At our January 2013 Guild meeting, members of the Executive presented a program on "Tips and Tricks" to make your quilting easier and stress free! They shared their own tips as well as some they found by searching on the internet. Thanks to all who participated - here are their favourites -
Rotary Cutters - Linda - Newsletter Editor
#1 Always close the cover on the rotary cutter, even if only putting down for a moment; it will become second nature and you might save yourself, someone else, or a pet, from getting a nasty cut.
#2 Change blades frequently (or sharpen, but only for a few times); a sharp tool makes the work MUCH easier and saves wear and tear on your fabric, improves precision, and is much easier on your body. If you have to apply too much pressure, your blade is too dull. Mark new blades with the date when you insert them, and this will help you to keep track. Sometimes flipping a blade will give a bit more use.
#3 Choose the correct tool for the job; small cutters perform better when precision around curved templates is required. Normal strip cutting, or any straight line cutting through multiple layers is most easily accomplished with a 45 or 60 mm circumference blade. I suggest buying the best quality rotary cutter that you can afford, and pay attention to the characteristics of design - try out several types and see which suits your particular needs. Some types accommodate both left and right handed cutting if you feel comfortable using either hand.
#4 Keep your cutting arm at an appropriate angle when cutting - your arm should be straight from the elbow, through the wrist and hand to the finger (whichever you use, usually the index finger). Your table should be at an appropriate height; bending over at a too low table will cause strain that will make the work difficult, and may result in back problems. Make sure that you always cut AWAY from you and use a proper ruler to guide the bade for precision cutting.
#5 Always use a proper cutting matt, and not a craft matt, which will quickly dull the blade. A rotating matt will facilitate cutting multiple angles on the same piece.
#6 Keep an old ice cream or yogurt container with an appropriate size slit cut into the lid. It can be used to house spent blades, as well as dull needles and blades from craft and art knives. When it is full you can wrap it around with tape and dispose of it in the rubbish.
There are a lot of sites on the web which offer advise on the care and use of rotary cutters; just search on Google, and take your pick.
Straightening Fabric - Barb - Membership & Communications
I learned this method of straightening fabric from Roberta Horton way back in the early 80's. I have been doing it this way ever since and find it works all the time!
You can't depend on your fabric being cut straight at the fabric store. When the fabric is rolled onto a bolt it is stretched using a lot of force which can stretch the fabric and distort it. If you don't wash it, iron it carefully to get the middle crease out and re-fold it following the instructions below.
First of all, I always pre-wash my fabric. Once it is dry I fold it (not ironed) and put it on the shelf until I am ready to use it - then I iron it. Why iron twice? If the creases are stubborn to get out I use, steam or a water sray or Mary Ellen's Best Press. Once ironed I fold it in half, selvedge to selvedge, wrong sides together. With my index fingers in-between the selvedges I adjust each side back and forth unitl the fabric hangs straight. Then while still holding it, I lay it down and fold it in half again and adjust it so that the fabric hangs staright. I then make a cut using the rotary cutter on the right hand side of the fabric, this will go through all 4 layers and make a clean edge. Then flip the fabric, being careful to keep the four layers together, so that the newly cut edge is on the left. I can then line up my ruler to cut whatever widhth I need. If I am cutting a lot I will unfold all the layers and re fold making sure that the layers hang straight.
This is hard to write in words! It is much easier to demonstrate so if you want it explained better, bring a piece of fabric to a Guild meeting and I will be happy to demonstrate this method again.
Iron Use & Care - Linnet - Program
What Ironing Does: Ironing works by loosening the bonds between the longchain polymer molecules in the fibers of the material. While the molecules are hot, the fibers are straightened by the weight of the iron, and they hold their new shape as they cool. Some fabrics, such as cotton, require the addition of water to loosen the intermolecular bonds. Many modern fabrics (developed in or after the mid-twentieth century) are advertised as needing little or no ironing because their molecules have been designed to remain stable. (For everything you never wanted to know about irons and their history check out -http://www.jitterbuzz.com/ironing_history.html#ratio)
Proper Pressing Technique: Because the act of ironing actually resets the placement of the fabric fibres at a molecular level it is especially important to take care not to stretch or warp the fabric while pressing. Any warping will remain permanent once the fabric cools and can distort the look of a print or pattern in the fabric and will make accurate cutting on the grain much more difficult.
• Ironing should always be done with the grain of the fabric. You should slide your iron back and forth only in the direction of the fabric grain (from selvedge to selvedge or cut edge to cut edge)
• Whenever possible (especially when setting seams or pressing pieced blocks) use a pressing down motion and lift up the iron to move it to a new location. Dragging the iron from side to side increases the likelihood of the fabric warping/stretching.
• It isn’t necessary to use water when ironing as often as we think. Steam can distort fabric and any excess moisture makes the fabric more prone to warping/stretching. A conventional iron on the high (cotton) setting should be sufficient for most tasks.
• Only the most stubborn wrinkles or thickest seams require spraying and in those cases it is recommended that you use a separate spray bottle rather than the spray feature on your iron. Spray once quickly and allow the water 30 seconds or so to penetrate into the fabric before pressing.
• Special care should be taken when working with white or light coloured fabrics. As they have fewer dyes to stiffen/stabilize them they are especially prone to stretching.
Iron Care: The best way to ensure a long life for your iron is to take the following preventative measures.
• Use only filtered or distilled water in your fill tank. Over time the minerals in tap/well water will build up inside your iron and form deposits in the reservoir. This will block the escape of steam from your iron and make it less effective. These deposits can also leach out on to your fabric creating brown stains.
• For the same reason, you should empty out any water in your iron after each use. Standing water left over long periods of time is more likely to form build-ups and can also cause odour in your iron. Emptying the water while it is still hot will allow the inside of the iron to dry more fully.
• It is a good idea to wipe down your sole plate after each use to prevent build-up from occurring there also. Wait until the iron has cooled completely and wipe with a damp cloth.
Iron Cleaning: There are two areas of the iron, which should be cleaned on a somewhat regular basis.
• Sole Plate – The sole plate should be cleaned as soon as it becomes dirty. Any residue left on will become more and more difficult to remove over time.
The first thing to try is just soap and warm water. Any regular dish detergent on a warm wet cloth should be enough to tackle the mild everyday gunk.
For more serious or stubborn messes (fusible is a common one) there are a number of approaches you can try. My personal favourite is rubbing alcohol on a cotton ball. Rub vigorously over the effected area until the mess is gone and follow with a soap-andwater wash.
Many people also recommend submerging the sole plate (Taking care to submerge the plate only and avoid the vents) in a solution of vinegar and warm water and allowing it to soak for up to 30 minutes until the plate can be wiped clean.
Any cleaning technique/product that is considered safe for a glass stovetop should also be safe and possibly effective for your iron soleplate.
Avoid using any steel wool or similarly abrasive sponge, as the soleplate will scratch.
Fill Tank – The fill tank should be cleaned (descaled) occasionally – more often if you are not using filtered water. Most of the recommended descaling approaches use some combination of vinegar and water. I would begin with a 1 to 1 concentration and use trial and error from there.
Fill the tank with your vinegar/water solution.
Place the iron down flat on its sole plate and let it sit for 10 minutes or so.
Put the iron on its highest steam setting and steam into an old towel or cloth until the reservoir is empty.
Repeat this process with plain water.
If the steam vents still seem blocked it is safe to use a pipe cleaner or similar implement to poke up into and clear the vents.
Always follow this process by cleaning your soleplate as there will likely be a residue that leaches out of your iron during descaling and it can stain fabric if it stays on the soleplate.