Patchwork and quilting

How to Plan a Quilt Colour Scheme

So, I started writing instructions for the Mini Charm Medallion tutorial, when it occurred to me: if you have been reading through the #QuiltingTheory series, and about to start your first project, you might be wondering where to start with fabrics and colours.

Today we’re going to look at how to identify the colours and style that you like, using a free app to ‘colour in’ a quilt plan and translating that into fabric.

How to plan a quilt colour scheme using a digital colouring app with tutorial for the Mini Charm Medallion by fabricandflowers

NOTE: this post may contain affiliate links and you can read my full disclosure privacy policy here. Thank you.

How to Choose Colours for a Quilt

I remember back when I started quilting, one of the things I was most fascinated/apprehensive about was putting colours together…..it seemed like a magical art (and sometimes, still does!)!

There is lots of information available on Colour Theory – and I am far from an expert.

Planning colour schemes for quilts by fabricandflowers

If you want to learn more about Colour Theory, I can highly recommend the Quilt Colour Workshop. It is a great book which talks you through the colour wheel, colour relationships and tonal relationships, as well as including some fabulous projects!

Having said all that, my top tip would be to go with what makes your heart sing! Try not to get too bogged down by the rules of what should and shouldn’t go together. Have a look on Pinterest/Instagram to see what quilts jump out at you and really look at them;

  • Do they have similar designs, use of colour, or fabric/colour combinations?

Once you’ve identified some common elements, try introducing some of these to your quilt. With each project, you will become more colour confident and soon will be throwing fabrics together with reckless abandonment!!!

For me, I love making projects that are high contrast (normally between background and ‘feature’ fabrics) using textured/tone on tone fabric and quite geometric designs.

Collage of quilt projects by fabricandflowers

To be honest, I didn’t really think I had a preference until I put together a collage of makes for a magazine – at which point I realised there were quite a few similarities!!! – so it’s quite a good exercise.

Choosing Fabrics and Colours

Pre-cuts/bundles are a great starting point if you are new to quilting as they provide a range of colours and patterns that play together nicely. To make a bigger project – such as the Mini Charm Medallion Tutorial – you can add coordinating background fabric.

How to plan a quilt colour scheme using a digital colouring app with tutorial for the Mini Charm Medallion by fabricandflowers

If you are using a candy charm pack, it’s a good idea to lay out all the squares to get an idea of what colours you have – quite often there will be duplicate prints within the pack.

Planning a Quilt Colour Scheme

One of the tools I often use when planning a quilty project is Recolor – Coloring Book, available as a free download through the Apple iTunes store.

It allows you to upload your own images to colour in. It’s a great way of quickly trying out different colour combinations to see what works!

If you’ve not used it before, here is what you will need to do after downloading the app;

You can now open the Planner Sheet image and chose ‘continue colouring’.

Tutorial for how to use a free colouring app for planning a quilt colour scheme and layout by fabricandflowers

In the bottom left-hand corner of the screen, you will see some little coloured dots – if you click on this, you can select the style of colours to use. Images tend to automatically open with ‘gradient’ whereas I prefer ‘solids’.

How to plan a quilt colour scheme using a free digital colouring app with tutorial by fabricandflowers

Chose the colour that you would like to use from the bottom menu (you can swipe across the bottom to choose different colours) and a little white dot will appear in the colour that you have chosen. Now, place a finger on the section of the picture where you would like that colour to go. And play until your heart’s content!

Colour Scheme Plans in Action

Having looked through the candy charm pack of fabrics, using the planner sheet (sign up to my Newsletter for a free copy) and having had a play with different colour layouts, I had decided on a rainbow center and outside, and a neutral second border (as there were conveniently 14 neutral squares in my pack!).

However, what looks good on the screen, sometimes still needs a little fine tuning when it comes to fabric! My initial pull just wasn’t quite right…

How to plan a quilt colour scheme using a digital colouring app with tutorial for the Mini Charm Medallion by fabricandflowers

I was really happy with the light-dark (tonal) graduation that I had with the purple and blue. The orange and yellow didn’t work as well, for me: the orange was too dark and the yellow jarred against the green. So I tried a couple of other squares and was much happier with the final layout.

Join me for the next post when we will be starting the Mini Charm Medallion Cushion Tutorial – if you would like to take part, all you need is one candy charm pack (or 41 2.5″ squares) and one fat quarter for the background.

And if you would like to try out your colour schemes, please join my Newsletter and get sent a free copy of the Quilt Planner sheet.

S x

Today’s sky::: overcast and raining. Boo!

If you would like monthly news and updates, please sign-up to my newsletter.
To check out my quilt and bag patterns, visit my Etsy shop.

