The Magic Trick to Sewing Seams That Line Up Perfectly – Everytime!

 

Is it fair to call it magic when you take a few fabric scraps…

 

 

 

And add quilter’s grid interfacing

 

 

To create a fabric panel where every seam and every corner of every square is perfectly matched?

I guess the answer depends on your definition of magic and the number of seams you’ve ripped out and re-sewn trying to get those seams to nest and perfectly line up.

As for myself, I’ve ripped out way too many stitches and usually for a simple project made up of nothing but squares! So when I discovered quilter’s grid I felt like I had won the lottery! The first time I tried this product I had only one word for it – magic.

The “Magic” is in the interfacing – specifically, Pellon 820 Quilters Grid. It not only transforms scraps of fabric into nice and neat pattern but it can do so with greater seam accuracy, less time and fewer headaches than sewing row by row using the traditional piecing methods.

 

 

 

For me, the time-consuming aspect of piecing (40) 2″ squares lies in the mistakes made, seams ripped out and stitches having to be re-sewn. Using Quilters Grid Interfacing to piece the fabric squares above was done WITHOUT RIPPING OUT ONE SEAM! Ever.

Remember in a previous post where I described the necessity of cutting accurately so seams would nest and line up perfectly? And no matter how perfect the cut and alignment, if a consistent 1/4″ seam isn’t sewn then the whole block will look a mess?

Now is the time to stop stressing and put those old rules on a shelf and save for later. Time for new rules, a new technique and a whole new product to make it happen. So first…

 

New Rules:

  • The 2″ square (or whatever dimension you desire) does not have to be exactly perfect but it does need to fit within the grid lines.
  • What is most important is the fold along the grid line – not the sewing – that ensures accuracy
  • Basting is replaced with fusing. A couple of seconds with a hot iron and the interfacing is semi – permanently fused to the back of the fabric. This allows you to move the entire piece from ironing board to sewing table and then move the piece around the machine as you sew without the worry of it shifting or moving out of place.

The Product:

Pellon 820 Quilters Grid

This is a thin fabric made from 100% polyester. It has a rough side where the adhesive is infused and a perfect 1″ grid printed over the entire surface that is visible from both sides.

A Closer Look:

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Have you seen what is often referred to as a “Postage Stamp” quilt?

 

 

Typically, it consists of a series of many, if not hundreds, of tiny 1″ or 1.5 “(“postage stamp” size) squares of fabric sewn together in neat rows. I can’t say for sure if quilter’s grid was used here but if it were me making a postage stamp quilt top like the one shown above (from RedPepper Quilts), quilter’s grid interfacing would be the only way I would be able to get every square to line up so straight and perfect.

 

Up to this point I’ve discussed the positives of this product however, there is a downside that it worth a mention – using an interfacing such as this does alter the drape of the fabric. The nature of this product is to reinforce or strengthen fabric and as a result will cause the fabric to stiffen up. If a quilt’s drape or, ability to bend and fold easily (say, for snuggling) is most important then piecing small squares using this grid may not be the best option.

For many of us who quilt, and especially those starting out, we may not be at point where this level of perfection is necessary and would rather take the philosophy: “Better Finished Than Perfect”!

If you still want to use the quilter’s grid interfacing and more drape is desired, then I would suggest using larger fabric squares (6″ or so) or even rectangles! This will allow more space between the stitch lines and the end result isn’t a fabric panel that is too firm and stiff to work with.

 

The Technique:

Place a 2″ square of fabric within (4) grid squares on the back (rough, adhesive side) of the interfacing. Place a non-stick pressing cloth on top and using a hot iron, press, holding the iron n place 3-4 seconds. Raise the iron and move to the next section pressing (hold down only – do not “iron” or slide the iron from one section to the next). This process will adhere the rough side of the interfacing to back of the fabric.

 

 

More Magic!

In my example, I have fused (40) 2″ squares into a rectangle measuring (8) squares wide x (5) squares deep. I find it easier to start with the short rows.

