Freebies & Features

Share-A-Tip Archive

Do you have a brief creative tip you'd like to share on our site? An idea to make quilting, crafts and sewing easier and more enjoyable? Use the form on our Current Tips page to send it to Lisa Shepard Stewart. If it's chosen to appear on, we'll send you a fabric packet as our "Thank You.".

Dispenser for Bindings
from Mary Christopher of Rochester, NY
After preparing the binding (cutting, piecing, pressing) I wind the binding strips onto empty paper towel rolls cut to size. I then put the roll on a stand alone paper towel holder that holds roll vertically and place it to the right of my machine. The heavy base keeps the paper towel holder in place and the binding out of the way. The binding feeds easily for sewing without tangling.
Machine Quilting Practice
from Jackie Roisler of Cary, NC
When layering my quilt top, batting and backing fabric together I've found it extremely useful to make a mini 3"x5" test-swatch of the exact layers. I keep this next to my sewing machine to aid me in testing my machine's top & bottom thread tension before working on the actual quilt (check your owner's manual on how to adjust).
Easy control while machine quilting
from Fannie Wengerd of Anderson, SC
Instead of using grippy gloves while machine quilting, use two new 3" x5" kitchen sponges. The sponges hang on to the fabric securely when quilting, and when you stop stitching, you just lift up your hands, without the hassle of taking off the gloves! (Editor's note: Another handy item to try this way is rubberized shelf liner, cut in rectangles to the 3" x 5" size suggested by Fannie)
Changing rotary blades regularly
from Sharon Abbey of Gretna, NE
I thought I was having to change my rotary blades too frequently, so I placed a small piece of masking tape on my rotary cutter with the date that the blade was changed. I was surprised at how much time actually passed between blade changes, and now I treat myself to a new blade without feeling guilty.
Thread Holder Alternative
from Agnes Dunphy of Moriches, NY
I use a wrought iron banana stand as a thread holder and guide for large spools of thread. The stands are heavy weight and usually have a base to put the cup on and the hook becomes the thread guide -- they also make an attractive addition to your workspace!
Quick Finger Pressing Tool
from Madelyne Kiernan of St. James, NY
I recently found a great alternative to finger pressing and pressing with a wooden iron. Instead, I now use the small roller that comes with a wallpaper kit. It is only 1-1/4" wide and easy to control. You'll need to use it on a hard surface to get a crisp fold line. This was much easier and faster than finger pressing or using the little wooden iron!
Uses for Practice Blocks
from Marcia Huckabee of Logan, NM
I make a practice block before I sew all the blocks for my quilt, to ensure I am going to like the colors and the instructions are correct for the block. I then use these practice blocks to make pillows to match the quilt, or to embellish the front part of a tote bag to store the quilt pieces as well as the finished quilt later on (the block can be purely decorative, or function as a pocket!). I've also used my practice blocks as small gift pouches or to sew up small accessories.
Taming Loose Bobbins
from Tanya L James of Kopperl, TX
Keep a supply of the smaller, inexpensive hair scrunches (about the size of a quarter) to put around your bobbins. No more loose threads. Will also work on spools of thread.
How to Handle Fabric Strips
from Robyn Jones of Scottsdale, AZ
I use the narrow scarf hangers, hung from a thumb tack on the wall, to hang my fabric strips beside my sewing machine. This keeps them out of the way but within easy reach.
Simplified Quilt Repairs
from Lea Brummett of Martinsville, IN
Fold in a few scrap pieces of fabric from your quilt sewn behind the quilt label. This makes future repairs a lot easier should it need to be repaired years later.
Paper Piecing Workspace
from Jane Zinke of San Diego
I use a large wooden tray (about $4 from the local craft store) and line it with felt. This creates a perfect portable workspace for paper piecing and general quilt-making. The corners hold tiny paper pieces, little piles of small fabric scraps, scissors and a pincushion, leaving the center of the tray free for work-in-progress and finished polygons.
Easier Hand Sewing
from Carolyn Lauginiger of Milford, NH
I wear my Machingers glove on my right hand while I hand-sew my quilt binding. What a difference! For the first time, my hands did not hurt from holding the needle, and the grip of the glove also made it easier to handle the needle. I recommend trying this glove when hand sewing and of course, when free-motion quilting!
Portable Table Risers
from Vicki Cooper of Franklinville, NJ
I use bed risers for our tables on quilting retreat to get the table up to our correct height for rotary cutting. The risers are easy to travel with, and easy to set up.
Editor's Note: This is a great tip to use at home, too!
Sewing Buttons
from Kathy Burns of Ann Arbor, MI
When sewing four-hole or two-hole buttons onto a quilt or a garment, I place a straight pin between the holes and sew over it when sewing on the button. When the pin is removed, the thread has just the right amount of 'slack' that it needs, so the button is sewn securely, but not so tightly against to the fabric. This also prevents pulling or puckers on the wring side of the fabric.
Stay-Put Rulers
from Kim Keena of Chesterfield, MI
To keep you ruler from slipping while you're cutting fabric, dab some clear nail polish on a few spots and sprinkle table salt (or sand) on the nail polish while it's still wet. Let dry thoroughly.
Inexpensive Stencil Patterns
from Jennifer Burns of Brick, NJ
Instead of spending a ton of money on pricey plastic quilting stencils, try cookie cutters and an air-soluble pen. Just trace the around cookie cutter with the air erasable pen, and quilt. A bucket of cookie cutters gives you lots of variety at the right price.
Removable Stitching Guides
from Carolyn Lauginiger of Milford, NH
I use Scotch™ blue painter's tape to mark straight lines on my sewing machine when I'm machine quilting with walking foot to get my 1/2 stitch. The tape stays secure while I'm stitching, then comes off without any sticky residue. (Be sure to fold back on edge to easily take off the tape.)
Iron Safety
from Sue Voegele of Womelsdorf, PA
In my sewing room, the bottom plug of each outlet is controlled by the wall switch. I make sure to plug my iron into the bottom plug. This way whenever I go into my sewing room and turn on the light, my iron is turned on and ready to be used. More importantly, when I leave the room and turn off the light, I am sure that my iron is turned off as well.
Rotary Cutter Storage
from Marcella Riisager of Sparks, MD
I use eyeglasses cases to store my rotary cutter. The hard plastic ones (about $1) are perfect for larger cutters, and smaller cutters fit in slimline eyeglass cases. The rotary cutter is safe and protected from drops and chips but very handy and easy to find. The slimline cases can also be used to store fabric markers, small seam rulers and chalk pencils.
Matching Projects for BOM Quilts
from Sassy Foster of Maryville, TN
When buying my Block of the Month packs, such as Aunt Grace Circle of Friends, I always buy extra fat quarters so I can make projects to complete my bedroom decor to coordinate with that particular quilt.
Editor's note: Extra fat quarters might also come in handy while you're making the BOM itself, in case you decide to take a creative departure from the given design!
Color Matching with Paint Chips
from Linda Burrow of Dorris, CA
Those paint chip swatch cards at the hardware or home improvement stores are a perfect tool for color-coordinating your quilt designs. Simply choose your color family -- the paint colors are arranged in graduating shades that blend. Simply take the paint color card to the fabric section and choose a fabric to match each different color on it. The colors will blend perfectly to produce a beautiful quilt top.
Double Your Thread Capacity
from Cynthia Barszczewski of White Hall, AR
Place a regular plastic drinking straw over the spool spindle of your thread rack. Now you have the option of putting two spools of thread on one spindle. Snip off the excess straw length.
Chalk Mark Removal Made Easy
from Karen Kryschtal of Manhattan, KS
To remove chalk marks from my fabrics, I keep a clean toothbrush among my sewing tools. Just brush lightly - and they're gone!
Neat bobbin storage
from Betty Baker of Hauppauge, NY
To keep the thread from slipping off of the bobbin I use a ponytail loop to keep the thread on the bobbin. You can get a package of ponytail loops in all different colors and you can use the color of the thread to put on the bobbin.
Cotton selvedges for the garden
from Marianne Whetstone of Baltimore, MD
It's the time of year for gardening and the selvedges from our cotton fabric make wonderful ties for our tomato plants and other vine-grown plants that need a little guidance. The strips are gentle on the plants and will not cut into the stems.
Cleaning your sewing machine
from Madelyne Kiernan of St James, NY
When I am cleaning my machine and have to take apart the bobbin casing, I take a close-up digital photo of the inside of the machine before I start cleaning it. Then I can refer to the photo in case the bobbin casing does not go back the right way. It saves a lot of time and worry!
from Pat Laukaitis of Smithtown, NY
Budget Design Wall - I have no space in my sewing room for a design wall, so instead, I decided to tape a flannel blanket to the top edge of the china closet/breakfront in my dining room, letting it simply hang down the front. It worked very well - the blocks clung to it and I was able to move them around until I was pleased with the arrangement.
from Chris Coombs of Eclectic, AL
Using Glue Sticks in Quilting - I prefer glue sticks to liquid glue for various reasons: glue sticks are instantly sticky, no waiting like the liquid to get tacky. I use glue sticks to apply binding instead of pinning; to hold appliqués in place without the stiffness of the fusibles; and to hem t-shirts. They also do a great job of holding the knit fabric in place till you stitch it. Pins can't hold it like the glue. And ironing the glue seems to increase its adhesiveness. The glue is really a starch and won't harm fabrics. (Editor's note: test this on a fabric scrap first!) The glue stick is also water-soluble.
from Delsynn Graham of Boise, ID
When pressing a seam in your quilt block, get into the habit of pressing the seam flat first, the way it was sewn. This sinks the thread into the fabric and reduces the bulk of the seam. This also helps to prevent the seam from getting caught under the walking foot as you're machine quilting.
from April Weber of Holyoke, MA
Instead of using the thread cutter on your sewing machine after each seam, keep a small thread clipper close by 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! This saves approximately 50% of the tail thread you would normally snip off later, AND saves time, too!
from SheRie Wolosz of Delano, CA
I use a microfiber cloth to clean up the little threads on my cutting mat. Just wipe across the mat with the cloth - no more trying to pick up the little pieces with your fingers.
from Joy Saxon of Boise, ID
Following my recent casino visit, I brought home the clip-on spring that was attached to my casino card. I attached my small scissors to it, and clipped it to my sewing machine. Now I always have scissors handy, and
if I try to walk away with them, they are attached and spring back to the machine.
from Tamela Clarksen of Mishicot, WI
Thoroughly wash plastic coffee creamer containers from Coffe-mate or International Delight (preferably the larger ones), and recycle them as water dispensers for your steam iron. They have great spouts for pouring and the lid securely snaps closed, avoiding a potential quilting room mess if you knock it over!!
