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The Best $14.95 I’ve Ever Spent

Spending Money Online

That’s Right – a Simple $14.95 Purchase Has Changed My Life!

It is not only a solid investment but one I should have made long, long, long ago and here’s why:

Achieving a consistent 1/4″ seam is THE foundation for accurately piecing most every quilt top you make.

The above statement is nothing new but what I have discovered – just today before beginning the strip piecing portion for Block 8 of my weekly Adventure Quilt Along – is that using my 1/4″ presser foot was NOT the ticket to achieving a consistent 1/4″ seam!

Wow…Really??? Really???

All this time…and yes, I did wonder now and then, if I am actually keeping my fabric against the metal “fence” of this presser foot, how and why were my seams ending up a smidgen wider than they should be. What was I doing wrong?

Turns out, the problem was not entirely me, but the presser foot I was using.

In my previous post I mentioned a potential purchase of the Perfect Piecing Seam Guide and the reusable vinyl Sewing Edge. At that time I wasn’t sure the benefits of such a purchase would outweigh the price since I already had that “wonderful” 1/4″ presser foot.

I also mentioned that I have a hard time walking past any quilting / sewing tool or notion that I feel I can’t live without and this was no exception! On a whim I made this purchase and let it sit on my sewing table for a few days. My thought: I’ll open it up and give it a try when I’m in the mood to try something new…someday.

Fast forward about a week – that day has arrived!

It was the following words on the label of the Perkins Perfect Piecing Seam Guide that caught my attention, “Check the accuracy of your 1/4″ piecing foot”.

Perkins Perfect Piecing Seam Guide

Hmmm…it never, ever occurred to me that my 1/4″ piecing foot was anything but accurate – after all, 1/4″ is in its name for gosh’s sake!

Now, I’m curious. I’ve got know if my 1/4″ piecing foot is accurate.

Following the instructions, (with the 1/4″ piecing foot in place) I placed the guide on the footplate and lowered the needle into the hole.

Whoa!!!

The edge of the seam guide doesn’t come anywhere near the fence on the 1/4: piecing foot!

OMG!

Perfect Piecing Seam Guide

In spite of poor lighting, the image above is my attempt to illustrate this distance between the ruler and the metal fence on the 1/4″ piecing foot. The purpose of the fence is to act as a guide, the idea being as long as your fabric ran against this fence you are assured of a perfect 1/4″ seam.

Imagine my surprise when I discovered what I consider a huge gap of empty space between the ruler’s edge and the fence!

I’ve placed the tip of one of my lint brushes to fill in this in the gap. If the 1/4″ presser foot was really 1/4″ from the needle there wouldn’t be any space whatsoever – nothing should be filling this gap between the right edge of the ruler and the metal fence.

The second half of this equation-

The vinyl strips.

I’ve tried painter’s tape, masking tape, etc., and I suppose they would do in a pinch but these sewing edge vinyl strips are WAY better! They are just the right amount of thickness and the adhesive is strong yet easy to lift off and re position as needed to get perfect alignment along the length of this strip.

Seam Guide and Vinyl Strips

Once the strip is in place, remove the ruler and begin sewing!

The images below illustrate how the vinyl strip is used to create the perfect 1/4″ seam

Perfect Quarter Inch Seam

The fabric strip set consisting of 1 red and 2 white strips when sewn together are to measure 6 1/2″ wide. I can’t remember the last time (if ever) that I was able to sew a consistent 1/4″ seam the full length of a 20″ or so strip set!

One More Lesson Learned

This purchase has also taught me what the term “scant” means – a word I’ve seen used here and there but I never really understood its meaning until now. Scant – as in just barely, almost 1/4″ – the width of the ink used to mark a line on a ruler. I have to admit I’ve never bothered too much about the “scant” thing as it has been my philosophy that whatever the seam allowance you choose just make sure it is consistent throughout your project and all should be fine. 🙂

Concluding Thoughts

1) Even if you feel sewing an accurate scant 1/4″ seam is no longer a problem or an issue of any kind, it may be beneficial to go ahead and at least use the Perfect Piecing Seam Guide to check and make sure the 1/4″ mark you are using is accurate. When you do check this, I hope you aren’t as surprised by the results as I was!

