Tutorials

Step by step tutorials for quilting and sewing projects from ISeeStarsQuilting.

  • How often should you clean your sewing machine? + A How To

    How to clean your sewing machine
    This super easy tutorial will tell you everything you need to know to give your sewing machine a quick clean and tell yo how often you should clean your sewing machine too! – Hint, you have most everything you need in your bathroom!

    How long has it been since your machine had a good cleaning?

    Being mostly self-taught in the sewing room, there once came a day when I asked myself this question. “How often should you clean your sewing machine?” It was very quickly followed by a huge sense of dread… Clean? Um… Oops. (The absolute horror… I know!)

    Yikes… If you are having that moment today and you cringed a little when you realized it… then I commend you for clicking on this link to read and take action. Good job!

    We are going to get all your questions answered today and show you how to fix it!

    First off, sewing machines aren’t some rinky-dink fragile machine. These machines are pretty robust. They are made to stick around for a long time. They’re like the crock-pot of the sewing room. Never given enough credit yet we depend on it to be there for us to make our job easier and create wonderful things. (*hands in the air for my crock pot friends!*)

    This is entirely something you can do yourself in less than 10 minutes.

    How to clean your sewing machine

    Unless your machine is in really really bad shape, you can do this yourself. If you’re working with an antique machine or things are a HUGE massive mess, you might consider taking it to a sewing machine repair shop.

    See that mess right there? This is when I usually remember to clean my machine.

    This tangled mess happens when things aren’t going as smoothly as I would like them to go. If your machine is giving you fits and threads are getting tangled more than your toddler’s hair when she sleeps… it’s time.

    … and I haven’t completely ruined a machine yet. So if you don’t remember the last time your machine was cleaned… chill… you’re probably fine (for the moment).

    That being said, you really should take care of your sewing machine.  The amount of dust and fibers that accumulate inside your machine is so crazy.

    I have a top loading bobbin machine. There are many different models out there, but the general idea is the same…

    Get that ‘gunk’ out!

    What you need to clean your sewing machine:

    The things you need you can probably grab from your bathroom cabinet. You’ll need some Q-tips, tweezers, the little fiber brush that came with your machine (or similar), a flashlight and a screwdriver.

    How to clean your sewing machine

    What to do to clean your sewing machine:

    Safety Note: It is recommended that you turn off and even unplug your machine for extra safety measure. Make sure the needle is in the “UP” position. It would be a disaster if your fingers were all crammed into that space all laser-focused on cleaning and the machine started. Just Nope. Let’s not go there.

    1. Remove the needle and whatever sewing foot you have attached as well as the presser foot holder. You’re about to get personal with your machine so let’s clear it all out of the way.
    2. Use your screwdriver to remove the screws on your machine plate. It’s the metal plate that surrounds your bobbin. Your machine may have also come with one of these mini “T” things. They’re awesome if you’re machine throat (the space you have to work with in your machine) is a bit tight to get a larger screwdriver into. Just a reminder, do not lose any of the pieces 🙂How to clean your sewing machine
      How to clean your sewing machine
    3. Time to access the mess – Dust bunnies galore… Slide your machine plate off. Take a mental snapshot where all the equipment is right now. Use your phone to take a picture, if you desire. You’ll thank me later because you have to put it all back together soon.
    4. Remove your bobbin casing. Clean in and around it really well.
    5. Inside the machine -Do you see all the lint? YUCK! I can’t believe I’m sharing these pictures because… OMG Y’all… Fair warning… If you sew with Minky, your machine will look like this after ONE quilt. ONE!
      How to clean your sewing machine
    6. Get it out! – Use your tweezers out and start picking out the more significant chunks as well as any stray threads that you can grab. (Do not unscrew anything else.) Remember the doctor board game Operation? Get deep in those corners and get all those lint balls out!
    7. Tidy up -Use the small brush and the Q-tips as magnets for the tiny fibers from the corners and crevices too!
      How to clean your sewing machine
    8. Squeaky Clean! Most machine manuals WILL NOT recommend using compressed air to clean because it can push fibers further into your machine parts. So take this step at your own risk, but I feel it really gets things squeaky clean if you take care to blow if OUT and not IN further. I use it at the very very end just to meticulously clean up the last bits of fuzz and only a real quick blow out.
      How to clean your sewing machine
      How to clean your sewing machine
    9. Admire your perfectly clean machine!
      How to clean your sewing machine
    10. Screw everything back together. Remember earlier I mentioned taking mental note of where everything was? Refer back to your picture or your machine manual, if you need to.
    11. While we’re doing machine maintenance, this is a good time to change your needle too. (It is actually recommended by the experts to do it every 4-6 hours of sewing time… Ha, I get a huge FAIL on this one all the time.)
    12. Also, take a soft cloth and give your machine a good wipe down.