from Dana Stuart of Hollywood, FL
My quilting time is limited, so every so often, I spend a full day just organizing projects, gathering the fabrics & notions needed for each and placing them in separate baskets. (I use wicker baskets for larger projects, and sometimes those plastic dollar store bins work well for smaller projects.) Then, when I do have time to create, I don't waste precious time gathering the supplies, I can just get to the fun part!
from Helen Stadler of Oak Park, IL
I surf the net a lot for quilting inspiration, and I find so many good quilting projects & articles online that I get overwhelmed, so I created folders on my computer to save & file them for future reference. I have Projects, General Techniques, and Notions/Supplies and Books. Works great and once I save the file, I can print it later with the site address at the bottom, no worries of having to remember the site or how I got there! When I need inspiration or specific help, I can easily review what I have saved.
from Linda Henderson of Junction City, KS
Don't throw away your dental floss containers when they are empty. When hand stitching, put a bobbin of thread in it and use it to dispense and cut thread as needed. This is especially handy when traveling, since it's airport security-friendly!
from Joy Sima of Deerbrook, WI
I use a rubbery can holder to hold the larger spools or cone of thread instead of a large metal holder. It won't slip, either on the table when sewing or when you pack up to go home and put it in the "cubby hole" of your machine. It's a lot lighter weight, too.
from Judy Graczyk of Gaylord, MI
My longarm quilter always returns the backing fabric that is cut from the edges after quilting. I cut these lengths into strips intended for binding and store it until needed. I usually have enough for a few charity quilts on hand at all times.
from Marcia Huckabee of Logan, NM
When doing piano key borders (or any other pieced borders), sew a line of "stay-stitching" all the way around the out side of your quilt border. This will keep the seams from coming unsewn when your quilter puts it on there frame to quilt it. I had a client do this for me and it worked wonderfully. You should always backstitch on any "outside" seams on your quilt also. This keeps seams from coming apart as your quilter handles it during the quilting process.
from Pam McVey of Spokane, WA
I converted a small bedroom into my sewing space, so to maximize the limited space, I bought an ivory laminate 6ft. door, placed it on top of two 2-drawer metal file cabinets. The cabinets were spaced apart and I was able to slide plastic roller carts under the table as well for additional storage. This gave me an all-in-one cutting, storage and work space. My family uses this functional space, too - Hint: hide your sewing scissors!
from Christain Manion of Villa Ridge, MO
After I finish piecing a quilt top, I sew around all edges of the quilt, 1/8 inch from the edge, using a large stitch. This prevents the quilt top from stretching out of shape, and also prevents the fabric from fraying.
from Christi Scheffel of Shelby, NC
An inexpensive glue stick is a quilter's friend. It will hold binding in place, especially as you stitch around curves (no more pins!), secure a zipper in place, and hold appliqués steady. I am constantly finding new uses and the best part is, it just washes away later on. Works great on piping too!
from Andrea Lucia of Longmeadow, MA
If you have a bag filled with tiny, tiny scraps but don't have the heart to trash it all--fill a old pillowcase 3/4 full of scraps and sew the pillowcase closed and give it to your local pet shelter for those homeless animals to sleep on!
from Gail Richardson of Port Dover, Ontario, Canada
I recycle blank DVD containers (50 or 100-count size) in various ways: First the lid turned over makes a great catch-all for scissors, rotary cutters, markers, etc. Second the plastic disc in each container is a perfect template for yo-yo's, or circles for any project. Third, the spindle that holds the discs is a great thread holder for the larger cones that don't fit on the sewing machine.
from Francine Shea of Middleport, NY
To make a quantity of fusible fabric strips (great for appliqué, art quilts, etc), I cut rectangles (on grain or on bias as needed), then fuse on paper-backed fusible web. I then feed the piece through my paper shredder, resulting in cut fabric strips with the fusible web already applied to them. Then, just remove backing paper of strip and iron on as needed!
from Kimberely Fracek of Texas City, TX
To organize and protect your template pieces, use a small, clear pencil pouches with the 3-hole punched edges. Place them in a notebook binder with the pattern, or designate a single binder to keep all template pouches together. Keeping your templates organized for easy re-use will also save you money. The pencil pouches are inexpensive, and you can save even more by buying several during back-to-school season!
from Deborah Pomroy of Duluth, MN
I use leftover blocks and scraps to make gift bags for anytime of the year. Serge the open end for a finished look (try decorative threads here!), then simply tie a ribbon around it, rather than sewing a drawstring, so it can be used for objects of various shapes. Family and friends can reuse these bags for gift-giving. We are now using these bags instead of gift wrap in my family. It is especially handy for people who have trouble wrapping gifts because of arthritis.
from Sandi Selk of Chiloquin, OR
Keep a small (about 1/2" x 2") piece of white card stock on hand to place behind the sewing machine needle as you thread it. It brightens the area behind the needle, which makes threading much easier.
from Christain Manion of Villa Ridge, MO
After finishing piecing a quilt top, I sew around the edge of the quilt, 1/8 inch from the edge, using a large stitch. This prevents the quilt top from stretching out of shape as well as prevents the fabric from raveling.
from Mary Krysiak of Fairview, PA
I found using a cuticle stick with a pointed tip works as a stiletto and the flat surface at the other end acts as finger press. Also works well using the pointed tip to hold down small pieces while using a mini iron. Great for miniature quilts or small projects.
from Christi Scheffel of Shelby, NC
An inexpensive glue stick is a quilter's best friend. It will hold your binding in place, especially as you go around curves no more pins, a zipper in place, appliqué won't move. I am constantly finding new uses -- and the best part is it just washes away later on. Works great on piping too!
from Mary Jaynne Glaseman of Pine Mountain Club, CA
"When I sew on fabrics where fusible web products have been applied, my needle gets sticky when passing through the fused areas. I use a tiny amount of hand sanitizer on the needle to remove all of the sticky residue."
from Janice Svercek of Mill Run, PA
"Need a handy tool caddy for classes & retreats? I combined two ideas from Marcus's "Create-a Room" series for the wall hanging and roll-up caddy: Make the roll-up caddy, but use vinyl for the pockets instead of fabric, and adjust the overall size to fit your tool requirements. Make pockets for each tool you carry to class. Then make a color copy of each tool on card stock. Cut out the picture to fit into the vinyl pocket. A quick check at the end of class for any empty pockets will assure you never leave a tool behind again!"
from Mary Christopher of Rochester, NY
"After cutting, piecing and pressing the quilt binding, I wind the binding strips onto empty paper towel or toilet paper rolls cut to size. I then put the roll on a vertical stand-alone paper towel holder and place it to the right of my machine. The heavy base keeps the paper towel holder in place and the binding out of the way. The binding feeds easily for sewing without tangling."
from Jan Navarra of Lexington, MI
When pressing really small pieces or miniature blocks, just spritz a bit of water on your pressing surface, then lay the fabric down on the dampened part of ironing board to press --saves fingers from getting too close to the hot iron!
from Ginger Hale of Mansfield, TX
We all know how important it is to keep the lint and fuzz out of our machines for good sewing. In addition to frequent cleaning with a soft brush as recommended, I have found that a loose and clean feather, picked up out of my yard, is excellent for gently drawing through the threading slots on the front of the machine.
from Sandra Hawes of Salem, OR
To celebrate the birthday of a quilting friend, use a "jelly roll" (try cutting your own "jelly roll" strips from one of Marcus' Strip-It fabrics), insert candles, and present it as birthday cake for your quilter friend, with the fabrics being the gift for her to make a new project and your gift being the jelly roll fabric for her to make a project. NOTE: Don't light the candles... it's just a fun gift presentation!
from Madge Powis of Hamilton, NJ
We have all heard about using pizza boxes for quilt block storage. I am taking it one step further, creating a "multi-purpose work station": I covered the top of the pizza box with flannel (on the outside), using spray adhesive. I now have a block board to place my blocks on while sewing. Finished blocks are then placed inside the box, waiting for the others. I cover the outside bottom of the box with clear contact paper, providing a wipe- off board for notes. Finally, I attach a file folder to the inside lid, to hold block instructions.
from Linda Burrow of Dorris, CA
I use the large cone threads because they save me money as well as time. They won't fit on my machine's thread pin, so I place the cone inside a glass quart size canning jar and just set it behind my machine. The thread feeds from the spool easily.
from Barbara Burnham of Ellicott City, MD
When doing appliqué or hand piecing, try this tip to keep little pieces organized and handy, especially when traveling: Cut leftover batting into 6x6 or 8x8 inch sheets. Organize fabric pieces for appliqué or hand piecing on top of the batting sheets. The fabrics cling to the batting, stay flat, and avoid fray or loss. Stack the batting sheets and slip them into in a zip-top bag for storage or travel.
from Terry Bell of Reynoldsburg, OH
When I need a pin cushion, it is usually on the other side of my sewing room. I solved this problem by having several, one at my cutting area, one on the ironing board, and one at the sewing machine. When one get filled (usually the one at the machine) I move it to one of the other spots, and move the one with the fewest pins to the machine. It sure keeps me from always having to get up and find a pin cushion!
from Jackie Roisler of Cary, NC
When I'm layering my quilt top, batting and backing fabric together I find it extremely useful to make a mini 3"x5" test of the exact layers. I keep this next to my sewing machine to aid me in testing my machine's top & bottom thread tension as I sew my quilt together. (Check your sewing machine manual for instructions on tension adjustment) Next time, don't rip! Test first ; )
from Beatrice Gibson of Emlenton, PA
I use every piece of fabric possible, but there are always tiny scraps that are just too small. I cut these into slivers. In the spring I dump them on a bush in the garden and then enjoy seeing my fabric woven into the nest of robins and doves.
from Jeanne Dobyns of Lakeland, FL
When assembling fusible appliqué designs, iron them between sheets of parchment paper or a product such as Reynolds Release foil to prevent the fusible resins from sticking to your iron. This tip works beautifully for Angelina fibers, too!
from Madelyne Kiernan of St James, NY
I like the look of stippling by machine but I also like the uneven, less repetitive look of my free-motion quilting. Now I use my decorative stitches: Find the wavy stitch and lengthen the stitch a bit. Then pretend you are driving and gently turn the quilt a little to the left and then a little to the right. If you work in a big circle, you would never know it was a decorative stitch that did all of the work!
from Teri Loturco of Washington, UT
I use the small stand up empty boxes of tissues, on my work table, to throw away scraps, loose thread etc. The scraps, etc. stay put, and the box takes up minimal table space.
from Annice Sware of Mercerville, NJ
I have a computerized machine & therefore cannot use magnets directly on it. I took a large suction cup & attached a magnet to it (I used that blue sticky stuff called "FunTac") & I stuck it to the front of my machine. It is VERY handy to catch or retrieve pins when sewing instead of looking for the pincushion
from Jan Eby of Plano, TX
I like to wash my fabrics when I first purchase them; when dried, I cut a small piece of the fabrics and poke a single hole in each piece with scissors. I then put that fabric piece on a keychain in my purse. Then when I shop for additional fabric, I know exactly what I have currently purchased for that special project! Makes coordinating fabrics for my quilts and sewing, easy & fun!
