Since we’re only a few weeks into the new year when everyone is already breaking their New Year’s resolutions (LOL), I thought this would be a good time to talk about some quilting bad habits. We don’t realize it, but sometimes we drift into repeatedly doing something as we are quilting that we actually shouldn’t do. I’ll talk about some things I used to do and what I do now for a “good practice”. As the saying goes “practice makes perfect”. If you work on ditching the bad habits and replacing them with good practices… eventually that bad habit will be gone for good…. we hope!
Of course, this is not an exhaustive list of all the bad habits we quilters acquired. I’d like you to share in the comments something you feel is a bad quilting habit of yours and how you’ve broken away from that (if you have!). Here we go!
Sewing Machine Habits
Many of us quilters spend a lot of money on a good sewing machine. That’s why it’s a good idea to break all bad habits when it comes to your machine. I’ve done posts in the past about machine maintenance and I’ll repeat it here. Clean and oil your machine, especially after each sewing project.
I even use the little brush to clean above the presser foot. Lint collects up there too. If you get into the habit of doing this after every project, your machine will keep humming along. Also, please bring your machine to the shop for a check-up every year. I consider this a “well check” just like when I go to the doctor for a physical. This will help to catch a minor problem with your machine before it turns into something major. When I just started quilting and had an older, less expensive machine, I didn’t follow this advice but I should have. A machine of any price & quality will last longer with good maintenance.
When you are unthreading your machine, never pull it out from the top of your machine. This is something I did not know could cause a problem until it did for me. Pulling your thread out from the top of your machine can cause problems with the tension disks that are located where my finger is pointing on my machine.
The proper way to unthread your machine is to snip the thread at the top of your machine near the spool and then pull the thread out from the needle area:
Two final tips:
- My favorite advice to give is for you to pin all your seams for accurate piecing… that’s a must. But, avoid sewing over pins! I know there are really thin pins that people say you can sew over, but, take it from me, doing this can throw off the timing on your machine. Then you will have the take your machine in for a costly repair. This did happen to me.
- ALWAYS remove your foot from your foot pedal when your hands are anywhere near your machine needle. Even if you are quickly readjusting something you are stitching. Foot pedals are very sensitive and if you accidentally touch it when your fingers are by the needle, you can send a needle through your finger and end up with a costly ER visit putting an end to your sewing day.
Fabric & Cutting, etc.
Measure twice, cut once is not only a saying used in construction. It’s important in cutting your fabrics for a quilt project. We all know how expensive fabric is, so making it a habit to measure carefully will end up saving you money.
A tip to help with accurate measuring is to use some painter’s tape to mark the ruler line you are currently using. This has saved me a lot of time when cutting many strips of the same width because I am not searching for the line on the ruler before each cut.
Next tip: before cutting pieces for a project make it a habit to press your fabric well to remove creases and be sure to square it up properly. This will also insure accurate cutting, especially of strips. Here’s my mini video on squaring up.
When I first began quilting, I wasn’t taught to square my fabric and I ended up with a lot of curved strips. Now it’s a habit that I perform, without even thinking sometimes, with every new piece of fabric I pull from my stash.
Speaking of cutting… make it a habit to never leave your rotary cutter open and laying on your cutting table. It’s easy to knock it off and hit a part of your body or you can accidentally grab the blade portion of the cutter if you’re not looking as you reach for it. The cutter has a lock on it for a reason (photo below)! I made it a habit to close and lock my cutter every time I put it down, even as I move my ruler to cut another strip.
Use other safety items and practices when using the rotary cutter. I speak from experience here! I cut off a tip of my index finger several years ago when my cutter skipped across my ruler. Here’s some additional safety practices to make habits:
- Use “klutz” gloves and a safety shield on your rulers.
- Hold the cutter and ruler correctly while cutting. This will help in avoiding the cutter slipping and hitting your hand. It also helps with cutting accuracy … so bonus!
On the left, by tenting my hand instead of laying flat on the ruler keeps it from shifting. On the right, holding the cutter flat against the ruler instead of tilted out keeps your cut accurate.
And make it a habit to change your blade! If you notice that you have to press down harder to make a cut go through all the fabric thickness or it skips and cuts some areas but not others, that means you blade is dull. A dull blade can also lead to cutting errors and even accidents.
Final Good Habit to Develop
Always clean up your cutting and sewing areas after finishing a project. This is something I am still working on. As you can see …
These are scraps from two projects. I should get these sorted and stored. If you start with a clean cutting area, you will be focused only on the current project, instead of obsessing over the pile of scraps. Also, you need the space to cut! Another bonus to cleaning your space and organizing your fabrics, you won’t buy fabric you already own… unless you want to.
So that’s it for this week. Share with me some of your bad habits or good quilting practices in the comments below. We may all learn something new.