All About Quilting Quilting is a craft that has been around for centuries. For hundreds of years, the Chinese have used quilted cloth for their padded winter clothing. The Crusaders found that the quilted shirts worn by Arabs offered a great deal of protection under their chainmail. They even brought the idea back home in the 13th century. The process was adapted by European women for the use in creating bedcovers. Quilting came to America with the Pilgrims, in the 16th century. Lack of resources made it necessary for the settlers to recycle their clothing and other fabrics, they made quilt tops, cutting the fabric into smaller pieces and patching or clouting it over and over until it wore out completely. These first quilts were more practical than pretty, but as the settlers prospered the designs became more colorful and elaborate. Applique also became a popular way of decorating the quilts and the patchwork quilt was officially born. Around this time quilts became associated with the celebration of important events. Specific designs were created for specific reasons. The Double Wedding Ring design was used to mark a marriage or anniversary. This design was made from interlocking rings, each constructed from tiny patches. It was a very time consuming project, and usually was worked by multiple quilter's at the same time. These days' patchwork quilts are traditionally made from scraps left over from past sewing projects. Not all scraps are suitable for this purpose. Loosely woven fabrics, such as muslin, are weak and prone to distortion, while very tightly woven fabrics, such as ticking, are not flexible enough and hard to stitch. Cotton is the best fabric to use, especially for inexperienced quilters. Once a quilter is more experienced they may add other fabrics like silk, lightweight wool and so on. The color of a quilt is up to the creator. Most quilters plan their project carefully, or follow an established pattern. Making test patches is a great way to experiment. Colors are usually sorted into tones, light, medium and dark. Using tone helps to create depth and design. Textured fabric also creates different effects. Pre-wash all fabrics in mild detergent and warm water before starting a quilt. Any fabrics that may run should be washed separately. When the fabrics are dry they should be ironed, either with a steam iron, or a dry iron and a clean damp cloth. Quilts are made of three layers. The top piece is the layer that is decorated and most elaborate. The middle piece is a layer of batting, or wadding, that provides warmth. The third piece is the backing. These three layers are held together with lines of stitching. These lines may be worked in a grid, in straight rows or elaborate patterns. Originally they were sewn by hand with a needle. Today some quilters still produce quilts this way, while others prefer machine quilting. In the pioneer days the only equipment needed to produce a quilt included a needle, thread and material, and hopefully a pair if shears and a thimble. A wooden frame would be constructed to allow the quilter to use both hands, or to enable more than one sewer to work at a time. Quilting bees were popular social gatherings. Today many quilters prefer to use a large wooden hoop to make their projects more portable. What Are Quilts? Quilts are bed coverings made up of three layers: a quilt top, a layer of batting, and a layer of material for backing. The layers are usually combined using the technique of quilting. Quilting is the process of using a needle and thread to combine two or more layers of cloth. This step may be only functional, or if more elaborate, for decoration and design. Tying is another method of connecting the layers in quilts together. This method is usually chosen when a quilt is needed quickly for functional purposes. The three layers still need to be prepared and basted. Thread or yarn is used for the process. Square knots are used to finish off the ties, which are placed 3-5" apart all over the quilt. A quilt that is tied is sometimes called a comforter. Once upon a time quilts were created for necessity. Today creating quilts has become an art form. Gifted quilter's are called fabric artists instead of the outdated seamstress or quilter. Not only are bed quilts popular, but quilted clothing and wall hangings as well. Handmade quilts may sell for hundreds of dollars and hang on museum walls, not just bed frames. Amish quilts from Pennsylvania and Ohio are especially sought after, as are vintage and antique quilts. If you are lucky enough to have inherited or purchased such an heirloom, taking proper care of it will maintain and perhaps increase its value. Quilts should never be stored in plastic bags, cardboard boxes or wooden trunks. Quilts should be aired at least twice a year, but not in direct sunlight. Very old quilts should be aired flat to avoid stressing the stitches. There is always a risk in washing antique fabric. Spot test it first. If you are using a machine, wash in cold water with a mild detergent and a gentle cycle. Dry your quilt on a flat surface. Using a fan and rotating it will speed up the drying process. Quilts throughout history tell the stories of their times and makers. This is especially true during the depression when fabric was scarce. Some historians even believe secret messages and codes were hidden in handmade quilts at different times throughout history. One such story relates to the Underground Railroad. A certain quilt pattern would mean it was safe for escaping slaves to continue on their journey. Not all historians believe this theory, however it is true that signature quilts were a popular method of raising funds both before and after the Civil War. Signatures were added after a donation was made. These quilts were also known as friendship quilts. While not all historians agree on this usage in the past, it is becoming increasingly popular today. Memory quilts and t-shirt quilts are popular and treasured gifts. Technology has even made it possible to add photos to fabric. Quilts are still used to raise money at raffles and charity events. Quilt guilds are being created and growing at a rapid rate, preserving and passing on treasured patterns and techniques. Quilting 101 There are many decisions to be made before a quilting project begins. The first is choosing what design you will use. This choice may vary from project to project. Traditional quilting involves following the outline of the block's design. You would stitch 1/4 inch from each seam line on your pieced or appliqued patch. This would be just outside the pressed seam allowances. Stitching in the ditch is another quilting process. In this method you stitch right into the seam. The shape of the design becomes distinct and the stitches are almost invisible as the fabric on each side of the seam puffs up around them. In Design quilting, you embellish your quilt block with a set design. You simply purchase a quilt stencil and trace onto your patch in any open spaces. Echo design quilting is when lines of stitching follow the outline of the block, then are repeated every 1/4 inch. This repetition makes sections of very heavy quilting and is not practiced by beginners. Overall design quilting ignores the block's pattern and uses an overall design. Three overall designs often used are grids of squares, diamonds and clamshells. What quilting design you choose will also affect what pattern and fabrics you choose and vise versa. What you need to learn to do is visualize the completed project before you even begin. Obviously, if you want to use stencils and the design quilting method, you must choose fabric that has room for you to stencil on it. Now that you have chosen you pattern, fabric and design you may begin piecing you quilt top. This involves creating a template, cutting all the pieces and sewing the blocks together. Once the blocks are completed they too must be connected to form the quilt top. You should first lay out all your blocks to make sure they are uniform in size, as well as in the correct position. Try not to place blocks that are too similar in design or color next to each other. Once you are satisfied with the design just divide the quilt into rows, either horizontal or vertical and begin sewing. Once your quilt top is finished you are ready to layer it together with the batting in the middle and the backing fabric on the back. Polyester batting is the most popular and easy to use filling available today. All you have to do is open the bag and unroll it. This type of batting comes in different lofts or thicknesses, the thicker the loft, the warmer the quilt. Backing fabric should have a low thread count and be loosely oven. The backing and the batting should be just slightly larger than the finished quilt top. Backing fabric usually needs to be seamed together. The traditional way is to seam three lengths of fabric, of equal widths, vertically down the backing. Cut off the selvage first, than shrink the fabric before you use it. Sew together the seams and press. Place the backing on the floor, wrong side up. It should be about 2 inches larger