Advice from the Experts: Amy Gibson & Ann Petersen Offer Their Solutions to Quilting/Sewing Trouble

We recently sat down with the superstar stitchers and Bluprint online class instructors, Amy Gibson and  Ann Petersen to get some words of wisdom. Their quilts have won tremendous accolades, and together, they have nearly 80,000 students enrolled in their online Bluprint classes. Their points are precise, their seams are straight, and their blocks are beautiful. In other words, they know what they’re doing!

In this post, they give their biggest pieces of advice on how to avoid the following five quilting follies:

  • Pleated and wrinkled quilt backs.
  • Blocks that turn out too small.
  • Thread tension-related problems.
  • Distorted and wavy borders.
  • Boring blocks.

1. Pleated/Wrinkled Quilt Backs
When preparing for basting the quilt sandwich, be careful not to stretch that back so tightly that you see pull marks. When you pull that tightly, then release it, you end up with pleated and wrinkled backing. (Tip by Ann Petersen, instructor of the online Bluprint classes Beyond Basic Machine Quilting and Quilting Big Projects on a Small Machine. )

2. Blocks that Turn Out Too Small
Check your seam allowance! This is a hard-learned lesson, especially if you're making a block for a bee and it must turn out a specific size. Better to take the time to make sure your seams are accurate, before having to re-make a block because it came out too small. (Tip by Amy Gibson, instructor of the Bluprint Block of the Month. )

3. Thread Tension-Related Problems.
There are really two things to consider here. The first is how to prevent them in the first place, and the second is to minimize how visible tension inconsistencies are. First of all, consider that our sewing machines are factory set for garment sewing with polyester threads. So don’t hesitate to adjust your tension dial as you sew. (But make a note of where it was in case you want to go back.) Then, use the same color thread in your bobbin as you are quilting with on the top.  It will help minimize those little tension inconsistencies that happen as you change direction.  You can hide the color of thread on the back by picking a busy print, or flaunt it with an almost solid color! (Tip by Ann Petersen, instructor of the online Bluprint classes Beyond Basic Machine Quilting and Quilting Big Projects on a Small Machine. )

4. Distorted and Wavy Borders
Quilt evenly! If you quilt one part of your project very heavily, but then put very little quilting in another section (especially the border), you are absolutely guaranteed to get waves and distortion in your borders. Balance is the key!  (Tip by Ann Petersen, instructor of the online Bluprint classes Beyond Basic Machine Quilting and Quilting Big Projects on a Small Machine. )

5. Boring Blocks
Of the many secrets to making interesting blocks, here are two that---interestingly---might seem at odds with each other. The first is to not limit yourself. Never, ever rule out a pattern or technique just because it looks like it might be too difficult.  Sure, there are some techniques you will just not enjoy once you've given them the old college try, but you never know until you actually try them out. And you might be surprised at what turns out to be a fantastic new addition to your skill arsenal. Secondly, don’t get hung up on originality! No one wants to be unoriginal, of course, but don’t sweat it. The fact is, nearly every modern block has clear roots in an older traditional block.  It's so rare to come out with a pattern that's 100% new and unique (after all, it's only geometry!), so don't let this keep you from being inspiring to create and design what you love.  You can still make a design yours by putting your own spin on it with creative choices in fabric selection, layout, and quilting. (Tip by Amy Gibson, instructor of the Bluprint Block of the Month. )

Your turn, Bluprint members! What are YOUR tips for avoiding sewing/quilting pitfalls? Leave them in the comments!

March 09, 2012
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Advice from the Experts: Amy Gibson & Ann Petersen Offer Their Solutions to Quilting/Sewing Trouble