Top Quilting Tips No. 1- The Fabric of Life

In the Countdown to Classes series here’s number

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What would we do without FABRIC? People who don’t quilt just can’t COTTON on to why we love it so much and why we want to cut it up into small pieces and then sew them back together again.

lantern bloom range

I don’t want to MUSLIN on your time but I think we could all use some more. OK I’ll stop now because I don’t have any more MATERIAL.

Seriously fabric is so wonderful – you can make beautiful colourful creations or, if you’re just a collector, you can just look at it in admiration and re-arrange it. Maybe I could  re-arrange the fabric room and swap all the colours around – oh no I already did that last week.

PicMonkey Collage

Your task today is to check your fabric supplies and see if you need any supplies for that UFO list you did last week. Or maybe you just need to feed your fabric fetish.

Maybe fabric is your artist’s medium, maybe it’s the practical tool to help you warm your family. What is this fabric?

Quilter’s cotton is soft and lightweight. It is made to be cut, pressed and sewn easily. Quilting cotton comes in a range of weights because of different manufacturing processes. You know how sheets have different thread counts and the more expensive sheets have higher thread count? Well it’s the same with quilting fabric. The denser the weave the better the fabric because it will have more body and be more stable – and when it’s part of a 2,400 piece quilt that’s important.



At Apatchy we stock only top quality fabric rather than the el cheapo options available. Why? Because you put a lot of effort into your project. You put a lot of time into it. The success of the finished project will depend almost totally on the fabric. Ok well maybe on your sewing too. But really the quilt is all about the fabric so why begin with an inferior product? Often the cheaper fabrics have an inferior grade cotton or lower quality inks used in the dyeing process.

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Sizing is also used in the manufacture of cotton – it is what makes some fabrics feel stiff. Cheaper fabrics often have a lot of sizing and then, when you wash them, they turn into dish rags or, as Mum says, “something you could shell peas through”. Think about that for a little while – that’s THIN!

Good-quality fabric feels different. It handles better, holds it’s creases and lines and generally makes a better quilt. Don’t be mean when it comes to this aspect of your quilting. Ok here endeth the lesson.

So you need good quality fabric but at a cheaper price – now – to make it easy for you – let’s make this week from Tuesday until next Monday the


This time we are going to make things work a little differently. Here’s how:

  • Buy less than 1 metre get 10% discount
  • Buy more than one metre get 20% discount
  • Finish the bolt (regardless of the amount left) and get 25% discount
  • For things that aren’t fabric (that would be books, ribbons, haberdashery and all things not fabric except classes) – get 20% discount

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As always Geronimo members get an additional  10% off. That means you get up to 35% off! You do the maths. Not a Geronimo member? You should be – have a look at the link here to join. Not a Brisbane class-goer? No problem just order online and mention SUMMER in your order.

I hope you’ve enjoyed the Countdown series and are ready for classes. As you would probably have realised by now – they don’t start tomorrow, they start on Tuesday (and so does the sale). ‘So why are we down to Number 1 on the Countdown’ I hear you ask. It’s because I’m being kind to you and giving you a free day to get everything organised that you were supposed to do in the last ten days but maybe haven’t quite got there yet.

See you on Tuesday

Happy quilting


If you’ve missed the ‘Countdown to classes’ series you can catch up here – just click on the numbers to take you to that tip:

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Top Quilting Tips No. 2 – A Class Act

In the ‘Countdown to classes‘ series here’s number –

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Today I want to talk about classes and why you should attend one on a regular basis. As far as Apatchy Quilting goes I always envisaged that it would be a haven away from the stresses of everyday life as well as a quilting venue that nurtures creativity and inspiration. This is why I try to encourage everyone to think positively and why I discourage negative talk at classes – because it discourages people.


