The Fluffy Stuff in the Middle

Let’s define a quilt. 

I know the term “quilt” can mean a lot of things to a lot of people because the word tends to evoke an emotional response. 

My grandma quilted.

My momma left me this quilt when she passed.

I loved making this quilt.  I can remember working on it at quilt bee.  There sure were a lot of laughs involved.

In this sense, the word “quilt” is a noun.  It’s a thing.  However, it can also be a verb – as in “How are you gonna quilt it?”  In other words, what quilting motifs will you employ to hold the quilt together? 

And this is where I want to define a quilt.  A quilt is comprised generally of three layers – a top (the pretty part everyone sees), a back (the part not seen as much, but can be equally as pretty as the top), and the middle (the part no one sees once the quilt is finished).  The top is given much care and consideration.  Months, if not years, can go into making a quilt top.  The backs can be one solid piece of fabric, or it can be pieced.  I’ve seen backs so beautifully pieced they could serve as the quilt top if the quilt needed to be reversed.  Once the quilt is completed, the middle part is never seen again (hopefully). 

We Americans typically call this middle part the batt.  The batt, or batting, can be made from cotton fibers, polyester, wool, silk, bamboo, or a combination of fibers.  Europeans and Canadians call it wadding. We’re used to something like this:

However, the middle part of a quilt doesn’t always need to be a batt.  It can be a piece of flannel or even a sheet.  Quilts which employ a lighter middle are sometimes called summer quilts, and as the name implies, are used during the warmer months when a heavy quilt would be too much for a bed. 

Antique Summer Quilt

Sometimes a summer quilt wouldn’t even have batting in it – it would simply be a top and a back.  However, quilters soon figured out that something in the middle – an old sheet, a piece of cotton flannel, etc., — made the quilting easier and the stitches prettier.  On the opposite side of the season, winter quilts were sometimes quilted on top of a heavy banket, often making the blanket both the middle and the back of the quilt.

Cathedral Windows Quilt

There are also quilts which wouldn’t even think of having a batting.  Cathedral Windows quilts have no batting.  Yo-yo quilts don’t either.  Quilts made from denim generally won’t use a batt because the quilt is already pretty heavy.  A batt would just make it heavier and more difficult to tie or quilt.  Some crazy quilts used a batt, and some didn’t.  These are still called quilts, despite the absence of the third layer.  Some quilters would argue these middle-less quilts aren’t true quilts, and according to the strictest definition of a quilt, this is true.  However, it doesn’t negate the workmanship of any of them.  These quilts are embraced by quilters and quilt shows (who usually show these quilts in the “Other” category). 

Because it’s not seen, it’s easy to give batting the short shrift.  Does it really matter what kind of batting you use?  Shouldn’t you just go with what your long arm artist has on her machine?  After spending lots of money on fabric for the top and back, is it so wrong to go cheap on the batting?  Let’s take a few minutes to look at the history of batting, when it went commercial, and the differences and uses of today’s batting.

Until the mid-1800’s if you made a quilt, you couldn’t just stroll down to the General Store and pick up a pack or roll of batting.  Nope.  If you made a quilt, you knew you had to make your batting, too.  Women grew cotton or purchased cotton for the purpose of making their batts.  Before the invention of the cotton gin in 1794, this meant the cotton bolls were spread out before the fire to warm.  Once warmed, the seeds were picked out of the bolls (seeds were easier to remove from warm cotton).  Then the cotton was carded with brushes such as this:

Into strands and soft puffs of cotton.  These were then laid on top of the backing fabric.  It was a painstaking and time consuming process. The cotton puffs and strands needed to be laid out as evenly as possible to avoid “hollows” in the quilt.  Once this was done, the quilt top was basted on and tiny, hand quilting stitches held all three layers together.  Because the batt was literally cotton fibers and not a solid piece, the hand quilting stitches had to be set close together to keep the cotton in one place and stop it from migrating.

Of course the introduction of the cotton gin helped speed up the process.  The machine (mostly) removed the cotton and debris, cutting down on the time spent making the batt.  However, it’s this early process of batt construction which helps quilt dealers and appraisers date a quilt.  Not only will they carefully look at the fabric and dyes, but they will also see what the batt will tell them.  If there are cotton seeds present, the batting has migrated a bit, and the quilting stitches are small and set close together, chances are the quilt was made prior to 1794 (although women continued to make their own batts after the invention of the cotton gin).  Fabric color, patterns, and dyes tell the rest of the story.  It is also not unusual for these early quilts to use an old quilt as a batting.  Batt making was time consuming.  It was easier and quicker to use a worn-out quilt in the middle than go through the process of making a batt. 

There is some debate about who made the first commercially available batting.  I spent several hours researching this on the interwebs and one name kept popping up:  Mountain Mist.  In the spirit of honesty, I can’t say for sure if they were the first folks to produce ready-made batts, but I can say they began offering them in 1846.  The batts were wrapped in paper to keep them clean and safe during shipping.  Later, somewhere around 1929, those labels began to have quilt patterns printed on them.  The patterns were a huge success.  There’s a ton of information about these patterns on the internet and you can even purchase these labels off of Ebay.  If you think you’d like all the Mountain Mist Patterns, there are several books which contain all of the patterns, and those are available on Amazon.

While we’re thinking about quilt labels, let’s just park it here and discuss them a bit more.  If you purchase packaged batting like this:

Or rolls of batting like this:

There’s some important information you need to read before tossing the bag or the paper wrapping.

  Loft is one of the pieces of information mentioned on the label.  Loft has to do with the thickness of the batting.  There will times you will want a low-loft batting – such as wall hangings – and there will be times you want batting with a bit more “poof” – like with applique quilts.  Somewhere on the label the loft will be mentioned. 

If you’re purchasing batting in a bag, the size of the batt will also on the label.  Remember, it’s important for the batt to be 4-6-inches larger than the quilt top because it does draw up a bit during the quilting process or it could shift.  You always want to be sure there’s enough batting margin so you have batting all the way around the edge of the quilt top and in your binding.  Fortunately, the batt sizes are pretty standard for all batting companies:

Craft – 46” x 36”

Crib – 60” x 46”

Twin – 63” x 87”

Double – 78” x 87

Queen – 84” x 92”

King – 100 x 92”

If you’re long arming your quilt, simply choose a batting which is at least 4-inches larger than your quilt top.  The extra batting gives the clamps something to grab. If you’re quilting on a domestic machine, you can get by with as small as a 2-inch margin.  However, rolls of batting usually have the width listed on a label somewhere on the roll.   If it’s on a bolt, the measurement should be on one end of the bolt, just the same as fabric.   

