Does this sound familiar? You start your day planning to finish that special quilt for a loved one’s upcoming birthday. The clock ticks away; and daily life keeps you from sitting down to sew. By the end of the day you’re so exhausted you hope tomorrow will be different. Wouldn’t you love that feeling of accomplishment that comes from finishing a quilt? There are ways to save time when quilting and get your project finished. That’s why I’ve put together 10+ Useful Tips That Will Make You Finish Quilts Faster Than a Pro.
There is no replacement for having the right tools for the job. Things like rotary cutters,* self-healing cutting mats,* and quilting rulers* speed up the process and allow you finish your quilt that much sooner. Having fresh rotary cutter blades on hand is a real time saver, too. You will be able to cut through multiple layers of fabric at one time. On the other hand, dull blades may require repeat cuts. (*affiliate links)
Don’t Get Stalled by Perfection
Worrying about your quilt’s imperfections will consume more time than you can imagine. Small mistakes don’t mean you have to take your quilt apart. If it doesn’t alter the size of the quilt, then move on. There are no perfect quilts and agonizing over a couple of intersections not matching won’t finish your quilt. Chalk it up to experience. You’ll get it right on the next quilt. I love what Angela Walters says, “A finished quilt is better than a perfect quilt.”
Familiarize Yourself with Your Sewing Machine
It is vital that you become familiar with everything about your sewing machine. No matter the age, it needs to be in good working order for you to accomplish most quilt-related tasks. You should know when (or if) to add oil, understand your tension settings, and know which feet work best for your project. This takes some practice, but it is worth the time. Most importantly, keep your machine well-oiled, clean of lint and dust, and in top condition.
Always have new sewing machine needles on hand. I toss the old needle when I start a new project. A fresh needle means fewer skipped stitches, thread breaks, and bird’s nests. And, be sure to use the correct needles for piecing. Schmetz Microtex Sharp in 70/1o* or Microtex Sharp in 80/12* will be your best choice. (*affiliate links)
Choosing fabrics to use in a quilt can paralyze the best of us. When you confine your fabrics to a single collection you remove the guesswork of matching colors and scale. Collections offer a great solution since all of the fabrics are designed to work together. Read more about Choosing Fabric for a Quilt.
When to Pre-Wash Fabrics
If my quilt is being made as a wall hanging, I like to wash my fabrics before I start my project. That way, nothing shrinks or shifts in the washing process.
If the quilt is being used for a blanket, then I like to wash my quilt once it’s finished. The fabrics and the batting will shrink up a little and make it more suitable for snuggling or comfort.
Use Spray Starch
Before cutting out your quilt pieces, take a minute and starch the fabric. Your piecing will sew together better, and it will be a snap to press your blocks.
Your quilt is only as strong as the thread holding it together. I believe that using high quality thread is worth the investment and prefer Aurifil 50 wt. thread for both piecing and quilting. For most of my quilts I have two different thread colors that I purchase in cones. Aurifil 2021* is a nice off-white color and Aurifil 2600* is a light gray that goes with almost everything. I try to find them on sale and then purchase one or two cones.
I really dislike having to stop and wind a bobbin right in the middle of a project. Before I start a quilt I will wind several bobbins and have them ready to go. It saves a ton of time. You are able to pop in a new bobbin and continue with very little interruption.
What if you don’t have any empty bobbins? Use up those partial bobbins when piecing your quilt. That way you’re not wasting any thread and you’ll free up an extra bobbin or two for the quilting process.
If time is an issue, pre-cut fabrics make quilting a possibility. There is very little waste and many patterns are designed around pre-cut sets. They really take the guesswork out of the process of choosing fabrics and allow you to start piecing almost immediately.
Keeping Up with Quilt Pieces
Once you’ve cut up your fabrics you will have all these little pieces that can easily get lost, especially if you have to put up your project between sewing sessions. Washi tape* and blue painter’s tape* are ideal for labeling after the quilt pieces are all cut out. Simply tear off a small piece and write on the tape, then tape to the stack of pieces. Nothing is easier.
Chain piecing is a simplified way to stitch together several pieces quickly. Once you’ve created long chains of piecing, clip them apart during inactive times such as watching TV. This is also a great time to clip all of those pesky thread tails, too.
Instead of running to the ironing board for every single seam, finger press your seams and keep stitching. Once you get to a stopping place then press the blocks.
Basting the Quilt
There are several ways to baste a quilt; and most of them can be fairly time consuming or require you to set up tables in a large space like a garage. This video shows an easy way to pin baste a quilt using some simple supplies and a table top. No taping or smelly sprays needed.
Quilting the Quilt
One way to save both time and money is to quilt your own quilts. It doesn’t have to be complex. To keep it simple, use a Walking Foot and quilt on a grid. This is quick and always looks nice.
Binding the Quilt
I’ll confess here – I’ve never hand bound a quilt. I always machine stitch my binding to the front. There is a simple trick I use that makes my binding go quickly. Once my binding is sewn to the back of the quilt, I fuse 1/4″ Steam A Seam 2 between the seam and the quilt’s raw edge. When I pull my binding to the front I can just iron it perfectly in place. The Steam A Seam 2 holds it securely while I stitch it down.
Wonder Clips are a quilter’s best friend. If you’ve ever tried to maneuver a quilt with straight pins through a sewing machine, you know that there will be pin sticks and the occasional blood on the project. Not with Wonder Clips, they hold things together and no more getting poked by a pin. I prefer the Clover Wonder Clips because the less expensive brands don’t grip as well.