than the quilt top. Roll out the batting. It should be cut about 1 inch smaller than the backing and one inch larger than the quilt top. Center the quilt top on top of the batting face-up. Pin all three layers together. Baste the layers together, beginning in the center of the quilt. You may use running stitches or Z stitches for basting. If you are hand quilting your project you will require either a quilt frame, or a large hoop. Hoops are more portable, but require more basting. Once your project is secure you begin stitching the three layers together in very small uniform stitches, using the design you chose earlier. Start With about 18 inches of thread and begin working in the centre of your project, quilting toward the outside edge. So You Want To Make A Quilt The process of making a quilt involves several basic tasks: measuring, cutting, marking and stitching. Each step has special tools and or techniques that can save time and make the project you choose easier to complete. The first step is to select a quilt design or pattern, and your fabric. If you are a beginner, choose a simple design to begin with. Try to envision you finished quilt. What color do you want it to be? Do you want to incorporate different prints with solids? Prints may range from plaids to florals and even stripes. Solid fabrics come in just about every color imaginable. Cotton fabric is generally the easiest fabric to work with. Do not be afraid to experiment. All fabrics should be pre-washed in mild detergent and warm water, dried and pressed. Step two involves measuring and cutting. If you buy quality-cutting tools, use them only for sewing. This will keep them sharp and make your cuts precise while saving time too. Rotary cutters are available in different sizes. They allow you to cut smooth edges on multiple layers of fabric quickly and easily. Small cutters work well on curves: larger cutters are great for long straight lines and many layers of fabric. Cutting mats should be used with rotary cutters. A good clear ruler is also a valuable tool. Sewing scissors and shears are also necessary. Accuracy is important in quilting. Taking the time to cut accurately will ensure your quilt pieces fit together perfectly. Marking tools should be tested before you use them. You want the marks to come out easily without damaging the material. Special quilter's pencils are available with white or gray lead, and an eraser on the end. Other types include soapstone, which is made of pressed talc, and water-soluble, which is great for darker fabrics. Marks from both types may be removed with a damp cloth. Step three involves stitching. Every quilt project should be layered and basted before the actual quilting is involved. Quilting pins should be used to hold pieces together. If you are hand basting there are special needles, with small round eyes, that are favored by quilter's. Use a single strand of white cotton thread to baste. You may however, prefer to use curved, rustproof safety pins to make the basting process quicker and easier. Pressing at each stage of the construction is also important. Use the tip of the iron and move in the direction of the grainlines. The general rule of quilting is to press each stitched seam before crossing it with another. Quilting is the fourth step. Quilting holds the quilt top, batting, and backing together. It also adds texture and enhances the design. You may quilt by hand or by machine. Hand quilting is the traditional method; machine quilting takes less time and is more durable. Binding is the final step in creating a quilt. Binding fabrics may either match or complement the other fabrics in the quilt. Binding also helps to square up your finished quilt. Essential Supplies for Quilting If the quilting bug has bitten you, you may be confused about what exactly you will need for supplies for your new craft. A huge part of the fun of starting a new hobby is learning about what kinds of supplies you will need to accomplish it. There's something so satisfying about working with tools and supplies. While the craft of quilting doesn't technically require much more than a good sewing machine, needles, thread and scissors, there are so many wonderful supplies on the market that will make quilting easier and much more enjoyable. Start with a sewing machine, the most basic of your supplies. Though it is technically possible to sew a quilt without a machine, and some people still prefer to do it, most busy crafters today like to use a machine. You'll want to at least use it for piecing together the blocks for the quilt top, and after that you can choose to do the actual quilting by hand or machine. But most quilters would agree that the sewing machine is the most essential of your supplies, and so the soundest advice is to buy the best you can afford. There are many wonderful brands such as Bernina, Pfaff, Janome, and Husqvarna Viking, to name a few. Bear in mind that most quilters only need a machine to sew a straight line, so you don't need to worry about buying one with a lot of fancy stitches. Next on any quilter's list of supplies is a cutting tool. Plain old fashioned scissors are good, and you'll need a pair dedicated to fabric and one for paper only (paper dulls scissors very quickly). However, as a quilter your new best friend is sure to be a rotary cutter and mat. A rotary cutter is a much more efficient tool than the scissors you may be used to, and you can also cut pieces for quilt blocks in volume with it. You'll need a rotary mat to protect the surface you are working on. Don't make the mistake of putting a rotary cutter and mat at the bottom of your list of essential supplies-they will make your life easier and your new hobby much more pleasurable. You'll need fabric, of course, and most quilters swear by 100 per cent cotton fabric. The array of color and pattern that cotton fabric comes in is truly staggering. You'll also want to put thread on your list of supplies. Cotton thread is good, with a high luster and long-lasting strength. You'll need pins for a variety of reasons. Pins seem to be one of those notions that quilters have very specific preferences for-you might prefer good old fashioned straight pins made of all steel, or T-pins, or pins with the brightly colored heads. Why not put a variety on your shopping list of supplies and experiment with which ones you like best? You'll also need needles and a seam ripper. Many quilters also consider a bulletin or idea board as an essential. This can be placed near where your sewing machine is set up and used as a place to pin swatches, arrange fabrics in potential color combinations, and post ideas torn from magazines. Start your list of essential supplies today, and you'll be a happy quilter. Choosing And Preparing Fabric Choosing fabric for a quilting project can be as much fun as doing the project itself. Even if to quilters choose the same quilt pattern, different choices of fabric will make each quilt unique. Most quilter's prefer using fabric that is 100 % cotton because they are easier to sew, mark, press and hand quilt. If you are shopping for fabric in a quilt shop you will rarely find fabric that is not pure cotton. Fabrics will also probably be arranged according to colors and print types. With more experience fabrics other than cotton may be added for variety. Not all fabrics are suitable however. If you are using an unusual fabric for the first time, or want to use different types of fabrics together, try a small test block first. Fabrics of a medium density, with an even weave work well. Loosely woven fabrics are prone to distortion, as are stretch fabrics. Silk, lightweight wool and some plastics may be used with experience. Both the color and tone of the fabric you choose will influence the overall effect of the pattern that you choose. Tone may be used to create depth and interest with greater effect than when using color alone. Good planning is necessary to achieve the desired look. Color is greatly affected by the colors around it. Using contrasting colors will make pieces of a quilt block stand out from each other. Combing certain warm colors such as reds, yellows and oranges, in the same quilt block as cool colors like blues, greens or violets, will make them look more vivid. Combining fabrics with various print scales and styles can add visual texture to your quilt. Interesting visual effects may also be achieved by using colors of graduated values. Printed cotton fabrics are available in many designs and styles including batiks, homespun plaids and florals, tiny-grained prints that look like solids, reproduction prints, and soft flannels. Solid-color fabrics come in just about every color, shade and tint that you can imagine. Quilt blocks made from fabrics of the same or various shades of one color, but of contrasting textures can create pleasing results. Fabrics with a nap such as velvet, or fabrics with sheen like taffeta also provide interest. Whatever fabric you choose for your quilting project, you must prepare it properly before you begin. Most cotton fabrics shrink when they are washed and dried. If you