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If you prewash your fabrics by machine, you have probably suffered through the tangle of excess threads that sometimes pull away from the cut edges. Try this trick to help cut down on this problem--open the cut of fabric out flat and trip a small (1/2") triangle from each corner. Wash as usual, and prepare to be pleasantly surprised at the lack of tangled threads.
Prewashing of quilting fabric is a subject for debate among quilters. Those in favor of prewashing do so to avoid the possibility of the excess fabric dyes running and 'bleeding' onto a lighter piece of fabric and ruining many hours of hard work. Another reason to prewash all your fabric is to be sure that any shrinkage takes place before your blocks are cut out and sewn together.
Fans of not prewashing cite the crispness of the fabric as the top reason not to wash before piecing. If all your fabrics are washed before piecing, they will tend to shrink a little and give an old-fashioned 'puckered' appearance.
The safest way to use a rotary blade is standing up at your cutting table. You need to be able to look straight down to ensure that your blade is firmly placed against the ruler. Leaning forward from a sitting position is not as steady and could lead to crooked cuts or a slice into the hand holding your ruler steady.
A quick and easy way to produce a quilt is to try a "Rag Quilt." These are made from flannel or homespun fabric. Fabric squares are machine quilted as part of the construction and when the squares are joined together--you have a finished quilt! The wrong edges of the fabric are visible on the top of the quilt and are clipped to encourage fraying, further adding to the "rag" look. Check this link for a pattern from JoAnn.com.
Always, always cover the blade of your rotary cutter as soon as you finish a cut. The blades are incredibly sharp and can inflict serious damage to your hands or fingers. Several brands of cutters are on the market--Dritz makes a pressure sensitive style with a cover that automatically engages when you let up on the handle.
If you need a quick project for a gift, try a quilt of large squares. One of my favorite project was a large lap-sized quilt made of 8.5 inch squares that was backed with flannel and machine quilted. If this is your first quilt, you might want to skip the flannel and use a smooth cotton for the backing. Flannel can stretch if you aren't diligent in basting.
Here's a photo of a small section of my lap quilt.