I was sad to hear that Rod McKuen died this week – I loved his poetry from the time I was a teenager. This portion of the poem ‘A Safe Place to Land‘ reflects what I feel about Apatchy:

“There should be some silence in this place so thought can harvest things it’s lately caught. I hope that you will take this as a resting space. A bench provided just before the clearing up ahead.”

Linda Steele is an award-winning quilter. She put together a list of 10 reasons to belong to a group. I couldn’t have put it better myself so here is her list:

1. Inspiration

Who cannot help but be inspired by other peoples quilts.

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2. Information

In our busy world it is impossible to keep up with everything going on.


3. Camaraderie

Sewing and quilting can be a solitary activity. Of course we all need time alone to prepare, design and achieve but it’s good to show others what we are doing as well.


4. Critique

Honest feedback is hard to find in the quilting world. Family and friends are too close and often don’t have the expertise. This is where a  group with the skill to articulate and use the principles of Art and Design as their base is invaluable.


5. Insight

Everyone’s work is different and it is very interesting to see how other people  approach a theme or idea.


6. Competition

Nothing spurs you on like a little bit of friendly competition.

Chris as winner Lesa champion

7. Support

Designing your own quilts and entering competitions can be tough and  rejection is common. This is where groups can offer understanding, commiseration and encouragement.


8. Purpose

Self-esteem is often built on achievement and finishing a quilt or helping organise an activity is very rewarding.

Toni amd Arnold

9. Confidence

Advising, listening, supporting and sharing with others have the advantage of boosting our own confidence.


10. Friendship

I have met so many wonderful people including online friends through my quilting groups.


Exactement! My thoughts too.

See you on Tuesday and Wednesday 9:30am to 12:30 for the day class or 6:00pm to 9:00pm for the evening class if you’re a night owl. Be there or be square.

Until tomorrow

Happy Quilting


If you have missed any of the Countdown to Classes series here are the links:

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Top Quilting Tips – No 3 – Nuts and Bolts

In our countdown to classes series here is number


Nuts and bolts – well no bolts yet – that’s for later. Your task today is to:

Make sure your toolbox is packed and ready for action

sewing box

As with any activity you could spend a lot of money on lots of gadgets and tools but, for quilting I think you really only need a few. Apart from the operational sewing machine, thread and an iron we talked about in previous posts (see below for links), here’s what should be in your toolbox:-

Rotary Cutter – the first rotary cutter was manufactured by Olfa in 1979. Before that quilters had to try to cut accurately with scissors which must have been a nightmare. So you could say rotary cutters put a whole new spin on things (get it?).

Now although Olfa invented the beast I prefer this type:


I’ll tell you why – they have a safety lock like pretty well all rotary cutters BUT these ones engage when you apply pressure for cutting. That means you don’t have to REMEMBER to slide the catch up each time you put the thing down.

Make sure you have a new blade – it will change your life it really will. If you are missing part of a cut or hear a noise it’s time to change the blade. You should be able to cut through fabric EASILY. Rotary cutters are just circular razor blades so if it isn’t going well it’s new-blade-time. That should keep your rotary cutter spinning around round baby right round.


Oh and remember what I just said – they are round RAZOR BLADES – that means they are DANGEROUS so be careful when you change the blade and make sure you dispose of the old one sensibly.

Scissors – the rotary cutter revolutionised quilting but you’ll still need a pair of scissors or two. One larger pair for jobs like cutting the edges of a quilted top before binding it. And maybe a small pair to use for snipping threads. Keep your scissors for cutting fabric only as paper is the natural enemy of the scissor. You have been warned.

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Pins – use fine flat-headed pins for your piecing and teeny appliqué pins for, well – appliqué. Go through your supplies and ditch any pins that are bent or blunt as they can damage your work. And a pincushion is useful at this point too.

