Thursday, September 27, 2012

7 Secrets to Successful Quilting

Hi everyone:

You've got your pattern, the perfect fabric and you're ready to sit down and start stitching - or are you? There are a few things you can do before you start sewing to ensure you'll have a good result. Before you put the pedal to the metal, review the following 7 tips to successful quilting for a good start!

Clean and oil your machine 

  • Yes, this does need to be done every once in awhile. You know all that lint that comes off the fabric as you sew? Well, some of it is stuck under the needle plate (no, that's not a felt pad under there) and around the bobbin area. Yes, it is! I use a small craft paintbrush to clean out under my needle plate and around my bobbin area. 
Brush out the bobbin area with a small paintbrush
I put a few drops of machine oil on my needle bar (and any other areas indicated in my sewing machine manual) and then in the bobbin race. I then run the machine for a minute or sew so without any thread in it to work the oil through. I then wipe off any excess with a cloth. Remember to use sewing machine oil, not a generic oil, which will cause more problems than good. While I'm at it, I might just wipe down the outside body of my machine with a damp cloth or a Swiffer cloth just so it looks nice and shiny before I start. 
A little drop or two of oil in the bobbin area ...
and on the needle bar

Put in a new needle 
  • You'd think these things were the most expensive part of quilting, but they're not (you do buy fabric, don't you?)! Needles are cheap and are inserting a new needle with each project is one of the simplest things to do to ensure you're going to have a great sewing experience. If you can't remember the last time you changed your needle, it't time to do it. Make sure you're using the right needle for your project: I usually use an 80/12 Microtex sharp for piecing. Stick that baby in right after you've finished cleaning your machine.
My personal choice for piecing is the 80/12 Microtex Sharp needle
Wind a few bobbins
  • I like to use a 50/3 weight cotton thread for piecing in either a cream or light grey, so I'll wind a bobbin or two before I start stitching. If I don't use all of them up for this project, I'll have them ready for the next one. This keeps me from having to stop to wind bobbins partway through my project.
Wind some bobbins before you start piecing
Check your bobbin tension 
  • I find that I might need to adjust my bobbin tension, especially if I've been using a different thread in it. Hold the thread tail that comes out of the bobbin and let the bobbin drop down. Does it continue running across your studio floor - a little too loose, so tighten it up. If the bobbin doesn't drop at all, but clings stubbornly to the thread tail, you'll need to loosen it a bit. Ideally, the bobbin will drop a bit each time you jerk up on the thread.
Tighten or loosen the little screw for perfect bobbin tension
Thread your machine
  • An obvious one, I know, but still it is required! You've put in a new needle, so now you'll have to re-thread your machine. Make sure you do it correctly. I know you're wondering how you could not thread your machine correctly, well... If you have several machines, it's easy to get confused about the thread path. One of my machines has an extendable thread guide and I've been known to start stitching without running the thread through the guide and without extending it. The imperfect stitching usually twigs me to this problem. Take out your machine manual and find the page that tells you how to thread your machine. Then do it.
Thread your machine properly - check your manual if you are unsure
Read through the pattern
  • I know you want to just start stitching, but trust me, you don't want to miss this step. Make sure you have all the fabric that is required and the tools you'll need. Reading the pattern also ensures that you understand the technique(s) that will be used. If this is a new technique for you, maybe you'll want to make a test block or two before you start to ensure you understand the process. 
Read through the pattern before you start sewing
Assemble your materials 
  • Much like cooking, you need to have all your ingredients materials with you at your machine before you start. After having read through the pattern (you do remember the previous step, don't you?), you'll now know exactly what you need for this project. If you need to prepare anything before starting, do it now. You might want to pre-wash your fabric before using it in your project. You might even need to buy more fusible web if you're running low on it. Now's the time to address all these issues. Having everything you need assembled before you start will allow you to jump right into that project and just keep stitching - until the chocolate and/or coffee runs out!
Gather your supplies together before you start the project
Have you completed all 7 steps? Then you should be ready to start your project. Oh, wait, there's just one more thing - have fun! 

Email me or leave a comment telling me your secrets to successful quilting. I'd love to hear them.


Kari @ The Purple Quiltapotamus said...

Awesome tips! Thank you so much - I really need to get on step 1!!

Chatterbox Quilts said...

Thanks, Kari. Yup, we always want to skip the basics, don't we? I just want to quilt! :)