Safety in the Quilting Studio

Nothing can put your life on hold like an injury.  It is unexpected and unplanned.  Depending on the severity of the injury you can have daily activities and hobbies upset for a few hours, a few days, or even weeks.

After my husband sliced the skin off the tip of his finger yesterday with a box knife, I wasinjury clipart reminded even more of the need to be careful in the sewing room.  In the sewing room we work with rotary cutters that are equally as sharp as the box knife.  It doesn’t take much for an injury to happen, a careless (or not so careless) placement of the ruler, not thinking about where we place our hand and fingers, or even not thinking and leaving the safety off and the rotary cutter blade exposed for “just a second.”  There are even other hazards, such as pins and needles, sharp scissors, and electric cords running in different directions.  Although you may feel you have everything under control, if you have young children, grandchildren, or pets that roam through your quilting space, rotary cutters, pins and needles and stray cords are tempting, hazardous, and potentially deadly.  Pets are even attracted to things that adults and children would ignore.  For example, one of my Longarm customers needed a switch replaced on her Longarm because the cat, who liked to jump up on the frame and lay on the quilt, chewed the cap off the machine switch.  Fortunately for the cat, the machine was unplugged.

think safety first posterAlways think “Safety First.”  Whether you are cutting, sewing, pressing, or any other task, always think about your safety and the safety of others, including your pets.

Cutting Safety:

  • Replace mats that have grooves and marks that have not “healed.”
  • Replace the blade in the rotary cutter regularly. Dull blades do not cut well, need more pressure to cut, and may slip out of the fabric causing a wrong cut, damaging the ruler or hurting you.
  • Purchase rulers that have a non-slip surface, such as Creative Grids rulers,
    non-slip cutting rulers

    Creative Grids non-slip rulers and InvisiGrip non-slip static cling sheets.

    including the Stripology Ruler, or place InvisiGrip™ on the bottom of rulers. This clear static cling film provides a non-slipping surface on the bottom of the ruler.  Slipping or sliding rulers not only result in poor cuts, but can contribute to damage to the ruler from the blade and possible danger to the quilter from a cut from the rotary cutter.  After testing InvisiGrip™ on my 24” cutting ruler I have decided to put it on all of my clear rulers.  I have been very impressed that is really does provide a non-slip surface.

  • Use an elevated cutting table to work at a comfortable (and safe) height. A cutting table can easily and inexpensively be made from a short folding banquet table and lengths of PVC pipe cut 10-12” long and put under each leg.
  • Make sure the cutting area has good lighting and is clear of stray pins.
  • Keep your non-cutting hand behind and away from the direction and angle of the rotary cutter.
  • Always close the cutter after every use.

Quilting Room or Studio Safety:

Think "Safety First"

Think “Safety First”

  • Work in a well-lighted space.
  • Always use a pin cushion or magnetic pincushion to keep pins and needles secure. Invest in a magnetic wand to swipe across the floor to pick up any stray pins that have fallen.
  • If children or pets frequent the area, make sure dangerous items like pins and needles, scissors, and rotary cutters are put away. It isn’t a matter of organization, although that helps, it is a matter of “safety first.”
  • Never use an extension cord with the iron. Most extension cords are not heavy enough for the wattage draw and it could cause a fire.
  • Even if unplugged, a dangling electric cord from the iron can be a temptation to children and pets that might pull on it causing the iron to fall off the ironing board and onto the pet or child causing injury.  Always place the unused iron in a safe location.
  • Avoid running cords across traffic lanes. Tripping and falls are the number one cause of injury in adults ages 65 and over.  Even if you are younger, it is still dangerous to have cords across the path.
  • Always unplug the iron and sewing and/or quilting machines when not in use. Who knows what else could happen, but most have sensitive electronics in them that could be damaged by power surges or lightning strikes.  This type of damage is never covered under the product warranty.
  • Pets are attracted to dangling thread, thread spools and cones. They are wonderful toys!  But, they can be dangerous and deadly to your pet.  Make sure thread is put away and not a temptation.
  • Longarm owners with pets – the dangling quilt top and batting seems to be a wonderful place to play hide and seek, a great place to sleep, or claw. Dogs seem to especially like to chew the batting.  Cats also seem to like to jump up onto the frame and sleep on the quilt, like a hammock.  The Longarm is such a temptation.  You could close the door to the studio, put a shower curtain (plastic) over the quilt, or use strips of aluminum foil to reduce the temptation.  If you have other great solutions, please post them below in comments.

