The Mad Patcher

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A note to my quilt guilt

The PatcherPosted by The Mad Patcher May 08, 2017 09:44PM

Sometimes it just takes a while to finish a quilt. This is something that I have come to accept over time. It wasn't easy though, because when I first started sewing I had this mantra that I should finish a project before starting a new one. I felt that this was the most efficient way of working. And for some time it worked really well. And then it suddenly didn't, because I got stressed.

We all know the lecture children get from their parents when they start too many projects at once, but never finish what they started. While this serves an educational purpose for children I am not sure it is optimal for adults. Our brains are made to handle several things at once and we need variety to keep our brains creative center going, so why not start a new project despite not having finished the last one?

Some quilts have been known to take years to finish. Not becuse they were difficult to sew, but because the maker simply didn't feel like working on it. And that is perfectly fine. Quilting is supposed to bring you happiness and pleasure and not guilt and stress over working on something that you don't want to work on.

This is a part of a quilt that is still on my design wall. The squares are not yet sewn together and the pattern keeps changing. I have been working on this project for about half a year now and every now and again I ignore it completely to work on other things. I know that I will finish it eventually, and I am looking forward to that, but for now I am taking my time.

I made it a rule for myself not to make quilting a chore and therefore I do not have to feel guilty if I abandon a project for a little while to work on something that is more interesting. And that is perfectly ok!

Just find a proper place to store your project and leave it there until you feel like working on it again. If you never feel like working on it again consider giving it to someone who wants to.

After all the best quilts are the ones that were made with passion and love.

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Happy Color Quilt

QuiltingPosted by The Mad Patcher Feb 11, 2017 01:53PM
I did it! I finished my happy color quilt. For the longest time I had 2/3 of a jelly roll hidden away in a corner, because I didn't know what to do with it. About a month ago I was browsing through various quilting channels and then it struck me - finally I had an idea! I used Angela Walters' Strip City Quilt from the Midnight Quilt Show as an inspiration. I improvised here and there, so I did not follow here instructions to the point. For example I added three squares that are different than the others to make it more interesting.

At first I didn't have enough color strips in my jelly roll, but I just added some leftover black and white strips from another roll and that solved my problem. I finished piecing the top after only two nights, because it was so much fun! I spent a lot of time measuring and cutting my pieces as accurately as possible and for this reason almost all the points matched up perfectly in the end.

This time I found it really difficult to find a proper backing for my quilt. I spent A LOT of time going back and forth between different fabrics at the fabric store and I ultimately decided on an apple background - I was still doubting my decision even when I had bought the fabric - but when I added it to the quilt sandwich I had finished the binding I was really happy about my decision. I ended up liking the backing so much, because all the colors from the front are represented in the apples and it gives the quilt a playful touch.

For the quilting I chose a simple diamond pattern. Angela Walters does a similar thing, though she adds a floral pattern to the middle of each square. I chose not to do that, because the colors on my quilt were already busy enough. I quilted with a walking foot to make sure that all the layers got fed through the sewing machine evenly. I used the fabric corners as orientation points for my quilting and I think it turned out great. We already love it here at home. It adds some color and happiness to these dark winter days.

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To prewash or not to prewash fabric

SewingPosted by The Mad Patcher Dec 05, 2016 09:19PM

I have to admit that I am a bit lazy when it comes to doing laundry. I always push it until I cannot avoid it any longer. However, when I comes to new fabrics, I usually wash them right away, so they are ready just in case I think of a project to use them for.

There are a few guidelines to follow when washing new fabrics, since some fabrics tend to shrink more than others depending on the kind of fiber that is used. The general advice is to wash all fabrics to remove surplus color, dirt and chemicals and to shrink them.

Let me start out by saying that you should NEVER wash precut fabrics. Precuts like charmpacks and jelly rolls all have a consistent size. If you wash them they will shrink to various sizes, differ in shape and lose some of the fabric since the edges tend to unravel.

My second rule is to ALWAYS wash fabrics that are going to be used for garments. You would not want to sew a dress that fits perfectly and then wash it only to discover that it shrunk and you can no longer wear it. Also some garments require different types of fabric and they all shrink to different degrees.

Here is a list with different fabrics:

Broadcloth and quilting cotton: Washed and dry, I usually wash and dry on a medium setting.

Flannel: Likes to shrink a lot, which is why prewashing and drying at high temperatures is necessary to prevent future shrinkage. Use cooler settings for future washes.

Knits: Likes to shrink as well. I wash them at medium to high temperatures and dry them in dryer for pre-treatment. I do not put knits in the dryer after finishing a project.

Linen: Do pre-wash linen, since it will get softer and feel much nicer, but it won't shrink very much. Linen is usually very durable and can take relatively high temperatures.