One additional word about batting in a bag verses batting on a roll or bolt.  The batting in a bag has been folded up quite tightly so it can conveniently fit into a bag.  When you take it out, the folds are easily seen and felt.  It’s best to let the batt relax for a day or two somewhere it can be spread out and not disturbed before quilting.  For years I used my dining room table or the guest bed.  Now I simply throw it across my long arm for a few days.  Usually this is all you need to help your batt relax and lose those unsightly folds.  However, if there are a few folds or wrinkles that don’t seem to want to chillax, I have carefully pressed the area with an iron, using the steam feature.  Generally, this works on the stubborn areas.   After the folds and wrinkles are gone, then proceed with the quilting process. 

The label should also list the fiber content.  It should state if the batt is cotton, silk, bamboo, wool, polyester alpaca, or a mix of fibers, such as 80/20.  The 80/20 batting is made from 80 percent cotton fibers and 20 percent polyester.  This information is important because the batt’s fiber content affects the overall look and drapability of the quilt.  More on this later. 

The last item of information on a label concerns how far apart you can place your quilting lines.  Some batts require the quilting stitches to be no further apart than a couple of inches.  With some batts the quilting lines can be as far as 8-inches from each other.  This simply has to do with the batt’s integrity.  The quilt line distance is the maximum distance you can place your stitches without the batt disintegrating or migrating. 

Those four things (loft, size, fiber content, and quilting line distance) are usually found on all quilt labels.  There’s some additional information you need to know about the batt, which may or may not be on the label.  Some of these you can tell the batt has it simply by closely look at it (such as scrim).  Some of these – like bearding – only happen once you have the quilt quilted and bound.

  • Scrim – This is a layer or grid of woven fibers added to some cotton battings.  It acts as a stabilizer and helps to hold the batting together while quilting.  This can be a good safeguard if the quilt will be frequently washed – the fibers won’t separate.
  • Bonded – Quilt battings contain a type of glue or bonding adhesive, which means the batt may separate if the quilt is washed.  In order to avoid this, close quilting lines are needed to make sure the batting holds up over time.
  • Bearding – Something to be avoided at all costs.  It refers to any wispy fibers which could eventually seep out of the quilt top.  Honestly, I can’t see any batting company putting a warning on their label stating “Caution:  May Beard.”  I can tell you this generally happens with lower-quality batting.
  • Fusible – Most fusible battings will say so on the label.  And while I am not a huge fan of fusible batting (I think it’s stiff), for small projects and quilted items such as bags, it’s a wonderful thing.  I’ve found myself struggling with it if I use it for larger quilt tops. I can’t seem to get it to bond evenly  and without wrinkling. 
Bearding on the back of a quilt

Now with all of this information under our belts, next week we’ll look at the types of batting, when to use them, their characteristics, and any precautions we need to take.

Until Next Week, Remember the Details Make the Difference!

Love and Stitches,



Division in the Camp

Basically, there are very few things capable of driving a wedge in quilters.  We may disagree over favorite colors, applique or piecing, or hand quilting verses machine quilting.  Overall I’ve always found quilters quite an agreeable lot of folks and that’s one of the reasons I became a quilter – in a universe of diversity, here was a group of people who celebrated it. 

However, there are two items which have brought division into the camp:  Frixion Pens and Digitally Printed Fabric.

Okay.  Maybe I am exaggerating just a tad.  However, these two items have been used by quilters (including myself) with varying degrees of success.  This blog will serve two purposes. First, it will give you a little science behind both Frixions and DPF (digitally printed fabric).  Secondly, it will give you some options about how to use both in your quilting universe (because both of them are here to stay – at least for now).  We’ll start with Frixion Pens.

Frixion Pens

Frixion Pens are produced by Pilot and “erase” with a heat source.  There are other heat erasable pens on the market (Madam Sews produces their own line), but Frixions are the best known.  Frixion Pens come in a variety of colors and leave crisp, clear lines which are easily seen.   Then once you’re through with the quilting process, a quick press with a hot iron seemingly makes the lines disappear.  Easy, quick, and they seem like a wonderful addition to your quilting notions.  However, it’s important to note the pens may leave “ghost marks” on your fabrics (especially dark fabrics) and they will re-appear if the quilt gets too cold.  Add to this some quilters have had serious issues with Frixion Pens and then there are those of us who have never had problems with the pens (I’m in this camp).  First, let’s take a look at what a Frixion Pen is made of, because this will give us the reasons why some quilters have problems with them, and others don’t.

Frixion Pens are comprised of two liquids – gel ink and thermo ink.  It’s this thermo ink which makes the ink “disappear” from a surface.  When you iron your fabric it looks as if the ink is gone, but it’s the thermo ink which makes it appear to be gone.  In all actuality, the gel ink is still there, which means under the right circumstances, it can and will reappear unless you take additional steps to remove the ink.  In my quest to understand the pen, I read in a couple of quilt blogs that the key to the ink not “ghosting” was to prewash the fabric.  Since I’m a dedicated prewasher, I had no issue with this.  I grabbed some prewashed fabric from my stash, wrote on the surface, and pressed the fabric. Then I allowed it to sit for in the freezer on top of my bagels for about a half an hour (note I used a light, a medium, and a dark fabric for this experiment).  When I re-examined the fabric, I had mixed results.  Some of the fabric did show a ghost mark.  Some did not. 

The Frixion Pen re-appeared strongly on the light fabric and on the dark. The medium fabric escaped the ghosting.

At this point, let me remind you I am a former science teacher.  When you test a hypothesis, you perform more than one experiment to validate it.  I wondered if only the Frixion Pens left ghost marks?  What about the heat-erasable pens produced by sewing notions manufacturers which also purported to disappear with the touch of a hot iron?  I grabbed my set of these pens from Madame Sew and tried the experiment again on a light, dark, and medium prewashed fabric. Guess what?

This time the Madame Sews faintly re-appears on the medium fabric and more visually on the light, but not on the dark fabric.

They also left ghost marks. 

All of which tells me more than likely all heat erasable pens have some sort of thermo/gel ink mix and more than likely all of these pens are capable of leaving ghost marks.  According to Pilot, the manufacturers of Frixion Pens, the ghost markings are from the thermo ink, not the gel.  “And,” the nice person from Pilot explained to me in an email, “it’s important to remember, our pens were never made for marking fabric.  They were made for writing on paper and erasing with the heat caused by the friction of an eraser rubbing them out. In order to remove the thermo ink, you need to wash the fabric with a stain remover specifically made for ink.”

There are two ink-stain removers suggested specifically for heat-erasable pens:  Amodex and Mötsenböcker’s Lift-Off 3. 

I have used the Amodex and it has worked really well.  The price of this product ranges from $9.81 for the Amodex wipes to $24.99 for the full kit (solution, wipes, brushes, etc) on Amazon. 