injury prevention planSafety first is a habit.  Take a critical look at your quilting area, make provision for safe, but convenient, storage for dangerous items, develop a procedure for putting things out of harm’s way and shutting things off when you leave your space. Get into the habit of always thinking about and doing the “safe” thing.  It may take a few seconds longer, but a careless unsafe move can cost hours, days, weeks or more of pain and the inconvenience of not being able to enjoy your time sewing and quilting.

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How Cotton Fabric Is Made Ready for Your Quilt Shop

We all use it, cotton fabric.  In fact, most quilts are made of cotton fabric.  Years ago fabricfabric was manufactured in the United States from cotton grown in the US.  Today, although the US grows cotton, nearly all fabric is manufactured outside of the US.

After the cotton is harvested and woven into the fabric called greig (pronounced gray) goods (unprocessed woven fabric), there are many steps that it must go through before it is ready to be dyed and shipped to your local quilt shop.   This video, filmed in a fabric plant in Hong Kong and Zhejiang, China takes you through the many steps needed to prepare the fabric, then dye, set the dyes with chemicals and heat, and finally wash and prepare the fabric for shipping.  I think you will find it interesting to see all that goes into making the beautiful and colorful quilting fabrics that we enjoy using in our quilts.

As you watch the video, remember that this was filmed in China.  China does not have the same standards of safety and cleanliness in their factories that are required by OSHAH here in the US.  For example, wet floors, the haze in the air from the chemicals and dryers, and even allowing long hair on workers would all be violations, each occurence of each violation with a $5,000 fine here in the US.  Our OSHAH inspectors would have a heyday writing up violations in a factory like this one.  However, because the labor is cheap and there are few, if any, work safety standards to worry about, we benefit by being able to purchase a huge variety of fabrics at a relatively low cost.  If fabric were manufactured in the US with our much higher labor costs and cost of compliance to regulations, we would be paying much, much more.

So, please take the video at face value and appreciate all of the work that goes into creating our wonderful quilting fabrics.

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Squaring Up Flying Geese Units

Regardless of the technique we use or how carefully we work with fabric patches, there are bound to be slight irregularities in seam allowance or minor distortion in the fabrics.  To correct these problems, it is a good idea to start with slightly oversize patches and square up the subunit to the correct measurement.  I usually start with 1/8th to 1/4th inch oversize patches.  Once constructed, there is a little to trim off when squaring to the correct measurement for the subunit.

Flying geese units often have more issues with construction than other units, especially if made with the traditional method using triangles.  Newer techniques help minimize the problems, but it is still a good idea to square up the subunits.  (See “The Best Flying Geese Technique I Know!)

There are several rulers on the market designed to easily square up flying geese units.  All will help preserve the ¼” seam allowance and keep the points from being trimmed off.  Some, however, only work with one or two sizes of flying geese.  Studio 180 Design, however, has, what I think, is the best flying geese ruler on the market.  It is called Wing Clipper.  With it you can square up flying geese units from 1”x1 ½” to 5 ½” x 10 ½” in half inch increments.  There is also Wing Clipper II for squaring in ¼” and ¾” measurements.

Flying Geese units trimmed with Studio 180 Design's Wing Clipper ruler.

Flying Geese units trimmed with Studio 180 Design’s Wing Clipper ruler.

