Plain & Simple Quilts

Tips and Tidbits

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I have an antique quilt top that is badly stained with 'age spots', what do you recommend for removing these?

Antique or vintage fabrics can have undetectable fiber degradation, or be in varying stages of weakening of fabric and seam junctures.  I wouldn't be inclined to recommend laundering an antique/vintage top until after quilting.  The act of adding 'new' thread during hand quilting will take pressure off fragile or disintegrating piecing thread, and also fibers in the fabrics will be strengthened.  After hand quilting, you can soak your quilt in a tub of warm water to which Oxy-Clean has been added.  Spot the discolored areas with Shout Gel. Fill the tub half full with warm water, add the Oxy-Clean, swish to dissolve the detergent, then add the quilt.  Press the quilt down so that it is covered by the water.  Let it sit in the soak for at least 18 hours.  Drain the water and add fresh warm water for rinsing--do this several times.  Leave the quilt in the tub for a while so the excess water can drain out across time--a couple of hours.  Hang the quilt to dry. 

'Age-spots' can sometimes be quite stubborn to remove, those that remain after soaking might be diminished further by just spot cleaning these.  Rather than rewash the entire quilt, we use a basin to simply attack the remaining spots individually with a little Oxy-Clean dissolved in the water, and Shout Gel applied to the individual spots.  The longer they soak the better the chance of success.  NOTE:  There are several Oxy-Clean chemical combinations, you want the one that does NOT contain bleach (unless the stained item is entirely white). 

 

How can I tell how many stitches I'm quilting an inch?  Is it counting the top thread, top and bottom, or what?

The stitches per inch you are accomplishing are counted on the top of the quilt. 

 

I washed a quilt that I made and some of the dark colors bled into the lighter colors.  Any suggestions on removing these?  I tried rewashing, but it didn't help.

Rewashing usually works on quilt tops, but once the batting is added to the quilt the problem of dye bleed is exascerbated by the batting's absorption qualities.  The dye often gets trapped in the batting and each washing just transfers it from front to back, and back to front.  There is a great product on the market, made by Carbona that is specifically formulated for removing dye transfer. We get our's on the detergent aisle at Kroger, but it may also be ordered from the Carbona website.  Since you don't want the chemical to come in contact with the dark fabrics that bled in the first place and will probably do so again, use a q-tip to apply the chemical solution.  This product is in a granular form.  It is most effective when the recommended amount of chemical is doubled, and the water is very hot.  Simply dip the q-tip in the water/chemical solution and apply directly to the area of dye transfer.  If the transfer is in the batting, it may still show through the lighter colored fabric.  The only way to remove dye transfer in the batting is to remove the quilting enough to get to that area, and soak the batting in a basin of the water/chemical solution. 

 

Do you have any advice for marking the stencils?

For the purpose of marking the stencils or free hand designs on your quilt, a proper 'quilting pencil' is advisable.  It is a good idea to have several different colors at your disposal, as this will improve the chances of finding one that works well on various fabrics in your quilt.  A silver quilting pencil is a 'must have' and a white is another good choice for marking printed fabrics or dark colors where the silver is not so easy to see.  Ideally, you want to not have to 'lay down' thick layers of pencil markings in order to see the lines, so experiment to see which colors of pencils work the best on which fabrics. 

The markers that are water soluble, are also humidity sensitive, so mark only small areas at a time.  If you are using a high intensity light to assist you when quilting in the evening you may want to test a piece of fabric with the water soluble marking to see if the light will set the mark permanently. 

 Never use ink pen, permanent marker, or writing pencils to mark your quilting designs--these are nearly impossible to remove.  You may want to incorporate a policy we have--no ink pens or markers are allowed in the sewing room or on the cutting table ever!!  Products that claim to remove pen and marker ink do not work on quilts--the batting absorbs these and they are transferred as a huge permanent stain onto the backing.      

 

How should I remove the marking from a finished quilt?

There are several options available for removing quilting marks when a silver lead quilting pencils has been used.  There are erasers that can be purchased at most fabric stores--these work moderately well.  Do Not use a regular pencil eraser as these contain oil that will damage your fabric with a permanent mark. You will want to only use a textile eraser. 

Or, you can take a toothbrush dipped in warm water with a small amount of Woolite or other liquid laundry soap that is mild, and go over only the marked areas.

 

Or, wash the quilt using this method.  Fill the laundry tub of your automatic washer with warm water and a small amount of gentle laundry detergent (Dreft, Ultra Ivory, Woolite or Orvis Paste).  When using Orvis follow the manufactuer's directions. 

