25 quilt tips from Kim Diehl

Quilts from Simple TraditionsIf you love Kim Diehl, you know about her warm, inviting designs that use simple quilt techniques to get a spectacularly scrappy look. But what you may not know is that nestled within the pages of Kim Diehl quilt books are homegrown “Pin Points”—little bits of sage advice from this rock star of a quilter. Today, we’re sharing a whopping 25 of them with you!

Below you’ll find quilt tips from Kim Diehl patterns that span four of her bestselling books (save 40% on them this week only). You’ll discover how she tweaks appliqué motifs so they’re easier to sew, how she makes transporting quilt supplies a cinch with paper plates and cardboard—and how she finally found a way to keep track of her scissors. Read on for Kim’s clever ideas!


Kim’s Pin Points: Color and Design

Pie in the Sky quilt from Simple Graces• Are you having trouble finding fabric in just the right color for your quilt? The wrong side of a printed fabric may provide you with the perfect color option.

• I’ve found that the secret to successfully mixing many different prints is to noticeably vary the size and scale of the patterns that are placed next to each other. Whenever possible, I place larger and smaller prints together, rather than positioning those of the same scale side by side. If I find that many of my prints are of a similar size, I’ll vary the value of the colors to achieve contrast and add further definition.

• To easily give any quilt an old-fashioned, vintage feel, simply substitute muslin for the background prints called for in the directions. Your quilt will instantly exude traditional charm.

• When arranging your blocks for placement into a quilt top, always position pieces with strong hues in the corners. This will clearly define and anchor your quilt center.

• Remember that the value of any print can change depending upon the colors that are positioned immediately next to it. If I decide to work a light print into a quilt top that largely features darker tones, I will position it next to a medium-toned print to minimize the difference. The medium print acts as a bridge to blend the surrounding colors, and the lighter print adds interest without distracting from the overall look of the quilt.

Kim’s Pin Points: Staying Organized

Quilts from Simple Graces• When you begin a new project, take a moment to wind three or four bobbins. You’ll save time later!

• To easily organize patchwork sets or appliqué pieces, especially for travel or classes, try layering them between paper plates. Special notes or instructions can be written directly on each plate, and the plates can be stacked together to keep your work neat, compact, and easily portable.

• If you’re at all like me and are constantly losing your scissors, try this little trick. Follow the manufacturer’s instructions to apply a 3M hook to the side surface of your sewing machine or an adjacent wall…or, throw restraint completely out the window and attach a hook to both! Hang a pair of scissors on your new holder, and they’ll never be lost again.

Kim’s Pin Points: Appliqué

Zinnia Basket quilt from Simple Traditions• If you wish to appliqué a particular pattern but the shape appears too difficult, modify the pattern by fattening thin points and plumping narrow inner curves. No one will know it but you!

• Instead of using a single piece of fabric for your appliqué background, try substituting a simply pieced background of two or more neutral prints for added interest and impact.

• To eliminate pinning freezer-paper layers after the appliqué shape has been traced, try holding the tip of a hot iron to the topmost paper layer at spaced intervals around the shape, at least ¼” outside the drawn lines. Hold the iron in place until the layers are fused, and then cut out the shape.

• To achieve consistent seam allowances when cutting appliqué pieces, place a small strip of ¼” masking tape on the end of your thumbnail to use as a visual guide.

Kim’s Pin Points: Machine Sewing

• As you begin sewing a machine-stitched seam, grasp the spool and bobbin threads and pull them gently as the fabric begins to feed under the presser foot. This will enable the fabric to feed smoothly and will also prevent thread snarls.

• For patchwork that includes layered triangles or squares that are pinned together or joined with a diagonal seam, try this little trick. Pin the pieces together as usual, and then place a small dot of basting glue within the seam-allowance layers near each point to prevent them from shifting as you stitch. Your stitched patchwork will always have perfectly aligned edges.

Quilts from Simple Seasons

• If you find that your pieced blocks are consistently just a skosh small, even when using a quarter-inch foot, here’s a quick little trick that may make a difference in your accuracy. For sewing machines with incremental needle positions, try setting the needle just one notch to the right of the center position. Sew a test block and measure your results—this slight adjustment can be just enough to compensate for the thread or two that is lost to the fold of fabric when your seam allowances are pressed.

• To increase your accuracy, when you seat yourself at your sewing machine, position your chair squarely in front of the needle. This may seem overly simple, but sitting at even a slight angle to the needle can distort your view as you sew and cause variances in your seam allowances.

Kim’s Pin Points: Pressing

High Cotton from Simple Comforts• To save time as you press, position your ironing board next to your sewing machine at table height. You’ll eliminate extra steps.

• If your iron doesn’t feature a nonstick pressing surface and it begins to show signs of residue build-up, here’s a little trick to spruce it up. Unplug the iron and let it rest until the pressing surface is cool to the touch. Next, gently rub a dampened Mr. Clean Magic Eraser over the plate to remove any build-up; wipe thoroughly with a clean dry cloth.

• To easily protect your ironing board surface and keep it in “like-new” condition for longer, try ironing a sheet of freezer paper onto the cloth pad before you begin pressing your appliqués. The paper will protect the surface from any fabric adhesives, and once your pressing is complete it can be peeled away and discarded.

• For a quick and easily portable pressing board, particularly for classes, try cutting a square or rectangle of corrugated cardboard from a sturdy box. In addition to being lightweight and disposable, cardboard makes a perfectly flat and firm work area that can be ideal for achieving well-pressed appliqué edges, and the finish enables your iron to glide smoothly across the surface.

Kim’s Pin Points: Smart Tips for Every Quilter

• For wall hangings that lie smooth and flat, place a second hanging sleeve at the bottom edge of the quilt and insert a small dowel or flat strip of wood that has been cut slightly narrower than the width of the quilt. The added weight will eliminate any ripples and your piece will hang beautifully.

• When “un-sewing” a seam, a clean eraser or the sticky side of a length of masking tape can be lightly rubbed over any remaining threads to loosen and remove them from the cloth.

Quilts from Simple Traditions by Kim Diehl

• Consider using quilting thread when hand sewing your binding to the back of your quilt. The fibers are made to be pulled through the layers multiple times, so there will be less fraying and tangling, and your stitches will be sturdier.

• When you are signing quilt labels or signature blocks, first iron a piece of freezer paper to the wrong side of the fabric to stabilize it. Remove the paper after you complete the writing.

• For quick cleanup after sewing, wrap masking tape around your fingers, adhesive side out, and use it to retrieve fallen threads and fabric scraps from your carpeting and clothing.


Don’t miss this recent interview with Kim and Mary Fons on Quilt with the Stars at the Fons and Porter website.

Want more of Kim’s Pin Points? You’ll find them in these books—all 40% off this week only.

Simple Traditions: 14 Quilts to Warm Your Home
Projects from Simple Traditions
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Simple Traditions

Simple Seasons: Stunning Quilts and Savory Recipes
Projects from Simple Seasons
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Simple Seasons

Simple Comforts: 12 Cozy Lap Quilts
Projects from Simple Comforts
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Simple Comforts

Simple Graces: Charming Quilts and Companion Projects
Projects from Simple Graces
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Simple Graces

Do you have your own “Pin Points” to share? Leave your quilt tips in the comments!


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