do not preshrink your fabric before you make your quilt, the fabrics may pucker at the stitching lines and the finished product may shrink in size the first time it is washed. To prevent this wash all fabrics first in a washing machine on a short gentle cycle. Use cool or warm but never hot water. You may use a mild detergent, but it is not necessary unless the fabric is soiled. Wash like colors together in case they are not colorfast. Machine dry the fabric and press it with an iron. You are now ready to begin your project. A Notion About Notions When you take up quilting, there are many notions, or items that will make your task easier and more fun. These specialty items are available online, in craft shops, department stores and quilt shops. While not all are necessary, they really do come in handy. Metal-edged rulers are used when creating templates and when cutting cardboard and fabric with a rotary cutter or knife. Metre rules are used with set squares to cut lengths of fabric. Set squares are used to measure accurate right angles and are used with metre rules to cut lengths of fabric. Tape measures are flexible measuring tools used for measuring lengths of fabric. Pair of compasses are used for drawing circles. Vanishing markers crate special marks that will fade n contact with water. Dressmaker's wheels and chalk are used to directly mark fabric. The chalk will brush off. Dressmaker's scissors and shears are used for cutting fabric only. Paper scissors are used for cutting paper. Embroidery scissors are small, sharp and often decorative scissors that are used in quilting to cut thread and trim fabric. Pinking shears have serrated blades. They are used to create decorative edges and prevent fraying. Rotary cutters are used with a cutting mat. They are great for cutting multiple pieces that are exactly the same, at the same time. Rotary cutters are available in different sizes. Small cutters work best for cutting curves and a few layers of fabric. Large cutters cut many layers at a time and are ideal for cutting long straight lines. Cutting mats are made especially for use with rotary cutters. They protect both the tabletop and the blade. Mats with printed grids are useful for cutting right angles. Quilter's needles are used for hand sewing applique and patchwork. Betweens are used for making smaller stitches. Crewel needles are used for working embroidery stitches. Quilting pins are longer than dressmaker's pins and pass through several layers of fabric easily. Safety pins are sometimes used in basting quilt blocks together. Beeswax is applied to quilting thread before stitching so that the thread passes smoothly through the fabric. Thimbles are essential for hand quilting. They are used to push the needle through several layers of fabric at once. Many styles are available. Some quilters and sewers collect thimbles. Unpickers-or rippers are used to remove stitches. Irons are used for pressing patchwork seams and to remove wrinkles from fabric. Embroidery hoops are used while quilting. Wooden frames are usually used for hand quilting. Plastic frames with metal spring closures are used for machine quilting. Ribbon may be used to embellish applique or crazy patchwork. It may also be used to edge a border. Ribbon may be velvet, satin or manmade material. Trimmings such as fringing, pompon tape; tassels and flat ribbon tape may be used to make unusual edgings or to embellish a patchwork piece. Lace can be used to embellish appliques. Quilters' gloves offer protection when using rotary cutters and needles. Needle threaders make threading needles a breeze. Any of the notions listed above would make a great gift for your favorite quilter. Sewing Tips For Beginning Quilters Sewing by hand, or with a needle and thread is the traditional method used to piece together quilt blocks. Even if you own a sewing machine you should practice these stitches. Remember to choose the smallest size needle that you can comfortably work with. Be sure that you are using special quilting thread. Quilting thread is thicker, more durable and doesn't tangle. Cut a piece of quilting thread about to feet long. Thread the needle and place a single knot in the end of the thread with a short tail to prevent unraveling. Do not double the thread. Sew with one single strand. Place the two quilt pieces that you are connecting together, with right sides facing each other. Pin them using three pins. Place one pin in each of the top two corners, and the third pin in the middle of the piece. Begin at one corner and poke the needle through both layers of fabric then bring it up through the fabric about 1/8th of an inch down the seam line. Take one backstitch to keep your end secure, and then continue this in and out stitching. This is a running stitch, also called a piecing stitch. It takes practice to get a straight line. You may draw a line in pencil on the wrong side of the fabric if this helps. Once you have reached the other corner take a backstitch in reverse and make a 90-degree turn into the seam allowance. Make to stitches and cut the thread. Many quilters do not knot the ends of their thread, as they feel knots rub and wear out the material faster. Another stitch that beginners should learn is the applique stitch. In appliques blocks a fabric motif is cut out, layered and stitched onto the background of another fabric. This method of sewing the layers together needs to be almost invisible to the eye. The applique stitch should leave a small visible dot of a stitch. To begin, start with a quilting needle and knotted quilting thread in a color that blends with the applique motif. Prepare the design by basting the raw edges under. Pressing with the tip of an iron first will help. Next baste the fabric motif onto the background fabric in the desired position. Now it's finally time to applique. Start by placing the needle under the background fabric. Push the needle up through the background fabric and the edge of the applique motif. Pull the thread through both layers. Now position the needle right next to where the thread comes up, but only on the background fabric. Make an1/8th inch stitch through the background fabric and bring it up at the edge of the applique motif. Continue this stitch all around the fabric motif, ending underneath the background fabric on the wrong side. Knot and trim. Hand sewing seems like a very time consuming process. Once you develop a rhythm, it proceeds much faster. Hand sewn quilts are often prized over machine-stitched creations. All About Thread For Quilting The boom in quilting as a hobby and craft has caused manufacturers to produce a huge variety of thread. Yet you'll find there is such a wide selection of thread that choosing the correct thread for your quilting project can leave you scratching your head in puzzlement. You'll find an array of choices, whether you shop at a brick and mortar store on the internet. This article will shed some light on the confusing selection of thread for quilting. Thread for quilting falls broadly into two categories- sewing thread and thread for embellishing. Let's discuss sewing thread first, as it is the most commonly used, especially for quilting projects. Sewing thread can be purchased in several different weights and fibers. Weights of thread can range from 28 to 60. Thread for quilting needs to be strong, and to stand the test of time, so generally you will want to choose a thread in the range of a 40 weight. Thread in the 28 weight range is most commonly used for embellishment, while 50 weight would be used for piecing. You can easily find the weight of the thread you are considering by reading the label. You may see a number like this: 40/2. The first number is the weight of the thread, the second the number of plies. In this example, the thread is a 40 weight of two plies. Thread for quilting is most often made from cotton, rayon, polyester, metallic or plastic. The metallic and plastic thread will be used for embellishments and specialty stitches only. Cotton thread is common, and often it is mercerized. This is a process where the fiber has been made to swell and straighten out repeatedly, which removes any tendency towards fuzziness, and makes for a very high luster thread. Cotton thread is available in 30 to 60 weight. Rayon thread is also highly lustrous, and polyester thread has a colorfast, non-shrinkable finish. The metallic thread choices are going to be a bit more difficult to sew with and are not for beginners, though they make for stunningly beautiful finished quilting projects. Some brands that quilters might want to look for include the old favorite Coats and Clark, Guterman, which is a popular alternative known for its strength and ease of use (try it for hand quilting), Madeira rayon thread, which is strong enough to use to embroider on denim or leather, and Mettler, which comes in several different fibers. It is often not a good idea to attempt to use up old sewing thread, which tends to degenerate on the spool. Unreel a bit and pull on it. If the thread snaps, it will also snap when you put it in your sewing machine. With the wide