Silk: Wash in the sink by hand with a mild shampoo and hang dry.

Wool: Only wash at very low temperatures. No dryer. Mild soap. Many people prefer handwashing or the dry cleaner.

Polyester: Fabrics like fleece, minky and faux leather do not need to be pre-washed, since they do not shrink. Only wash at medium temperatures. Dry on low to medium temperatures to avoid misshaping of the fabric.

Rayon: Likes to shrink. Wash in warm water on the handwashing setting and dry in medium temperatures. Keep out of the dryer after the project is finished.

For quilters: If you wash your quilt for the first time make sure to throw a color catcher, a special cloth that catches residual color, in the washing machine to prevent bleeding colors from ruining your lighter areas - this is advisable for quilts made with precuts.

Be sure to check which temperature your fabrics can be washed at. Most batting does not need prewashing since it either does not shrink at all or only shrinks minimally. If you are making a quilt that will never need washing, like a wall hanging, you do not need to think about prewashing and fabric type.

Protip: Sew the ends of your yardage with a zig zag stitch or serge it before throwing it in the washer to prevent it from unravelling.

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How to attach and use a walking foot

QuiltingPosted by The Mad Patcher Nov 27, 2016 09:06PM
If you are fairly new to quilting, or maybe sewing in general, you will probably wonder what this curious looking sewing machine foot is. It is called a walking foot. A walking foot is a quilter's best friend and many fellow sewers swear by it when sewing garments and bags. Especially when handling several thick layers of fabric and stretchy fabrics the walking foot, also called 'even feed foot', will make sewing easier.

Every time your needle moves up and down your feed dogs, the zigzaggy things under your needle, will move up and grab the fabric to move it backwards. This makes sewing easier and gives a more even stitch length, since you do not have to pull the fabric through manually. Some fabrics tend to shift when moving them through the sewing machine. This happens because the feed dogs only pull on one side. The walking foot makes it possible for all layers to move evenly, because it provides feed dogs on the upper side of the fabric.

I have seen many new sewers ask questions about how to attach and use the walking foot. Compared to other sewing machine feet this one looks like a monster, but believe me when I say it looks worse than it is. Just follow these steps:

1. Screw off your existing sewing machine foot.
2. Attach the walking foot by attaching (in this case) the black part with the screw to the foot holder on your machine.
3. Make sure that the movable arm on your foot is grabbing the needle arm on your machine. The needle arm is right where the tightening screw of the needle is located. This will make sure that your walking foot's feed dogs move up and down every time your needle moves up and down.

For first-timers I recommend going nice and slow to get used to the foot.

Quilters are dealing with at least three layers of fabric and even if the quilt is properly basted, it can sometimes be difficult to keep the layers from shifting. A walking foot will prevent this from happening. It is important to notice that the walking foot is not recommmended for free motion quilting. You will need a darning / embroidery foot for free motion quilting.

Walking feet tend to be a little more expensive than other feet but you get a lot of utility out of them, so it's worth it. As I mentioned before you can use them for sewing garments and other stretchy fabrics as well. I recommend avoiding the cheepest models, since the plastic parts in them tend to be less durable. But you don't necessarily have to use a brand foot either, since most mid-price range feet are just as good.

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Storing my Stash

The PatcherPosted by The Mad Patcher Nov 16, 2016 03:25PM
Many crafters have this issue - where to put all those fabrics, notions and other supplies? It takes a bit of organisational skill to find a way to store everything so it fits your needs, but eventually every crafter finds a way.

I like looking at my stash. It inspires me and at the same time reminds me to use the fabrics that I have, instead of going out to buy new fabrics - allthough I have to admit that I like extending my stash anyway - it's definitely the sewer's curse.

Because I share my sewing space with the living room I want to keep my sewing area in reasonable order, so recently I went out to buy some metal baskets and jars to organize my things.

The jars work perfectly for my sewing notions like zippers, threads and buttons. The great thing about them is that I can see everything, but the dust stays out and everything stays organized. I tried to color coordinate my threads a little, but you know how that goes...

For my fabrics I use metal baskets in different sizes - they can be stacked if necessary. I fold and stack my fabrics nicely, so they look good on the shelf. Each basket has its own color or pattern theme. I also have a big vase that I use for scraps. Every once in a while I try to use them, so my scrap stash doesn't grow beyond control.

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Appliqué sew easy

SewingPosted by The Mad Patcher Nov 16, 2016 02:40PM

Have you ever looked at one of those projects that had a super pretty appliqué design and thought that you would never be able to do this yourself? I felt the same way until i discovered how easy appliqué can be if you have the right tools - and it's really not that many.

