Category Archives: Tuesday’s Tip

Tips on Teaching Young People to Sew

This has been one wet spring so far, to say the least, and most of us continue to occupy ourselves inside. Sunny days are promised by the weather forecasters, but in the meanwhile we can keep busy sewing our projects. Young girls (and some boys) like to learn what their Moms, Grandmothers and Aunties do with the contents of Hamel’s “purple bags” that come home from the fabric store brimming with various fabrics and notions.

As staff, we love to hear about the projects young people are sewing. Here’s a few things we have heard and helped young sewers gather materials for:  pillows with Minecraft characters, birdcage covers for pet bird, doll blankets, appliquéd pillows, jelly roll quilts, ragged handbags and moreaid2417050-v4-728px-Teach-a-Child-to-Sew-Step-24.

We want to offer you six quick tips to help you as you teach and inspire the next generation how to sew:

1.  Keep it simple. Let them pick out the fabric for a beginner project that appeals to them. A doll quilt is the perfect size to keep his/her attention and complete a project quickly without it taking too terribly long. Start a young child with a needle and thread. Show them how to run a threaded needle through a scrap piece of fabric.

2. Fabric precuts are great idea to start someone to sewing. What could be more simple than opening up a package of precut 5″ squares. Let a child lay out the squares and begin to sew them together without having to cut pieces.

3. Go slow. A staff member at the store offers this great suggestion:  try taking the needle out of your sewing machine and let the child practice the foot pedal speed and the sewing machine function. Safety first. Once the child gets the hang of that then they can begin to slowly join pieces together.aid2417050-v4-728px-Teach-a-Child-to-Sew-Step-2-Version-2

4  Be patient – Take a break after a few minutes. Share a snack or yummy treat with the child learning to sew. This can be a good bonding time as you listen to their ideas and watch them get excited in learning a new skill. It’s going to take a bit of time to concentrate on sewing the squares together.

5. Forget perfect – Good advice for all of us. Jenny Doan often reminds us that “finished is better than perfect”. A finished project that is loved and enjoyed is better than something pushed aside because it’s not absolutely perfect. Relax! Children are learning here and they will improve their skills with practice.

6. Take pictures – As you teach someone a skill like sewing, it’s worth having the pictures to look back on and see how things begin. Share the results of your time at the sewing machine. Many professional quilters fondly remember how they began sewing at a young age and wish there was a picture of that first finished project.

We are waiting to hear how things go out there this summer. Happy stitching!

Tape Marking Quilt Top for Straight Line Quilting

Straight line quilting gives your quilt a clean, modern feel and it’s quite simple to achieve. Lines can go straight along the blocks or diagonally across the quilt top. If a project isn’t too large, I like to use a Frixion pen and my 6 x 24″ ruler to mark lines on the quilt. That’s what I did on the the Dog Gone Cute pillow below.

Dog Gone Cute Pillow

However, another option is using painter’s tape. It comes in varying widths at the hardware store from 1/2″ to 3″. You can lay sizes next to each other to make whatever distance you choose between your lines. We also have a product at the store called “Quilter’s 1/4 inch tape” that works good if you want 1/4″ tape markings. You will also need a walking foot for your machine. The walking foot allows the top and bottom fabrics to feed evenly when you’re quilting. With tape, a walking foot and your imagination, you’re set to go.
 painters tape Quilter's quarter inch tape
The first step is to place the first piece of tape. If you’re crosshatching a large quilt setting that first line can be tricky so take some time to lay it down accurately. Making sure that first placement is straight is important because all the lines will build off of that first one. You can put a few “orientation” marks down before with a Friction pen or marking pencil to help guide you. A partner to help stretch out tape across a large top can be very helpful. The low tack of the painter’s tape will stick nicely, but it won’t leave a residue on your quilt. The key here is not to leave the tape on your quilt top for prolonged lengths of time and/or expose the taped quilt top to summer heat.
Position your walking foot like you see below with the inner edge running along the tape. This prevents any sewing over the tape and it helps keep your line perfectly straight. Sometimes when you stop to adjust your quilt your quilt will shift a bit and if you just have the needle it’s hard to line up your quilt again. With that inner edge of the presser foot you can line up with the tape and keep on sewing.
This is what your line will look like after sewing.
Masking tape can be re-positioned a time or two, but eventually when it isn’t sticky enough to hold a straight line you will need a new piece of tape. Here are a few examples of some of the straight line quilting. Stitching can be done in parallel lines or varying distances apart depending upon your liking.

