In Praise of Pool Noodles

It’s the end of July.  Sadly, summer is winding down.  There are Back-to-School sales everywhere.  All too soon (too soon for me, because I am a rare specimen – a Southern woman, who despite the vicious North Carolina humidity, loves her some hot weather), all the summer supplies will be on sale.  Yup.  All the summer clothes, swimsuits, and garden equipment will be relegated to the 50 percent or more off aisle of your local hardware, retail, and dollar store establishments.

Especially the pool noodles.  Most especially those.  I mean, after all, as soon as Labor Day 2021 is in the books, pools close.  Who would need pool noodles then?

Quilters, of course.

So, before all that squishy foamy goodness is gone until Summer 2022, grab the beverage of your choice, kick back in some air-conditioned comfort, and allow me to explain just what we quilters can do with pool noodles. 

In case you have no clue what I’m talking about, these

are pool noodles.  First, let’s dive Get it?  Dive.  It’s a water pun.  into what a pool noodle is.  Originally, these were called Water Woggles and were marketed in the 1980s.  The pool noodle is a cylindrical piece of buoyant polyethylene foam and is usually hollow.  They’re useful when learning how to swim, for floating, for rescue reaching, water games, and aquatic exercise.  Most pool noodles are about 63-inches in length and 3-inches in diameter.  Honestly, there are literally thousands of ways to use these things.  There were at least five pages of pool noodle useage ideas when I Googled pool noodles. 

To begin with, they have two great characteristics.  First, they’re inexpensive even during the height of summertime pool activities. And since it’s now the end of summer and they’re on sale, they’re even less expensive.  Second, since they’re made out of foam, they’re can easily be cut with a knife.  Both of these are important to quilters, because sometimes we don’t need the full 63-inch length.  How can quilters use these inexpensive, foam goodies?  Allow me to give a few examples which may make your quilting life a little easier.

Quilt Storage

One word of warning before we get too deep into this example:  Quilts stored on a pool noodle can only be so big – usually no bigger than a double-size.  Even though there are pool noodle connectors, generally the bulk of a large quilt makes storing it on a pool noodle difficult.

However, we all look for ways to store quilts without folding them.  If you want a way to store quilts so the fabric and batting aren’t stressed along a fold line, this is really a great way to keep them.  Quilts smaller than a 96-inches x 108-inches can be stored on pool noodles.  If the quilts are really small – such as wall hangings and such – several may be stored on the same noodle.  Roll them around the foam (quilt front to the outside) and pin. 

One word about those larger quilts.  If you have to store them for an extended period of time, the best place is on a bed, covered with a sheet.  If you have to fold them, make sure you unfold them, shake them out, and then refold with different fold lines every few months, or you may get a permanent crease in the quilt.  Even worse, if it’s an older quilt, the fibers may fray or split.

Mailing Quilts

If you’re mailing a small quilt, see if you can’t wrap it around a noodle and then put it in a circular mailer (the kind blueprints, calendars, or golf clubs are mailed in).  If this is possible, there’s a much greater chance the quilt will arrive at its destination in perfect health. 

Transporting Quilts

Using pool noodles is also a great way for you to transport your quilt.  For instance, if you’re taking some of your quilts to a show or meeting, and you really want the quilt to look pristine when you get it there, wrap it around a noodle or two.  Most likely you’ve pressed the quilt before these events and want it to remain looking that way.  Using a pool noodle minimizes any chance of it wrinkling. 

Basting Quilts

For this, you’ll need three pool noodles, and this method works best with quilts you don’t have to extend the pool noodles several times with connectors in order to get the needed length.  There are several steps to this, and I’ll try to explain it clearly.

First:  Pin the edge of the backing among the pool noodle in four or five places.  The right side of the fabric should be on the outside of the pool noodle.  Carefully roll the fabric snugly around the noodle and try to avoid making any wrinkles.  (Hint:  The larger the quilt, the more effort this takes).

Second:  Repeat with the batting on the second noodle.

Third:  Repeat with the top on the third noodle.  Be sure to have the wrong side facing out with this one.

Fourth:  Place the noodle with the backing in front of you and unroll it about two feet.  Spray with basting spray (if you like the Quilter’s Select Free Fuse, I’m sure you can use that, just make sure to have your iron handy).  Personally, I like the 505 spray baste.

Fifth:  Take the tube with the batting and starting right in front of you, roll it over the sprayed part, making sure there are no wrinkles.  I apply a little pressure and pull it away from me once I have the edge basted down securely. 

Sixth:  Spray the batting.  Don’t soak the batting.  Spray lightly.  Then take the roll with the quilt top and place it over the batting.  Pull the basted part towards you and roll out more of the backing.  Repeat the process until you have everything basted.