    **I don’t recommend oiling your machine. This is something the professionals will do when you take your machine in to be serviced, which is recommended every two years.**

    And there you have it. Easy Peasy! You can see my favorite quilt pattern here, available for FREE download. It is super quick to piece together but still super impressive!


    If you’re new here, take a second to sign up for my newsletter, won’t you? I share all kinds of modern quilting tips and ways to incorporate sewing into your busy day without losing your sanity! I’ll even send you one of my most popular downloads right away. I look forward to sewing more with you!

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  • How do you cope with complete chaos?

    How do you cope with complete chaos

    How is it summer already? I promise I’ll get back to writing quilting posts again next week. I’ve had a few things weighing heavy on my heart this week and if my words save one girl from losing it in the midst of life’s insanity moments, then my words are worth it. I care about my readers and this wonderful tribe of momma quilters makes my heart tremendously happy 🙂

    My kids just finished school and let me tell you that we are all lucky to be alive right now. I’m going to give myself a sticky gold star for making it through this week. How do you cope with complete chaos as a mom? Because I could sure use a magic potion if you have one.

    I was going to post this yesterday but hey… It has been utterly nutso around here. In the past week, we’ve managed to make it through two end of year programs, two crazy high fever viruses, two end of year parties where I was room mom for both (yay!). Plus, extra hours at work and there were also teacher gifts too… if you follow me on Instagram, you got a sneak peek at the presents I made. “Everything But The Ice Cream” – How stinkin’ cute did these turn out?!

    I included fun bowls, gold plastic spoons, cute napkins, chocolate shell syrup, caramel candy, super sweet sugar cookies and of course (my daughter’s favorite part) SPRINKLES! All you need (but the ice cream, obviously) for a fun summer evening. I hope these ladies soak in the sweet success of having made it through the year.

    teacher gift idea - Everything but the ice cream - iseestarsquilting

    Yesterday, when I came home, I hit complete and utter brain mush mode. You know, where there is just nothing left, and you don’t even care if everyone eats goldfish for dinner? (We didn’t, because I somehow managed to put dinner in the crockpot that morning. My absolute saving grace… yeah!)

    It is all I can do just to hang on!

    Do you ever felt that way?… I’m guessing yes; otherwise, you would think me mad and have moved on by now (*Hey, thanks for sticking with me*)

    Whether you’re a mom or just a busy woman, life is just like that sometimes. And I hate to burst your bubble… but you’re not unique or cursed. Sometimes the best you can hope for is to just make it through the day with your sanity still hanging by a thread. And if you’re left with that thread, well then it is a good day.

    I know it feels like it, but these seasons never last forever. If you’re up to your eyeballs in diapers, have a stomach bug that is picking your family off one by one (help meeeeee)… there will be a light at the end of the tunnel soon. Just keep hanging on.

    It sometimes can feel like it will last forever, but it never does last forever. I’m just speaking from experience here but hey… so far, so good, right? It isn’t game over yet!

    How do you cope with complete chaos as a mom?

    If you’re in the middle of chaos right now, take a deep breath and focus on three things. Then breathe out and repeat for as many times as necessary until things calm back down. It will be okay.

    • SLEEP.  What is the first thing you think about when your child has absolutely turned into a raging grumpy monster? NAP TIME, right?! I don’t care how old your kid is. I still ask my almost 10-year-old to go take 20 minutes quiet time when she is so tired she can’t handle life anymore. She always comes out in much better spirits. We should recognize this more in ourselves, but often we do nothing about it but soldier on.Sleep is the cure-all for almost everything. If you don’t get enough sleep, your immune system suffers, and your body just isn’t able to handle itself the way it was meant to. If you get enough sleep, you are so much better equipped to handle everything life throws our way.

