Listen to the Stop Scrolling, Start Sewing Podcast

15. 5 Tips for Better Quilt Top Piecing

If you want to listen to the episode in it’s entirety, click here.

Hey there. I’m Nicole Gilbert and You’ve joined the stop scrolling start sewing podcast. Are you new to sewing and want to start quilting, but have no idea where to begin? Each Wednesday, Join me as I share the ins and outs of that quilt life. If you don’t have a sewing machine, have no idea how much fabric you need, or you’re just trying to figure out where the heck to stick that bobbin. This is the podcast for you.

Hey Guys, on today’s episode, I’m going over my five tips to better quilt, top piecing, and it’s going to be good y’all but first, a quick listener shout out.

So today’s listener shout out is to, Oh my gosh. I’m so going to butcher this Susie real Hoya ger. [inaudible] why. Okay guys, these Apple usernames are a mouthful, but I see you. I’m going to shorten this to Susie in my head. Okay. So Susie’s review is titled great inspiration. And Susie writes, I started listening two weeks ago on my commute to work. I was inspired to get out of quilt kit that I purchased 10 plus years ago, but I was afraid to start. Thanks for reminding me to remember my joy of selling and to just start.

Okay. Suzy, this hits me in all of the feels because that’s exactly what I want for you guys. Like I have found, and this is kind of the reason why I started this podcast, why I started the Modern Quilters Circle, why I started the modern Quilters Academy.

I have found over the years that, um, there is a really tight knit group of quilters out there. And sometimes it can feel like if your not like born a professional, you don’t belong in the conversation. And that can be really intimidating when you’re just starting out or you know that you are not at the same level as some of these more experienced quilters. And so to hear that I have provided a place for you to learn and that I’ve inspired you to get back to something that you’ve always wanted to do, but never really, um, put your mind to it. I am so excited about that because all I want you to do is have fun and sew, and create and just get started. So I love this review so much. Thank you. It means the world to me. So if you want to be featured on an upcoming episode, head over to wherever you listen to podcasts and leave me a review.

I read every single one and they mean the world to me. They also allow me to reach more listeners every week. So thank you from the bottom of my heart. I cannot wait to give you a shout out in the coming weeks.

Okay, guys, let’s get sewing.

So, um, I’ve been quilting for quite a while and I am self-taught like, I know that I’ve said that a million times. So being self-taught means that I did a lot of trial and error, and I have tried things a lot of different ways. If you are somebody who loves to research like I do, um, you have seen a million YouTube videos, pinned so many pins on Pinterest and read so many blog posts and they all have one thing in common, beautiful, finished products, but that’s about it because their methodologies are completely different. And once you get into the groove and figure out what you love to do, your methodology will be different as well.

So I have tried pretty much everything. Um, some more disastrous than others. If we’re being a hundred percent honest, I have a few quilts that you could like stick your hand right in and grab a, grab a handful of batting if you want. Um, but I learned from them and that’s, they’ve kind of become some of my favorite quilts, but that being said, I have picked up some good info on the streets. So I just wanted to go over my top five tips for piecing together your quilt tops. I think piecing is my favorite part of the quilting process. I love creating new patterns and designs, and I especially love working with color and color theory. Um, it’s kind of my jam. So putting together the top is just, it’s so much fun. So I have learned some tips and I just want to pass those along to you.

So my first tip is that you need to prepare your fabric properly. Now this can mean many different things to different people. So listen up, uh, fabric preparing your fabric can include wash or don’t wash, starch or don’t starch, iron. Really just iron. There is no, no iron. And let me break that down for you.

So first of all, wash or don’t wash. Now, some people will say I wash every piece of fabric, no matter what. Some people say. I only wash my finished products. I personally, I wash all of my fabric all the time and I know, I know you’re going to say, well, what kind of quality fabric are you using? Because that’s the number one question that people have when it comes to wash versus don’t wash followed quickly by, but is it a hundred percent cotton? And is it like real a hundred percent cotton?

