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Little things that I had forgotten and new ones I've learned

It's been awhile since I wrote a blog on QWS and figured it's about time I do. I've been quilting for many years and have taken many classes. I've also thought that I new everything and there wasn't a pattern out there that I couldn't make if I put my mind to it. Well over the last two months I've taken two quilt classes at the local quilt shop. The first one was a Beginner class (yes I said Beginner) and the second one was an Intermediate class. Before I took these classes I was having trouble with my seams matching, my points matching etc. but I was always able to pull it off and make the quilt look decent and sometimes almost (ALMOST) perfect.


Well I decided one day to visit my local quilt shop and asked what classes they had coming up and all they had was a Beginners Class so I signed up. The lady looked at me like I was nuts LOL I told her a little refresher course never hurt anyone and I was hoping I would be able to figure out in this class why I was having the trouble I was with seams, points etc. Before I go any further I've got to tell you that my teacher (Denise Domingue) was and is the best teacher I've run across in my years of taking classes. Anyway it was a 1 once a week class for 4 weeks (Thursday nites). 


The 1st Thursday rolls around and I go be-bopping in there with my machine and tool box ready to ace this class and end up getting bored with it. To the contrary, what lil ole Maria thought she knew went out the window and I looked forward to the next class.


One of the first things that was drilled into my head (and I did this many years ago but got so confident I didn't think I needed too anymore) was to PIN PIN PIN PIN and PIN again if I had too. Our first block was a rail fence. Yes even a beginner can make a 12 1/2" rail fence block but I never could because I something always went wrong. Denise politely took me by the hand and lead me to the wall of notions in the quilt shop and said "Hear take these and PIN (no she didn't holler at me lol).


Feeling kind of embarrassed and foolish, I grabbed the pack of pins, went back to my block, ripped it all apart and started again this time pinning even the straightest of seams. To my surprise when I finished the block the 2nd time it measured exactly 12 1/2", my seams were straight and they all met in the middle like they were suppose too! I was so excited!! We all know that a big no no is to sew over a pin but these pins are so thin my machine glided over them. So now my fear of sewing over pins has gone out the window and I will continue to pin!! No More saying "Oh this is just a straight seam I don't need to pin! for me.


Now lets talk about matching seams. I was taught many years ago that if you just made sure you butted up the seams and stick a pin in it they would match. WRONG answer. I don't know how many times I've had to rip and re-rip trying to get a seam to match. Denise taught me to butt the seams up together then take a pin and stick it thru the stitching on one side and if everything matched up the pin should come out the other side in the stitching of the other block. If it didn't then take the pin stick it thru the first seam (top block) and wiggle the pin so that it DID come out on the backside of the second blocks seam. Once matched make sure the pin was securely in place. Once that one was secure then put a pin on each side of the 1st pin then continue pinning the block/patch. This works! All of my blocks that had points that needed to match or even simple seams came out perfectly! Not only did my points, seams etc match but I had my 1/4" seam all the around and would not lose a point when I put the blocks together. I was like a kid that attended my first day at school!! All of this I'm writing about I either already knew and forgotten and had gotten very lazy with it. No more laziness for me. I will take the time to pin and make sure everything matches.


I always had trouble with my blocks, especially blocks that were star blocks with points, but now I am confident enough to say I can now possibly join block swaps. I could never get my blocks square. Denise taught me the right way to square my blocks but I'm not sure how I would explain that. lol


This next subject is controversial, to press or to iron. All I'm going to say on this subject is pressing is the ONLY way to go! And this I've always done. Something I've never even considered is pressing my seams open when there are alot of them that over lap. But now I do especially if its a block with a lot of seams that will over lap. Don't get me wrong I do not press open all of the seams just the last seams that hold the block together. Why? Well here again my block would come out 1/8" short and I knew that my cutting was spot on and now my seams, points, etc were spot on so something in the pressing was making my block fall short. So I tried pressing the main seams open and VOILA my blocks started measuring what they were suppose too. I do this now especially if the fabric I'm working with is "thick" and yes some quilt shop quality fabric is thick.. especially those that have pretty gold or silver running thru them. Try it you'll be surprised at the results and it also helps reduce the bulk of the block when you quilt it.


Now let's talk tools. Every quilter I know has more gadgets than they need it's just a necessity!! But there is one that has made my life so much easier and has saved me time that I'll fight someone for it. LOL It's a razor blade type ripper. I can't explain the way it looks so I will add photos to the end of this. But with this tool I can rip a block apart in more than half the time than I can with a regular seam ripper. You have to be careful because you can cut your material but when using it if you just barely touch the thread to be ripped it will cut it. No having to stick your ripper under the thread and pop it.


Good grief I think I've wrote a book so I'm going to end this one here for now. Just a few parting words.... Take a Beginners Class! Do it as a refresher class, you'll be amazed at the little things you  might have forgotten or learn something new!! The Advanced Class doesn't start until after the holidays and you can bet I'll be one of the students!! Ok pictures of the seam ripper I spoke about are next.



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Comment by Maria Carroll on October 1, 2011 at 11:53pm
Terry... to me it's the teacher. If you don't have a teacher that is willing to take the time to go into the small details of quilt making then in my opinion nothing you do will come out the way you want it too. My teacher made sure she took sometime with each student and always gave us a drawn example and instructions of what we were doing. You can tell a good teacher from a great teacher by the way they explain and teach whatever the class is. If one runs thru it then whats the point? And if one doesn't take the time to really explain and take a few moments with each student then in my opinion she's there for the money. I too have taken many classes of which most I was very disappointed and still as lost as I was when I signed up for the class.
Comment by Maria Carroll on October 1, 2011 at 11:48pm
Thanks Pam!
Comment by Maria Carroll on October 1, 2011 at 11:48pm
Vicki how did you're sewing go this weekend with the tips I wrote about? I'm curious! lol
Comment by Maria Carroll on October 1, 2011 at 11:47pm
Monika I pin one point at a time in a star block and sew that side... so on and so on until that particular block is made. I'm away from my sewing room right now but tomorrow I'll send you the name of the pins I use. The smaller the shaft of the pin the better! Can you send me a pic of one of the blocks your having trouble with (privately) so I can see? Pin it just like you have been...maybe I can see something in the photo that I can help you with.
Comment by Terry F on October 1, 2011 at 7:31pm
I would love to take a class from that teacher!  I think I've taken three classes altogether and been a bit disappointed with all of them.  I always thought it was my fault, but maybe not the "right" teacher, or right teaching method?  I think I learned more from your blog than from the classes.
Comment by Pam/NY on October 1, 2011 at 11:42am
Excellent!! I agree with everything you said...thanks
Comment by vicki l childs on September 30, 2011 at 8:25pm
This was good reading, i am going to do all the things you said to this weekend when i am sewing. I cant wait.
Comment by Monika/NC on September 30, 2011 at 10:59am
I have a question for you.  I was also taught to put pins in the seams and everything will come out but I am having trouble with my points like on stars.  When I put my pin in the top of points of both blocks it doesn't work.  As I put the pin in the bottom to secure the pin it pushes the points down thus not matching the points.  How do I fix this?  Also what kind of pins do you use.  I really enjoyed reading this post today.  Thank you for it.
Comment by AidaCJ/NH on September 30, 2011 at 10:08am
Good 'tutorial' - like you said, there are always new things to learn and old things to relearn.
Comment by Maria Carroll on September 30, 2011 at 9:59am
you're very welcome Connie!

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