      Make it to bed on time. It won’t help your to-do list, no, but it will make your to-do list easier to handle tomorrow.

      Still can’t see sleep happening? Call in the reinforcements!  Get a babysitter or call grandma & grandpa to take over for one night so you can get some rest.

      Even if something else has to be put on the back burner… do NOT let go of your sleep!

    • PRIORITIZE. I know we all love the idea of being super mom, but you can’t do everything. If your to-do list is a mile long… break it up. Give yourself a ‘top 5’ category, and then rank your remaining tasks. I love the satisfaction of crossing off list items. I write down everything, and then I work down my list in order of importance. No exceptions.
    • GRACE.  If somethings end up falling through or you have to delegate it to someone else… it’s ok. If you aren’t able to do everything. It’s ok. If you have to turn around and say no to something you just said yes to because you realized it doesn’t rank as necessary on your list as other items… IT IS OK.You can apologize for not having the time to allocate towards it but never apologize for being inferior.

      You are not inferior. You are a woman doing the best you can.

      Never feel guilty about falling short of the expectations you put on yourself. If you wouldn’t hold your best friend up to those same expectations, cut yourself some slack (FYI, this does not come easy for many women. It happens because you have to practice it every single time you encounter a situation where there aren’t enough hours in the day for your to-do list, and something has to give)

    • Breathe – Do something for YOU. And do it often. I didn’t say go on a week-long cruise in the Bahamas. Just pick something little you can do for yourself often that brings you joy and keeps yourself centered instead of off-kilter crazy. A phone call with a best friend, make yourself a cup of tea or take a long shower – something where in that moment you don’t allow yourself to stress. Instead, you let it all out. Regroup and then get back up and get back out there until things can calm down again.

    A Mantra for Busy Women

    What about you? How do you handle stressful, crazy times?

    Do you have a favorite ritual that you default to when the chaos rears its ugly head or have you just accepted that disorder is the new normal and you’ve learned to roll with it?

    I would love to hear your thoughts and solutions in the comments! Let me know!

    I will leave you with one of my favorite quotes. It is a little bit of my mantra currently and something I want to share with other women who need to hear it.

    You (yes, you) do not have to wonder woman to be wonderful. 

    Even in our sense of chaos and overtired, cereal crusted, carpool lives… you really are wonderful, just the way you are!

     

  • What To Do When Life Won’t Let You Quilt!

    What to do when life won't let you quilt

    You know those days… where you want some stress relief to sit at your sewing machine and make all the pieces fit together perfectly BUT… the kids get sick, you forgot about a project you volunteered for, a spontaneous playdate at the park eats up a whole afternoon, your 15-minute dinner took 45 minutes somehow, nap time was… ha, what naptime?… Maybe you’re just grumpy and your tolerable level of all things grown-up was surpassed before 3 PM. Here are some practical tips on what to do when life won’t let you quilt!

    Grab your coffee.

    Momma heart to heart convo here:

    As modern moms, we are a jack of all trades and look cute too. I don’t wear heels, because it makes me feel like a baby giraffe, but I can rock a pair of yoga pants while running errands! *high five*

    My google calendar looks like somebody is about to level up on Tetris but could also watch the whole thing crumble down at any second.

    I’ve accepted this as my fate as a busy mom.

    To be clear, I’m not bragging. It is a rather unstable way to live life and I don’t recommend it to anyone… but I know I’m not alone. My ‘tetris’ does tend to crumble from time to time, but I love my life the way it is. I love my babies and the chaos they bring to our lives. We have a TON of fun in our house. Crazy, busy fun.

    I often dream of a carefree Saturday where daddy takes over and I have 10… 6… 4… heck, even 2 hours to myself to sew without interruption…

    Reality is me being my very own fairy godmother at the end of a long day and telling my kids “You can stay up an extra 15 minutes if you let mommy sew, ok?”

    It’s awesome. Let me tell you, we ALL get really excited about those extra 15 minutes… Good times.

    What to do when life won't let you quilt

    So, you want to know what to do when life won’t let you quilt?

    If life is so ‘tetris’ like for you that a scheduled time to sit at your machine is a far-off dream… try to adjust your course with these steps to move you in the right direction towards your sewing dreams.