I tried a bunch of different things before I found the easiest way to deal with almost any appliqué pattern. I discovered that Heat'n Bond is a big help when it comes to keeping your pattern in place before stitching it down. It's a light adhesive that you iron on the wrong side of your fabric before cutting out your pattern. I prefer the feather lite, since the stitching afterwards is going to provide the necessary durability.

First iron your fabric to the iron-on adhesive - do not pull off the paper yet. Then you draw the pattern - flower petals, hearts, you name it... - on the paper side of your fabric. Remember to draw it mirrored, since you are going to turn around the pattern after cutting it. Use sharp scissors, a rotary cutter or a cutting machine to cut out your pattern and pull off the paper.

Now you are ready to adhere the pattern. Place it on the fabric you want to adhere it to and iron it on with the right side up. Apply heat for about ten seconds and then let it cool down.

I prefer to use a blanket stitch to stitch down my patterns, but you can also use a tight zigzag or any other wide stitch that you like. Make sure that the stitches are close so your pattern does not fray. Just follow the edge of your pattern and you are done. Simple as that!

I especially love working with petals, because you can do so much with them by arranging them in different ways. I usually make my own templates with plastic sheets.

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Piece, press, quilt

QuiltingPosted by The Mad Patcher Nov 16, 2016 02:33PM

I never iron my clothes - but I always press my seams when sewing quilts. Mostly because a proper pressing makes projects look so much more professional and working with on it is so much more fun.

You can reduce a lot of bulk by pressing your seams flat, which will make the layering of the top, batting and back easier to deal with.

Just give your pieces a gentle press. You can use steam, if you want to, but try to avoid moving the iron back and forth too much, since this may stretch your fabric and ruin the shape of your piece. Don't iron your seams.

I always press my seams to the side. Some people like to press their seams open, but I prefer pressing them to the side, since an open seam will make it impossible for you to stitch in the ditch when quilting and I usually do not think about my quilting pattern before I actually start quilting. Most quilters agree that pressing your seam to the dark side is best, since the dark fabric won't show through the light fabric in the end.

In some cases you may have to square up your pieces - pressing your piece will make it easier to get exact squares. Also your pieces will line up more accurately, especially if you make sure to press seams that are going to form an intersection in each their direction, so they can nest properly.

Protip: Make sure to give your seams a little press before you actually open up the fabric to press it to the side. This will set the seam and make it more receptive to a precise pressing.

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Making a buttonhole

SewingPosted by The Mad Patcher Nov 16, 2016 02:30PM

For the longest time I was confused about this long white plastic thing that comes with most sewing machines. Turned out it was for making buttonholes. It sure looks silly, but it does its job. Now that I know how quick and easy it is I sometimes get the urge to make buttonholes where none belong. Here is an easy tutorial:

1. Mark the place on your fabric where you want your buttonhole to be. Be sure that is in the right spot, so that your button can go through it easily.

2. Take your buttonhole foot and place the button you want to use in it like shown in the picture above. Then attach it to your machine with the button in place.

3. Lower the buttonhole sensor. This step is very important, since the sensor measures the length of the button. If this device is not lowered your machine will not stop sewing and just create one endless buttonhole.

4. Set your machine to the buttonhole setting. (On my Singer it is a little rectangle, nr. 67/68).

5. Place your fabric under your buttonhole foot and lower it. Note that the machine is going to start sewing at the end of the buttonhole and therefore is going to sew backwards first. Place your fabric accordingly.

6. Let it sew! It will stop automatically when it is done.

7. Take up the fabric and place a pin right before the end of the buttonhole.

8. Use a seam-ripper to open the fabric towards the pin. Now take out the pin - done!

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The Singer and I

The PatcherPosted by The Mad Patcher Nov 16, 2016 02:22PM

My very first sewing machine was a very old Bernina, but I didn't use it very much. I was around 18 when I got it and all I could think about at the time was finishing high school. I didn't really have time for learning a new skill - and on top of that I could not figure out how to thread my machine properly. I ended up giving it away eventually.

When I got older I wanted to start sewing with a machine after hand sewing for many years, so I told my grandma about it. I asked her for advice on prices and brands and quickly found a machine that I liked. But before I could buy it my grandma told me that my aunt had an old Privileg machine that she didn't use anymore and she wanted to give it to me for free. Of course I said yes. Before my aunt got it my grandma used it for many years, so it was old and did not have all the modern stitch options, a visible bobbin and back stitching. But it was the perfect machine for a beginner. I used it almost every day for about a year, until I broke it. I was so sad, because it had become so important to me. Silly me...

I decided that I needed a new sewing machine and it had to be here and now. I did some research on the internet and decided to buy a Singer, since I had only heard good things about it and it had all the basic functions plus a few extras. I got it the next day. I have since used it with great joy every day.