So a really high end. And by really high end, I just mean your name brand fabrics, timeless treasures, Robert Kaufman, Riley, Blake. I mean, the list goes on and on. Um, Northcott, I mean, there’s so many, but those fabrics are kind of known to be a standard. Moda. Um, I’m sorry. I’m just like randomly having more brands pop into my head, but these are like standards where they don’t, they don’t have any issues, meaning they typically don’t shrink once you wash them. So there’s no need to, prewash. Now some of, or most of, depending on your opinion on the matter, um, of your fabrics that you buy at Hobby Lobby and Joanne’s, and almost all of your fabrics that you get at Walmart will tend to shrink a bit. And that is where people will say, well, when you use an inferior cotton, it’ll shrink. And the big issue there is that if you don’t wash a fabric that is prone to shrink before you sew it, once you sew it, and then it shrinks a little, you’re going to get puckers along all of your seams and all of your hard work will be for lack of a better term ruined, which is a bummer, but here’s a little caveat.

I have collected so much fabric over the years and I’m a sucker for a pretty color. Like a sucker. So it doesn’t matter where I see it. If it’s gorgeous, mama must have it. So I have gotten into the habit of washing everything because we should always treat all of our fabrics the same so that they respond in the same manner to, um, like our iron, our machine, our dryer. And so we want to treat them all the same. And oftentimes I will mix a hobby lobby fabric with a really high end quilt shop fabric. And I want to make sure that they play nice together in the washing machine. And I want to make sure that they look beautiful, five washes from now. And so I’ve just gotten into the habit of pre washing everything. But again, you don’t have to. That’s one of those, what school thought things you are.

Now next up is starching. Starching is a part of this, this fabric prep thing. And it is the exact same ideologies as far as do you or don’t ya? Um, some people swear by it, do it for every fabric. Some people do it for none of their fabrics. I personally do it on certain fabrics. Now, that being said, when I do it on a fabric and a project, I do it on all the fabrics in the project. So fabric, just like with the wash thing, once you do something to the fabric, you kind of have to do it to all the things in the fabric and all the fabrics in the project so that, um, they do the same thing. So they wash the same way. They react to the stitches the same way they hold the same way. Fabric that’s starched versus fabric. That’s not starch. They don’t, um, lay nicely together. Once they’ve been pressed and they will do weird things in the washing machine once the starch comes out.

So if you do choose to starch something, you’ve got to starch everything in that project just to keep things even. Now I say it only starches certain things. I like to only starch when I’m working with bias cuts. Now that is raw unseamed bias cut because I do make half square triangles and flying geese all the time. However I do them off of squares. I do not cut triangles when I cut triangle for my half square triangles and flying geese. When I cut triangles to use in a project, I starch it anything on a bias because I want to eliminate the stretch so that things stay nice and crispy because I love me a crisp line. So that’s why I starch only some of the time. So if there’s something cut raw on a bias, no seams, it’s getting some starch. All right, guys, I spent a lot of time on tip one.

Whoop. Okay. Tip two. Know your stitch length. Okay. So a lot of us now in this day and age. Oh my gosh. So last episode I talked about going to a sewing machine dealer and falling in love. Well, mama did a thing and immediately sold her Pfaff sewing machine. And now I have a brand new Janome M7 continental that I am obsessed with and is currently literally 18 inches from me right now, because I don’t want to let her out of my sight. I’m in love. She’s amazing. I’ll talk about her on another episode. I haven’t decided her name yet. Yes, there will be a name. But anyway, um, this got me thinking about stitch lengths because I’ve used a Pfaff for a very long time. And when I said it to patchwork piece it’s, um, it’s fall back for the patchwork piece was a 2.5 stitch length.

Now this Janome fallback is a 1.8, which is a much tighter stitch. Um, and I don’t mind it. Um, I’m still going back and forth because I did get so used to that 2.5 and I like it. But, um, I do think it’s a personal preference. I do think that if you are somebody who is still in the heavy seam ripper phase of your quilting journey, um, you might want to go with the longer stitch because it’s a little bit easier to take out. A 1.8 is much tighter. Um, however, a 1.8 also keeps the little stuff in place. So it is a personal preference again, for sure, but make sure you know, what you like and use and do what you like. It will make a big difference because your, um, seams will be better once you know what you like. You like it because it does a good job.

