“Stitching in the ditch” or, in layman’s terms, placing your quilting stitches in the seams of your pieced top, is a quilt method most quilters have heard of and perhaps used.

What could be simpler, right?

Well, it’s not as easy as it sounds and, if not done correctly, this technique can really diminish the beauty of your quilt.

You’ll learn about when to use (or avoid) this technique, which direction to press your seams, “invisible thread” and much more when you visit:


Happy Quilting!


Oh, I know – today is also the 4th of July in the US and here’s wishing you a Happy 4th.

The thing is our quilters are all around the world, and many don’t celebrate the day of independence that we celebrate here in the US. But, as quilters, we can all celebrate Freedom from Machine Quilting Frustration Day.

So, last year, I declared the 4th of July every year would be just that day.

Over the past few months, you’ve received tips for making your machine quilting easier and more beautiful. These tips have covered topics like:

  • how to mark your quilt with a quilting design
  • using basting spray to hold your quilt layers together
  • how to set the tension on your machine so you get beautiful stitches and your thread doesn’t break
  • how to stitch pucker-free quilting stitches

Today I thought we’d talk about machine quilting stitches and thread.

To help control your stitches:

  • Put your hands down on the area you are quilting, like a frame, with your thumbs touching. The area between your hands is the only area to pay attention to as you work.
  • Have in your mind where you will be stitching, and what kind of shape you will be making. Then watch the fabric where you want to stitch - not the needle as it is stitching.
  • Practice stitching on a fabric sandwich (2 layers of fabric with a piece of batting between) about 24 inches square. Practice stitching various shapes, and pay attention to the sound of your needle. The goal is to move your fabric about 1/8 of an inch as your needle goes up and down.

And what about thread…

  • As a beginner, it is better to use light thread on light fabric. As cool as it sounds to use dark thread on a light fabric, every stitch will be magnified – and every mistake will look worse. If you want your stitches to show, you could use light thread on a dark fabric. For some reason, that combination does not show the mistakes.
  • A lot of thread for machine quilting comes on a cone. That saves money and time (having to re-thread your machine). If your sewing machine does not have a built in thread stand, you could put the cone in a glass measuring cup, and let it bounce around in there.
  • Be sure that the thread is coming off of the cone from the top, not un-rolling from the side. (I use this method, and have found that I need to place the measuring cup on the side of my machine, instead of behind it. For some reason the angle that it feeds into the machine makes a difference.)

You’ll find more information about these tips and techniques, as well as a wonderful quilting resource for machine quilters, when you visit:


Happy Freedom from Machine Quilting Frustration Day and Happy Quilting!


Whew! It was a somewhat hectic week around the How-to-Quilt.com house.

m. mouse went into surgery bright and early Tuesday morning – with a growling tummy. Just like humans, he wasn’t allowed to have food after midnight or water after 6am.

In the end, the vet dentist decided it was best to remove all of his teeth. Those teeth that weren’t already a problem would become problems soon, and rather than have our little m. mouse suffer any more in the future, out they came.

He had a couple of uncomfortable days and nights, but seems to be on the mend.

We appreciate the caring thoughts of quilters around the world and those who were taking care of him in the hospital, and we look forward to many more happy days with our now-toothless official diabetic Siamese cat.

We considered dentures, but – – – well, we do have our limits!

Nitril Touch Quilting Gloves

In the meantime, many of you have questions about how to make your machine quilting easier on your home sewing machine. And in this week’s news you’ll read about a variety of things you can use on your fingers to help guide your quilt under your needle.

My favorite still is the special gloves we learned about a couple of years ago. Those Nitril gloves have a special rubber coating on the fingers that maintains contact with the quilt while you move the quilt and sew.

But there are other options that might be better for you, and you’ll find information about them when you visit:


Our Postcard Posse delivered more than 1900 fabric postcards to troops in the Middle East! Thanks to all who mailed cards to Diane.

Our next Posse is Roundin’ them up for Halloween. I have received several requests for a video showing how to make fabric postcards, and I promise I will do one within the next week or two.

I’m getting ready to machine quilt the Jelly Roll quilt, and you’ll see a picture of the design I have chosen:


Happy Quilting!


Whether you are hand quilting or machine quilting, choosing a quilting design is one of the most difficult parts of making a quilt. The problem is that since the quilting design is such a personal thing, it’s difficult for someone else to tell you how you should quilt it.

In a way it’s like choosing the fabric for your quilt. Even when you get a quilt kit with all of the fabric chosen and cut, there are probably fabrics in the box you would rather not use in your quilt. Maybe you even switch those patches with other fabric, so you will love the quilt when you are finished.

Choosing quilting designs is somewhat the same thing.

When you buy a quilt pattern, often there is a suggested quilting design. Sometimes it is just perfect – in your view. Other times, you wouldn’t even consider quilting the quilt that way.

The quilter who designed the pattern thought it was perfect, and therein lies the point – it’s personal preference. And that is why when you get a quilt pattern, it often says “quilt as desired.”

