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Tips, Tricks & Techniques

One thing I've been seeing in the last few weeks is problems with stitch quality. Many of these problems are caused from an over-abundance of oil. While I encourage you to oil your machine on a regular basis, remember....more is NOT better. One drop goes a long way in keeping your machine humming! Not sure how much or where to oil? Stop in and I'll be happy to show you exactly what your machine needs to keep her happy!

Spray starch is our friend when it comes to quilting! Before I start cutting my fabric, I always spray my fabric with starch and then iron it. Even though I use 100% cotton fabric in my quilts, not all cottons are created equal. Some have a looser weave than others, causing them to pull differently than those with a tighter weave. Using spray starch makes everyone equal. It gives a nice crisp finish, keeps everyone from pulling and makes rotary cutting easier! But what to do to protect our ironing board cover? I use an old king sized pillow case. I slide it over my ironing board and spray to my heart’s content. When it starts to get a little stiff, I whisk it off and throw it in the wash. Perfect!

The last couple weeks have seen bobbin thread issues....poor tension in the bobbin thread, machines stopping during sewing and giving the "check bobbin thread" warning on the screen, or the little brush being shown on the screen. The most common cause of these symptoms is the bobbin itself has been put in backwards. Remember, when holding the bobbin in your left hand, the thread must go over the top of the bobbin and the free end is in your right hand. Place the bobbin in the bobbin case and after threading it, pull on the thread and the bobbin should have a clockwise rotation. If it doesn't, you've put it in backwards. Clean the bobbin area thoroughly with a brush and make sure all thread and lint are removed. This is a simple thing to check that may keep you from having to make an emergency 911 call to your favorite local tech.

When you're on the hunt for additional fabrics for a project try this clever tip. Safety pin swatches of fabric you need to match on a key ring to take along when you shop. Use a separate pin for each project. No more wondering what you have! Thanks, Fons and Porter!!

Just a reminder, ladies! When you finish winding a bobbin, remove the thread from the spool pin if you are not using it to sew with. It is so easy for the end of the thread to make its way to the hand wheel and get wrapped around it. The thread can even make its way into the machine and get snarled up around the motor! Not a good thing! Either scenario will a require a trip to your local tech. This can also apply to the use of a multi-spool holder. Once you are finished with a color, pull the loose thread from the overhead thread guide and wrap the loose end around the spool and secure it. You may think it's a long way from the end of the thread to the hand wheel, but it isn't. It won't be long before the two shall meet and your machine ends up in a jam! Take this tip to heart and you won't have your precious sewing time interrupted. Happy Stitching!

Make the binding for your quilt as you work on the top. When the quilt is complete, sometimes weeks or months later, the binding is ready to use. Place the binding in a small storage bag with a label. Another plus to doing this is you won't have to hunt for your binding fabric when it's time to finish your quilt.

Melinda sent in this tip: When embroidering, keep a small wipe-off board by your machine to note the numbers of any alignment changes you make. If something goes awry, you can easily reset the design after you correct the problem and restart the machine. You can also use it for listing thread colors that are running low and other notions you need to purchase.

MaryAnn Wolfe shared this great tip with us: Whenever you get a new credit card, and you need to cut up the old one, carefully cut the name out, leaving plenty of room around it. Punch a hole in one end of it and using a ribbon, or bead chain attach it to your scissors or rotary cutter. This way you'll never lose them when taking them to class. Thanks for this great tip, MaryAnn!!

Many of you have embroidery units for your machines, and have been putting them to work making all kinds of wonderful projects. You may even be venturing out into the world of specialty threads and bobbin work. A stitch-out with those wonderful threads allows you to see what you're getting before you ever put it on your garment or quilt.

Prepare a sample sandwich of fabric and stabilizer, and light color fabric, cut to fit your large hoop. Keep this sandwich nearby, and when you are ready to try a new thread, put this sandwich in the hoop and do a partial stitch out of your design. You will be able to see what the thread will look like, and if there are any tension issues that need to be corrected, you write the changes you made on the back fabric. You could keep samples sandwiches made from the different fabrics you embroider on......tee shirt, woven, fleece, etc. And since you aren't stitching out the whole design, you can use your sandwich over and over until it's filled with lots of different samples. Once the sandwich is filled, put it in an embroidery hoop and hang it on your sewing room wall. You'll always have those samples close at hand.

Nothing is more fun and rewarding than making something special for those we love. As a "Mimi," my heart swells with joy and I get a lump in my throat when Ana (our 3yr. old grand-daughter) says, "Mimi, will you make this for me?" Whenever I go to Target or Wal-Mart, I always go to the children's department and pick up those cute, plain tee shirts and shorts/pants. They are embroidery ready, and the price is right. I get a quick fix in the creativity department and my grand- kids get a darling one-of-a-kind outfit!

However, embroidering on tee shirts can be a trick, so here's a tip that should help you achieve the kind of results you want.

Since tee shirts are usually made from light weight knits, it's usually best to balance the type and weight of the design with the fabric, therefore really dense designs don't work that great on tee shirts. If you have some designs that are a little less dense or that has a light and airy feel to them, they will work great on tee-shirts. Use Poly Mesh Cut Away stabilizer to make the design feel good and drape well. Poly Mesh is a softer weave so it feels nice against your skin.

So, get yourself a tee shirt and give this a try! Happy Embroidering!!

The skinny on thread Part II. Last week we talked about the different terms used when talking about thread. Staple, Ply, Roll, and Twist give you specific information about the thread you are using. This week we will talk about weights/sizes of threads.

Weight refers to the size of the thread. Tho' this is not a scientific standard, it is the standard that we are used to using. Weight was first used for natural fiber threads, like cotton. If it took 40 yards of a thread to weigh a pound, then that thread was given the weight of 40. If it took 60 yards then the weight was 60. The larger the number, the finer the thread. Since this was the standard at one time, weight continued to be used even tho' this is not accurate for the different fibers we now have available. Most general purpose sewing threads, like Mettler, are a 40 wt thread. King Tut is also a 40 wt. thread. When you compare the two, the King Tut looks and feels heavier because it's a 3 ply, while the Mettler Silk Finish Cotton is 2 ply. Since this isn't an exact measurement, your best standard to use is your eyes and your fingers. How does it look and feel to you.

When you look on the spool you will often see the numbers appear as: 40/3. The first number is the weight of the thread and the second number is the ply (the number of strands twisted together to make a single thread.) The question you need to ask yourself when choosing a thread for a project is: What are you making and do you want the thread to show. If you do want the thread to show, then you should use a 30 or 40 weight. If you don't want the thread to be seen, then use a 50 or 60 weight.

Wearable art embellishment has necessitated the creation and marketing of many new thread types, such as rayon’s and metallics. Fiber - refers to the type of material used to produce the thread. Some commonly used threads: · Polyester 2 ply - such as Metrosene 100. Good for clothing construction on man-made, natural or blended fabrics. Will tolerate heat up to 450° Fahrenheit. · Polyester 3 ply cordonnet - topstitching or buttonhole twist -such as Mettler 30/3. · Cotton 2 ply - such as Mettler 60/2 - excellent for French Machine Sewing, delicate machine embroidery, piecing and darning. · Cotton 2 ply - such as Mettler 30/2 - loose twist for a soft, shiny look in machine embroidery, appliqué, and buttonholes. · Cotton 3 ply - such as Mettler 50/3 - excellent for clothing construction on natural fibers. Tighter twist than embroidery cotton thread and less puckering on problem fabrics. Cotton thread stretches less than polyester. · Rayon - a lustrous embroidery thread. Weaker than cotton, it is used for decorative work only. · Polyester 2 ply embroidery thread - Isacord and Polysheen embroidery thread - excellent for embroidery, very abrasion resistant.

The last thing we must think about when talking about thread is thread storage. Thread does wear out and should be stored with care to keep it usable as long as possible. Extreme moisture may cause thread to swell while very dry conditions can leave it dry and brittle as it ages. Store thread in a covered container (thread box with a lid, cabinet with doors, or drawers that close) if possible to keep it dust-free. Be wary of old spools of thread recovered from Grandma's sewing box. While they may look like they are in perfect condition, the fibers may be so weak and brittle that even if it sews into a seam, it may be so unstable that the garment or project will not hold together and the life of the project may be considerably shortened. These old spools are better used as a display in an antique glass jar.

So, there's the skinny on threads. I hope this info has increased your knowledge so that when you decide to try some of the new threads that are on the market, your decision will be a little easier.

The skinny on. Thread As seamstresses and quilters, knowing about those basic notions that we use on a daily basis is extremely important. What we use and how we use it will determine how our quilt or garment will turn out...whether a prize-winner or a prize "flop!" Thread is one of those basic notions that we need to consider. One that has come a long way in the last 10 years what with the different types, weights and uses. The following info is a little refresher on Threads.

Poor quality or the wrong type of thread can cause poor stitches on any machine. Thread passes through the eye of the needle approximately 37 times in a "seesaw" action before it forms a single stitch. Poor quality thread results in crooked and looped stitches, puckered seams, frayed thread, and/or needle breakage. To achieve quality stitches, a sewing machine needs three things: correct thread, correct size needle, and properly adjusted thread tensions. Several factors such as the fiber, twist, ply, finish, and size of thread must be considered for use with today's fabrics for fine stitches.

Staple - refers to the length of fibers used to twist together to form a single ply. Domestic thread fiber lengths are usually 1½" to 2½" long, while European threads use 5½" to 6½" lengths.

Ply - number of strands twisted together to make a single thread.

Roll - the tendency of thread to roll to the right or left during stitching, causing the stitch to appear slightly crooked. Poor quality threads are more likely to roll.

Twist - the crimping of fibers which causes them to interlock firmly into a single ply. Thread should not untwist during stitching. This will cause skipped stitches, thread breakage, crooked stitches, and weak spots in seams.

Right twist - most American threads are twisted to the right, causing some rolling. This gives average stitch quality. Left twist - Most commercial and imported threads are twisted to the left, giving better than average stitch quality. Left twist resists rolling and makes a larger loop for the hook point to enter, reducing skipped stitches. Threads made in Germany are left twist threads; Mettler and Isacord threads are also left twist. To test the twist of a thread: while holding the spool in the left hand, roll the strand of thread towards you with one thumb. Left twist will tighten, right twist will loosen.

Removing your needle plate on your serger to clean under it is a grand idea. However, when you put the plate back on you need to make sure that it is aligned. The way to align it is: Put your needle plate back on. Before you tighten the screws put all the needles in your machine and lower them into the down position. This will put them in the needle openings in the needle plate. If you need to you can now shift the needle plate slightly from side to side or front to back centering the needles as close to center as possible. Once they are in the center position, tighten your screws! Voila! A clean and happy serger!

We've got a great embroidery tip that will make embroidering on towels, fleece and tee-shirts easier. Instead of using an Aqua-Film topping (the one that looks like saran wrap), try using an Aqua-Mesh Wash Away instead. The Aqua-Mesh is soft, not sticky so your embroidery foot won't stick to it. Your foot glides over the Aqua-Mesh Wash Away giving you ease of use and fantastic results. Why not give it a try!!

One of the very best things you can do for your machine is change the needle!! Yes, your heard right. The recommended sewing time for each needle is 8 hours! Yes....8 hours. Timing problems occur when a needle gets dull. A dull needle causes the machine to pound the needle through the fabric because the point is gone or a burr has occurred. When a needle is new it glides through the layers of fabric, creating beautiful stitches. The cost of a new needle is minimal compared with the cost of repair and or the initial expense of your machine.

Lining up your material from one end to the other. We all use pins down the side to make sure we are even on the edges that will be sewn. Another place to pin is at the bottom with pins that will go horizontal; you will line up the material to the bottom edge (you can do this at the top also if you have trouble getting it to stay straight). This will ensure that (hopefully) you are square to the piece you are adding. If you are not sure what I am saying let me know and I will do a show
and tell. From Martha Layman

Use a 5 rod pants hanger to keep your rolls of stabilizer neat and easy to get to. Roll the special instructions and slide them inside the roll. This way you will have them all together and this will free up some space on table tops or cabinets.

Do you have unfinished projects that are hidden away in a drawer or the bottom of the closet? Would you finish more if you could see them? Using a 3 or 5 rod skirt hanger, put each unfinished project in a clear project pouch and then clip them to the skirt hanger. Hang this in your project closet. You will be able to see what needs finishing, and that added incentive will see some projects finished! Yippee!!

For used needle (or pin) disposal, use an empty (and washed) spice bottle. You can lift the part of the lid either for shaking or spooning to drop the needle in without having to open the container. When it's full, it can safely go in the trash with the lid securely shut and nobody gets hurt. (And if you want to hang a picture using an old needle, you can unscrew the lid and take one out... I guess hanging pictures and other wall art with used machine needles is a second tip, huh??) I haven't tried it yet, but I'm thinking that a larger container (like a big spice container from Sam's) would work well for used rotary cutter blades. I presently use an empty yogurt container with a lid for that. From Sharon Doublin-Knights

When embroidering on a towel, fleece, sweater or anything with a nap be sure and use 2 layers of cut- away stabilizer on the back and an aqua film topping on top. The cut-away will keep your fabric from stretching and the topping will keep those stitches from sinking down into the fibers and getting lost.

Using the correct stabilizers will allow you to end up with a better finished product that looks great and lasts longer. Make the most of your embroidery time and let those stabilizers do their job!


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