    No, these steps aren’t technically sewing (yet). But if the clouds ever part and you find yourself with time in the future, you’ll be socked piled and ready to take action! Canceled plans? Is the baby STILL sleeping? Boom. Go! Now is your chance!

    1. Pick out a pattern. Even if it is just browsing Pinterest while you wait for the spaghetti to boil. Get your game plan on. – You can download a FREE Quilt Pattern from me and be one step closer!
    2. Fabric shop – Again, it’s not sewing (yet) but you’ll be ready when the occasion does arise! I prefer to shop for myself (I know, I am so thoughtful!) If I go into the fabric store with someone else in mind, I lose interest more quickly if I can’t finish my self-imposed deadline. If the opposite is true for you, and you find motivation in a project for someone else, by all means… shop and gift away! You can read about how I save money while shop for fabric.
    3. Prep your fabric/supplies – A cutting mat and some fabric is a much more mobile mess that doesn’t demand as much attention as a full on quilt does. Get your pieces cut to size and organized. If you have to stop 3 minutes in to fill up a sippy cup, it’s ok. You can start back up pretty quickly. Just take extra care in making sure your rotary cutter or scissors will not get into the hands of the little ones!

      This Quilt Shopping List has everything you’ll need to make a quilt, so when the time comes you won’t be missing anything and have to stop sewing.

    I promise you this…

    Even when it seems like you will NEVER have time to sew or life is just too crazy right now (and for the foreseeable future)… these steps will help you get there.

    If you have to work in chunks of time that are 10 minutes long while waiting for dinner to finish…

    If you have to shop for fabric on your phone while laying in bed or while sitting in the car pickup line at school…

    You are still making progress!

    Perhaps it’s not the ideal glamourous progress you had hoped for, but hey… (some tough mom love)… you get what you get and you don’t throw a fit! — I’m so sorry, I will try not to use my mom words on you again.

    There WILL come a day when the clouds open up and you will see a quilting window and because you’re a rockstar (be honest, you totally are) you’ll pull out all your prep stuff and hit to floor sewing! It’ll come together quickly and you’ll feel radiant in all your fabric glory!

    Woohoo!

    If you want some other tips on how to work quilting into your busy day (it’s possible, *pinky promise*), I share my busy momma secrets in this free e-book download! I’m happy to share and it is helping many other mommas out there that are struggling to juggle mom lide and quilting life, just like you!

  • Easy Way To Add Length To A Bag Strap (& make it cute!)

    Hey there! Today we’re going to talk about this super quick and easy project I did over the weekend. It’s so simple, but I am so pleased with the results that I just had to share it with you! I even remembered to take pictures along the way to create a tutorial. (yay me!) Here is the easy way to add length to a bag strap (and make it cute too!)

    This process should take you no longer than 30 minutes. It could even take you 10 minutes if you have a little bit of previous sewing under your belt. It is a super easy and fun way to customize your bag!

    Just FYI, this post may contain affiliate links to products. If you purchase a product that I recommend, I will get a small commision on the sale at no extra cost to you. This just helps me keep my site up and running and I appreciate your support!

    So let’s start with the bag.

    I’m at the point in my mommy-hood journey where I don’t have to carry a diaper bag anymore. (can I get an amen?) I don’t even have to bring a backpack full of other people’s junk when we travel either. It is glorious, I tell you… but I still am the go-to if there is a need for any essentials when we travel (band-aids, sunscreen, chapstick, Advil, etc.)

    I also love photography and am totally that girl that will be so in the zone that I wouldn’t be surprised if someone swiped my purse while I wasn’t looking. We have several trips coming up this year. (including one to Europe! squeeee!!)

    I’ve been on the lookout for a simple crossbody bag that will let me be totally hands-free and still keep the essentials. Thus, here we are full circle with me and a new bag I bought online. I found a no-frills, bag that didn’t draw a ton of attention and had all I was looking for.

    Simple, but did its job.

