Older Quilting Hints


Everyone has a favorite hint or little secret that makes quilting easier. Here's a place to share yours.

Please use our form to add your special advice to the immediately list.

Date: 12/25/1
From: jla3@waymark.net

I tried the hint about using 2 used rotary blades instead of buying a new blade, and it works beautifully....thanks so much for that money-saver hint!!!

Date: 12/20/1
From: PHarris

Maybe everyone but me already knows this, but:

I've been having problems with ripples/waves developing when adding borders to my quilt tops, either by hand or by machine, no matter how carefully I measure and match and pin things before sewing.

The cure seems to be a big ol' roll of masking tape :-) ... I put a strip of masking tape about 1/4" from where the seam will go, all along the edge of BOTH pieces. Then I sew as usual. The masking tape prevents me from accidentally stretching the fabrics or pulling the thread too tight, so the border goes on flat as a pancake... and for narrow borders, having the masking tape (accurately applied) also means it takes less concentration to keep my line of stitching straight.

Best wishes,


Date: 12/3/1
From: stacey

Just getting into hand piecing, and have found ironing the pieces for each block onto freezer paper is a great way to carry a bunch of blocks to piece while traveling!

Also when using fusible webbing, interfacing etc try putting a piece of tin foil (shiny side up) under what you are ironing. It helps to trap the heat, because it's reflected back up to what you are ironing.

Date: 11/27/1
From: Carol B

Have you ever sewn two pieces of fabric together and you end up with with one being longer than the other and you know they matched when you started? Put the needle down in the fabric BEFORE you lower the pressure foot. BACKSTITCH a couple of stitches and then sew as usual. Your two fabic pieces will be perfect matches. I have perfect quilt block using this method. Of course you have to have accurate sizing before sewing

Date: 11/6/1
From: Donna (again)

I wanted my sewing machine to tilt like the other
ladies at the quilt retreat, however didn't want to
pay for the board that some got to put their machines

Instead I bought 3 inexpensive door stops and used
them under my machine to tilt it.

What a difference, I can see better since it is tilted
towards me, and my body seems to like the angle better.

I will not be embarrassed to take the door stops to quilt
retreats, cause they work the same and cost less than 3-00
allowing me more for fabric!


Date: 11/6/1
From: Donna

I have been using wool for applique, and other
projects. I use the white freezer paper that can
be found in grocery stores when I cut the shapes
for my projects.

First trace the object on the paper side of the
freezer paper, then iron it on the wool, slick side
down. Then cut around the shape and then peel off
the freezer paper.

The paper can be used several times, and add stability
to the wool, and is easier to cut using this as a

I am making pin cushions from wool, and this technique
has made the projects so much easier.

I like using felted wool in my projects, and just wash
and dry the wool to felt it. A 36 inch long piece of
wool can shrink, about 4 inches when washed and dried,
the one time I measured.

Date: 10/8/1
From: Sandy in Canada

Knowing what chemicals are in your quilt cloth may be the next step to opening your windows when ironing fabric. Quilt cloth is one big chemical bath from beginning to end. Quilters need to know more about the materials they use. Resins are impregnated, put on the surface of cloth and these resins don't come off no matter how much washing you do, it's there for the life of the cloth. It can be smelled when placing a hot iron on your cloth.
Sandy in Canada

Date: 9/30/1
From: Susan again

Check out the website www.quiltaholics.com. It will make you laugh and relieve your guilt, if you have any.

Date: 9/29/1
From: Susan

If you're getting headaches when you iron, pre-wash the fabric and open the windows. I set a small fan next to my ironing board which blows the chemical odors away from my face. Really makes a difference.

Date: 9/29/1
From: Susan

When machine piecing, don't you hate it when the top piece stretches? Whenever possible, put the piece with the lengthwise grain on top. The lengthwise grain has no stretch because the threads lie flat. The crosswise grain stretches because the threads are woven over and under. Just give the fabric a little tug to see if it stays tight. That's the side to put on top when you sew the pieces together.

Date: 9/16/1
From: Gerry in MO

When you're making a block that has many points coming together in a lump, it's better to press the seams open. I've found that the best way to do this is to use a moistened Q-tip to dab a little water on the wad of seams, then press with a hot, dry iron. They flatten right out.

