#QuiltingTheory – How a quilt is put together

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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.

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!

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#QuiltingTheory – Seam Allowance

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

Helloooo! And welcome back to Week 2 of the #QuiltingTheory series. Today, we’re looking at the Seam Allowance. This may be a term that you’re already aware of – especially if you’ve done some sewing before. One of the main things to know is that as quilters, we nearly always work in Inches (in comparison to dressmakers, who tend to work in centimetres), no matter what country you’re from! Which can then get a bit confusing when you’re ordering fabric in metres….but I digress!

#QuiltingTheory - learn everything you need to know to begin quilting and grow your skills, starting with The Seam Allowance and a Scant Quarter Inch by fabricandflowers | Sonia Spence

What is a Seam Allowance?

Simply put, a seam allowance is the distance from the edge of the fabric to the stitching line. Generally, quilters work with a 1/4″ seam allowance. This means there is enough fabric for the seam to survive natural wear and tear and stay secure, and not too much that it leaves the seam bulky on a finished block.

When I first started quilting, I worked out a 1/4″ on my sewing machine foot and off I went. All went well to start with: strictly speaking, if you’re sewing squares together, it doesn’t matter if your seam allowance is a smidge bigger/smaller than 1/4″: if you’re using the same allowance on all pieces of fabric, you will still end up with a square!

Sewing a 1/4″ Seam Allowance

There are a few ways to figure out how to sew a 1/4″ seam allowance on your sewing machine.

Sewing machines often come with a few different sewing feet. A ‘standard’ foot (which is the ‘A’ foot on my Janome, pictured on the left) is included with all machines, and sometimes you may receive a 1/4″ foot depending on what machine you have (the ‘O’ foot, pictured on the left). These can often be bought separately which is useful if you enjoy quilting – just make sure that it’s compatible with your machine!

There are a few ways to find out what to use as a guide mark for achieving your 1/4″ seam allowance, and these can be used for both types of sewing feet, although here I have only demonstrated with the standard foot;

  • Look at the measurement marks on the bed of your sewing machine and keep the edge of the fabric in line with this as you sew.
  • Place the foot on top of a ruler and look at where a 1/4″ measures from the centre of the foot – for my machine, that means keeping the edge of the fabric in line with the edge of the hole where the needle sits/the transparent section of the foot.
  • Sit at your sewing machine, and with the needle in the down position and the foot on the bed of the sewing machine, place a ruler (I’ve used this one!) matching the 1/4″ against the needle and look at where ‘0’ is on your sewing foot.

Personally, I like to measure from the needle position as I’ve found that every machine I’ve had is slightly different and the 1/4″ isn’t quite as accurate as I would like! Generally speaking, with the Janome a 1/4″ is at the intersection of the transparent/metal join at the front of the foot.

What is a scant 1/4 seam allowance?

To sew with a scant 1/4″ essentially means to sew the seam slightly less than 1/4″ from the edge of the fabric, so that the thickness of the thread and the little bit of fabric that is lost in the fold when opening the pieces out takes the total seam allowance up to 1/4″.


At this point, you are probably thinking quilters are crazy! We’re arguing over maybe the width of a piece of thread?!?! And I mean, how much difference can that really make?! The honest answer is that it very much depends on what you are doing. If you’re sewing together squares of fabric until you reach a quilt size you like, you don’t need to worry about this just now!

#QuiltingTheory - learn everything you need to know to begin quilting and grow your skills, starting with The Seam Allowance and a Scant Quarter Inch by fabricandflowers | Sonia Spence

However, if you are working on a block that is made up of lots of pieces, or working on a small block, seam accuracy really starts to matter. A slight discrepancy of 1/32″ per piece/block can soon add to become a big issue: I once had to unpick a whole border round on a medallion quilt because it finished 3/4″ smaller than it should have done (I was working with small 1.25″ squares which is why it had such an impact!)……sooo frustrating, but all part of the learning curve. At least, that’s what I was trying to tell myself at the time!

