When Quilting, Size Matters
Quilting is a relaxing hobby, but every project presents a unique challenge. If you are a beginning or intermediate quilter, these tips will help you navigate the treacherous waters of resizing your quilt.
Lets start with some general statements about size. While you are staying within a quilt size of around a yard long on all sides, the project you are working on stays manageable. This means that the volume of fabric you are working with and the size of the fabric pieces you are using don't present special size related problems. As the quilt starts to get larger or smaller, however, problems start to pop up. They can be managed, but you should know what you are getting into before you begin.
Size Considerations for Miniature Quilts
Going smaller presents challenges because accurate piecing becomes more important the smaller the blocks become. The seams on a nine patch (a really simple block) become harder to match as the patches become smaller. Postage stamp quilts look great, but those pieces at three inches are much easier to assemble than they are at one and a half inches. This is doubly true of any blocks using half or quarter square triangles, or special templates.
Fabric is also harder to handle as it gets smaller. You'll have noticed that your fabric sometimes shifts at the beginning or ending of a line of stitching, which leads to inaccurate seams. Little pieces are pretty much all beginnings and endings. If you haven't mastered accurate seaming, working in miniature is likely to be a nightmare for you. Another way of looking at this would be that your first miniature project probably wouldn't win any awards, but you'll walk away from the experience a better quilter.
Size Considerations for Large Quilts
On the other hand, going much larger with a block can create cutting nightmares. Our rotary cutting mats make it a cinch to cut manageable strips. Once the strips or fussy cuts get beyond a size that will fit comfortably on the mat, some fancy folding and planning is necessary to cut them accurately. Mistakes in cutting large pieces of fabric can be expensive.
Going larger also means that there will eventually be more bulk to handle. The problem may not seem too great when working with single blocks, but once you start assembling rows and sections, the drag created by dangling or bunched fabric, and the rolled or scrunched fabric bundled at the right side of the needle can start to make maneuvering fabric harder, more physically taxing, and more frustrating.
Once you have a pieced top prepared, you still have to quilt it. If you don't have access to a long or medium arm quilting-machine your top, batting, and backing have to go through your sewing machine to be quilted together. Dreading the problems this presents is the reason why many quilters create tops that never get quilted.
What should you do if you are determined to go larger or smaller with your quilting project? These tips will help:
Miniature Quilts Tips
- Keep a small ruler near your sewing machine and check each piece after you sew it.
- Iron everything as you sew and be doubly careful to avoid pleating and distorting the fabric.
- Use quality fabric.
- Wash your fabric before you begin a project.
- Use a low loft batting, and wash it before you use it. In small projects, shrinkage is your enemy.
- Invest in a magnifying glass and a good sewing lamp.
Large Quilts Tips
- Never was the old adage 'measure twice, cut once' more true than in dealing with cutting large quilt pieces.
- Buying a large rotary mat helps too.
- Before making large cuts, be sure your rotary blade is sharp, and use a large size (60mm) rotary cutter if you've folded the fabric thicker than eight layers deep.
- When you start seaming, roll or pin fabric to make it behave.
- Consider a quilt-as-you-go system in which you completely finish sections of the quilt one at a time and them put those sections together with hidden seams. There are a number of methods out there; it's just a matter of knowing how you're going to handle the assembly before you're too far into the project.
- Consider buying extra wide backing fabric in order to make assembly easier. It's tempting to use a sheet, but dense thread count fabrics (like sheets) makes quilting more difficult than using standard cotton fabric.
- Make sure you understand something about measuring and adding borders before you take on a large project. If you don't get the measuring, cutting, and pinning of your large quilt borders right, they can turn out looking like ruffles.
When dealing with the large and small of quilting, planning is important. It's also important to keep checking your work. Challenging and sometimes difficult projects are satisfying, but only if you get them right. If you keep backtracking to make sure you've gotten a step right, it will save you grief and make it much more likely that you'll finish the project successfully.