Tuesday, May 30, 2017

The Ugly Duckling Turns into a Swan

This weekend, Ruth taught a class on Kaleidoscope quilts. She went to the sale room looking for a print with large repeats in a distinct pattern.
This lovely, but somehow ugly, print jumped out at Ruth. To test how it performs in a Kaleidoscope, She did the mirror test, by using the Magic Mirrors by Marti Michelle.

You won't believe the images. By sliding the mirrors around on the fabric at different angles, or the angle from her pattern, she can tell if the pattern will work with the Kaleidoscope technique.

And now for the results:
The more distinct the fabric, the more different blocks you can make. Next time you are fabric shopping, keep your eye open for fabrics that may not be the prettiest, but which would bloom in a Kaleidoscope quilt.


Monday, May 15, 2017

Thread – what’s the big deal?

Thread – what’s the big deal? 
Just about daily a customer walks into our shop looking for “just a spool of thread.”   
If you haven’t bought thread in several years,you may be overwhelmed by the options, the way it is wound 
on a spool and most of all the price.  I have spools of thread in my collection that are marked 25 cents, but 
today we can expect to pay upwards of $2 for a small spool. Yikes! 

So what’s the big deal?  


Think of it this way: Thread is the one thing that holds your entire project together. If the project is not a 
something you want to have around in later years, then inexpensive thread may be OK. But if you spend 
several hours creating a boutique-quality garment or a family heirloom quilt, you may want that project to 
hold together for longer than just a washing or two.  
Thread, like any fiber, has a shelf life. You can expect thread to stay “fresh” for 2-3 years at the most in a 
temperate environmentSo the 25 cent thread in my collection should not be used to sew by hand, in 
amachine or for that matter anything.   
Even “back in the day,” sewing machine manuals discussed the importance of using quality thread to keep 
your machine in top running order.  The same is true today.  Our service tech can discern what type of 
thread a sewist has been running through their machine when it comes in for repair.  The cheaper threads 
build up a fuzzy residue in sewing machines quicker than better-quality threads.  So cheaper thread equals 
more machine cleaning equals more cost.  The small investment in good thread really does pay off in the 
long run. 
Always In Stitches offers several types of spooled thread: cotton, polyester, rayon, wool, monofilament and 
more. We all have our favorites, but in general, match the thread fiber to the project fiber.  Our staff can 
help you understand why thread is a big deal. Next time you drop in, ask sales specialist what thread is 
best for your project.  Happy Stitching! 
Capi Saxton, shop manager


Monday, May 8, 2017

How to Make a Quilt Sandwich

Hold the Mayo! Quilts come together like a sandwich. There's a top, a back and the filling, and here are some tips and tricks to handling each piece.

If you are going to have your quilt finished on a long arm machine, you will need at least 6 inches of backing fabric and batting on all sides of your top. Measure your quilt top in several places (top, middle, bottom) to get the exact size.

When you have your quilt top done, the next thing you need is the back. The back needs to be square, and cut straight of grain to allow your quilt top to lay flat after quilting.  If you piece your back, remember the more pieces, the harder it will be to keep it straight of grain, and absolutely do not use any selvages. Trim them off (they shrink differently than the rest of the fabric). One nice way to buy backing is 108" wide backing.
Image from Threads Magazine

Now that you have your top and back ready to go, you need batting, which is used as a layer of insulation between the fabrics. Batting comes in many, many kinds, weights and brands; it usually is made from cotton, polyester or wool. Some batting works better for hand quilting, some makes your quilt puffy, and some makes quilts lay nice and flat. The kind you use is your choice. Everyone has a different opinion.

If someone else will do your quilting, ask what batting they prefer. As a long arm quilter, I prefer Warm and Natural cotton batting because it is really nice, lays flat and doesn't stretch as it goes through the long arm.

-Cindy Ogle

How often do I change my Sewing Machine Needles?

The key question to understanding sewing machine needles is, how often do I change it.

First and foremost, don't wait until the needles breaks or bends before you change it. A good rule is to change it after 8-12 hours of sewing.

Think of the needles the same way you would a lead pencil. When a pencil point gets dull as you write, you sharpen it. In sewing, the needle wears down after going up and down so many times in the fabric and needs to be changed.

Another way to know when it's time to change the needle is listening to your machine. You will hear a popping sound as the needle gets dull.

While you're changing the needle, take the time to brush out the lint that's sure to built up in the bobbin area, especially when you are sewing flannel, fleece or felt.

                                                   ********************
                                                   If you own a Janome
                                                   sewing machine, we
                                                   recommend you use only
                                                   Janome sewing needles
                                                   *********************

                                                               ~by Ruth Middleton

Select the Right-Sized Needle for your Fabric and Project

Ruth Middleton explains some simple guidelines for selecting the right size needle to use.




  • Light weight woven- Size 9-11 sharp, quilting
  • Quilting cottons (piecing)- Size 11-14 sharp, quilting
  • Homespun, flannel (piecing)- Size 11-14 sharp, quilting, universal
  • Denim, twill, wool- size 14-16 sharp, denim
  • Machine quilting (light weight and poly batts)- size 12-16 quilting, top stitch
  • Machine quilting (cotton batts, heavier fabrics and threads)- size 14-16 quilting, top stitch, denim

Choose the Right Needle from the Haystack

Are you confused about what kind of sewing machine needles you need, and how often the needle should be changed? Do you just muddle through the whole process and hope for the best?

Ruth Middleton explains the different types of needles available today for sewing and quilting.


  • Microflex/Sharps have sharp points designed for tightly woven fabrics such as quilting cottons, microfibers, fleece and batiks.
  • Embroidery needles have a fine sharp point and larger eye. They are designed to stack stitches closely together.
  • Topstitch needles are bigger so they go through heavier fabrics or multiple layers.
  • Quilting needles have a fine tapered point designed to stitch through multiple layers of cotton fabric when piecing or quilting.
  • Universal needles are designed for flannels, homespun, and other woven and knit fabrics. These are not recommended for batiks and tightly woven fabrics.
  • Denim needles are very strong with a large sharp point so they pierce heavy fabrics and carry heavier threads.
  • Metallic needles are specialty needles with a fine sharp point, elongated eye and deeper groove to help protect fragile, metallic threads. Change these more often throughout your project than you would other needles because the thread can make a groove in the needle and cause problems.
  • Titanium needles have an extra coating which makes them stronger and less likely to drag from adhesives. These are not recommended for everyday sewing.

Righty Tighty Tension

Every person who works with machines usually has part of the job that gives them fits. For us sewists, that is thread tension. Is it the bobbin? How the machine is threaded? Do I need to twist the knob?

This diagram by Superior Threads is a good visual for deciding what you need to do.
Another guide comes from plumbing and tightening screws: Righty Tighty Lefty Loosey. It even applies to thread tension. The tug of war is a perfect way to think about it. If all your top thread is pooling on the bottom, it means the bobbin is winning and the top needs to pull harder.

If you adjust the tension and are still getting a tangle on one side, try re-threading the machine. Sometimes the thread is not "flossed" into the tension disks. On the bobbin side, make sure that the bobbin thread is coming off the spool in the correct direction. There is usually a diagram in your owners manual. Your machine is also marked with the preferred factory settings. If you have been toying with tension and have all the settings changed, reset everything back to the factory recommendations, re-thread the machine and start adjusting from there. Problems with tension come from improper threading more often than needing to adjust the tension.