It’s nearing the end of October. And for some of us, this means we’re almost through with our Christmas shopping. For others of you…well….
There are a couple of things I know for sure. First, money’s a little tighter with a lot of folks in 2022. Heating bills are predicted to be substantially higher than last year, and let’s not even talk about trips to the gas station…
The second thing I’m pretty confident about is at some point in the next few weeks, someone is going to ask you what you want for Christmas. If you have a significant other, I’m thinking they’ll ask you this question before too long (my hubs plays it safe – he marches into Pineapple Fabric/Keepsake Quilting and gets me a gift certificate). Children, parents, and other folks will soon follow suite.
Realizing this, I mulled over all the sewing notions in the marketplace. If you follow blogs or webpages, it seems new quilting tools come out every few weeks and it’s hard to keep up with everything. And I’ll also throw out this Zone of Truth: You don’t need every little new thing. For instance, I’m a bit critical (okay, a lot critical) about specialty rulers. With specialty rulers, most of the time they’re only good for one technique. For instance, there’s a ruler out there for the Hunter’s Star Block:
This is a nice block. It makes a beautiful quilt. But a large Hunter’s Star specialty ruler costs about $27 on Amazon and do you know how many other quilt blocks it works with other than the Hunter’s Star?
I mean sure, you can use it for a straight edge and for measuring, but I like for my quilting tools to at least multi-task to one other job or be used daily. If I wanted to make a Hunter’s Star quilt, I would tough it out and math it out and make one without the specialty ruler. I could spend the $27 on fabric for the quilt. And besides, with all those set-in seams, one Hunter’s Star quilt would be all I made. But that’s beside the point.
What I want to do in this blog is share with you my favorite quilting notions which don’t break the bank and you’ll get some serious usage out of. Most of these would be great ideas for Christmas gifts. For this reason, I won’t be covering sewing machines, quilting machines, and irons. I also won’t be covering rotary mats and cutters or scissors, as they were covered here: https://sherriquiltsalot.com/2020/11/11/if-you-need-a-new-sewing-machine/ and here: https://sherriquiltsalot.com/2021/07/07/how-to-choose-the-right-cutting-mat-for-you/ and here: https://sherriquiltsalot.com/2022/08/03/care-and-feeding-of-power-tools-and-other-assorted-expensive-quilting-notions/ and here: https://sherriquiltsalot.com/2021/06/23/the-cutting-edge. Also let me park this disclaimer: I do not work for any quilting notions company, fabric manufacturer, or any other business related to quilting. My blog is not monetized by anyone (other than myself) or any business. The tools are the ones I use almost daily, have proven themselves to be worth the money, and the customer service behind the notions is stellar.
- Good Thread – I admit, I’m a thread snob. I prefer long staple, cotton thread. It holds up to piecing, machine applique, or quilting. It’s not linty and it doesn’t break easily. I prefer 50 or 60 weight for piecing, and 60 to 100 weight for machine applique (depending on the look I want). I adore 100 weight micro quilting thread, and if it doesn’t come in the color I want, I’ll settle for 80-weight in the desired hue.
I have preferences.
Generally, good thread doesn’t live in Big Box Stores
so don’t look in Walmart or Hobby Lobby. Most quilt stores have a great selection of great thread. If you don’t have a LQS near you, I order from Superior Thread (which only carries the Superior Thread brands) or Red Rock Thread (which carries a wide selection of many quality thread brands). If you need thread, ask for a gift certificate from your LQS, or visit one of the aforementioned websites. All of those have gift certificates.
- Cutterpillar Light Box – I’ve mentioned this light box before. I’ve owned a Cutterpillar Light Box for almost four years now and I have found it to be the best light box I’ve ever used. It’s wafer-thin, LED, has its own carrying case, and three light settings. This is one of the more expensive quilting notion on this list, coming in at $109 on Amazon. There are other wafer light boxes out there, but the Cutterpillar comes with a clear-cutting board which can safely be used on top of the light box (the price includes the clear-cutting board). It has a self-healing rotary mat and a glass crafting board which can be purchased at an additional price. The entire Cutterpillar set is about $190, depending on where it’s purchased.
I love the Cutterpillar because easily transported to quilting classes or retreats. The only thing I wish I could change about it is its size. I wish I could get one of these about the size of a table. It seems the longer I quilt, the larger my applique blocks are getting!
- Electric Quilt 8 (EQ8) – I use this software almost daily. It’s so easy to jump on EQ8 and find just the quilt block you need in its vast block library. It has multiple quilt layouts and even “fabric” you can audition for your quilt. The Electric Quilt Company is constantly producing updates for the program (which are free with the purchase of the software) as well as “add ons” for specialty quilts such as Dear Jane. And they’ve begun offering virtual classes to help you really learn the ins and outs of EQ8. This is another of the pricier notions – it’s currently $239.95 on their website, but this is for the full program. There’s an EQ8 Mini for $150. If you have EQ7, you can upgrade to EQ8 for $99.95. It is less expensive on Amazon, but with this vendor, the software comes in CD-rom form. It’s a download from the EQ website.
