Making a fine finish

A work in progress - but how will you finish it?

You’ve doodled your fish or whatever, you’ve quilted the doodle and perhaps created a border design. Now you need to finish it off prior to making mat, wall-hanging, picture, cushion or bag. Of course you could just apply a conventional binding strip or facing. However many pieces just evolve and don’t necessarily end up with straight edges.

For this doodle you might use a facing.

But the easiest solution, I think, is to finish it off using rows of machine stitching. And to this you can add extra threads or cords…

Not all pieces will have a straight edge, so finish is important
A choice of threads you could use to finish your piece

I have a lot of embroidery threads. Stranded cotton, wool, coton á broder etc which are very useful for small pieces. Rat tail cord, knitting wools and cottons and russian braid work really well with larger pieces. There are lots of novelty cords which have somehow ended up in my stash. This is great opportunity to make use of these little treasures.

And here’s what you can do with them…

If you have a definite edge, trim close to it. If in doubt you can always sew a couple of rows of straight stitching to define the edge and then trim. Using a suitable colour thread both on top and in the bobbin, zig-zag stitch over the edge. Start sewing a little way away from one of the corners.

Don’t make this first row too tight, but do go all the way round. Take care at the corners so that you don’t mash them up to much. I usually sew nearly to the corner then do a few stitches going backward. With the needle down and centred on the corner, lift your foot, swing round 90°, possibly do two stitches back and then sew forwards again.

And so on until you get to the end. If it seems to need it, repeat the stitching all the way round again. Using small scissors trim away any loose threads.

You can use a zig-zag stitch around the edge of your piece to finish it.
If adding a braid or thread, start again away from the corner and leave a short tail of your thread/braid. Experiment with the width and the density of the machine stitching. Use the end of a stitch unpicker or even your scissors to keep the braid close to the edge. widen your zig-zag so that it catches the braid as well as the edge of your masterpiece. If you can, you might experiment with where you centre your stitching. My machine gives me up to a 9mm zig-zag. I usually use about 6mm and set the needle 2mm to the left of centre.
Finished with a combination of a light buttonhole machine stitch and a zig-zag stitch
Trim the tail of your braid with an oblique cut close to where you started.finish the braid off with a similar oblique cut. Add additional rows of stitching if desired. Here I used my machine’s light button hole (flipped horizontally) followed by another row of zig-zag.

Sitting pretty

The original article, with some useful diagrams

One of the things you need to look at carefully when you do a lot of quilting is just how comfortably you are sitting. Handi-quilter, the maker of long-arm sewing machines, gives ten rules for comfortable quilting. You can get a copy from the Handi-quilter website.

What they say is most relevant to heavy duty quilting machines. Or is it? If you aren’t sitting comfortably you will find quilting a chore rather than a pleasure.

I have re-written this for someone quilting on a domestic sewing machine. And after the amount of machine quilting I have been doing recently I know the trickiest bit is getting the machine (and you) at the right height for one another.

  1. The correct height of you sewing table is essential for both posture and comfort while quilting.
  2. Make sure to get a chair that is the right height for proper hand and elbow position. It must be comfortable and easy to move.
  3. When in front of the machine, your elbows should be at a right angle with your hands resting comfortably on the quilt top.
  4. You must relax while quilting. Don’t grab the fabric too hard and try to keep your movements fluid.
  5. Stop between sections and vary the pace at which you quilt.
  6. Take breaks, drink and stretch. Stand up from time to time to admire your work at a distance.
  7. Try to work close to your machine — not at arm’s length. And if you’re using a foot control try varying the foot you use.
  8. A quality, supportive mat on the floor helps protect your feet, legs, and hips if you spend long periods quilting. It makes it easier to retrieve dropped spools etc. (Memo to self — that worn carpet really won’t do!)
  9. Poor lighting causes eye strain. Think about additional lighting options if necessary.
  10. Blink often. Plus, every twenty minutes or so, stop and focus on a distant object for 10 to 15 seconds to stretch your eyes. (Second memo to self — I need a timer so that get up out of my chair at regular intervals and stretch and blink.)
Three things you love to do…

Three things you love to do…

Doodle, quilt, and colour-in

When you were young you probably loved doodling and colouring-in. As you grew older you got hooked on quilting. So here’s some very good news – this technique combines all three!

And, for a little extra fun, it turns your ideas about quilting back to front. Because the quilting comes before the colouring…

Just at the moment doodling and colouring-in are all the rage. They aid concentration, promote inner peace and add beauty and interest to our lives.

The techniques outlined in my new book – Quilt It & Colour It – do all of these things.

(And you happen to find quilting a bit stressful, then the doodling and colouring will soon calm you down…)

From here on I’ll be adding regular short articles describing this and other techniques, providing ideas and inspiration, and offering ‘how-to’ diagrams and (when my husband Allan can help) short videos.

I’d love to hear what you think, learn how you get on with the techniques I describe, and see the work you’ve been able to produce.

To see everything we’re putting up – and to get the most from the book – you’ll need to register. It’s free, and we promise not to bombard you with unwanted emails.

You can also follow us on social media to be sure you don’t miss anything new.

I look forward to hearing from you!