Some of us are expert/master quilters. Some of us are just getting started. Some of us (me) have been quilting for 28 years and still feel like a beginner.
If you’re a Newbie (or a kind-of-Newbie), I have some tips you may just want to consider employing when you get ready to begin quilting your next project.
Some of this information may be old-hat to you. Maybe you’re already using ALL these tips. But, if you’re not and/or haven’t before, now is the time to start!
- USE A WALKING FOOT
- A walking foot is a specialized foot you can attach to your sewing machine (temporarily replacing the one you use for piecing/sewing). It will help you in so many ways. To begin with, the walking foot …bounces… sort of, as it moves along AND it grips and pushes your quilting project as it goes. In other words, the walking foot helps to FEED your project through the machine at an even and balanced pace. This helps with thread tension; it keeps your fabric from bunching; and, it helps lift and move the quilt, which gives your hands and arms a small amount of relief. A regular sewing machine foot will do none of that.
- USE HEAVIER NEEDLE
- Sewing Machine needles come in a VAST variety of sizes. You might not know (or care) about this. But, you should. In the U.S., the sizing starts at 8—very dainty and fine; and goes up to 19—used for heavy denim and canvas. (Sizes: 8, 9, 10, 11, 12, 14, 16, 18, 19)
- I personally use a 10 or 11 for piecing. They’re sharp enough to get through a couple pieces of fabric (like block pieces) and the seams that come along with that, without tearing up the fabric and making huge gaping holes. However, when it comes time to actually quilt the project, it’s time to go up in size. Just a bit. I normally use a 14 for quilting. Sometimes, if the fabric is heavier or lighter, I may go up to a 16 or down to a 12.
- Don’t forget: When you get to the quilting part of your project, you’re going to be sewing through your top piece, batting and a back piece. That’s a lot of work for a little tiny needle. So, don’t use a tiny needle. Use a 12, 14 or 16. They’re the ones right for the job.
- As a side note: If you really want to get to the finer point of things… use a quilting needle. YES! They do make such a thing. They have heavier shafts and sharper points—to get through all those different layers. Look for them in your local quilt shop or specialty store.
- CHANGE YOUR NEEDLES OFTEN
- Speaking of needles… Believe it or not it DOES make a difference. Needles are like tiny little knives. Think about your kitchen knives. When you use them over and over and over what happens to them? They get dull. It makes using them harder and harder to do. Needles work the same way. You’re using them over and over and over.
- Let’s say your quilt is 64 inches long (that’s about the size of a lap quilt). And, let’s say you’re going to stitch in rows—top to bottom—across your quilt. Let’s say you’re going to make 25 rows. And, (one last “let’s say”…) Let’s say your machine is set to make 12 stitches per inch. Do the math:
- 12 (stitches per inch) X 64 (inches, long row from top to bottom = 768 Stitches per row.
- 768 (Stitches per row) X 25 (vertical rows across the quilt) = 19,200 stitches.
- That’s Nineteen thousand two hundred times your needle will be “cutting” into your fabric. And that’s only if you quilt JUST vertically. If you add another 25 rows horizontally…wow. Too much math for me.
- Your needle is going to get dull. You should change your needle AT LEAST twice during the quilting of your quilt if you’re using a domestic machine. I sometimes change mine three or four times. It just depends on the size of the quilt and how well my machine and I are getting along during the process.
- WEAR QUILTING GLOVES
- Can I be honest? For years, I thought the use of quilting gloves was silly. What in the world was the point? Little did I know! These things are great! They have little grippy-thingies on the fingertips and some have them on the palms of the gloves. They are so helpful! I can’t imagine what I ever did without them!
These are some of the tips I’ve been given over the years and I have found them to be INCREDIBLY useful!
Tell me. What tips would you give a Newbie?