5 Quilting Rules that Are Meant to Be Broken

Sometimes It's Okay to Break the 'Rules'

What's the old saying... rules are meant to be broken? Quiltmaking is one craft where that statement is very true. It's best not to think of any specific method you learn or read about as an absolute rule -- guideline is a better description. And once you have a bit of quilting experience, you'll know exactly which methods work for you in different situations.

  • 01 of 05

    Bias Binding Strips Are Not Always the Best Choice

    Quilt Making Supplies
    Jane Tyson / Getty Images

    Bias binding strips are indeed one choice when it's time to make binding for a quilt, but they aren't always necessary.

    • Bias binding strips are stretchy, making them a cinch to sew (neatly) around quilts with curved edges, but bias strips aren't required for straight-edged quilts.
    • On the plus side, threads in bias strips will end up running at an angle to the quilt itself -- if a thread in a strip eventually becomes weak and breaks, it will break around its own small portion of the...MORE binding, not all the way down the side of the quilt, creating a smaller repair area.

    Crosswise Grain Binding Strips

    • Binding strips cut along the crosswise grain of fabric are a bit stretchy, too, and when cut, the grain is typically not completely straight -- a weakened thread will rarely cause a repair problem down the entire side of a quilt.
    • Crosswise grain strips are more simple to make than bias binding strips, and often (depending on available yardage) have fewer bulky connecting seams along their length, resulting in a neat, flat binding.
    • Crosswise grain binding is a perfect choice for most quilts.

    You should indeed usually avoid lengthwise grain binding strips. They have less stretch than crosswise strips, and their threads are more likely to run down a strip for a long distance -- a single weak thread can make it necessary to repair binding on a longer portion of the binding.

  • 02 of 05

    Don't Always Stop Sewing 1/4" from an Edge When You Miter Binding

    An assortment of mitered bindings. © Janet Wickell

    One of my biggest binding pet peeves concerns the binding instructions that many quilting authors have traditionally written. I've cautioned quilters on this since I began writing quilting books in the but still see incorrect instructions everywhere.

    The Truth About Mitered Corners

    When preparing to miter binding at the corner of a quilt, the point where you should stop and backstitch must be a distance equal to the seam allowance you are sewing.

    • If you're sewing a 1/4" seam, stop...MORE 1/4" before a corner.
    • If you're sewing a 1/2" seam, stop 1/2" from the corner.

    Applying binding with a 1/4" seam allowance is a must if quilt blocks surround the outer edges of the quilt since that's the amount of seam allowance built-in to outer edges.

    But what if you have a border and want to sew the binding with a 1/2" seam allowance? Try stopping 1/4" from the edge of those quilts and you'll end up with a messy (if not impossible to construct) mitered corner.

    Stop sewing at the point that matches your seam allowance and the miter will create itself, almost automatically.

    Read more in my mitered binding instructions.

  • 03 of 05

    Seam Allowances Needn't Always Be Pressed to the Side

    There are a couple of areas here that still need to be pressed down a bit, but you can see the general pressing methods I chose. © Janet Wickell

    I usually press seam allowances to one side when I'm constructing patchwork because that method helps enhance accuracy when small units, rows of blocks, and the entire quilt are assembled.

    When seam allowances in adjoining units are pressed in opposite directions, the loft (or height) each allowance creates helps you butt intersections together for a perfect match.

    Sometimes you'll find that pressing seam allowances to the side creates too much bulk, especially if lots of seams meet in a...MORE given spot of your patchwork. When that happens, don't be afraid to press seams open.

    We've always been told that pressing seam allowances to one side can strengthen a block or quilt, but I personally do not believe that is true. Some will disagree, but I know many quilters who press seams open all the time with great success.

    Match-up Tip: When adjoining units with seams that are pressed open, align edges and stab a straight pin through both narrow channels where each seam should meet. Leave the pin in place until the needle reaches that spot, remove the needle and keep sewing. Your seams should be perfectly matched.

  • 04 of 05

    Quilters Aren't All Senior Citizens

    Some of the most talented quilters out there are very young people, proving that there's absolutely no age requirement to become a successful quilter.

    Browse the Web and you'll find thousands upon thousands of young people turning their visions into quilts. Here are just a few:

    Continue to 5 of 5 below.
  • 05 of 05

    You Don't Need an Expensive Sewing Machine to Make Quilts

    It's true that sewing machines with every option available may help you piece and quilt with ease, but an expensive sewing machine is not a must. Many quilters sew patchwork on their vintage Featherweight sewing machines, and I know a few who love to sew on a treadle machine.

    If you plan to machine quilt, do buy a machine that either comes with a walking foot or can be fitted with a generic version made by an accessories manufacturer. Go for a more expensive machine later if you find that you...MORE love to make quilts (and your budget is okay with the purchase).

    Bottom Line

    Never hesitate to experiment. We wouldn't have all of the quick piecing techniques and tools that are so popular today if quilters weren't inquisitive. You might be the next person who develops a brand new way to cut and sew patchwork or applique.