Tips & Techniques

Norma’s quilt tips and techniques
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I like to use a selvedge to finish some of my quilts – instead of a binding.


I like to use a selvedge to finish some of my quilts – instead of a binding.

IMG_0420Saving and using every little scrap of recycled silk fabric. The strips are less than 1cm wide. When I work with these slippery silk fabrics, I fuse a light stabiliser to the back of the strips – to make stitching easier.

IMG_0364 2I save and use every little scrap of recycled silk in my stash – to frame, make cards, or to decorate a tiny house or bed.  The blocks are about 1x1m and I use silk selvedges to frame the small quilts. Makes ideal gifts.

IMG_6274One of my favourite tools when I make fabric collage – a template from a photo that I have taken. I cut out the paper image and move the template across the fabric until the teapot reveals itself.

IMG_6052The way I label my quilts – to document my work.

IMG_9334Sometimes when I have an idea that calls for large scale Broderie Perse, I like to use curtain fabric with large floral motifs.

IMG_5848When I make log cabin blocks, I cut the strips of fabric along the lengthwise grain – parallel to the selvage. It has less stretch and prevents wonky logs. I only cut off one selvage from a new fabric – so I know what side to use when I cut the strips. Log cabin asks for a variety of fabrics and I am often tempted to buy just 25cm, which is not economical when I cut along the selvage. I enjoy studying the selvage and reading the delicious names – to find the fabric designer’s intention or spirit. And the little colour dots on the selvage often guide me to match or contrast colours.

IMG_5865A carved ladder is one of the best tools in my quilt room. I use mine every day – something beautiful to look at but also functional. It holds my freestanding polystyrene design boards upright. Useful when I pull and audition fabrics for a project. Perfect for hanging ironed strips and sorting colours. And when we have visitors, I move it to the guest bedroom to use as a towel rack.

IMG_5855When I begin a new Log Cabin, I do not plan the design before I start. I choose a hero colour and make a lot of blocks in different combinations of textures, tints, and tones – before I go near the design board. When I have a big stack of trimmed blocks, I spread them out on my large quilt table and only then do I start designing it on my design board. I play around with the blocks and try out many combinations until I find harmony and stillness.

IMG_5737 - Version 2I do not paper piece Log Cabin squares, but use a base fabric. I start by cutting the base fabric a bit larger than the planned size of the finished block. When I finish stitching the strips, I cut away the extra base fabric – to reduce the bulk before I join the blocks. A base fabric prevents the strips or logs to be wonky.  If you trim the blocks before you pin them to the design board, it gives a cleaner look while you design the layout of the quilt.

IMG_5659 - Version 2When I work towards an exhibition, I record all the fabrics that I select for a quilt by cutting and pasting small swatches in my snippet book. It is a handy shopping guide when I need more of the same. Keeping a swatch record for a project is especially handy when I need to document the process for exhibition purposes. And who knows, someday, it may even be a snapshot of the fabrics of our time and place.

IMG_5589I like to fuse the centre square of a log cabin block to a base fabric square, to prevent distortion when I start to stitch the strips. I measure and draw a cross in the middle of the base fabric and then line up the corners of the centre square, before fusing it.

IMG_5757 - Version 2Kawandi inspired quilt

A few things that I do when I hand stitch this quilt:

  • I do not stitch the three layers together when I do the top stitching. I only stitch the quilt top to the batting.
  • Before I start, I secure the batting to the top with a few safety pins, just a square in the middle to start off.
  • Start to stitch in the middle of the quilt and go round and round.
  • Change thread colour every now and then.
  •  I do the stitching on my lap in front of the TV with an old  bread plank on my lap to create a flat space.
  • I use a strip of narrow masking tape between the rows of stitches – to help me get more or less straight stitch lines. The stitch lines usually do not line up with the seam lines, but that is ok.
  • I load about 3 or more stitches on my needle and then lift the needle point up with a teaspoon to pull the thread through. A teaspoon is one of my best quilt tools.
  • Cut batting at least 20cm wider than the quilt top.  You may want to grow the quilt top as you go.
  •  When I am done with the hand stitches, I add the backing and secure it to the batting and quilt top with hand or machine stitches.
  • The Kawandi inspired quilt is a great way to use up all the scraps from previous projects.


IMG_0922 4I used recycled sari fabrics to make the yo-yo throw.

After I made the yo-yo throw, I used all the scraps to make reusable gift-wraps.  My best tip to work with the silky fabrics is to iron a light stabiliser – to give the fabric a bit more body.IMG_3006

IMG_8858I use Pfiel lino cutting tools.

IMG_2697When I do English Paper Piecing and run out of paper pieces, I simply pop out a few glued paper pieces – from the quilt in progress – give them a good ironing to flatten, and then I re-use it. Saves paper and money.

IMG_2536When I run out of paper pieces, I pop out a few glued paper pieces – from the quilt in progress –  and give them a good ironing to flatten and then I re-use them.  It saves paper and money.

IMG_7765Sometimes a zig-zag quilting line tells the story the best.  Work in progress 2019.


I prefer straight line quilting – to complement my fabric stories.  Work in progress, 2019


IMG_1531I use graph paper and double sided tape when I join Suffolk Puffs – to make sure that I get the first few rows straight. The double sided tape keeps the puffs in place while I’m stitching.

img_5784What to do with all those loose threads?

This is my way of dealing with all the loose threads.  I pull them to the back and then  I lightly comb them with a soft brush before I fuse a thin stabiliser onto the entire back of the quilt – to trap the threads.  It saves a lot of time and gives the quilt an extra layer before I add the backing.img_6503

IMG_7868I use a brush to fray the edges when I do raw edge appliqué.

IMG_0317The way I burn the edges.

IMG_8110Narrow strips of Steam-A-Seam2 – to help joining individual blocks with sashing.

IMG_8087Cutting and folding sashing strips – to join individual blocks.

I First iron on the fusible web strips and then the folded fabric strips – before stitching it all down.  See the result by clicking on Year 60 Quilt in the tabs.


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