It’s much easier to create an accurate seam marking before you start a project than regret it later when seams don’t match up and you aren’t able to figure out why.

2) I’ll be tossing the 1/4″ piecing foot aside – way off to the side! From now on, I be using my walking or even feed foot (pretty much exclusively) and keeping that pretty purple strip in place!

As thankful as I am for these wonderful products, I can’t help but wonder why quilters have to bother with this in the first place. Every sewing machine I’ve ever used has a marking for pretty much every seam allowance imaginable but NONE have a marking indicating a 1/4″ seam – NOT ONE.

Is it fruitless to expect sewing machine manufacturers to wake up and realize the necessity of having a 1/4″ clearly indicated on the footplate? And let’s suppose they do wake up, is it unreasonable to expect them to take the next step and acknowledge this need by including this 1/4″ mark on all footplates? And why isn’t this marking there already?

So many unanswered questions however, one main question has been answered: Purchasing the Perfect Seam Guide and Sewing Edge Vinyl Strips is the best $14.95 I’ve ever spent!

What is the best purchase you’ve ever made?

What is the one quilting or sewing item you cannot live without?

To learn more about this product go here.

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Making Waves with Paper Piecing


Paper Pieced Quilt Blocks

The Adventure Quilt A Long …a Road Trip has become quite a learning experience and has proven to be every bit as educational as adventurous.

The Journey So Far

I’ve learned how to: 1) develop a system of organization, 2) discovered additional uses for a walking foot and 3) piece several blocks using new-to-me techniques – the most educational and adventurous being Paper Piecing!

For anyone even vaguely familiar with paper piecing I’ll, put your mind at ease…this is NOT a tutorial or even a hint of an attempt of any form or fashion to explain ANY aspect of paper piecing.

Why?

Because…and I’ll be 100% honest here…getting started with paper piecing is comparable to learning an entirely. new. language. And this post isn’t about learning a new language – quilt or otherwise. 🙂

When comparing this piecing technique to basic and straight forward stitching of two pieces of fabric together, paper piecing is like nothing you have ever done or seen before. It will cause your mind to bend and twist – maybe even turn inside out! The same effect that learning a new language has on my brain!

However, once you’ve overcome that one small hurdle, it becomes evident that paper piecing is actually easy. (To this moment I continue to be amazed at the genius that developed this technique!). Once you master the paper piecing you will not only experience a huge sense of accomplishment but you will also find that it is the absolute best way to make sure your points line up and the only way to piece irregular shapes to create a consistent block design.

For those of you interested in learning more about how exactly paper piecing is done there are WONDERFUL video tutorials out there in the blogosphere! A simple google search will have you connected in no time. Once you do, just try it! Simply go ahead, pull out some fabric scraps, print off or trace a pattern onto fairly thin paper and give it a try.

Don’t Fear the (Seam) Ripper

Seam Ripper on Quilt Block

The fear of making a make a mistake or two (or learning opportunities as I like to call them), should not hold you back from at least attempting paper piecing – mistakes at the beginning are inevitable and simply a part of the process. Everyone that has learned how to paper piece – especially those of us who are self-taught, learned the process by making mistakes. Learning what not to do is as educational as what to do.

To Buy or Not to Buy...

What I do want to discuss are justifications for purchasing a few specialty quilting items. This message is especially for those of you currently participating in the Quilt Along or for those who are contemplating making this quilt at a later date and are not sure whether to make additional purchases for this project.

I will admit, I’ve never met a quilting/sewing notion (or kitchen gadget) that I didn’t like! Before starting this journey I first read through the list of optional / specialty items suggested for this project and noticed a few I didn’t have.