    My bubble burst when it came in the mail, and the strap was shorter than I wanted it to be. Bummer, right? — (Side note for the few curious: I am a bit on the “few extra pounds to love” body size, and I’m not an A cup in bra size. You don’t need to know any more details than that!… Strap length is a common issue in crossbody bags for me)

    After giving it about 10 seconds of thought, I decided to put on my thinking cap and just doctor it up myself. I can fix this…

    And I wouldn’t be writing this post if I wasn’t successful so… Tada! I’m not re-inventing the wheel here. Just jazzing it up a bit and adding a bit of color to it. 🙂

    how to make a bag strap longer

    Easy Way To Add Length To A Bag Strap

    What you need

    Fabric – The materials came out of my scrap fabric because what I used was so minimal. As you can see in the picture above, the strap is a thick woven material. I didn’t want my length addition to be flimsy or to wear any differently.

    I chose two different fabrics to add to the sturdiness of my strap addition. The flowered fabric is a simple cotton fabric. The navy shell fabric is more of a canvas texture. Again, these were just scraps. You could get away with both cotton fabrics if you like.

    Measurements – To figure out your specific measurements… measure the width of your strap that you’re adding to. Double that width and then add 1/2″. (don’t freak out – It’s math. I know. My free spirit heart sinks when someone tells me I have to adhere to mathematics standards)

    Example. My strap is 1.25″ wide… so 1.25″ + 1.25″ +.5″ = 3″ width

    For my straps, I cut a  3″x13″ piece from each fabric. (You may choose your length size differently based on your needs. If you only need to add 8″ ish, cut about an 11″ long piece. Make it longer as needed.) The rest of the tutorial is the same no matter what length or width of your strap is. (glad you made it through the math part!)

    Hardware – I ended up deciding against it, but you may want to embellish a little with some shiny hardware! Ain’t no one trying to discourage your style! I went through a Hobby Lobby and took a look at the potential hardware in every finish you could imagine… Have fun with it!

    how to make a bag strap longer

    how to make a bag strap longer

    How to do it

    1. Take one of your fabric pieces and fold it in half lengthwise, right sides of the fabric together. (hot dog style for those that need a little grade school flashback) Stitch all the way down with a 1/4″ seam.

    Do the same to your other piece of fabric. You’ll have a long tube with the pretty part of the material on the inside.

    how to make a bag strap longer

    2. Next, You’ll need a way to turn your fabric right side out. I find this little tool thingy really handy in quite a few more situations than you would think. You can get one here if you want to have one on hand too. (You can also do this with a safety pin tied to a piece of string as well. It is just not as stiff so you have to work it through with your fingers a bit more.)

    how to make a bag strap longer

    Push the hook end part all the way through your fabric tube length-wise and use the hook to latch on to the very end of your fabric. You’ll have to pierce through the fabric to get a good grip.

    Once it is secure, put one of your fingers through the loop on the other end and pull the pole through your fabric tube. It may take a bit of working with it the first few times you do it, but you’ll end up turning the fabric inside out on itself as shown in the picture below.

    Do this for both fabric pieces.

    how to make a bag strap longer

    3. Press/Iron your strap fabric to be nice and flat.

    Check that they match up to the width of your existing strap.

    Sewing the fabric into the ‘tube’ is going to make for a much sturdier strap because now you have four layers of fabric vs. 2. They also won’t want to curl up as you get more wear out of them.

    4. Place the two pieces on top of each other making sure they align all the way down and pin in place so they won’t budge when you stitch them together.

    Time to assemble!

    5. I did a seam at 1/4″ in and another at 3/8″ in, down the length of both sides (again, I want this to be sturdy and wear well when we travel so I’m doubling up. I don’t know what type of trip accident I’m preparing for, but I believe I will be covered if I do the double stitching, right?)

    This is important – Leave about 2-3″ inches open at the top and the bottom so you can attach it to your existing strap! See the image below.

    how to make a bag strap longer

    6. Snip snip – Choose the place where you are going to cut your strap. There is no going back after you make that cut. Make it neat, make it straight and choose carefully. One side of my bag has an adjustable strap already set up; I decided to leave that alone and add my fabric strap to the other side. Strategic? Maybe… Lazy? Most definitely.

    7. Attaching your strap – This is easier explained with the image below, but you’re going to make your strap sandwich now. Take the two ends that you left open and fold them in, so no raw seams or edges are sticking out.

