So many people have written asking how I manage to get a quilt made a week. So here’s my top ten hints on how I get quilts done!
1. I have a room just for sewing, right next to the kitchen and away from the bedrooms. I can dash in there and sew a few seams whenever I find (literally) a minute. I bound a quilt during the commercials on a movie on Sunday night – the TV was on in the kitchen, so I knew when to go back.
2. Put your sewing pressing on the ironing board at the end of each sewing session, alongside your clothes ironing. When you iron some clothes, get your sewing pressing done too.
3. Put a small table next to your favourite comfortable chair and ALWAYS have some hand-sewing on it. So if you sit down for even a few minutes you can get a little hand-sewing done without having to hunt for something to do first.
4. Make up an attractive bag with a full sewing kit and a small hand-sewn project in it. This is your “take anywhere” project, and you pick it up whenever you think there is any possibility that you could be stuck somewhere and can get some hand-sewing done. I keep mine on my small table next to my chair, so that I only have one hand-sewing project to worry about at a time.
5. Keep all your sewing tools (scissors, rotary cutter, etc) in a central place like a basket (I use a big pencil case). And keep this basket next to you as you sew so that you always put the tools back in it. That way you will never have to waste time searching for tools. Also, you can grab this quickly as you rush out the door late for a class! Also, I keep my bobbins in three separate bobbin cases – marked polyester, cotton and quilting. The plastic bobbins have p’s, c’s or q’s written on them too, so I always know what I have in my hand.
6. Use zip-lock bags to store all the bits and pieces of each project. Even if you have to pack it all away at the end of the day, you won’t waste time searching for anything. If you are using any special threads, trims, etc, put these in the zip lock bag too.
7. Binding can be almost completely sewn on by machine (sew on the front as normal, fold it to the back so that the binding overlaps the first seam by about a quarter of an inch, pin well, then ditch-stitch from the front). It doesn’t give as neat a finish as hand-sewing, and you might have to finish off the corners by hand, but it is quick.
8. When you buy the fabric for the quilt top, or when you start a project from stash fabrics, buy or set aside the fabric for the backing and the batting as well. Store these with the top while it is in progress. When the top is finished, the next step – without stopping for breath! – is to baste the quilt and then start quilting. If you pack the top away because you have to go out and get batting and backing you might never get back to it. A quilt is not a quilt until it is a quilt – it is a quilt top and, unless you want to use it for a tablecloth, it is not finished!
9. Keep your tools in good condition. When you put a new blade in your rotary cutter, buy the next one. Nothing slows you down like a blunt cutter (two cuts instead of one). Have your scissors sharpened regularly. Keep your different types of pins in different containers so you don’t have to hunt through one big pin tin for the right sort of pin. Change your sewing machine needles regularly (I use a new piecing needle and a new quilting needle for every second quilt). Clean the fluff out of your sewing machine after every quilt.
10. Look after your patterns. The small zip-lock bag most patterns come in are seldom large enough to keep it all in after you have opened it up and pored over it, and never big enough to hold all the templates and little scraps of paper you add when it is an applique pattern. Put the pattern in a large zip-lock bag and keep it all together, rather than trying to squeeze it all back in the original bag (trust me – it’s hard enough for me to fit my paper-hungry patterns in the original bag before you buy it, let alone after you have opened it up! ). If you can’t fit all the bits and pieces in the bag you might leave some out and then that wastes time in looking for them later.