General Quilt Construction Tips

... to help a quilt lie flat.

    Prep for CUTTING OUT:
  • Press and starch fabric first. Spray on liquid starch before pressing to give the new crisp feeling. It will make rotary cutting go easier, it will also help prevent stretching and distortion of fabric when cutting, and sewing fabric on the bias. (Iron with the lengthwise grain / in the direction of the selvages only.)
  • Plan how pieces are cut so that those with a bias edge can be sewn to an edge cut on the straight of grain. This will help prevent unwanted stretching and distortion of the quilt top during construction and quilting.

  • Test for accurate seam allowance size. Because pressing seams one way takes up a bit of fabric, often a scant 1/4” seam is actually needed. If the seam allowance is too big or too small, blocks will not finish the right size and the more pieces there are in a block, the more the problem and frustrations are multiplied!!

    1. Use fabric the quilt is being made of to perform the test.
    2. Precisely cut three strips that measure 1 1/2” x 3 1/2”. When laid side by side before sewing they should equal 4 1/2” wide x 3 1/2'” long.
    3. Sew 2 pieces together on the long side using a 1/4” seam. Add the third piece, again, sewing together on the long side with the same seam allowance size.
    4. With right sides up, press the two seams one way.
    5. AFTER PRESSING, Measure across the total width. IF it measures exactly 3 ˝” then your seam allowance is the size you need. *If the total width is more than 3 ˝” then the seam allowance needs to be bigger. *If the total width measures less than 3 ˝” across then the seam allowance needs to be smaller.
    6. *Repeat test, adjusting seam allowance size till, after sewing and pressing, the total width measures exactly 3 ˝” across.

  • Use a smaller stitch length. Instead of using 2.5 (mm) or 12 (stitches per inch), use a stitch length of 2.0 or 14. Then you will not need to back stitch at the beginning or end of seams and yet they will not pull apart easily when they shouldn’t.
  • Match and pin raw edges together before sewing. If raw edges aren’t securely matched together while sewing, often one will slip underneath leaving only a thread or two caught in the seam. With any little tension, the fabric will pull apart leaving an open seam.
  • Check as you finish each seam or block. Problems only multiply the longer you let them go. They are much easier to fix at the block stage then later.
  • Trim threads as you go for a neat finished appearance both top AND bottom. Dark thread tails often shadow through lighter fabrics when the top is quilted. Also, threads will tend to migrate through to the top and most piecers don’t like to spend hours trimming when the top is done.

  • Press with right side up. When pressing seams to one side, doing it from the top will help prevent tucks from being pressed in.
  • Press seams to one side AS you construct the quilt to facilitate:
    • Stitching in the Ditch (SID - stitching right next to a seam:) Pressing the seam flat to one side yields a high side and a low side (the ditch.)
    • Stronger Seams: Seams pressed open can be weakened if trying to Stitch on the seam line. (Actually there is no "ditch" to stitch in if the seam is pressed open, it is very hard to perfectly stitch in the middle of the seam, and batting fibers can more easily migrate through the seam.)
    • Preventing dark fabric from shadowing through. If possible, press seams toward the darker fabric so it does not shadow thru the lighter fabric when the layers are compressed with quilting.

  • Cut Borders to a specific measurement. Sewing on a long border piece and just trimming the extra off at the end usually results in wavy borders because the quilt or border can stretch without you realizing it. Click here for detailed instructions on how to measure and add “wave-free” borders.

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