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How to plan a quilt colour scheme using a free digital colouring app for the Mini Charm Medallion by fabricandflowers

#QuiltingTheory – How a quilt is put together

So, if you’ve read through the #QuiltingTheory series so far, you hopefully now understand the quilting language, why seam allowance is important (and how to find it on your machine!), how to buy and use quilting fabrics and what tools you need. Hurrah! So, how do we put all this knowledge together to layer a quilt and make it into a quilted project?!

How to put a quilt together and trouble shooting common problems by fabricandflowers

This post takes you through everything from the layers that make up a quilt, all about wadding and trouble-shooting problems you might experience when you first start quilting.

NOTE: this post may contain affiliate links and you can read my full disclosure privacy policy here. Thank you.

The Layers of a Quilt

Quilts generally consist of three layers: a pieced top, an insulating fabric, and backing fabric.

A two-layer quilt can be made using something like fleece/minky to replace the insulation and backing fabrics. I’ve made a few quilts like this now and they are a fun alternative, and make great kids quilts because they are so tactile!

Wadding (or batting, depending on whether you are British or American!) is most often used as the insulating layer. There are lots of options available with different sizes, material content and weight, all of which effect the thicknesses, stretch and firmness of the finished project.

Loft refers to the thickness/heaviness of the wadding – the more loft you have, the puffier the quilt and the trickier it can be to stitch. A higher loft often makes a warmer quilt and can show off stitch definition!

Types of Wadding

Generally, it is recommended to use a wadding made from natural materials (or is a blended material with a high % of natural fibres) for warmth, comfort and longevity.

Each quilter will have their own preferred wadding. Some may use a few different ones depending on the project eg. a firmer wadding for wall hangings and thicker for a warm blanket.

Comparing the different thicknesses (Loft) of polyester and cotton/poly wadding

Wadding is available in lots of different fibre contents,

  • Polyester: available in a wide range of weights and amongst the cheapest waddings that you can buy. They are non-allergenic and wash well but being a man-made fibre are highly flammable and non-breathable. It has a tendency to be ‘puffy’ which makes it difficult to handle, particularly when machine quilting. I used it for my first few quilts but much prefer working with natural fibres.
  • Natural Fibres: natural fibres have the benefit of being breathable. With washing and age, the fibres will experience some shrinkage which gives a quilt its’ used and crinkled look.
    • Cotton: good for washing and easy to care for.
    • Wool: a great insulator that can help to regulate body heat. However, it is a material that needs to be looked after carefully: too much agitation or washing at high temperatures could result in a lot of shrinkage/felting of the fibres.
    • Bamboo: very soft and with anti-bacterial properties. Just like wool, it’s breathable helping to keep you warm in the winter and cool in the summer.
    • Silk: very soft, lightweight, silky wadding that is perfect for a very special quilt or clothes. It is very luxurious so not generally used for everyday projects!
  • Blends: there are many different material blends that are available. My personal favourite is a Hobbs 80/20 Cotton/Poly blend. It has a lovely weight, stitches through beautifully as well as showing stitch definition.
  • Recycled/Green: with the current environmental concerns, there are now waddings available made from recycled materials such as plastic bottles – you can read my experience here of using it.
  • There are also a couple of ‘speciality’ products available;
    • Black Wadding: ideal for projects where only dark fabrics have been used.
    • Fusible Wadding: one side is coated with a glue which is heat activated when ironed. Very useful when you don’t want to do lots of quilting and for bag/pouch making as it helps give added structure.

Each of these waddings will have a recommended minimum quilting/stitching distance detailed on the packaging. If buying online, this will normally be in the description – although as a rule of thumb it is normally around 8″.

If you are unsure of which wadding to try, it is worthwhile popping along to a local quilt shop if you have one. Alternatively, many companies offer wadding sample packs – if you are in the UK, you can find these at the Cotton Patch.

Buying Wadding

Wadding can be bought in pre-cut ‘quilt’ sizes (for example, baby quilt), by the metre or by the roll.

When starting out, I would recommend buying a piece of wadding big enough for your project, plus a little bit extra.

However, if you start doing a lot of quilting, it is worthwhile buying a roll. It is quite an investment, and storing it can be interesting (mine sits on top of a unit!) but it is lovely being able to just cut off whatever you need – although it is a little disappointing when it finally runs out!

Putting the Quilt Layers Together

Assembling the three layers of a quilt is often called basting or making a quilt sandwich. There are some people that really enjoy this process, but I confess that I am not one of them!

The biggest problems with layering a quilt can be having the floor space to do so. In my current house, I have a tiled floor where I can make enough space for most quilts, it’s only on the odd occasion that I need to move furniture. It’s also handy as I can use the edge of the tiles as a guide for laying out the fabrics and waddings!