from Mary Lynn Kresge of Kenmore, NY
When a spool of thread has only has a yard or two left, I save it in a container with the other supplies I need to do my hand sewing (usually for binding a quilt). I then use the remainder of thread on each spool for all my hand sewing needs, therefore never wasting thread.
from Fran Ritzert of Kirkwood, MO
Don't have a needle threader on your machine? Buy a pack of floss threaders - you'll find them in the dental aisle of your local drug store. You will be amazed how easily you'll be able to thread that needle!
from Mary Campbell of Yelm, WA
I use many scraps of fabrics in making crazy quilt blocks, and often end up with several blocks I decide not to use in a particular quilt, so I use them to make large pot holders: Select two of the extra blocks that look well together to make a set. Use several layers of terrycloth towel as filling, then add a dark cotton denim backing. These fabrics absorb the heat well and also wash well. Round the corners before finishing with bias tape plus make a bias hanging loop. Great handcrafted hostess gifts, or additions to a kitchen-themed gift basket!
from Shirley Helm of Maize, KS
I save all my scraps of fabric and binding. I sew the strips of fabric together, cut and add binding to make bookmarks (2½" x 8" finished). They make great stocking stuffers and my granddaughters love them!
from Madelyne Kiernan of St James, NY
After using dryer sheets, try recycling them for appliqué: Mark your fabric, and then place the sheets on the right side of the fabric. Stitch on the appliqué line, cut a slit on the dryer sheet and turn inside out. Presto! Neat turned under seam allowances. I use this technique for all of my labels, too.
from Jonatha A. Johnson of Hyattsville, MD
After you receive your purchase of fabric from online shops, use a permanent pen to write in name and website address of the source along the fabric selvedge. Include the date of your purchase on each piece. It's almost impossible to remember which fabrics came from which place; you may want to purchase more, and this is how you will find the source again.
from Andrea Lucia of Longmeadow, MA
If you have a bag filled with tiny scraps but don't have the heart to trash it all--fill an old pillowcase 3/4 full of scraps, sew the pillowcase closed and give it to your local pet shelter for those homeless animals to sleep on!
from Ginger Hale of Mansfield, TX
To keep the lint and fuzz out of our machines for good sewing, in addition to frequent cleaning with my favorite brush, I have found that a clean, loose feather (picked up out of my yard) is excellent for gently drawing through the threading slots on the front of the machine.
from Deby Beran of Hobbs, NM
To help determine the best of several fabric choices, lay out each version on the floor then stand on a chair to take a digital picture of each. Compare the various pictures on your computer. This gives a more removed view of each choice-- like looking at a picture in a magazine!! Even better, wait until the following day to separate yourself further before you decide. Combine this tip with the use of a design wall for the most objective view.
from Barbara Pierson of Camillus, NY
When purchasing packaged quilt batting, it often is quite wrinkled and flat from having been in the package for so long. I found that if I open the package, put the batting in the dryer with an old sneaker, the batting is fluffed up and ready to use. Use low heat for about 5-10 minutes, check, then run it for a few minutes longer if needed.
from Georjana Mauldin of Norman, OK
Use the shoeshine cloths that you get at every hotel stay to clean your machine inside and out. Its soft surface catches the lint without scratching the machine, and without chemicals. It's also just the right size, and the price is also right! I use it to catch the lint when I'm brushing out the bobbin area too. I keep one at the side of my machine for a quick wipe after my sewing session.
from Joan DeRue of Marine City, MI
When finishing up a quilt there is sometimes batting left over from the edges of the quilt. I trim away the excess batting along the sides of the quilt once it's sandwiched, and place the batting strips in my Swiffer-style dust mop. I use it on my wood floor to pick up all those loose threads. The batting can also be used wet for a quick clean up when you've run out of Swiffer pads. The batting can also be washed and reused.
from Dianna Zimmerman of Redmond, WA
After cutting strips for binding, then piecing and pressing them, I wind the binding strips onto an empty thread spool and place it on the thread dowel on my sewing machine. The binding is now out of the way and convenient for feeding down to the presser foot to attach to my quilts. (No more tangled binding draped across my lap!)
from Cheryl Hammond of El Paso, TX
I go to my local hardware store, and have them cut Plexiglas squares to use as squaring-up rulers for my quilt blocks. They only cost a couple of dollars for even the biggest sizes, and they will put in a hole for me to hang them when not in use. This sure beats the cost of rules intended to square up quilt blocks.
from Madelyne Kiernan of St James, NY
When assembling scrap blocks for a quilt, I lay out my blocks and take a digital photo. The photo shows if I have too many dark blocks together or too many light ones together. I rearrange the blocks and take another photo.
from Linnea Egbert of Mesilla, NM
The cut-away centers of cardboard picture frame mats are usually discarded by frame shops, and my local frame shop is happy to give these away to be recycled. I pick up the large ones & cut them into 9" x 12" pieces. I then wrap fabric yardage that is folded once again lengthwise (to about 11" wide) around the board and secure it with a pin As the board is 9" wide, a simple count of folds on one side will give you a quick estimated yardage, with four folds equaling one yard of fabric. This will keep your stash in order when you are pulling fabric for a project, and they stack or stand on end to view easily. It takes time when you first organize this, but is easy to do after when you bring new fabric home. An added benefit: my frame shop only uses acid-free matting - a must for fabric storage on paper boards.
from Pat Winters of Yorktown, VA
I join binding strips on the diagonal. When the seam allowances are pressed open, little 'dog ears' extend from the edges of the strip. I do NOT cut those off yet. The little extensions alert me to where the seams fall, allowing me to avoid placing seams in the corners of the quilt top.
from Carol Nelms of Franklin, PA
To keep your machine running better, each time you change the bobbin, remove the throat plate, and clean the entire area with a small lint brush. Do not use the cans of compressed air, or blow into the machine yourself, as these methods can push lint in further, and can create moisture inside the machine.
from Judy Thornton of Milan, MI
Use an empty fabric bolt board, pin 3 wide elastic bands around the board. When you travel to classes, slide your rotary rulers under the elastic bands and the strength of the board will protect your rulers from breaking.
from Linda Chase of Harlingen, TX
I purchased two ready-to-assemble wooden shoe organizers with 15 cubby holes each - they are the perfect size for stacking fat quarters. I fill them according to color or theme and it really looks pretty in the room, adding to my organization as well as my décor!
from Teresa Vicars of Nickelsville, VA
I use water soluble thread to baste my quilts. When I am done quilting, I just soak quilt in the washing machine, run the spin cycle, and block to dry. I don't have to pick out all those pesky threads!
from Sharon Farrelly of Wethersfield, CT
I buy magnetic bowls from the auto supply store for my pins. It sticks to my ironing board, and the pins don't fall out.
from Cathy Bruning of Mesa, AZ
To keep marking and cutting tools, and even prepared binding handy "at a glance", I use an over the door shoe storage holder. The many clear plastic pockets keep everything within easy access on the back of a door, or even hung on the wall near my work space.
from Janice M. Crowley of Winneconne, WI
Store your quilt batts in heavy plastic bags. Gather the open edges of the bag around the hose nozzle of your vacuum and suck out all the air. Give it a good twist and rubber band the top of the bag. Compacting your batts make them easier to store, and takes up much less space!
from Marjorie Goble of Hudson, NC
I use my machine quilting gloves to clean my cutting mat. I put a glove on, rubbing the rubber finger tips on the mat in a circular motion -- all of the bits of thread, fabric, and batting roll up "cocoon-like" and are easily thrown away. Works better than anything else I've tried!
from Linda Jones of Ft Wayne, IN
When strip piecing, keep the needle down when you come to the end of a patch, and butt the edge of the next patch right up to needle - saves lots of thread this way! Just clip between patches when you are finished.
from Brenda J Dakai of Shawano, WI
My red tomato pincushion was awkward to use as it would always tip over when I was putting pins in it. To solve the problem, I pushed the pin cushion into a small jelly jar or canning jar. Any small jar will work as long as the pincushion fits snugly. No more rolling or tipping over!
from Dot Blevins of Salem, OR
For a multi-purpose sewing machine mat, buy a cut-to-size piece of rubber shelving (from a home improvement store), and mark the front edge at 1/4", 1/2", and 1" increments, using a permanent marker. Slip it under your machine to reduce vibration and prevent it from moving. You can also check quick measurements as you sew, and the mat is even washable!
from Marjorie Goble of Hudson, NC
I use my machine quilting gloves to clean my cutting mat. I put a glove on, rubbing the rubber finger tips on the mat in a circular motion, and all of the bits of thread, fabric, and batting roll up "cocoon-like" and are easily disposed of. Works better than anything else I've tried!
from Candace Ross of Coral Springs, FL
Each time I make a quilt I randomly sew my 'leftovers' together. Once I have enough put together to cut bias strips, I use the lengths of scraps to cut the most interesting "mystery" quilt bindings. The results are amazing and always add an unusual twist to my projects.
from Karen Wawrosch of Fortson, GA
Save egg cartons to store your beads when working on a beading project; it makes choosing colors much easier, and you can buy more beads with the money you save on those fancy containers!
from Genise Luecke of Shawnee, KS
To help organize my sewing area, I used a couple of cup hooks attached to the underside edge of my cutting table to hang a silverware tray from an old discarded dishwasher. The tray is a perfect place to hold my rotary cutters, spare blades, pencils, chalk, and scissors. It keeps them all within easy reach, yet off of my table.
from Tonia Ward of Kettering, OH
Whenever I make a quilt, I take small pieces of each of the fabrics I used in the quilt, fold them and then place the pieces under the label. That way, there are always pieces of the fabrics in the quilt available, and as you launder the quilt, the repair fabrics fade at the same rate as the rest of the fabric.
from Madelyne Kiernan of Saint James, NY
I use empty paper towel tubes as handy storage for patterns and fusibles that I do not want to fold. They are easy to label and take up little storage space in my sewing cabinet.
from Vickie Cooley of Rockledge, FL
To organize my projects and get more accomplished, I cut all the pieces for one scrappy block and place them in a sandwich bag. When I have a little extra time I will grab a bag and make a block. Before I know it I have enough blocks for a quilt.
from Belen Saavedra of McAllen, TX
Whenever I need to keep two pieces of fabric together before stitching I use a simple glue stick instead of pins. This keeps the fabric together until they are ready to be sewn. The glue stick does not hurt my fingers, and washes out just fine. (Editor's Note: While most glue sticks are safe for fabrics, be sure to test your particular brand on a scrap first to avoid any unwanted result!)