    Slide the cut end of your strap in the middle. It’s the meat of your strap sandwich.

    how to make a bag strap longer

    8. Secure/Sew – You can pin things in place here if it makes you feel more comfortable, but I found the area too tight of a space to work with pins. Also, the fabric is many many layers thick, and that made pins difficult. A wider strap might lend itself to pins, however.

    I got things where I wanted them to be and held it really tightly while I fed the fabric through the sewing machine. It didn’t move around or budge.

    I chose to continue with the 1/4″ and 3/8″ stitch lines for continuity and added a few horizontal lines to make it extra secure. (yes, I’m aware one of my lines got wonky. My primary goal was security not for it to be judged by the quilt police. Make yours as perfect as you like.)

    Do this to both sides of the cut strap. (Be careful that nothing is twisted wrong, that would be an embarrassing mistake.)

    9. The final test – work it! Try on your new bag with fashionable strap and pat yourself on the back. Who says you can’t have function and flair? Usefulness and beauty?


    Yay! Thanks for making it all the way down to the bottom of this quick tutorial. If you have any questions, you can contact me or leave me a comment at the bottom here. I’m happy to help and love to chat.

    If you added a little flair to your bags, I would love to see! Tag me in #iseestarsquilting or on Instagram @iseestarsquilting so I can see 🙂

    Until next time, happy sewing sweet friends!

     

     

     

  • 6 KEY Tips For “Stitch In The Ditch”

    To “stitch in the ditch”, or not to “stitch in the ditch”??

    Stitching in the ditch

    Let me back up for just a minute… “Stitch in the ditch” (also referred to as Ditch Stitching) is a catchy name for a simple quilting technique. It is one of those bits of sewing terminology that make beginner quilters look at you like you have 3 heads. I believe my first response was…

    What the what?

    Once I show you a picture, you’ll know exactly what I mean. And don’t worry, it isn’t a complicated technique. It is simply making your line of stitches in your quilting in the “ditch” where two fabric pieces meet. Stitching in the Ditch

    Most quilters I know are divided on this technique 50/50. You either love it or you hate it. There is not much in-between. Don’t ask me why. Some of us are just very opinionated and set in our ways.

    We’ll get to my personal opinion in a little bit. First, let’s get to some tips to help you with this technique! It’s time to put your learning caps on!

    6 Tips to Stitch in the ditch

    First…

    1. Sit square in front of the sewing machine – This is not rocket science, but it is non-negotiable. I know some of us have tiny makeshift workstations on the corner of our dining tables or are crammed in the guest bedroom somewhere. You need to make yourself some space, even if its temporary.

    So get some elbow room and then cozy up to your machine. You will need to be in complete control here.

    2. Very closely watch where your needle pierces your fabric. – Your seems are more than likely very straight lines for this quilting technique. You don’t need to be looking ahead to see where you’re going or when that big corner is coming. You need to focus on exactly where you are at this very second in your sewing. Needle to fabric is where your eyes need to be. Stitching in the Ditch

    3. Placement of your hands – Any wiggle of your fabric is going to take the stitching out of this very small margin that you are aiming for. You’re going to get a wobble in your perfectly straight line and end up having to get the seam ripper out. So keep your hands engaged on the quilt the.entire.time. No free willy-nilly letting the universe take over. No exceptions.

    Stitching in the Ditch

    So the above picture was not ‘wiggled’ on purpose. I was quilting this piece and I thought I should grab my camera and photograph this process to show you this technique. – I kid you not, I looked away for 2 seconds and BAM. I got off track.

    Above and below that wiggle is stitched invisibly even though I’m clearly using black thread. It disappears into the line between the 2 fabrics.

    …Just so you know who you are dealing with here… I don’t make mistakes on purpose so I can show you what a less experienced quilter would do… No no… they come completely naturally to me all the time. You’re welcome.

    4. Stitching in the ditch is not a race. – Seriously. If you have to go slow to avoid making a mess of things, go slow. You must maintain control if you want to keep your stitches invisible. If your machine has a speed control, USE IT! Better to go slow and get it right than to speed along and have to spend time with the seam ripper later.

    6. Pressing matters! – Your seams must all lay flat with no pleating of the seam allowances behind your seam line, no bunching of the fabric. Just pressed beautiful flat seams. Got it? If you hit a bump or a snag when stitching in the ditch, you’ll get a wiggle. We already went over wiggles in step #3. We don’t want them, ok?