In a previous house, this was not the case though. After a bit of trial and error, I found the best way to baste a quilt on a carpet was to;

  • Smooth the quilt backing right side down directly on to the carpet and secure with T-pins pushed in at an angle (just as if I was blocking some knitting!).
  • Repeat this with the remaining batting and quilt top (right side up) layers. I often use normal pins at this stage, as they are a little finer so less likely to damage the material.

The main methods for securing the quilt layers together are;

  • Pin Basting: Pinning through all three layers using specialised curved pins to secure them together before stitching. Pins should be placed approximately 5″ apart. On a big quilt this can be quite a lengthy process and painful on the knees and the fingers!
  • Spray Basting: an aerosol spray glue, normally on to the wadding and then smoothing the fabric down. The fabric can be rearranged if it’s not in the right position the first time. Problems with this method can be the smell (it’s best to do in a ventilated room), the layers not sticking together properly and the flooring being quite tacky at the end of the process (and not that easy to clean!). I’ve also read that it is not recommended for projects that are not going to be washed as there is a risk that the glue could discolour the fabrics over time if not removed.
  • Thread Basting: hand-stitching the quilt layers together. If you are planning on hand-quilting a big quilt, this is a good method for securing the layers together for a long period of time without damaging the quilt. I have tried this method a few times and quite enjoy it, but it can hurt your fingers!

For an excellent tutorial on pin and spray basting, Suzy Quilts has a great post, which covers all the steps that I follow too!

For a Thread Basting tutorial, see the Quilting Hub for lots of detail.

Different Quilting Techniques

Once a quilt has been layered and basted, there is now the fun job of stitching the layers together. This subject is worthy of it’s own blog post, and is something that I am constantly trying to improve. Broadly though, this falls in to three categories

  • Machine: using a sewing machine to stitch patterns – this can be straight lines, echo and Free Motion Quilting.
  • Hand Stitching: using a thicker cotton or perle thread to add hand stitches, straight line or decorative.
  • Tied/knotted: a traditional way of finishing quilts. This is a great way of securing the layers together quickly as well as adding great texture. This is normally achieved with a double surgeons knot;

Trouble Shooting Common Problems when you Start Quilting

At some point on your journey, something will probably go wrong during the quilting stage.

I’ve had a few disasters in my time, the worst one was when I spent a whole day quilting a top only to then have to spend the next two days unpicking it!!! There were tears of frustration, I can tell you!

So, to try and help you from going through this, here are the mistakes I made when I first started quilting;

  • Not cutting the wadding and backing fabric big enough: always cut the wadding BIGGER than the quilt top c. 4″ in each direction (so that there is a 2″ overhang) and the quilt back BIGGER than the wadding by c. 4″ in each direction. This allows for the inevitable shifting that will happen whilst quilting.
  • Basting: the layers were smoothed out at different tensions meaning that they each bounce back differently when you remove the quilt from the floor (or wherever you basted it!). This can result in wrinkling between the layers, making it difficult to achieve a smooth finish. This is something that improves with practice and can also vary depending on which wadding is being used.
  • Fabric shifting: one of the most frustrating things is when the stitching is looking good on the top layer, and then you turn the quilt over only to realise that the back has lots of puckers in it. However, there are a few things you can do to try and minimise this;
    • Use a walking foot: a walking foot is a special attachment for the sewing machine which helps to feed the top and bottom layers through at the same time! The walking foot grips the fabric at the top at the same time as the feed dogs (the ‘teeth’ under the foot) grip the bottom of the quilt, helping to hold the layers together as the quilt is fed through.
    • Always start from the same side of the quilt eg. top and sew in the same direction. This means that if there is any fabric shifting, it is all going in the same direction, reducing the likelihood of puckering.
    • Start from the middle of the quilt and work to the outside edges. This means that if there is any fabric shifting it is all moving to the outside of the quilt, rather than bunching up towards the centre.
  • Wadding showing/bearding: wadding can start coming through where the needle has pierced the fabric.
    • Ensure that the wadding is suitable for your project. Inspect the wadding to see if there is a front or back and make sure that it is placed the right way in the quilt.
    • Ideally, use a new needle at start quilting a new project, especially for machine quilting. As the needle blunts, the likelihood of it dragging wadding fibres through the fabric increases.

And most importantly, don’t forget to have fun and experiment!

Experimenting with applique and free motion quilting on small projects like mug rugs

Phew! Another long post! I think that’s covered all the main things you need to know about layering up and making a quilt?! Don’t forget to check out the rest of the posts in this introduction to quilting series;

Come back next week when we will make a start on a Mini Medallion Cushion and try some of the skills that have been covered in the previous weeks,

S x

Today’s sky::: beautiful blue skies. Spring is definitely in the air!

