Thursday 4 August 2016

Quilting Rulers - Essential Tools & Tips for New Quilters

Today while I was quilting I actually used all five of my basic quilting rulers which is a very rare occurrence for me, I tend to use each for very specific things and that got me thinking about what is actually necessary for a new quilter as these rulers aren't the cheapest!  This post will talk about basic rulers used for basic patchwork and quilting when using a rotary cutter.

What are quilting rulers?

Quilting rulers are an essential tool for cutting out your patchwork quilt pieces using a rotary cutter.  You can use scissors to cut your fabric, but rotary cutting is miles faster, far more accurate and less likely to give you a headache.  Your cuts will be crisp and sharp meaning its easier to match edges and points which will make your finished quilt look amazing.

My quilting rulers:

  • 6 x 24 inches & 6.5 x 24.5 inches
This is probably the most used quilting ruler out there and is the one I would recommend to new quilters over everything.  You can use this to cut strips or squares and the angles marked lines can be used for marking stitching lines for joining binding strips for example.

I actually have two of these rulers, the Janome on the left which was the first ruler I bought several years ago that has definitely seen better days, it has been dropped multiple times and has a lovely crack.  Its main use these days is for when I ruler fold my fabric for storage, but I find the marked line colours have the best visibility for nearly all my fabrics so I like to keep hold of it.

The second is by creative grids and is actually 6.5 x 24.5.  The best thing about creative grids rulers is the grippy texture on the underside of the ruler meaning the ruler is less likely to slip while cutting.  The extra half inch on the ruler I find way more useful than I would have thought, you just have to be careful to make sure you are using the right measurements on the ruler or you mind end up with half an inch too little or too much than you intend!

  • 8.5 x 12.5 inches
This is my most recent ruler purchase and was definitely a luxury option rather than a necessary one.  I use this ruler all the time when sub-dividing width-of-fabric strips into squares as it is much less unwieldy than the larger ruler which can get bulky when you are cutting narrow strips.  Again this ruler is my creative grids and I totally love it.  The extra width gives great flexibility to this ruler and I use it even more than I thought I would.

  • 12.5 x 12.5 inch square
This is easily my least used ruler overall but sometimes I really need to use this and I'm glad to have it in my collection.  Not only is this ruler great for cutting squares, it is also invaluable when it comes to using two rulers to measure a cut.  I use this ruler mainly when cutting panels into smaller squares, but also for squaring up the corners of quilt tops.  You might not need this every week, but I wouldn't want to find myself without it. 

This ruler is by omnigrid, and while some people really like the yellow grid lines I am personally not a fan.  I do however really love how the square corners for each half an inch size have an  L like pattern on the ruler, this has been very useful to me over the years.

  • 6.5 inch square
This ruler I use everytime I join binding strips, and when I am trimming extra length of borders for example.  If you have the 12.5 inch square this one is not necessary at all, but like the shorter creative grids ruler, it is super useful when you don't want to be manoeuvring a huge chunk of plastic over your sewing space.


If you are just starting out with quilting the ruler I would recommend above all others would be the creative grids 6.5 x 24.5 inches.  You will use this ruler for nearly every project you make, it has great all around use and will be invaluable. 

I find creative grids superior to all others rulers I have tried due to the quality of the line marking and also the reduced amount of slippage when cutting.  If you don't have much slippage when you cut this might not be helpful to you, but the less change you have of ruining yardage the better in my opinion!  You make also find this ruler useful if you find cutting puts stress on your wrists as you are pressing down on the ruler.

Also, rather than buying several rulers to start with, I would stick the basic one to start with and end up seeing what sizes you would find most useful depending on the type of quilts you make.

Of course you get buy special rulers that are for making specific quilts (eg. twister quilts, or dresden plate rulers) but that is a topic for another blog post!

Wednesday 27 July 2016

Caspian's Quilt - Animal Alphabet by Don't Look Now!

Most of the items I make are created using regular patchwork, which is where you sew two pieces of fabric together with a seam.  While I was on maternity leave, I decided to work on a person project for my son, but rather than traditional patchwork this quilt is done using appliqué.  This is a decorative technique where a design or motif is cut out of one fabric, and then sewn down onto a backing fabric.  I have done appliqué work before, and while it is a labour intensive technique, it is something I enjoy doing.

The Pattern:

I picked up this pattern two years ago at the festival of quilts, and at the time I never imaged I would be making it for my own child!  The pattern is Animal Alphabet by Don't Look Now!  Each letter of the alphabet is represented in both upper and lower case, and has one or more animals per letter.  I particularly like the decision to include dinosaurs and unicorns!