Not because, you know, you just, you know, you, you take a fancy to a, 2.2 Like, you know that like, okay, this is good. When I make a mistakes, I can pull this out. It presses the right way. My seams aren’t opening. I feel confident. I’m able to maintain this stitch distance with the speed of my machine, where I’m comfortable. Like these are all things we want to think about. But once you’ve thought about that, that’s your number. That’s your guy. And so I’ve done 2.5 for a real long time, which honestly, I think I just got comfortable and never changed it, that my Pfaff was by first big girl machine. And I had it for almost a decade. So, um, w it told me what I liked, you know what I mean? And now I’m a much better quilter. And so now this one is like, well, what about a 1.8?

And I’m like, Oh, really? What about a 1.8? So I’ll report back. I think, I think a 1.8 might be a little tight for me. I think I might end up at two, but it’s looking, it’s looking interesting. I’m, I’m enjoying the self discovery I’m going through right now. So that’s what I have about my stitch length, but keep that in mind.

Okay. So quilt piecing tip number three. I want you to talk about pressing your seams. Okay. If you are not pressing your seams start, there is no if ands or buts about it, you will use your iron all the time when you were sewing and quilting. And if you are not using your iron, I hate to say this because I don’t believe that there’s anything wrong in the creative process, but you’re wrong. You gotta use your iron. You gotta press those seams.

It’s one of those things that separates an amateur look from a professional look, you can complete some gorgeous, gorgeous items. If only you press your seams. That being said, there are some rules. I would say the most basic rule is pressed to the dark. That’s what I do. I prefer to press to my dark because I think my seams nest nicer. Now, that being said, there’s a lot of people who like to press their seams open meeting both sides, flip back. It’s not my personal jam, but this again, hearkens back to what I was just saying a moment ago, about the tightness of my seams of my stitches with a 2.5 millimeter stitch length pressing my seams open is not really a good idea, because you would see the stitch. You would see it cause it’s not super tight. Now on a 1.8, I’m going to try pressing my seams open and see what happens.

I’m not against it. So you definitely need to use a tight stitch length. I have even heard that people when they stitch, um, when they press their seems open, use like a 1.2 or a 1.5 millimeter stitch length, which is tiny, tiny, teeny, tiny stitches. These they’re not for the faint of heart. Um, and they are not for your seam ripper. Whew. But if you can do it and you like to press open your seams, I I’m pretty impressed and I want to see it. And I honestly I’m, I’m trying it. Cause I feel like I’m empowered with what’s going on with my new machine. If I’m being a hundred percent honest, I’m so excited to try all of the things that being said. I have been pressing to the dark for 10 years and it has never done me wrong. And honestly it is super neat.

The seams all lay nice and flat. I am a wizard at nesting my seams at this point. So again, it’s something where it’s to each his own and, um, make that decision for yourself.

Now, piecing tip number four is about your seam allowance. Now we all know quarter-inch seam allowance. You can use a full quarter inch seam allowance, or you can use a scant quarter inch seam allowance, but either way you are going to use a quarter inch seam allowance. Um, and that adds for your structure and your stability of your overall piecing. It’s pretty much the only Cardinal rule besides ironing in quilting. That being said, make your life easier. Like you gotta make your life easier. So what I am saying is, um, use a patchwork foot. So a patchwork foot has a quarter inch marking on it either with, or without a guide.

I use one with a guide because I like to make my life as easy as possible. You can absolutely use the quarter-inch marking on your machine bed. If it’s got one, uh, you can use the tape, um, trick where you actually a buildup of tape where a quarter inch from your needle line is. And so you just bought your fabric right up against it. Um, or you could even use the magnetic, um, guides, which are these big, heavy metal magnetic contraptions that clip right onto the bed of your sewing machine that you could bump your fabric right up to. So you can do all of those things to decide, um, and maintain your quarter inch seam allowance. I personally like the foot with the guide now, um, that being said, there are like 1 million different types of quarter-inch patchwork, patchwork feet. Um, my father quarter inch patchwork foot looked completely different than the ones that come with my genomic.

Um, I love the ones that come through. Why’d, you know, me, I liked the ones that came with my father. I think that, um, there’s no need to go out and buy like all of the feet for your machine. Like if you don’t have a quarter inch foot, go get one for sure. But if your machine comes with a quarter inch foot, unless you’ve been sewing with a different type of foot for like 20 years and you just can’t change your mindset, I don’t see any reason to get a new foot, but please, please, please use a quarter inch Patric foot. It really will make your life so much easier. Okay. Now my very last tip is to square as you go. So I think that first of all, I think like squaring is another one of those things that separate the boys from the men.