Step 1

– Fold ON the grid line. Keeping the fabric WITHIN the grid lines allows for the fabric to fold almost automatically and exactly on this line. Once the entire row is folded, stitch a 1/4″ seam from the folded grid line. (It’s not visible in this picture but I’m using a 1/4″ presser foot with a “fence” along the right side to ensure a consistent 1/4″ seam.

– Continue stitching each of the short rows.

 

 

Step 2

– Iron the seams so they lay flat.

* Note* I’m not sure if anyone else does this but when I’m using smaller 2″ squares, after stitching, I will trim 1/8″ from the fold line. It significantly reduces the amount of excessive bulk and makes it so much easier to iron flat when finished. If larger squares of fabric are used, this step could be eliminated.

 

 

You can see in the image above the squares have been stitched along the shorter rows and the corners don’t perfectly line up but there is nothing to worry about! Once the perpendicular lines are stitched every corner will magically match up!

Step 3

– Fold again along the lines perpendicular to the ones you just stitched.

The image below illustrates the fabric’s appearance after the short vertical rows are stitched. I used clips to keep the rows straight while stitching the longer horizontal rows.

 

 

Should this be your first time using this technique, don’t worry if things look a bit weird.  A quick glance at the panel before ironing it flat will make you think you’ve done something wrong! However, don’t let the appearance discourage you – iron it all out and the result is…magical!

And This is Just the Beginning!

Once you’ve completed all the steps above the result is a fabric panel that you can do most anything with. Depending on the size needed and the specific project, this could be just one of five panels that you could sew together to make a tote bag.

In my example below I quilted a solid gray fabric to the back. In the interest of time I took a couple of short cuts by rounding the corners and sewing a remnant of store bought piping around the entire perimeter to give it a proper finished look.

The result – a nice sized mug rug!

 

 

Had I  more time to spend, I could have finished the edge by attaching binding. Another option – sandwich with a backing fabric and batting, turn inside out, top stitch and the result could be used as a hot pad on your counter top or as an over sized pot holder.

Looking at this I am able to envision a multitude of possibilities! I can also see this as a front panel for a pillow. Simply add a contrasting border, backing fabric, piping around the edges then fill with poly- fill or a pillow form!

What ideas do you envision with this technique and this product?

If you have used Pellon 820 Quilters Grid and this or a similar technique before please leave your comments and / or pictures below!

I’m continually inspired by the creativity shown by readers like you!

 

 

An Invention Almost Better Than Sliced Bread

It’s been a while since the onset of the specific technology which led to the phrase, “Better than sliced bread”. Since the turn of the century (the 20th century), to be exact. And during the time span between then and now the technological curve has taken a sharp bend and continues to do so today.

Growing up I witnessed very few spectacular inventions. My parents had the same rotary phone for who knows how many years before upgrading to a push button phone and continued to use that same phone for at least 30 years. I used the same black and white television from childhood through my sophomore year in college. Who does that anymore?

So what does all this have to do with sewing and quilting?

Technology and the always changing landscape of new and improved products. Every day – every few hours someone has or is in the process of inventing a better mouse trap.

The better mouse trap I’m speaking of here is the Oliso iTouch Iron.

I’ve been using mine for almost 2 years now and for the most part I have no real complaints. Maybe, except for the color. The gray and white is not bad but I wanted yellow…not a huge big deal.

However, for all its technological advances, the greatest attribute of this iron is safety. The design and functionality have incorporated a special feature called “Auto-Lift Technology” that renders the iron pretty much impossible to burn anything or accidentally tip over.

The iron is never in contact with any surface unless your hand has a firm grasp on the orange dotted sensors placed across the top of the handle.

Grasping the handle automatically lowers the iron onto the ironing surface. Once you remove your hand a set of “Scorch Guards” lower, lifting the hot sole plate off the fabric and will remain in this position until you grasp the handle.