from Linda Gale of Omaha, NE
When sewing and quilting, at times you'll need to exactly match the fabric design. Here's a tip: Press a straight fold on the right side of Fabric 1, where you want to match the design. Overlay this fold on the right side of Fabric 2 and position so that they match exactly. Pin carefully. Using water soluble thread as the top thread in your machine, zig-zag down the fold, just catching the folded edge. Change back to regular thread. Open fold (your fabrics are now right sides together, like a regular seam, with Fabric 1 on top) and stitch down crease. Pull seam gently to spread zig-zag if needed. Gently spritz the finished seam's water-soluble zig-zag stitches. Like magic, the stitches dissolve and your fabric is perfectly matched!
from Sue Munn of Marion, IN
Round wooden toothpicks are a useful tool for needle-turn applique--moistening the tip can help grab a seam allowance to turn under, especially when coming up to a point. They're easy to find in the grocery store or dollar store, and because they come in a neat little plastic box, they are very -convenient to put in your sewing kit.
from Marcia Huckabee of Logan, NM
Have leftover blocks from your quilt projects? You can use them to make preemie quilts to donate to your local hospital. They only have to be about 20" x 20". Use flannel for the backing, and leave out the batting between the block and the flannel, as the batting will make the quilts too warm. Their small size also makes the fast & easy to quilt on your regular sewing machine. The parents and staff will appreciate your kindness.
from Carolyn Vagts of Clarkston, MI
I always use batiks for fusible appliqué, because they do not fray like regular cottons and you can get a crisp sharp look. This makes batiks especially great if you're new to fusible appliqué techniques. The detail is wonderful, and the colors and textures of batiks are outstanding for art quilts, regardless of the quilter's skill level.
from Marilyn Higgins of Concord, NC
I use a front door peep-hole (available in hardware stores), to view how my quilt will look at a distance, and from various angle. It gives a good perspective of the quilt, including block placement, color balance, etc.
from Vera McPike of Kansas City, MO
I use bath tissue tubes to roll my binding around until I am ready to sew it on to a quilt. I can lay the roll on the floor next to my machine and slowly unroll the binding as I sew. You can also use paper towel rolls and trim them down to size for easier handling.
from Judith Austin of Lynchburg, VA
Due to carpel tunnel strain, I had trouble with rulers slipping while rotary cutting, especially with long rulers. The best cutting aid I've found is to place a cast iron steak/bacon press on top of the ruler. It has a wooden handle and is commonly used in the restaurant business to keep steaks from curling up. I bought mine from a restaurant supply house. When using longer rulers, I use two or three weights long the length of the ruler. I'm now able to cut using only my right hand this way, without holding (or even touching) the ruler with my left hand. That ruler doesn't budge, and my cutting is more accurate, much quicker and much safer.
from Teresa Kulcak of Damon, TX
I use gallon size storage bags to separate my small scraps of fabric by color, so that when I need a certain color for my quilt, I only have to go through that one color instead of all my scraps.
from Carol Tolpa of Chelmsford, MA
I keep a white file card, cut to about 2" square, with a hold punched in the center, on the spool holder (or bobbin winder) of my sewing machine. This card has two uses: I place it in back of the needle when threading; it is much easier to see the needle hole with a white background. I also write on this card the size and kind of needle I currently have in the sewing machine, since I sew with different kinds of fabric and need to change my needles as I change my fabric. I then record on this card the date that I use a new needle on this card, reminding myself to refresh the needles frequently.
from Wendy Allen from Bowie, MD
Running the vacuum cleaner over all those threads and snippets we collect on our floors only results in a tangled mess on the vacuum roller brush! Now I use two lint roller refills placed on a paint roller handle, screw in an extension pole and I roll my floor at the end of my sewing day. I use my rotary cutter to carefully make a cut along the roller, to expose a fresh layer of adhesive. This also cuts through all the threads, so that the layer of paper comes off without the tangled threads.
from Donna Anderson of Dyersburg, TN
Quilt your tops with several different colors of variegated threads - it makes the back so much prettier!
from Pam Black of Lake Kiowa, TX
I use a clear acrylic clipboard at classes and on retreats as a substitute for a bulky light box. I just clip (or tape) the pattern to one side, hold the clipboard over a light source or window and trace away! These are available at discount and office supply stores.
from Sandra Pryor of  NY
Use a piece of sueded microfiber fabric as a mini design board to organize appliqué pieces for sewing. The appliqué pieces will cling to the microfiber, keeping them neat and orderly until you are ready to sew them on. Home décor weight remnants of microfiber fabric work very well.
from Jane Mockford of Austin, TX
To help a youngster learn to guide fabric using a sewing machine, first remove the thread and bobbin. Then, draw straight lines on a piece of paper and have the youngster "stitch" over the lines. Next, draw some curved lines to be followed with stitching... no frustration with needle coming unthreaded while learning to guide "fabric" under the needle... then add thread and real fabric as confidence is gained!
from Kay Rivard of Naples, FL
Instead of using pins to secure your binding for hand sewing, try silver hair clips. One snap and they are closed securely over the turned under binding. No finger pricking when using these instead of pins!
from Janice Gillis of Milwaukee, WI
I've successfully used contact paper cut into shapes like hearts or circles as a guide for marking my tops for quilting. Each design can be moved and reused many times more than freezer paper, and there's no need to iron it onto the basted/pinned quilt sandwich.
from Marianne Stine of Smithmill, PA
I have a set of triplet grandchildren (one boy, two girls) and I'm encouraging their embroidery skills early. I draw a picture on the fabric then hold it up to a window and trace the image on the back. This gives the little ones a guide when coming up from behind to keep on the line. My grandchildren are only 4-1/2 yrs old, and this tip works! I supervise them closely while they sew and we all have a great time.
from Marcia Huckabee of Logan, NM
Don't hide those pretty 108 to 120" fabrics on the back of your quilts! Use them for borders without seams. A 3" border for a 90 x 90 inch quilt takes only approx 1/3 yard. I buy extra to allow for squaring up. You can use the extra for cornerstones or binding on another project. Backing fabric also works well for non-bias binding.
from Anne McBain of Westwego, LA
Try using a clear red plastic report cover to find the value of fabrics - it's larger and less expensive than the value-finder tools designed specifically for quilting! You can find them in any office supply store
from Dana Smith of Sevierville, TN
A weekly pill-organizer with 14 separate compartments is perfect for storing extra bobbins. It keeps them from tangling or unwinding. Any pharmacy or dollar store will have them.
from Pam Noma of Watsonville, CA
Pressing small turned edges on appliqué pieces with a hot steam iron can result in scalded fingertips. Here's a simple solution: As you press, gently blow air BETWEEN the front tip of the iron and your fingers. This gentle breeze will keep your fingertips cool.
from Gloria Urban of Vineland, NJ
Pre-load several needles at once before beginning a quilting session by sliding them onto the wire of a needle threader, inserting the thread through the threader and pulling the needles down the thread on the spool. When you need a threaded needle, just cut off the appropriate length of thread with one needle on it, leaving the rest of the needles hanging on the spool.
from Bonnie Kelley of Murphy, NC
I purchase inexpensive sheep fleece from a local weaver who raises sheep and use it to stuff my pincushions. It helps keep my needles sharp.
from Linda Grupa of Houston, TX
I put a magnet in the bottom of a small tin box with a hinged lid (like the ones the mints come in) Place your straight pins on top of the magnet to keep them neat, safe and secure. Great for taking to class, retreats or travel.
from Mary Elebario of Tucumcari, NM
I bought a tool bin from the hardware department, with 24 compartments all the same size, and extra removable dividers to customize sizing. I marked the dividers A through W, marking the last bin XYZ. I then store my quilting gadgets alphabetically, going to drawer B for a blade for the rotary cutter, to M for markers, W for walking foot, etc. This keeps me from having to look in all the boxes or bags to find my tools!
from Pat Garber of Richmond, VA
Rotary cutting blades are one of the more expensive items we purchase on a regular basis. To prolong its use when the blade gets dull, I turn it over and put it back in the rotary cutter. It will cut like a new blade!
from Gaye Puckett of Gray, TN
If you have an all-in-one color printer/copier at home, rather than cut a piece from the fabric to take to the store to buy coordinating fabrics, just lay the fabric on the copier and make a color copy to take with you.
from Cheryl P Owens of Hernando, MS
I always have a portable project to work on while waiting at the doctor's office, etc. So that I do not leave messy threads or small fabric scraps behind, I make a circle of 1½ " wide making tape (sticky side out) and stick it on the inside of my tote bag or plastic container. I can also use it to pick threads off my clothes quickly.
from Marla Goodnight of Lexington, KY
To make inexpensive clear templates for my miniature quilt blocks, I print them from my computer on the overhead projector acetate sheets.
from Isabel Burns, Springfield, IL
I pin a half-yard piece of flannel fabric over my clothing from shoulders to knee length. It catches all of bits of the lint, threads, small scraps and other quilting debris that usually get stuck on my clothes, and on the floor.

Editor's Note: Why not take this great tip a step further and sew up a flannel apron in your favorite Marcus flannel!

from Beverly Prentiss, Waco, TX
To trace both a cutting and 1/4" seam allowance at the same time, just joint two pencils together with rubber bands. Trace around your template with one pencil, and the other will automatically add the 1/4" seam allowance.
from Jan Eby of Plano, TX
Cut pieces of freezer paper and wrap them around your cut fabric strips or squares. Hit the freezer paper with a hot iron. Presto! You have secured your pieces, have a nice white writing space to label the sizes of the strips, attach your address labels or write a note to a sewing buddy. Removing or re-attaching the freezer paper is a snap! Great for swaps or your own organization when making strip pieced quilts!
from Sue McFadden of Applegate, MI
After I make the binding for my quilt I roll it up on my hand. Then I take some twill tape and I put one end through the roll of binding. Then I take the ends of the twill tape and tie it around my neck. This way you keep the binding from twirling and getting all twisted up. It works great.
from Joan Kniffen of Livermore, CO
I always do a little practice free motion quilting before I start on my quilt. In order to make this time useful I place a quilt batt (baby blanket size) between two pieces of appropriate Marcus Bros Fabric, then I use this for my practice and when the piece is completely quilted I bind it and have a nice warm quilt to give to my favorite charity.
from Amelia Baumgartner of Corbin, KY
As a beginner quilter, I would purchase fabric, then I would not remember the name of the collection or the designer. To keep track of this information, I cut off the selvedge with the information, plus 2 inch piece to identify. Next, I created a file on Excel or Lotus 123, including the design name, date of purchase, retailer and price. It keeps me more organized and at the same time, I am learning more about fabrics and designers.