variety of quilting thread, and its relatively low cost, there's no reason not to just buy new thread when you need a different color. You'll save a fortune in frustration alone. Some manufacturers also produce special threads for embellishing, and you can find these at your local quilting store. If you like to quilt by hand, you can use embroidery floss, available in a multitude of color and fiber. Learning about the different kinds of thread can enhance your love of the craft of quilting. Moda Moda may not be a household name for the average person, but for the quilter it is well-known indeed. Since 1975, Moda has been producing quality fabrics for quilting projects and specialty notions as well. Moda fabrics and notions are available at your local fabric store, quilting shop, or online retailer and its well worth seeking out this special line of quilting products. Moda distinguishes itself with a long roster of designers, both in-house and independents and one glance at their line of quilting fabrics and its clear Moda hires only the best. You'll find well-known designers such as American Jane, April Cornell, Sandy Gervais, and Urban Chicks among the Moda stable of designers. Other Moda designers are Amy Bradley, Erin Michael, Jackie Musso, and Cheri Strole. Moda also features fabric basics as well as seasonal, batiks and many other choices in their selections for quilters. Moda has won the heart of many quilters nation-wide and internationally with their consistent understanding of the kinds of designs quilters want to use for their projects. Many of the Moda designs have a uniquely American look and feel to them, which is only fitting since quilting is a craft which has its roots deep in American history. Moda also distributes a huge list of books and a wide variety of quilting notions from their Dallas warehouse. The company reveres its retailers and only sells wholesale. You can investigate Moda designs online and find many online retailers that will sell you Moda products. While customers appreciate the line of notions that Moda distributes, it is the quilting fabrics that have made Moda's name in the industry. Most of the Moda line is given over to traditional cotton fabrics, but they also produce a line of vibrant wools. Browsing through their design line, you'll enjoy clever designs like Building Blocks or Building Blocks ABCs with its all-over sprinkling of letters. Or how about the Moda design line of Serendipity with its striped and plaid fabrics on muted colors? Take a look at Tropical Camouflage with its bright colors that will make you feel you are on a Caribbean vacation every time you work on your quilting project. Moda excels at designs like Bound to the Prairie with its earthy feel, or fun fabrics like Oodles of Poodles, another cheerful selection. The Moda line also includes such fun designs as Nell's Flower Shop, a gorgeous collection of florals, and Funky Monkey, with pictures of, you guessed it, sock monkeys all over. You might also enjoy investigating Sunflowers of Provence or Flamingo Run or Critter Camp for your quilting projects. (Not only are the Moda fabrics beautiful, their names are delightful also.) For the very best of quality in fabric and design, you'll want to look to Moda for your quilting design needs first. You're sure to find something in the Moda line that will capture your heart and make your next quilting project an absolute joy to work on. With a Moda product, the next quilt you make will be your favorite and most satisfying yet. Discovering RJR Fabrics Quilters looking for the best in quilting fabrics need look no further than RJR Fabrics, which is a leader in the fabric manufacturing market, with a niche specialty of the craft of quilting. "Creating Fabrics That Reflect Your Lifestyle" is the company's motto, and most quilters would agree that RJR is extremely successful in fulfilling this pledge. RJR makes high quality cotton fabrics with a 100 percent money back guarantee. It is difficult to find companies who stand firm in their belief systems in today's world, but RJR Fabrics does this. One of the unique things about RJR is the fact that they refuse to sell their products to the large chains stores. RJR believes that the quilting enthusiast is best served through small, local quilting and fabric shops. The company maintains that these small shops hire employees who understand the craft of quilting and the passion that quilters have for it. Many quilting shops are grateful to the support RJR has shown to small businesses. Another reason for the success of RJR Fabrics is the quality of their designers. Among them is Lynette Jensen, who designs six collections a year for RJR. Lynette Jensen is the owner of Thimbleberries, a Minnesota-based business, which is the highest grossing quilt pattern company in the nation. RJR is also proud to manufacture the designs of renowned quilt designer and authority Jinny Beyer. She was the first to design a line of fabrics solely for quilting and currently designs three collections a year for RJR, as well as a line of solids. Many consider Jinny Beyer to have revolutionized the quilting industry with her amazing, stylish fabric designs and her ability to connect with the needs of quilters. Other RJR designers include Susan Branch, who presents the Martha's Vineyard Watercolor Collection, based on her popular series of books called The Heart of the Home. Laura Heine is an award-winning quilt artist who has been working in the industry for twenty years and is the owner of a quilt shop in Billings, Montana. She is also the author of several pattern collections and books. RJR recently announced that their design team has gone international with the addition of Canadian designers Cori and Myra of Blue Meadow Designs. The duo has published several top-selling books. These designers and their successful lines are indicative of the care RJR fabrics takes in every aspect of their business. RJR connects with its quilt shops with special events like a challenge to selected quilt shops to use one of their new fabric lines to design a special quilt. RJR emphasizes customer service in every aspect of its business, striving to stay connected to quilt shops, designers, and quilters alike. Because they limit their sales to the small shops, RJR truly understands their customer. Combining top-notch customer service with leading-edge design has enabled RJR Fabrics to maintain an enviable reputation for quality in the quilting industry. Contemporary quilters know to look to RJR Fabrics for the best in quality and design.
How to Choose the Right Batting Many crafters do not take the time to learn about the correct batting for their quilting projects, but it can make the difference between a successful quilting project and an unsuccessful one. The right batting can have an enormous effect on the finished appearance of your quilting project. It can also make the difference between enjoying the process of quilting or hating it. You spend hours planning the design and look of the outer layers of your quilting project, why not take the time to learn a bit about the batting that goes inside? Batting is the insulating fabric, which is the part of the quilt that creates warmth. Batting is layered between the quilt top and the backing. This quilting sandwich of three layers of fabric is then pinned at the edges in order to temporarily secure it. Most commonly it is then sewn together, either by hand or machine, but sometimes crafters tie the layers of batting and fabric together. Usually yarn is used to tie a quilting project together, but sometimes several strands of thread are used also. Be certain to tie a tight square knot if you choose this method of securing the batting to the fabric. You want to be sure the quilt will stand up to years of use. Batting comes in several different fibers, most often polyester, cotton, and wool. Polyester batting has a high loft which will remain through repeated washings. It is generally hypo-allergenic and usable for either hand or machine quilting projects. Cotton batting is a quilter's dream. It has a much lower loft than the polyester batting, and is often used when quilters want to achieve an antique look. Because cotton is a natural fiber, it "breathes," meaning it will help you to remain cool in the summer and warm in the winter. Cotton batting is not as suitable for tying, as it has a tendency to clump. Like cotton, wool batting breathes. It is easy to quilt, and thus a much beloved batting of many quilters. There are two different ways batting is manufactured--needlepunched or bonded. Needlepunched batting is a good utilitarian choice for a quilting project that needs to stand up to hard use. It is made by thousands of needles piercing the batting, interlocking the fibers. The needlepunched batting is firmer and heavier than bonded batting, which is manufactured by using a bonding agent to adhere the layers of the batting together. Many battings, whatever form you choose, are available either pre-cut or rolled on a tube so that you can cut your own to size. If your quilting project is a standard