I have used Wing Clipper for a number of projects and really appreciate how easy it is to use and how beautiful the flying geese units looks when squared up correctly with this ruler.  Click to see a video demonstrating the Wing Clipper.  If you can’t find this ruler at your quilt store, you can order it on line from Studio 180 Design.  The ruler comes with excellent directions for both left hand and right hand cutting and a chart with cutting instructions for all of the sizes you can trim using the ruler.

 

Design Wall Options

Years ago I never thought about the angle at which quilts would be viewed.  I simply laid the pieces on the floor or on the bed, rearranged the blocks to what looked OK, and sewed them together.  Today, however, I realize that how quilts are viewed during construction compared with after they are made may be totally different.  The perspective is totally different when looking at a quilt on an angle on the floor or bed versus straight on when on the wall.  As a result, I have found that using a design wall is essential to audition and make choices on the patch colors in a block, block placement, fabric colors, border and binding choices.  In fact, seeing the quilt take shape on a design has even changed some of the choices previously made because they simply didn’t contribute to the quilt as I once thought they would.

What is a design wall?

A design wall is simply a vertical space that is large enough to audition anything from block

design wall

Design Wall

patches to a quilt.  It can be any size that meets the quilter’s needs.  Some design walls are inexpensive or an easy DIY project, others are more costly.  My small design “wall” is a 18″x24″ foam core board with a flannel pillowcase over it.  I use it to audition block patches and to layer block patches for sewing.  It is close to my sewing machine, keeps the patches organized, making it easy to pick up the patches when stitching them together.  My other design wall is larger and attached to a wall in my studio.

Design Wall Options

  • Flannel backed table cloth. Very inexpensive and easy to tack up on any wall surface.  Flannel backed table cloths can be purchased in a range of sizes.  The largest size, however, would not be big enough for a large quilt.
  • Flannel covered insulating board. This is a relatively easy DIY project made from 2’x8’ or 4’x8’ insulation board available from a home improvement store.  It is light weight, yet strong enough to lean or fasten on a wall.  Use this link for instructions to make this project.  http://christaquilts.com/2013/11/11/a-new-design-wall/  Instructions for other similar projects are also available online.
  • Portable design walls. Offered in different sizes, this design wall is made of a light weight framedesign wall portable design wall retractable with flannel stretched across it.  This type of design wall would be ideal if it needed to be used at a class, moved from one room to another, or had no permanent location.  http://www.cherylannsdesignwall.com/
  • Mounted retractable roller design wall. When delivering a Longarm system a couple of years ago, I discovered this unique product at our customer’s studio.  Mounted on a wall or over a closet, this design wall pulls down, like a shade, offering space to audition a quilt.  The beauty of his product is that it takes up very little space and can easily be rolled up out of view or allowing access to whatever is behind the design wall.  It can even be rolled up with the patches or blocks still on it as illustrated in the photo.  This would make an ideal design wall in a small sewing area where a larger fixed design wall would not be possible.  http://www.design-a-way.com/

Regardless of how much quilting you do, the design wall is an important “tool” that allows you to visualize the finished quilt helping you make good design choices.  Besides having a design wall, make sure you also have good lighting.

Other links:

http://blog.shopmartingale.com/quilting-sewing/9-quilt-design-wall-ideas/

For those on Pinterest  https://www.pinterest.com/explore/quilt-design-wall/

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How Needles and Pins are Made

As a former science teacher, I enjoy learning the “how” and “why” of many things.  I find it fascinating to see how products are manufactured, especially things that are used in quilting.  We often take for granted these products not realizing the many steps that are involved in their manufacture.  Or, we complain about the cost without knowing the time and effort involved to make them.

This video from the Science Channel shows the steps involved in the manufacture of needles and pins.  Since I just bought a package of self threading needles with gold around the eye, I now know how these were made starting with a coil of wire and ending with a precision sewing tool to use with my quilting.

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Henry Ford – Thoughts For Quilters

Henry Ford once said, “If you need a machine and don’t buy it, you will eventually find you

henry ford

Henry Ford

have paid for it, but don’t have it.”

