Sunday, July 25, 2010

Handy Tips for Sewing

I stumbled across this on the HGTV website the other day and there is some really useful information in this article and thought I would share this with everyone.  Here are some fabulous tips from Mark Lipinski - enjoy!

Instructions provided courtesy of quilt designer Mark Lipinski.
Organizing Your Sewing Room

Thread Spool Storage: Store thread spools in clear plastic egg cartons. These are also great for stacking.

Burn Test: To identify fabric content, burn a corner of a piece of scrap fabric (figure A) and extinguish it in a bowl of water. Cotton will feather with a light ash as it's burned; poly blend will feel like plastic when it is burned.

Paint Chip Tip: Create your own color library with complementary paint chips available at home decorating stores. Paint chips are easy to take along when shopping for fabric.

Cutting Mat Cleanup: Clean your rotary cutting mat with a napped lint-removal brush. This prevents dark or light lint from depositing on your next cut of fabric.

Stop Unraveling Threads: Cut strips from inexpensive vinyl/cling wrap and wrap it around the spool and bobbin to secure the thread.

Rotary Care: To keep your rotary cutter sharp, mark the date of the blade change with masking tape on the flat part of the cutter. When your rotary cutter starts skipping, take it apart and turn the blade, add a drop of sewing machine oil and you get double the life on your blades.

Fabric Flags: To shop for fabric economically and efficiently, determine your fabric color scheme beforehand. Write down the colors and yardage required on individual sticky notes; i.e., border=3 yards, house=2 yards, grass=1/4 yard. As you choose a fabric bolt, stick the note on the end of the bolt and take it to the cutting table; after the fabric is cut, transfer the sticky notes to the cut fabric.

Washing Small Pieces: Place fat quarters of fabric in a mesh lingerie bag (figure B) to launder. Wash your fabric with other clothing items without losing the fabric and with minimal fraying.

Organize Blocks: Purchase medium and large pizza boxes to store quilt blocks. They are easy to stack and your blocks are organized. This works especially well if fabric is cut on the bias and handling it repeatedly can cause distortion.

Portable Flannel Wall: Purchase a flannel-backed vinyl tablecloth from a dollar store or buy flannel-backed vinyl at a fabric store. Hang the portable flannel wall near the ceiling with grommets and small finishing nails.

Flannel Carriers: Cut out large pieces from a flannel-backed tablecloth and roll it up to store quilt blocks and unroll it when you're ready to work on it.

Pants Hanger: Use a pants hanger to hold your pattern book to keep it from getting lost under fabric (figure C). Another great idea: use the hanger to hold a recipe book to keep it from being soiled. Hang the pants hanger from a bulletin board, a nail in the wall or a kitchen cabinet knob.

Breath Mint Box: Make a pin holder with a recycled breath mint box and magnetic sheets. Magnetic sheets can be purchased at a craft store.

Organizing Tools: Store sewing tools in a used silverware basket taken from an old dishwasher. It can hang on a pegboard too! Also, a revolving pencil holder works like magic for tool storage (figure D).

Trading Card Holders: Buy trading card dividers for needle storage and place them in a binder (figure E). Insert needles into felt or muslin squares that have been cut to the size of the dividers. The holders can also be used to store swatches of your fabric stash (figure F).

Prescription Bottles: Store thread spools in an old prescription bottle (figure G) to prevent the thread from tangling. Burn a hole in the lid with a hot nail for ease in controlling the thread. Bobbins can also be stored this way. Store discarded needles in an old prescription bottle too--this lessens the chance for needles to get lost in the carpet and thus avoid accidents.

Bobbins and Thread: Keep spools of thread and matching bobbins together by storing together on a large golf tee (figure H). Secure the bobbin and thread together with a rubber band.

Scissors Keeper: Attach an acrylic suction cup hook on the side of the sewing machine to hang small scissors or thread clippers (figure I).

Seam Ripper Holder: Tape a pen cap to the machine to hold the seam ripper (figure J).

Felt Arrows: Cut two giant arrows from felt and attach them to the design wall. The arrow reminds you which direction the seams must be pressed.

Page Reinforcement Stickers: To identify the front side of a quilting ruler, attach self-adhesive page reinforcement circles over the holes in rulers

Basting Guns: Organize and connect quilt blocks, block pieces and paperwork together with basting guns (figure L). They are also great for quick fixes for curtains and to secure buttons.

Organize Sewing Machine Needles: Divide a tomato pincushion into sections by labeling one machine needle number per section.

Glue Sticks: Store glue sticks in the refrigerator to keep them fresh and to avoid having them dry out or mold.

Fresh Flowers for Sewing Room: This recipe will keep flowers fresh for a week. Combine 1 capful of bleach, 2 teaspoons of sugar and 1 gallon of water. The bleach kills bacteria; the sugar gives the flowers energy.

Machine Tips

Stop Fabric Diving: Buy a single stitch plate for your sewing machine instead of using a slotted zigzag plate. It will be easier to begin new seams without the fabric sinking into the notch. In a pinch, use transparent tape to create a smaller hole.