Working out a Scant 1/4″ Allowance on your machine

We’ve already talked about how to find the 1/4″ position on your machine. For a scant allowance, you will need to sew slightly closer to the edge of the fabric, which can take a bit of trial and error. There are a couple of ways of doing this depending on your machine;

  • Re-position the needle
  • Re-position the fabric

If you can, repositioning the needle is easier than trying to realign the fabric by such a small amount, and easier to replicate time and again. This will very much depend on whether you are able to shift the position of your needle. On my machine, which is digital, you can use the Width setting to shift the needle left or right by slight increments. My machine has a 1/4″ setting, with a needle position of 8.3, but I need to increase it to 8.8 (shifting the needle to the right as you look at the machine) to get a scant seam allowance. I do this each time I switch my machine on, but it soon becomes habit! You should check the handbook for your own machine to see if and how you can re-position your needle.

#QuiltingTheory - learn everything you need to know to begin quilting and grow your skills, starting with The Seam Allowance and a Scant Quarter Inch by fabricandflowers | Sonia Spence

If you need to re-position the fabric, it can be helpful to mark the bed of the sewing machine – Washi Tape is a really good way of creating a guideline to follow without permanently damaging/marking your sewing machine, is easily replaced and relocated if swapping between projects. Although if you have a top-loading bobbin like I do, you may want to make sure it’s full before putting the tape in place!

#QuiltingTheory - learn everything you need to know to begin quilting and grow your skills, starting with The Seam Allowance and a Scant Quarter Inch by fabricandflowers | Sonia Spence

The best way to check for a Scant 1/4″ Allowance is to take three pieces of fabric 2.5″ square. Place two pieces Right Sides Together (RST) and sew along one side. Open out and place the final piece RST with one of the squares and sew so that you have a row of three squares stitched together. Press with the seams to one side and measure the centre square. If it measures 2″ you have achieved a scant seam allowance. If it’s slightly under/over this measurement, then repeat the steps above.

It may take a few attempts, but only needs to be done once (although I would always recommend re-doing these steps if you get a new machine) and is well worth the effort before embarking on a big, or small, project!

Some exceptions!

As always, there are some occasions when you can/need to use something different to a 1/4″ seam allowance (scant or otherwise!);

  • English Paper Piecing (EPP): some quilters prefer to use a bigger seam allowance – generally 3/8″ – when wrapping fabric around paper shapes. This can make it easier to prepare the pieces and allows for the fraying that can occur with the handling of fabric over time but is very much down to personal preference.
  • Basting: If making accessories eg. a pouch, you may need to join two (or more) pieces of fabric temporarily. This is done by using a longer stitch on the machine – or hand stitching – normally within the seam allowance eg. at 1/8″
  • Pattern: although most patterns use common abbreviations and techniques, I would always recommend reading through a pattern before starting a project to make sure that you understand all the standard definitions, and seam allowances that the designer recommends.

And that’s all for Seam Allowance! I hope it’s helpful for you in your sewing journey? If you have any questions then let me know and come back next week when we’ll be looking at fabric. I’ll try not to get too lost in my stash over the coming week whilst I’m doing some research…..!!!!!!

To see all the other posts in this series, you can see the schedule here;

See you soon,

S

Today’s sky::: overcast, grey. Generally miserable. Meh!

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#QuiltingTheory – The Lingo

Hello! And welcome to the first post in the #QuiltingTheory series! Today, we are going to start with all the different quilting definitions, abbreviations and acronyms – or the lingo, if you’d rather! – that is commonly used.

Before we start though, I would like to cover off something that I found really confusing when I started this journey – What is a quilter?! Strictly speaking, patchwork is the cutting up of fabric and stitching it back together again to make lovely patterns. Quilting is the process of placing a number of fabric layers together and stitching through them, often sewing a decorative pattern in the process. Over time, these terms have become interchangeable and Quilter has become shorthand for someone who does either patchwork or quilting. This can encompass quilts, cushions, pouches and other accessories. Once I started quilting I found lots of different projects I could add patchwork too!

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

Now, I confess that this is a long post. I figured it would be beneficial to keep all of the definitions together. To make it easier to navigate, I have split the quilting lingo into broad categories – you can click on the titles below to jump straight to a section – but you may still want to pin this for future reference!

Seams

To find more detail on seams, including how to achieve the correct seam allowance, check out #QuiltingTheory Seam Allowance.