Date: 9/13/1
From: nicole

if you do not use the right equipment to cut or sew the material it will end up being uneven and won't work out right

Date: 9/12/1
From: Ohibette@aol.com

To take the bumps out of self healing mats: I placed my mat in the summer sun outdoors for a couple of days. Now it lays flat.

Date: 8/30/1
From: dxn4342@earthlink.net

I have thousands of cards of silk ribbon--but, there were too many larger sizes. My solution was to weave these into fabric swatches and iron onto fusible web. These give me more flexibility, variations and dimension in my crazy quilts. Weaving ribbon can be an art unto itself. Enjoy

Date: 8/24/1
From: teriharich@comporium.net

I love hand quilting and applique and have discovered that you can keep a dryer sheet handy to smooth and condition your thread by simply sliding it across your length of thread to minimize knots and tangling.

Date: 8/15/1
From: Jan Navarra August 15, 2001

When I'm ready to put down my hand quilting for the day, I always thread my needle and put it in the quilt , ready to go on quilting in the a.m. when I have a few minutes,while I have my coffee. I have found that I never lose my needle, and sometimes having that needle threaded and ready for action is an incentive for even just a little bit of quilting to start the day. Surprising how many blocks , etc. you can get quilted in just a half hour or so.

Date: 8/12/1
From: Elizabeth

My husband likes to golf so I asked him to save his old [leather] golf gloves. I wash them in the washing machine, line dry and cut the fingers off.
Makes dandy thinmbles.

Date: 8/8/1
From: Carolyn in North Carolina

I attached one of those round lighted magnifier lights next to my sewing machine. Not only does it give more light, but older eyes can see everything great and threading the needle is a breeze now. I couldn't do without it.

Date: 8/8/1
From: Carolyn in North Carolina

I attached one of those round lighted magnifier lights next to my sewing machine. Not only does it give more light, but older eyes can see everything great and threading the needle is a breeze now. I couldn't do without it.

Date: 8/7/1
From: skcreats@bcpl.net

Lately I have been using polar fleece instead of
the traditional batting and batting. You only have
two layers to deal with. The quilts are soft and
cuddly, the grandkids love them. Have made about
10 so far. I machine quilt with the walking foot.
If you would like to see a few go to my web site
Sharon in Baltimore

Date: 8/7/1
From: Carole, Kearney NE

I usually use magic sizing on my fabric after laundering when I iron it. I have been working on a quilt that requires the sewing together of two bias edges. I took the pieces that had been cut already and used regular starch and sprayed the heck out of them. Some were sprayed so heavily that there was white flaking but it wears off as you work with the pieces. It made the handling of the bias edges so so much easier. Try it, you'll like it! As you starch the pieces and press, be sure that you "PRESS" and do not glide the iron back and forth to keep from stretching the edges.

Date: 8/5/1
From: Phyllis Anderson

I just read about using used exray film for templates. For those of you who do not have access to xray film, use the blured or "bad" photo's you get back from the photo-shop. Tho they aren't transparent they make great templates!

Date: 7/27/1
From: mevanick@home.com

If you have gunk on the bottom of your iron, and no iron cleaner handy, try sprinkling salt on a paper bag and ironing it with a hot iron. It works for me. (I do have some boughten iron cleaner, but where is it?)LOL Alice in Western WA

Date: 7/26/1
From: kim in maryland

If your machine has a horizontal thread holder, keep an emery board in your sewing supplies. Often I find that spools have little "nubs" and rough spots which catch the thread as it feeds off the spool. When I buy a new spool of thread I give it a few swipes around the edge with my emery board and it works great. No more snagged thread.

Date: 7/23/1
From: Ida in FL

I just sandwiched a 39" square quilt top. I did it by laying out my batting and then rolling my backing on a large cardboard tube (such as wrapping comes on) then rolled it out onto the batting and smoothing as I rolled. Then turned it over and did the same with the quilt top. I have a very flat and smooth quilt ready to baste and quilt.

Date: 7/19/1
From: Deborah in SC

Instead of using freezer paper for paper piecing you can go to an office supply store and buy tracing paper. Cut it to 8 1/2 x 11 size (using an old rotary blade) and then you can run it through your copier just like regular paper. It tears very easy after sewing and you can see through it!
Also I use this same concept for doing fancy borders or large intricate quilitng in a square. I photocopy the design on the tracing paper. This works great even with free motion quilting...no more extensive time needed to mark a quilt and I can also adjust the pattern to fit my border or square.