The Mötsenböcker’s Lift-Off 3 is around $16.00 on Amazon and comes in a spray bottle.  I have not used Mötsenböcker’s Lift-Off 3, so I personally cannot attest to its effectiveness, but it gets a 3.6 out of five stars on Amazon.  One complaint came from a quilter who was not impressed with its ability to remove ink.  However, what kind of ink was not specified. Another complaint stated it had little effect on Sharpie ink. 

The one step both the Amodex and Mötsenböcker’s Lift-Off 3 both mentioned is you may need to scrub the surface of whatever it is you’re trying to get the ink off of.  In our case this would be our quilts – either blocks or the finished, quilted product.  If you use it to mark your quilt for quilting, this means you may have to scrub the entire surface of your top, block, or quilt.  Can it stand up to this kind of abuse and maintain its look?  This is a question you’ll have to consider if you freely use heat-erasable ink across the surface of your quilt.

Regardless, Frixion Pens and their clones are here to stay, if not forever, at least for a while.  And they’ve made their way into our quilting world.  I even put them in some kits for quilt classes I teach.  So, I do think we can safely use these pens for some techniques.  Allow me to share how I handle them.

  1.  I use them to make dots ¼-inch away for Y-seam intersections or partial seams.  It’s only a dot.  And if it does “ghost”, the dot is in the seam allowance and won’t be seen by anyone.
  2. I have used them to mark applique placement, but only if the applique pieces will fully cover the mark so any ghosting will not be noticeable. 
  3. I have used them to make quilting reference points.  Again, these are dots.  If they ghost, it’s not noticeable.

And finally, yes, I have used them to mark quilting lines, but only in specific quilting circumstances – such as a small quilt I don’t mind taking the time and energy to wash down with Amodex or a quilt I know has a definite shelf life and will, at some point, be tossed.  However, there are also two very specific times I will not allow a heat-erasable pen to touch my quilt:

  1.  If the quilt is an heirloom piece, such as one for a christening, special baby gift, bridal gift, etc.  Frixion and other heat erasable pens have not been around long enough to determine their heirloom capabilities.   They are not acid-free, so years from now we have no idea what they may do to the surface of a quilt.
  2. If the quilt will be entered into competition.  Even if I have washed and scrubbed the quilt with Amodex or Mötsenböcker’s Lift-Off 3, there is no complete assurance all the ink is gone.  If the quilt gets cold during transport, or when it’s hung, there’s a chance the ink marks will return.  And that would be embarrassing. 

So yes, I do think Frixion Pens can happily exist with our other quilting notions.  And just like with our other quilting notions, we need to be cognizant of the appropriate times to use them and how to use them.

Digitally Printed Fabric (DPF)

First let’s define what DPF is.  According to Kornit Digital, Digital Textile Printing is a process of printing on textiles and garments using inkjet technology to print colorants onto fabric. This process allows for single pieces, mid to small-run cycle production and even long-runs as an alternative option to screen printed fabric.  This may sound a tad detailed, but it’s kind of the same process some of us use to print photos onto fabric or make quilt labels – just on a larger scale.  As a matter of fact, if you’ve ever used Spoonflower to create a piece of fabric, you’ve already dipped your toe into the seas of DPF.  With Spoonflower you simply upload a picture, graphic, or some other piece of artwork and they can reproduce it in wallpaper, fabric, or other home décor.  This is done on-demand and with digital technology.

However, I think there were some unspoken expectations with either Spoonflower or our own digitally fabric-printed photos.  With either one, we know the yardage produced would be limited.  It’s fairly easy to work with something a bit different from our quilting cottons if it’s only a fraction of our quilt fabric.  We also are aware (from our own ink-jet printed quilt labels if nothing else) that the quality of our DPF may not be as good as our quilting cottons, either.  But technology continued to push DPF forward and eventually Red Rooster, Hoffman California, Elizabeth’s Studio, Robert Kaufman Fabrics, and Benartex were producing digitally printed fabrics. 

The manufacturing process is fairly simple.  Regular quilting cottons are screen printed using a different screen for each color. This process requires careful registration and limits the number of colors that can be used to 16-20, depending on the manufacturer. Digitally printed fabrics can have as many colors as there are dyes. It’s potentially limitless. A design could easily be made with 30, 50 or 100 different colors and it would not affect the ability to print the design. Unlike screen printing, resolution is perfect every time and you’ll never get the halo that often occurs when two screen printed, complementary colors bump into each other. Digitally printed fabric is also a bit more of an eco-friendly process, since there are no screens to rinse out.  Another good thing about DPF is that is far easier to reproduce than standard cotton fabric.  We know that once manufacturers have sold out of a popular line of fabric, it’s nearly impossible to get them to reprint it.  Digitally Printed Fabric is much easier to reprint, since it’s highly computerized and doesn’t require screens.

No screens also means you don’t have to have a repeating design. Normally at the end of printing a screen, the screen is realigned, and the design is repeated.  Since DPF uses no screens, it’s possible to have multiple yards without repeating the same design.  This allows fabric/graphic artists tremendous flexibility for artwork and is perfect for panoramic/photo prints. 

Digitally printed fabric sounds perfectly wonderful and something which has enormous creative potential.  But like with everything else, there are some drawbacks.  Primarily two large ones:  Cost and color. 

Digitally printed fabric is expensive.  Because of the specialized nature of digital printing, including base cloth preparation, limited runs, dyes and machines, the cost per yard for the manufacturer is higher than traditional screen printing. This cost, naturally, gets passed on to the consumer and digital prints are typically a few dollars more per yard. The more limited the run, the higher the cost. Hoffman California generally prints a few thousand yards of each design, whereas Spoonflower prints designs as they are ordered.

The other complaint – color – has to do with saturation and fading.  The black never seems to be dark enough and the fabric fades at the folds and loses color with every wash cycle.  This seems to be a problem with the small printing houses.  Large manufacturers, such as Hoffman, don’t appear to have this issue.  Digitally printed fabric also feels kind of different, but once it is washed, it does have a nice hand. 

More than likely, at some point, you may decide to add a DPF to a quilt.  And just like with Frixion Pens, there are a few pointers to keep in mind. 

  •  Beware of the “runs.” 

For those of us of a certain age, we remember what it was like to wear panty hose.  Personally, I hated those things.  It was like owning disposable clothes.  Put them on wrong, let them snag on a ring, or get caught on a desk drawer, and the nylon would run all the way up your leg, rendering them useless.  There was nothing to do but toss them and bewail your hard-earned money.

I am so thankful I don’t have to wear them anymore. 