quilt size (such as twin, full, queen, or king) you will probably be able to find a pre-cut batting quite easily. For other sizes you may need to buy batting on the roll. Taking the time to learn about your choices in batting can change your quilting for the better, making it easier to complete projects, and increase your chances of being satisfied with the finished project. How to Use Stencils for Quilting When the average person thinks of stencils, the word probably brings to mind early American style-painted floor cloths, or stenciled walls. Stencils enjoyed a great resurgence in style in the 1980's as everyone went mad for the country look. However, when a quilter thinks of stencils, a very different use comes to mind. The crafter unfamiliar with the use of stencils in quilting may be quite perplexed as to how they are used. After all, when you look at a quilt, there's no evidence that anything to do with stenciling in the traditional sense has occurred! However, stencils are actually very useful in the art of quilting and advances in technology are quickly making them a must-have tool. Quilting stencils are very similar to stencils for paint, and often look about the same. They are most often made from a sturdy plastic, with holes punched in it for the design. However, while painting stencils are used to create decorative elements, quilting stencils are used to lay down a pattern to follow when stitching. The use of quilting stencils allows quilters to reproduce elaborate patterns on their quilt tops. With quilting stencils, you have an easy way to transfer and then follow a stitching design. You don't need to worry if you feel you can't draw. With quilting stencils, the drawing has all been done and all you have to do is follow someone else's design. Many companies offer quilting stencils and the supplies you'll need to go with them. You'll find designs ranging from traditional florals and fans to very contemporary styles. Take a look around some of the quilting sites on the internet or visit your local quilting store to get an idea of how many stencils await you. Quilting stencils are easy to use. To transfer the design you can use chalk or stitching or water-soluble pens. (It is very important that you test the water soluble pen with your fabric before using it with a stencil-you don't want it to ruin your beautiful pieced quilt top!) All you have to do is lay the quilting stencil atop your fabric and trace the pattern. Voila! You now have a stitching pattern to follow without a lot of muss and fuss. After all, most quilters prefer to spend their time designing, piecing a quilt top, or doing the actual quilting, not messing around with pattern transfers. A simple rule of thumb is to choose a design about a half an inch to an inch smaller than your block, so that the resulting pattern doesn't look crowded. You can also take one of the smaller stencils and repeat the design by laying it down in a pattern on your fabric. Quilting stencils are one of the most useful advances in notions for the home crafter. The average quilter of yesteryear would be amazed to view all the notions and supplies that are now available for the home crafter. Why not take advantage of these advances yourself? Quilting stencils are a great time-saver. Where to Find Free Quilt Patterns Back in the early days of American history, women made quilts with scraps of whatever fabric they had on hand, using patterns they had memorized or shared freely with each other. That trend continues today within the quilting community, and if you are in the market for free quilt patterns, you'll find a wide variety of them available from many different sources. Many online sites offer free quilt patterns as a way to get you to visit their site. Google "free quilt patterns" and a huge number of listings will come up. Many sites list hundreds or thousands of free quilt patterns. Among the categories of free quilt patterns you will find there are quilts for babies, traditional American quilts such as the Log Cabin, Hospitality Pineapple or Lone Star, holiday designs, designs with animals or flowers on them, and many, many more. There are even free quilt patterns for food and drink, nautical designs, or angels and butterflies. While many sites feature free quilt patterns for old traditional designs, some also offer original patterns. Some sites have lists of links that will take you to more sites full of free quilt patterns. Quilting is such a time-honored craft that many patterns have been passed around from quilter to quilter for years. It's a good idea to look at several different sites that offer free quilt patterns as you may find one particular site's patterns of more use to you than others. Variations in the way the free quilt patterns are written are common, and it takes only a bit of research to find a site which is compatible with your needs. You may get so engrossed in the free quilt patterns on one site that you'll never need to go any further! But it is a good idea to keep browsing, because while searching for free quilt patterns you will also find yourself on sites that offer all kinds of other goodies for quilters, from fabrics to notions to books to patterns to purchase. Spending time looking for free quilt patterns is actually a good way to acquaint yourself with what's available in the world of quilting and learn more about the craft along the way. A sure way to expand your knowledge about your hobby is to become familiar with all the tools and notions that are available. Another place to find free quilt patterns is to ask your friends, family and neighbors. Many people have learned to quilt from their grandmothers or mother and they may have written down patterns from family members. These are wonderful free quilt patterns to get your hands on! All quilters can be grateful that quilting has been a social activity-first out of need, and later for reasons of entertainment-and this has caused quilters to share not only information but patterns as well. Browsing for free quilt patterns, whether on the internet or asking friends, is an enjoyable aspect of the hobby of quilting, one that is certain to keep you engrossed for many hours. Choosing Quilt Fabric There are many different types of fabric that may be used in patchwork, quilting and applique. The following information will help you identify and choose the best fabric for your projects. Calico is a strong, plain weave fabric. It is available in a variety of weights and is usually white or natural with darker flecks. Corduroy or fine-wale corduroy is a plain-weave fabric with vertical pile-effect ribbing. It frays easily but is suitable for applique and large-scale patch pieces. Cotton is the choice of most quilters. It is hard-wearing and easy to work with. Cotton comes in a wide range of plain and patterned print colors. It is the best choice for patchwork quilt fabric. Felt is made from wool. It is non-woven fabric. Instead, the fibers are compressed with moisture and heat. Felt shrinks making it unsuitable for most articles that need frequent washing. It is ideal for applique Gingham is a cotton or cotton blend fabric. Alternating stripes of colored and white threads in the warp and weft produces a checkered pattern. Lawn is a fine crisp cotton, or cotton blend fabric. It is available in prints and plain. Linen is fabric that is woven from fiber produced by the flax plant. Linen frays and creases easily but is suitable as a ground fabric. Muslin is a white or natural open-weave cotton or cotton blend. This fabric is suitable for backing quilts and is also used in shadow quilting and applique. Organdy is a fine cotton fabric that is starched. It is used for shadow work. Organza is a gauzy fabric woven from silk or synthetic fibers. It may also be woven from silk and a synthetic blend. Organza is available in plain colors and with metallic and iridescent effects making it suitable for applique and shadow work. It is also sometimes used for delicate patchwork. PVC is a plastic, cotton-backed cloth. It is difficult to work with because of its lack of flexibility. It is used for patchwork and applique. Sateen is a soft fabric that has a surface sheen. It is a popular quilt fabric. Satin is a shiny fabric that can be woven from cotton, silk, or synthetics. It is used in applique. Silk is fabric that is woven from natural fibers produced by silk worms. It works well for almost any project and is available in a variety of textures, colors, patterns and weights. Shantung fabric is woven from yarns of irregular thickness giving it an uneven surface. It is used for quilting and patchwork. Taffeta is a plain-weave fabric with a two-tone effect. It is suitable for applique and small patchwork. Velvet has a closely woven backing and a dense cut-pile surface. It is used in patchwork, especially crazy patchwork, but the nap should lie in the same direction as the patchwork. Voile is a fine woven fabric that is used for shadow work Wool is made from woven fleece. Wool does not launder well and should only be used for inlaid applique, unless it is lightweight. Light weight wool may