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Plus you might want to invest in a magnetic pickup device or a telescopic magnetic retrieval pen as it is more precisely called. Whatever it’s called get one so you can easily find those stray pins on the floor before they find someone’s foot.

telescopic magnetci retrieval pen

Seam Ripper – no matter how careful you are there’s going to be some reverse sewing at some stage and you’ll need a seam ripper. Invest in a good one. I like the brown-handled Clover ones because they’re very sharp (naturally) and the little ball stops it from damaging fabric when you get a bit carried away. Using a cheap one will only end in tears. Enough said.


Rulers – there are hundreds of rulers available. You don’t need them all! If you want to do homework (and you will) you’ll need a 6 1/2″ x 24 1/2″ ruler – long enough to cut through a length of fabric.

To square up your blocks use a 12 1/2″ square or 14 1/2″ square ruler.

I’d also suggest a 6 1/2″ square ruler to make life easier for you.


Mat – be kind to your cutting mat for although it can heal itself from cuts it does not cope with many things in the sewing room – like heat (don’t get it hot or it will warp) or being warped (don’t store it upright with the weight on itself or it will warp). The manufacturers reckon you should soak them in cool water but, as I have a large mat, where can that be done while keeping it flat?


Also – if you cut 8,435,723 pieces of fabric at the same spot (say the 1/2 metre mark) your mat will eventually wear and you might consider investing in a new one before you saw through your cutting table and amputate your toes!

To start I would recommend a mat 24″ x 36″ because you can cut through a length of fabric folded in half. If you are stretched for space you could get by with a smaller one but, what can I say, size matters!

I also like the spinning mats because it makes it easier to trim small pieces and is particularly useful when you are doing paper piecing (or foundation piecing).

Can you believe that you can make a quilt with just the tools above? Well you can’t! You also need the things we’ve talked about in the last few posts. Oh and one more thing – if you don’t already know – quilting is addictive. You will want to keep going once you start. This means you need a comfortable chair when you’re sewing – one that helps your posture and takes the pressure of your back and shoulders. A set-up like the one below is recommended. I also like the chair with castors because you can swivel to your cutting mat, then to the machine, then the iron in a cut-sew-press kind of routine. Oh and as you swivel round you can pretend you’re in Star Wars on the Millennium Falcon fighting the Imperial troops just before you jump to light speed (or is that just me?).


And there’s two more things you need but you’ll have to stay tuned for those….

Until tomorrow

Happy Quilting


If you’ve missed any of the countdown just click here to catch up:-

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Top Quilting Tips – No. 4 – A Pressing Problem

In our countdown to classes series here is number


So we all know that pressing is an important part of quilting and that, to perfect your technique, you need to develop a mutually- satisfying relationship with your iron.


Maybe you never owned an iron before you started quilting. Maybe you iron everything including the underwear. Maybe you have shunned ironing as the result of a bad experience when you had to iron 48 shirts in one day.

Whatever your experience, when you are quilting your iron needs to be performing at its peak to get you where you’re going. The irons of the quilting world serve us well but we often take advantage of them. I have left TWO irons on all day on more that one occasion – points for consistency but that’s it.

So here’s today’s task:

Give your iron the once over it deserves.

If your iron doesn’t have a self-cleaning function (can I get one of those for the house?) you’ll have to do it yourself. To start, give it a good clean with a damp cloth. That’s after you make sure it’s turned off of course.

If you’ve accidentally pressed the vlisoflex or some stabiliser on the wrong side and the sticky remains are still visible on the plate then now’s the time to give it a good clean with something more than water.


I’ve read that you can use methylated spirits for this but I just use the commercial iron cleaner you buy from the supermarket. By cleaning the plate you can ensure your next project doesn’t get ruined. Don’t take to it with harsh abrasives or steel wool. There’s no need to be violent. Follow the instructions on the pack and you can’t go wrong.

Now I’ve also read that you should clean the water tank with diluted vinegar. I just use distilled water all the time and don’t get the mineral deposits that require this sort of cleaning.

Don’t store your iron face down because it doesn’t like it. Make sure you leave it for 15 minutes to cool down before you put it away and don’t wrap the cord (if it’s got one) around the plate – wrap it around the base.