    6. And finally, take the time to switch your sewing foot to the right one – You’ll hear me say this again and again because I was THAT GIRL in my early quilting days… I never changed the sewing foot on my first machine. Like, EVER. (I know… ugh.)

    So now that I know better, I’m going to try to save you from those stupid mistakes. I have been scolded by many women that I look up to so please don’t send me hate mail, ok? Thankfully, I know better now. The right tools make all the difference in your finished product.

    This is the foot you want for stitching in the ditch.

    Stitching in the Ditch

    Stitching in the Ditch - which foot to use

    See that little bar there in the middle? That shows where your needle will go. Watch it, guide your quilt with it in the middle of your seam and it will be totally golden.

    If you are working with a much heavier quilt sandwich (top side fabric, batting, bottom side fabric) You may want to use your walking foot to help move everything at an even pace. (I wrote a whole post on when to use a walking foot. You can read all about it here)

    You don’t have to have the little middle guide bar on your presser foot. It’s just kind of a bonus because it pushes your fabrics to the side so you get a clear middle… Keep an eye on the needle. That’s what matters the most.

    OK! – So now we’ve been over what “stitching in the ditch” is and how you can do it/ improve your skills with it. If you’re cool with that and feel good about where you are at, you can stop reading here. (Really, I don’t mind)

    —————————————-

    But if you care to know my thoughts on the
    technique… well then, oh-please-do read on!

    —————————————-

    (Yay! I’m glad you’re still here!) Remember how above I told you that a lot of quilters are very opinionated? uh-huh… well, here is my take on this ditch stitching stuff.

    Stitching in the ditch serves one purpose. It keeps your quilt sandwich from falling apart in the wash. The End. 

    Ditch stitching gets the job done, but it doesn’t add texture. It doesn’t add a layer of design to your beautiful piece. It doesn’t add anything.

    While modern quilting is often times with clean and minimal design, I believe the quilting or stitching is there to enhance the overall quilt. It’s a completely different art in itself. You don’t have to be fancy with it to let it add dimension to your quilt. Even if you keep it simple, your quilting can magnify your pattern choices.

    The reality is that quilting and what you choose to do depends on what you want your audience to appreciate in your piece (even if it’s you). Do you want them to appreciate your exquisite skills? Your attention to detail? The fabric choices you made? All of this is decided in your quilting method of choice.

    So what do you think? What is your take on stitching in the ditch? are you a lover? A hater? Let me know your thoughts in the comments!

  • Fabric Shopping – The Smart Way To Do It in 6 Steps

    Is there really a smart way to fabric shop?

    Don’t you just love when you’ve got inspiration in your soul and you walk into your large personal fabric storage armoire and your fingers glide effortlessly to exactly the right piece you were needing?

    Is she serious? …The Answer is no. I’m not at all. And I apologize for my sarcastic tone. I can’t help it because the usual truth is so far from the above example that it’s laughable. More often times than not, I know what I want and I have to go diving through bins of fabric scraps, a few plastic bags that I haven’t unpacked yet a few ‘hey, I didn’t know this was in here!’ and ‘oh, I forgot about that project’ moments… And then I still don’t come up with what I had in mind.

    Can you relate?

    The only option is to go to the fabric store to buy new fabrics! (at least that’s what I tell my purse that the only option is)

    If you’re new to quilting and don’t have a huge stash of fabrics already at your disposal, these spur of the moment trips can get rather costly. I mean there is so much that you don’t already own… if you don’t have the willpower to go in with your blinders on and laser focus on the ONE thing you were shopping for, you’ll likely want to buy it all.

    The Smart Way To Shop For Fabric

    Here are my 6 tips for Smart Fabric Shopping.

    1. Remnant bin – aka buried treasure. You may have to ask for it if you don’t see it immediately. It’s usually located somewhere behind the fabric cutting table. This bin/stash has all the end of bolts and ‘oops’ cuts.

    A remnant is anything less than 1 yard of fabric. But not all of them are skimpy. I’ve found many many just an inch shy of 36″. This is a great way to build up your collection of beautiful fabrics that are discounted (yes, discounted!)… even if you have to dig through a big drawer full of ugly ones to find your treasure.