Date: 7/17/1
From: Debbie of Sierra Vista, Arizona

Those pestky threads and bits of fabric
all over the place!
The solution is Stickey roller brush.
Just keep it by your work area
and roll all that stuff onto the roller then
peel it when full and throw it away, or make
art an object out of it! just kidding

Date: 6/30/1
From: m.mberry@verizon.net

I needed something stable to work on and got the idea of a wooden cutting board. I took a regular cardboard to a men who does woodworking. He made me a plywood board that I wouldn't take a share in a gold mine for. It is in 2 hinged sections with 2 sections to each part. That way I can use either a small side (2 sections) or use all four sections together to make it the size of a regular cutting board. One bonus that I didn't expect - I do machine quilting on a quilting machine (not sewing machine) and When I need to do work on a large article, I put the board across the bars on my quilting machine and that makes it just the right height to work without bending over. What a back-saver! I should patent the idea!!

Date: 6/18/1
From: Connie from Tacoma

I had bought an old huge desk that I use as my sewing table at a junk store and I had trouble reaching across it to my ironing area so with my hubby's help, we put in a sliding ironing board underneath where your chair slides in and out. Its the same concept as with your computer keyboard underneath, Now I just pull it out when I need to press my small pieces in quilting. Oh, I used a piece of plywood and covered it with cotton batting and muslin stapled onto the back. It works great!! Also saves on space.

Date: 6/15/1
From: Carole Carter from Temple Hills, MD

I use shoe boxes to store my quilt blocks, templates I've made, quilting tools, binding, fabric strips, etc. I cover the shoe box with contact paper and label the outside.

Another hint: I store my scraps in boxes and use them in crazy quilts when I get bored with making my patterned blocks, hand quilting, etc.

I haven't made up this pattern for storing different sized quilting rulers but I plan to. If you're interested the pattern is called "organizer" and it's located at "http://www.quiltercreations.com. It looks similar to a clothes bag that hangs in the closet.

Date: 6/15/1
From: Carole Carter

For seam rippings (ugh), I use the buttonhole cutter. I spread the seam apart, place the buttonhole cutter directly on the threads and I've just opened a seam. To clean up the residue left by the threads, I just use masking tape rolled around the back of my hand. I dab the sticky side on the thread cuttings and that's it. I use masking tape for collecting threads that have fallen on my lap, to clean up my quilt top, etc. I also used the magnetic wand (usually used by bingo players) to pick up pins, needles, etc. that have fallen on the floor, etc. Hopes this helps my fellow quilters!!

Date: 6/3/1
From: jpcsews

This is a little follow up to the hint posted
before mine. I also cut up scraps of batting
to use in pillows. When I sew the front and
back of the pillow right sides together I line
the front and back fabric with a light weight
batting. Then turn the pillow right side out
to stuff with the scraps of batting that are
cut into small pieces. It is much easier to get
a smooth lumpless pillow.

Date: 6/3/1
From: mevanick@home.com

Yesterday, I was thinking about going to the store to buy stuffing for the pillows I was making. But then I remembered I have a book about pillows, and it said the best stuffing was dacron, but it should be cut up into pieces about the size of a cotton ball. I probably don't have any dacron lying around, but I do have a lot of odds and ends of batting. So I spent a couple of hours with my rotary cutter, cutting all of those dribs and drabs of batting into "bite size" pieces. So now I have stuffing for my pillows, and a couple less bags of stuff on my sewing room shelves. And the money I would have spent for more stuffing is still in my pocket. Alice in Western WA

Date: 5/28/1
From: Alice Baird

I've just discovered a great site for saving money buying quilting supplies: www.shopersrule.com. The way this site works is as follows: when you find an item you want, you put it in your shopping basket and then you submit a price you're willing to pay for it. They then email you whether they accept or reject your offer. I'd been wanting for some time a cutting table that folded and was high enough so as not to cause back pain while cutting out quilts and also one of those Ott Lites. Well, I found one of each that I liked and I suggested a price that was about $49 less than their "suggested retail price." They accepted my offer! Now I wish I'd gone even lower, but oh well. Thought all you quilters who are looking especially for rather pricey items might check out this site!