This is a great way to baste quilts and minimize the mess spray baste can sometimes make.  However, it’s easy to see how this process could be a bit difficult with larger quilts.    

Store Binding

This is probably my favorite pool noodle use.  I find yards of binding almost unmanageable. I’ve tried wrapping it around an empty paper towel tube and using a binding buddy, but still had binding issues.  However, once I used part of a pool noodle, I knew I had found my answer to the unruly binding issue.  You only use a section of the pool noodle for binding storage – roughly 9-inches – so, if your pool noodle is the standard 63-inches long, this means you can get seven pieces of foam to use for binding storage.  Use a sharp knife to cut your noodle into pieces.  Take one end of the binding and pin it to the foam piece and simply wrap the rest of the binding around the noodle and secure the other end with another pin. 

I like this binding storage method for a couple of reasons.  First, I tend to make my binding as soon as I complete my quilt top.  This way I know it’s ready to rock and roll as soon as I take the quilt off the long arm.  Second, if I’m running low on the fabric I plan to use for the binding, I know I need to purchase additional fabric, or pick something else.  Once made, the binding can be stored in my project box and remain wrinkle free until I’m ready to sew it onto my quilt sandwich.

I’ve also found this 9-inch length of foam storage goodness easier to hold in my lap while sewing the binding on by machine.  It doesn’t tend to slide off as easily as paper towel tubes.  The noodle makes controlling the binding so much easier.

For those applique enthusiasts who find themselves making yards of bias tape for stems and such, the 9-inch sections of pool noodle is a great way to store them. They won’t wrinkle or stretch while they’re waiting on you to stitch them down.

Put it on a Hanger

If you have a queen-sized quilt top or larger, we know rolling that top around a pool noodle isn’t possible.  Most of us will opt to fold the quilt, but we also realize the creases can harm the fibers and we may end up with semi-permanent wrinkles in our quilt.  Instead of folding my quilts or quilt tops for storage, I lay them over clothes hangers.  I’ve found if I cut a length of pool noodle the same size as the base of my hanger, then slit the side of the noodle lengthwise so I can pop the noodle onto the base of the hanger and lay the quilt over it, I won’t have a fold in the middle of my quilt.  The thickness of the noodle also adds additional support for the weight of the quilt.

I’ve also found this is a great way to store window treatments. 

Use Them as Pincushions

If you must slice and dice a pool noodle to use it, you may find you have a few inches left.  These leftovers can be used for portable pincushions to put in your hand sewing or hand applique supply boxes.  They’re not as bulky as regular pincushions, so they take up less room.

For those quilters who like to pin baste, a larger section of foam is the perfect place to park the safety pins we use.  They can remain open, are easy to grab, and keeps all the pins in one place.

They Make Great Booster Seats for Spools of Thread

This hint mainly pertains to long armers.  Most long arm heads have something like this

That you place the thread on while you’re quilting.  Usually, I use cones of thread on Leighann the Long Arm.  However, once in a while I’ll find Superior Thread may be out of the color of thread I want in cone form or I’ll want a specialty thread.  If either of these occasions occur, I have to settle for spools of thread, not cones.  And sometimes spools of thread “hiccup” on Leighann’s thread holder.  They need a little more height, so the thread won’t wrap around the base of the holder and stop the thread flow.  If this happens, I cut an inch of pool noodle from the length and slide it over the holder then place the spool on top.  The added height stops the problem (most of the time, anyway). 

Quilters have always been known to use non-quilty notions in their studios.  Pool noodles fall into that category.   It’s the end of summer, folks.  Those pool noodles are on sale  and can be used in so many ways.  Go forth and purchase a half a dozen or so.  My favorite place to buy them is Dollar Tree.

Until Next Week, Quilt On!

Love and Stitches,

Sherri and Sam 

7 replies on “In Praise of Pool Noodles”

I have not personally had any transfer of a chemical smell to any of my quilts stored on a pool noodle. That said, I use new noodles, not those been in a pool or ocean and cleaned, and I store them in a bedroom, where the temperatures don’t get above 70 degrees.

Cynthia — I’m a new quilter and haven’t yet purchased any pool noodles though a pro I know personally has told me it’s the best way to store quilts. However, since it’s the middle of the Thanksgiving/Christmas holidays, I’ve missed the last “end of summer” sales and was afraid I would be unable to find any in the stores. Lo and behold, Amazon has some I could purchase right now. I had the same reservations as your husband — might the smell (or color) transfer to the quilt? I wanted to share with you that I saw a YouTube video the other day where the quilter [Leah Day’s “Quilt Along #27 – How to Store Your Quilts”] made cloth covers for the noodles before wrapping the quilt and also made sleeves to put the wrapped quilt in. (I now wish I hadn’t torn that sad sheet into rags the other day!)
Best of luck with your own storage solutions!

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