Machine Quilting: Know Your Tools

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When I pulled out the Misery Quilt to work on the machine quilting that I hadn’t touched in…well…years…I had to remember how to do all of this machine quilting stuff! 😕 It all came back pretty quickly, but it made me realize all over again that there are so many little details that go along with machine quilting that are good to remember, and I thought them all over as I retrained my eyes and hands and foot to all work together again to get the quality I wanted. This series of blog posts is dedicated to machine quilting–because the more you know, the easier it is!

Let’s start with tools! What tools are great to have and use, and maybe even count as “essential” for machine quilting? Aside from the obvious big things like the actual quilty-type project that’s basted with batting and backing and thread and needles that are appropriate for it and of course that well oiled sewing machine, here are the smaller essentials that I always keep within easy reach (clockwise from top left–more or less!):

Essential Machine Quilting Tools at Fabric Bias

Curved thread snips: I LOVE these snips! These squeezy spring loaded snips are awesome for snipping threads right at the quilt without cutting the quilt or backing. Have you ever snipped the fabric on a quilt during the quilting phase?? I have, and it’s heartbreaking! Don’t be a statistic–get these snips! 😆

Small scissors: I have lots of these little pairs of scissors that I picked up at some point, probably in the school supplies aisle at WalMart or Target. They’re just cheapo scissors (these say “DuraSharp” on them if that helps, and hey, they’re even made in the USA!), but they’re the perfect size and they’re plenty sharp for threads or even fabric if nothing else is close at hand. When a smaller pair of curved thread snips isn’t necessary, like when I’m just clipping threads to release the quilt from the machine after ending a line of stitching, I reach for these.

Fine point tweezers: I use these all the time for this or that. Think picking out quilting stitches–okay, don’t think about it, ’cause it’s no fun, but still you might have to do it and these tweezers will help get all of those little cut up bits of thread out of the quilt. I also use them to get little bits of fuzz, fabric bits or lint off the quilt if they’re in the way and might get quilted in, or just for any other little thing I need to do that my fingers are too big to do, or my nails are just too long to handle. Yeah, the long nails make for some rather ungraceful moments…tweezers to the rescue!

Best seam ripper ever: Yep, this is it. This Clover seam ripper is the best I’ve found. It’s got a very fine point to get under fine threads or tiny stitches without catching the quilt top, and it’s strong to take the pressure of ripping things out if you have to get mean to win. The blade part is nice and sharp, even after years of use. I love the fat handle with the black grippy thing too! But wait! The most important part, and the #1 reason you should have a seam ripper–preferably this seam ripper–is to pull up the bobbin thread when you start a new line of machine quilting. It’s the perfect pointy tool for that!

All time favorite hand lotion: This is the big “you must have this for machine quilting on a domestic machine” product! I learned this from Diane Gaudynski years ago, and I buy Neutrogena Norwegian Formula Hand Cream six at a time and if I can’t get it from my grocery store or Target or somewhere local, Amazon delivers. Just put a little of this lotion on your palms–it only takes a bit–and you’ll be able to grip the quilt better for more control while machine quilting. When your hands stop feeling “grippy” put some more on. It won’t stain the quilt, and it’s non-greasy. Seriously, if you’re not using this lotion, you’re doin’ it wrong! Bonus side effect: softer hands!

LaPeirre Studio Supreme Slider Free Motion Machine Quilting Mat: Okay people, where was this thingy when I machine quilted my first quilt? Or my tenth? This is another one of those “must have” things–if you’re not using it, you’re making your job harder! It’s Teflon, and we all know how awesomely slippery Teflon is, right? Note: do figure out the positioning properly when you put this bad boy on the machine bed or you’ll be sewing right through it! It won’t ruin it (ask me how I know that!), but hey, why put an extra hole in it?

One more thing I forgot to include in my photo (and I’m not going to retake it because I’m practicing NOT being a perfectionist for a change 😆 Note to self: write rough draft before taking photos for posts like this!): If you want to bury your thread ends in the quilt instead of clipping them off, grab a package of self-threading needles. You can quickly pop the thread tails into the needle and run the needle and thread into the quilt top to secure the ends. Sometimes I bury them, sometimes I clip, just depends on the quilt and what the end use will be.

The More You Know at Fabric BiasOh! And one more tool that may or may not be a “must have” for all of you: that tape roller lint remover thingy to roll over the quilt to remove all that cat hair! 😉

Did I miss any of your “must have” tools? Tell me what they are so I can try them out myself! Come on, tell!

**This is Part 1 of The More You Know @ DreamWeaver’s Quilts, Machine Quilting Edition. Because the more you know, the easier it is! 😀 Further parts will be linked here as they are published!

Part 1: Machine Quilting: Know Your Tools
Part 2: Machine Quilting: Know the Design
Part 3: Machine Quilting: Know Your Weaknesses

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