Date: 5/28/1
From: Rebecca

To quickly take out a row of stitches: with your stitch ripper take out every third or fourth stitch. Turn the fabric over and pull on the thread on the opposite side. The stitches come out easily. For more tips visit my web site at www.cottonwoodquilts.com

Date: 5/20/1
From: Lois

To center a photo image on your print out you will need to enlarge the "canvas" on which you are placing it. Next select the image by drawing around it and then use your Move tool to place the picture. Usually, enlarging the canvas is a tool in your software. But some users might have to center the image by clicking a box on Page Setup.

Always Preview before printing to make sure you know how everything will look on the finished print out.

Date: 5/19/1
From: Judy in West Virginia wvhummers@citlink.net

Box of memories...now a quilt!

I would like to share with you a quilt that we made for my daughter. I had kept a large box with all of her "stuff" as she was growing up. What were we going do with all of it??? We incorporated each item in a VERY LARGE quilt that can be hung on the wall or used in a guestroom. It will fit a double size bed. It is really not an every day quilt to be used, but is wonderful to just stand and look at all of the memories! Some of the items in the quilt are: the bib that she wore when she was baptized, fabric from her bassinet, a small stuffed toy that she carried until it was threadbare, her first pair of gloves, an Easter Bonnet, some favorite doll clothes that her grandmothers had made, a very worn, cloth drawstring candy bag that her grandfather carried to the front line during the Korean War, a hanky from her great-grandmother, her girl scout sash and all of the patches, T-Shirt day at school signed by all of her friends, my shoulder patch from my student nurses uniform, and many, many more items. This was a lot of work to put together but was worth it. Our daughter is now 37 years old and I can't explain to you the feeling I have when I look at this quilt. Most of the items were appliqued onto various sized block and then we tied the quilt instead of quilting it. Thought you might like a project for your "box of memories." This could be made for either boys or girls. Boys have "neat stuff" also!!! Happy Memories!!!

Date: 5/19/1
From: PLTELLME - Eva from Pennsylvania

I have just started a new project - a memory quilt for my daughter graduating from St. Charles
8th grade. She will be going on to a private High School next year - none of her friends will be attending - so I thought a signature memory photo quilt would be a nice present for her. I am using my computer to scan some special photos of her.
First I will scan these pictures then print them out onto a new product - Computer Printer Fabric -a muslin fabric that is paper backed so that it can be feed though your Deskjet printer. The finished results are just great - you simply peel-off the paper back and have a wonderful photo block. My quilt pattern is a Snow-ball Star quilt.
The photos are the Snowball bocks (7 inch block).
I only have one problem - and its holding-up my whole project!!!! No matter where I place my picture on the scanner (in the center) it always prints out onto the upper left hand corner or my fabric paper. If anyone with computer//quilkting experience can help me figure-out how to center this onto my 7" square, I would greatly appreciate it. Time is running out - please help me. Thanks to all who take the time to read this.

Date: 5/15/1
From: Ciara

Instead of buying what could end up being and exspencive sewing machine table. Use and old computer desk or buy one at a flea market. I had an old one in my basement and I found that the top drawer I could use the organizer trays to but all my little gagets and the filing bottom drawer I used for patters and half made quilt squares...

Fairbanks Alaksa

Date: 5/10/1
From: mevanick@home.com

If you have rotary cutter blades with nicks in them (from hitting pins, for instance), put TWO of these blades in your cutter at the same time. The nicks won't be in the same places, and you'll be cutting smoothly again. Alice in Western Washington.

Date: 5/3/1
From: from the bulletin board

Recipe to remove the yellowing in older blocks or quilts.

from http://www.quiltaholics.com/tips.htm

To restore old blocks/quilts, try the following recipe:
1 Gallon Water
1 Quart Buttermilk
1 Tablespoon Lemon Juice

Soak quilt in mixture then wash in mild detergent. Your colors will return to their original brillance.

Date: 4/25/1
From: Mary Lyn in Wisconsin

Red DMC Floss that bleeds:
The following DMC colors have had trouble bleeding, so it is suggested that they be soaked in a solution of 1/4 cup Epsom solt and 1 quart warm water, for about an hour, rinse and pat dry. The DMC colors are 304, 310, 321, 349, 487, 498, 606, 608, 666, 814, 815, 816, 8l7, 900, 902, and 939.

