The Quilted Life with Carolyn

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Quilting Basics - Presser Feet 6

Happy Tuesday, readers! Welcome back for another week of the Quilter’s Mart Quilting Basics series!

Last week we covered cutting implements, and this week we’re going to talk about presser feet. There are so many feet out there (just look at this multi-pack Quilter’s Mart sells, and prepare for your mind to blow!). When you’re new to quilting, it can be hard to know what you really need.

Every single type of presser foot is useful in its own way. But how many really apply to quilting vs. other varieties of sewing? Well, my friends, it is my sincerest hope that I will be able to simplify things for you today!

In my humble opinion, there is one must-have and three nice-to-haves:

Must-Have
  1. Quarter-inch foot
Nice-to-haves
  1. Quarter-inch foot with a guide
  2. Walking foot
  3. Free-motion presser foot

A quarter-inch foot looks like this:

 

Because quarter-inch seam allowances are the standard for piecing, you will find this foot very useful. To use it properly, you simply line your fabric edges up against the right-hand edge of the foot, and voila! The stitches end up exactly ¼ inch from the edge of your pieces. It’s foolproof!

...unless…

This brings me to the quarter-inch foot with a guide. It looks like this:

Especially in my early days of quilting, I found this foot to be absolutely essential, because for me, the regular quarter-inch foot actually wasn’t foolproof. I even considered calling the quarter-inch foot with a guide a “must-have”, because it was just that helpful for me.

If you’re free-spirited and a bit carefree, you may also benefit from having this foot in your supply kit. Why? Well, in short: the black guide along the right-hand side keeps you from wandering, and therefore keeps your seam allowances much more consistent. And consistency in your seam allowances means that all the piecing math will add up and your entire quilt top will come together better!

The other two feet on the nice-to-haves list are for the quilting step. Depending on your approach to quilting, these could also make it onto your personal must-haves list.

A walking foot looks like this:

These are helpful because they pull your fabric along from the top, just like the feed-dogs on your machine do on the bottom. A walking foot isn’t really necessary for piecing, because you’re not really working with anything super thick (although some new, fancy sewing machines come with built-in walking feet so you can use this foot all the time anyway!).

However, when you’ve got backing, batting, and a pieced quilt-top, those feed-dogs are pulling the bottom layer along, but the batting and the top have no help, so they can lag behind and (gasp! The horror!) you can end up with everything coming out of alignment!

If you plan to do basic quilting on your machine, you’ll definitely want one of these feet. They’re also handy for machine-stitching binding!

A free-motion foot looks like this:

These are, of course, intended for free-motion quilting. If you never plan to do that method, you will never need one. But if this is your go-to method, you can’t live without one!

Essentially, the way these work is that they hover above your project instead of pushing down on the fabric (and your feed-dogs should be down/deactivated too!), and then you are free to move about in every direction (hence the name “free-motion”), creating beautiful stitched patterns.

So there you have it, quilters! Experienced quilters - any other feet I missed, or things I forgot to say about the feet listed above?

  • Carolyn Knees

Quilting Basics - Cutting Implements 8

Welcome back! I enjoyed reading all of your comments on last week’s post, and have been inspired to include a whole post at the end of this series with supply recommendations from Quilter’s Mart readers. There’s still plenty of time to throw in your two cents, so go back and add your comments to last week’s post with your own personal supply favorites!  If you didn't read last week's post - read it here

This week’s installment in the Quilting Basics series is about cutting implements. We even have a few videos to share with you, starring the Quilter’s Mart Boss Lady, my sister-in-law, Kim!

A reminder of some cutting implements we recommended for your basic kit:

  1. Rotary Cutter
  2. Fabric scissors
  3. Tiny thread-cutting scissors

The tiny thread-cutting scissors probably have a formal name that I’m not aware of (maybe you’ll enlighten me!), but whether you call them by a proper name or not, you have to have them! The reason they’re so handy is because they’re tiny and easy to aim when you’re cutting those itty bitty threads. Try cutting a loose thread with regular fabric scissors, and you’ll never get a precise enough cut!

These little scissors are great for lots of different scenarios, like when you’re hand sewing binding or hand quilting, when you’re cleaning up loose threads on your quilt top, or if your sewing machine doesn’t have a built-in thread-cutter.

Fabric scissors may not be ideal for cutting threads, but they are a must, too. You should really get some that are designed specifically for cutting fabric. Kitchen shears or scissors intended for cutting paper are not going to give you the desired clean cuts that fabric scissors will.

Fabric scissors are much bigger than thread-cutting scissors, and they’re very sharp - or at least they should be! If you’re trying to cut fabric with dull scissors, you’ll shred it to bits!

They’re super for cutting shapes, like with the Quilter’s Mart acrylic templates, snipping off extra bits during piecing, and trimming off excess fabric and batting after you complete quilting.

Here is a video of our acrylic templates and some good, sharp fabric scissors in action. 

 

What fabric scissors aren’t great for is cutting straight lines. For that, you’ll want a rotary cutter, as you saw in the video above. More often than not, your quilt will call for pieces with straight edges - rectangles, squares, triangles, strips - you name it!

Here’s a more thorough demonstration of how to use a rotary cutter:


Like your fabric scissors, you will want your rotary cutter to be sharp. This will keep your cuts clean, making piecing easier, and enable you to cut through multiple layers of fabric in one swipe, making the cutting process much more efficient. If you find that you’re needing to back-track over your cuts to make it through your fabric, it is time for a replacement blade!

Here is a video of how to replace a rotary cutter blade.


Having the right cutting implements is just as important for a quilter as it is for a chef! If you can’t get your cuts right, piecing will be difficult, and every step after that will be a headache, and you may end up displeased with your end result! Good tools will lay the foundation for good cuts and an easier, more enjoyable process overall.

There are tons of specialty items out there in addition to these basic cutting tools. Calling on our more experienced quilters - are there any other cutting nice-to-haves that you really love? Share in the comments!

  • Carolyn Knees
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