Jacquie from Tallgrass Prairie Studios shares part four of her Quilting Basics series today. Today Jacquie writes about how to maintain your quilting momentum, with tips on maintaining your machine, your space and even yourself! After you enjoy today’s post be sure to visit Jacquie at Tallgrass Prairie Studios for her latest quilts, and learn more about Jacquie in her Sew,Mama,Sew! Board Member intro.

And today’s Part Four: Maintaining Your Quilting Momentum

Maintain Your Momentum
We all want to make quilts, lots of them. So how do we make the most of our quilting time?

Maintain Your Machine
Experienced quilters know that the sewing machine is our lifeline to being able to work. A sewing machine in the shop is time we can’t sew. No matter if you have an expensive computerized machine, a vintage machine or anything in between, a little tender loving care will go a long way.

1. Cover your machine. Dust is the enemy of a sewing machine and with all our cutting and sewing we quilters create a lot of dust. If your machine didn’t come with a cover, spend a few minutes and make one. It doesn’t have to be fancy, but your machine will thank you.

2. Clean and oil your sewing machine regularly. How often will depend on how much you sew. Dust, fuzz and thread can and will interfere with the smooth operation of your machine. I clean and oil my machine every morning before I start to sew. Your sewing machine manual will have a section on cleaning and oiling or talk to your dealer or local repair shop for advice. These are my go to tools for sewing machine maintenance: a brush and tweezers to remove lint and thread, a mirror for checking hard to see places, and my oil bottle. Charlie works in a sewing machine repair shop. He has lots of great advice on sewing machine care on his blog.

3. Change your needle regularly. You’d be surprised how happy your machine will be with a fresh, sharp needle. Needles need to be changed after about 8 hours of sewing and sometimes more often. The signs of a dull needle are skipped stitches and puckering along seams and who wants those? You can read more about needles from Wanda and from Sew,Mama,Sew!.

Maintain Yourself
Quilting is primarily a sedentary activity and may require many repetitive movements. I’m not a doctor and this isn’t medical advice, but we can do things to maintain ourselves while we quilt.

1. Watch that rotary cutter and be awake and aware while cutting. I cut my face brushing hair out of my eyes. It can happen in an instant. Pins can be dangerous too. I’ll spare you the gory details, but suffice it to say, pins on the floor and a quilter in stocking feet (as well as small children and pets) don’t mix. Find a system for dealing with pins. Use a pincushion or pin box. Get in the habit of putting pins back where they belong as soon as you remove them. I hear that magnetic pincushions work like magic.

2. Cutting is hard on my hands and wrists. This is the Gypsy Gripper. It’s a new to me tool, but so far I’m loving it. It makes it easy to stabilize the ruler during cutting and relieves the stress on my left hand. You might want to look into it.

3. Variety is the spice of life. I try and break up my quilting tasks when I’m working in the studio for hours at a time. I cut, I sew, I press, and I play with fabric instead of cutting, sewing or quilting for hours at a time. I’ve found that my wrists, back, shoulders thank me. I’ve actually moved my ironing board into the next room. It’s not convenient, but it forces me to get up and walk throughout my time in the studio. Depending on what I’m working on, I can add a lot of steps to my pedometer!

Maintain Your Space
I’ve sewn in the dining room, in a tiny bedroom and now in a dedicated place I call my studio. No matter the size of your sewing space, an organized space will make quilting easier and faster.

1. Have dedicated spaces for your tools. It can be as simple as a shoebox, but not having to search for a seam ripper when you need one will save you time and frustration.

2. Organize your fabric. Don’t we all love to do this? I could fold fabric for hours and be a happy camper. You can organize by color, by size of cuts, by collection or any combination of those. I use Monica’s folding method. If your fabric is organized and stored where you can see it, it’s inspiring and also makes for easy fabric auditioning sessions. Try your best to keep your fabric out of direct sunlight and shelter it from dust.

3. Find a way to organize and store your scraps. Mine is pretty simple. I use laundry baskets and I color code my scraps. At the end of a sewing session I sort my leftovers by color and dump them in. AmandaJean has a great post on her method of scrap organization.

4. I love my design wall and I would highly recommend one for everyone who quilts. All you need is some flannel so that you can stick your blocks or fabric to it and stand back. You can pin it to a wall, clip it to your curtains or you can make something more permanent. I used foam core presentation boards from an office supply store. I covered mind with flannel, butted them together and attached them to the wall. Standing back from your blocks as your quilt progresses gives you a whole new perspective on your work. You will able to see value, how fabrics play together and see patterns and designs emerge that won’t be readily apparent close up.

I hope that the Basics Series has given you some hints and tips that will make your quilting easier and more fun or will set you on the road to becoming a quilter. So, sew those first two pieces of fabric together and make a quilt.

We have lots more maintenance resources in our Sewing Machine Month archives too. Check it out!

Comment in any post this week for a chance to win one of these fabulous prizes::

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