If you would like monthly news and updates, please sign-up to my newsletter.
To check out my quilt and bag patterns, visit my Etsy shop.

For my favourite sewing equipment and tools, visit my Amazon store.

#QuiltingTheory – Essential Tools

NOTE: this post may contain affiliate links and you can read my full disclosure privacy policy here. Thank you.

When you start quilting – or any new hobby really – the number of tools that are available can be a bit overwhelming, and you can be left wondering what do you really need to get started? The list of what you would like to get is guaranteed to grow as you continue on your quilting journey!!!!

#QuiltingTheory what are the essential tools a new quilter needs

If you’ve had a play and decided that Yes! Quilting is for you. What tools should be on your ‘must buy’ list?! Here are my top recommendations options from quilting tools and equipment that are available!

Introducing friends to Quilting!

Over the years I have encouraged a few friends to try out quilting by giving them a little care package of;

  • Fabric scraps
  • Hexagon EPP Paper Pieces
  • A couple of wonder clips
#QuiltingTheory what are the essential tools a new quilter needs

Most people have scissors and thread at home, and to start with I think it’s more important to play and see if you like patchwork and quilting before getting caught up in what is the correct thread, fabric and scissors to have and use.

It’s a great starting point as the fabric doesn’t need to be perfectly cut to wrap around the paper pieces, the clips help with basting the shapes and keeping everything together and as a quilter, I have all of these things to hand (quite often from magazine freebies!). If you would like to get some paper pieces to make your own care-package or try out quilting, it’s worth checking out Sew & Quilt as Jessie offers lots of different paper shapes and specialises in hand-sewing.

Alternatively, if you wanted to have a play at piecing fabric on a sewing machine, precuts are the perfect introduction as they are already cut to size and ready to sew (learn more about pre-cuts here). Depending on what is used, a pack will be the right size for a cushion or small cot quilt.

Needles & Pins

There are many types of needles and pins available. Because everyone has their own way of holding and using needles, what is ‘best’ is very much down to personal preference, which can take a bit of trial and error.

#QuiltingTheory what are the essential tools a new quilter needs
  • Needles: I switch between needles, often depending on what is to hand! I mostly sew with short, fine needles as I feel it gives me more control over what I’m sewing. My go-tos are a Size 10 (applique) or Size 12 (quilting between) gold eye needles but if I’m working with something like Liberty, I will often use a black-gold needle as it seems to be smoother with the fine Tana Lawn. I have also heard great things about Tulip Needles but have yet to try them out – they are on my list!
  • Pins: I prefer fine dressmaker pins as they don’t leave big pin marks in the fabric. The one downside is that they can become invisible if they drop on the floor as they have no decorative head on them, so you may prefer purpose made quilting pins. The other pins that I use a lot are applique pins which are fine and short so that they don’t get in the way when stitching.
  • Needle Threader: this needle threaded helps to alleviate my frustrations of working with a fine needle and thread, which I’m finding more useful with each passing year! It is also more robust than any other needle threader I have tried and easy to use.


For quilting, it is best to use cotton thread with cotton fabric as it prevents excessive wear and tear, helping your finished project to last a long time. There are lots of brands available – personally, I love Aurifil Thread as it is available in soooo many different colours and I’ve never had any problems using it! However, some people seem to struggle with their sewing machine not liking it and prefer to use Gutterman, so it can be a case of trial and error.

Colour wise, if you are just starting out and want to buy just one spool, I recommend a pale grey (for Aurifil, this would be colour code 2600) as it doesn’t stand out too much against a bright/dark fabric.

#QuiltingTheory what are the essential tools a new quilter needs

Cotton thread is available in different thicknesses – a 50wt is a great starting point as it can be used for hand and machine sewing.

As the numbers get lower eg. 40wt, the thread gets thicker making it good for more quilting definition or embellishing your project. As the number gets higher eg, 80wt, the thread gets fine and is often preferred by those who hand-piece/do a lot of English Paper Piecing as the stitching becomes almost invisible!

If you are doing a lot of hand-sewing, it can really help to use a thread-conditioner to coat the thread as it helps strengthens the thread and prevent it from tangling whilst sewing.

Cutting Mats

Self-healing cutting mats are fantastic for cutting fabric on: the mat ‘heals’ after you have cut on it. They prevent the rotary cutter from blunting too quickly, have measurements on which helps with cutting projects out quicker and also help with protecting work surfaces.