OK, So It’s Safe But Is it Any Good at Ironing?

The short answer: Yes.  This iron also includes the same features you would find in a typical iron found in use in many homes today – a reservoir for water, steam and spray settings, a fabric and temperature selector, and a pointed tip for detailing.

Another nice feature is the light display. When red this alerts you that the iron is off or has automatically shut off after 8 minutes of non use. (There is Pro version of this iron that will remain on for 30 minutes of non use). When the light is green this lets you know the iron is on and ready for use.

If a more traditional ironing experience is preferred the iTouch feature can be switched to the “Off” position. When not in use simply position vertically as you would a traditional iron.

Getting back to safety – even with the iTouch feature turned off, should the iron accidentally knock over into a horizontal position, the scorch guards will automatically engage to lift the sole plate off the fabric.

With these safety features you may be thinking they must have skimped on the remaining attributes or reasons for purchasing an iron in the first place.

Q: What about leakage through the steam outlets from the water reservoir when the scorch guards are engaged?

A: They have that covered. The iTouch iron has a “zero-drip” feature that automatically shuts off steam anytime the scorch guards are extended.

Q: Is there more than one steam option?

A: Actually, there are 3 options for water or steam delivery.

1) A simple spray which is good for removing wrinkles.

2) Burst of Steam – A strong downward steam delivery when temperature is set on the wool/cotton/linen setting.

3) Vertical Steam – Useful for removing wrinkles from curtains or garments oriented in an upright position.

What is Not to Like?

Now that I’ve covered the positive features of this iron it seems only fair to discuss the two items I’ve discovered, so far, that I’m not entirely thrilled with.

The first: The noise. Each time the auto-lift feature is engaged it makes an annoying noise. I don’t quite know exactly how to describe it as it is not terribly loud but it is there. Over time, I’ve learned to tune it out – somewhat – however, there are days when I really don’t care to hear that noise each time, I grasp the handle.

The second is the overall weight of the iron. It isn’t heavy – 3.7# however, I had a much older iron – just an iron with no bells or whistles. It was smaller than the Oliso but significantly heavier. Somehow, the design of this older iron made ironing much easier and quicker. One run over a wrinkle and that was it – gone forever! With this, and every newer iron I’ve owned in between required many runs back and forth before removing a wrinkle.

Overall Verdict

As you can see, the positives far outweigh the only two negatives I have encountered with this wonderful iron. The safety features alone are worth the price of admission!

I would love to hear about your experiences with the Oliso iTouch iron.

There are also so many other great ironing products on the market – let me know your experiences with another type or brand of iron and which brand you prefer!

I’m always on the look out for a better mouse trap!

The Top 5 Best Reasons to Make a Quilt

Let’s start this conversation with the frequently asked question, “Why do you make quilts?”

This question could apply to almost any topic. Why make anything? In this day and age when basically most every item you need can be commercially manufactured, mass-produced and purchased at a much lower price and in less time, why would you go through the time, trouble and expense to make anything – especially a quilt?

I have to be honest, when someone asks me this question it is not any easy one to answer. Especially when there are a number of online avenues that advertise ” 3 Piece Quilt Sets” for under $100 or $200. Add to this, the number of retail chain and outlet stores that have many, many quilts/comforters/blankets available for sale in all sizes and price points, the idea of making a quilt gives me pause and has me asking the same question.

The simple cost of making a quilt alone certainly adds to the difficulty justifying such a venture.

However, …there are many qualities that distinguish the quilt or blanket you buy in a brick and mortar or online store from what you piece and quilt yourself. Below are the top five reasons why I love to make quilts and the reasons why I will continue to make quilts for probably as long as I live!

1. Fabric Quality

Designer quilting fabrics are manufactured using the highest quality materials and techniques. The thread count is higher than basic cotton or cotton/blend fabric – typically 60 x 60 threads per square inch. However, some fabrics have a higher thread count. These fabrics almost feel like silk. Take a look here if you want to read more on designer quilting fabric.