Digitally Printed Fabric can also run just like a pair of 1980 L’egg panty hose.  These runs show up as tiny, white runs, especially noticeable on dark fabric.  The white runs happen when the sewing machine or long arm needle hits and pulls the warp or weft of the fabric.  The needle pulls, rolls, and then breaks the fiber or simply rolls it.  This doesn’t happen with regular quilting cotton because even if those fabrics have a 60-thread count, there’s still enough room between the cotton yarns for the needle to have plenty of room to insert, make the stitch, and come out of the hole.  The fabric for DPF is more tightly woven than the quilting cottons.  In addition, the inks and dyes are mixed in such a way that the fabric is considered to be a painting, not a piece of woven and dyed quilt fabric.  The whole manufacturing and composition of DPFs are different. 

I have sewed with DPF and have long armed DPF.  And both times it has nearly driven me crazy.  I read everything I could find about how to prevent the fabric from running.  Someone said prewash the fabric and this would prevent it from running.  I tried this, and it did help a little.  I think the prewashing removes some of the excess ink and other chemical treatments which may have been used on the fabric. 

  • The type of needle used is important. 

With regular quilting cottons we tend to use a size 80 in our sewing machines.  This may differ every now and then as we employ different weights of thread or if we’re machine appliqueing a specialty fabric.  We may use a universal or a needle labeled especially for piecing.  With our long arms, we lean towards an 18/4.0 for most quilts. Most long arms come from the factory timed using an 18/4.0.  We don’t tend to consider (or may not even have in our possession) a ball point needle.  Those are used primarily for knit fabrics – instead of the needle tip being sharp and pointed, a ball point needle’s tip is slightly rounded, allowing it to slide through the loops of knit fabric without piercing them (and causing the knit fabric to run). Many of the sites I researched about DPF recommended using a ball point needle in the thinnest size our machines will tolerate.  With most sewing machines and long arms, you can go up or down one size without serious tension issues.  Keep that in mind if you do decide to toss in some DPF in your next quilt.

Notice how sharp the universal needle is compared to the ball point, which is slightly rounded. Just a FYI here, I have also pieced and quilted with a microtex on regular quilting cottons and it works wonderfully.
  • You’re Gonna Need to Toss the Cotton Thread.

Thinner, slicker threads work better with DPF.  This thread glides through the fabric without the friction which cotton thread causes.  Part of the reasons quilters like to sew with cotton thread (or at least cotton wrapped thread) is the fact it kind of “grips” the fabric to help keep your stitches firmly in place.  Digitally Printed Fabric is a totally different animal than quilting cottons.  You will want to use a thin needle with a thin, slick thread – such as a polyester, silk, or some other 100 weight thread.

  • Be careful how you quilt.

Many long arm artists have stated that quilting too near a pieced seam can cause runs in the DPF.  It’s also been found that pays to be careful loading the quilt sandwich on the long arm. Don’t load it too tight, as this kind of hinders the needle being able to push the fibers out of the way as it sews.  And regardless of whether you’re quilting on a long arm or a domestic sewing machine, lengthening the quilting stitch has proven to be helpful. 

  • A bit of silicone on your needle (not the thread) may be your BFF.

Sometimes a drop or two of a silicone (such as Sewer’s Aid) on your sewing machine or long arm needle may be helpful.  This ensures the needle can easily slip in and out of the DPF without issues.  This has worked with varying degrees of success.   Sewer’s Aid isn’t expensive (it’s $7.09 on Amazon) and if you’re really having issues, it can’t hurt to try it.  There are silicon sprays, but generally these must be sprayed directly onto the fabric and that makes me a bit antsy.

I hope this blog helps you with any relationship issues you may have with Frixion Pens or Digitally Printed Fabric.  They are both tools we can keep in our Quilting Toolbox and pull out to use on occasions where they’re needed.  They’re really not any different than anything else we use.  We just to know when and how to employ them.

Until Next Week, Remember the Details Make the Difference!

Love and Stitches,



Threading the Needle

I am a self-professing thread snob.  I admit it and own the title. 

However, I didn’t realize how passionate I was concerning the subject until I had a discussion with a few quilters a while back.  The topic was  thread, what kind we used and why.  I was amazed at the variety of preferences across the Zoom meeting.  I was even a bit taken back at myself and why I thought my favorites were the best.  There were several quilters who disagreed with me and were just as passionate about their choices.  All of this back and forth got me thinking about thread and why I use what I use and where I use it.

I do think some thread brands are better than others, and since I’m not monetized by any of them, I will spill the beans about what brands I love and use regularly.  I don’t use cheap thread in my Janome M7 Continental.  She doesn’t like it.  However, my long arm loves cheap thread.  Go figure.  I also use only long-staple threads because short-staple threads as a whole are linty.

Before we jump into all of this, I’d like to take the time to briefly talk about the types of thread available, their construction and why it matters, weight, and a rule of thumb about sewing machine needles and thread.  In this blog, we’re only discussing thread based on sewing machine use.

Types of Thread

  1. Cotton – Cotton threads are made from twisting the fine staples (fibers) from a cotton boll to create a thread.  There are many degrees of cotton-quality.  There are extra long staple cotton fibers made from Egyptian or Pima fibers, there are long cotton staples made from Sea Island cotton, and short staple cotton which primarily comes from the United States.  Each of these types of cotton fibers play a very important part in our textile world, but the long and extra-long staple make the best thread (in my humble opinion).  Cotton thread is known for its strength, medium sheen, and the natural fibers help grab the fabric to create a tight seam.  However, it’s difficult to tell low-quality from high-quality cotton thread and some manufacturers have gotten sneaky (and unethical – again, my opinion) and mix the staples and call their product long-staple thread.  Quality cotton thread is one of those quilting items that “you get what you pay for.”  In other words, higher quality cotton thread will cost you more pennies.  Cotton thread has a low-to-high lint residue depending on how it was processed, the staple length, and the quality of cotton used. 
  2. Core-spun Polyester (also called poly-wrapped core) – We quilters of a certain age remember the polyester hey days of the Seventies in all their glory.  As a result, we tend to disdain anything remotely related to the term.  However, today’s polyester thread isn’t like your mother’s.  It’s so, so, much better.  Core-spun polyester threads have a filament polyester core that is wrapped with spun polyester.  The advantages of core-spun polyester threads are its strength, reduced puckering, and excellent stitchability. It does produces low to moderate lint.
  3. Filament Polyester – Filament polyester threads are made from long, thin strands of polyester fibers which are twisted together.  The advantages of filament polyester are excellent elongation (the fibers and stretch and recover), smooth presence with no lint and can be finished as a thick or thin thread.  However, these threads are not as strong as core-spun and finer filament threads may require some tension adjustments on your sewing machine.