For this week though, we are looking at the most generally used terms;

#QuiltingTheory - learn everything you need to know to begin quilting and grow your skills by fabricandflowers | Sonia Spence
AbbreviationMeaningDefinition
SA Seam AllowanceThe seam allowance is the distance that you sew from the edge of the fabric. For quilting, this is generally 1/4" unless otherwise specified in a pattern.
ScantA seam allowance that is just under a 1/4" seam allowance
Nest SeamsWhen sewing rows of blocks together, the seams for Row A are pressed to eg. The left, and the seams for Row B are pressed in the opposite direction eg. The right. When the rows are placed together for sewing the seams on each row sit - or nest - together neatly allowing for greater accuracy in joining them together (pictured).
Press SeamsTo press a seam, an iron is placed on top of the fabric seam and pressed down, before being moved to another section of the seam and repeating the action. Seams are not ironed in a traditional way to avoid stretching the fabric. In quilting, seams are either pressed open or to one side (normally the side with the darker fabric), depending on what is being sewn.

Fabric / Materials

This week we will look at the different fabric cuts that you can buy – for even more detail check out #QuiltingTheory Fabric here.

#QuiltingTheory - learn everything you need to know to begin quilting and grow your skills by fabricandflowers | Sonia Spence
AbbreviationMeaningDefinition
SelvedgeThe edge of each side of fabric, this is generally trimmed off.
WOFWidth of FabricMost quilting cotton measures 44" wide from edge to edge, or 42" if you exclude the selvedge from each side. You can also get wider fabric eg. 108" wide which is great for backings
FE / F8Fat EighthA piece of fabric measuring 21" wide x 9" tall
FQFat QuarterA piece of fabric measuring 21" wide x 18" tall
Jelly RollA pack of 42 x 2.5" Width of Fabric strips from one collection
Mini Charm (Candy) PackA pack of 42 x 2.5" squares from one collection
Charm PackA pack of 42 x 5" squares from one collection
Layer CakeA pack of 42 x 10" squares from one collection
Dessert CutsA pack of 12 strips measuring 5" x Width of Fabric
BiasFabric cut at a 45* angle to the selvedge, which gives it more stretch.
RSRight SideThe front of the fabric (stronger in colour)
RSTRight Side TogetherPlacing two pieces of fabric (or folding one piece of fabric in half) front sides together.
WSWrong SideThe back of the fabric (duller in colour)
WSTWrong Side TogetherPlacing two pieces of fabric (or folding one piece of fabric in half) wrong sides together.

Tools

There are lots of tools that you can use in your quilting journey, which I will cover off in Week 4. Listed below are the ones that you will most likely come across, or even want to buy, when you first start out – you can see all my favourite tools here!

#QuiltingTheory - learn everything you need to know to begin quilting and grow your skills by fabricandflowers | Sonia Spence
AbbreviationMeaningDefinition
Rotary CutterThis is like a pizza-cutter, but specifically used for cutting fabric. The blades are very sharp and are able to cut through multiple layers of fabric at a time, so are brilliant for cutting out large projects! They have a protective cover on them and the blades can be replaced as they dull.
Cutting MatThese come in lots of different sizes and are often called self-healing as the mat as they are made from a material which closes back together. It is best to always use a sharp rotary cutter and not to always cut in the same place to minimise any potential damage.
Quilting RulerAvailable in lots of different shapes and sizes. When used with a rotary cutter, they enable you to cut multiple strips/pieces of fabric quickly and accurately.
Wonder ClipsHandy for keeping lots of layers together - especially for fabrics that may be marked with a pin - binding, and keeping pieces of fabric/patterns together.
NeedlesThere are lots of different needles available for hand-sewing - varying in length, thickness and the size of the eye where you put the thread through. Favourite needles are very often a personal preference - I like to use a very fine needle, but will use different needles depending on what fabric I'm sewing with and what I'm actually sewing! (you can find my favourite needles by clicking on the link above).
ThreadFor quilting, it is always recommended to use thread that is made out of the same fibres as the fabric eg. Cotton thread with cotton fabric. This helps to minimise wear and tear on the fabric and help the quilt to last.