#QuiltingTheory what are the essential tools a new quilter needs

Over time, it is likely that you will end up with a few cutting mats for different needs – I now have four and they all get used regularly! My recommendations are;

  1. 24″ x 18″ cutting mat: if you have one cutting mat, this is a great starting point and was all I had for the first couple of years of quilting. It is just big enough for a Fat Quarter of fabric which makes it ideal for lots of different projects.
  2. 12″ Rotating cutting mat: if you are making blocks that need trimming eg. Half Square Triangles, or trimming a lot of blocks to size, a rotating mat is very beneficial. You can trim two sides, rotate the mat 180* – without needing to lift the block, which helps with accurate cutting – and then trim the other side. Easy Peasy!
  3. Larger Cutting Mat: at 36″ x 24″ this is useful for cutting lots of strips without having to rearrange the fabric all the time, and ideal for other projects such as bags and dressmaking
  4. Desktop Cutting Mat: although I love my 24″ x 18″ cutting mat, I can’t use it very easily in my sewing room (I have to clear a space on the kitchen table!) so for smaller projects/individual blocks I have a cutting mat which fits perfectly on my worktop. This will all very much depend on your sewing room/space set-up.

Cutting Tools

As quilting is mainly about chopping fabric up into smaller pieces, before sewing it back together again, there is obviously a need for cutting tools in your sewing room! If you are doing a lot of quilting, it is worth investing in a rotary cutter (to be used with acrylic rulers) as they help to speed up the cutting process. A secondary benefit is that it helps to reduce fraying of the fabric as handling is minimised.

#QuiltingTheory what are the essential tools a new quilter needs
  1. Seam Ripper: one of the most essential tools for a quilter, mine often gets way more use than I would like! If you are doing lots of sewing, it is worth spending a little bit of money on a seam ripper as they tend to be more robust and sharper (they can blunt over time) – I’ve been really happy with this one. It has a lovely feel to it and, once a seam has been undone, the silicon end is rubbed over the stitch line to help pull out any stray threads and remove/reduce the needle puncture marks. It’s magic! They are also a great tool for holding bits of fabric together under the sewing machine!!!
  2. 45mm Rotary Cutter: rotary cutters are available in a few different sizes, but this is one I’ve found to be the most useful and versatile. The safety mechanism tends to work in a slightly different way across each of the brands and the blades can be replaced as they get blunted with use. A smaller 28mm rotary cutter can be useful if you are making smaller blocks/cutting curves.
  3. Embroidery Scissors / Snips: useful for trimming threads, keeping close by when doing hand-sewing and snipping/trimming fabric.
  4. Dressmaking Scissors: a good pair of scissors for cutting fabric are essential, and to maintain their sharpness should only ever be used for fabric. There are lots of different scissors brands available – these ones have got holes in the blade so that they are not too heavy which means I never get sore hands when doing lots of cutting!

Acrylic Rulers

Acrylic rulers, when used with a rotary cutter and self-healing mat are really helpful for cutting fabric pieces quickly and accurately. You will probably find that you start off with one ruler and end up with a multitude! To start off with though, I would recommend;

#QuiltingTheory what are the essential tools a new quilter needs
  1. 6.5″ x 24″ acrylic ruler: this is an ideal first purchase as it is long enough to cut a whole Width of Fabric that is folded in half (perfect for cutting binding strips!) and when paired with a cutting mat can be used to cut large pieces of fabric easily. And as a friendly warning, if you have small children, make sure the ruler is always stored somewhere safe where they can’t jump on it and break it…….!!!
  2. A 6.5″ square or 12.5″ square ruler: a great next purchase, these are really beneficial for trimming blocks to size, and I probably use them both equally. These rulers are also great when it comes to bag/pouch making for cutting slightly bigger pieces accurately and quickly.
  3. 6″ x 1″ ruler: a handy size for keeping close by, useful for measuring seam allowance/piecing accuracy, adding a seam allowance and drawing guidelines.

Marking Tools

  • Pen or Pencil: visit this post to read more detail about all the different options that are available!
  • Hera Marker: I didn’t learn about these until I’d been quilting for a little while, but they are so useful! You can draw along the edge of a ruler with the sharp end – much like a pen – and it flattens the fibres creating an indentation line which can be used as a guide for sewing along. This is brilliant when you don’t want to use a pen of any sort on the fabric, for example when marking quilting lines. A quick blast with a steam iron will help to plump the cotton fibres back up and the line disappears.
Essential Tools for a quilter: flowers meadow cushion with quilting lines drawn with a Hera Marker by fabricandflowers

The only other things that I can think of which gets way more use than you would probably think is a wooden chopstick! Although not strictly for quilting, they are fantastic for turning out pouches/straps without piercing/damaging the fabric.

I hope you’ve enjoyed this post – if you have any questions or think that I’ve missed any essential tools off then please do drop me a line.