Swish your hands in the water to make sure the soap powder has dissolved before adding the quilt. Using only the delicate or hand wash cycle on your washing machine, add the quilt.  If your machine has a pre-soak feature, we recommend you use this and then the delicate cycle for agitating.  After the cycle has finished, put the quilt through a second rinse cycle to be sure as much of the detergent as possible has been removed.  Before removing the quilt from the washer, be sure all of the water has been spun out--a soaked quilt will suffer possible damage to the fabrics and threads caused by the weight if it is holding too much water.
Before drying, check for running of dyes that may have occurred during washing.  If fabric dyes have bled, rewash immediately on the delicate cycle.  Woolite Dye Magnet will be helpful if you have encountered bleeding dyes in your quilt. 
With your automatic dryer on 'AIR DRY' add your quilt.  Remember that heat is the enemy of fabrics and batting, so even your lowest heat setting might cause shrinkage.  Allow 15 minutes on the air dry cycle and then remove.  The quilt will still be quite damp, and should be placed on a flat surface to dry.  If the weather is cooperative, laying the quilt over several clothes lines is the recommended approach to drying.  Fans may be used to speed up the drying process if you must dry indoors. 

 

Why choose hand quilting over machine quilting? What are the differences besides cost?

There are two very important differences that should weigh heavily when trying to choose between hand quilting and machine quilting.  

The first consideration should be, "What are you trying to accomplish?" If you have many hours invested in piecing a top, and it is your desire to, as with so many quilts in one's personal past, have it endure for generations, you should understand that machine quilting adds nothing to your project but thread. Essentially, it is the same as a "store bought" comforter-manufacturer would  use for quilting machines.  Your project will age, but it will never increase in value.  Machine quilting is perfect for a quick baby quilt you want to give to a woman in your office, a juvenile quilt you pieced for your child's room that you know they will out grow, or a table runner or Christmas tree skirt. Simply put, a hand quilted item will increase in value to become an heirloom of collector/museum quality.  A machine quilted item will decrease in value as it ages.  Hand quilting is a dying art that adds greatly to a project; machines will always be with us.  

Secondly, if your pieced top has any age on it, even as little as a decade, machine quilting could well be too harsh.  The pressure of the foot on a quilting machine cannot be adjusted to treat fabrics more tenderly.  A hand quilter will quickly be able to assess the stability of the piecing threads and the fabric.  She will adapt her stitches to accommodate aging fabrics and threads.  The fabrics in pieced quilt tops will age differently and deteriorate at different rates.  Some patches in the same top will be more fragile than others.  A machine quilter can utterly and forever ruin a fragile quilt top.

 

I am wanting to make a quilt from my father's neckties. Could you offer advice?

Many quilt patterns adapt well to use with necktie materials, most particularly the Grandmother's Fan and Dresden Plate. Fabric selection is a crucial consideration when creating a quilt top that is made from ties. Avoid double knit materials, the ribbing in the knit is nearly impossible to successfully quilt. If you are wanting to use silk, it becomes a durability issue. Silk seamed together with other silk will produce a weak seam. Since loose fibers are a characteristic of silk, you will want to alternate pieces with other fabrics that are not silk and have a close, tighter weave. Allow a generous amount of the silk at seam junctures so it will not so readily unravel and pull apart.

If you are also wanting to incorporate the acetate or satin portion of the underside of the tie, the same rule for alternating fabrics should be applied. Silk combined with satin will frequently unravel and pull apart, particularly during quilting. Cut pieces from silk and/or satin fabrics a little larger to allow for ample material at seam junctures, you will want to mark your seam line as it would be normally placed on the template. If seaming to a closely woven fabric like cotton, cut the cotton the actual size of the piecing template and the silk or satin slightly larger than the template. Align the seams for stitching, matching your previously marked seam lines. The silk fabric will have a larger seam allowance, but it is so thin the quilter will not even notice the excess, and most importantly, your materials will be more likely to endure the stresses of quilting without fraying.

 

Should I do anything to my fabrics before using them in a quilt?

New fabrics should be washed before using them in a quilt to allow for shrinkage and running of dyes. Before cutting fabrics, remove all selvage edges; these have a higher thread count and often cause uneven shrinkage or puckering through several washings.

Machine wash each fabric color in warm water. Often the delicate or hand wash cycle on an automatic washing machine has two rinse cycles; using this feature offers added assurance that dyes have sufficiently bled out.

When washing large yardages, (i.e.: 6 yards of backing fabric) unfold the materials before adding to your laundry tub. This will avoid fiber stress along the fold caused by rubbing during washing. Tumble dry on the low heat setting until just damp. Fabric lengths to five yards should take less than 30 minutes to be completely dried, so you will want to check for wrinkling after 15 or 20 minutes of drying time. If the material is wrinkled, finishing drying in the machine will just make it worse. Remove the fabric from the drier and iron dry for optimal results. Fabrics that are not wrinkling may continue to tumble until dry.

What should I do if dyes bleed into lighter fabrics in an already quilted piece?

Don't panic. Running dyes do not usually setup in the fibers. Some spot remover applied to the bleed will nearly always remove the dye residue. If you don't have any commercial spot remover available, substitute hydrogen peroxide, full strength, IF the stains are in white or off white fabrics.