Techniques

There are many different ways that patchwork can be put together, the ones that you will most likely come across in the beginning are;

AbbreviationMeaningDefinition
BastingA way of joining layers together, generally by stitching, with the basting thread being removed once the layers have been properly secured. This can be done by hand with big stitches and is a great way of using up the odds and ends of thread that are left on a spool/bobbin. Alternatively, it can be done on a sewing machine , using a longer stitch length and within the seam allowance eg. if you are working with a 1/4" seam allowance you would baste at 1/8" inch.
EPPEnglish Paper PiecingA traditional form of patchwork where fabric is wrapped around a piece of paper eg. a hexagon, and secured with either basting stitches or glue sticks. Each of the hexagons are then sewn together to create a larger piece such as a cushion/quilt.
FPPFoundation Paper PiecingThis is used to achieve complex shapes and very accurate piecing. The pattern is printed on to paper and the fabric is sewn on to the reverse side of the paper, with the pattern on the front dictating where the lines should be stitched.
Leaders/EndersA piece of fabric that is used to begin stitching on before moving on to the actual pieces of your quilt. Some machines can chew fabric at the beginning of a new seam or end up with a tangle of threads at the back. By using a leader/ender, if there are any issues the quilt blocks remain unblighted. Some quilters use the leaders/enders as a separate project - a 2 for 1 project - or you can just use a scrap piece of fabric!
Machine-pieceFabric pieces sewn together using a sewing machine
Chain-pieceWhen sewing fabric pieces together by machine, the pairs are sewn together one after the other with a little chain of stitches between them. You end up with a long chain of pieces - almost like bunting! - and when the joining chains are snipped you end up with the individual pairs/blocks. This can help to speed up the process of sewing pieces together - especially useful on a big project! - and also helps to reduce the amount of thread that is wasted.
Hand-pieceSewing pieces of fabric together by hand. The sewing lines are generally drawn on the back as a guide to sew along.
AppliqueFabric shapes are cut out and placed on the front (right side) of a piece of fabric and stitched in position. This can be needle-turned, where the raw edge is folded under and hand-stitched in place, or machine stitched in position, often using a blanket stitch.
ImprovSewing pieces of fabric together in a random way to create fun and interesting patterns, not following a pattern.
Whole ClothOne piece of fabric is used for the front of a quilt and the pattern is created wholly through stitching (by machine or hand).
Y seamsAlso called inset or set-in seams, these occur when three or more pieces of fabric meet, often forming a Y shape, such as when joining hexagons together. The can be joined together by hand or by machine with a bit of practise.
Top StitchStitching added to a project - mostly pouches/bags and dressmaking - to secure and add strength to a seam/edge and add decorative detail.
Slip StitchMost often used for hems or somewhere that you don't want visible stitching such as applique or binding.
Ladder StitchOften used to close a gap that has been left for turning an item out eg. A pouch or soft toy. The stitch is carried from one edge of the hole to the other, creating an invisible closure.

Quilting

The terms and phrases most frequently associated with the quilting stage of making a quilt;

AbbreviationMeaningDefinition
Batting / WaddingThe layer that goes between the quilt top and the backing fabric - it's what makes a quilt lovely, warm and snuggly! There are lots of different materials available - cotton, wool, bamboo.
LoftThis indicates the thickness of the wadding - they can vary from thin to thick depending on the material used. Generally, the thicker the wadding the more difficult it can be to quilt.
BastingBasting a quilt refers to joining the top layer (patchwork), the middle layer (the wadding) and the bottom layer (the backing fabric). This can be done in a number of different ways - using pins, spray glue or thread….it often depends on personal preference and the size of the project!
QAYGQuilt as you GoThis technique can be used in a couple of different ways. For a smaller project, such as a pouch, a piece of fabric will be laid directly on some wadding and stitched in place. Other pieces of fabric will be added in a similar manner. For a larger project such as a quilt, the blocks can be quilted individually before being joined together (this can be useful on really big quilts that would be too tricky to stitch on a domestic sewing machine)
Echo QuiltingStitching around a shape in the quilt, and repeating this with the lines spaced equally apart.
FMQFree Motion QuiltingSewing a pattern on the quilt using a sewing machine - these can range from basic meandering to highly elaborate patterns.
KanthaHand-stitching in big running stitches, often with rows close together to create a beautiful texture
Long ArmSpecialist machines that are used for Free Motion Quilting. If you have made a special quilt, are not confident at quilting or you have a project that is simply too big to tackle on your machine, you can send your quilt to someone who specialises in quilting.
BindingA piece of fabric that is wrapped around the edge of the quilt to hide the raw edges and secure all the layers together. It gives a lovely finish to the quilt and helps to frame the design.