Date: 4/22/1
From: Carol B from Arkansas

I use the 'Grab It' or 'Swifter' mop cloths to clean my sewing machine and sewing area. Loose threads and lint stick like magic to these things.
I use them to mop my carpet to get all the loose threads up without having to lug out the vacuum.
Great for getting hair and lint off furniture too.

Date: 4/12/1
From: Claudia Moffat

I took a class over the weekend that required both
a 12.5" and 10.5" quilting ruler. Rather than spend
$15 each, I went to the hardware store and had them
cut plexiglass in each size. Each piece was about
$2, and can be used with my rotary cutter. I'm
considering having lots more made!

Date: 4/10/1
From: CarolB from Arkansas

To double the amount of thread your thread rack will hold just slip a plastic drinking straw over the thread holder dowels and slip as many spools as the straw can hold up (usually two large spools) and then cut off the excess straw.

Date: 4/8/1
From: Valerie in Hickory Hills

Many Quilting Hints have been about basting guns and what to use with them...cookie racks, patio tables or opened kitchen tables. Here's what my husband thought up: He went to the neighborhood thrift store and purchased two 20 inch square floor fans. Removing the two plastic grids from the front and back of each, he secured them together. Voila! I have a 40 inch square plastic grid that is just deep enough to use with the basting gun and big enough so I don't have to move the quilt sandwich again and again. Husbands are sure useful to have around!

Date: 4/5/1
From: Carmelle, Varennes, Canada

If you are having problems pulling your needle when it is loaded with stitches, try using cut off fingers from a medical latex glove. You can buy them at Club Price in boxes of 100, a lot cheaper than than finger cot at your local quilt shop, you get 4 for every glove ( the thumb is to big ) and they fit better in a lot of cases. You can aslo share the boxe with friends at your local quilt meetings or use them for dying fabric, gardening or painting. Enjoy...

Date: 4/5/1
From: Sandy, Brisbane Australia

Further to Terry's suggestion about xray film making great templates - the "bones" on the film can be removed by soaking film in bleach and water. The more bleach used, the faster this works. I rinsed the bleach off and dried with clean cloth. Works great!

Date: 3/30/1
From: Carole in MS

Just began reading your hints and would like to add to Tricia in Alabama's posting, something probably already posted somewhere back:

It is not only possible to iron on copier ink, but you can also iron on ink jet ink, and you can make it darker for transferring pictures to fabric with an ordinary ink jet printer which nowadays most of us have if we have a computer. You can usually do a flip picture in different image programs and graphic programs, probably already on your computer. This is ideal for situations where you need the correct face up on your fabric top, not reverse/mirrored of photos or something that is important to be true. You can transfer your color choices and details along with the outlines. This opens up all sorts of artistic opportunities.

I am new to the quilting world, tho' I have been crafting for years and also am a photographer and horticulurist and naturist. A friend gave me a butterfly quilt last year, and ever since then I have been eager to create. I think I'll start here and work my way through the pages and patterns and lessons and hints. Thanks for being here.

Date: 3/27/1
From: michelle@lanux.com

My mother shared a hint for applique with me this weekend. She trims all her pieces with pinking shears. When she is appliquing she does not have to stop and snip the zig zag does this for her.

Date: 3/22/1
From: Terry

If you know somebody who works at a hospital or somewhere else that does x-rays, see if they could get you exposed films (one's that were not good for medical purposes) and you can use it to make templates for cutting pieces or marking quilting patterns onto your quilt tops. The films may be smokey to dark colored, but you can mark them with a permanent marker and even the darkest of them are still fairly see-thru if you are trying to cut out certain areas of a fabric or whatever. The films are quite large, so 2-3 of them will give you lots to work with!

Date: 3/16/1
From: Christine, Toronto, Canada

For the past couple of years I have been making quilted jackets for friends and family. Because I have 6 different jacket styles, and knew I might be making several different sizes and/or adjustments to the pattern itself, I did not want to cut my original patterns. I therefore went to a medical supply store and bought a roll of that paper doctors use in their examination rooms. It is about 22 inches wide, several hundred feet long, and cost less than $5.00. It is easy to see through, doesn't rip or tear easily, and can be folded and put into size envelopes for each jacket.