Now I am not advocating that you run right out and break the bank by purchasing every machine, tool, and gadget you think you want for quilting. But, there is a lot of truth to that statement.

Those of us that go back a few years will remember when the first rotary cutter and mat came on the market. The first I purchased was a mat and ruler set, which I still own, 12” wide and 24” long.  The mat did not even have a grid on it. We were very excited to have a tool to accurately cut patches. What a time saver as well as a hand saver from manipulating the scissors. Previous to this new tool we used ruler and pencil to make templates from cereal boxes. Try as best as possible we would cut the templates out following the line. Cutting on the lines was one of the useful skills I learned in kindergarten. Another was learning to wait in line, now waiting in the cutting line at the quilt store. After cutting the cardboard templates we would carefully trace around them on the fabric and again pick up the scissors to cut the patches. Depending on whether you were going to hand piece or piece by machine, the ¼” seam allowance might or might not be included on the template.

quilting tools

Quilting “Tools”

Wow! That was a lot of work. Not only do we have the rotary cutter today, but an even faster and potentially more accurate system, a machine with dies to cut the patches.

Henry Ford, of course, was looking at the “time is money” principle of business as he grew his auto company from each auto as a custom build to the assembly line with the goal of every family in America affording a car (and, of course, employ people and put dollars in his bank account). In business, the more labor (time) involved the higher the cost to produce.

What do we actually need to quilt? Tools and machines that will help us become more efficient. Today we spend money to get time. If a machine or tool will give us more time, then it could be worth the purchase. If the longer bed home sewing machine makes it more comfortable  or easier for sewing, then we are trading the money for that purchase for increased comfort and enjoyment in our craft. If the crank or mechanized cutter improves our quilting, gives us more time to make more quilts, and increases our enjoyment in quilting, it could be worth the expense. And what about a really big purchase like a longarm quilting machine? If you want to have ownership of the entire quilt from start to finish, quilting at your sit down home machine is a frustration, or as in my case, painful to my neck and back, or renting time is not possible, then perhaps purchasing a longarm is the right decision.

There is a trap that many of us fall into. That of thinking we must justify a purchase like an

featherweight and table

Me enjoying my “new” Featherweight and table.

embroidery machine or longarm and do work on it to “help pay for it.” What is wrong with owning something just for the enjoyment of owning it? Or owning it because it makes the process easier, more enjoyable, or simply saves us time? How many men do you know that have purchased a hunting rifle, bass boat, or the latest and greatest lawn and garden tractor want to justify the purchase by making money with it?

Certainly Henry Ford was on to something back in the early 1900’s recognizing the importance of having the machinery (and tools) to get the job done. Without the machinery to take the place of costly labor, those machines were paid for, but not owned.  For us as quilters, not owning the machines and tools we really need may save us money, but could cost us more in time, make us less efficient and productive, and lower our quality of life and enjoyment of quilting.  Although I can’t give you permission to run out and purchase what you want, I do give you permission to seriously consider machine and tool options that will make you more efficient, be more comfortable to use, give greater productivity, and greater enjoyment as you travel along your quilting journey.

Is Your Thread Unwinding Correctly?

It seems fairly easy. Put the spool on the spool pin and thread the machine. This simplethread selection task, however, may be the source of thread issues if you have not first noticed how the thread is wrapped on the spool.

How Thread Is Wound On The Spool

You have probably noticed that thread is wound differently with some thread wrapped around the spool in parallel winds (stack wound) while on other spools or cones the thread is cross wound creating the “x” signature.   How the thread comes off the spool or cone does make a difference in how it sews. In fact, some thread may actually kink up or twist as it unwinds.

Position the Spool/Cone Properly

Spools with thread that is stack wound or parallel wound should be positioned so that the thread will unwind straight from the side of the spool. On your home sewing machine the spool should be placed on a vertical spool pin so that the thread can unwind off the side of the spool as the spool rotates. For cones or spools where the thread is cross wound, the thread should come off the top of the cone/spool rather than the side. On a home sewing machine, these small cones or spools would be placed on a horizontal spool pin where the thread pulls off the top of the small cone/spool.