be used in patchwork. The Best Quilting Pattern For Your Needs Quilting has enjoyed an incredible upsurge in popularity over the last couple of decades. This is a boon for the quilting enthusiast, because it has resulted in a huge number of patterns that are now available. Even a brief look around the internet or your local bookstore will prove to you that it's a confusing world when it comes to buying a quilting pattern. The new quilter may well be wondering what kind of quilting pattern is best suited for her needs. It's interesting to ponder that, historically, our ancestors probably didn't have as much use for the quilting pattern as we do. In Colonial and pioneer days, when quilting originated, quilts had a utilitarian function. Women pieced together quilt blocks from whatever scraps of clothing they could find, arranging the bits and pieces of cloth into a pleasing pattern. They shared ideas for their various patterns at quilting bees and other social gatherings. As so often happens, the pattern that started as a necessity is now a tradition. Blocks like Log Cabin and Lone Star and Bridal Wreath have been handed down for generations. At first, simple directions would have been scrawled on a scrap of paper, if at all-our ancestors might even have scoffed at the idea of following a pattern. Quilting fell out of favor for awhile, and any patterns that did exist would have been relegated to the attic. But once quilting came into vogue again, a new generation discovered it and the new quilters were hungry for patterns. While many art and adventurous quilters take off on their own and refuse to follow a pattern, the contemporary quilter is more likely to want some directions. Thus many quilters search endlessly for the proper pattern. The good news is that there are options aplenty. Free patterns abound on the internet, as do patterns for purchase. Individual patterns are available for various quilt blocks. If you know what quilt you want to make, it can be a good idea to purchase one of these, as it will have detailed directions on every aspect of the specific block. You'll find step-by-step directions that cover every aspect of the pattern for your quilt. The pattern may also give you tips and techniques you wouldn't otherwise know. Another excellent source for patterns is to visit your library or the bookstore and peruse the quilting section, where you'll see pattern book after pattern book. These books can be especially valuable if you haven't yet decided on a certain quilt pattern. But be forewarned-browsing quilting books and viewing all the beautiful patterns can be quite addictive! These books will often also feature general directions for each pattern, with more instruction on quilting. If you already know the basics of quilting, spending the lesser amount of money for an individual pattern might be your best bet. Don't let the world of quilt patterns overwhelm you-with a little research, its easy to find the perfect pattern for your quilting needs, and you'll have a lot of fun along the way. How to Use Templates in Quilting With the recent increased interest in quilting and other crafts, manufacturers are constantly searching for new products to make quilting easier for busy modern crafters. One of the innovations that has become a necessity is quilting templates. Usually made from sturdy clear acrylic, and designed to be used over and over again, templates make marking and cutting pieces for a quilt block a breeze. Templates generally have seam line and other markings on them for the convenience of quilters. The best templates are laser cut to ensure exact precision for measurement. With quilting templates, a rotary cutter, and a mat, you can cut the pieces for numerous blocks at one time. Before templates and the use of rotary cutters, a quilter used paper patterns and cut block pieces with scissors, in much the same way that dressmakers cut patterns. For quilters who are often cutting small pieces for blocks, cutting in this manner meant precision in measuring was very difficult. In quilting, accuracy is crucial. One of the frustrations of quilting was making sure the pieces of the quilt block fit together, and with the old-fashioned style of cutting, it was a constant problem. But with templates all such worries are a thing of the past. Quilting templates are available in every size and shape imaginable. Every geometric shape is represented, and you can buy a set of basic templates for squares and circles and rectangles so you always have them on hand. You can also buy sets of templates for a specific quilt block. For instance, if your daughter is getting married and you want to make her a Double Wedding Ring quilt, you can buy a set of templates for that pattern. Or perhaps your best friend is having her first baby, a son. You want to make a quilt for him, and so you choose a set of templates for a square that looks like an airplane. The options are truly unlimited. Beginning quilters will want to start with simple shapes such as rectangles, squares and circles. The process is simple-lay your neatly ironed fabric on the rotary mat, place the acrylic template atop it, hold it firmly and use the rotary cutter to trim around the edges. Once you get the hang of it, you can cut several layers of fabric at once. Using templates, you can spend an hour or two cutting pieces for quilt blocks, and get to the actual sewing and quilting so much faster. Quilters may also want to take the time to browse the web or go to the library or local bookstore for books. Many quilting sites and books contain useful information about using templates, with tips and techniques listed that will make the process even easier. The quilting sites contain are often also laden with photos showing the use of templates in a step-by-step manner, which can be very helpful. Although the process of using templates is simple, there are always trade secrets that can make it even easier. Investigate the use of templates in quilting today, and you'll find renewed pleasure in your craft. Making Sense OF Quilt Patterns There are literally thousands of quilt patterns already in existence, and more being designed everyday. If you are a beginning quilter it is best to stick to the simpler patterns. As you become more experienced, you will never run out of new patterns to try. Some examples of simple patterns use squares. A Four Patch uses four squares of fabric sewn together to make one block. A Nine Patch uses nine small squares to make up one block. Different prints and colors can be mixed and matched to create different looks with these basic blocks. A Double Nine Patch is made up of nine 4-inch squares. The middle square is divided into nine 1 1/3 inch squares. Traditionally the large squares are cut from 4 dark and 4 light fabrics, while the small squares are cut from 4 light and 5 medium colored fabrics. Color combination may be varied to create different patterns. The Churn Dash is another easy pattern. This block uses 3 different fabrics-2 designs and one background fabric. Variations of this pattern include the Grecian Design, the Greek Cross and the Wrench. There are three major pattern pieces: a 4 inch square, a 2x4 inch rectangle and a large triangle. The Log Cabin design is probably the most well recognized quilt pattern. It is made of strips of fabric sewn together to give the appetence of a log structure. The names of quilt patterns often reflect certain aspects of life. Names such as Job's Tears, Bethlehem Star, Cross and Crown, Jacobs Ladder reflect the Spiritual aspect. Love and marriage is reflected in patterns like Hopes and Wishes, Lover's Knot, Double Wedding Ring and Cupid's Own. Every state has at least one pattern named after it. These include Ohio Star, California Rose and Carolina Lily. Not all quilt patterns are suitable for beginners. Drunkard's Path is definitely one. Once you have mastered it, it may quickly become a favorite. Choosing fabric goes hand in hand with choosing a pattern. In fact there is great debate in quilting circles over which should be chosen first. While once quilts were made from scraps and leftovers, quilter's today have a wide variety of resources to choose from, and may purchase fabric expressly to create a quilt from it. One thing to remember is that it is better to buy to much fabric then to not have enough. Colors can't always be matched from different sources and runs. Color is probably the most important aspect of any quilt. It is important to study tones, shades and hues. The easiest color scheme for a beginning quilter is probably monochromatic. This means one color, but different shades. Value is the lightness or darkness of a hue. A range of values provides contrast and depth to a pattern. A dominant color should be found in almost all of the quilt's blocks. An accent color should be used to create contrast and a blender color contains both colors in a pattern. When in doubt try a sample block first. Choosing Fabrics for Quilting Many crafters are drawn to quilting because of the wide variety of beautiful fabrics available. Walk into any fabric store or quilting