from Cheryl P Owens of Hernando, MS
I always have a portable project to work on while waiting at doctor's office, hospitals, etc. So that I do not leave threads or small pieces of fabric cut off appliqué pieces, I make a circle of 1½ " wide making tape (sticky side out) and stick it on the inside of my tote bag or plastic container. I can also use it to pick threads off my clothes quickly.
from Donna Reynolds of Bloomington, IN
Hidden identity: As I am sewing the binding to the back of my quilt, somewhere (near a corner) I finish with small stitches and make a noticeable "X" mark with a permanent pen or thread. On a 2" x 4" piece of muslin, write your name, address, etc. using a Pigma pen. Fold lengthwise and slip into binding. Continue sewing, make another "X" mark with pen or thread at end of muslin label, then complete the binding stitching. If your quilt is ever "misplaced" and the main quilt label is removed, simply remove the stitches between the marks and prove this is your quilt! For a gift, I also include the information of the recipient on the muslin strip.
from Marcia Huckabee of Logan, NM
Before I quilt on my short arm quilting machine, I sew a 2-1/2 inch wide strip of muslin all the way around my quilt. This added piece helps when pinning the quilt on the rollers, saving the extra fabric I usually allow in my borders. I sew the muslin strips on with a basting stitch so they are easy to remove afterward, and ready to be used again on my next quilt! I ask my quilting friends to put the strips on when I quilt for them and I really appreciate it. Your quilter will thank you, too.
from Mary Ann Tate of Midwest City, OK
Tape the cap for your seam ripper to the top of your sewing machine to keep your seam ripper always close at hand. This is especially good for quilting your project when you have to pull the bobbin thread up every time you start a new line of stitching.
from Kim McCloskey of Provo, UT
Unique materials and ideas for embellishing a quilt top can be found at your local scrapbooking or craft store. Look for silk flowers that can be attached with unique buttons, metal tags or charms, ribbons and fabric labels. These would look great on an updated crazy quilt pattern.
from Lois Stumbaugh of Topeka, KS
After I use my rotary cutter to cut my fabric strips, I take the remaining fabric and put straight pins in the edge that I cut from. The next time I want to cut additional strips I don't have to get it aligned up, I just remove the pins and continue to cut additional strips.
from Marcie Lane of Ajax, ON Canada
When I make a quilt from a pattern, magazine or book, I make a black and white photo copy (for personal use) of the pattern so I can make notes and glue fabric swatches to the pages, adding my own colors with pencil crayons as well. This way I keep my original books, magazines and patterns nice and neat with no markings on them. This also helps me put my quilt together so much faster with less confusion. I then use a pencil on the black and white photo to audition my quilting lines. When I am finished, I have a nice record of the quilt to keep!
from Pamela Hill of Scott Depot, WV
Stray threads can be very dangerous to pets, especially cats, if ingested. I keep an empty tissue box beside the sewing machine for threads. The opening is too small for a pet's head to enter, yet large enough to easily drop in the thread scraps.
from Elizabeth Irby of South Bend, IN
I bought clear plastic shoe boxes and sort my scraps by color. Now, when I need a small piece of fabric, I pull out the correct shoe box and there’s the color I need without spending a lot of precious time looking.
from Linda Jordan of Cross Lanes, WV
When hand quilting, iron the thread first to keep it from knotting during stitching. This takes the spiral out of the thread from being wound on a spool.
from Lisa Leimone of Union City, CA
It's a great idea to put your name, address and phone number in permanent ink, directly on your quilt backing under the area to be covered by your hanging sleeve or in the seam allowance that will be inside the binding, this way if you ever needed to prove the quilt was yours it could be done without damaging the quilt.
from Susan Guzman of Kingston, MA
Save all of your binding scraps for a future scrappy quilt or child's quilt. Simply sew them all together and you will have an interesting pieced binding to set off your next unique quilt!
from Jan L. Eby of Plano, TX
When cleaning my carpet or floors where I have recently sewn; I use a toilet bowl brush, (purchased solely for my quilting clean-up), and take a quick swipe at all the strings of thread without bending over! Works like a charm picking up loose threads!
from Kathleen Heiser of Bismarck, ND
When residue builds up on your iron from the use of fusible products, use a dryer sheet on your iron to clean it while the iron is still warm. It will remove all the glue and sticky residue - then, be careful, as it will make your iron soleplate very slippery!
from Sandy E of Murphy, NC
I use spray starch on my fabric section prior to cutting it into strips or squares. This prevents excessive fraying. It also allows me to pick up the square more easily when sewing. This is especially helpful as I have arthritis.
from Jackie Iannarelli of Grafton, WI
To remove loose threads and pet hairs form my quilts as I work, I wear my Playtex gloves and slide my hand on top of the quilt. The threads and hair can be pushed into piles for easy pick up.
from Susanne DeCoste of East Sandwich, MA
As an extra special wedding gift, I make a wall sized quilt or lap quilt and use cotton muslin on the back. I stipple the quilt so it wears very well. Instead of a guest book, guests sign the back of the quilt with a fine permanent marker. This is a great gift and much nicer than a guest book the bride and groom will never use again!
from Dianne Stuart of Silver Spring, MD
Before you press a seam allowance to one side, put your iron down on it flat, just as it was sewn. Don't move the iron back and forth--let its weight do the work for you. This step "sets" the seam, flattening puckers that occurred when it was sewn.
from Patricia E. Cole of North Kingstown, RI
It’s been said that the use of Sewers Aide silicone may hurt the tension discs on a sewing machine. To remove any potential problem, buy heavy duty felt pads (used on the bottom of furniture legs to prevent scratching your wood floor) Stick one to your machine, right above the last thread guide after the tension disks, squirt some sewer's aide on the pad and you can lubricate your thread and not get the silicone on the tension disks.
from Dolores Aaron of Ft. Lauderdale, FL
As a gift for a quilting friend, I made up one of the Marcus wool journals, adding extra blank muslin pages so she can keep it in her sewing room and record special notes on projects, etc. Seeing how much she enjoys it, I now have to complete my own, as well as gifts for others. It would be great too for new parents, graduates, retirees, etc...
from Debbie Otto of Lebanon, OH
Sometimes the hardest thing to do is figuring out where to place those blocks that you worked hours on into the fabulous quilt you know it's going to be. I arrange my blocks in various positions, take pictures of them with my digital camera, then select my favorite. It also gives me a reference to look at when finally putting the pieces together, and it gives me an extra photo to put in my quilt journal.
from Karna Grad of Palm Coast, FL
I save empty tissue boxes for all my usable scraps. I sort them by color or type (Christmas, homespun, etc.), hopefully in a box design that suggests what's in it. No searching for a small scrap for appliqué - just find the right box!
from Connie Vanni of Woodridge, IL
Does your quilting area have a jumble of electrical cords from your iron, sewing machine(s), computer, lights, etc. beneath your table? You can easily identify each cord by using the small, flat plastic closures found on bread bags. Mark the identity of each cord using a fine point permanent marker and snap the plastic closure on the cord just above the plug--you'll always be able to identify what cords belong to what!
from Joan Kniffen of Livermore, CO
I always do a practice run of the quilting design before quilting the actual project. Instead of just tossing these practice pieces away; I make up a sandwich of a design suitable for a baby or child, a batting, and a backing. I then divide this into blocks by sewing evenly spaced squares/rectangles etc over the entire sandwich. When I'm ready to do a practice run I just do the machine quilting in one of the squares I created. After a few times I have a finished whole cloth baby quilt; all I need to do is bind it, wash it, and give it to a charitable organization.
from Mary Malone of Milwaukee, WI
To keep your ironing board cover fresh and clean, cut strip of freezer paper to the length of the ironing board and iron it to the top. Any brown marks, glue spots or fusible accidents are on the freezer paper and not on your cover. When the time is right, simply peel away and apply a new sheet of freezer paper.
An extra benefit: the freezer paper creates a stiff background for pressing pieces.
from Cheri Walker of La Vista , NE
I use my scrapbooking paper punches in various shapes (like hearts, stars, etc.) to cut freezer paper shapes and then simply iron on the quilt top and quilt around the shape.
from Adrienne Yokanovich of Cable, WI
When sewing more complicated patchwork sections together where the direction of the piece assembly can be tricky, I lay the two pieces right sides together with the correct edges ALMOST matching, take it to a copying machine and copy the assembly arrangement. Then I take a pen and draw the dotted lines on the correct edge to stitch. Especially helpful for blocks like pinwheels, where the correct direction must be maintained and errors in sewing the correct side of the seam is important. If you don’t have a copier at home, just place the pieces together as above and pin or use fabric glue and save the sample for a guide, drawing the stitches with a permanent marker.
from Paula Philpot of East Bernstadt, KY
When I press my binding, I let it fall into a basket under the ironing board as I press it and then transport the basket back to the sewing machine and start attaching to quilt. This keeps the binding from picking up lint and threads if it were lying on the floor during the pressing and attaching.
from Colette Rowberry of Kirkland, Quebec Canada
When working on a block I use my Roll-O-Puzz (a mat product used for jigsaw puzzles in progress) to display my block or pieces. Then I leave a block there to follow for my next block. It lessens the possibility of making a mistake, and can be rolled away easily for storage.
from Darlene Slocum of Grawn, MI
When I have to stop sewing to wind a new bobbin I put in two pins where I have stopped. It is then easy to find among all the other pins on the top.
from Karen Keeler of Topsham, ME
Next to my machine I always keep a 9" to 10" quilt sandwich to use when testing tension for embroidery or quilting. Once each square is totally filled, I put 2 pieces of pretty fabric on the outside and make it into a potholder. They come in handy for quick gifts and there's no waste.
from Shelly Grappe of San Angelo, TN
When I am collecting fabrics for a quilt that I am working on I do a color can on my printer of the fabrics that I have. I then write how much I have of each. On the back of this same sheet of paper I scan a picture of the quilt pattern I am thinking of doing. This has become an easy way to do fabric shopping.
from Maureen Mueller of Fort Collins, CO
First tip: I cut off the fingertips of my husband’s old leather gloves for thimbles. Works like a charm and saves me money.
Second tip: Instead of an expensive metal stiletto, try using a wooden skewer.
