or three ombres in coordinating colors would make a stunning quilt as well.

You will need a total of 3-1/3 yards of ombre fabric to make a 54” x 70” finished quilt.

First, cut your fabric into (24) 5” strips. Then, subcut the strips into (192) 5” x 5” squares.

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You will be sewing your squares together at random, so first you need to mix up your neat stack of squares. I did this by “shuffling the deck” and spreading all the squares out across my cutting table. Then, I dumped the pile into a bag and mixed them up even more.

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Sew the squares together at random into (96) two-patches. The beauty of the pixel quilt is its randomness. However, at this stage I was careful to mix up the tones of the fabrics so there was at least some contrast between the two squares I sewed together.
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Press your two-patches to one side. Then, sew your two-patches together to make (48) four-patch blocks. Press seams to one side.

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Arbitrarily arrange your blocks into eight rows of six blocks. You’ll want to double check your seams alternate so they “nest” when you sew your blocks together. You can either rotate your blocks to make them fit, or you may need to re-press some of your seams.

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Sew your blocks and rows together and ta-da! You’re all done. I love how modern and graphic the end-result is. Della gave me several ombre fabrics after her sewing-room purge and I’ve started making miniature pixel quilts to hang in my sewing room.

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Have any great ombre-fabric project ideas? Please share in a comment!

— Posted by Stacy

Debate: Pre-Wash or Not

When it comes down to it, the choice to pre-wash your fabrics or not is purely a personal preference. There is no right or wrong answer – some of us don’t like to do it, and some of us swear by it. However, when I did a bit of internet research to see what kind of discussion existed out there on the topic, it seemed the overwhelming opinion was to absolutely prewash. When surveying the ladies here at the shop, however, I found a distinctly opposite response. You may already have a “side” in this debate, but here’s our argument to save yourself the effort.

I’m lazy. Pre-washing fabric is a lot of work. It’s suggested that you wash and dry each fabric several times before finally ironing it out and adding it to your stash. Call me impatient, but once I get my fabric home, I’m ready to dive into my projects and I will avoid the washing and waiting at all costs. Not to mention easing up on the washing machine is definitely more eco-friendly.

No more bleeding. If color bleeding is what you’re avoiding, here’s some advice: If you’re making a quilt with a lot of light-colored fabric (white, cream, etc), chances are throwing a tomato red fabric in the mix is gonna turn your whole project a fun shade of pink. In these cases, pre-washing your fabric isn’t the worst idea, but still isn’t absolutely necessary. If you haven’t discovered color catchers yet, get on board! Shout makes a color catcher that you should be able to find in the laundry aisle of your local grocery store. According to the manufacturer, the Shout® Color Catcher is specially designed to work like a sponge. It absorbs and traps loose dyes in the wash, safely locking them away so they can’t redeposit on other clothes, so you can mix colors in the same load; translation, “same quilt!”

Throwing several Color Catchers into the washer with your finished project will keep your whites safe. We’ve tried it and it works. If your quilt doesn’t have a lot of light-colored fabrics, pass on the pre-wash. Your quilt will survive the laundry!

What shrinkage? Some swear that pre-washing will prevent your quilt from shrinking unevenly. However, all fabrics (including batting) shrink at different rates and last I heard, no one was pre-washing their batting! No matter if you pre-wash or don’t, your quilt is going to change size in some ways. Why waste the effort? Once your quilt is quilted, the top-stitches will keep your piecing in place and there’s just no way your quilt will shrink up to a wonky rectangle. Your fabric is just going to shrink up to look how a quilt should — a little bit puckered!

Easier to work with. Della had a lot of good “personal preference” reasons for why she doesn’t pre-wash. Generally, she felt the fabric is a lot easier to work with when it isn’t washed. One reason is because the fabric ravels less when it hasn’t taken a spin in the dryer! The sizing added to the fabric (which washes out) also makes cutting and sewing go more smoothly. Less fuss!

Chemicals. The only pre-wash pro I can’t argue with is washing out the chemicals they add to fabric to make them wrinkle less/repel bugs. For some people, these chemicals are bothersome, so pre-washing is a logical choice. I have never noticed a problem, and I work with fabric all day, but all people are different.

Why don’t you pre-wash? Or why do you? Let us know in a comment.

— Posted by Stacy

Quilts on the Floor!

Many of our customers have been making quite a fuss about some of our new decorating choices in the shop. But, hey, what’s the big deal? We’ve just been using quilts as … rugs! That’s right. We’ve been putting quilts on the floor for people to walk on.

We (meaning mainly Karen) have been making some major rearrangements in the shop. There are now many cozy fabric “rooms” that each house a certain style of fabric. We have a Kaffe room, an Amy Butler room, a baby quilt room, and a bunch more. Once we had each room carved out, we realized we needed some final touches, like a rug, that ties everything together.

Our new Kaffe room!