Now about the surface on which you iron – it should be tall enough that you don’t get back strain. Maybe you can use a portable board strategically placed between the cutting board and the sewing machine if you’re doing fiddly piecing and you don’t feel you could benefit from getting up every 30 seconds to walk to the ironing board because you’re already trim, taut and terrific…just a thought.

Maybe you could do as Ricky Timms suggests and make an ironing table out of plywood covered with batting and then heavy fabric stapled to the base. The blog sew many ways have a tutorial on how to build this one-

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Or maybe you already improvise. Have you improvised? Do tell.

How to press is something that we cover in class. You’ll learn about the pros and cons of using steam and other things seemingly more sinister

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For today we’re just looking after the equipment. Maybe you should take a before and after photo of your iron.

Until tomorrow


If you’ve missed any of our countdown just click on the links here:

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Top Quilting Tips – No. 5 – Nice Threads Man!

In our countdown to classes series here is tip number


Nice threads doesn’t refer to topics on message boards (for the more modern) or the white suit John Travolta sported in ‘Saturday Night Fever’ (for those of us more vintage than modern). I’m talking about the myriad thread choices we have when we are piecing and quilting (and hand sewing too). Do we choose cotton, metallic, silk or polyester? And what does weight mean?


Different numbering systems are used in order to specify different sewing threads. Apparently different spinning mills used their own thread sizing systems and there are still several in operation today. Complex n’est pas?

Basically the systems are based on weight. The Tex system was invented to be the standard in the industry. In this system the higher the number the heavier the thread. Unfortunately it hasn’t quite taken the quilting world by storm.

What quilters like are the weight standard  and the number standard. Under the weight system the larger the number the finer the thread. So 50wt is finer than 30wt. Why? Because it takes 50 metres of 50wt to weigh one gram whereas it only takes 30 metres of 30wt to weigh one gram because it’s heavier.

Confused? We haven’t even mentioned plies (the number of yarns twisted together to make a single thread) or the denier standard that embroiderers use! That standard is based on the weight of nine kilometres of thread. Think about that when you’re tying up your roses with your old panty-hose!



There are even formulas to determine thread count which I won’t divulge here but trust me they exist.

Your formula is to use a good quality thread. Personally I like Rasant (a core-spun thread – meaning it has a polyester core and cotton covering.). For general piecing it is strong, robust and reliable. You can use it for quilting too and generally beginners would use this in one of our classes without any trouble. Plus there are lots of colours to choose from.

images4S2S8EI0 rasant


For free motion quilting I really like Wonderfil Mirage (a 30wt rayon) because it is a variegated thread that really pops and enhances the quilting. Of course if you use a finer thread such as Mirage you need to use the appropriate bobbin thread (also finer) such as Invisafil so it doesn’t all end in tears and broken threads.

23-Thread  invisafil

There are videos here from Wonderfil showing what you can do with Mirage thread.

Linen threads are very useful for hand quilting and, if you have hyper-embellishment disorder like me you will favour metallic and silk threads for that extra ta-da element.

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I think we’ll have a closer look at the different threads and what they can do for your quilting during the year because there really are dozens of options.

When it comes to thread choices, colour is another issue. Did you know that Marsala is the Pantone colour of the year?


It is described as a “hearty yet stylish tone”. Some others say it’s more reminiscent of bodily functions and decrepit buildings. What do you think? Is it outside your comfort zone?

Your task today is to :

Have a look in your stash at what threads you have. Is there an abundance of neutrals or are 80% of them the same colour (I have lots of blue)? Have a look at them again and see if there are some gaps in your choices – either colour-wise or texture-wise. Resolve to widen your repertoire this year.

You’re halfway through your tasks now so you deserve a little reward. Have a look at this video. It’s a little sexist but it made me smile.

 Until tomorrow

Happy Quilting


If you’ve missed any posts in this series find them here:

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