- Wash your fabric (two yards of fabric or less) in the machine and throw in a “Color Catcher” sheet as well. This product is readily available at grocery and discount stores. When the wash cycle is finished, fish out the “color catcher.” If it has not darkened or changed color, then put your fabric in the dryer. If, on the other hand, the “color catcher” has darkened or changed color, then wash your fabric again with a liquid product called Retayne. It stops fabric from bleeding. Retayne is available at quilt shops. Follow the directions by using hot water and a teaspoon or two of Retayne.
- Cut fat quarters on grain. I cut fat quarters and half yard cuts “on grain” which means cutting parallel to the selvage. I do not square up the cross grain side until I have first cut my strip. With fat quarters, I begin cutting strips on the short side opposite the selvage. With half yards, I trim off one side of selvage and then cut strips from that side. Once I have cut a strip, THEN I will square up the cross grain side of the strip.
- Use leftover binding as leader fabric. I always start sewing with “leader” fabric to prevent the needle from pushing my patchwork into the throat plate. From left over binding, cut a length that is about 18” to 22.” I like this long, skinny size because it doesn’t get “lost” on my sewing table AND the skinny dimension doesn’t waste too much thread. Because my binding fabric is folded, I sew through two layers of fabric and I am able check my thread tension before sewing my patchwork
- Use Aurifil cotton thread for piecing. It is not as linty as other threads, making Aurifil a better choice. I can get more thread on a bobbin meaning more sewing time before running out.
- Don’t use universal needles for piecing. Top-stitch and microtex needles by Schmetz are sharper and better, making straighter stitches.
- Check and double-check your ¼” seam allowances. An easy way to check is to sew two 1 ½” strips together and make sure the new strip measures 2 ½” wide. If necessary, adjust where you line up your patchwork. If possible with your sewing machine, move the needle over to the right.
- Chain stitch whenever possible.
- Use every fabric (selected for your project) two or three times within the quilt top.
- Follow my three-strike rule. That means rip out sewing mistakes and re-sew only three times.
- Have fun, relax and repeat after me, “It’s only fabric.”
By Chris Barnard
My name is Chris Barnard and I have been quilting for 20 years and teaching quilt classes for 10 years. My goal, besides sharing my passion for quilting, is to inspire people to begin quilting or finish quilts already started.