Third tip: For tangle-free hand quilting. Run your needle and thread through a dryer fabric sheet a couple of times. Voila!
from Wendy Ouellette of S. Tetagouche, N.B. Canada
Want a great wrinkle free way to store seasonal quilted projects? Just roll them around a large foam "noodle", the kind you use in a pool...Several items can be rolled on one noodle.
from Nancy Brewer of Pembroke, MA
Recycle while you appliqué: Save used dryer sheets to use as you would use interfacing; press them and place on right side of appliqué piece. Stitch all around at 1/4 inch; cut small slit in middle of sheet and turn to right side of appliqué piece, poking out any corners, etc. Press. You can then trim away the excess sheet from the back, or leave it in place for additional light support. Appliqué to your quilt project as usual.
from Peggy McFadden of Maynard, AR
Before starting to hand quilt, I thread several needles on the thread spool I am using. As the next needle is needed, it is a simple matter to pull out another threaded needle. After quilting for a while, it is harder to see the eye of the needle, so it is handy to have several done before the eye strain sets in.
from Annie Barnes of Memphis, TN
Use left over blocks to make caddies for your sewing machines. Sew on clear vinyl pockets to see the beautiful "non-wasted" block designs. I made a caddy for my machine that I carry with me to quilting classes. It has two very large pockets sewn to the front that can serve as thread catchers or scrap catchers or other sewing notions.
from Shirley Taylor of Yuba City, CA
When doing hand quilting or needle work, put a wad of batting in the end of the thread spool for a place to put a couple pins and the needles. Handy to have.
from Amy Davis of Austin, TX
When you buy thread in neutral colors, buy two spools and one package of bobbins. Wind one entire spool of thread onto the bobbins and keep them handy for a quick change, rather than having to stop and wind up a bobbin while you are machine piecing.
from Shirley Taylor of Yuba City, CA
When doing hand quilting or needle work, put a wad of batting in the end of the thread spool for a place to put a couple pins and the needles -- handy to have!
from Marcia Huckabee of Logan, NM
I had so much extra fabric that I cut some pieces into fat quarters and most popular square sizes. I then shared them with my quilt guild. You can also donate to your guild or senior center for them to use for children’s quilts or nursing home quilts that they donate. An "orphan" fat quarter swap is always a fun thing to do also. It is always fun to share your fabric and get new fabric to inspire you.
from Sheryl Banks of Richmond, VA
Instead of placing the iron and ironing board directly beside my sewing machine, I have intentionally placed the iron, ironing board, and cutting table at the farthest distance across the room from my sewing machine. This gives me plenty of much needed exercise and helps the blood circulation because I am frequently moving around the room. When working on a quilting project, I try to move around the room as much as possible; this way, I can work much longer and don't tire as easily.
from Barbara Sullivant of Philadelphia, PA
To make sure that the label you add to your quilt cannot be removed, stitch to the back of the quilt before the quilting is completed. You might even consider piecing the label into the back as a block! Quilt through the label.
from Elaine Cassey-Worth of Austin, TX
When sandwiching your quilt, try using a large yardstick to smooth out the wrinkles in the batting. It only takes a few strokes of the yardstick to smooth it - the yardstick acts as an extended long arm and works fast. Make sure your yardstick is free of any snags or splinters so that is can glide over the batting easy without damage or pulls.
from Katy Ensminger of Mt. Berry, GA
I sharpen all of my scissors by simply cutting sand paper with them. It's inexpensive, easy and safe for your nice fabric scissors.
from Linda Siebert of Mountain Home, AR
When making a quilt with fat quarters, I stack them up and roll them around a cardboard tube after preshrinking and ironing. Then they don't get wrinkled or creased before I have time to work on the next block.
from Jenny Roberts of Saint Joseph, MO
When working on a quilt, I make a smaller version of the quilt block in the pattern to use as my quilt label on the back of the quilt. It looks nice on the back & I think it adds another "special touch" to the finished quilt once the name, date, etc. are written on it with a permanent fabric pen.
from Darlene Wegrynowski of Westlake, OH
Instead of keeping piles of quilting magazines, I tear out the projects that interest me, and put them in plastic sleeves in a 3 ring binder. I separate the binders into categories, such has holidays, baby quilts, quick quilts etc. I even have one just for reference to hold notes, tips and instructions. So I spend less time searching and more time creating!
from Peggy Tackett of Wasilla, AK
For a near exact 1/4" seam allowance when hand piecing, place a small piece of 1/4" wide masking tape or marked quilter’s tape (such as Tiger Tape) on the thumbnail of your non-needle holding hand. With the tape right at the seam allowance area, you can size up your seam by placing your needle at the edge of the tape, at the point where your needle inserts into the fabric. Works very well! And a roll of tape will last for years because you just need a small pc and replace it as it loses its adhesive.
from Shari Daniels of Reno, NV
I always close my rotary blade as soon as I finish my cut; However, with small grandchildren around the house, I still worry about little fingers getting hold of it. The solution: I wear a fanny pack and put the rotary cutter in the pack each time there is no chance for accidents. I also store my seam ripper, scissors and other small items in the pack as well. (This keeps all my sewing items close at hand, saving time and trouble whenever I'm ready to sew.)
from Jenny Roberts of Saint Joseph, MO
When working on a quilt, I make a smaller version of the quilt block used in the pattern to use as my quilt label on the back of the quilt. It looks nice on the back & I think it adds another "special touch" to the finished quilt once the name, date, etc. are written on it with a permanent fabric pen.
from Ellie Lively of Indianapolis, IN
Glue an empty thread spool to the wrong side of a plastic template and you have a handy handle to use when tracing the outline on fabric.
from Susan Guzman of Highlands Ranch, CO
When working on a quilt project, purchase an extra 1/2 to 3/4 of a yard of fabric and stitch up each side, making a bag - you can add an optional drawstring at the top. Use the bag to store your quilt project-in-progress. Once your quilt is complete, you then have a dust-free storage bag to store it in. Also, it works wonderfully as "gift wrap" when giving the quilt as a gift. Simply tie a pretty coordinating piece of fabric at the top for the bow.
from Sherida Parkinson of Delta, UT
When cutting fabric for a quilt project, cut the smaller leftover pieces in a much smaller version of the quilt project you are working on. These blocks can be sewn as a "bonus doll quilt" in between chain-piecing the larger quilt. My granddaughter thinks it is absolutely wonderful to have a "matching" doll quilt and the quilt just sort of "makes itself" as a bonus to the large quilt!
from Marie Cisler of Two Rivers, WI
After sewing with invisible thread, do you cut it off and lose the thread end and have to rethread? Attach a small piece of masking tape to thread as soon as you cut it off and attach to front of sewing machine.
from Sandy Pryor of Guilderland, NY
I find the best way to mark patches or blocks that must be sewn in a particular order is to number short pieces of masking tape and stick them on each piece.
from Sharon Gates of Quebec, Canada
The tiny clothespins you buy at the dollar store help to keep the paper templates and appropriate cut fabric pieces together. I group these and have them as a unit when I am ready to baste and/or appliqué the piece to my background.
from Joyce Levengood of New Philadelphia, OH
I found an easy and inexpensive way to make picking up all those loose threads on your carpet -- simply buy a toilet bowl quick swipe across the floor and the brush picks them up quickly.
from Sandy Pryor of Guilderland, NY
The best way to mark patches or blocks that must be sewn in a particular order is to number short pieces of masking tape and stick them on each piece.
from Katie McGraw of Derby Line, VT
When I am quilting, I continually sew my random scraps together as I go along to make a pretty border or block for another quilt.
from Cheryl Hammond of El Paso, TX
I have bins full of fabric remnants that never get a second look, so I've tried some new approaches: (1) I cut the remnants into the most-popular block sizes and organize them by size in baggies. This has proven very successful for using up scraps when I need just a few blocks of one color. (2) I take the narrow strips and make binding from the remnants, and store those with the other binding scraps. This is great to use for a multi-colored binding on my scrap quilts. And, finally, (3) if the remnant is an odd shape, I take and sew those shapes together into a crazy-quilt-type panel. When the pieced fabric is large enough, I use it for backing fabric.
from Anne McBain of Westwego, LA
To easily determine the color value of a fabric, use a clear red plastic from report cover – it’s larger and less expensive than the standard color value tools!
from Esha Choi of Monterey, CA
I use aluminum foil to sharpen dull scissor blades and needle points. Simply cut through the aluminum foil several times, and you’ll see the difference! Hand quilting needles can also be sharpened after a session of appliqué or hand quilting – just rub the point of the needle against the foil will help to sharpen it.
from Mary Shackelford of San Antonio, TX
To get in a good day of sewing with minimal interruptions, plan the night before: Set up the sewing machine, prepared fabrics, notions, pattern and any other items you might need. I even plan the day’s meals the night before. In the morning, I throw the family's supper in the crock-pot and instruct them that lunch will be self-serve cold cuts. And then I sit down and sew productively all day long. I find that all the searching and setting up wastes so much of my time. This helps me to streamline my day-- even if I can only sew for a few hours.
from Chris Casey-Parkinson of Kingston, Ontario
At several stages in the quilt making process, I take digital pictures of its construction and what it looks like completed, so I have a pictorial diary once it has gone to its new home.
from Linda Burrow of Dorris, CA
I bought small self stick round sand paper discs and attached them to the bottom of my ruler. They keep the ruler from slipping when you are rotary cutting your quilt fabric.
from Cindy Lash of Rome City, IN
When laying out quilt blocks on a bed in the order you want to piece them together, first spread out a flat sheet. That way, if you need to clear off the bed, you can just roll up the sheet and the blocks will stay in place until your next sewing session.
from Theresa Barnett of Owensboro, KY
When I hand quilt using a round hoop, I pin a hand towel to the edges of my quilt sandwich. This allows me to quilt all the way to the edge, and saves me the expense of having to buy a half hoop.
from Donna Keating of Burleson, TX
A small, square, boutique style tissue box make a great trash receptacle for threads and strings. It fits nicely next to your sewing machine, and is easy to just throw it away when it's full.
from Barbara Lamb of Milwaukee, OR
I wear garden gloves with the mini gripper dots on them when I machine quilt. I also cut the tips off the forefinger and thumb of the right hand glove. It gives me better “feel”, without slowing me down!
from Teresa Suek of Maite, Guam
I wrap small strips of plastic food wrap around my thread spools to keep thread from getting tangled. Keeps my thread box neat!
from Cheri Branca of Victor, NY
I always cut the squares for half-square triangles a full 1" larger than the finished size I need (rather than 7/8"). This allows for any minor errors in stitching, and I can then trim the newly stitched squares down to the correct UNfinished size by placing the 45 degree angle on my ruler along the center diagonal seam. I always end up with perfect HSTs!
from Sandra Betts of Saint John, NB, Canada
When couching heavier cords or threads without a cording guide, substitute a piece of drinking straw to assist you in guiding the heavier cord. Cut a small segment of the straw and tape it on the front of your machine above the needle. Feed the cord through the straw. This leaves your hands free to guide the fabric.
from Anna Scott of Wynne, AR 72396
My sewing table is right next to a wall where I have hung a long wired spice rack with 10 small shelves. It makes a perfect spot to store all my essential tools right where I can grab them as I need them, and return them to storage just as easily.
from Susan Contreras of Johnston, RI
Here is a wonderful way to display your fat quarters. Use a CD Rack/shelf! I purchased a simple iron CD rack and fold each fat quarter to the size of a CD case and stack like books on a shelf. They look wonderful and they are easy to get to when needed. I sort each shelf by color and style.
from Kathy DeMarco of Magnolia, KY
Hanging a shoe bag over the back of the door of my sewing room has done wonders for organizing my sewing room! it holds all sorts of notions and bits and pieces that don't fit easily anywhere else...was a cheap fix too since I got mine at the local discount store!
from Shari Spires of Black Mountain, NC
When preparing a quilt to be basted, we have found that duct tape works really well in securing the back to a table. It sticks well to both fabric and other surfaces and can be repositioned as well.
from Pauline Oliveira of Jacksonville, FL
When having difficulty pinning fabric together, try passing the pin through your hair. The oil that naturally comes from your hair will be just enough to get that pin in, and out of the fabric without any difficulty, and the oil from your hair will not harm the fabric in any way.
from Jackie Veats of Pleasant Hill, CA
After working on projects involving glue or bonding fabrics together, I always iron a piece of freezer paper to my ironing board work surface. I then pull up the freezer paper (while still warm) and all excess glue, residue, and other muck come up with the freezer paper, keeping my ironing board clean. Works like a charm and it's very inexpensive!
from Sheila Lackey of Elon, NC
If you're in a jam for pressing your seams and your iron has gone on the fritz, just use a curling iron to press your seams. It works great.