    2. Use sales to your advantage – Stock up by buying more than what you need. Hear me out on this one. Think trips to Costco strategy. Buying in bulk. This is not a wasteful technique and it does not have to be all at once obviously. I’ve seen several deals that were closeouts of a fabric line and it was on clearance for less than $2 a yard. $2! Guess who walked out with the whole bolt under her arm. This girl! You can save money in the long run, but its super spur of the moment because these sales are unpredictable. – Still, keep an eye out for these deals.

    If your fabric store has a sale section, make a habit of browsing it when you shop. I love this area for quilt backing fabrics. Buy only the prints you know you will use. It’s not a good deal if you buy 10 yards of baby puke green fabric and never use it. Look for neutral fabrics and simple prints that you know you’ll always be able to add in with another focus print/color.

    4. Fat Quarters are your friend – These little gems make pulling off a big amazing multi fabric quilt a total breeze. It feels a little easier to bite off than walking to the cutting counter with 20 bolts of fabric stacked higher than your head. They’re premeasured as well so you don’t have to buy more fabric than you need. They are taken from one yard of fabric, cut in half lengthwise and then in half width-wise. The dimensions are approximately 18″ x 22″

    Fat quarters are already folded nice and tight and easy to store in your sewing space. Bonus: Keep an eye on these little beauties in your sale fliers. JoAnns has them on sale for $1 each every once in a blue moon and for not a huge investment, you can walk away with a huge stash and variety of fabrics that will easily piece together a beautiful thrifty quilt. (and no one will ever have to know)

    5. Coupons! – Speaking of sale fliers… I can’t leave these little lovelies out. Do not ever shop the big chain stores without your coupons people! I repeat, DO NOT! Yes, they have us all trained, but money saving is saving money. Just roll with it, mmmk?

    JoAnns has a fantastic App with built-in coupons. Hobby Lobby has an app as well and a fantastic 40% off one regular priced item coupon that is super handy.

    Most small shops will not offer as big of coupons as the chain stores. Their profit margins are less. We understand that and love them anyway.

    Ask your fabric/quilt shop if they offer any discounts for quilting groups or guild memberships. If I show my guild membership card at my quilt shop, I get 10% off. It never hurts to ask.

    5. Shop Online – This is probably my least favorite tip but if you aren’t wanting to spend a fortune in eye candy fabrics, its one of the best ways to go. You’ll find an even greater selection than in the store in most cases and a greater chance of finding specialty fabrics.

    Let me get one thing straight… It’s not that I dislike shopping online. I actually love to shop online. You just don’t get the same experience in a virtual fabric shop as a fabric shop. I like to touch the fabrics.

    If you know exactly what you need and how much you need, sites like http://www.fabric.com and http://www.fatquartershop.com will make your shopping experience a breeze.  Always do a quick google search for active coupon codes and possible free shipping codes as well.

    Fat Quarter Shop Quilting Fabrics and Supplies

    If you’re looking for sewing tools , always check Amazon.

    6. Avoid shopping at the store when you aren’t sure what you’re looking for – If at all possible, at least realize that walking in a fabric store not knowing what you need is going to lead to a long receipt.  It’s like going to the grocery store when you’re hungry. We’re all guilty of this one. So many beautiful things surround you. No one can really fault you for buying it all.

    If you’re like me, you may cringe on the outside when the final bill comes around but secretly we’re doing a dance on the inside because with all these beautiful fabrics who can be sad? It’s totally natural to do that, isn’t it?

    If you’re looking to shop smarter for your fabrics, keep these tips in mind and you can’t go wrong.

    If having a large personal collection of fabrics seems like a far-off dream without spending a fortune, just you wait… you’ll get there.

    Then again… if you’re able to wander aimlessly through the aisles of the fabric store buying whatever your heart desires… hey, you do you, honey 🙂

    PS – If you’re looking for some FREE quilt patterns to use all those lovely new fabrics on, check out this post – 5 Free Weekend Quilt Patterns

    What is your favorite tips for shopping smarter for fabric and sewing supplies? Please tell me your secrets and favorite shopper habits in the comments. I’d love to hear your thoughts!