• Marlene Starkman

10 Tips for New Quilters

Updated: Nov 30, 2020

Most of us who quilt started their sewing doing something else. I'm of the generation that was lucky enough to have Home Ec in high school where I learned the basics. My first project was a simple tote bag, which I am glad I didn't keep; it was awful. I wasn't that interested in sewing growing up. My grandmother was always at her treadle machine, but it seemed like she was only ever doing repairs for other people.

It wasn't until I was in my 40s that a neighbour introduced me to quilting. And well, there has been no going back!

Below is a selection of tips I wish I knew when I started quilting. I am sure many of you have more and I'd love to know them. Please feel free to use the comment box to share your best tips.

  1. Clean your machine often! You'd be surprised how much lint collects in the bobbin case and under the throat plate. Flannel is the worst for collecting "dust bunnies". Get into a habit -- maybe at the beginning of each day. Or the start of each project. One suggestion is to wind 3 bobbins at a time, and when they are empty, it's time to clean and oil.

  2. Don’t use compressed air to clean your machine. Canned air contains moisture, which can cause rust and lint to get into places that will require professional cleaning.

  3. Pipe cleaners or makeup brushes work well to clean your bobbin case.

  4. When changing your thread, always cut the thread in front of the tension discs and pull the thread through the needle, not backwards. Pulling thread backwards can leave small fibres behind and damage your tension.

  5. My machine has a needle threader, but no matter how much I try, I'm always threading my needle by hand. Not always easy, but if you hold a piece of white paper behind the needle it makes it easier to see the hole and thread.

  6. Sewing can be an expensive hobby. The cheapest supply for quilting is your machine needle— it's important to change them regularly. Needles dull as they are used. They develop striations and burrs. This not only affects your sewing—skipped stitches, fabric puckering, uneven seams, but it can also damage your machine.

  7. When you're changing a needle, put a piece of paper down covering the hole in your throat plate in case you drop it.

  8. A dull seam ripper can tear your fabric. Buy yourself a new one every birthday. Seam rippers are not all made the same. Buy the best you can afford.

  9. Most new machines are expensive and include expensive electronics. It is worthwhile buying a high-end surge protector instead of plugging your machine straight into the wall outlet.

  10. A 1/4" foot is an essential quilting tool. But don't assume your 1/4" foot is a true quarter inch. Do a test strip to verify and if needed, mark the edge of your machine plate or use a ruler with seam guides.

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