I love to piece tops, but my sewing time is very limited . Is there a way to skip marking 1/4" seams allowances on each piece?

We use scotch tape to create a 1/4" seam guide on the sewing machine. You determine 1/4" from the center needle position on your machine and strike a straight line the length of your metal presser foot plate using a soft lead pencil. Lay down your first piece of tape to the right of and flush with this line. You may stack more pieces of tape onto this one until you have a raised seam guide. We use a razor knife to trim the layered tape to the first delineated mark on the metal seam allowance plate, to enable us to continue to use our sewing machines for other then quilt piecing. The tape may be removed easily and the metal plate wiped with alcohol to remove any glue residue that adhered. The tape seam guide on my personal machine has been there for two years.

Do you have any helpful time saving tips I can use when piecing?

When piecing a lot of blocks, triangles, etc. for your pattern, you may want to try chain-stitiching. Match the pieces to be joined (piece 1 and piece 2) and stack these beside your sewing machine. Feed each 2 piece set continuously, one after the other, under your pressure foot. You will create a length of joined pieces, separated by a small thread between each set. Clip this little thread to separate seamed pieces. You will have saved thread and time.

Is there any way to "freshen" my quilt without washing?

Quilts naturally gather dust while in use. There is a very efficient, old-fashioned method to freshen your quilt that does not require washing , but does require snow. Snap your quilt over new-fallen clean snow, much as would shake a new carpet. It is desirable to allow the quilt to smack the snow gently. Repeat several times, then replace the quilt directly on your bed.

May I launder my quilt?

If you are certain the fabrics in your quilt have been prewashed to allow for shrinkage and running of dyes prior to construction, using the delicate cycle of a home washing machine, you can wash our quilts in warm water. Fill the tub with water. Add 1/4 cup of Sudsy ammonia then add the quilt. Dreft detergent may be substituted for Sudsy ammonia, or you may purchase detergents specifically formulated for quilts at your local fabric store.

However, you should avoid washing your quilt whenever possible. We suggest that you "spot" wash any soiled areas when this is an option to washing the entire quilts. Using a mild liquid detergent formulated for delicate fabrics, pour sufficient liquid soap on the soiled area. Gently rub the soap into the spot and allow it to sit for several minutes. Then rinse the treated area in warm water to remove the detergent.

Will a thicker, high loft batting make my quilt warmer for a northern climate?

No, batting traps body heat regardless of thickness. The thicker battings merely make the unquilted areas stand out more. Since thicker battings are also more difficult for quilting, you will find that you are unable to load as many stitches on your quilting needle so you will have fewer, larger stitches.

May I use fabric Softeners on my quilt?

Avoid the use of fabric softeners, both liquid and sheets, because it leaves a residual chemical on the fabric that could contribute to degrading of the fibers.

How do I measure a bed for a quilt?

Due to the variety of mattresses available today, it is important that you measure your bed before selecting your quilt. We recommend a cloth tape measure for this purpose.

Measure the width of the bed mattress from side to side. Find the drop or length you want the quilt to fall on each side of the mattress. Double the drop for one side and add the mattress width to arrive at the width of the quilt.

To use the quilt as a coverlet (for use with pillow shams), add a single drop measurement to the length of the mattress. The resulting number is the quilt length. For the over/under pillow tuck style quilt, add 10 inches to the quilt length above.

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Should I have my quilts dry cleaned?

We do not advise that you dry clean your valuable quilt. Dry cleaning chemicals are harsh on the fabrics and stitching of quilts.

How should I store my quilts to protect them?

Never store your quilt, even for a short period of time, in a plastic bag. If you feel it needs to be 'wrapped', use a pillowcase or sheet.

Can I put a quilt in the dryer?

Our quilts have been pre shrunk and may be placed in a home dryer on the low heat setting. Before the quilt is completely dry, you may remove it from the dryer and shake it to loft the batting. Then place it on a clothes line to complete the drying process naturally. We recommend draping the quilt over the clothes lines, across two lines is best, rather than using clothes pins.

I have an antique quilt that has gotten soiled over the years, should I wash it?

Even washing quilts of historical value can cause a loss of appraised value, not to mention the potential to damage the quilt. Laundry detergents can further deteriorate the stitching or deteriorate the stitching and/or degrade the fabric fibers in an already fragile quilt. Either leave the quilt soiled or seek competent professional help from a museum curator or textile preservationist.

Should I take any precautions when displaying my quilt?

Sunlight is your quilt's enemy. Display your quilt away from direct sunlight to avoid degrading of the fabric, fading the colors and damaging the fibers over time. Quilts are very susceptible to humidity. Keep them away from steam heaters, heat vents, humidifiers and sources of moisture.

 

Revisit our site to see more Tips on caring for your quilt. We want you to be able to have your quilt for a lifetime and then some!

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