IMG_2980 copy
Remember to start in the center and work out to the edges. You can always pull fullness to the edges before stitching but it’s no fun having excess fullness bubbling up in the middle of your quilt!

Have fun playing with lines.

Curve Master Presser Foot

Imagine a tool that allows you to master curved seam piecing. A tool that makes sewing curved seams as fast and easy as strip piecing straight seams! That tool is here, now!

Presenting: the Curve Master Presser Foot!!

Curve Master Presser Foot with Adapter #1

Yes, now those challenging concave/convex, inside/outside curves of so many beautiful quilt blocks are within the reach of ALL quiltmakers…Double Wedding Ring or Drunkard’s Path… Wheel of Mystery, Wheels of Whimsy, Robbing Peter to Pay Paul, Improved Nine Patch, Royal Cross… The Strips and Curves quilts… Turn traditional blocks into curved-seam creations…All possible with the Curve Master Presser Foot.

This foot was invented by a quilter, for quilters. This “snap-on” foot comes with several universal adapters to fit most sewing machines. Pieces that help this foot adapt work with machines like Viking, Husqvarna, Janome, Bernina, Pfaff, Singer Featherweight, new Singer machines, Brother, Kenmore, Juki, Elna, BabyLock, Necchi and more!

The Curve Master allows even beginners to sew:

On Any Sewing Machine
¼” Seams, Either Scant or Full, and Curved or Straight
At a Steady, Medium-to-Fast Machine Speed
Without Stopping to Align Fabrics
Producing Square Blocks that Rarely Require Trimming,
AND, Without Pinning, Marking or Clipping!!!

Want one foGO! Drunkard’s Path-7"r yourself? Find the Curve Master Presser Foot HERE, If you are interested in the Accuquilt die that Vanessa talks about in the video you can find it HERE, but feel free to try your own curved pieces cut the from the pattern of your choice.

Watch the video below for you to see this foot in action.

Continuous Bias Binding

Ever looked at those romantic quilts with curved or scalloped edges?  Seen rounded corners on some old-time quilts. They are very beautiful but how do you attach the binding without getting all puckered up? Well, relax and read this post. Let’s start at the beginning as we look at bias binding.

Bias binding is not only beautiful but is so practical. Quilters prefer it for three reasons:  

I. Bias binding wraps around curved edges, rounded corners and scallops. Because the fabric used to make bias binding is cut “on the bias” it bends and stretches as you manipulate it around your quilt’s edge.

II. Practically speaking, bias binding is strong and durable on all those quilts that will go through hard use. There’s just something about the fabric threads at an angle that makes the binding withstand wear and lots of use.

III. Striped or plaid fabrics result in a fabulous candy cane or barber shop sign effect. Very cool and effective. Some of our customers only use bias bindings with striped fabric because they love the look so much!

Now we want to share with you how to create your own double fold bias binding efficiently through the “tube method”. This method gives you a long, continuous piece of bias fabric with little waste. No cutting endless short strips and wasting weird pieces at the end!

The amount of fabric needed to give you an adequate length of bias binding is determined by the following four step formula:

1. Measure the length of bias strip needed to go around the perimeter of your quilt sandwich. Remember to be somewhat “generous” in your measurement as you will have hills and valleys to wrap the binding around.

2. Determine the width of cut strip wanted. Most bias bindings are 2 to 2 1/2″ wide.

3.  Multiply the “length” x “width” of cut strip = area of fabric

Example: 230″ in length needed to go around your quilt x 2″ wide = 460″ area

4. Find square root of the area to give you the size of square you need. Use a scientific calculator to get the square root or estimate and multiply until the find the “closest EVEN NUMBER” that matches the “area” you came up with in Step #3. Round up the square root to a simple number. Eg. the square root of 460 is 21.4476105895, go with a 22″ square!

5. Cut a square the size of your square root area. OR 22″ square in our example.


1. Cut your fabric square (as per size calculated above) from the fabric you want to use as bias binding.IMG_2918


2. Cut your square in half diagonally.IMG_2920


3.  Overlap the two triangles that you have created (right sides together). Make sure to overhang the points at both ends of the pinned edge evenly.IMG_2922-1


4.  Sew the pinned edge using a 1/4″ seam allowance.IMG_2923-1


5. Your piece should now look like a parallelogram (remember geometry?)IMG_2925


6. Press the seam allowance open taking care not to stretch or distort your bias seam. Now mark lines with your ruler. Distance between the lines will be the width of bias binding you want. Eg. 2″, 2 1/4″, etc.IMG_2926