If you really want this software but it’s more pennies than you planned on spending (or someone else spending), there are a couple of things you can do. Go to the website and sign up for their weekly email newsletter and blog. Lots of times they offer coupons in these. Next, the closer it gets to Christmas, the more likely they’re to offer a really good sale (and when EQ has a sale, it’s usually pretty good). Keep an eye out in your email for special sales announcements.
- Misty Fuse – I wrote about this fusible web in this blog: https://sherriquiltsalot.com/2022/02/09/sticky-situations/. Misty Fuse is unlike other fusible webs because it does not have a paper backing. It’s literally a thin, web-like substance you fuse to the wrong side of your fabric by using a Goddess Sheet or other Teflon-infused pressing sheet. It’s easy to press Misty Fuse to your fabric and then cut out your applique shapes. This fusible web comes in white, black, and ultra-violet (which is used with sheer fabrics). And while all these characteristics are great, the one thing which really sold me about this fusible is it can take a beating from the heat of your iron and still work. With other fusibles, you must be cautious about how long you press them with an iron and your heat settings. Too much of either does not work well. The fusible literally loses its fusibility. Misty Fuse can handle too much of both and its fusing action isn’t affected. Ten yards of this product is about $30 on Amazon. It is also available in lesser yardage.
- A Long Cutting Ruler – It’s no secret to my regular readers that the task I like least about quilting is cutting all the fabric. For this reason, I have found investing in some good quality, basic acrylic rulers is a necessity. There are two I work with nearly every day and both of those are 24-inches long. Once my fabric is folded in half on the width, these are perfect for cutting long strips. The ruler width varies – one is 6-inches wide and the other is 8-inches wide. One is an Olfa, which has a lip on one end I can lock under my cutting mat, so the ruler won’t budge. The other is a Creative Grids which has the gripper circles built into the ruler to prevent it from slipping. The 24-inch quilting rulers vary in price from brand name to brand name but generally run between the $20 and $30 range. My advice is to buy the same brand of ruler as your cutting mat so there are fewer measuring mistakes.
- Tulip Hand Sewing Needles – I wrote a blog about needles here: https://sherriquiltsalot.com/2020/10/28/hand-sewing-needles-more-than-meets-the-eye/. Hand sewing needles are one of the least expensive quilting notions on the market. And no matter how much of a sewing machine goddess you are, there will come a time when you’ll need to put in a few stitches by hand. Tulip Needles are spun lengthwise instead of crosswise, meaning they will glide through your fabric with less friction than other brands. These are quality needles which come in super cute packaging. I’m old enough that my eyes aren’t always as sharp as I need them to be. However, I’ve found the eyes of Tulip Needles to be large enough I don’t have to wrestle with threading them. And Tulip has developed a tabletop threader which works specifically with their needles. Tulip Needles come a full range of sizes, and the price points run from $9 to $22 (the more expensive ones are beading needles). The Tulip Needle Threader is about $15.
- Glass Head Pins – These are my go-to pins. The heads can withstand the heat of an iron without melting, they are fine enough no residuals holes are left, and are long enough to weave in and out of the fabric or parallel along the edge of fabric and not fall out. These range from $6 to $11. Like needles, pins are a relatively inexpensive quilting notion. Treat yourself to a couple of packages and replace them when they’re bent, or the point becomes dull. My favorite brand is Dritz.
- Boxes – Those of you who are long time readers of my blog know my penchant for project boxes. I use these boxes to keep all my quilts together once they’re cut out, as well as keep any notions or specialty rulers with the project. And while any good cardboard box will do, my favorite are the clear, plastic boxes.
You can see through them, and they stack nicely. You will find them in quilt shops and on quilting websites, but honestly the best place to find them is Office Depo, Hobby Lobby, and Walmart. Depending on where you purchase them, the size, and how many you get, prices can run from $19 to $50. My favorite place to buy them is Office Depo. They have a larger variety of sizes – even small ones you can use to corral your needles, pins, or other small notions. Everything you need for a quilt can be tossed in the project box. When a quilt retreat or Sit and Sew opportunity presents itself, all you need to do is grab your box. And this type of organization makes it super-easy to get started on a new project. Everything is together and you don’t have to spend valuable minutes hunting for things. Project Box Alert – I just found them today at Dollar Tree! They cost a bit more than $1 but are perfect for quilting. Advertised as scrapbooking storage, they’re the ideal size for storing fabric, pattern, and notions.
- Washi Tape/Painter’s Tape – I’ll be honest here – I use tape for a lot of things in my quilt studio, but the one kind of tape I don’t use is masking tape. It can leave a sticky residue. However, Washi Tape or painter’s tape remove cleanly.
So what do I use it for? If I need to trim quilt blocks down, I use it on rulers to indicate where the fabric edge should be. This way I don’t have to keep measuring and looking for just the right spot. I’ve found this to be super-handy, especially at night when my lighting may not be the best and I’m tired from working all day. There is no guessing or hoping I’m at the right spot. The painter’s tape or Washi Tape is bright and lets me know exactly where to line things up.