4. Monofilament Polyester – Monofilament polyester threads are single threads of polyester fiber, similar to fishing line.  This is a very fine thread that blends well and can be ironed with medium heat.  Usually tension adjustments will need to be made on your machine.  I use this thread to stabilize my quilt sandwich prior to quilting, since the stabilization usually means I’m using the stitch-in-the-ditch method around the center square(s).  This thread does tend to curl a bit. Some sewing machines are bothered by this, and others aren’t.  If your machine pitches a temper-tantrum with Monofilament, you may want to set the spool in some kind of holder (a coffee mug works great) and then position it a few feet from your machine.  This extra thread-path allows the thread to “relax” a bit before reaching your machine. 

5. Spun Polyester – Spun polyester threads are made from twisting small polyester staple fibers together to create a long thread (similar to the way cotton threads are created from cotton staples).  The primary advantage of Spun Polyester is price.  It costs less to make, so it costs you less.  The disadvantages are lint and strength.  This thread produces moderate to high levels of lint and it’s not as strong as filament or core-spun polyester.

6. Rayon – This is thread created in a chemistry lab.  Cellulose acetate (generally made from wood pulp) is pressed through small holes and solidifies in the form of filaments.  This thread has a high sheen, it’s soft to the touch, and it’s relatively inexpensive.  However, it’s not color fast.  Strong detergent, UV light, or bleach can cause it to bleed onto fabric.  It’s also not as strong as trilobal polyester and not as durable as polyester.

Rayon Thread

7. Nylon – This thread can run the gamut from monofilament to textured and fuzzy.  The disadvantages of this thread far outweigh any positives.  This thread should be avoided in both quilting and other types of sewing, as there are so many other better choices.  Bonded nylon is available, and it’s better than regular nylon, but it’s a heavy-duty thread used in upholstery and other heavy duty sewing.

8. Metallic – Metallic threads are created from multiple layers of materials wrapped and twisted together.  This is one thread you really need to be sure is manufactured well, because quality can range from high to extremely poor.  A good metallic thread does not require a lubricant and has a strong nylon core, a thin layer of rice paper, and a special outer coating which keeps the foil from rubbing against the needle.  The sheen is beautiful, and it has excellent stitch quality when it’s used in embroidery, quilting, or sewing.  Tension adjustments may need to be made and sewing speed slowed down.   

Mylar Thread

9. Glitter or Mylar – Mylar threads are created by bonding thin layers of flat mylar material.  Glitter thread offers holographic effects and can be used with embroidery, quilting, or regular sewing.  The disadvantages of Glitter or Mylar thread are the same ones most specialty thread has – you may need to adjust the tension and slow down your stitching speed. 

Processing Methods

Sewing and quilting thread (so we’re talking about cottons and polyesters, not specialty threads such as monofilament or glitter) undergo processing such as twisting, lubricating, and winding. In addition, cotton threads can have the following additional treatments:

Mercerized – Mercerization is the process of immersing the cotton fibers in a caustic solution which causes the fibers to swell.  This allows the dye to better penetrate the fibers and increases the luster of the thread.  Mercerizing also increases the strength of the cotton thread.  Nearly all cotton threads made for sewing are mercerized whether the label states it or not.

Gassed – Gassed thread has been passed through a flame at high speed to burn off the longest pieces of lint, resulting in a less fuzzy thread.  Gassing is also called silk finished or polished cotton as the thread has lower lint and brighter sheen than other thread.  You can tell the difference between gassed and ungassed thread if you compare the amount of fuzz between two threads.  The lower the fuzz, the better the chances the thread has been gassed. 

Glazed or Coated – Glazed thread is treated with a coat of wax, resin, or starch and then polished to create a luster.  The thread is very strong due to the glaze and is recommended for hand quilting.  Glazed cotton threads are not recommended for machine sewing or machine quilting because the coating can rub off in the tension discs and contact points.  Then the discs and points will collect lint, fuzz, dust and cause a buildup to obstruct the thread path.

It’s All About the Weight

For me the most important characteristic about the thread I use to piece and quilt my quilts is the weight.  The weight or size of the thread is an important consideration for any sewing project.  Knowing how to make proper adjustments relative to different thread weights will make sewing, quilting, or embroidery projects more enjoyable.  However, just to make things a little more interesting (and sometimes confusing), there are five common methods used to measure thread:  Weight, denier, tex, number, and composition standards.  I won’t go into all the equations and such used to come up with these.  Instead I want to give you the down and dirty, so you won’t have all these numbers swimming around in your head. 

Weight – The smaller the weight number the heavier and thicker the thread.  A 30-weight thread is heavier than a 40-weight thread.  A 40-weight thread is heavier than a 50-weight one, and so on.  Most thread purchased in the United States mentions the weight on the spool label, the spool rim, or the inside of the spool. 

Denier – This measurement deals primarily with polyester and rayon embroidery thread.  Most polyester and rayon threads are 120/2 meaning two strands of 120-denier thread for a 240 denier total.  All this boils down to the fact the larger the denier number, the heaver the thread.

Tex – This is the weight in grams of 1000 meters of thread.  If this total weight is 25 grams, it’s a 25 Tex.  Bottom line – the larger the Tex number the heavier the thread.

Number System or Gunze Count System– Here’s where the whole thread measurement process can get a bit confusing.  The Number standard is used on many thinner threads and is written as No. 50 or #50 or No 100 or #100.  Many folks confuse this with the Weight measurement and incorrectly suppose the weight and number is the same thing – such as a #100 thread is the same thing as a 100-weight thread.  Like the Weight measurement, the smaller the number the heavier the thread. 

It can boggle the mind when you’re shopping for thread, because one thread which is stamped #50, another 50 wt, and another 50/3 are not the same.  All three are measured by different standards and may not be similar in size.  What is important is to keep a consistent standard of measurement when purchasing certain threads and use your eyes and fingers to gauge the diameter of the thread.

Where Composition Standard Comes into Play

This standard was originally developed for cotton thread but is now also used for polyester.  A cotton thread and a polyester one with identical composition numbers will be similar, but not exactly the same size.  This is technically because we’re comparing apples to turnips.  For exactness, compare cotton thread to cotton thread and polyester to polyester.  And for us the Composition Standard deals with interpreting a chain of numbers.  For instance, some spools may be stamped with something like 30/3 (or 30/1×3).  The first number – in this case 30 – is the same number used in the Number Standard.  So this thread is a No. 30 thread.  The second number – 3 – means the thread has 3 plys twisted together to make one thread.  We now know we have a No. 30 thread comprised of 3 plys, which means this is a heavy thread and a thick thread since it’s made of three plys.  Rule of thumb if you see a composition standard listed on a spool of thread:  Most thin threads (50 wt. and thinner) are a 2-ply thread.  Most heavy threads are a 3-ply thread.  I realize this may seem like we’re really into the minute details about thread, but this information is helpful when determining needle size.

