Wow! We’re in the last full week of August already. I can’t believe how fast the summer has gone. I will have a blog post this week and next week (August 31st) but will not have one on Labor Day (September 7th). I will be taking a break that week to relax and re-charge. You will still see a post that day, but it will be a repeat of a popular one.
I’ve been piecing a lot of projects for magazines and for new patterns I am creating these last few weeks. Because of this, I thought I’d share some sewing & piecing tips that will hopefully make your quilting experience more productive and fun.
Tip#1 Make Sure Your Machine is Ready
To start, I recommend a yearly tune-up at the shop where you purchased your machine. If that’s not possible, make sure you are cleaning the bobbin compartment, hook race and bobbin case as well as the area under the throat plate. Be sure to drop the feed dogs before lifting off the throat plate.
I use the tiny soft brush that came with my machine. Do NOT use anything sharp in these areas because that may cause damage.
….As you can see, Addie was trying to help!
Finally, be sure to pull out your machine manual and lubricate it as advised. Most machines today have a sensor that will tell you when lubrication is needed, but if yours doesn’t you should lubricate the recommended areas when you notice your machine sounds different than normal as you stitch. I can tell when my machine sounds louder. Once I lubricate, it quietly hums as I’m sewing. If you use your machine several hours a day every day like me, you will have to lubricate more often. Here’s the handy oil “pen” that came with my machine.
Tip#2 Thread, Bobbins, Needles… oh my!
Just a few handy little tips I follow when it comes these items.
I like to load several bobbins in the color thread that I am using so when one runs out, I can quickly replace it with a full one. That bobbin always seems to run out at the most inconvenient time. As for the thread, I like to use Aurifil 100% cotton 50wt. I have found that this thread creates the least amount of lint build up as opposed to other threads I have used.
And finally, be sure have a good needle. A 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 needle for your next project. Another way to know when to change a needle would be after you’ve gone through 3 bobbins.
Damage to a needle is not visible to the naked eye but under a microscope, you will see burrs and cracks. Click here to see what a damaged needle looks like. 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.
Tip#3 Away we go!
Well, it’s more than one tip … here’s a few.
Now it’s time to sew! I like to use what I call a leader/ender piece when I begin stitching.
This is a thread saver, since I am not pulling my finished piece away from the machine to snip it. I just run this leader/ender piece through at the end of my stitching and snip my sewn unit off after it’s out from under the foot. I like using this to lead off stitching pieces to avoid thread glitches or fabric pieces scrunching up.
Another tip: Keep your tools close at hand so you aren’t always hunting around for the scissors, small ruler (I use it to measure seams) or pressing stick. Here’s my solution:
I took a plastic soap dish, the kind that you put up in the shower with suction cups, and attached it to my sewing table to the right of my chair. I used Command strips so I can remove it if I want.
So there you have it. These are a few of my sewing tips to get you started on your next quilting project. Leave a comment below and be entered in a drawing for my new pattern Loop-d-Loop.
The drawing will be on Friday, September 4th.