Editor's Note - The curling iron is also convenient for quick pressing jobs you can do right at the sewing machine, whether your regular iron is working or not ; )

from Jody Jameson of Miami, OK
To make a handy quilt history book, cut out pieces of fabric to fit into a 4” x 6” photo album. On an index card, write the name of your quilt, when it was made and whom you gave it to. You can also add the name of the fabric collection(s) and the fabric cost, if desired. Put this in the front of your album; add your sample material and you will have a wonderful history of your quilts. The mini-album also keeps samples handy for fabric shopping trips. Finally, take a picture of your quilt, front and back, and add it for a finished history. Makes a great brag book as well as a directory of quilt gifts you’ve given for later reference.
from Madge Powis of Hamilton, NJ
When sewing strips for quilting I run a piece of masking tape all the way down the width of my machine (front to back), 1/4 inch from the needle. The stitching line stays nice and even when the strips are held evenly, and it gives a full-length stitching guide, compared to hold it against the tiny edge of the foot.
from Diane Pitchford of Gilbert, AZ
For creative recycling, I save all batting scraps and use them for disposable dust rags. From larger scraps I cut pieces that fit my Swiffer floor cleaner.
from Wendy Ann Wood of Portland, OR
I mark my quilts for straight line quilting with REMOVABLE tape. It comes in a couple of widths. I stitch right next to the tape and when I am done, the tape removes from the quilt like a post-it-note does, leaving no residue. For designs, think about tracing them onto clear shelf contact paper then cut out the design. Apply it to the quilt then quilt around it. If you are careful, you can use the same one over and over again.
from Esther Heather of Sugar Creek, MO
I used "story book" fabric panels (mine was “The Night Before Christmas” theme) to make a rag quilt, using flannel in the middle instead of batting. I used red, white and green flannel to match the book and add color. I used a candy cane print for the border, sashing and backing. It was easy because the blocks were large and I "quilted" each one before sewing them together. They would be cute for any fabric book, but everyone loved the Christmas one! This is a easy and fast gift idea for any child. Editor’s Note: Purchase two panels so you can create the book as well as the quilt for a coordinated set, a fast and easy gift idea for any child, for the upcoming holidays or anytime!
from Evalynn Nyman of Orange, CA
I keep my used dryer sheets (such as Bounce brand) to clean the sole plate of my iron. With the iron set to “wool”, I smooth the iron over the cloth several times, increasing the heat if needed. It makes my iron so clean and it glides so nice. Works great after using fusible web on projects.
from Shirley Peterka of Pisek, ND
I cut a few strips of the slip-resistant waffle lining for shelves, about two inches wide, and place them under my cutting matt to keep it from sliding about.
Linda Speers of Toronto, Canada
To make any spool of thread into a pincushion for those take along projects, simply glue a magnet to a golf tee, insert the tee into the hole in the center of the spool and - voila! Instant pincushion!
from Wendy Mathson of Poway, CA
Before I cut strips from a fabric where I can hardly distinguish the front from the back side (like a tone-on-tone print or a batik), I use a chalk marker to make diagonal lines all across the back. It really saves my eyesight!
from Bonnie Fredmund of Waldorf, MD
I have little patience for mistakes so to make the chore or removing ripped stitches a little more bearable I use a roller paper lint brush to take up the loose threads after taking the pieces apart. You will need to use the roller on both sides and you will find that this removes 95% of the little threads instead of pulling each one out by hand.
from Dianne Stewart of Plainfield, NJ
For a quick binding, especially on wall hangings & smaller quilts, I like to layer backing, fleece and quilt top, then turn under the backing ½” and ½” again, to form an easy binding (the backing is cut 1” larger than the top & fleece all around). I then just zig-zag the pressed edge to the quilt top all around. It’s neat and easy to do. You could even use a decorative stitch and contrast thread instead of matching the thread to make the bound edge stand out.
from Ivetta McQueen of Evanston, IL
At my son’s wedding reception, we circulated white-on-white squares of cotton fabric and permanent pens, so each guest could write a message to the happy couple. Both the bride’s mother and I are quilters, so we’ll be joining the blocks with other fabrics to create their wedding quilt. We’re using mostly earth-toned batiks and texture prints that match their decor (To buy ourselves some time, we’ve promised to complete it as their first anniversary gift! ; )
from Phyllis Huckabee of N. Miami, OK
Carry a small composition note book with in your purse or bag so when you are out and see an interesting design you can draw a small sketch to remember it. For example, a tile layout or design in a rug pattern. You can even find interesting designs on buildings. You will be surprised at the many things that can inspire you. Don't forget to put a pencil or pen in your notebook to be handy!
from Esther Heather of Sugar Creek , MO
When buying fabric for your crib size rag quilt, purchase some extra so that when your baby becomes a toddler, you can simply add extra blocks and/or a new border, enlarging the size of the quilt to grow along with the child! When it's time to graduate to his or her own "big" bed, they will have their own familiar quilt to help make the transition easier. (Editor's Note: Great Idea - take it a step further by always laundering the extra fabric along with the finished quilt, so it will blend in when you add the new sections.)
from Adrienne Yokanovich of Cable, WI
I find when I have my quilt "sandwich" on my sewing table ready to pin, or baste together, tablecloth clips used for picnic tables, found in the camping supply section of most discount stores, work great to hold the quilt edges taught and help hold the quilt to smooth out the wrinkles while basting or pinning.
from Lois Bates of Yorktown, VA
I keep an empty square tissue box on my sewing and cutting tables to collect small snips of fabric and threads. Looks pretty and it’s easier than reaching for the trash can for every small piece. Every week I empty the tissue box and start over, or toss it out and use a new box!
from Alta Sumerlin of Redmond, OR
I store my blocks in pizza boxes. I purchase new boxes from our local pizza shop. The boxes come in different sizes and store nicely on a shelf in my sewing room. I take a picture with my digital camera (isn't technology great) of the picture of the quilt and tape it to the top of the box so I know which quilt the blocks are for. I have several unfinished quilts stored this way - hopefully I’ll get them completed, some day.
from Dawn Weaver of Enoree, SC
For a small, handy sewing kit, use an empty 35 mm film canister, place a threaded needle, and a straight pin or two (stuck in a small piece of felt), a few buttons and safety pins (in various sizes) and a stain-removal wipe (such as Shout). We keep one of these mini-kits in each of the family cars, in the kids’ book bags, in purses and overnight bags. They are used more than you can imagine.
from Cathy Gibson of Colorado Springs, CO
When hand quilting, or hand sewing, I discovered a nifty trick for holding thread. Use old prescription bottles or vitamin bottles large enough for a spool to fit in and make a hole in the lid of the bottle. (I use a nail to make the hole). Drop the spool in the bottle; poke the thread through the hole in the top, close it and now you can just pull on the thread instead of having to unwind it. Saves time and messes!
from Laura Rosenwald of Thompson Falls, MT
To keep your rotary cutting mats flat between uses, hang them on men's dress slack hangers, with the metal clips. The clips will hold the mat securely and in a flat, vertical position. Then, tie a pretty ribbon through the handle of your rotary cutter and slip it over the hanger. Everything is all together for your next rotary-cut project!
from Tami Duggan of Sparks, NV
Don't throw away the large clear plastic containers that snacks come in at the large discount shopping clubs. Just rinse them out with soap and water, dry thoroughly, and use them to store fabric scraps by color. I have a few in my sewing room -- each one holds certain colors and then when I need a scrap for a project I can easily go to the right color container to find what I need.
from Terry Rummel of Tacoma, WA
I use embroidery floss for hand appliqué on quilts. The selection of color is greater, the cost is much cheaper and the weight does not add bulk to the quilt top, as compared to other threads used for appliqué. I also save money by purchasing unfinished needlework projects at thrift shops and garage sales and add the floss to my collection. I have every color imaginable, and at low cost.
from Sandra Pryor of Guilderland, NY
Large rectangular aluminum roasting pans make great containers for blocks and quilt project pieces. They are lightweight and stack easily, without weighing down and wrinkling the contents. They are readily available in stores, including dollar stores.
from Ginger Levine of Phoenix, AZ
When making totes and purses, I use plastic canvas in the bottom to support and maintain shape in the finished project. Plastic canvas is inexpensive, long lasting, easy to cut and easy to clean.
from Patsy Bussman of Marceline, MO
When I begin to sew seams together, I place a small piece of material at the start of the seam, then just continue sewing the seam itself.. When I reach the end of the seam, I cut the little piece of material from the beginning and sew thru it. I then place it under the needle again, and am ready to begin another seam... this not only saves a lot of thread, but also helps me control my 1/4" seam.
from Patricia E. Cole of North Kingstown, RI
Invest in a top quality surge protector for your sewing machine, iron, serger, and lamp. All equipment is protected from power surges, and using the lamp as your indicator, you’ll know even from a distance if your equipment is on or off.
from Maryelise Powell of Randleman, NC
When I'm cutting a bunch of squares for a quilt, the cutting board gets full of little bits of fabric. I keep one of those poufs (they’re packaged with liquid shower soap) nearby to whisk away the lint & scraps. It works like a dream, and also removes cat hair from anything!!!
from Marcie Lane of Ontario, Canada
I bought a package of 100 6" Bamboo skewers at a local dollar store. They are blunt on one end and have a sharp point on the other, and are great for using as a stiletto while sewing. If you accidentally hit it, it won't break your needle. Fantastic for trapunto stuffing and needle turn appliqué. Also handy for holding down bias tapes, block points and seams while ironing so you don't burn your fingers. I can also apply a small dab of basting glue from the bottle when I only want a little bit. Best of all, they cost only one penny each!
from Carla Weeks of Wichita, KS
When searching for new, easy appliqué shapes, I have used cookie cutters and children’s coloring books for patterns. I have made several quilts just for fun for my grandchildren.
from Hannelore Nunn of Nottingham, England
Don't despair if some of your blocks are not quite straight, or you are not pleased with the result. Collect them all, and after some time, cut them all up into irregular shapes, and create a wonderful scrap quilt. You may even win a prize at the local show with your 'Botched and Rescued' quilt. ; )
from Anita B. Crosby of Atlanta, GA
If you enjoy appliqué, but can't seem to come up with a new design for a quilt, try looking at rubber stamp designs. There are some really interesting and unique rubber stamps on the market. You can stamp the design in black ink, then enlarge it on a copier. For larger designs, take your enlarged copy to your local business center and increase it further to the desire size on the plotter copier. Then use it as you would any standard appliqué pattern.
from Barbara Godfrey of Poughkeepsie, NY
The dollar store can be a treasure trove of inexpensive ways to organize your quilting area. I purchased (a) 2 mini clothes lines to hang above my sewing table. With a (b) pack of clothespins, I have safely anchored my blocks in progress with each patch lined up sequentially to sew together! Then each block is deposited into a (c) 12" square storage container to be taken to my design wall made of the (d) flannel back of a large plastic table cloth tacked to my wall. I spent less than $5 in total for a whole lot less headaches - no more searching for missing patches or blocks!
from Gwen Robertson of Orlando, FL
When stitching two pieces of batting together (or any fabric that creates a lot of lint), use a strip of muslin underneath to prevent lint from getting into the sewing machine. (Editor’s note: The muslin strip can then be cut away very close to the stitching and gently pulled away from the seam, or left in to stabilize the seam if needed.)
from Kris Jacobson of Bowman, ND
If you don't like to finish you bindings by hand, try this trick. Use the fusible thread, which melts when you iron it, in your bobbin. Sew the binding on to the back side of your quilt. Fold it over to the front and press it in place. The fusible thread will hold it until you sew it down. You can sew it with a nice straight stitch or and invisible zigzag.
from Susan Miller of Rogers, AR
In my sewing room I have a lovely quilted wall hanging above my machine. The back is flannel with a grid; when piecing a new quilt, I can use this side to lay out several blocks up and see the effect. When not working on a project, I turn it over and enjoy my beautiful wall hanging.
from Lynda Schuler of Mesa, AZ
When I purchase new fabric I cut a six inch strip from selvage to selvage for my "stash index". I staple a label to the strip with the number of yards in the whole piece. I use small baskets to organize the six-inch strips by color and theme in small baskets that fit easily on my shelves. This way all my stash is easily accessible and I can preview and test different combinations when I'm planning a new project. I store the large pieces of fabric in a closet or other out of the way location. I try not to use the six-inch "index strip" in my quilting project, so I can cut it into six-inch squares to use in a future scrap quilt or fabric swap.
from Alice van Zwoll of Bridgeport, WA
When making a quilted tablecloth, back with piece of medium to heavy-weight flannel, and no batting. The tablecloth will drape nicely and will not slide off the table. This works especially well with picnic cloths!
from Patty Smith of Lakeside, CA
I keep a 20" square of flannel fabric tacked to the wall in my sewing room. When starting a new project I can place my block pieces on the flannel and look at them as I walk in the room to be sure I don't have just a "close up" perspective of what the colors in the finished block will look like.
from Margie Garrison of Richland , OR
I use a piece of rubber shelf mat, the kind that keep things from slipping, close by to rub my rotary mat after cutting. It keeps the mat clean and free of debris.
from Sue Vollbrecht of Monona, WI
When going on a retreat I pack a good quality flannel backed tablecloth, works great as a flannel board. When you pack to go home, leave your project on the tablecloth and roll it up.
from Carol Tolpa of Chelmsford, MA
After trying many commercial products for marking on fabric, my favorite is ordinary soap. I use all those little slivers that are usually thrown away. When the edges get dull, I just wash my hands with the piece, leave it to dry and use again. Soap remains visible through handling and washes out easily, and you can't beat the price!
from Connie Albertson of Elizabeth City, NC
Save your snippets and selvage pieces. These make a great fun time activity for little ones not ready for needle and thread. Provide little ones with a plain piece of paper, a child safe glue stick and your scraps. Encourage them to create their own collage quilts by gluing the small pieces to the paper.
from Beverly Vancleave of Newhall, CA
Use plastic hair rollers of different colors and sizes to wind your various sizes and colors of silk ribbon on. No more creases in the ribbon!
from Janet R. Watson of Clarksville, TN
To store my finished quilt blocks, I hang them on a skirt hanger (with adjustable metal clips) in my sewing closet. When the closet doors are closed, they are protected from dust and sunlight, and I can easily view them without having to search through boxes or drawers, or wherever they may be kept.
from Janet Domangue of Hallsville, TX
I am new to quilting but have already begun a quilting diary. I started with a binder and a couple of typed pages about how I got interested in quilting. I have pictures of works in progress and finished quilts. I make notes about what led me to make that particular quilt, who I am making it for and where I purchased the fabrics - even where the pattern came from. In this way, my grandchildren (some day) will have a complete history of the quilts in the family.
from Kathie Paradise of Auburn, MA
I always keep a small lint roller near my machine for when I have to rip out. After ripping out a seam I run the roller over it and it picks up all the loose threads so that they don't end up sewn into my new seam.
from Beverly Kutz of Levittown, PA
Trouble threading your needles? Don't fret! try wetting the eye of the needle instead of your thread .Works like a charm..
from Patty Ayers of Knoxville, TN
For beginners, or quilters wanting to branch out ... Make a series of potholders using 4-5 coordinating fabrics and 6" blocks. Be bold and creative and you have something to show for your trail-and-errors. I decorated my kitchen backsplash with 13 coordinated potholders, while learning new piecing, quilting and binding techniques!
from Evelyn Clark of Live Oak, FL
When quilting with children - give them their own fabric stash, tools, leftover blocks, even cut out shapes. This can improve their creativity, imagination, math skills, and can enlighten you on different layouts you might not have considered. My 3-1/2 year old granddaughter even has her own design wall to layout her quilts. She takes pride in the doll quilts she has designed and helped sew. I also give her a couple of dollars when we go to a quilt shop, so she can pick out and buy her own FQ's for her fabric stash.
from Barbara Michels of Magalia, CA
I prefer to prewash my fabrics to remove excess dye and prevent future bleeding. To prevent the fabrics from raveling away in the washer and dryer I use a pinking blade on my rotary cutter and slightly trim the edges. This method is also great on flannels which ravel more than cottons.
from Christa Royer of Overland, MO
As a beginning quilter I made many mistakes in assembling my blocks. Now I keep a 15"X15" piece of batting by the machine. As each piece is cut it goes on the batting as shown in the pattern. As I sew each section together, it is returned to the batting in its proper place. This way if I've put some squares or 1/2 square triangles together improperly I can correct it immediately, not when I'm ready to put the blocks together.
from Barbara Arnold of Newborn, GA
Using the lower lumbar support office chair is a great way to reduce back pain from long hours of sitting at sewing machine. Also great to roll over to ironing board or cutting board. I roll around quite a bit with mine. (Editor’s Note: No matter which chair you use, remember to get up and take a break every so often, whether you’re sitting at the sewing machine, computer, etc. Both your legs and your eyes need the break!
from Denise Swanson of Cambridge, IA
When replacing a sewing machine needle, I first thread the new needle, then use the thread to hold it in place while tightening the screw. This is especially helpful when replacing needles in sergers. (I have chubby fingers...)
from Dorothy Dowell of Glasgow, MT
When making a quilt I always try a test block first and then make the required number of blocks. After putting the top together I then have the test block left, on which I either write or embroider the quilt name and year. This I appliqué onto the back of the finished quilt. It always looks so nice and always matches the quilt.
from Marcia Burt of Rowan, IA
Whenever I receive my quilt magazines in the mail, I stick a plain white address label in the top left hand corner on the back cover. As I look through the magazine, I jot down the page number and a mini-description of any pattern that catches my eye. Then when I am ready to start a new project, I just flip my magazines to their backside and read my labels. At a glance I know where a favorite pattern is in the magazine. Labeling the back cover allows me to keep my front cover clear & beautiful!
from Cheri Schorr of Boise, ID
After sewing your rag quilt take the nozzle of your vacuum cleaner and gently rub the seams to be frayed. The vacuum will loosen and pick-up the loose threads and you won't clog the filters on your washer and dryer.
from Jan Manning of Livingston, TX
When pressing my completed blocks, I use a towel as an ironing surface. For my appliqué, I press from the back of the block and the design 'sinks' into the towel leaving it puffy on the right side. It also works well for pieced blocks in achieving a good creased seam without that annoying little fold that forms on the right side.
from Maryelise Powell of Randleman, NC
When I'm finished cutting a project, to get rid of the "lint", I brush the surface with a "scrunchy" (the plastic loofah-type scrubbers that come with body washes.) It works like a charm, and when the board is clean, just shake the "scrunchy" over the waste basket and it's ready use for the next time.
from Catherine Bruning of Apache Junction, AZ
To keep cutting tools, spools of thread, and various other notions, in plain view and readily accessible, I use a shoe organizer, which usually comes with over-the-door hooks for easy installing. Also, when going off to quilt classes or retreats, these organizers can easily be rolled and tied, securing the quilt essentials.
from Debbie Otto of Lebanon, OH
I found that a few drops of a water soluble basting glue keeps my binding in place while I finish hand stitching it. This way the binding remains even all around, and my thread does not get hung up in any pins. The glue easily washes out and is not a sticky mess.
from Dorothy Dowell of Glasgow, MT
When making a quilt I always try a block first and then make the right number of blocks. After putting the top together I then have one block left on which I either write or embroidery the quilt name and year. I appliqué this block onto the back of the finished quilt. It always looks so nice and always matches the quilt.
from Donna Barton of Riceville, TN
The new fusible batting makes the quilting process go faster. It’s fusible on both sides, therefore your quilt top, batting, and backing are all together making it easier to quilt the piece without using pins. Everything is pressed together tight, so there’s no need for a quilting frame, or for starting in the middle.
from Karen Schultz of Celoron, NY
To make extra storage space and to keep cut or in-process projects together, I store each project in a large decorative tin or hat box that blends in with my decor. That way, the project is kept together and "out of sight", and I make good use of my decorative hat boxes and tins, which I love to collect!