Others

Other words and phrases that I kept coming across when I started this journey that didn’t quite fit into any of the other categories!

#QuiltingTheory - learn everything you need to know to begin quilting and grow your skills by fabricandflowers | Sonia Spence
AbbreviationMeaningDefinition
WIPWork in ProgressMost people (well, I'm hoping it's not just me, anyway!) have a few projects in various stages
UFOUnFinished ObjectSimilar to a WIP!
BOMBlock of the MonthThere are lots of fun programmes/clubs that you can join where you receive the pattern for a new block each month. Some are free, some you pay for and they are both a great way of trying out new skills with a community of people. At the end of the programme, you will have a completed project. They often run over a year but can also run weekly/bi-monthly.
Dog-earsA term used to describe the little triangular ends that sit outside the seams of the blocks when you've made half-square triangle blocks. Personally, I prefer to trim the dog-ears off my blocks before sewing them together as I find it helps with accuracy, but you can just leave them (see picture above)
FlimsySometimes used to describe a quilt top where all the blocks have been joined together, but it hasn't yet been made into a quilt.
Design WallA 'sticky' wall that blocks can be placed on when making a quilt to ensure correct colour placement. Often, this is a piece of wadding stuck on a wall. If you don't have enough wall space, you can use a pin to secure blocks to a sheet which can be folded up, or I find the floor works just as well (best when the kids aren't around!)

Phew! That was quite mammoth, wasn’t it?! I hope that it has all been useful? There are many more terms, but these should cover the key ones that you come across in the beginning. If there’s any that you think I’ve missed out though, then please do let me know!


Come back next week when we will be looking at Seam Allowance in a lot more detail and please drop me a line if you have any questions,

Back Soon,

S x

Today’s sky::: overcast, raining. Generally yuk!

If you’ve enjoyed this post, please do sign-up to my newsletter to have updates and news sent to your inbox. And to see my patterns check out my Etsy shop here.

#QuiltingTheory – an introduction

If you’ve visited this blog before, you probably know that since making my first quilt back in 2012 I have fallen head over heels in love with sewing. It’s something I’m really passionate about and want to get everyone doing!!!

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

Over the years, I’ve encouraged people to pick up a needle and thread and have even managed to convert a few people (hurrah!). In the beginning, there are so many new things to try and understand though. When you first want to start learning how to quilt, it can feel like a whole other language!

I’ve been asked questions, shared tips, and taught workshops and one day it occurred to me: wouldn’t it be great if there was a quilting equivalent of the Driving Theory Test? Somewhere you could find all the information that you need in the beginning to fully understand patchwork and quilting before actually picking up a needle and thread??? Also, I used to work in Market Research so this really appeals to my geeky side!

What is #QuiltingTheory?

During the #QuiltingTheory series, I will go through each of the key areas – the lingo, seam allowance, fabric, essential tools (although if you want a sneak peek, you can shop my favourite tools here!) and the making of a quilt. I will breakdown what things mean and explain the principles behind each of the different steps so that you can learn everything you need to know to begin quilting.

Mini Medallion Cushion tutorial for #QuiltingTheory series by fabricandflowers | Sonia Spence

At the end of the series, I have got a Practical for you – a cushion tutorial. This is a great small project to try out a few of the techniques and the knowledge that you will learn during the series, without blowing the budget or taking too much time!

#QuiltingTheory timings

Once the basics have been covered, I will continue adding to #QuiltingTheory. This will include ‘practical’ articles (tutorials/demos) and a more in-depth look at some of the trickier skills/topics to build a library of information that you can dip into as needed.

I really hope you enjoy this series and if there’s anything in particular that you’d like me to cover (now, or in the future!), or if you have any questions then please do drop me a line! And please do share with others that you think might find it interesting!

Thanks,

S x

Today’s sky::: overcast and wet, but not too cold!

If you’ve enjoyed this post, please do sign-up to my newsletter to have updates and news sent to your inbox. And to see my patterns check out my Etsy shop here.

Flower Meadow Cushion with tips for sewing curves

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Today I’ve got a finish to share with you – hurrah – and some tips on how to sew curves! It’s been a fair while in the making as, although it’s not very big, I’ve been working on it as and when inspiration strikes, trying out different techniques and methods. It’s been quite fun!

