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Anyone who has machine-quilted a quilt of any size knows you can use up a distressingly large amount of thread that way. It can be hard to guess whether the amount of thread you have will be enough to finish quilting the whole top. And it’s very annoying to guess wrong and run out of thread when you’re half-done quilting!

Superior Threads has come to our rescue with a helpful guide to estimating how much thread you will need to machine-quilt your next top. The guide gives estimates for quilts of various sizes, from lap quilts to king-size bed quilts, and three levels of machine quilting — light, medium, and heavy.

Click here to see the guide on your laptop or desktop computer.

Click here to get Superior’s thread-estimating app for Apple or Android devices.



Do you ever have a piece of fabric you’d love to use for a quilt backing, but it isn’t quite big enough to cover the whole area of the quilt? That’s the problem I ran into with this little baby quilt (38″ x 38″). I had a large scrap piece of flannel that would be perfect as a backing, EXCEPT that it was a little too small.

Here’s one easy way to solve this problem — insert a string-quilted strip that makes the backing big enough to fit the quilt.


Here’s how to make a string-quilted section like this one:

  1. Cut a strip of lightweight fabric to use as the foundation fabric for your scrap strips. The foundation strip for this quilt was a piece of muslin 8″ wide and 40″ long. You don’t have to use a foundation, but I find it makes it easy to keep the strips lying flat and to help me choose the right size strips.
  2. Sew scrap fabric strips to the foundation fabric, starting in the middle and working out to both ends. I tried to choose scraps that harmonized with the colors of the quilt top. See our post on string quilting for step-by-step instructions.
  3. Cut the flannel fabric in half and sew the string strip between the two pieces of flannel.

After that, it’s just a matter of basting, quilting, and binding.


Want to make something cute, modern and really easy to decorate your Halloween table? I was poking around on Pinterest the other day and found a tutorial for this charming and simple-looking table runner from Rachel of The Fat Quarter gang.

If there’s one thing I have a lot of, it’s leftover Halloween fabric in orange, black, grey, white, purple, and even acid green. I decided to try making this table runner for myself. (With Halloween just a week away, I knew I needed something really easy.)

I made my table runner bigger than the original (mine was 15″ x 72″), because I wanted my runner to extend the whole length of my table. I also used more fabric strips than the original design calls for, because my quilt was longer and I needed to cover more empty orange space. And I used scrap fabric from previous Halloweens instead of buying a new set of fabric. Otherwise, I followed the tutorial pretty exactly.

I’d guesstimate that the quilt took about five hours to make, from start to finish. Here’s how it turned out:

halloween-strip-table-runner-2016-5 halloween-strip-table-runner-2016-4 halloween-strip-table-runner-2016-3 halloween-strip-table-runner-2016-2




Halloween Spider Mini Wall Quilt


Do  you like to make quilts to decorate your house for Halloween? I do! Sometimes, though, I don’t have the time to make a large-scale project. This 14″ square wall quilt took about three hours to make from scraps I had in my sewing room. I’m grateful to The Seasoned Homemaker blog for the inspiration and spider applique pattern.

Here’s how to make it:

  1. Cut out four 7″ squares of four different pale gray fabrics, then piece the squares together into a larger square.
  2. Print out the spider pattern from the link above.
  3. Fuse a piece of spooky-looking black fabric that is a little larger than the spider pattern to a piece of double-sided fusible web.
  4. Trace the spider onto the back side of the fused fabric, then cut out the spider with scissors or a rotary cutter.
  5. Layer the background squares with a piece of batting and a piece of matching backing fabric. I used a little bit of basting spray to make sure they didn’t shift during the following steps.
  6. Machine-quilt the background layers in a freehand spiderweb pattern. (Machine quilting is easier if you don’t have to try to stitch around the applique while you sew.)
  7. Remove the paper backing from the spider, position it on the background fabric, then iron it down. I also stitched my spider down to the backing, but for a wall quilt like this, it isn’t really necessary.
  8. Use a ruler and rotary cutter to square up the quilt and trim away any excess batting and backing fabric.
  9. If you want to hang the quilt on the wall, make a hanging sleeve and sew it to the back side of the quilt.
  10. Bind the quilt as you would any other quilt. The binding for mine came from more scraps I had left over after making last year’s Halloween table runner.

Want more Halloween quilt inspiration? Look here for Halloween quilts I’ve made or photographed in previous seasons.