So Why Is All This Information Important?

The weight is important because it concerns stitch density, needle size, and tension.  If you’re a quilter who uses their embroidery machine for quilting or to add designs to blocks, generally you use 40-weight thread.  This ensures adequate coverage.  If a heavier thread, such as a 30-weight, is used, a lumpy appearance may result or cause the thread to bind on itself, which means it will continuously break or jam the machine. 

However, let’s consider weight with regard to the seams in quilt blocks.  One thing quilters need to do is consider the entire quilt before putting in the first cut of the fabric.  And in all honesty, if you’re a new quilter, this is difficult.  I also think it’s harder to do if you don’t quilt any of your own quilts either on a long arm or domestic machine.  In one way quilting is like just about any other craft or art — what you do now affects the other steps you take later.  One of those steps which need careful consideration at every point is bulk.  You want to keep the bulk to a minimum with every step of construction.  Here’s where the weight of the thread comes into play with seams:  Use a high weight thread both on the top of your machine and in the bobbin.  My go-to piecing thread is 50- or 60- weight Aurifil. 

I love Aurifil for piecing.  It has 2-plies and is a strong thread.  It takes up little space in the seam itself, making your ¼-inch seams extremely accurate.  It’s long-staple, low lint, and comes in hundreds of colors.  I have two on-line sources for it:  Red Rock Threads and Pineapple Fabric.  While I can find Aurifil in quilt stores, I have yet to see it in a big box store such as Joann’s.

If I can’t find what I need in Aurifil, my second piecing thread choice is Superior Thread’s Bottom Line.  Designed for bobbin use, Bottom Line is a 60-weight, 2 ply, polyester thread, but it’s a great piecing thread.    And right here I will pause because I can hear the arguments starting:

“You can’t use polyester thread on cotton fabrics!  The polyester thread will cut right through the cotton.”

Nope.  Won’t happen.  Remember when I told you that today’s polyester threads are nothing like the kind used by our mothers?  Those old polyester threads may have very well sawed their way through the few available garment cottons because those cotton fabrics meant for clothing are thinner than quilting cottons.  However both today’s fabric quality and polyester thread quality are  much better and this doesn’t happen.  But there is something to be careful about – thread shrinks when it’s washed, and cotton and polyester thread have different shrink rates.

And this is the point where I will get serious about dropping name brands because I’m not monetized:  I’ve never had the shrinkage issue with Bottom Line.  It’s an awesome thread.  If you were to visit my quilt studio, you’re likely to find just as many spools and cones of Bottom Line as you do Aurifil.  I use Bottom Line not just for piecing, but also for invisible applique and binding.   

The new kid on the block (at least in the United States) is Wonderfil.  I had the amazing experience to use a sample of this thread about three years ago and it was love at first stitch.  Unfortunately, it wasn’t available in the United States then, so I was pestering my Australian and Canadian connections for a few spools here and there. Thankfully, it’s now available in the US (I didn’t know this until I visited a quilt shop in Florida while I was in Palm Coast to see my son – I did a happy dance in the aisle and I’m sure they thought I was bonkers).  Wonderfil produces a thread called Invisafil which is 100 weight, cottonized polyester. 

This thread is truly the best of both worlds.  Because it is cottonized, there is negligible stretch and because it’s also polyester, it’s strong and feels soft.  Used as piecing thread, it practically disappears in the seams and it’s great for micro stippling or any other quilting stitch you would prefer to have disappear into the background of your quilt.  It’s also perfect for invisible applique or hand applique.  Bonus for those of us who like prewound bobbins – Invisafil is available in those.  Wonderfil thread is available at

Of course, the best thread in the world is nothing without the correct needle.  I wrote a blog about sewing machine needles and what sizes are best for different fabrics and thread.  It’s a lot of information.  However, there is a handy, dandy rule of thumb about thread and needle sizes:  Generally, use a needle whose eye is 40% larger than the diameter of the thread.  So, a #75/11 or #80/12 needle is great for 50-weight thread.  One of the wonderful things about Superior Thread is they tell you what size long arm or domestic machine needle is needed on the inside of their spools and cones. 


If you’re sewing away and find your thread is shredding and breaking or you are the victim of skipped stitches, stop sewing.  The first line of defense in this situation is to change your needle.  If it continues to happen, go up one needle size.  I tend to be a big Schmetz needle fan.  I’ve used them since I began sewing 38 years ago and they’ve always served me well.  However, be aware some sewing machines are brand-specific as far as their needles go – such as Singer.  Singer machines work best with Singer needles.

The last issue to talk about concerning thread is tension, and this is one of the issues which causes quilters’ hackles to rise.  We want to thread the machine, insert fabric, and get with the sewing.  However, no matter how much we dislike dealing with tension, it’s one of those things that can make a great sewing day (the tension is perfect) or it can cause us to want to throw our machines out the window (the tension is awful).  If you use the same brand and weight of thread all the time, tension isn’t an issue.  However, if you’re like a lot of quilters and you change up your threads and may be piecing on your machine one day and then quilting the next, it’s important to have a good grasp of how to handle your machine’s tension issues.

Thread tension on most sewing machines is accomplished by applying pressure to one side of a spring which presses on a tension disk.  Tension is applied to the thread as it passes between a pair of tension disks.  This tension is either adjusted manually or electronically through a computer-controlled electromagnet (depending on your sewing machine).  Increased pressure on the tension spring increases the thread tension.  When a 50-weight thread is replaced by a heavier 40-weight thread, the increased diameter of the thread pushes the tension disks further apart, increasing pressure on the tension spring.    By increasing or decreasing the diameter of the thread, we increase or decrease the thread tension.  If the tension is too high, it damages the thread and the thread breaks.  If the tension is too low, the thread will loop on the back of the fabric.  When you change out thread, and the new thread is a different weight than the preceding one (or a different brand), always test out your stitching on a scrap of fabric before piecing or quilting again.  You may find you need to make a few tension adjustments. 

In closing, remember the most common method to gauge the diameter of thread is the weight system.  This isn’t a perfect system, but it is the most common and most easily understood by quilters and other sewists.  However….

You must always be the final judge in what kind of thread you use and for what purpose.  To find your favorite piecing thread, try a small spool of two or three different brands.  Sew a ¼-inch seam and a scant ¼-inch seam with each.  Press each seam to the side and remeasure.  Which thread gives you the truest seam measurement once it’s pressed?  Run your finger along the seam.  Which thread feels best?  As you answer these questions, you’ll find your favorite piecing thread.  And your second favorite (because you always need a backup).