Oh joy! I’m all about any reason to buy a new quilting-sewing-thingy!

The items below are only a partial list but include items I either have or have used so far with blocks 1-8:

  • Quarter Inch Marker also known as the “Quilter’s Wand”
  • The following rulers: Add a Quarter Inch, Tri-Recs and the BlocLoc HST;
  • Paper for paper piecing and the
  • Braid Template.

Two other specialty items listed include the Perfect Piecing Seam Guide and the reusable vinyl Sewing Edge. Both can be purchased together here

For those of us who still struggle with sewing perfect 1/4″ seams these items should be at or near the top of our list. Of all the specialty items listed in this quilt along materials list, the seam guide and vinyl edges are the only items I don’t have. And it’s not because I am perfect and sew a perfect 1/4″ seam every time…oh no…that’s not me! However, I have found that as long as I take my time, use my 1/4″ seam foot or correctly locate a “mark” on another presser foot, achieving a consistent 1/4″ seam isn’t as difficult as it used to be.

In any event, I am still intrigued by this product and may have to purchase it anyway – I’m always in the market for that game changing, live-saving, cannot-live-without quilting tool or notion and this could very well be it!

THE TOOLS YOU DO NEED!

Add-A-Quarter Ruler and Paper for Piecing

Paper for Piecing & Ruler

These two items go hand-in-hand with the paper piecing technique. Yes, can make do with a standard quilting ruler (for example, a 2.5″ x 12.5″ ruler). After all, it has markings all over the place for 1/4″ and I do use my 2.5″ x 12.5″ ruler ALL THE TIME but I have discovered the unique design of this handy ruler assures a consistent and accurate 1/4″ cut every time.

Again, I will not go into the specifics of paper piecing here but I feel only fair to share these images below to give you the idea of how the folded paper and Add-A-Quarter ruler are used to position and trim before each seam is sewn.

Add A Quarter Ruler

The image below will show you the appearance of a finished block with the paper attached.

Paper Pieced Quilt Block

The Letter/Number combinations printed on the paper tell you which fabric is used and in what order. And yes, the fabric is sewn directly onto the paper!

This technique is another reminder of the importance of developing a system of organization. It cannot be stressed enough the importance to be able to easily and accurately locate the exact fabric pieces as they are needed.

Below is the front side of this same block with the paper still attached to the backside.

Paper Pieced Quilt Block

My very first attempt at paper piecing actually began with the block shown below entitled, “RoundAbout”. I grabbed a few scraps from my stash and pieced this “practice” block and if this is your first time with paper piecing I would suggest you do the same. Removing the stress and fear of potentially ruining the fabric you want to include in the final quilt allows you to place more focus on learning the technique.

Paper PIeced Quilt Block

I can’t wait to make this block again using the colorful fabrics I’ve chosen for this quilt.

I would love to hear your stories about paper piecing – how you started and how often do you use this technique especially when other options for piecing are available.

.

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How Using a Walking Foot Saves Time, Money and Your Sanity

Quilt Block - The Great Divide

Who knew a big, bulky and (in my case, a clunky sounding) sewing machine attachment that goes by the name “Walking Foot” – also known as an “Even Feed Foot” could could do so much more than help you sew two pieces of fabric together!

St. Patrick’s Day has arrived and I continue to merrily plug along piecing together the multitude of multi-colored blocks from the Adventure Quilt Quilt A Long…a Road Trip I discussed in my previous post.  Piecing the blocks together is so much fun – addictive actually.  I have to force myself to put it away and tend to other necessary tasks of daily life – cooking, laundry, sleep, going to work…

As much fun as I’m having, I do still suffer a set back or two.  This is typically the result of the only real issue I have with my sewing machine – the problem of uneven fabric feed over the feed dogs.  No matter how many tips and tricks I try ( and short of simply gluing the pieces together along the entire seam), it “seems” for every 4 seams I stitch that line up, the next will be a good 1/4″ off.

I was beginning to think the only reasonable solution was to buy a whole new machine.