The pattern is extremely comprehensive, coming will an A4 image of the quilt (invaluable when it comes to positioning each animal and letter), four sides of instructions, and six A3 sheets of templates.  The instructions are detailed and well written, and the templates are provided full size, which means no messing about enlarging things on a photocopier!

Following the pattern has been been smooth sailing and I would recommend it without reservation.  I would also very happily pick up another Don't Look Now! pattern.

The Technique:

There are various ways of doing appliqué, but the one used for this pattern is fusible raw edge.  Firstly you trace the templates onto the paper side fusible interfacing (there are various types, but any good craft store will stock at least one type), then tri them down just outside your drawn line.  You then put the glue side on the reverse of your chosen fabric and press with an iron the fuse.  The pieces can then be set aside until you are ready to cut accurately around your drawn line (this makes it much easier to peel the paper side off in the next step).  When you are ready to transfer the motif to your backing fabric, you peel off the backing paper, position carefully and press with an iron.  The motif is then secured until you are ready to sew around the edges.

Detail Shot - Free Motion Outline Stitching
Most appliqué is stitched down using a decorative machine stitch such as as satin or blanket stitch, though a simple zig zag will also work.  These stitches look great on large designs, but can be bulky and so do not work so well on smaller or intricate designs.  This pattern uses free motion stitching to secure the edge.  To use this technique you lower the feed dogs on your machine and move the fabric under the needle.  It is quite a tricky technique, and if you have never done it before I would recommend doing lots of small practice pieces!   In normal cases a simple straight line or running stitch would not be used, but by outlining each piece 2-3 times you secure the appliqué from fraying and create a lovely effect of having drawn around the edge of each piece.  Because there are multiple lines it doesn't matter if you wobble about a bit either - it all adds to the charm!

I traced, fused then cut out my shapes one row at a time.  Once everything was cut out I started fusing and sewing to the backing fabric one row at a time.  I worked on one letter and animal group at a time, starting in the centre.

The Completed Quilt:

 I am totally happy with the pattern and how the finished quilt worked up.  The only thing I would change is the thread I used for the background quilting - it was variegated blues and I think a cream would have worked better.  But regardless I think it turned out brilliantly.

If you want a fun pattern to do for your child, or the child of someone you know you wont be disappointed with this.  There is so much potential to make this quilt your own with your fabric choices.  I have even used the pattern to make smaller wallhangings as gifts for friends.  Its a pattern that keeps on giving!

I used a black fabric marker to add eyes as I thought it would be more comfortable than adding beads onto a quilt that is meant to be played on by small children, but the beads are something I might go and add back on at a later date when he's all grown up!

Detail Shot
Back of the quilt - blue and green zigzags

Monday 25 May 2015

New Beginnings!

Hello and welcome to Ditzy Musings!
Me and Caspian
Me & Caspian

I'm Jenny, the creator of Ditzy Quilts, and this is my new blog which I am launching alongside the re-opening of my Etsy shop, which has been closed for the previous 9 months while I have been on maternity leave.  The shop will re-open on the 1st of June and I'm looking forward to getting back into my sewing studio and starting new projects.

While I've been on maternity leave there have been a lot of changes in my sewing space and I've had a lot of time to think about the direction of my shop.  I'm now sewing in a larger room, which means I have recently been able to order a long arm quilting frame, which I am hoping to get to grips with quickly and create even more beautiful quilts - look out for more posts on this once it has arrived in 4-5 weeks time!

With regard to my shop direction, I am hoping to add fresh new items quickly.  I have decided to discontinue making some items (such as bookmarks, coasters and fabric postcards) in order to concentrate on my table runners, baby quilts and larger quilts.  I'm hoping this narrowing of focus will enable me to produce not only a greater quantity of these items but also a greater variety of designs, colours and patterns in order to appeal to a wider range of aesthetics and home décor styles.  In the future I am also hoping to add a line of speciality art / decorative quilted wall hangings.

And what about this blog?

While I envisage this primarily as a platform to discuss my work in more detail than you can find in my Etsy listings, I am also looking forward to being able to talk about my own personal projects, as well as other fabric and sewing related articles including tips, tutorials and fabric finds.  I'm sure a few personal posts might make it onto here as well!

I hope you will enjoy reading my blog, I welcome any comments and feedback, either via the comments, on my Facebook Page or via email: