Starting and Stopping
Use the good thread when practicing. This allows you to learn how the thread you will use in your quilts will work.
When piecing a patchwork (quarter inch foot) is very helpful to help with accuracy. This allows you to line the fabric up with the edge of the foot to get that good quarter inch. Stopping needle down helps guide the pieces to where they need to be and line up with the edge of the foot.
Selecting the correct needle size for the thread used is an essential component of the machine quilting process. Needle size and thread size run in opposite directions, heavier threads have a lower number and finer threads have a higher number. If you’re using a 100 weight silk thread use a 70/11 Microtex needle; if you’re using a 30 weight thread use a 90/14 Top Stitch needle. One way to tell that your needle size is too small is popping the top thread will bubble up and stick up from the surface of the quilt. This is easily correctable with a quick needle change.
Be mindful of your shoulders as you quilt. When your shoulders and ears become one unit the tension translates into your quilting making it more and more difficult to quilt for any length of time. I find that music helps – generally listening to 50’s or 70’s as this is a rhythm that suits the speed at which I quilt. Sometimes a glass of your favorite wine (if you imbibe) helps relax your body making the whole process easier.
Wonky borders offer an opportunity to learn a simple yet effective blocking method. An ironing board, iron, pins that can be pressed, 6 x 24 ruler and either a water bottle with a spritzer or spray starch. Using the ruler as a straight edge begin by lining up and pinning the border to the ironing board. Take time to be as careful as possible to keep the line straight. Spritz the area and press (not iron) until dry. Work in small sections as necessary. Repeat if needed. This technique can be used on an open carpet area that the quilt can be pinned, without the heat, just let the quilt dry. Every once in a while it is the fabric that is just off in this case cut a new piece if you’re able. If not it might be time for a trip to the Local Quilt Shop for a quick shopping trip
When practicing machine quilting use fabric, thread and batting you would use in a quilt. This gives you the opportunity to see how each of these components will work and to note tension adjustments that are necessary. Keep a couple of fat quarters ready to quilt and practice in between some piecing.
Ironing and pressing are two different processes. Iron your clothes and yardage (move the iron around on the fabric) press your quilt blocks. With your clothes the seams will take care of fabric stretching out of shape. Pressing will help keep your fabric from warping making cutting more accurate. Pressing quilt seams will ensure easier piecing and less stretching over the surface of the quilt.
If your iron hasn’t been used in a while, be sure to run a thorough cleaning cycle prior to using the iron.
When choosing batting it’s important to know what the batting will do and how closely it needs to be quilted. Some battings 2-3″ is the most space that can be left between stitching lines and 8 – 10 on others.
Keep a needle threader and hand sewing needle right next to the sewing machine so that thread can be buried as you start and stop quilting. Burying as you go saves time and, if you’ve quilted heavily, prevents frustration of not being able to bury the thread.
Some machines have a straight stitch plate that can replace the regular plate on the machine (where the needle goes through to pick up the bobbin thread). For quilters the straight stitch plate helps keep the quilt from being pulled into the bobbin area, preventing possible damage to the quilt. Remember to change the plates when switching to a zig zag stitch to prevent damage to the sewing machine. One way to remind yourself that the straight stitch plate is on it to cover the stitch selection area with a post it note
Making Bias Binding:
Burying the thread