It was only a few short months ago that I researched quilting machines and at that time I was strongly leaning toward this machine .  The primary reason – the feed-dog design that pretty much guarantees an even fabric feed.

When Juki redesigned this aspect of the machine it did so to allow both layers of fabric to be fed evenly preventing the all-too-common-reason many quilters have become too frustrated to continue this craft.  After all, when one layer of fabric is continuously pulled forward while the other lags behind and the reason has nothing to do with your skill but the less-than-optimal design of the machine, it’s no wonder people are quick to give up piecing or quilting altogether.

Learning about this innovative feed-dog design, I was elated to realize that I was not alone – that there were enough of us quilters and sewists out there experiencing this same uneven-fabric-feed problem that an improved feed-dog design had to be developed.  However, my happy dance was quickly replaced with the reality that since I do not have that particular brand of machine, I will have to continue to “make-do” and resign myself to the fact that, at least for now, that achieving an even fabric feed on my machine will continue to be as much a fantasy as a source of frustration.

That is, until I made this discovery – or rather, the re-discovery of the “Walking Foot“.

Walking or Even Feed Foot

I say re-discovery as I m quite familiar with this accessory however, I have also been under the mis-guided impression that the walking foot is used only for “quilting”.  It’s design will allow several thicknesses of fabric to be smoothly evenly fed through the feed dogs.  Using an attachment like this would seem like overkill if used for ordinary sewing.

Well, it turns out this big, bulky-doesn’t-look-like-it-belongs-on-a-domestic-sewing-machine accessory is THE solution for an even fabric feed for ALL sewing projects – regardless of the number of fabric layers!

I think it is now high time that the word gets out – the Walking Foot should no longer be reserved for “quilting” or sewing together several layers of thickness such as a quilt sandwich.

In fact, it  may become the only foot I’ll ever use.  I say may – I still have a great love for both my satin stitch foot and 1/4″ seam foot  shown below.

For me, the satin stitch foot works best when sewing fabric together to make half-square triangles (HST’s).  I typically cut my fabric pieces a bit larger than required.  This gives me some “wiggle room” so if one fabric layer shifts in front of the other and the two layers are not evenly matched at the end of a seam it doesn’t matter.  The square will be cut in half and later “squared” to the correct size anyway, so all I have to lose is a little bit of fabric.

Blocks #2, #3 and #4 of this Quilt A-Long (shown below) require piecing MANY squares and rectangles which also means nesting and matching up MANY seams.

The many trials and errors piecing Block #4 – The Great Divide resulted in the great union between my sewing machine and this miraculous accessory.   I would not be as far along in this project as I am were it not for the Walking / Even Feed Foot.

Adventure Quilt Block #2 - #4

BWF – AWF

Before using my Walking Foot to piece these blocks,  my seam ripper was used as much as the sewing machine.

After using my Walking Foot, my seam ripper was used ONLY to help stabilize the fabric as it went through the feed dogs.

In Summary:

Using a Walking Foot Saves Time:  Eliminating the need to rip out seams faster then you can put them in and having to re-do multiple seams is a huge time saver.  There is nothing to be gained by doing the same task multiple times.  Quilting is a slow but steady progression from one step to the next – it is not a hamster wheel!

Using a Walking Foot Saves Money:  In my case, it has prevented me from making an expensive purchase that could be postponed until I have more information.

Using a Walking Foot Saves Your Sanity: When you  no longer sit and scratch your head wondering, “What?  How did that happen”, while asking yourself “have I lost my mind?”  I know those pieces of fabric were lined up exactly before I began sewing…

The Result:

Time spent engaging in a thought process and dialogue that affirms your sanity and sense of well-being and allows you to persevere, block by block, until the last block is pieced!

Let me hear from you about your experiences using a Walking or Even-Feed Foot for your projects!  I’d also love to hear your solutions for achieving an even fabric feed on your machine if you don’t use an even feed or walking foot.