Early in my quilting days, I found some quilting design books. They contained tons of patterns in all different sizes, and served as guides and inspiration for quilting ideas for my quilts.

Most of these designs are taken from vintage quilts. Another perfect place to get ideas.

When you are at a quilt show, take pictures of the quilting designs – whether the quilts are vintage quilts or ones made last week. As you look through books, make notes (or copies) of quilting designs that interest you.

And invest in some quilting design books. Today’s books are much easier to store, since they are smaller in size (mine are about 11 inches by 17 inches). You simply copy the designs and increase or decrease the size to fit your quilt.

All that said, here are some hints to help you choose your design:

  • How much is your quilting design going to stand out in your quilt?
  • How formal or casual is the quilt?
  • What style is the quilt – traditional, contemporary?
  • How much do you enjoy quilting?

You’ll get more details about how to use these considerations in choosing your quilting design when you visit:


Happy Quilting!


Better late than never… Actually, this time I have an excuse.  You see on March 30th – the real Pencil Day – I was on a ship cruising my way through the Mexican Caribbean.

And enjoying every minute!

It occurred to me that maybe I should wait until next year to send out information about Pencil Day. But the more I thought about it, the more I realized that it was important information – no matter when it was sent.

So, I decided that two months after the celebration might be an appropriate day. After all, “March” . . . . “May” . . . . they both begin with “Ma.”

Onward we go – – -

Robbing Peter to Pay Paul Quilt Block

When I first began quilting, I used a plain ol’ pencil for a few things – marking my templates and sometimes marking the sewing lines on my fabric. (Remember those were the days before rotary cutters and I used to mark the sewing lines on the wrong side of the fabric and then cut with scissors.)

Fortunately, early on I was warned not to use a pencil for marking anything on the front of my quilt. It turns out that many quilters had done just that only to discover that the pencil marks don’t come out.

My horror story was with one of those blue markers that is supposed to come out – but that story is for another day.

There are, however, other uses for pencils in quilting:

* pressing seams – usually with the side of the pencil – but watch out for the yellow paint coming off onto your fabric

* the eraser as a pin cushion

* a blunt point for helping to turn corners inside out

* and, as I said earlier, for marking templates

You’ll find alternatives for pencils when you visit:


Happy Quilting!


Maybe you played the game Hide and Seek when you were a kid.

The game is easy to play. One person covers their eyes while everyone else hides. At some point, the person who is “It” warns them that he or she is uncovering his eyes and coming to find them.

Then the fun begins, and people “race” to get free when they think the person who is “It” isn’t looking.

I remember one day I was playing with my little cousin who was about 3 at the time. I was probably 12 years old. My cousin teaches high school science now, but when she was 3, she had her own understanding of “hiding.”

She simply covered her eyes and stood there. When we asked if she was going to hide, she said “I am; you can’t see me with my eyes covered.”

We all got a good laugh, and she learned that just because she couldn’t see us, it didn’t mean that we couldn’t see her.

Sometimes we see things in our finished quilts that others don’t see. But that’s not because the extra long stitch or bulge of seam allowances isn’t really there, it’s because most people looking at our quilts don’t know to look.

But knots on the top or back of your quilt and pencil or ink lines that mark quilting designs are a different story. Even someone who is looking at a quilt for the first time might ask about those.

So, one of a quilter’s jobs is to play hide and seek – but make sure that nobody will find what is intentionally hidden.

There are just a few things we want to hide:

  • starting and stopping knots
  • marking lines for quilting
  • seam allowances (most of the time anyway)

With just a few techniques, all of these are easy to hide so that nobody will find them. You can:

  • bury your knots inside your quilt
  • use the right marking tools and your lines will disappear on their own
  • fold your seam allowances in the right direction and they, too, will be hidden

To see how to do all of these, visit:


Happy Quilting!


January just flew by. And even though we’ve had more than our share of rain here in normally-sunny Southern California, this weekend we are dry and having fun getting our quilting lined up for next week.

m. mouse is fully recovered from losing his fang, and Quilter Sue found the kitty tooth fairy in her neck of the woods.

The great news is that m. mouse will receive a special tooth-fairy treat in the mail. He’s got his eyes out for the mailman, and I’m certain we will have pictures later this week with him and his tooth fairy reward for being a brave kitty during the whacking and ultimate loss of his fang.

We are thankful for the continuing adventures of m. mouse in his aging condition – whatever his adventures bring.

Heart Log Cabin Quilt Block

In the meantime, we’re excited for February and all of its holidays.

In our newsletter this week, you’ll find links to pages showing last year’s quilt block videos demonstrating how to sew special holiday quilt blocks for the month of February.

In addition, our current demonstration shows how to use some fantastic water soluble stabilizer for guiding your machine quilting. If you haven’t discovered or used this, you will be amazed.

And, you’ll find our February quilt block patterns, too.


Happy Quilting!



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