Flowers meadow cushion and tips for sewing curves by fabricandflowers | Sonia Spence

The idea for this cushion originally came to me when I started working with my Drunkards Wheel templates. Whilst making the Candy Swirls Quilt, I started playing with the different ways in which the blocks could be tessellated……I kept thinking of flowers and couldn’t help grabbing some fabrics to make a mini meadow!

Flowers meadow cushion and tips for sewing curves by fabricandflowers | Sonia Spence

I love sewing curves. They open up the opportunities to make so many different patterns. Because of the segments in the Drunkards Wheel you can use lots of fabrics – always fun – and it’s a great way of using up scraps.

If you’ve never sewn curves, they can be a bit scary to start with – I remember reading up on it so much before finally having a go. And it wasn’t anywhere near as bad as I thought it would be, honestly!!! The trick is to experiment and find what works best for you.

Some Hints & Tips for sewing curves;

  • Use a smaller rotary cutter eg. 28mm for cutting the curves around the templates, with a max of two layers.
  • Do not use too smaller a stitch length (eg. Anything less than 2.4) – if you need to redo a seam, using a larger stitch length will prevent the fabric from stretching too much.
  • Sew at a slower speed than you normally would, until you are more familiar with the shape. You may also find stopping and repositioning the fabric as you work around the curve, will help to give you a smoother line (if you have one, a knee lift can be very helpful).
  • I like to work with the bigger curve (with the excess fabric) on the bottom.
  • Holding up the fabric as it is being fed into the machine can help with easing the bottom fabric into the curve.
  • The seam ripper is your friend! It can be used to help keep the fabric in place as the fabric goes through the machine and sometimes you will need to redo a seam – but the more you sew, the less this will happen!

The Flower Meadow is a great way of practising sewing curves together in different ways…….the purple flower (a tulip?!) was the trickiest because of all the seams in the centre. I found that sewing the blocks together in to pairs and then basting the centre seam of the two halves in position before joining them together helped with the accuracy, and is a great trick to use whenever you’re working with bulky/difficult seams.

Once the flowers had been made there was a small debate about what to make it in to……..I didn’t need three more cushions (Mr f&f is already moaning!) and then inspiration struck: if I used a king-size pillow, it would be perfect for my book-worm daughter to lean against whilst reading!!!!!

Flowers meadow cushion and tips for sewing curves by fabricandflowers | Sonia Spence

To make the cushion top I went improv and low-volume, adding fabric scraps until I reached the size I wanted (36″ wide x 19″ tall). I worked on each of the flowers individually before adding the panels together. I’ve added the cut measurements to give you an idea if you would like to make your own, but you can alter it to whatever size you want! Or maybe even make lots of rows and turn them in to a quilt?!

Flowers meadow cushion and tips for sewing curves by fabricandflowers | Sonia Spence

Can you see the yellow thread where I hand-basted the quilt layers together? I remember reading somewhere once that the best way of making a job you don’t like bearable, is to find the most fun way of doing it. I’m not a fan of basting quilts, so figured this would be worth try. It was certainly a fun way of doing it (although I’m not sure I’d be so keen on a big quilt!) and the layers kept together really nicely whilst I was embellishing it, so I’ll definitely do it again.

Flowers meadow cushion and tips for sewing curves by fabricandflowers | Sonia Spence

Some bias binding strips for the stems, free-form leaves which were needle-turn appliqued and it was all ready for quilting! I used a mix of embroidery, free-form quilting, echo-quilting and kantha stitching (I ‘drew’ lines 1.5″ apart using a hera-marker so that I knew where to stitch. It was a great way of trying different techniques and the great thing with a small project is that because it’s not too big it’s easy to work with and doesn’t take too long to finish!

Flowers meadow cushion and tips for sewing curves by fabricandflowers | Sonia Spence

Do you ever make a project just to play and try new things? If you’d like to have a play with sewing curves, you can pick up my Drunkards Wheel template set here, or maybe have a go at a pouch or mug rug which are always great quick projects for trying out new things!

That’s all for now, back soon,

S x

Today’s sky:::bright blue but freezing cold!!!

If you’ve enjoyed this post, please do sign-up to my newsletter to have updates and news sent to your inbox. And to see my patterns check out my Etsy shop here.