Finger Traction: To improve traction for sliding fabric, use gardener's gloves, tips of rubber gloves, rubber fingertips or finger cots. Another tip: Use Sortkwik Fingertip Moistener or a similar gel product from an office supply store.

Avoiding Hunched Shoulders: Prop your sewing machine forward with inexpensive rubber doorstops (figure A).

Walking Sewing Machine and Foot Pedals: Place a rubber shelf liner, rubber bathtub liner or rubber place mat or mouse pad under your sewing machine and foot pedal to keep them stationary (figure B).

How to Achieve a 1/4" Seam: Align and attach moleskin, masking tape, electrical tape, sticky notes or even a magnet to the 1/4-inch guide (figure C).

Bobbin Case Maintenance: Never blow into your bobbin case as moisture can damage it. A feather, chenille pipe cleaner, child's paintbrush (figure D) or canned air is usually more effective than the small brushes that come with the sewing machine.

Threading Machine Needle: Libby Lehman's tip is to thread the needle by sliding the thread along the groove on the needle and it will thread into place. Another tip: Dip the tip of the thread into clear nail polish or take the needle out of the machine to thread it. Or try wetting the needle and not the thread.

Prevent Ruler Slipping: To prevent your ruler from slipping while cutting your fabric, squirt hot-glue dots onto the ruler to secure in place (figure E). (Hot-glue dots are easily removed.) Sandpaper dots work the same way. Create your own with sandpaper and a hole punch to keep ruler from slipping when cutting fabric. Plastic cling wrap can also be used to prevent slipping.

Measurement Guide: Use inexpensive electrical tape or masking tape as a guide for ruler measurements. If you are rotary cutting a quantity of strips, such as 2-1/4" widths, place masking tape at the bottom of the acrylic ruler. The tape nudges the edge of the fabric and ensures the correct measurement.

Breaking Thread: To moisturize old, dry thread and reduce breaking, place the spool in a plastic bag, spray lightly with water and refrigerate overnight.

See Dark Edges: Place a white or colored piece of paper under dark fabrics when rotary cutting on a dark mat so you can see the fabric edges more clearly.

Do It Yourself and Save

Iron With Joy: Make your own lavender water and save a mint (this is my most popular tip)! Combine 2 cups of distilled water, 2 ounces of cheap vodka and 15 to 20 drops of 100 percent essential oil of lavender (available at health food stores) or another scent. Add lavender water to iron and enjoy the aroma.

Age Spots on Quilts: To brighten colors and remove age spots and yellow discoloration from quilts, combine 1 gallon of water and 1 quart of buttermilk with 1 tablespoon lemon juice (figure A). Soak the quilt in this liquid and hand-wash with a mild soap for a reconditioned bright quilt. The natural ingredients are safe with no danger of damaging the quilt.

Homemade Spray Starch: Boil 1 quart of water. Dissolve 4 tablespoons of liquid starch into 2 cups of cold water; add to boiling water and return to a boil, then remove from heat immediately; add 2 more cups of cold water. Starch should be clear and not milky. Place it in a mist spray bottle (figure B) and store in the refrigerator. This is extremely cost-effective--only 2 cents a quart. Clean the iron with a wet terry towel.

Displaying Unfinished Quilt Tops: Iron a long strip of freezer paper to the wrong side of the border's edge. This also prevents unraveling.

Strip Piecing Time-Saver: Organize and store cut fabric strips by hanging them on an over-the-door towel rack or a wooden or plastic drying rack.

Pin Magnets: Pick up loose pins quickly with a flat refrigerator magnet, rather than buying expensive magnet wands. Tape a magnet to your sewing machine to pick up/secure pins.

Eraser: Erase snippets of thread after seam ripping with a Pink Pearl eraser or pencil eraser.

Stilettos: Instead of buying expensive stilettos for sewing, use either a cuticle stick, kabob (bamboo) skewer (figure C) or a pick-up stick.

Reducing Glasses: Instead of purchasing an expensive reducing glass, buy a door peephole from the hardware store. Or look through your binoculars backward or use a camera lens to view the quilt. Alex Anderson suggests putting your back to the quilt and using a hand mirror to view it (figure D)!

Cheap Templates: Glass supply stores or automobile glass replacement shops can make Plexiglas templates. Transparent squares and triangles are easy and perfect for fussy cutting a large quilt (figure E).

Budget Buying: Use a permanent fabric marker to write the name of the fabric collection, the style and color numbers, the quilt shop of purchase and the price per yard on the selvage of the fabric--just in case you run out and need the exact fabric to complete your quilting project.

Fusible Webbing: Use parchment paper instead of expensive fusible sheets. It will save money and also prevents glue from adhering to the iron's surface.

Cleaning Your Iron: To remove starch burns, fusible webbing or plastic, run a hot iron over salt on a brown paper bag (figure F). If the iron is Teflon coated, run it over salt on used or new dryer sheets.

Pinpointing Your Hand-Quilting Place: Tie a milk bottle cap with holes punched into it and sew it in place where you last stitched (figure G). Untie the cap and begin quilting. It's a big time-saver!

Mark Lipinski
Quilt Designer
The Quilts of Pickle Road
13 Pickle Rd.
Califon, NJ 07830
Phone: 908-876-1208

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