4 techniques for more beautiful patchwork quilts

July 29, 2015

A patchwork quilt is both a beautiful sentiment and labour of love. These four techniques will help you keep the labour easy and the love in abundance.

4 techniques for more beautiful patchwork quilts

1. Tie it right

One way to hold the three layers together is to tie them at designated points. This method's much quicker and easier than actual quilting, and is especially effective for very puffy wadding. Here's how to tie properly:

  1. To make a tie, thread a needle with soft cotton yarn, but don't knot the ends.
  2. At each tie point bring the needle down to the backing side, leaving about 15 centimetres (six inches) of thread on top.
  3. Push the needle up seven to eight millimetres (about 1/4 inch) from the entry point, leaving another 15 centimetres (six inches) of thread on top. Cut.
  4. Tie the ends securely in a square knot or decorative bow. Trim the excess.
  5. You can use a patch design as a guide to select tie points. Or simply place ties at each corner of small blocks or within different points of each block to form a pattern.

2. Needle tricks

  • When quilting, hold the needle securely with your thimble and use a rocking motion to pick up three or four stitches on the needle before pulling it through.
  • Keep one hand below the quilt to act as a guide. This ensures you're sewing through all three layers consistently.
  • A small even stitch is desired and may take practice to achieve.
  • The needle should touch your index finger on the underside with each stitch.
  • Your aim is to develop a fine quilting stitch, about 12 stitches every 2.5 centimetres (one inch).
  • Many quilters are content to quilt using larger, even stitches that can add texture or special effects to their quilts.

3. How to pierce by hand

  1. Draw the block design (or part thereof) to its exact size on graph paper. Glue it to cardboard and cut out each different shape. For more permanent templates, use template plastic.
  2. Carefully trace each different shape from the graph paper and cut them out.
  3. Lay the template on the wrong side of the fabric and hold it firmly in place while marking around the outline with a sharp pencil, avoiding the selvedge.
  4. Add a 7.5 millimetre (1/3 inch) seam allowance all around. Don't cut on the pencil line, which will be your sewing line.

4. Let the machine do the work

  1. Draw the block design (or part of the block design) to its exact size on graph paper.
  2. Carefully trace around the shapes you require in the design using template plastic.
  3. Add a 7.5 millimetre (1/3 inch) seam allowance to each side of each shape. Then, cut out the shapes.
  4. Place a self-healing mat underneath your work. Lay the template on the folded fabric to cut multiple pieces. Cut carefully around the shape with a rotary cutter.
  5. Each of the shapes can be cut flush against the previous one as the seam allowance is included.

Patchwork quilting is a rewarding activity that also gives you beautiful and cozy decorative pieces. Once you've got the basics down, you can start to experiment and try new things, which can lead to even more intricate patterns and results.

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