It is a Singer Confidence 7467 - it came with a few bobbin spools, an appliqué foot, a zipper foot, a blind stitch foot, a satin stitch foot, a buttonhole foot and a lot of other things. I went through the manual meticulously when I first got it and I would recommend everyone do this. First of all you will discover things that you did not know a sewing machine could do. Second of all you reduce the risk of breaking your machine by a billion, because you actually know how it works.

I love my sewing machine and I think that all fellow sewing people out there know what I mean when I say that I feel a strange connection to it.

Protip: Now I know that buttonhole foot look weird and scary, but I would really recommend trying it out, since it is so easy to use once you have tried it. I made a tutorial for it. Find it HERE.

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Quilting - 5 beginner mistakes

QuiltingPosted by Jaqueline Nov 16, 2016 01:55PM

I made so many rookie mistakes when I started quilting. Most people would probably agree that you never stop learning, no matter how long you've been doing it. This is certainly true when it comes to quilting - but that is what makes it fun, right? You will inevitably become better at it every single time, so go for it!

1. Not paying enough attention to accuracy when cutting pieces

When I started quilting I thought that cutting my pieces would be the smallest of my problems. I had a standard long ruler that is usually used for paper-crafting and I had a pair of relatively short scissors not made for cutting fabrics - but I thought that would be okay, since they were really sharp.

In my very first project I wanted to piece together 5 inch squares and long strips. Sounds easy enough, right? Well, since my cutting was not very straight, all my pieces were kinda off, which made it extremely difficult to put the squares together and still maintain a straight line throughout the quilt. So the most important thing was getting a bigger ruler - 5 by 16 inches should suffice - even better if it's a non-slip ruler.

Protip: If you don't like cutting yardage, you can by precuts in different sizes at many fabric stores.

2. Not marking my 1/4 inch line

It is very common for quilters to have a 1/4 inch seam allowance when they sew together their pieces. Now I know why! Before I started quilting I read about it on internet blogs and because I was so excited to start sewing my own quilt, I did not pay enough attention to this detail. I put my pieces together with what I thought was the same seam allowance, but when I tried putting together my rows almost none of my corners matched.

Most quilters use the 1/4 inch, because it is easy to calculate with and many machines have a 1/4 mark that you can follow when sewing. It gives you just enough seam allowance to make the pressing of the seams easier and to not waste any fabric. If your machine does not have a mark, you can mark it yourself. If you feel uncomfortable drawing directly on your machine you can place a piece of tape where you need to set your mark and draw on the tape. Simply measure a 1/4 inch from the needle and set your mark.

Protip: You can get presser feet for most machines that have a 1/4 inch "guide".

3. Not pressing my seams

When I started quilting I did not even own an iron. Honestly, I hate ironing and always make sure that my new clothing does not require this kind of care. I created my first project completely without setting or pressing my seams. That was definitely a mistake. My fabric was bulking up everywhere.

If you want to keep your seams straight and make it easier to join them accurately with other seams later on, it is important to press them. The buzzword here is PRESSING - not ironing! If you go back and forth while pressing on your freshly joined pieces, your fabric might stretch and make it impossible to created exact squares afterward.

When pressing your seams, apply a slight pressure with your iron and only move it back and forth a bit if absolutely necessary.

Protip: Pressing your seams in opposite directions will make nesting easier and create perfect intersections. Let all seams on a joined stripe go in the same direction and all seams of the stripe that you want to join it with in the other direction. When you put the stripes right sides together you will feel the seams locking really nicely against each other.

4. Not pinning enough

If you are all new to the whole quilting thing, pinning can be a lifesaver. Better safe than sorry, right?

I did not use enough pins when I started, which led to me using the seam ripper a quadrillion times before I got things right. Once you get a feeling for quilting and piecing you won't need the pins anymore.

Protip: If you do not like pinning, you can use fabric glue, which will wash out, or sewing clips.

5. Choosing a very thick batting

We love my first quilt here at home, because it is nice and warm. It is actually more like a duvet, which is great. However, when I quilted it, the fact that I used a very thick batting for my first project did make it somewhat more complicated. First of all my sewing machine had to go through a very thick layer, so I had to use a stronger needle, which I figured out after struggling with it for quite a while.

My first quilt was quite large and it was a hassle to move this monster through the sewing machine. I had to baste my layers much more than I have to with thinner batting, unfortunately I figured that out after I was done. I pin-basted it every 10 inches, but it should have been every 5. When the batting is very thick the fabric can easily pull in awkward directions while moving through the machine, which is why the basting is so important.

So to make your first project a little easier to deal with, do yourself a favor and choose a thinner batting.

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