As far as quilting thread goes, the first question to ask is do you want your stitches to show, or do you want them to kind of melt into the background?  If you want them really nondescript, a higher weight thread (as high as 100-weight) may be exactly what you want.  If you’re a confident quilter and you want your quilting to shine more than the piecing or applique, start with a 40-weight and go lower if needed.  If you want something in the middle, try a 50- or 60-weight.  Want a sheen?  Try polyester.  Want traditional?  Go with the all-cotton.  Above all else, before you put one quilting stitch in that quilt sandwich, unspool about a foot of each thread under consideration and audition it on your quilt top.  Go about this just as seriously as you auditioned your fabric.  You may find you want some of the quilt quilted in one kind of thread and the other parts of the quilt quilted in another.  And that’s perfectly okay.

I know this has been a long blog, and thanks for hanging in there with me until the end.  Believe me, the kind of thread you use is one of those details which truly make a difference in both your quilt and your quilting process.

Until next week, the details really DO make a difference!

Love and Stitches,

Sherri Fields   


Make a Quilt with Me

In 2018, I wrote a series of blogs about the Golden Ratio and how to use it when you quilt.  These “math heavy” blogs remain some of my most read and most liked columns of all time.  In several of those blogs, I began with the scenario something like this:  You’re at an estate sale…you’re at a yard sale…you’re at some kind of function where you walk away with a stack of quilt blocks, and you need to know how to set them with sashings and borders.

Well, this blog is not a drill and I have in my possession 24 hexie blocks. 

First, let me tell you how I acquired the blocks.  My wonderful mother is 83 years young.  Prior to COVID, she was extremely active.  She taught stained glass, went out with her friends, and generally lived a grand semi-retired lifestyle.  When COVID hit, she seriously hunkered down, but there was only so much TV and so many puzzles she could work before she went crazy.  Once I was vaxxed, I went to see her and took my handwork with me.  At that particular time, I was using Cindy Blackberg’s stamps to make a Grandmother’s Flower Garden.  As my mother watched me hand piece, she decided she wanted to try it.  I gave her a stack of hexies and she started her own handwork journey.  After I went back home, I stamped out a bunch of hexies and mailed those and the needed supplies to her.  This new hobby helped get her through the stark loneliness COVID brought to so many senior citizens.

She still likes to hand piece, so about a year or so ago I used my hexie stamp to make her some more hexie flower kits and a few weeks ago she handed me back 24 completed hexie flowers.  My original idea was to make two applique quilts – one for each of my kids.  I knew they would cherish a quilt put together by their Nana and their mom.  In my mind I had the quilts drawn out – the hexies would be flowers and I’d add stems and leaves and make a cute wall hanging.  That was my plan…but…things change.  The design of flowers, stems, and leaves would be great for me or Mom, but my kids are thirty-somethings. A quilt like that wouldn’t fit their décor and while I knew they both would cherish the quilts because of the history behind them, I couldn’t see the quilts working anywhere in their homes.  I needed to regroup and rethink this situation.

So, I turned to Pinterest and Google.  After a bit of searching and looking, I decided to machine applique each hexie onto a block of fabric and set those into a quilt.  This would definitely give the quilt a more “modern” than traditional vibe and work better on their walls.  Plus, the hexies are made of bright modern fabrics and batiks and really don’t have much of a Grandmother’s Flower Garden feel to them.  I also decided to set the blocks on point.  Decisions were made, finalized, and then I made a rough sketch of the quilt. 

Now here’s where the math comes in.  In order for everything to look balanced, I don’t want the background blocks to be too small so the hexie flowers look crowded, or so big they look lost.  There needs to be a balanced margin around them.  Using the Golden Ratio formula took the guess work out of figuring out how big the background blocks needed to be.

The Golden Ratio is the extreme and mean ratio discovered by Euclid.  It’s also called the Divine Proportion.  It was developed by taking a line and dividing it into two parts – a long part (a) and a short part (b). The entire length (a + b) divided by (a) is equal to (a) divided by (b). And both of those numbers equal 1.618. This is an irrational number, yada, yada, yada….I could go on, but by now I know a few of you have glazed-over eyes and are having high school geometry class flashbacks.  The main thing for quilters to remember is the number: 1.618.  Put it in the note section of your phone, write it down in your quilting notes, or simply memorize it because this number will serve you well.

Now back to my hexies and my applique background squares.  In order to make sure the blocks are proportional, I need one other measurement besides 1.618 – the width of the hexies.  A quick measurement shows me the hexies are 6 ½-inches at their widest point.  So now I take the width of the hexies and multiply it by 1.618:

6.5 x 1.618 = 10.517, which we will round down to 10.5 or 10 ½-inches.

The finished quilt block needs to measure 10 ½-inches.  However, I still need to add the seam allowance, which is another ½-inch.  So our unfinished quilt block (the measurement of the block before it’s sewn in the quilt) is 11-inches (10 ½ + ½ = 11).  But I’m still not quite finished with the block measurements yet.  I will applique the hexie flowers onto the background.  This process can draw the fabric up just a bit.  I need to add a scootch more fabric margin to the background squares to make sure I can still have them safely at 10 ½-inches finished. In order to make sure I have enough scootch room, I’ll add another ½-inch to the unfinished 11-inches.  So I will cut my background blocks out at 11 ½-inches.  I will measure these before I begin to assemble the quilt top and if they’re larger than 11-inches, I’ll trim them down.  It’s always so much easier to trim something down than it is to try to fit something that’s too small into a larger space. 

Applique blocks decided, I still have to deal with eight side setting triangles and four corner triangles.  “Sherri,” you may be asking at this point, “Is there more math for these?”

Why yes!  And I’m so glad you asked! Bonus – there’s a new formula.  But before I introduce the formula and the equation, let’s take a look at a drawing of the quilt. 

I’ve highlighted the side setting triangles in pink and the corner triangles in green.  The number of side setting triangles will vary in the quilts you make.  That number depends on how large your quilt is and how many on-point blocks are in it.  However, there will always be four corner triangles in any rectangular or square quilt.  You will note the side setting triangles are larger than the corner ones.  The math and cutting differs a little in each, but we begin with squares we sub-cut into triangles. 

At this point, allow me to introduce you to “Quilter’s Cake” – 1.414.  Okay…technically it’s really not called “Quilter’s Cake.”  Throw out that term to any geometry teacher and all you’ll get is a blank stare.  It is, however, the Root Mean Square and it’s used to determine 45-degree angles.  It’s also used to determine voltage, but that’s a different blog for a different day.  Think of it as the Golden Ratio in Triangles (GRIT).