Longarm quilting machines typically use cross wound thread on large cones which unwind from the top of the cone when sewing. The cone holders are vertical pins near the back of the machine where the thread unwinds up off the top of the cone and up through a thread guide above the cone as the machine is threaded. Sometimes Longarm quilters want to use specialty, decorative threads that are usually used on a home sewing machine. Often these threads are stack wound (parallel wound). To use these threads successfully on a longarm, a horizontal spool pin must be used to prevent these threads from twisting and knotting. Additionally, because a Longarm machine stitches so much faster than a home sewing machine, the twisting and knotting can be very frustrating with many stops and starts to try and remedy this situation. Horizontal spool pin adapters are available and may be made of plastic or metal. Some of these adapters screw into the machine and others clamp onto the existing spool/cone pin.

Cone/Spool Adapters

The video below from Superior Threads below illustrates the two different types of thread wrap as well as how to use the Superior Threads thread stand for use with either type of wound thread. I have one of these stands and use it at my home sewing machine when using the large cones of thread I might use at my Longarm. These cones, of course, are too large to mount on my horizontal spool pin in the top of my Janome Horizon. Other times I might use a decorative stack (parallel) wrapped metallic thread. These threads are known to have kinking and twisting problems. The only way to successfully use these threads is with a side delivery method. The Superior Threads thread stand can be set up for this use, too.

Another spool pin adapter system is called “Specialty Thread Spool Pin Adapter,” www.thethreaddirector.com. This has a sturdy post adapter with a spool pin that is perpendicular to the post adapter. Depending on which way you attach it to a vertical or horizontal post it can be used for either stack (parallel) wrapped or cross wrapped thread.

Although you might “get by” positioning a spool incorrectly, using the correct thread delivery method for the cone or spool allows more successful stitching. While a stitching issue might look like a tension issue, it may really be caused by how the thread is coming off the cone or spool. Remember, when thread is manufactured, parallel wrapping goes on from the side and must come off of the side. Cross wrapped goes onto the cone from the top and must come off of the top.

 

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What’s The Story On Frixion Heat Erasable Pens?

If you are like me, you are probably interested in new tools that can save us time and effort in our quilting and give us better results.  Several years ago we were introduced to the Frixion heat erasable pens.  After they were on the market a short time I purchased one and tried it out.  As a former science teacher I did a little testing and reported my findings on my blog.  Unfortunately last October that blog post along with the rest of the posts evaporated into cyber space.  Here is updated information on the Frixion pens.

What I learned from my experimentation was that the ink does disappear from the fabric when ironed.  Not knowing the true nature of the chemistry behind the disappearing ink I had a feeling that there was some kind of reaction that took place with the heat that made the color disappear, but the ink itself was still on the fabric.  The samples below on cotton clearly show that the ink disappears when heated.  In the top right sample half of the oval was pressed with the iron making it disappear.  The sample on the bottom left was pressed making the oval disappear, but the oval re-appeared after being in the refrigerator.  The two smaller samples on the bottom right were washed.  Although they do not show up well, the washed and dried sample did not show the oval, however, the other that was washed, dried and then put in the refrigerator did have a ghost halo.

frixion test resize

Since the questions has come up again about how these pens work, whether they are safe to use on fabric and for some, finding ghost marks after storage in a cold bedroom, attic, or basement, please click the link below to go to another blog to get all of the facts from Pilot,  the manufacturer of Frixion pens.

So, the question remains.  Do we continue using the pens or not?  Certainly it would not be advisable to mark a whole quilt top with one of these pens.  Perhaps it is still OK to mark diagonal lines on HST and QST patches and other places where the mark will be in the seam or seam allowance.  Only you can make that determination as to whether you want to take the chance on a ghost mark on your prize quilt, or any quilt.

Click: More on Frixion pens.

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