If you would like to look at the other posts in the #QuiltingTheory series to learn more about quilting, you can see them here;

See you soon,


Today’s sky::: overcast and grey

If you would like monthly news and updates, please sign-up to my newsletter.
To check out my quilt and bag patterns, visit my Etsy shop.

For my favourite sewing equipment and tools, visit my Amazon store.

How to make applique templates using an iPad!

NOTE: this post may contain affiliate links and you can read my full disclosure privacy policy here. Thank you.

Hellooo! So, I’ve made a couple of things for Mr f&f lately with motifs on and thought it might be something that you would be interested in? So I’m going to show you how to applique using images traced from a tablet screen!!!

How to applique - making templates on an iPad and reverse applique coaster by fabricandflowers

Using your tablet (I have an iPad) find an image that you want to replicate in applique. Get the image to the approximate size that you want to copy on the screen, and take a screenshot.

Go into your photos, and open up the picture that you have just taken. Get a piece of paper and place over the screen. It’s best to hold the screen at an angle to get a true light-box effect and hold the paper in position with your fingers just off the edge of the screen (I’ve found that finger movements are still picked up through the paper, which is why I take a photo of the image, otherwise it keeps resizing as you’re trying to trace!!).

Disclaimer: this technique is based on my own experience and not recommended by device manufacturers so should be undertaken at your own risk!

Use a pencil to lightly sketch the outline of your shape, being careful not to put too much pressure on the screen to prevent causing damage. Again, try and keep your hand off the screen to stop the picture moving around. When you have got the rough outline, take the paper off the screen, place it on a flat surface and draw over the lines again to make them more visible, and add in any extra detail that you need.

Cut the shape out. Now, you are ready to applique!

Reverse Applique: Punisher teapot coaster

This was Mr f&f’s Valentine present (how romantic am I?!). He recently got this teapot and joked that it needed its own special coaster. Who would be better to look after it than The Punisher?!

How to applique - reverse applique coaster by fabricandflowers

I wanted a slightly rougher, less refined look for this project. Having never tried it, I thought reverse applique – where the fabric is layered and the top one then cut away to reveal the one underneath – would be good, as over time the fabric edges would fray.

I placed the motif on the right side of the top layer of fabric. To draw around the outside of the shape, I used a Sewline pencil as it shows clearly on the dark fabric (or you can see my post here for other options).

Layer the fabric that you want to reveal under the front fabric (making sure that it is under the motif that you have drawn!) and secure in place pinning from the front. As this is a small project, I then put some wadding behind so that I would be quilting and securing the layers together at the same time. If I was working on a bigger project, I would probably use a glue pen or do a little stitching to secure the fabric layers together.

I free motion stitched the layers together, using the pencil lines as a guide. If you’ve never tried free motion quilting, a small project like this is a great way to have a go as it is easier to control a small piece of fabric, and also a ridiculous amount of fun! Everyone has a slightly different way that they like to set up the machine, mine is to;

How to applique - reverse applique coaster and tips for free motion sewing by fabricandflowers
  • Use an open-toe foot so that you can see where you’re sewing: this also means that the fabric isn’t ‘gripped’ as much by the machine, giving you more control over moving the fabric around.
  • Set the stitch length to ‘0’ as you will be moving the fabric around, which will determine the size of your stitches (and preserve your sewing machine needle!)
  • Some people like to drop the feed-dogs on their machine (the grippy bits that sit under the sewing machine foot). Personally, I like to leave them up as I find that it gives me slightly more control of the fabric as it can’t jump too much.
  • Generally, you will want to sew slower than normal to give you more control over the movement of the fabric – I have a digital machine and normally reduce the speed by about 50%!
  • Leave a long tail of thread at the beginning and end of your stitching so that they can be pulled through to the back and knotted.

When you are happy with your stitching, it is time to cut away the top layer of fabric. I pinched the back two layers (wadding and light grey fabric) with my left hand and the top black layer with my right thumb and forefinger before snipping a hole to start cutting (Note – if I do this again I will probably cut a little access hole in the top fabric before layering together as I was petrified of ruining my work!). I used a mix of little sharp embroidery scissors and duck-billed applique scissors which are great for cutting as close as you can to the stitching.

To finish the coaster, I trimmed the top to 5″, placed backing fabric right side together to the front and sewed around the edge, leaving a gap along one side to turn it out. With coasters, I always like to trim away the excess wadding and angle the corners so that when it’s turned out you get as sharp corners and smooth edges as possible.

Once turned through, a little press and some top-stitching and it was all finished. Ta-dah!!! Such a fun little project – probably only took a couple of hours all in, including taking the photos!