shop, and your eyes are nearly overwhelmed with all the choices in fiber and color. Bolts of fabrics in a rainbow of colors assail the senses. The contemporary quilter is lucky indeed to have the huge array of fabrics available to her. However, this embarrassment of riches can also lead to uncertainty in selecting the correct fabrics for a quilting project. While the craft of quilting was one borne of necessity and thus many different fabrics have been used throughout the years, far and away the most common fabric for quilting is cotton. Some historical quilts may use brightly colored wool, usually appliqued quilts, as wool is a bit heavy to be used for pieced quilts. Cotton is such a wonderful all-purpose fabric which washes well (though be sure to pre-wash all cottons to pre-shrink it) and maintains its color and hand. Generally speaking, 100 percent cotton is going to be the quilter's first choice. You may be tempted by the bargain blends on the sale rank at the fabric store, but think twice before you commit to these fabrics. For a little bit more money, it's worth it to invest in quality fabrics for your quilt. After all, you're going to be spending quite a few hours of your precious time making the quilt, so why not invest in the best? Besides, relatively speaking, fabrics for quilting simply don't cost that much money. One of the most important elements of choosing fabrics for quilting is color. Often this is a topic which confuses beginning quilters, but there's no need to shy away from learning about color. Most people are far more adept at combining color than they imagine. First off, learn to trust your intuition (unless you know you are color blind!)-if you like the way colors look together, others probably will also. And remember that this is your quilting project and you should choose fabrics that you love the look of, and that you'll enjoy working on. Another trustworthy way to choose the color of fabrics is to study nature. You really can't go wrong emulating the way colors go together at the ocean, or in the forest. Go to your neighborhood park and study the various hues you'll see looking at a tree, or the lawn. For those who want a bit more guidance, you can do a rudimentary study of color theory. Study the color wheel and familiarize yourself with the primary colors (red, yellow, blue), secondary colors (green, orange and violet), and intermediate colors which combine primary with secondary colors. Another aspect of color for fabrics is value-light, dark and medium. The values in your fabrics should be well balanced, and not too heavy in any one value. You might also want to consider the intensity of the colors in your fabrics, which is the brightness or dullness of a color. Familiarizing yourself with the wide variety of fabrics available for quilting is a pleasurable experience that will also enhance your enjoyment of the craft. Quilting is a Hot D.I.Y. Craft! You may have heard the initials D.I.Y. and wondered what they stand for and what all the fuzz is about. D.I.Y. stands for Do It Yourself, and it is a hot trend in the craft world. One of the hottest trends in the world of craft, is an old, old tradition-quilting. Quilting has it roots in the utilitarian needs of our ancestors. They needed warm quilts to sleep under and they didn't have a lot of materials to work with. So they took whatever fabrics they could salvage or cut from old, worn clothes, and somehow managed to craft these scraps into quilts that were not only warm but beautiful. For a time, the craft of quilting died out. Busy modern women of the fifties wanted no part of piecing together old bits of fabric! But then the craft experienced a resurgence in the eighties. Many believe the burgeoning interest in quilting and other crafts coincided with the development of the computer. High tech, high touch, the saying goes. When we are surrounded with technology all day we long for tactile satisfaction. Fibers such as wool and cotton have become very popular because of this, and also hobbies like knitting and quilting, which have much to do with the sense of touch. The ironic thing is that technology itself has had much to do with spurring interest in craft and quilting. Technology has created better and easier-to-operate sewing machines, found ways to cheaply produce plastic stencils, and come up with innovations like the rotary cutter and mat that are huge time savers for quilters. The more time-saving ideas craft companies come up with, the more popular quilting becomes. Contemporary quilters have the best of all worlds-access to incredible numbers of patterns, both traditional and modern, and all the best tools the craft world has to offer. Today's quilter also has access to so much more information than their pioneer ancestors could ever have dreamed of. Books and patterns and websites offer a constant flow of information on the craft. Then there are the television programs. With the advent of cable's dominance, many television channels now focus on the home. And many of these home channels have a large preponderance of shows on craft, including quilting. The information explosion is a huge boon for today's crafters and this has driven the expanding popularity of the D.I.Y. movement. This movement has made it hip and trendy to love all kinds of craft again, which is wonderful for lovers of craft. Once something is trendy, all kinds of companies offering new products and information are sure to spring up. Becoming hip has also assured that quilts now have a place in the finest of galleries and museums. Quilters are at the forefront of the D.I.Y. movement, constantly improving their craft and delving into its history. Our pioneer ancestors could never have imagined that there would come a day when their utilitarian, functional craft was considered not only trendy and hip, but so beautiful as to be art! Add Life to your Quilting with Embroidery Embroidery is enjoying a resurgence in popularity, much the same as quilting and knitting and other hand crafts. Many crafters who enjoy quilting also end up enjoying embroidery and might feel as if they have torn loyalties-which craft to pursue in the small amount of time available for hobbies? The good news is that quilting and embroidery make excellent companions. Crafters who love quilting but are attracted to the depth and color that embroidery stitches offer can follow both their loves by combining the two crafts. A quilt embellished with embroidered stitches is one of the most beautiful hand-crafted creations imaginable. Take a look at some of the "crazy quilts" from the Victorian era. These quilts are most often made of silk, often from leftover men's ties or other bits of fabric, and were pieced together in a random manner (hence the name) and then heavily embellished with embroidery. Even if your interest in quilting slants more toward traditional quilts, it's worth taking a look at these crazy quilts to get ideas for using embroidery to embellish your quilts. Crazy quilts use embroidery extensively, in many cases covering nearly every bit of the quilt's surface, but you can use touches of embroidery here and there on your quilts or quilted clothing to give it depth and texture. Embroidery stitches are easy to learn, and you may even know some already. Browse through sites on the internet, and you'll find many with clear photos or pictures of embroidery stitches. Some common embroidery stitches you might want to use include blanket and chain stitch for outlining, and feather, herringbone, lazy daisy, straight and cross stitches for decorative touches. Many quilters enjoy doing applique as part of their quilting techniques, and embroidery is a natural partner to applique. The process of applique involves layering one fabric atop another, as opposed to sewing pieces of fabric together, and embroidery stitches such as the blanket stitch can be used to decorate the edges of the appliqued piece. Or perhaps you may want to use embroidery on the background fabric, to emphasize the appliqued pieces. The manufacturers of embroidery floss have kept pace with developments in the world of crafting, and now offer floss in an array of fibers, including perle cotton, rayon, silk and even linen and hemp. They also feature brilliant colors, with some even offering hand-dyed and variegated flosses. Many quilters prefer to do their quilting by machine, instead of hand, and these same quilters may also prefer to do their embroidery by machine. With the huge variety of incredibly powerful sewing machines on the market, this is a snap. Many sewing machines have embroidery functions with extensive lists of stitches, which are as easy to accomplish as flipping a switch on the machine. As with embroidery floss, there are many specialty threads available for machine embroidery. Look into adding embroidery to your quilting and open up a whole new world of quilting and crafting pleasure to your life. Patchwork Techniques When many people hear the word quilt they think of many colorful blocks or patches created from old clothes sewn together to form a large rectangular blanket. Pieced patchwork