So last week we talked about fabric storage and building a stash for scrap quilting. Now lets chat about tips to keep your tools of quilting in top form. If your sewing machine and other tools you use are not performing at their best, it will make your sewing experience less enjoyable. I’ll have some tips on machine cleaning and cutting & ironing surface cleaning as well as some random fun tips. Hopefully, these tips will get you sewing with no stress! Let’s get started….
Cutting Mat Care
Tip# 1: You don’t often think about maintaining this surface but it’s a good idea to keep it clean. The best time to do it is between projects, of course. A rotary cutting mat can pick up debris from other fabrics.
To remove stray threads from previous cutting activity, you can use a pet hair roller. Run it across the board to remove threads that may be caught in some of the cuts in your mat.
You’d be surprised how little bits of debris that you think won’t hamper your cutting will actually do just that.
Another good maintenance duty is to periodically wash your mat. Use room temperature water since hot water, like heat from direct sunlight, can damage your mat. You can add a few drops of mild dish soap to the water. Use a soft brush, like a soft vegetable brush or tooth brush, to gently scrub the mat. This will dislodge tiny fibers that get caught in the cuts of the mat. Finally, rinse the mat with cool water and towel dry (try to choose a towel that is not prone to leaving lint). Lay flat or hang to dry.
Doing this bit of maintenance will extend the life of your cutting mat. Another tip to keep your mat “healthy”…. when cutting fabrics that leave a lot of lint and fibers like batting or fleece, do not cut in the same place on the mat for all the pieces you cut. Move around to give the cuts in your mat time to self heal.
If you don’t have a pet hair roller like the one above, you can improvise and use packing tape wrapped around your hand.
You can also use these tips to clean your ironing board surface of all those pesky threads!
Tip #2: If you do not have a dedicated sewing space and need to store your cutting mat, be sure to store it flat. Slide it under a bed, or use a clip hanger to store it hanging in a closet.
I fold over a scrap of batting on the side that will be clipped to the hanger to avoid damaging the cutting surface.
Sewing Machine Care
Make sure your sewing machine is ready for use the next time you want to sew. I do this by cleaning and oiling my machine after every project. Your machine should have a small brush that came with it along with oil. Consult your owner’s manual on how to clean the lint from the bobbin compartment, under the throat plate.
I also brush out the bobbin case and the needle housing. The lint collects everywhere! Once you are done with that cleaning, follow your machine manufacturer’s instructions and oil the machine.
Wondering how often to do this? Like I said above, either do it between every project or do it every time you have to change or refill your bobbin. I do the latter because if I am working on a very large project, I go through several bobbins and hours of sewing. That creates a lot of lint!
Random Tool Tips
Make sure your blade is sharp. Cutting pieces with a dull blade can actually be a safety issue. The blade might look good to the naked eye, but if you feel like you have to press down hard to cut through all the layers of fabric, it’s time to change it. Also, if you notice “skips” in the cutting, that’s another sign that your blade is dulling.
Be sure to safely discard your used rotary blades. I use an empty blade case and mark it “used blades”. Once it’s full, the whole thing can be safely discarded.
To make my cutting experience even safer, I never leave the blade open. Use the lock button as well so no one can accidentally open the cutter.
Believe it or not… the time to replace your needle on your sewing machine isn’t just when it breaks! A sewing machine needle may look good to the naked eye, but it you have been sewing with it for awhile, it will be damaged.
Tip #1: A good rule of thumb is to change the needle after you finish piecing project. If you sew with a needle that should be changed, you can cause damage to your fabric. A dull or damaged needle can snag fabric and break your thread. If you hear a “punching” sound or see snags as you stitch, it’s definitely time to change the needed.
Tip #2: Use the right needle size. Most piecing of 100% cotton fabrics can be done with a universal 80/12 needle. The two numbers represent the two sizing systems: metric (or European) and Singer (or American). The “80” is the metric and the “12” is the Singer. All you need to know is the numbers refer to the diameter of the needle. The lower the number, the finer the needle. Light to medium weight quilting fabrics can be pieced with a needle from 75/11 to 90/14. Most needles made for machine quilting on your home machine are 90/14.
Tip #3: This one is a tip just for fun … if you do not have a built in needle threader on your machine, place a bright piece of paper behind the needle when threading it. This will help you to see the eye of the needle better.
See how it’s easier to see the eye with the paper behind the needle?
Well, that’s all for this week. Hopefully these tips will help to make your next quilting experience that much more enjoyable!