Why I Pre-wash My Quilting Fabric

I confess . . .  I’m a pre-washer.  I know that a lot of quilters prefer their fabric right off the bolt, but I feel a lot more confident about the appearance and longevity of my quilts when I know as much about my fabrics as possible before I start cutting them up.

The Big Three Reasons I Pre-Wash:

  1. The fabric will shrink before it goes into a quilt with other fabrics that may shrink at different rates
  2. If the dyes used on the fabric are going to run, I would much rather know before I put them next to other fabrics.  If a fabric bleeds a lot in the original wash, I will often wash it one or two more times.  Occasionally, there is a fabric that never stops bleeding, and I am very careful about where I will incorporate that fabric.  It may be perfectly fine in an all mid-tone quilt, but it would never be appropriate to use in a quilt with a light background.
  3. Pre-washing removes any residual chemicals or finishes that were added to the fabric during the manufacturing process.  I rarely wash my quilts immediately following the construction process, so I want it as clean as possible to start.  It also can’t hurt to make as little skin contact as possible with the residues.

One of the big downfalls that I hear about pre-washing is the tendency to have fabric ravel out.  To prevent this I stitch around the edges of the fabric prior to throwing it into the wash.  The easiest way to do this would be a serger or overlock machine, but since I don’t have one, I use my domestic machine.

You could use a zig-zag stitch to accomplish this, but my machine (as well as most other zig-zag machines) have a special stitch for this.  This stitch is called the Vari-overlock stitch in my machine manual, and it is recommended for stretch fabrics, but it works great for edging other fabrics as well.  The foot for this has a slender piece of metal that is zig-zagged over while it holds the edge of the fabric flat and prevents the fabric from rolling.

Fabric Edging Process

The stitch itself is a series of short straight stitches followed by zig-zag stitch.  You can make the stitch have tighter spacing by reducing stitch length.  I use approximately a two stitch length for edging fabric for washing.  When I use this technique for finishing edges on clothing, pillows, etc. I shorten the stitch length.

Fabric Edging Finished

How do you feel about pre-washing fabric?

Ohio Star Quilt Block

I am so excited to share the instructions for a second traditional block which is in the 2017 Quilter’s Planner.  The Ohio Star block is one of my favorites since I grew up, learned to quilt, and currently live in Ohio.  This block is particularly common in this area, but it never gets boring!  Have fun with scale (this pattern includes measurements for five different block sizes) and mix up your fabric selections to make this classic block your own.

You can download this free Ohio Star pattern on Craftsy.

ohio-star-block

 

I went bright and bold for this block, but monochrome and subtle color choices work beautifully as well!

This block is for the week of September 10-16.  Check out my other tutorials included in the 2017 Quilter’s Planner!

Sand Dollar Star (week of January 15-21)

Hourglass Block (week of August 27-September 2)

 

 

Hourglass Quilt Block

Have you received your fantastic Quilter’s Planner from Stephanie of Late Night Quilter?  If you haven’t you can order a planner here.  One of the amazing features of the planner is that there is a quilt block pattern for every week of the year.  In addition to the original block designs by many talented bloggers, this edition of the planner includes patterns for several traditional blocks as well.

I have written up directions for creating an Hourglass quilt block.  This design is in the planner for the week of August 27-September 2, 2017.  These instructions include measurements for nine different size blocks, and you make four at a time so you can start combining these blocks into all sorts of fun configurations right away.

You can download the free instructions for the Hourglass block on Craftsy.

hourglass-block

This block is used as a component in a lot of more complex blocks, but it can also be fun on its own.  Here are a few layouts for this very versatile block.simple-hourglass-layout

Set the blocks together in the same direction for this configuration.

chevron-hourglass-block

Offset the blocks by half to achieve a chevron appearance.

pinwheel-hourglass-layout

Or rotate the blocks to create a pinwheel effect!

This block is for the week of August 27-September 2.  Check out my other tutorials included in the 2017 Quilter’s Planner!

Sand Dollar Star (week of January 15-21)

Ohio Star (week of September 10-16)

Filmstrip Bee Block

This year I have joined my first Block Bee group with the Columbus Modern Quilters.  It is so much fun to make blocks that I may not have tried otherwise, and I am looking forward to seeing what everyone comes up with for my block as well!  The block I am asking the Bee members to create is a Filmstrip block.  I have written the directions and published the pattern as a free download on Craftsy.  You can download the instructions for the Filmstrip Bee Block here.

Two Sample Filmstrip Bee Blocks

Two Sample Filmstrip Bee Blocks

 

This block could be used to create the main body of a quilt, but I am looking forward to incorporating it into a medallion quilt that will be a gift for one of my nieces who will be ten at that point.  This block would also be a fun border on a block based, whole cloth or panel quilt.

The black fabric for this block can be solid or a very low volume black/grey print, and the white squares are scrappy low volume.  My niece has a wide range of interests, so the featured novelty prints could be almost anything kid friendly.  I would like to avoid really specific cartoon characters so she won’t “outgrow” her quilt, although I think more generic fantasy/fairytale fabrics would work.  She likes art, dance, baking, Girl Scouts, animals, basketball, soccer, and piano.  She likes lots of colors, so I think the quilt will end up incorporating the entire rainbow, but I would like to keep browns mostly out of it- a little brown in a novelty print is ok, but it shouldn’t be the dominant color.