is actual much, much more complicated. Pieced patchwork is made from fabric scraps that are cut into regular shapes and then sewn together in geometric patterns to form blocks. The pieces may be joined by hand or machine. Machine stitching is quicker and more durable but hand stitching is traditional. Creating an accurate template will allow a quilter to make patches identical in shape and size, and that will fit perfectly together. Templates may be made or purchased. To make a cardboard template transfer the design on to squared paper and cut it out with sharp scissors. Glue the cutout to a piece of cardboard. Be sure to include a seam allowance. Cut out the cardboard template and protect the paper seam allowance by coating it with a thin layer of clear nail varnish or polish. Always make new templates for each shape required in a project. To make a plastic template, place the clear plastic over the design and draw around each shape. Draw a seam allowance around each shape and cut out. Once you have created a template, place it on the fabric, lining up one straight edge with the grain of the fabric. Draw around it with a quilter's pencil or tailor's chalk. To create several patches at once fold the fabric in several layers-accordion style. Staple the template to the layers and cut out the pieces, preferably using a rotary cutter and a cutting mat. If you are using backing papers or iron on interfacing they may be attached now. To join the patches and form the patchwork, first lay them out and make sure you are happy with the design. Once you are, you may begin piecing. Hand piecing requires the patches to be placed right sides together and pinned. Pin each corner first. Join each patch with a small whipstitch, inserting the needle in one corner and working across to the other. Remove the pins as you go. If you are machine piecing your patchwork, you may join several pairs of patches at a time by using the flag method. Pin the patches right sides together in pairs. Machine stitch along the seam line using the foot as a guide. Leave s short uncut thread between the pairs. Cut each into units. Join enough pairs to make one patched piece. Remember to press the patch seems flat to one side to avoid bulk. Do not press them open. Once you patchwork quilt top has been completed, layer it together with batting in the middle and backing fabric on the back. Baste the layers and quilt as desired. If you are quilting straight lines and using a machine, a quilting foot made for this purpose is available. For free-form quilting remove the foot completely and lower the foot lever. Use your hands or a hoop to stretch the fabric taut, and stitch slowly. Best Books for Quilting Whether you are a beginning quilter, or an advanced practitioner of the craft, you will find many books on quilting that will help advance your knowledge. Quilting books fall roughly into several categories, and numerous titles abound in each. The categories of books are how-to, pattern encyclopedias, historical, books about the joy of quilting, and art books. How-to books are probably the most popular, and the first stop for the beginning quilter. They range from books which discuss the overall craft of quilting and give step-by-step instructions, to books which will take one aspect of quilting and explain how to do it. The instructional books start with such basics as fabric selection and which tools you'll need and proceed through instructions for assembling the blocks of the quilt top and the quilt itself, down to explanations of quilting, both hand and machine. Every quilter needs at least one of these books in her library, and usually will manage to collect a number of them. It's amazing how many times you need a ready reference when you are in the middle of a quilting project. Another type of book that every quilter will want to have on hand is an encyclopedia of patterns. These books collect many different quilt block patterns and show the basics of their assemblies. Because their aim is to cover a lot of ground, these books are valuable starting points but won't go into intimate detail. For that you need to turn to books which feature instruction on a specific pattern. With the wide variety of quilting block patterns and techniques, you can imagine that this category of quilting books is quite extensive and stocked with titles. Books in this category may devote an entire volume to explaining the nuances of, for instance, the Log Cabin pattern. Because quilting has its roots in American history, quilts and the craft of quilting have been studied extensively, and many historical quilting books exist. Looking at these books and seeing what our ancestors did with a fraction of the materials and supplies available today can be a great source of inspiration to modern quilters. Along the same lines are books which discuss the pleasures to be derived from quilting, both in its social form (such as quilting bees) or as a solitary pursuit. Finally, there is a whole segment of quilters who have advanced the craft into art. These quilters regularly show their work in galleries and museums, and publish books not only about their quilts, but the thoughts and processes that went into making them. Sometimes collectors of quilts will publish books, too. These art quilt books are as inspiring in their way as the historical quilting books. A good way to choose quilting books that will become a permanent part of your library is to choose a time when you'll have a couple hours of uninterrupted time. Go to the library, or your local bookstore, or fire up your computer and look at books on the internet. Take your time, browse, and get a feel for the vast number of titles out there. You'll no doubt end up with a much longer list than you have time or money for at the moment, but you can purchase or check out a few titles and start a wish list for more. Part of the joy of quilting is finding books on the topic, and luckily for modern quilters, there is a huge array of titles to choose from. All About Hoffman Fabrics For the quilting enthusiast, one of the most important considerations is the choice of fabric. Let's face it; a quilt's beauty is totally dependent on what fabric the quilter chooses. If a quilt is unattractive and doesn't beg you to reach out and touch it, it probably has a lot to do with the fabric chosen to create it. Quilters in the know solve such potential problems by choosing fabrics from companies that they trust. Based in California, Hoffman Fabrics is a company who has proven their value to quilters over many years, since 1924, in fact. Visit any quilting website that sells fabric and the name Hoffman will pop up. They specialize in high-quality screen-printed cottons and blends. Hoffman also produces hand-painted and dyed fabrics. Every year the company introduces two new lines of fabric, which they call "colorful prints and luscious Balis." They call their fabrics "inspiring" and that is not marketing hype. One look at the abundant richness of the color and designs of Hoffman Fabrics and you will see why they have been adopted by quilters as a must-have cloth. In return, Hoffman has shown incredible support to quilters. This is evident in the Hoffman Challenge, a contest which started in 1987. Every year, the talents at Hoffman Fabrics choose one of their upcoming fabric designs to feature in the Challenge. Quilt-makers, clothing and accessory designers and doll-makers are then challenged to use the fabric to design an original item. The winning entries are then featured in a traveling show which stops at galleries, museums, shops, and quilting guilds. The first year of the Hoffman Challenge, 94 quilters entered. Since then, up to 700 entries a year have been received. The traveling show itself is so popular that 12 collections now travel nationwide, with some stops in Canada as well. Besides the Challenge, Hoffman actively promotes the art of quilting in other ways. The company has paired with designer McKenna Ryan of Pine Needles Designs to create patterns based on Hoffman fabrics. Ryan says she likes to use Hoffman batik fabric for applique work because it has a high thread count that prevents fraying. The designer, like so many other quilters, is also appreciative of the depth of color and texture in Hoffman fabrics. Using these fabrics, she can design incredibly lush and intricate quilts based on nature. Perhaps one of the secret's to the company's success is the family nature of the business. Three generations of Hoffmans are currently involved in the daily operations of the firm. It may interest contemporary quilters to know that much of the company's design philosophy stems from the fifties, when Philip and Walter Hoffman, sons of the original founder, joined the company. They brought with them their love of surfing and translated it to original designs of the ocean, beaches, and surfing life. Combining their passions with a knack for seeking out unusual printing processes for fabrics, the Hoffman sons helped to create a company that is beloved of quilters everywhere.
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