Yes, I know all we want to do is create and sew. But… if you don’t take care of your tools like your rulers, cutting mat and sewing machine, the fun can be cut short. There are times I have been a bit lax on some of these tasks, especially if I am trying to get a project done. I recommend not putting things off if you can. The best time to do it is before beginning a project, survey your area and your tools and take care of maintenance then so your sewing experience is not interrupted. So let’s get started with my tips!
Cutting Mat Care
Tip# 1 – Storage: One of the first things you can do to keep your cutting mat in good shape is to store it properly when not in use, especially if you do not have a dedicated cutting area where your mat can always lay out flat. If you don’t have a dedicated cutting area where it can be kept flat, make sure it’s stored flat, like under a bed or on a large shelf, if you have the space. If you are short on space, another way to store mats is by hanging them in a closet from clip hangers.
I folded a strip of scrap batting over the top of the mat where the hanger clips clamp on so there is no indentations made in the mat. This is a great space saving way to store your mats if you have a limited size sewing area.
Tip #2 Cleaning: Another cutting mat care tip is to keep it clean. 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 a lint roller that you use to remove pet hair from clothing would work too!
- Finally, you can moisturize your mat to keep it supple and healthy. Put 1/4 cut of white vinegar per gallon of cool water in a tub and soak the mat for about 15 minutes. Use a very soft toothbrush to remove the fiber bits. You can also add in a few drops of mild dish soap. Rinse with cool water, gently towel dry or lay it flat on a towel for drying.
Tip #3 – Usage: When you are using your mat, try not to continuously cut in the same place when you are cutting fabric. Yes, 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. Taking care of your self-healing mat will make it last for years longer than expected. Finally, try to keep your mat from direct sunlight or extreme temperature changes. Definitely never iron on your cutting mat.
Many quilters only think about their rulers when they want to use them. But they do need to be maintained just like your cutting mat and sewing machine.
- Clean your rulers periodically by dusting with a soft cloth. Do not use anything abrasive like paper towels that can scratch the ruler surface and make the markings harder to read. Also don’t use any cleaning solution with bleach or ammonia. If you need to use a cleaning solution, use those that are meant for plexiglass.
- Store your rulers, like your cutting mat, away from direct sunlight and not in areas of your home with extreme temperature changes.
- Finally, make sure to store your rulers securely. If you drop them or they fall from a storage area, they will chip or break. I hang my rulers on a peg board that you can find at any hardware store. Mine was meant for a garage, but it works in my sewing room.
If you don’t have a dedicated sewing space, you can store your rulers flat on a shelf or under a bed. Just make sure to dust them off with a soft cloth before use.
Sewing Machine Care
Making sure your machine is ready for every time you want to sit down and sew is not hard to do. The main thing I recommend is to have it serviced every year, preferably at the shop where it was purchased. This yearly service is a good thing because the service person can get into the machine like you can’t (and shouldn’t) to make sure it’s clean internally and the parts are all in working order.
What you can do between yearly check-ups is a simple cleaning step that takes minutes. I do it every time I refill a bobbin or after I have just completed stitching a project. Your machine should have a small brush that came with it along with machine oil.
Here’s some photos of me cleaning may machine (inspected by Addie!). Be sure to drop your feed dogs before you take the throat plate off.
Be sure to use the brush that came with your machine or you can use a small make-up 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!
Once you are done cleaning, follow the instructions in your owner’s manual on oiling the necessary parts. If you do this between check-ups, your machine will not let you down.
Finally, I recommend not sewing over pins. Some quilters claim their machine is fine doing that and that some pins are fine enough to allow this practice. However, besides breaking needles, you can do actual damage to your machine if the pin is pushed down into the throat plate. You can also disrupt the timing. Trust me, I speak from experience! Take the time to stop before a pin and pull it out before continuing to sew a seam.
Have any tips to share? Comment below with them or ask any questions you may have. Keep your sewing room tools clean and ready to go for a fun sewing experience! This week, I’m giving away one of my favorite patterns, Scrappy Catz!
The drawing will be on Monday, June 27th. Good luck!