For standard applique – like the tie-fighter coffee cosy! – I cut the template into smaller pieces eg. wings, body, and window, for each of the fabrics I wanted to use for each section. Iron bondaweb – which is fusible on both sides, but with a bit of paper on one side – to the wrong side of the fabric. Turn your template pieces over (so that they were reversed) and draw around them on to the bondaweb before cutting out. Peel the backing off the bondaweb and arrange each of the pieces on to the fabric and iron in place. Decorate with stitching – I used free motion quilting as detailed.

How to applique - making templates on an iPad and reverse applique coaster by fabricandflowers

Now to decide what applique to do for his birthday….!!! I hope you’ve enjoyed this, and if you have a go at making your own templates then please do let me know – I’d love to see what you create!


Today’s sky::: bright but cloudy

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#QuiltingTheory – Fabric

In this weeks post, we are going to be looking at fabric. Yay! When starting out, the selection of quilting fabrics can be exciting and scary. There are so many colours, patterns and different types of fabric cuts that you can buy……the amount of choice and decisions to be made can be overwhelming. It doesn’t take long before a fabric shop can feel like a candy shop though!!!

#QuiltingTheory - learn everything you need to know to begin quilting and grow your skills by fabricandflowers | Sonia Spence

Today, we’re going to be looking at the different ways in which you can buy quilting fabric cuts, and use them. There’s a lot of detail covered, so if you would like to jump to a particular section, here are the different headings;

NOTE: this post may contain affiliate links and you can read my full disclosure privacy policy here. Thank you.

Buying Quilting Fabric

There are a few different ways to buy fabric for quilting projects;

  • Precuts: 42 pieces cut to a certain shape/size from one range of fabric.
  • Quilting cuts: most common are Fat Quarters/Fat Eighths.
  • Yardage/Meterage: ideal for larger projects and quilt backings.

When I first started quilting, pre-cuts were a great way of getting variety in my patchwork, which was great when I didn’t have a stash and still nervous about putting colours and patterns together.

Pre-cuts will sometimes have duplicates of fabric patterns/colourways, depending on the size of the range (which can be anything from 20+ different prints). Common pre-cuts are;

#QuiltingTheory - learn everything you need to know to begin quilting and grow your skills by fabricandflowers | Sonia Spence
  • Mini/Candy Charms: (42) 2.5″ squares
  • Charm Pack: (42) 5″ squares
  • Layer Cake: (42) 10″ squares
  • Jelly Roll: (42) x 2.5″ x Width of Fabric strips

My only advice with pre-cuts is to be extra careful when sewing them together. Double check the size as I have often found that I need to use a slightly more scant seam allowance than I normally would to achieve accurate results.

#QuiltingTheory - learn everything you need to know to start quilting and grow your skills. Today we're looking at quilting fabric cuts and how to draw marks on fabric by fabricandflowers | Sonia Spence

If you’re looking to buy bigger pieces of fabric – either for a specific project or to build up your stash – the most common cut is a Fat Quarter. However, Fat Eighths are also great for smaller projects or applique/scrap projects.

Using quilting fabric

#QuiltingTheory - learn everything you need to know to start quilting and grow your skills. Today we're looking at quilting fabric cuts and how to draw marks on fabric by fabricandflowers | Sonia Spence


The selvedge runs along each side edge of each fabric, and prevents it from unravelling . One side will detail the manufacturer, designer and name of the fabric range as well as individual colour dots (or sometimes motifs!) that identify the exact colours used in the fabric printing. This is a great way of getting an exact colour match if you are looking to use solids.

Some quilters like to cut off the informational selvedge by 1-2″ to use them in other projects (Pinterest is a great source of projects!). The other selvedge side sometimes has the design print running all the way to the edge of the fabric but also needs to be cut off as it has a different texture (like a tape) and tiny holes.

Generally, cutting off the selvedges will leave 42″ of useable fabric.

Right/Wrong side of fabric

For most fabrics, it is easy to tell the difference between the front (right side) and back (wrong side) of the fabric as the front tends to have stronger colour where the pattern is printed on.

On some fabrics though, such as solids, batiks or Liberty Tana Lawns, it can be a bit trickier to identify the front of the fabric as the printing process and/or thinner fabrics means that the colours seep through to a much greater extent. Where this is the case, I normally do a couple of things;

  • Fold the fabric back on itself. If there is no noticeable difference in the colour/texture of the fabric, I don’t worry about it too much!
  • If there is a noticeable difference, I will decide which side to work with. As I cut the pieces out, I will mark them (with one of the marking tools or maybe a bit of washi tape) so that they all get used in the same way.

To wash or not to wash fabric?

This is a subject that causes much debate between quilters – should fabrics be pre-washed, or left until the quilt is finished???