2. Quilt Pattern

In this sense, I’m referring to the quilt pattern as the specific color or colors of the various shapes sewn together to create the overall quilt appearance – the “How it looks”.

For example, let’s say you are in the market for a quilt pieced into a “Double Wedding Ring” pattern using fabrics from a favorite designer and / or manufacturer, the most probable way to accomplish this is to make it yourself – (or have it made).

Another scenario – you have cherished fabric from clothing worn by your children when they were young and want to use it to create a quilt in the double wedding ring pattern to give as a gift when they marry. The only way to make that particular quilt is to make it yourself. That specific item will not be found on eBay or Amazon!

3. Quilt Design

This describes the actual “quilting” process – the design used with needle and thread to create the “quilted” appearance.

This example shows a very traditional design – the Continuous Line Cross-Hatching pattern on a very traditional quilt pattern – the Irish Chain. You can read more about this quilt here.

This is such an easy and common pattern – it can be found everywhere. It is the quilt pattern used in the manufacture of coveted and high end bags and purses such as this iconic handbag :

Modern long arm quilting machines however, have taken the basic, traditional quilting technique to an entirely new level. Using creativity and imagination to place stitches into an intricate pattern instantly transforms any pieced quilt top into a one-of-a-kind work of art. Again, this creation is an item not easily mass-produced – yet. ( Sadly, I’m sure someone, somewhere is working on this…)

Looking closely at the image below a variety of quilting patterns have been used. This snot only adds dimension to the quilt top but allows specific fabrics and design elements to stand out and become more prominent.

 


4. Originality

This is for those of us who have an insatiable need to maintain our sense of individuality and resist, at all costs, the trap of following the crowd. Not that the “crowd” are a bad bunch of people but as for me personally, I have no desire to have home decor / bed quilt, etc. to be a replica of what 2,000 other people have purchased.

It is my personality and design style that I want to stand out! And for this reason, my creations, for the most part, are designed to fit the recipient. If what I have designed and created happens to appeal to the masses I consider that a bonus!

When it comes to gift giving, originality is always at the top of my list.

The image below is a baby quilt I finished about a month ago.  It is not a 100% original – the pattern was purchased from a designer and the fabric here.  However, I highly doubt there is another baby quilt with the same pattern and fabric combination!

 

5. Charity

I belong to a quilt committee at the hospital where I work and our mission is to make quilts to be given to our patients and families who transition to palliative or hospice care. For me, this quilting group represents a unique and creative way to give back – not only to the recipients but within the group as well.

Members of our group represent all skill levels – some cut fabric, others piece quilt tops, others do just the ironing or tying off. True, when we meet it is primarily for the purpose of replenishing our quilt stock but these 6 – 7 hours are also an opportunity to learn or instruct new techniques or share quilting tips.

Each of us is well aware of the potential struggles involved with making any quilt and anytime we can offer a tip to make any aspect of the process easier for another makes the event a win-win situation for all.

Bonus

There is no better way to spend a cold snowy day than making a quilt which is exactly how I spent this Monday! I should give thanks to my sewing machine and fabric stash for keeping me off the streets! So, in preparation for our next quilt meeting, I pieced these two tops today:

The first is an adaptation of a pattern called “Off the Rails”. The second is made up of practice blocks in the “Disappearing Four Patch” pattern. Both quilt tops shown above are made using scraps from my stash. They are not perfectly color coordinated however, these images taken with my phone camera and less than optimal lighting do not render the color representations to be even less accurate. To get a better picture of the fabrics used, material of similar color and pattern can be found here. Once the batting and backing are added, the perimeter top stitched and the quilt the layers tied together they will be ready for giving.

So, there you have it. My top 5 (and a bonus) reasons for quilting.

What are your reasons for making quilt or for making anything? Is the reason you began quilting still ring true today or over time have you developed a new source of motivation or inspiration?

I would love to hear your thoughts!