Secure seams and thrifty thread savers

When I first discovered patchwork and quilting about five years ago I was lucky enough to attend an excellent beginners class held in the kitchen of one of the Quilt Groups experienced members.  As a complete sewing machine novice all was new to me!  One tip we newbies were given was to make our first few stitches into a little piece of scrap fabric, keep the needle down and then feed our ready to sew rotary cut pieces under the machine foot and let the stitches flow from the scrap onto the patchwork piece.  I discovered that this does, in most instances, ensure the first few stitches on each piece are well-formed and less likely to come undone than if the stitching begins in the patchwork piece itself.  So I formed a habit of keeping scraps and folding them double to be my ‘starters’ or what I will now call ‘headers’ as since then I’ve also been taught the use of ‘footers’!  Again a folded scrap of fabric – this time fed under the machine foot and stitched onto when coming off the end of a seam.

Thread savers or 'header' and 'footer' folded and ready to use.

Thread savers or ‘header’ and ‘footer’ folded and ready to use.

First few stitches in the header. Needle down. Ready to to feed patchwork under the machine foot.

First few stitches in the header. Needle down. Ready to to feed patchwork under the machine foot.

Coming to the end of a seam. Needle down. Ready to feed footer under the machine foot.

Coming to the end of a seam. Needle down. Ready to feed footer under the machine foot.

Keep the needle down in the footer. Raise the foot and swivel the patchwork so you can cut the thread connecting the patchwork to the footer.

Keep the needle down in the footer. Raise the machine foot and swivel the patchwork so you can cut the thread connecting the patchwork to the footer.

The footer now becomes the header for the next patchwork seam to be stitched.

The footer now becomes the header ready for the next patchwork seam to be stitched.

I learned this at a workshop run by Doris Dove, a very prolific, generous quilter who grew up in the austerity of the war and post war years.  Her primary reason for using ‘headers’ and ‘footers’ was given as a means to save thread hence she calls them ‘thread savers’.  And using them does save thread!  Plus using these fabric scraps when piecing seams also has the benefit of eradicating trailing threads that can tangle into new seams.

However, headers and footers do not always ensure secure seams.  It seems the weave of the fabric, stitch size,  the amount of handling a seam undergoes during the construction of a patchwork block and the tension a seam is put under when being quilted can all contribute to a seam coming undone.  (I’ve tried going smaller than number 2 stitch length on my machine but the teeny tiny stitches are a nightmare to unpick!).  Some quilters advocate always using locking stitches or reversing at the start and finish of a seam.  In her very comprehensive book, ‘The Creative Pattern Book’, Judy Martin says to make ‘backtacking’ a habit and describes how to do it:

I have found that stitching over the edge of the fabric in reverse can result in tangles.  Consequently, I make it a point to start and end each seam with a forward stitch.  Start by going forward, then backing up to about one stitch shy of the edge. Then go forward again.  At the far end, start reversing when you are one stitch shy of the end.  After backtacking a few stitches proceed forward over the edge and onto the next patch…

Why not give each method a go and compare results?  If you are anything like me this will take quite a lot of concentration to begin with but in time a helpful habit can be formed!

Thinking about being thrifty reminded me of the inspiring epilogue in Proverbs chapter 31. There is a description of ‘a wife of noble character’ which gives me aspirations!  This lady is hard working and thorough;  providing food and warm clothing for her family; making wise business choices; giving practical support to the needy…   But best of all, ‘She makes coverings for her bed’ (verse 22) 😀  There are no details as to whether these coverings are patchwork or if they might be quilted but I’m encouraged that being occupied making bed coverings is a good thing!

Allison

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About allisonreidnem

New Every Morning – About Me Hi! I’m Allison, an obsessive patchwork-quilter who has no desire to be cured! I’ve been developing my skills and knowledge by paying attention at my local quilting group and by putting my questions into the computer search engine. I’m so grateful to the generous people who have taken the time to share their knowledge with me in person, via YouTube videos or their blogs. I’m intending my blog to be a link into the worldwide patchwork and quilting community and a means to contribute helpful hints and inspiration as I continue to discover more about this addictive craft. So, why ‘New Every Morning Patchwork and Quilting’? Well! I am a morning person! I often wake in the wee small hours and think through design and quilt construction issues. My woolly–headed evening brain finds such issues far too difficult to resolve! If I’m disciplined enough to be asleep by 10pm, I can be up cutting, piecing, pressing and quilting before sunrise! By the time daily family routine kicks-in I’ve had a satisfying, soul-feeding creative fix. (I should mention that ‘family at home’ is: my patient, faithful husband of 27years; and our equally patient 16 year old son, who acts as our in-house IT support complete with sighs and rolling eyes! Older daughter and son have both recently flown the nest). Not only do I find early mornings my creative time I also find it a time for receiving spiritual nourishment. I often find myself humming a gentle chorus and reflecting on God’s constancy as another new day dawns. ‘The steadfast love of the Lord never ceases, His mercies never come to an end. They are new every morning, new every morning; Great is thy faithfulness, O Lord, Great is thy faithfulness.’ Edith McNeil’s chorus is based on verses from the Bible – Lamentations 3: 21-23.
This entry was posted in Awe and Wonder, Piecing tips, Tutorial and tagged , . Bookmark the permalink.

6 Responses to Secure seams and thrifty thread savers

  1. libby says:

    I find that passage very encouraging as a creative wife. Although her other activities leave me feeling rather inadequate! I am currently making the knitted equivalent of a patchwork quilt using mitred squares to use up my odments of yarn. 🙂

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    • Hum! I know! I could end up with a house full of bed covers but not much food! Very satisfying to be making something beautiful and practical from odments. Have you chatted with Jan across the road about knitting?

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  2. Colleen says:

    Hi Allison, good information here. I started using the thread savers in desperation when I got my new sewing machine almost 2 years ago. This Bernina model has the most annoying “feature” of automatically doing the securing stitches at the beginning of every seam. I wasted all kinds of time messing about in my settings on the machine and I had the very capable man look into it when I had it serviced for the first time. There is no way to deprogram it. So I started using the ‘spiders’ as I was told to call them – perhaps they start looking like spiders after you have used them awhile. I didn’t like the securing stitches at the start because they were causing the needle to stuff the fabric down the face plate as well. Buying a different plate helped as well. My machine only came with the zig zag plate. Thanks for commenting on my blog. I think I’m going to have to take that post down for now. I was a week early – the Blogathon doesn’t start till next Thursday !… “the faster I go , the behinder I get !”

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    • Colleen, thanks for taking time to comment and pass on your experiences – using ‘spiders’ to get past the automatic securing stitches is a good tip. Imagine being a week ahead of yourself – you’ll be catching yourself up coming back! 🙂
      Allison

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  3. katyquilts says:

    I do this too! It sure saves a lot of aggravation. Really enjoying your blog :).

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  4. Thank you Katy. It is very good know my posts are being read and enjoyed.
    Allison

    Like

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