Category Archives: Tuesday’s Tip

Tuesday Tip….What is a Selvage?


A “selvage” is the long, finished edge of the fabric. It spans the length of the fabric. Most fabric companies will use the selvage to print the name and designer of the fabric and you might also have a series of coloured dots showing on the selvage. These are the colours found in the fabric’s print and this can be very helpful for matching fabrics.

selvage spots

Try to keep the info from the selvage until your project is completed. If you run out of fabric in the middle of a project, this information can help you track down some additional fabric.

Most quilting cotton fabrics are milled on looms that create fabric that is 45 inches wide including the selvage. To accommodate variances and shrinkage, assume a 40-inch fabric width.

Lately, it’s quite trendy to save and collect selvages from various fabrics to create projects. Fabric designers are including more and more decorative elements such as images, script and colour dots on selvages. I bet that even if you aren’t into collecting these narrow strips of fabric, there is probably someone in you sewing group who would love to be gifted with your selvage pieces. It’s amazing what can be created with them!

selvage dress

Selecting a Quilt Binding

selecting a binding

There is no set rule about the colour of your binding, but you want to select a colour that will blend with the top of the quilt. The binding is a finishing touch for your quilt and, in most cases, it should not take away from the quilt’s design. It can even match the outermost border and become a part of the border instead of a separate element.

Of course, if you decide that you want your binding to stand out as a design element for your quilt, there’s nothing wrong with that. It can be very effective and attractive alternative to the binding that fades into the background.

For instance, consider piecing different strips of fabrics together for the binding. This can be done in random lengths to create a scrappy look. I like to use up all of the fabrics used in the quilt top to create a binding. A scrappy binding, using the same fabrics already incorporated in the quilt top, blends right in because the colours are all in the quilt already. For a more graphic, contemporary look, piece regular lengths of alternating colours, (black and white maybe). This will serve as a snazzy frame for your quilt.

red pepper black white binding

Here at Hamels, we love the look of Moda’s Grunge fabrics when used as binding fabrics or Moda’s Bella Solids. Enjoy the process of selecting a binding for your quilt top and give your quilts the perfect finishing touch they deserve. Happy stitching!

grunge spots


Ironing and Pressing Patchwork

An iron can be your best tool whilst sewing your quilt blocks. The difference between a quilter whose work looks fabulous and one whose work is so-so often comes down to the ironing and pressing during the quilt’s construction. Your iron can smooth out problem corners, make your quilt lie flat, ease in a piece that’s just a shade too small, create crisp points and so much more. It’s very important to take some time with your iron to press your blocks and quilt tops properly. If you are considering a new iron, the Oliso iron is really neat in that it lifts itself automatically with just a touch.


We are also loving the new Steamfast travel steam iron. Currently these little hand-held pressing irons are very popular for quilters. They are easy to grasp with your hand and are great for maneuvering over your fabrics as you piece blocks together. They are portable, great to take to classes and retreats as well as to use right in your home studio. Our customers, who have recently purchased this iron, are raving about how much they love this small iron that gives some mighty good results!


There is “ironing” and then there’s “pressing”. Ironing is the act of moving the iron back and forth overt the fabric. Pressing is a simple up and down movement of the iron. Quilters “press” with their irons in a simple up and down movement to avoid overstretching the seams. Just make sure you are using enough pressure to enable the heat to “set” the fabric.


We like using Best Press for this part of the quilt-making process. This spray produces flat, crisp quilt blocks and quilt tops that are nice and flat for laying over your batting and backing.BestPressSpray

There’s some debate in quilting regarding the use of steam. I, personally, like to use steam with my iron as I press quilt blocks. Hot water offers an added force to the iron’s heat to set seams. The use of steam will smooth out most creases and wrinkles from your fabrics. However, if you are working with paper patterns for paper foundation piecing, cut off the steam.

Use a cotton (high) setting on your iron when quilting with cotton fabrics. Remember that Fireside, Minky or other synthetic fabrics, need to be kept away from hot irons to avoid melting!

Fusible products also need to be ironed with caution. A fusible is a glue or glue-like bonding agent applied to interfacings and other materials that when melted with an iron, bond with fabric. Fusible are used to stabilize fabrics, to join fabrics together (as in fusible appliqué) and for other purposes. Each fusible product has a special personality and you must follow the directions that come on the package. Some fusible will quickly melt and destroy your iron with “goo” if you don’t use a pressing sheet. Others might require steam. Some won’t work with steam. The appliqué pressing sheet is great because you can see through this translucent product and keep an eye on your pressing.BTD206_z

We hope you can enjoy the ironing and pressing process as you create your quilt tops and let us know if we can help you with your pressing questions!

Tuesday Tip….What is a Walking Foot and How is it Used?

The Walking foot, (also referred to as an Even Feed, or Duel Feed Foot) is a presser foot that helps prevent multiple layers of fabric slipping when they are sewn together. As we prepare to get into 2018 quilting projects, perhaps you would like to finish some quilts by machine quilting them yourself.  In our Basic Machine Quilting class, students learn about using a “walking foot”. If you are unable to take our class, there are plenty of tutorials and videos online to assist you in machine quilting.

