Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Readers' favorite quilting tools

Hey, look at me!  I'm blogging on a weekday morning!  Am I enjoying my week off?  So far I'm having way too much fun, but mostly managing to stay out of trouble. 

Here is a summary of  favorite tools/accessories/gadgets/etc. that enhance our quilting experience from the recent giveaway.  I hope you find at least one new tool to try.

Setting the Mood:
Many of us seem to like some sort of background music or entertainment while we work.  Suggestions included radio, CDs (both music and literature), iPod, television, and DVDs. One reader enjoys The Lucy Show and another likes Bollywood DVDs, even occasionally dancing along. Pandora internet radio and Hulu also received mentions:



My favorite mood setting suggestion is a clean house.  That definitely helps my mood; however, a messy house has not stopped me from sewing yet!

Seeing our work:
Reading glasses and bifocals were mentioned, as well as having good lighting.  One reader uses a fold-up Ottlite and another likes her Ottlite floor lamp.  I love my Ottlite, too, and use it for sewing and handwork.

Measure twice, cut once:  
I actually kind of hate that phrase, because sometimes I measure multiple times and still manage to make cutting errors.  

Rulers -- Rulers received a few mentions, including having the right ruler for the project at hand. One reader recommended the June Tailor Shape Cut Pro Ruler, which looks pretty slick to me.  You can see a video of it in use here.

And several readers love special gadgets that make using their rulers easier, safer, and more efficient.  A few readers mentioned the Gypsy Gripper...

 The Gyspy Gripper ™ - single ended use  (click to enlarge)

and one reader enjoys her Rule Steady.

300mm RuleSteady

Marti Mitchell Perfect Patchwork templates received an endorsement from one reader.

Click to enlarge

Cutting tools -- This proved to be a very popular category as far as tools that make quilting more accurate and enjoyable.  We love our cutting tools (don't anger a quilter)!  The good old rotary cutter is a favorite of many, with a small rotary cutter for curves getting a specific mention.  A good pair of scissors (e.g., Fiskars) is a close second to the rotary cutter.  Other favorite cutting instruments:


The Artist Within:
Design walls received several mentions.  Some people use batting, but a vinyl tablecloth was also mentioned for portability.  The soft, cottony side is used for designing, but because of the vinyl side, it can be rolled up and moved without disturbing the fabric pieces.  

A Stitch in Time:
Quilters love their sewing machines (when working properly).  I think we could start a heated discussion just about sewing machines alone.  A couple of people mentioned their Berninas (and one appreciates her Bernine #10 foot), so I feel that I should give a shout out to my trusty Pfaff Tiptronic 1171.  It's old, but loyal and true and belonged to my mother.  On the cover of the instruction book she wrote June '89 -- oh, the stories this machine could tell.  She has sprinkled notes throughout, but especially in the blank pages at the back.  My heart swells and aches and my breath catches whenever I see her familiar handwriting.  She's been gone 14-1/2 years and I still miss her like crazy!  Breathe.  My two favorite things about this machine (and there are so many) are the dual feed (I even use it for piecing) and my 1/4" piecing foot.  

Someone mentioned Roxanne's needles (handmade in England), which come in a cute little tube with a shell on the top.  

I've always sworn by my John James needles (also made in England), but I'm willing to try something new.

John James Needle Sharp...
A toothpick was mentioned as a great tool for turning appliqué; a vintage spool for binding and long skinny tweezers are handy, and at least one reader likes That Purple Thang:

Big Foot Tool That Purple Thang

And one clever and lucky reader bought a workbench for $15 at at hardware closeout sale.  The perfect height for cutting, ironing, and other prep work!  What a great idea!

Quilting Humor:
I think a good sense of humor and the ability to turn potential (or actual) disaster into a design challenge is very important in a happy and successful quilt maker, and many of you kept me amused with your responses.  Two of the more interesting and amusing "tools" included having a snoring cat in the room and the quilter's own tongue.  You know, for protruding during moments of intense concentration.  

Snack Attack:
I don't eat while making quilts or doing any other kind of needlework.  The natural oils on our hands are bad enough, so I don't want any added oil, salt, sugar, etc. on my fabric!  However, a snack break for fortification seems to be on many a quilter's mind.  Iced tea and coffee were beverage favorites, with microwave popcorn, M & Ms, and chocolate with mint or raspberry flavoring all getting snack mentions.  Are there any quilters who don't like chocolate?

Whew!  I'm looking over my notes and checking them twice.  I think I got everything mentioned during the giveaway reflected in the list above.  My apologies if I've missed any!  There are several tools that I think I'd like to try.  What about you?

With wishes, true and kind, and the right tools for the project -- Joan


  1. Joan, I love this post!! I don't know if you listen to my podcasts, but my last one was about some of my favorite quilting tools. So this post speaks to me. The purple thang was also on my list. But there are some great ones here. My next podcast is going to be a follow up from the last one, as listener's e-mailed me some of their favorites and I think they should be shared. I would love to reference your post. Would that be okay with you?

  2. A really interesting post! Some things I use all the time, some I've never tried. But you sure put some good ideas out there. Thanks!

  3. Thanks for such an informative post, Joan. And while you're on vacation too! ; )

    I didn't think of it at the time, but wanted to mention just how much I LOVE my Bendable Bright Light. I was hesitant, but have discovered it is truly a wonderful aid!!!

  4. What a great list of tools! I have never seen that gripper or the purple thang. I just use whatever blunt object is nearby, such as a pen or knitting needle. I think my favorites are the simple rotary cutter and grid rulers. I'm always on the hunt for just the right sewing needle for hand-sewing on binding. I have no problem snacking while creating as long as the project is for me. Or just an occasional MnM break.

  5. Fabulous post Joan and thanks for going to so much trouble. One "tool" we forgot was that newfangled invention - the blog. A source of inspiration and therapy all in one.

  6. Thanks for the run down of everyones favourite 'quilting tools'. I'm glad I'm not the only one who sews better with a clean house. I guess it's that whole 'guilt-free' feeling I like.

  7. What a great list of ideas. Although if I tried to get a clean house before I started quilting, I wouldn't get any quilting done - ever. Yeah, and I don't remember saying that I danced to the Bollywood DVDs - how did you know?

  8. I'm taking copious notes! Thanks for posting this and including the nut jobs in there too!


  9. This was a great read! I also am a Hulu fan, (love to watch old Dick Van Dyke reruns while stitching!) and I also adore John James sharps. Enjoyed my Purple Thang also, till I lost it, and am a loyal Bernina girl myself. But the best was your Mother's handwritten notes in the Pfaff instruction book... what a meaningful treasure to have, as well as her machine. My father passed away 7 years ago, and every time I come across something with his handwriting, it always catches my heart by surprise and I feel as if he is sitting there with me. xo