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cutting blocking question from a Newbie/Novice

cutting blocking question from a Newbie/Novice

Old 06-03-2012, 09:37 AM
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Default cutting blocking question from a Newbie/Novice

I have recently entered the world of quilting after needlepointing, crocheting and cross stitching for ages. I have been working on my first quilt top and no matter what i do it does not seem I can cut on the exact grain. Many of my strips are shedding thread and as I have sewn them together they do not set square. I used a t-square, cutting mat, rotary cutter, special cutting ruler. Even purchased a mat that already has slits to prevent uneven lines. I washed and starched my fabric, Ironed it, took the tip of pulling it out of the dryer when semi damp and had my partner help me set the threads so the grains would be at 90 degree angles. What did i not do? I even went so far as getting out the magnify glass to make sure the thread were running the way of the ruler. Reading glasses only do so much. Any other suggestions? Even with the 1/4 inch foot on my sewing machine some of the lines to not match up as they 'should'.Second prob silly question, my seams do not lay down flat after pressing. Everything I have read says not to iron just press to avoid stretching. Even after leaving the iron on cotton sitting on the seams they still would rather stand up. Too MUCH Starch? Thanks for any feedback.--Frank
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Old 06-03-2012, 10:05 AM
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There is no such thing as too much starch--LOL! I can think of several reasons why your blocks are shedding threads. Can you post a picture of the back of the block?

1st idea: I have more trouble with those cotton/poly mixes than any other type of fabric. They shed threads forever and as a new quilter, I seemed to have a bunch of those in my stash. I think they were cheap and I had planned to use them to make jumpers & shorts for my daughter when she was a toddler. She's 19 now but I still find some of those fabrics in my stash from time to time. I think I may have purchased some solids when I first started quilting also that I didn't check the content on. I still use them but you have to be careful ironing them because the heat will cause the poly threads to shrivel making everything all wonky. I don't worry so much about the threads shedding because the seam will usually stop that if you're seam allowances are at least a scant 1/4".

2nd idea: Are you sewing an accurate (straight) seam? When joining patches together--do you pin at the intersection? I hated to use pins and I still refuse to run my machine over them but I found that some fabrics just will not nestle & lock together like all the gurus on tv say they will so I still stick a pin straight down through the intersecting seam & make sure it matches up before sewing. I have even run a basting stitch to make sure everything lines up before making my real seam & I still check to make sure if something just doesn't feel right.

3rd idea: Are you running really long strips through the machine and then trying to sub-cut those down into units? I still get sloppy with really long seams and let my seam allowance wander unless I force myself to stop and check every 8" or so.

4th idea: Are you sure you're not pinching some fabric into the seam line when you press? I press the back & front of my blocks as a double-check.
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Old 06-03-2012, 10:08 AM
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I don't worry about my fabric pieces running exactly on grain unless I am matching a plaid or stripe. Your quilt pieces will have little threads along the edge sometimes, just don't pull on them. When the seams are sewn the little thread ends won't matter. For your seams not laying flat, I find that Aurifil 50wt thread works the best for a nice flat seam. Are you using cotton fabric? Fabric with a bit of polyester in it will not lay as flat as cotton when ironed.
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Old 06-03-2012, 10:11 AM
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How many strips are you sewing together? Do you alternate from which end you are starting to sew the strips together? This is to prevent the strips from bowing. Sew two together in pairs and then start putting the pairs together from the opposite end. If the material is slightly off grai, it should not interfere with what you are doing. Don't be too hard on yourself, if you need a magnifyer to see if your grain is off, you should be fine with that. Can you post a picture, so we can see what you have trouble with?
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Old 06-03-2012, 10:31 AM
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This is just my opinion but, I've never gone through any of that straight grain operation. You cut where you cut! I don't starch anything either, but that's your choice. The quarter inch foot for my machine was too narrow. It allowed the seam to go down in between the feed dogs and get all bunched up. I switched to one of the wider feet and set my needle over so that needle>edge of foot = 1/4". In ironing the seams I use steam. First iron the seam flat then open with the seam laying over the darker fabric. Move the iron from the lighter side to the darker side pressing the seam open. Unless you've put your seam on the bias there shouldn't be too much stretching with that. Why iron the seam down before opening? That flattens the thread into the fabric, especially with steam, then they can lay down together after the seam is pressed open. Make sure your machine thread tensions aren't making the fabric pucker. That too will cause a "stand-up" problem. Relax. Take a deep breath. No cops are coming to your door. This is a hobby. You'll catch your stride after some trial and error and you'll create something beautiful. And I hope you have a digital camera. We all want to see the results!
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Old 06-03-2012, 11:02 AM
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You're being waaaaaaaaaaaay to picky about that straight grain thing. It just doesn't have to be anywhere near that precise. Don't obsess, just sew.
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Old 06-03-2012, 11:12 AM
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I wash and dry all of my fabric, before cutting. During that process, the grain will settle into its permanent state, so I no longer have to worry about it; it won't do any more shifting, after sewing.
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Old 06-03-2012, 11:14 AM
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You've got the best hints above. I wanted ta say that only God, is perfect just do the best ya can & you'll get better. No quilt police here!
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Old 06-03-2012, 11:27 AM
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Originally Posted by Neesie View Post
I wash and dry all of my fabric, before cutting. During that process, the grain will settle into its permanent state, so I no longer have to worry about it; it won't do any more shifting, after sewing.
I've learned that, too. It is a bit 'distressing' to have uneven ends after the drying process - but that just proves that the fabric had gotten pulled off grain during the manufacturing process.

I usually do NOT starch - I feel that fabric should have enough body to stand on its own.
Exception: if I am cutting something like kite shapes where all the edges on the bias.
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Old 06-03-2012, 11:28 AM
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Last edited by bearisgray; 06-03-2012 at 11:30 AM.
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