In the spirit of popular books exploring hidden truths that seem to go against the grain—think Freakonomics or Outliers—here are some of my unexpected thoughts and tips for sewing crafts. Of course this is purely from my point of view. (In other words: Please do NOT hold me accountable if something goes terribly wrong!)
1) I like to use my left foot pedaling my sewing machine.
I am an undeniable righty but my right side is causing problems these days. especially my neck muscles. Somewhere I read that it’s more ergonomic to use your left foot to press the foot pedal as you sew. Lo and behold, it is true! Somehow it causes less strain on my neck and right side generally.
2) I am firmly against pre-washing fabrics for quilting!
For many quilters, prewashing fabric is considered a near-sacred act. But I have been trying to make a quilt with fabric that I prewashed for a few months now. It is going nowhere. I realized why the other day: the prewashed fabric is so floppy that it’s not really holding its shape! The fabric stretches all over the place, willy-nilly. Blocks are turning out wonky and it’s really annoying. Yes, I did spray the fabric with some starch-alternative, but that did not help. Sure, I could try some sort of vigorous starch bath for this fabric, but do I really have time? In contrast, I’ve made numerous quilts now with unwashed fabric, including batiks and bright reds, and washed them in my home washing machine. The world has not ended. In fact, the colors have not run noticeably at all. When I washed them, I did use a fabric dye catcher I bought at Target just in case, and it picked up a bit of dye, but not too much.
3) Instead of a fancy iron, get a cheap, lightweight steam iron.
This has been another idea that has helped save my neck from renewed injury… A heavy iron is very hard on your wrist, arm, shoulder, and neck. My advice: Ignore the ads for pricey, hefty irons. Save yourself some money and some aches and get a cheapo model. Just make sure it is lightweight and features steam. I have a $10 Black & Decker that I prefer to my $60 fancy-pants iron. I actually like the fact that the inexpensive one does not automatically power off after a few minutes, too; it’s less safe, but more convenient for a quilter’s ironing needs. Just be sure to get a good ironing board or it’s all for naught.
4) Invisible thread is not all bad.
The first time I used it, I thought it was fishing line. It was so thick and tough to wind on a bobbin and so finicky about staying threaded in my needle. No fun at all. Recently, I gave it another try with Colette, my slightly-more-advanced sewing machine, just in the top thread. Works wonders when you can’t quite “color inside the lines” to do quilting on a multicolored project. But I don’t bother with winding a bobbin of it. That’s too frustrating. Instead, I use a neutral or matching color for the bottom thread.
5) Oversized blocks are, well, amazing.
At first I thought that making blocks too big and trimming them to size would be a terrible waste of time. But I have seen the light. With certain patterns, you can get a lot more accuracy with block size by making each block a bit bigger and “squaring them up” later. (If you own or borrow the right-sized ruler to square them with, it’s a breeze.)
Hope this helps a reader or two… happy crafting!