We stock a common “generic” low-shank walking foot at the store and if your machine manual says “low shank” we can often fit this generic foot to your machine. However, if you have a special machine or a high shank requirement, we might have to refer you to a sewing machine dealer to find the correct walking foot to attach to your machine. Please feel free to call us or come into the store to see if we can assist you with a walking foot.


The walking foot works by having it’s own set of feed dogs. As your machine needle moves up & down, a lever which clips to the needle bar lets the walking foot’s feed dogs move/walk along the fabric, hence the name walking foot. The fabric is therefore evenly fed through your machine.

The walking foot can be used for any project where fabrics are likely to slip, and is most commonly used for:

  • Lighter weight knit fabrics, to prevent stretching
  • Perfect pattern matching e.g. on plaid fabrics
  • Quilting where it helps to ensure that the layers of a quilt do not shift when they are quilted together.

Using the Walking foot for quilting

The most commonly used methods for quilting with a walking foot are;

1.  “In the Ditch” in the seam

stitch in ditch

2.    Grid lines

grid walking foot

3.    Echo quilting around your blocks, as done around the friendship star block below;

echo walking foot
The walking foot also often has a guide bar to help you to keep an even distance between quilt lines.


There are lots of creative ways you can use your walking foot for quilting using your machine’s practical and decorative stitches.  For example;

Running Stitch / Serpentine Stitch



With a walking foot and your quilt sandwich (three layers assembled: top, batting and backing) you can complete most quilts. This will save you a tremendous amount by not having to pay a professional to quilt your projects for you. Many antique quilts were originally quilted by hand following straight lines marked across a quilt top. You can re-create this traditional method yourself with a walking foot and some patience. If you look at how the modern quilters are quilting their quilt tops, they mostly do straight line quilting. So give your walking foot some exercise and try machine quilting your next project yourself by sewing in the ditch or quilting diagonal lines across your quilt.

straight line quilting


Tuesday’s Tip….Sewing Machine Bobbin Tips

The correct bobbin for your particular machine and having it wound appropriately can make your sewing time much more productive without frustration. Here are a few tips about sewing machine bobbins.

bobbin storage

1. You always need MORE sewing machine bobbins.
How many bobbins do you really need? In a recent survey, the average sewer said they had  between 20-30 sewing machine bobbins for each machine they owned. Once you are around the quilting community for a while, you will appreciate that different machines offer specific features and benefits. Eg. newer electronic machines can do “blanket stitch” for appliqué whilst a coveted Singer Featherweight is portable and indestructible to transport to classes, retreats and off to vacation properties. Many of us quilters are very proud of the five or more machines we have in our studios!

Most sewing machines come with 3-5 bobbins when you buy them which sounds like enough, but sewers often need more bobbins to accommodate the variety of thread colours they sew with. Keep buying sewing machine bobbins as you purchase fabrics for your projects. You will eventually have enough.

2. You MUST use the bobbins that are made for your machine.
Just because you like the color blue does not mean you can use these bobbins in your particular machine. Bobbins are made specific for each sewing and embroidery machine and there are many different types and classifications of machine bobbins. If we don’t have the bobbin you need for your particular machine(s) at the store, we will refer you to our sewing machine mechanic for assistance.

different bobbins

3. Plastic bobbins can bulge if filled with too much tension or too tightly.
Filling a sewing machine bobbin too tightly can make a plastic bobbin bulge. This is hard to see the problem, but the bobbin ends up too tall for machine and will cause an awful mess in the bobbin area. Also if the bobbin is wound unevenly it can wobble in your machine and become an issue.

4. Plastic bobbins and metal bobbins of the same size can NOT be swapped.
Machines are set for a very precise tension setting. If they are set for a lighter plastic bobbin, the tension will change if a heavier metal bobbin is used. Refer to your manual or machine dealer to see which bobbin is correct for your model of machine.

5. Bobbins must be inserted to spin the correct direction.
Many machines have a picture to remind you which way a bobbin should spin. Refer to your machine manual or machine dealer to ensure that you are inserting the bobbin into the machine correctly.

inserting bobbin

6. Do not leave this thread tail sticking up!
This tail will interfere with the forming and the connecting of the top thread with the bobbin thread with EVERY stitch made. Be sure to cut this tail off so nothing sticks up.

7. WORST thing for a sewing machine mechanic to find in a sewing machines’ accessory box.
When a sewing machine mechanic opens your machine and sees a wide variety of bobbin types mixed together and none of them are the correct bobbin for the machine, this is a guarantee way to make them cringe. This is a huge NO-NO! Just because bobbins came with the machine when you received it second hand, does not mean that last person was using a correct bobbin. Do you really have the right bobbin? Double check your machine manual or with your machine dealer as to which bobbins are right for your machine.

8. Buy more bobbins.
As you learn to do different quilting tasks, you will need more bobbins. Different thread weights are used for piecing your quilt top, machine quilting and/or decorative topstitching. Don’t be afraid to experiment with different thread types but take some time to learn what their function is and how you can achieve different stitches. I like to have bobbins wound with threads for piecing a quilt top, machine quilting and for blanket stitching appliqués. It’s very hand to store the bobbin with the matching thread spool together so that they are accessible for the next project.