This block goes together in an hour or less, and if you are making lots of these blocks you could cut the time down by creating more black and white square strips at once by making a wider section of striped fabric in step one.

Thank you so much to everyone who is making a block for this bee!  I hope that anyone else who is in a bee will feel free to use this pattern for their block.  I would love to see what you make!

Tote Bag Tutorial Part 5: Finishing Techniques

Welcome to Part 5 in out tote bag series!  This week is all about finishing up a few details.  Aren’t you thrilled that you have made it this far?  Before you know it, you will be carrying this fabulous bag around that you didn’t just make- you designed!  As always, please contact me with any questions.  You may email me or leave a comment, and I will do my best to give you a clear answer!

If you are just joining us, this is a 5 part series.  Here are the other segments:

When last we left our glorious tote bag, we had just turned it right side out.  Have you ever had a bag where the lining pops up almost every time you pull something out?  This next step will keep this from happening.  We are going to stitch the lining and the outer layer shaping seams together.  Make sure the lining is laying smoothly in the bag and that the side seams and shaping seams are pretty close to matching up.  Doing your best to not get things too twisted around, reach inside the opening you used to turn the bag right side out, grab the seam allowances of the lining and outer shaping seam on one side of the bag and gently pull them through the opening.  Pin the seam allowances together or use clover clips to hold the seams in place. (I just got some clover clips, and I am in love!)  This is a good time to carefully push the shaping seams back through the opening just to check that nothing managed to get twisted around during the previous process.  Note:  Count the number of pins going in, and make sure the same number come back out- It’s no fun to discover a  pin after everything is all sewn up!    Another Note: The type of lining technique in this photo is slightly different (it is a two piece lining) than the one you are using, so your’s will look a bit different with everything pulled through the lining opening.  I forgot to take a new photo when I made a bag using the new technique, but I will update the image when I make another.  The idea is the same, though.Pinning the Outer and Lining shaping seams together

Everything laying well?  Great!  Gently pull the seam back out and zig zag the seam allowances together.  As long as you stay in the seam allowance and don’t cross the stitching line, you are doing this correctly.  If you have a machine that only does a straight stitch go ahead and use it- we just want to secure the bottom of the lining to the main bag.Stitching the Outer and Lining Shaping Seams together

Looks good?  Go ahead and repeat the process on the other side of the bag.

Now you can close up the opening in the bag lining.  You can do this by machine or by hand.  When I do this step by hand, I find that a nice small slip stitch looks great.  I often sew the opening up with the sewing machine since it is rarely seen up close, remains durable over the life of the bag, and is super quick.  If you are doing the machine method, press the seam allowances to the inside, line up the edges of the opening, pin carefully and stitch across the opening about 1/8″ ( or a little less) from the edge.Closing the Lining Opening

Now we are down to buttons- Almost there!  You will want to place your buttons so they are centered with your buttonholes.  Make sure your bag is laying nice and flat and then use a fabric safe pen or pencil to make a dot where the button should be placed.  You can mark this right through the buttonhole opening to help with accuracy.

There are two basic types of buttons:  flat buttons and buttons with shanks.  A flat button typically has either two or four holes that go all the way through the top of the button.  A button with a shank has a loop of either metal or plastic on the back used to attach the button.  This type of button is often appealing since the top of the button can have a decorative design that is uninterrupted by thread crossing between holes.  Unless you are sewing a button on that is only decorative, you need to plan to have a shank, so if you are using a flat button, you will create a shank with thread as you sew the button in place.  The shank of the button provides a slight gap between the fabric and the button that allows the layer of fabric with the buttonhole to fit without any strange pulling, puckering and gapping.  A really thin blouse would require only a very short shank, but a heavy, wool, winter coat would require buttons with a much longer shank.  This tote bag will need a shank about 1/8″ long.  Don’t worry if it gets a bit too long or even a little too short.Button Types

The button with a shank is pretty easy to sew.  Use a double thread and stitch though the fabric and the shank of the button several times (I usually take about six to eight stitches per button).  It is important to stitch through all of the fabric layers so there isn’t any weird pulling.  Try to keep the back of things neat since you will see this side from time to time.  Tie a couple knots at the base of the button, bury the thread tails between the layers of fabric, and call it a button!Button with Shank

When creating your own thread shank, you will need to leave a slight gap between the fabric and the button that will become the space for the shank.  To help with this spacing you can place something like a toothpick, a couple straight pins, or a thin skewer under the button.  You can also purchase a little plastic sewing device that helps you achieve a consistent spacing.  Using a double thread, sew through the holes of the button and the fabric about six to eight times total (you can split this number of stitches between two sets of holes).  Flat Button A

Next, remove any spacing tools and wrap the sewing thread around the thread gap between the button and fabric.  You will want to go around 3-5 times for most button shanks.Flat Button B

The last time around tie a knot at the base.  I always do a second knot for security before burying the thread tails.Flat Button C

There you have it- your custom designed tote bag!  Congratulations!  All that is left is for the complements to roll in!Tote Bag A
I’m linking this post up with WIP Wednesday at Freshly Pieced and Tips and Tutorials Tuesday at Late Night Quilter.  Please stop in to see all of the inspiring works in progress and useful tips and tutorials!