What’s in your playbook?

Learning is so much easier when we are young. You are surrounded by intelligent and trained adults who hand you a playbook in the form of lessons and textbooks that guide you to greater understanding.

When we leave school we loose those mentors but there are still so many things to learn. How do we find those teachers or coaches who will helps us add more to our personal playbook?

Last week I wrote about the importance of joining a group and how that adds to our wheelhouse. Inside those groups are individuals who help you learn something you didn’t know before.

In my very first blog post I wrote that one habit of successful fiber arts enthusiasts is taking classes. Fiber festivals, conferences and guild retreats are full of experts who want to share their expertise with you. As a teacher myself, I can promise you that no one wants an empty classroom. We want to tell the world everything we know and enjoy seeing our students become masters of their craft.

Here are some of my favorite tips and tricks that I’ve learned from my fiber arts teachers in my own words:

  • Put a pin in it – if you were an athlete you wouldn’t skip wearing protective equipment, right? The don’t skip pinning fabric when sewing. The sewing machine is only as smart as you are and the feeddogs only know about the fabric it touches. Avoid fabric migration issues and pin, and pin, and pin again.
  • Use the tools you invested in or get ones you will use – If a carpenter has a table saw but only uses a hand saw, what a waste of an investment that would be. Machine sewers, use your seam gauge and mark those seam allowances for more accurate seams. Quilters, use those rulers (all 2 million of them, wink) or let them go. I’m a huge fan of Deb Tucker’s Tucker Trimmer and no slip rulers by Creative Girds. Embroiders, use those magnifiers and floor stands to give your eyes and joints a break. I love embroidering without holding a hoop in one hand. My Gazelle floor stand is a life saver and allows me to sew with both hands. Mary Corbet wrote a blog about floor stands.
  • One of my favorite tips is a weird one but I really love it. During a quilt retreat at the Strong House Inn with Michelle Renee Hiatt she suggested using paper plates to organize quilt pieces.
Using paper plates to organize my pineapple block rounds. Joining the fun are: Oliso mini iron, Sewline Trio marking tool, Creative Grids Mini Pineapple trim tool, Janome Memory Craft 3500 and Olfa “Gerber Daisies” 45-mm Rotary Cutter.
  • Knitters, watch those needle tips and keep your yarn before the tip tapers off. This maintains an accurate gauge. If you are knitting with the tips that’s not the true size of the knitting needle and you are knitting a smaller gauge when you use the tips.
  • Lastly, change sewing needles on your machine every 8-10 hours of sewing and hand sewing needles anywhere from 6-24 hours. Old needles make you and your machine work hard to move the needle through fabric. Burrs can snag fabric and plating wears off creating a sluggish needle. Basic physics of wear means there is a progressive loss of material every time two objects rub against each other. So, work smarter not harder and change those needles!

I hope you added a new trick to your playbook after reading this post. If you have a favorite piece of advice, tip or trick for your fellow fiber artists, share it in the comments.

Speaking of something new, this week I’ll be knitting another sample for my TKGA teacher certification. Here are my choices, help me decide which one to knit first:

Happy stitching,
Coach Dawn

January week 1 – Something old, Tall Trim the Tree paper-pieced wall hanging.
January week 2 – Something new, TKGA certification knitting, Jan. 12.
January week 3 – Something borrowed, Sewing & quilting tips, Jan. 19.
January week 4 – Something to review, Knitting book TBD, Jan. 26.

By stitchingcoach

High school librarian by day, crafter for life. I'm an award winning embroider, quilter and knitter. I advise a high school sewing club as well as volunteer with Days for Girls. Students will find I'm passionate about all needle arts and want to pass that along to all generations and skill levels. Learning to sew, knit or hand embroider can be intimidating, but with the right support can become a lifelong hobby that provides joy to your life. Let me show you how to get started. I look forward to helping you exercise your creative side.

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