So if you are like me, you didn’t know anything about sewing machine needles and maintenance when you started quilting. I thought I just had to worry about whether the machine turned on when I pressed the “on” button….. and remember to make sure it was plugged in! As the years passed, I have picked up information on good habits to get into to make sure everything goes smoothly when I want to sew.
Needles. I use the universal 80/12 needle because it’s got a point that works best with the 100% cottons we use in quilting.
But, when I am machine quilting, I change my needle to a quilting needle:
Looking closely, you can see the difference. The quilting needle is sharper and more tapered to go through more layers and through seams.
Besides using the correct needle, we tend to not think of it until it breaks. In fact, that’s the only time I used to change the needle. Oops! The wear and tear on a needle is usually microscopic so you think it’s alright, but it’s not if you have sewn an entire large project or over 10 hours on it.
Under a microscope, a used needle will look bent, have a nicks, and will be dull on the end. How can you tell without a microscope? Does your top thread break often for no reason as you are stitching (and you’ve checked all other reasons)? Can you hear a “popping” sound as the needle passes through the fabric? That means your needle is ready to be changed!
Here’s a threading “hack” if you do not have an automatic threader on your machine. Put a piece of paper behind the needle, I use a neon sticky note, so you can see the hole better.
I also cut the thread at a 45 degree angle and wet the tip of the thread a bit and it slides right in!
Cleaning. Yes, that lint is not part of the machine! I have a rule of thumb…. I clean the bobbin race and case and under the throat place before I start a day of sewing.
I use the little brush that comes with the machine to clean it all out:
I also follow the manufacturers instructions and oil the machine. Be sure to follow your machine instructions carefully when oiling since over oiling can result in residue on your fabric.
Be sure to bring your machine into the shop for maintenance periodically for servicing. They will deep clean it and check that everything is functioning properly. This will extend the life of your machine, especially if you use it a lot.
More Random Hacks:
- Check with your local Humane Society. They may take donations of pet beds made from stuffing small bits of fabric and batting into old pillow cases and stitching them up!
- I think I’ve shared this before, but this is a good step before starting a project you have never done: Stitch a “test block” using scrap fabric so you can test out color choice, threads, tension settings, etc. This also helps you become familiar with the instructions. Then you can use the test block to make a mini pillow or candle mat by adding a few borders and quilting!
- If your spray starch is too strong for your liking, get an empty spray bottle from the hardware store, pour or spray a small amount of starch in it and mix with a little warm water (small amount at a time), test on a scrap piece of fabric until you get the right combination.
Good rule of thumb for all of us: as with anything, quilting techniques take practice. Don’t be too hard on yourself if you tackle a new technique and it doesn’t come out exactly as you think it should. There are no “quilt police”! Enjoy your finished project. I am sure what ever family member or friend receives the quilt from you will love it whether you think it’s perfect or not!
If you have any quilting hacks, share them here! We can always keep learning!
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