Tag Archives: Fabric preparation

Be Prepared!

Be prepared… for what? For sewing and quilting, for mishaps and disasters, for the disposition of your stash and equipment when you can’t use it anymore. There are ways to prepare for all of these things.

There are a number of steps to take when preparing to start a new project. Of course you need to choose the project or pattern and decide on fabric. (Actually, for a lot of my projects I decide these things as I go, so I don’t necessarily do them before beginning.)

Prepare your fabric.
I always wash mine when I get it home from the store. I’m sensitive to chemicals and also prefer the feel of washed fabric. When I take care of it right away, it is ready to use from my stash. I use laundry detergent that is free of perfumes and dyes, and I don’t use fabric softeners in the washer or dryer. If you are quilting for anyone with sensitive skin, including infants or sick people, these are sensible steps.

Before cutting, I press carefully with a hot steam iron, because cutting is more accurate on flat fabric. Accurate cutting is the first step to accurate piecing.

Prepare your space and equipment.
When’s the last time you changed your rotary cutter blade? Like knives, rotary cutter blades are less dangerous when they are sharp, because you cut with the correct force. But even when they are “dull,” they cut through flesh (and fingernails) in a hurry. (Ask me how I know…) So change your blades regularly. Think about your cuts before you start, and make sure you know where your fingers are. Consider wearing a “klutz” glove. Emergency room visits are a lot more expensive than simple precautions. (Ask me how I know…)

Wipe the cutting mat to clear lint caught in grooves. This keeps it from transferring to fresh fabrics, and also allows the mat to “heal,” giving a smoother surface and better cuts.

Pay attention to your sewing machine. Change the needle regularly. If it is making a quiet popping sound as it moves through fabric, it is dull and needs to be changed. Check the machine owner manual to see how often the machine needs to be serviced, or whether you should oil it yourself. Many newer machines are self-lubricating, but not all of them. If you no longer have the manual, you may be able to find it online.

Wind bobbins. Clean out the area around and under the bobbin case. Your manual should tell you how, but likely calls for using a soft, small brush, cotton swab, or soft cloth.

Clean your iron. Mine calls for tap water, which is great for saving money, since I don’t buy distilled water. (I iron a lot and go through a lot of water. Tap water is much more convenient for me, too.) Though I use filtered water, it still has a lot of chemical and calcium residue. Frankly, I don’t clean my iron often enough, so I never remember the process. Finally I decided to put the iron’s user instructions on the underside of the ironing board (it wedges up under there nicely), so I can find them easily.

Turn your ironing board. The narrow end is useful when ironing shirts, but you aren’t ironing shirts when you’re quilting. If you turn your ironing board so the broad end is to your left (if you’re right-handed), you’ll have more surface to use when pressing yardage.

Clean up your space. Since I lay projects out on the floor, I always vacuum thoroughly before I start something new. I also wipe off my cutting table and my sewing surface.

You may not need to do these things for each new project, but think about whether they’re needed or not.
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