You may have read my Top 12 Tools for the Beginner Quilter post from earlier this year. Since then, I have really thought about other tools that I use that make sewing so much easier. Some of these tools I have used for several years, and others I have just recently discovered. There are so many rulers and notions available now, so determining which ones will improve your sewing experience can be a daunting task. In no particular order of importance, this new list for the intermediate quilters includes items that I would not want to sew without.
1. Clover Wonder Clips
I demonstrated their usefulness in my Scrappy Mug Rug Tutorial, Simply Basics: Binding a Quilt, and Pencil Pouch Tutorial. I absolutely love these little clips! I first started out with a 10 pack. Then I bought another, and another! My six year old son even has his own so he would stop asking to play with mine! I use the clips on all of my quilting projects, as well as many sewing projects. Everything is held in place until I’m ready to sew. They even have handy length markers on one side to let me know I am keeping my binding even all the way around. Genius!
2. Shape Cut Ruler
Once you have your 6”x24” ruler, a good second ruler to buy is the Shape Cut ruler by June Taylor Designs. This ruler gives you the option to evenly cut fabric every half inch. It is useful for squaring up your quilt blocks, creating the strips for your quilt binding, slashing through your charm packs and layer cakes, and to cut strips of fabric into squares. The large 12”x12” grid will fit almost all of your quilt blocks. Your fabric will be cut more precisely with the Shape Cut than with your 6×24″ ruler. You may recognize its use from my post Simply Basics: Binding a Quilt.
3. Walking Foot
A walking foot is an add-on attachment for your sewing machine. A walking foot has built-in feed dogs, so the upper and lower feed dogs on your machine will work in unison to guide thick layers of fabric through evenly. I purchased my walking foot when attempting some straight-line quilting on a Christmas quilt for Cindee last year. Before I bought it, the stitching on the back side of my quilt was all wonky and had to be ripped out. The walking foot allowed me to finish quilting the project on my home machine. Using this tool just two times saved enough money in quilting services to justify its cost.
4. Quilt Binding Bias Tape Maker, 1 ¼” and 1”
Simplicity makes a tool they call a ‘Bias Tape Machine Quilt Binding Tip’. They also created a machine that makes the bias for you but that isn’t necessary to make your binding easier. I bought a tip for 2” binding strips and one for 2 ½” binding strips. Once you finished sewing your binding strips together at a 45 degree angle, you place one end of the fabric strip into the quilt binding tip. (Tip: Use your finger nail or other pointy item to help guide the fabric through.) Once it comes out the other side, the fabric is nicely folded in half. I use my right hand to iron the fabric and my left hand to pull the binding tip further to the left. This tool will cut your iron time in half and makes perfectly folded binding.
5. Graph Paper and Colored Pencils
Designing a quilt or quilt blocks on graph paper is easy and fun… just use your imagination! If I find a block that I like, I can draw it on graph paper with different color combinations before trying it out with fabric. I have also drawn a quilt top on graph paper, cut it out, and then placed it on top of other another graph paper page to illustrate different border options for a customer’s quilt. This really helped her see the possibilities versus trying to explain it to her over the phone.
The internet has many free downloadable graph papers available, to include squares, circles, triangles, and more. Try this site to print a few out: http://incompetech.com/graphpaper/
6. ¼” Piecing Foot
Some companies may not offer a ¼” piecing foot with an edge guide for their machines, but if yours does, you will want this. Before having one of my own, I would line up my fabrics with the edge of my foot or along one of the lines on the metal plate. Not fun! This foot was the first purchase I made at my local Viking store after I upgraded sewing machines. It really takes the guesswork out of keeping your seams straight and even. Keep in mind if you use this foot, you may need to move your needle slightly to the right in order to sew a scant ¼”.
7. Triangles on a Roll
Last month, my friend asked me to help her make a pinwheel quilt. My mom reminded me of the Triangles on a Roll she gave me years ago, and suggested I use them. After a quick demonstration of their usefulness, I decided that I’ll never make half square triangles any other way. I helped my friend whip together a stack of perfect half square triangles in a fraction of the time. No longer will I mark my squares with disappearing ink! I liked these Triangles on a Roll so much that I bought some in six different sizes 🙂 I HIGHLY recommend these as a time saver.
8. Rotating Cutting Mat
Squaring up your quilt blocks is easy with a rotating mat. You make the cuts that you need without having to reposition the fabric. I have found that this mat is also very handy for when you need to make multiple cuts on a charm or layer cake square. I can stack two or three squares together, make a cut, turn the mat, and make the next cut. It’s fabulous! The best part is that it fits well on my desk next to my machine. The worst part is its price; make sure to use a discount coupon or wait for a sale if you decide to buy one.
9. Acrylic Table
Cindee’s and Carli’s Christmas quilts gave me a heck of a time. I usually make baby quilts, so having to make quilts twice the size was a challenge for me. The weight of the quilts kept the fabric from feeding evenly so sometimes the stitches would be small and sometimes much longer. It was incredibly frustrating. The Viking store recommended an acrylic table that connects to your machine. I opted for a large table to help with the large sized quilts. It works great to extend my work surface out and helps keep my stitches the right size. There are many after market options to fit your machine. Search online for acrylic sewing machine table and you will find many different manufacturers and a few size options.
10. Mary Ellen’s Best Press
You have probably seen it in the quilt stores: The bottle of lovely smelling starch that stares back at you with that $10 price tag. Well, I recently caved in and bought some during a Quilt Shop Hop. Since I have begun using this product, I have not had any white marks while ironing my fabric… even the dark fabrics! This stuff will make you want to iron because of its awesome scent. The woman who sold me the bottle told me that she buys it by the gallon. I think she’s on to something there. 🙂
One of my least favorite sewing tasks is pre-washing my fabric. I discovered a product that allows me to wash fabrics together without fear of color bleed. Now I throw all of my fabrics in the wash together, add a little detergent, add a capful of Retayne, and wash on the short cycle. I previously used color catchers sheets when pre-washing fabric, but now I only use them for my quilt’s final wash. I trust Retayne and have not had any issues with colors running.
12. You Tube
It does not get any better than FREE! YouTube is not just a site for funny videos; there is a large selection of sewing/quilting videos to choose from. Many of the companies you may already be familiar with post videos on YouTube regularly. Try a generic search for “quilt tutorial” or search by a name you know, like Missouri Star Quilt Co, Fons & Porter, Fat Quarter Shop, and Fave Quilts. There are tutorials available for all skills levels. I love being able to pause the videos to take notes or to rewind if there was a part I did not understand. You can bookmark the tutorials you like, or pin them on Pinterest.
Speaking of free….. Clover has graciously donated a 50-pack of Wonder Clips to one of our lucky readers! WOOHOO! All you have to do is leave a comment in the Rafflecopter box below this post to let us know what your favorite sewing notion is. After you have entered the contest, check out www.clover-usa.com to see all of the great sewing, quilting, and knitting notions they offer. (By the way, the wonder clips made my list prior to getting a donation. Clover has already proven to me how awesome they are, and now we get to share the awesomeness with one of you!)
Contest rules: Limit of 0ne entry per person. Entries must be received by August 2, 2014 at 12am Eastern Time. Winner will be contacted via email on August 2. Winner will have 72 hours to reply with their mailing address. After 72 hours, a new winner will be chosen using Rafflecopter. Of course, you must be 18 years old to enter. This contest is open worldwide. If you are having trouble viewing the Rafflecopter box, try viewing the post in Internet Explorer. Good luck, Crafty Friends!