Tips & Techniques

Norma’s quilt tips and techniques
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The way I prepare and pack my quilts for posting or courier – to an exhibition. 

I cover a pool noodle with left over batting.

I keep all my small pieces of left over batting for this purpose and stitch them together to make noodle covers.

Roll the quilt around the pool noodle with right side facing out and tie with ribbons. (Recycled ribbons from gifts.)

Cover the rolled quilt with layers of bubble wrap and a bag that would keep it safe and dry.

Some kind of sturdy tube would be the safest way to send the wrapped quilt, but the weight makes it more expensive.


I use all my left over Log Cabin strips to knit something new.  Hard on the hands, but if you keep the tension loose, it is easier to knit.

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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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