Sewing Season you say? Isn’t everyday “sewing season”? I don’t know about where you live, but for me late fall and winter will be more of a sewing season for me than other times of the year. Since I live in north Iowa, our winters (and sometimes late fall) are snow-filled and too cold to go outside. Since fall began on Saturday, I wanted to celebrate the approaching sewing season with tips on getting ready to sew up a storm. Sit back, relax and think about some of your favorite things to do to get ready for your sewing season!
Part of getting ready for sewing is making sure my sewing machine is in top shape. In fact, my machine is at the quilt shop as we speak getting it’s yearly checkup. My sewing machines have never had major problems due to these checks. So, I recommend this.
Other things to do are to clean the parts of the machine that you yourself can periodically so your machine behaves between checks.
Use the small brush that came with your machine, or improvise with a small makeup brush…. and try to avoid playing with the cat that interferes (LOL).
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!
Once you are done cleaning, follow the instructions in your owner’s manual on oiling the necessary parts. I use this oiler that came with my machine:
I generally do these two tasks each time I have to fill an empty bobbin. I don’t wait until I see the lint protruding from the throatplate or the oil light on the machine flashing. A good rule of thumb on oiling is if you sew a lot daily, oil your machine weekly.
Finally, make sure your needle is in good shape and undamaged. Don’t wait until you break a needle to change it. Damage to a needle is not visible to the naked eye, but under a microscope you can see burrs and cracks. It can also be bent. 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.
Get the Fabric and Sewing Area Ready
First up, make sure your sewing and cutting areas are free of clutter. There are times areas of my cutting table has looked like this:
Yikes! That will definitely get in the way of laying out fabric to cut. Before cutting into that precious fabric, sort and organize this mess. Cut strips from pieces of fabric that are less than an 1/8 yard and fold and store 1/8, 1/4, 1/2 and full yardage where it belongs. I use tubs for smaller cuts and fold 1 yard and larger cuts folded on shelves or on hangers to hang in a closet if you don’t have shelves.
Get Tools Ready
Now that your sewing area and cutting mat are cleared of clutter, it’s time to get the sewing tools ready.
First up, clean your cutting mat. Residue can build up on the mat’s surface that can interfere with fabric you are currently cutting. Here’s some cleaning tips:
- You can remove bits of fabric fiber that get caught in cuts in your mat by rubbing a gum eraser (artist’s eraser) over sections you have just used to cut. You can also use a soft toothbrush. Make sure it’s soft so you don’t damage your mat.
- You can also remove bits of fiber or lint from the surface by wrapping your hand in packing tape and lightly running it over the mat. Or use a lint roller that you use to remove pet hair from clothing.
As far as usage of your mat goes, try not to continuously cut in the same place when you are cutting fabric. These mats are self-healing but they do wear out. To get your mat to last as long as possible rotate your mat often to avoid cutting in the same place. Some mats are even double sided so if yours is, flip it occasionally and use the other side.
Next thing to get ready is your rotary cutter. The main thing here is to make sure you have a fresh blade. 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 the blade. Also, if you notice “skips” in the cutting, that’s another sign that your blade is dulling. This also helps in keeping you safe as you cut. A dull blade can lead to cutting accidents.
Finally, make sure your rulers are ready to use and easy to grab while you are cutting. I hang my rulers by my cutting table:
If you don’t have a hanging space by your table, consider a ruler holder that sits on your table. Also make sure your rulers do not have chips or rounded corners. This can lend to you making cutting mistakes.
Wow! Now that you have done this, you are ready to pull out your fabric and pattern and get started. Share with me some of your tips on getting your sewing area prepared and you will be entered into a drawing for my quilt pattern, Reunion.
The drawing will be on Monday, October 2nd. Good luck!