Date: 3/13/1
From: Sandy Buss

whenever I finish a quilt top, before I machine quilt it (if this is the choice), I make a small quilt top (doll size) out of the left over fabric.
I finish the small quilt by machine including the border. Now I know how to handle my fabric by machine and what quilt pattern to use. I keep the small quilt till Christmas and include it with a doll for HIV KIDS or ToYs for TOTS. Sometimes I will make the doll a dress to match the quilt. What child doesn't like a blanket for their baby?
And it gives me the practice I need.

Date: 3/6/1
From: Sheila A. Roth-Litsch

I keep my bobbins in a container that fisher'people' use to keep their lures separated.
The one I found has six or seven round containers which attach to one another because the lid of one is the base of the next one. They are clear so I can see exactly where I have to unscrew the cap to get the color bobbin that I need.

Having trouble threading your machine needle?
Hold a small piece of white paper behind the needle. It makes it easier to see the hole where you need to put the thread.

Date: 2/27/1
From: michelle@lanux.com

I've just started using the fusible web - its great. I trace the outline of my project with onion skin (tracing paper) and use this on my project to get exact placement. (ie. I was putting a santa together and I can see exactly where his face should be placed or his arm, etc.)

I even iron over top instead of using a brown paper bag.

Date: 2/23/1
From: kpramela@hotmail.com

Where I live, I can't find plain templetes for quilts I may like to quilt so I found some thin cardboard to use as templetes, if you can find them. I make copies of the patterns then cut them out, paste them on the cardboard then cut the cardboard. The cardboard lasts longer than paper alone.

Date: 2/14/1
From: Barb B/Rochester, MN

When cutting and ironing alot of material, it seems like there are always threads all over. I have started using a lint roller brush on top of my cutting board, ironing board, and also the front and back of the quilt I am working on. It saves alot of time picking up all of those tiny threads.

Date: 1/26/1
From: Tricia in Alabama

I am new to quilting, but found something I wanted to share. After reading about printing onto freezer paper, I was asking DH if it would run in our copy machine, because I needed to enlarge patterns for my embroideried block project. He suggested I try just using the photocopy on plain paper and a hot iorn to transfer, that he knew some older copiers would have enough 'ink' to iorn off. Guess what? It worked!! Not a heavy line, faint but seeable, espically if you kept the original onhand for when you got 'lost'. It might not work with all copy machines, but it is worth a try with yours. Iorn needs to be on hottest, and it does take more than a few seconds. Be sure your iron is on the paper or the iorning board cover, not directly touching your fabric, it could scorch.

Date: 1/12/1
From: Snowbird@klis.com

I have found a good way to use up the thread on
almost empty spools. I bought a couple of bobbin
boxes. They have about 20 little places to put
them. On a boring day I take out all the half empty spools,
and fill the bobbins until the spools are empty.
You will find that you can place them in order
colourwize and you will see what you have. Also
they are ideal if you are someone who loves to
applique - Put a rubber elastic around the case
and take it with you.

Date: 1/8/1
From: ctflak@aol.com

I found a great way to get some tops basted and quilted. While snowed in New Years weekend I basted 3 full size quilts and machine quilted one. I used 505 Spray and Fix and basted each quilt in about 20 minutes. It is ordorless so I could use it in my kitchen. Then I machine quilted one and finised the others the next weekend and 505 still held strong. I had so many tops and no quilts. Now I have 3 quilts ready to use. Happy finishing...

Date: 1/3/1
From: Carol

For memory quilts, I have found that the "Bubble Jet Set 2000" works terrific, (you can buy it on-line) and is very easy to use. I ran a test after printing, I cut the picture in half and washed half (cold wash/hot dryer) and when done, you could hardly tell which piece had been washed. When you iron the treated fabric on the freezer paper, leave a top margin of 1" without any fabric on it, that way your printer will grab the paper and send it through without any problems. You can adjust the paper size and set a 1" margin in your program to position the pictures. Also, I put a border/frame around each picture 1/4" larger than the picture, that way I have accurate cutting lines printed with the pictures.

 World Wide Quilting Page * Hints