I see some gorgeous quilts get put together, and then they don’t square the edges of their quilt top and with their batting and their backing. And they end up with like those beach waves around the edge and it just breaks my heart so much much because you’re just like, Oh my gosh, if it was crispy, what a gorgeous quote that would be, but it just takes a little bit away. And it’s one of those things. It’s not fun. It’s not sexy, but it is, is a necessary step. So please, please, please don’t skip it. That being said, your life will be so much easier if you square your blocks as you go. So right now I am running through a session of the modern quilters Academy and my students are doing such a good job. And the quilt that we’re all working on revolves around half square triangles.

Cause I truly believe that if you master half square triangles and flying geese, you can make some of the most beautiful star quilts around and you will be a happy and content little quilter for quite some time. Now that being said, there’s a lot of squaring that needs to happen. It’s, it’s a herringbone print that we’re doing, um, using half square triangles and I’m trying to get them two square as they go. So first, most importantly, squaring your half square triangles, making sure your seam is crisp and it’s bisecting the corners and you’re cutting off your dog ears, that’s imperative. But then as you build it out, now you can, it different different patterns do different things. Um, we’ve done, they’re doing the herringbone. I did the herringbone already and now I’m showing them how to use half square triangles to do other, um, other patterns other looks without, you know, going too crazy different layouts.

And so mine, I actually am joining the half square triangles into, um, four patches, which are pretty cool, but I’ve not only squared my house triangles, but now I’m also squaring my four patches. And that, that makes a huge difference. When you square at each stage, instead of just squaring up at the end, you don’t end up cutting off any of your pattern around the edges because it doesn’t fit in with the squaring. Um, you don’t waste as much fabric you were learning signs are so Christy, your seams are so smooth and so flat that they’re not bulky. You’re quilting is a lot easier to do because you’re not hitting any of these big bulk marks where all, everything is kind of coming together, meeting it. There’s just so much good that comes from squaring up as you go. So please, please, please square up as you go.

So all of this, I know I’ve just ran through a lot. All of this will be over on the modern culture So I’ve got you covered. If you are new to quilting and want to know like, what are all the things I need to accomplish everything I just said, I’ve got an awesome quilter supply list that will also be linked up in there for you to download for free cause that’s who I be. So you can go ahead and download that as forward slash episode dash 15. And let me just run through those tips again. So tip number one was properly prepared. Your fabric tip number two was master. You were favorite stitch length tip number three was to press your seams tip number four, there was to master your quarter inch seam allowance. And in my opinion, it should be via a patchwork foot, but you can do whatever works best for you and piecing tip.

Number five is to square up your blocks as you go. So there you have it guys, that is my 2 cents on the top five things that you can do to Uplevel your quilt top piecing and make your life just so much easier.

Um, but I just wanted to go ahead and congratulate you because you have just finished another episode of the modern quilter circle. Stop scrolling, start sewing podcast. Thanks for hanging out with me and make sure you never miss an episode by hitting subscribe wherever you listen to podcasts. Now guys, stop scrolling and start sewing.

Quilt Love

Noelani T.

I worked with Nicole in a one on one environment on a large quilt. I have limited sewing experience and...

Noelani T.

The Modern Quilters Circle

Noelani T.

I worked with Nicole in a one on one environment on a large quilt. I have limited sewing experience and Nicole’s expertise was invaluable for this large project. Nicole is very patient and explained the different steps and their purposes clearly. She improved my original idea to better accomplish my overall goal. I highly recommend Nicole as an instructor and would personally have another session in a heartbeat!

Michelle L.

I seriously didn’t even know the names of parts of my sewing machine before I worked with Nicole. She walked...

Michelle L.

The Modern Quilters Circle

Michelle L.

I seriously didn’t even know the names of parts of my sewing machine before I worked with Nicole. She walked me through everything step by step. And it was amazing. She taught me the ins and outs of my machine and how to add each basic concept together. It was invaluable, because now I can figure things out and get creative without fearing the dreaded unravel!
The Modern Quilters Circle