Fabric undergoes lots of different processes and treatments whilst it’s being made. One of these includes adding starch. Pre-washing will remove this and can mean that, even with pressing, it can be difficult to get all the creases out of the fabric again.

Generally speaking, as long as you are using the same fabric type throughout your project eg. all cotton, it doesn’t make too much difference to the finished item as they should all react in a similar way to being washed.

One benefit of leaving washing until the quilt is finished, is that the fabric will shrink (generally by 3-5%) giving the quilt a lovely crinkled effect and – assuming all the fabric are made with the same materials – all fabrics will shrink by the same amount.

HOWEVER, it does become a bit nerve-racking to do this if the project you are working on is high contrast or has a very vibrant colour eg. red or navy.

I follow the non-wash* approach and throw in a couple of colour catchers with the first wash. If it’s a particularly strong colour, I’ll put a couple of extras in for good measure. The sheets absorb any colour that does run and so far, this strategy has always worked for me. And sometimes it’s the colours that you don’t expect to run that do! I would, however, always recommend using your own discretion or testing the fabric if you’re especially concerned and it’s a project that you are going to invest a lot of time and money in.

*NOTE: this is different to dress-making where I would always recommend pre-washing your fabric as it is devastating to make an item of clothing that is the perfect fit only to have it shrink after its first wash!

How to cut fabric straight

Ooooh, this is a good topic! From experience, I have found that some fabrics can be printed wonky. It’s frustrating, but it does happen, so ‘straight’ can sometimes be relative to the pattern of the fabric you are using!

When I am cutting fabric, I use a quilting ruler as a guide against the selvedge (a straight edge) to ensure accuracy.

However, if the fabric has a noticeable pattern – and it is not perpendicular to the selvedge – I cut in line with this as any unevenness can be highly noticeable once it’s pieced into a quilt.

Marking Tools for Quilting Fabric

#QuiltingTheory - learn everything you need to know to start quilting and grow your skills. Today we're looking at quilting fabric cuts and how to draw marks on fabric by fabricandflowers | Sonia Spence

When quilting, you will sometimes want to draw on your fabric – either to mark a sewing line, quilting pattern or template line for applique.

There are lots of different pens, pencils and tools available for drawing and marking on fabric. Again, what you use is most often down to personal preference and the project that you are working on. Over the years, I have tried out a number of the most commonly used options;

  • Frixion pen (A): draw on the fabric and when finished, run over the lines with a hot iron and the lines will disappear. It’s magic! However, the lines can come back if the temperature gets extremely cold and, depending on the fabric, it can leave a residual line which doesn’t completely disappear.
  • Washable pen (B): draws just like a felt-tip pen, but the line washes away when dabbed with water.
  • Air erasable pen (C): Once drawn, the pen line will gradually disappear the longer it’s left in the open. This is okay if you only need a mark temporarily, but if the project is going to take a bit of time it can be frustrating if your marks have disappeared! Also worth noting that it disappears a lot quicker in hot weather!!!
  • Silver gel pen (D): These are great for needle-turn applique. You can draw the shape/lines on the front of the fabric and the line gradually wears off as you handle the fabric. It also shows up on a variety of different coloured fabrics.
  • Mechanical pencil (E): a pencil with a retractable/extendable lead inside. Each pencil often comes with a few leads inside and refills can be purchased.
  • Ceramic lead pencil (F): much like a mechanical pencil, the lead can be extended/retracted and the refills can be purchased. The leads come in different colours – I like the yellow as it seems to show on both light and dark fabrics (I know it looks barely visible in the picture but I promise that under the light of a sewing machine it does show up!). The line can then be erased with a damp sponge or gentle rubbing. Also useful for dress-making.

If I am drawing on the front of the fabric, I tend to use a washable pen (drawing embroidery lines), silver gel pen (for marking dark fabrics/zips when pouch making and needle-turn applique) and ceramic lead pencil.

If I want to mark the back of the fabrics/within the seam allowance I use a mechanical pencil. These probably get the most use in my sewing room and I buy them in packs (or refills) – they can be picked up easily and cheaply so are quite cost efficient too!

Phew – yet another mammoth post!!!!! I hope it’s all been useful. Please do make sure that you carry out your own checks when using, washing and marking fabrics as the reactions/results can vary depending on so many different factors – please remember that these are only my thoughts and experiences!

If you’d like to look at any of the other posts in #QuiltingTheory please have a look at the schedule;

See you next week when we’ll be looking at quilting tools!


Today’s sky:: blue skies but a little cloudy

If you would like monthly news and updates, please sign-up to my newsletter.
To check out my quilt and bag patterns, visit my Etsy shop.

For my favourite sewing equipment and tools, visit my Amazon store.