Are you cringing? If so, you are certainly not alone. Many of our customers refuse to step on them! However, hear us out. We’ve got some pretty good reasons for how practical quilt-rugs are. Many of our customers agree and have already started making their own.

Quilts are durable and washable. When was the last time you took a rug to the dry cleaners? Too expensive? Well, you can put a quilt into the washing machine and it comes out great. Here at the shop, we got a lot of foot traffic, so we just can’t afford to send off our rugs to get dry cleaned every week the way we can with quilts. Speaking of expensive…have you checked on the price of a room-sized rug lately? Even at Target, a large rug will run you a lot more than a simple fabric rug.

We’re not suggesting you go home and throw grandma’s heirloom quilt on your kitchen floor. Or that favorite quilt of yours that took you five years to complete. We’re a quilt shop, so it’s only natural that we have tons of extra quilts that aren’t on display that we can easily use as rugs. Maybe you do too! It saved us the time and money of buying new rugs. We also custom made a bunch of simple quilt-rugs to show how simple it is for anyone to make a stylish and inexpensive rug for any room in your house.

Here's the quilt we made as a rug for our Halloween fabric. It's so simple and easy!

So how do you make a simple fabric rug rug?  It’s more like a recipe than a pattern, but here is how you do it.

Fabric Requirements

¾ yard of main fabric

¾ yard of border fabric

1⅞ yards of backing fabric (muslin works great – make sure it is at least 44/45″ wide)

½ yard binding

Quilt batting (we used 80/20 cotton batting)

Cut the main fabric 27″ x WOF (width of fabric).

Cut four border strips 6 ½” x WOF

  • Measure the long side of the main fabric and trim two borders strips to this length.  Sew these border strips to the long sides of the main fabric and press seams to the border.
  • Measure the short sides of the top and cut the two remaining borders strips this length.  Sew to the main fabric and press seams towards the border.

The top should measure approximately 40″ x 54″.  This is such a simple quilt that you can easily make it bigger or smaller to fit any space. Once your top is finished, make sure your backing is bigger than your top, then quilt and bind.  Congratulations, you now have a rug!

If you’re looking for something a little more advanced, we also have a pattern for a rug called Daisy Dew Drop by Threaded Pear Studio that looks so cute in all kinds of color combinations.

We brought this minky rug back from market. Isn't it cute? Perfect for the kids' room!

To make sure the quilt-rugs don’t move around (causing people to slip!), we placed anti-slip rug backs under the larger quilts. For the quilt-rugs that were made just for being on the floor, we used a product called “Non-Skid Rug Backing.” You simply paint the product onto the rug back and let it dry. It makes the back tacky so it sticks to the floor. Quilts with the rug backing are washable and the tackiness lasts through many washings.

So what do you think? Are you against quilt-rugs or are you dying to make your own?

Moving Day

So, here we are. We’ve landed. The girls at Quilt Expressions have gone digital and there’s no turning back now.

Our fun little group of bloggers are ready to jump into action and will be bringing you new entries every week covering all-things quilting. Look forward to the best sewing secrets, giveaways for our dedicated followers, the latest projects from our fabulous team and an insiders’ peak to our latest fabric collections. You can also spy on what’s going on in the shop, including ideas from our “cookie cocktail” events and the brilliant quilts our friends and customers are working on.

Have you heard the news? Quilt Expressions has MOVED its location! After a few years in “cozy” quarters, we’ve reached our quilt shop heaven in a spacious 6,600 foot building with mile-high ceilings and skylights that makes the whole shop glow. We’ve barely missed a step in the transition and have all the long-arm machines buzzing along, customers scooping up armloads of newly discovered bolts while we’ve even managed to get several brand-new collections on the floor. Check out our online store to see the latest.

FabricMountain

Wonder what it looks like to move 5,000+ bolts of fabric? We took lots of photos of our able-bodied moving crew as they carried piles upon piles of bolts back and forth between the shop and our 26-foot truck.  Finishing the move in just under six hours, it was almost as easy as a wiggle of the nose a la Bewitched (although unpacking was another story…)

GoofyKris

Laying sheets and quilts on the floor, we started unloading our mountain of fabric in good spirits.

Bigger

And the pile got bigger...

MovingMen

... and BIGGER ...

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Karen lays more quilts down to make room on the floor as the moving nears an end.

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The winner! JF carries the most bolts from the truck.

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Annnd we’re finished. Can you believe this is only HALF of the new store?

And now, for the fun part! What’s better than shop talk and witty online banter? Free stuff! Make a comment to this blog entry with your first name and email address and you will be entered to win six fat quarters from the new collection everyone is talking about — Miniatures by Windham Fabrics! Our winner will be chosen on November 1st, so don’t delay. Invite your friends to check us out and maybe they’ll share the winnings if our random number generator favors them over you.

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The complete Miniatures line.

— Posted by Stacy