This formula is super-easy to use.  For side setting triangles, simply take the size of the finished quilt blocks and multiply it by 1.414 and add 1 ¼-inches for the seam allowance.   With this quilt, the finished measurement is 10 ½-inches.  So we multiply it out like this:

1.414 x 10.5 = 14.847 or 14 7/8-inches. 

Then we add the seam allowance:

14 7/8 + 1 ¼ = 16 1/8-inches. 

We should cut the side setting triangle square out at 16 1/8-inches and then cut it twice on the diagonal to get four side setting triangles per square.  Since we need eight, we only need to cut two 16 1/8-inch squares.  Which you can do…but let’s have a Zone of Truth meeting right here. 

I thoroughly dislike cutting anything at 1/8-inch increments.  The 1/8 lines are difficult to see and line up on a cutting mat.  When I cut my side setting triangle squares out, I’ll bump the measurement up to 16 ¼-inches and then trim down the long side of the triangle before I put the borders on. 

The four corner triangles are mathed out a little differently.  Since the corner triangles are generally always smaller than the side setting triangles, you divide by 1.414 and then add 7/8-inch for the seam allowances.  Again, take the finished size of the block and divide by 1.414:

10.5 / 1.414 = 7.425743 or 7 3/8

7 3/8 + 7/8 = 8.25 or 8 ¼-inches.

Since these blocks will only be cut once on the diagonal and I need four of the corner triangles, I’ll cut out two 8 ¼-inch squares.

Whew.  Now all the applique background blocks, the side setting, and the corner triangles are mathed out and cut out.  You’d think we’d be ready to begin the machine applique process, right?

Not quite yet.  There are two more steps I need to walk you through before I set up my machine for applique.  The first step is choosing a stabilizer.  A stabilizer is used on the wrong side of the background blocks.  It keeps the fabric from getting “chewed” by the sewing machine and allows it to slip over the feed dogs without difficulty.  It helps keep your stitches even and makes machine appliqueing curves and circles so much easier.  There are literally hundreds of stabilizers on the market (go here:  for some).  The only cautionary characteristics I would remind you of are these:

  1.  If it’s a tear-way stabilizer, make sure it pulls away easily from the stitches and fabric.  If it doesn’t, it’s easy to stretch your block and stitches out of shape as you struggle to remove the stabilizer (for this reason, copy paper is not my favorite stabilizer, although it can be used).
  2. If it’s water soluble, make sure your fabric won’t fade or bleed when immersed in the sink or spritzed by a spray bottle filled with water.  If a water-soluble stabilizer is your stabilizer of choice, you may want test your fabric to see how color-fast it is or pre-wash it.
  3. If it’s a leave-in stabilizer, make sure it’s light enough to quilt through without difficulty and it’s not too stiff.

My stabilizer of choice is Pellon’s Easy Knit.

Technically, this isn’t a “stabilizer.”  It’s a lightweight interfacing.  I was introduced to this product when I made my first T-shirt quilt years ago.  It was used to stabilize the knit T-shirts before they were sewn into the quilt.  It’s soft, easy to get a sewing machine or long arm needle through and since it’s an interfacing, it’s made to be left in.  I really like it for machine applique because it does make the wrong side of the background fabric slippery, thus making the applique process much easier as you manipulate the fabric under the needle. 

Easy Knit is very light weight and is super-easy to use. Note how sheer it is.

Notice I made the stabilizer square slightly smaller than the background fabric square. I did this to avoid having the stabilizer in the seam allowance and adding more bulk to the seams. The applique stitching around the hexies as well as the quilting will act to keep the stabilizer firmly in place despite not being in the seam allowance.

This product can be purchased by the yard or by the bolt.  I have found JoAnn Fabric and Crafts has the best price in my area.  If you don’t have a JoAnn’s near you, they do have a website.  When JoAnn’s has Easy Knit on sale or has a 40% off coupon, I purchase it by the bolt, and a bolt lasts me a long time.

Choosing which fusible to use is the second step.  There are just as many fusibles on the market as there are stabilizers, and like stabilizers, the fusible you like and use is a personal choice.  I am not a one-size-fits-all stabilizer quilter.  The one I use depends on what type of quilt I’m making.  If a bed quilt is under my needle, I will opt for a softer fusible, such as Soft Fuse or Misty Fuse.  However, these quilts are wall quilts, which means I can use something with a stiffer feel to it.  I want the quilts to keep their shape as they will be hanging vertically and not laying horizontally on a bed.  Because of this, I’ll use Steam-A-Seam Lite. 

Once the background squares, side setting triangles, and corner triangles are cut out, the fun begins.  I tend to work my way through each major step with every piece involved.  This means I press the stabilizer to the wrong sides of all the applique background blocks.

Then I press the hexie flowers and add the fusible.  Note I don’t remove the paper backing until I’m ready to fuse the flowers to the background.

I generally “spider web” any background block I center applique pieces on. This is very helpful and assures just about perfect placement. I love my background fabric! That gray is from Moda’s Leonardo Da Vinci line and it’s a perfect backdrop for the bright hexies.

Now I mark my background squares so I can center the hexie flowers.  Once this is complete, I pull the paper backing off the flower, center it on the background fabric and press. 

At this point, the fun begins.  Since my hexies are every color of the rainbow, I get to pull out all my applique thread and make some decisions.  It’s a good thing I’m a thread-a-holic.  I have something to match anything.  To cut down on the number of times I need to change my thread, I group the hexies according to color, instead of randomly pulling out blocks.  My machine applique stitch of choice is the blanket or buttonhole stitch.  I play with widths and lengths on a scrap until I’m happy with the result:

My buttonhole stitch width was 1.8 and my length was 2.0

And I make of a note of the length and width settings in my phone.  Since I currently am also quilting a small quilt on the same machine, I don’t want to get my settings confused. 

A few days of steadily appliqueing adds up to 26 completed blocks. The following blogs can add more details about how to raw-edge applique: (,,, and 

I assemble the quilt top, pressing well after each addition, and then measure it in three places across the width of the quilt.  I average these three numbers together to know how long to cut the top and bottom border (the border are 2 ½-inches wide).  I press the seams towards the borders and then repeat the process for the length of the quilt to make the side borders.

Now all I have to do is quilt it and add a sleeve for hanging and a label.

I hope you’ve enjoyed making this quilt with me.  You don’t have to use a pattern to make a quilt.  You don’t even need a computer program such as EQ (even though I can’t imagine my quilting life without EQ).  You just need to remember the Golden Ratio (1.618) and GRIT (1.414).  Math is simply numbers, and numbers will always tell us the truth.

Until Next Week, Remember the Details Make the Difference!

Love and Stitches,