Fabric postcard

When you’re a new quilter, you can easily get frustrated and discourage yourself by biting off more than you can chew. It can be overwhelming to start out with a quilt that’s very large, for instance, or one that requires you to cut and sew a thousand tiny pieces, or master complicated blocks or advanced machine quilting techniques.

I made exactly this mistake with my very first quilt. I decided to make a twin bed-sized quilt, because I didn’t know there were any other kinds of quilts besides bed quilts, and because I didn’t know that a large quilt is much harder to handle than a small one — more time-consuming to cut and piece, and much harder to baste and machine quilt because of its size.

I wrestled with that quilt over a period of months before I finally got it finished. Don’t get me wrong — it was definitely a thrill to complete my first quilt! But I could have experienced the same thrill a lot sooner and with a lot less anguish if I had just chosen to start out with a smaller and simpler project.

Avoid my mistake by starting small

Instead of jumping into the deep end and struggling to finish a large or challenging quilt, we recommend starting small. A small quilt lets you try out new techniques and practice your quilting skills without taking big risks. If you make a mistake, no big deal! You can fix most mistakes easily, or if you do something really wrong, just throw it away and start over.

What kind of quilts do we recommend for beginners? There are lots of fun little quilts you can make in a day or less. There’s a mug rug, which is a little quilt used as a coaster:

5 mistakes new quilters make and how to avoid them.

Mug rug. Photo by agistadler, Flickr.

Or a fabric postcard, which is a little quilt you can send through the mail:

5 mistakes new quilters make and how to avoid them

Fabric postcard. Photo by Sonja Threadgill Nelson, Flickr.

There’s a table runner, which is a slightly bigger quilt designed to decorate your kitchen or dining room table. This one takes less than a day, and less than an afternoon if you’re dedicated:

Quilt-as-you-go Table runner from my book, Quilts for Beginners

Quilt-as-you-go Table runner from my book, Quilts for Beginners

A lot of new quilters have fun making simple quilted pillows. This one is a variation on the classic Courthouse Steps log cabin block:

5 mistakes new quilters make and how to avoid them

Quilted pillow. Photo by MissMessie, Flickr.

Because these quilts are small and easy, you can try them all without a tremendous investment in time and materials. My favorite of all these types is the fabric postcard. People love to get postcards in the mail, and a handmade postcard is even more exciting. (Top-secret hint: your postcard doesn’t even have to look all that good to make the lucky recipient happy! No one will notice any flaws except you.)



American flag Rag Quilt 1

The Fourth of July (American Independence day) has always been a weak spot in my seasonal decorations. Meaning that I don’t have any Fourth of July decorations, or didn’t until a couple of days ago.

That is not my only decorating sin. My children are embarrassed by the simultaneous presence of an Easter Bunny quilt on one wall, a Christmas tree quilt on another wall, and Valentine’s swags over the dining room table. (Yes, it’s perfectly true. Laziness has made me into a multi-holiday decorator.)

This year, though, I’m determined to do better. I found a pattern for this little American Flag rag quilt and made it yesterday. The pattern is billed as a lap quilt, but at 27″ x 42″, it’s actually smaller than the average lap quilt, small enough to hang easily in a window or on a wall. If that is too small for you, the pattern also includes a larger 53″ x 79″ version of the same quilt.

I knew I would want to make this quilt as a wall hanging, not a real lap quilt, so I used a piece of white felt I found in the sewing room as the backing layer. The felt makes the quilt stiffer and I hope will help it hang proudly. The red, white, and blue fabric for the front of the quilt came from my fabric stash.

Quilting this flag couldn’t be simpler. For the stripes, I simply sewed a line down the center of each one. The blue section can be quilted with an “X” or any other simple pattern that keeps the fabric layers attached together. Another option is to sew or iron on little stars, or use star-shaped buttons to decorate the blue fabric. I quilted the blue section by sewing a square all around the section, about two inches inside the outer edge.  I haven’t added a hanging sleeve to the back of the quilt yet, but I will. With the hanging sleeve in place, I can hang the quilt on a dowel that rests on two screws or two hooks in the wall.

The whole project took about five hours. The hardest work was clipping all the seams to make the fringed edges. I’m pleased with myself, because I now I have a patriotic wall hanging I can use year after year, and it took less than a day. What do you use to decorate for patriotic holidays?

American flag rag quilt 4

American flag rag quilt 3

American flag rag quilt 2






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