I’ve been piecing a few quilt tops this week which led me to think about tips to make the quilting experience more relaxing and less stressful. I don’t know about you, but when I quilt I want to have fun and relax. I tend to be a type A (aka: stress ball!) person in other parts of my life because I worry and want things to run smoothly. To achieve that restful experience, I do recommend a little planning … even though that sounds a bit type A! So here’s some of my tips in case you’re interested.
Make your Sewing Space Comfortable
TIP 1: Since I am not lucky enough to have a sewing cabinet where my sewing machine drops in, I like to position my machine at an ergonomically correct angle to ease hand and eye strain. To do this, I use door stops that are easy to find at your local hardware store.
This tilts my work towards me so I can see what I am stitching without having to strain to see. Also my hands are tilted like they are when I use an ergonomic mouse at my computer.
TIP 2: To keep from chasing your machine’s foot peddle all around under your table every time you want to use it, here are two ideas. If your room has a bare floor, get a small square of carpet, like those carpet tiles, and put it under your peddle. This will keep it from sliding all across the floor. For more security, consider attaching a small piece of hook and loop tape to the underside of the peddle so it adheres to the carpet square. If your room is carpeted, just do the hook and loop tape part of this tip.
I found these little hook and loop squares that have a self-stick backing. I was able to stick them right the bottom of my peddle.
TIP 3: Keep your tools close by. I’ve shared this before. This item I have attached to my sewing table with command strips is a shower soap dish that I found in the bath aisle at Target.
I keep my small ruler, scissors, small rotary cutter and my wood pressing stick in this container. They are there for quick access as I need them.
TIP 4: Comfy seating and set-up. First, find the right chair to sit in while sewing. An office chair with adjustable heights is always a good option. I personally like a rolling stool since I don’t require a back to my sewing chair.
The next thing I do is have a small table set up by my machine with a cutting mat so I can trim units right there without getting up to go to my large cutting mat.
I also use this table to stack and arrange block pieces that I will be stitching together. You can also place a wool pressing mat at the end of the table with a small iron to press units and blocks as you go.
Preparation and Organization
Now that your sewing area is set up, it’s time to prepare to sew. That includes sewing machine maintenance, tool prep and project organization. Here are my tips.
TIP 1: What else can make your sewing experience more stressful than a sewing machine breakdown? To avoid this, make sure to take your machine to be cleaned and tuned up once a year if you can. The maintenance people can do a deep cleaning that you just can’t do at home. I take mine yearly since I use it a lot.
Between maintenance visits, be sure to clean the lint out of the bobbin area and under the throat plate. Also oil the areas that need it at that time (per manufacturer’s directions). My rule of thumb is to clean out my machine and oil it every time I have to change the bobbin. Drop the feed dogs, remove the throat plate and start cleaning.
If you do not have a small brush like mine (left photo), you can use a small makeup brush. Never use anything sharp or stick the brush in deeper into areas you can not see. You can do some damage that way and then your machine will be in the shop for more than just a checkup!
Bonus tip: To keep your machine out of the shop, avoid sewing over pins even if the manufacturer says they are meant to be sewn over. It can badly throw off the timing of your machine. Trust me, I learned the hard way!
TIP 2: So now that your machine is clean, make sure your needle is ready for sewing. Your needle breaking in the middle of sewing a seam is not something that relaxes you.
A good rule of thumb is to put in a new needle after every completed project, especially if you have just completed a large one. If you have just made a table runner, you can probably get away with keeping the same needle for your next project. Another way to know when to change a needle would be after you’ve gone through three full bobbins.
Damage to a needle is not visible to the naked eye but under a microscope, you will see burrs and cracks. It can be bent which also may not be visible to you. Here are some ways you can tell you need to change your needle:
- If you hear a “punching” sound as your needle enters the fabric.
- Your top thread keeps breaking.
- You see snags in the fabric you are piecing.
- You can see the holes where the needle entered.
Needles are relatively cheap. Certainly cheaper than fabric and thread, so keep that needle new as often as possible so you’re not wasting thread or damaging your fabric.
TIP 3: Right before you start sewing a project, after picking out your thread color, wind several bobbins ahead a time. That way, when one bobbin runs out, all you have to do is pop out the empty, clean out the machine, and pop a new one in. It saves a little time!
TIP 4: Organize your pieces by labeling and stacking them up so you can find them quickly as you refer to the pattern. You can also stack up block units so you can chain piece blocks together quickly.
The stacks in the photo above on the left each made four blocks for a project I was working on.
You can also stack up the pieces of units that you are going to chain piece so they are easy to grab, pin, and feed through the machine.
So now that your sewing area is set up and your project is organized, it’s time to sit down and sew. And you can do it relaxed and stress-free. This is only some of the tips I find help me the most. Share your tips or ask questions in the comments and be entered in the drawing for my newest pattern, that’s not even on the market yet, Country Crossroads.
This is an easy to piece lap quilt and table runner pattern that mostly uses a variety of fat quarters. You can pick your favorite color prints from your stash and get sewing! The drawing will be on Monday, May 29th. Good luck! **We have a winner! Congrats, Mari-Ann Miller!**