7.  Cut a slit about 5″ long or so along the line closest to the edge as shown.IMG_2928


8.  After cutting the “slit”, fold both of the outside corners to the middle and pin as shown matching up the lines on both sides of the soon to be seam. NOTE – it is crucial at this point to stagger this seam as you pin it in place leave the slit you cut as a tail off the side. I know it looks a little weird at this point but trust me, this is going to be fabulous!IMG_2929



9. Sew the seam where you have pinned it together using a 1/4″ seam allowance.IMG_2938


10.  After sewing the seam allowance, cut carefully along the lines you drew earlier (remember those lines are on the wrong side of your fabric and won’t be seen when they become enclosed in the seam of your quilt later. Cutting this is becomes the funnest part.IMG_2939


11. You are cutting a long continuous spiral. Kinda like those apple peeling tools that cut the apple peel off an apple in one continuous string.IMG_2944


12. Now you can take this long length of continuous bias binding to your iron and press all the seam joins you have open. Then press the binding in half lengthwise WRONG SIDES TOGETHER matching the raw edges.

13.  VOILA!  Now you have miles (or at least several metres of continuous  bias binding to be used on your quilt sandwich that is awaiting binding. Some quilters use this method for all of their bindings. But remember this is the best kind of binding for curves, scallops and as a way of seeing that candy cane effect.


Sew the the double fold bias to the edge of your quilt or placemat (did I mention that this method works great on placemat bindings?!  Be very careful not to s-t-r-e-t-c-h the bias strip. Be especially careful as you go around curves.

Next time, we hope to be able to show you how to apply this binding onto your project and get them curves bound up!

Happy stitching for now!



Sewing with Batiks

CantikBatiks collageOur shop is brimming with bolts and bolts of Batik Handpaints and Cantik Batiks right now. We
have lots of bolts on both levels of the store as well as kits and precuts. We have so many that we often think we are going to have to hang them from the ceiling pretty soon!


42279F8_zIt’s easy to fall in love with the richness of the colours used in batiks. The colours range from tone on tone “Flavours” and “Watercolors” to multi-coloured Handpaints. We still have lots of bolts of regular printed cotton on bolts in the store as well. So many possibilities and yet there seems to be a myth out there in the quilt world. The myth is this (and I hear it almost every week) “You cannot mix batiks and printed cottons into one project!” What? Where has this come from? No one seems to know, but we want to bust that myth and suggest that YES, you can combine batiks (or not) with other printed cottons!

Some two hundred years ago when quilt making was in the early stages, ladies pieced and quilted with silks, wools and drapery fabrics. They used whatever they would get a hold of. In the last few decades we have seen batiks and printed cottons used and designed together by a few designers such as Editya Sitar of Laundry Basket Quilts and Pat Sloan who designs for Moda Fabrics. We have sold several kits that have both types of fabrics in them. Batiks and quilting cottons marry together beautifully in a project, use them alone or in combination with traditional fabrics for a fantastic effect! An excellent example is the sampler quilt pictured below.

Beginner Sampler

Traditional cottons & batiks are beautifully combined in this sampler quilt


Tips for Sewing with Batiks:

1. Microtex Sewing Machine Needle – either a 80/12 or 90/14 size of Microtex needles we get 1730afrom Schmetz have a very slim acute point. Batiks have a dense thread count. This very thin acute point creates beautiful stitches for quilt piecing. A 50 weight thread is good for piecing batiks.

2. Right Side or Wrong Side? – Batiks are almost reversible! It’s hard to tell right side or wrong side? In the batik-making process, the wax that creates the design sinks into the fabric. As a result, both sides of the fabric show a clear image after dyeing, and it is often hard to tell a difference between the right and wrong side of the fabric. When both sides are virtually identical, take your pick; I choose the right side to be where the design is clearer with less fuzzy edges.

3. Densely Woven – Batiks don’t fray as much when handled and pieces cut on the bias hardly stretch at all. These fabrics have a smooth texture that makes them easier to press and they’ll give you sharp, crisp points. Batiks press like a dream. Pressing seams to one side or open with a batik fabric is a pleasure because they hold their shape where you set your iron.

4. Prewash? – You may want to prewash your batiks before cutting and quilting with them, it’s up to you. They will soften up with washing.

Bali 2

One of several Batik fabric shelves in the store

Hopefully we’ve inspired you to sew with batiks if you’ve been apprehensive. You’ll be so happy you did!