I also use it for quilting straight lines on my domestic sewing machine. Simply apply the tape and then stitch on either side of it for great straight-line quilting with a walking foot.
It can also be used to mark where the edge of your fabric needs to be as it travels over your feed dogs for that perfect ¼-inch seam allowance. If your machine doesn’t come with a quilter’s foot, no worries. You can use Washi or painter’s tape to mark where the edge of your fabric should be.
And finally, if you have to cut your fabric strips on an angle, these tapes can be a huge help. The quilting rulers come marked with several different angles on them, and trying to find the right one each time you cut can be confusing – especially after a long day at work or in not-so-great lighting. A piece of tape along the right diagonal line is a lifesaver. You exactly where to line your fabric up in order to make the right cut.
Prices on both of these vary greatly, but both are relatively inexpensive and can be found a big box stores such as Walmart and Hobby Lobby.
Small Rotary Cutters – I promised I wasn’t mentioning rotary cutters per se, but I will add this priceless piece of information here: Small rotary cutters – those 28 mm or less are much easier to control than the larger ones. While the larger ones are great for cutting through multiple layers of fabric, the smaller rotary cutters are way more versatile. They are easier to control, make cutting around templates so much more accurate and easier, and are so much better for trimming. These are available in 14, 16, 18, and 28 mm and run the price gamut of $10 – $12. However, let me add this caveat – a quick search on Amazon for replacement blades yielded only those for the 28 mm cutter. I’m not sure if somewhere like Missouri Star may have replacement blades for the smaller sizes.
- Walking Foot and ¼-Inch Foot – First, I realize many sewing machines – especially those designed for quilters – already have these feet included with purchase. However, if your machine didn’t come with either or only one, you will more than likely want both of these as your quilting journey progresses. A walking foot will move all three layers of the quilt together over the feed dogs without any slippage. This means it’s great for quilting and sewing on binding. Many quilters, once they know where the ¼-inch seam allowance is on their walking foot, prefer to piece with this foot.
A ¼-inch foot makes piecing a breeze. Generally these feet have a phalange on the right side, so you know exactly where to line up your fabric as it goes over the feed dogs, producing a perfect ¼-inch seam. Keeping a consistent ¼-inch seam is imperative for perfect seams and perfect piecing.
A walking foot can range from $10 to $24 depending on if you purchase only the foot or the foot with accessories. A ¼-inch foot runs from $8 to $15, again depending on if you purchase only the foot or the foot with accessories. My advice is to order or purchase the foot made by your sewing machine manufacturer. This way you know the foot will work correctly. If your sewing machine manufacturer doesn’t make a walking foot or ¼-inch foot, don’t despair. Find out if your machine takes a high shank foot or a low shank foot and order generic ones. If you’re not sure what shank you have, Google your machine’s make and model or consult your sewing machine manual.
- My Frixion Pens and Water-Soluble Markers – I know there’s a bit of controversy about Frixion Pens: the marks will come back if the fabric gets cold, they leave “ghost” marks on dark fabric, etc. However, I love these pens. To me there’s simply nothing better to trace applique templates with, mark block units for Y-seams, and mark applique backgrounds. And since I’ve discovered this:
Which completely removes Frixion ink, I have absolutely no qualms about using them.
I mark my quilt tops for quilting with washable markers. There are the ever-faithful blue water-soluble pens.
And there are these:
Which you may have never considered using. I admit when I first heard about quilters using them to mark fabric, I was very, very skeptical. However, after several quilting teachers (including one who is a quilt judge) mentioned using these with great success, I changed my mind. I purchased a pack and I have to admit, they work great and last a lot longer than the blue makers.
Frixion pens come in black, and a pack of three runs around $5. A box of 12 is about $25. They also come in a range of colors and can run from $6 to $30. The tip size varies from medium to extra fine. They’re even available in white. Blue water-soluble markers cost between $7 and $15 depending on the brand, how many are in a pack, and the tip size. Crayola Washable Markers run from $8 to $16, depending on how many are in a pack. If you want to use the Crayola Washable Markers, make sure the package clearly states they’re the washable kind and you will probably want the ones who can produce a fine line.
- Clover Seam Ripper – Clover is a sewing notions company which has consistently produced wonderful products with great quality throughout the years. I’ve used their bias tape makers, stilettoes, and applique pins ever since I began quilting. However, I thought a seam ripper was just a seam ripper until I tried theirs. The tip is thinner than other brands, making it easier to slide under stitches and break the thread without a lot of hassle. The handle is ergonomically designed, too.
Like needles and pins, seam rippers do get dull over time and with continuous use. The rule of thumb is to replace your seam ripper once a year. However, I’ve found Clover’s seam rippers, stay sharper longer than 365 days.
These seam rippers cost about $7, so they’re not terribly expensive. I keep one at my sewing machine, one in my hand sewing kit, and one in my hand applique kit, and one in my sewing bag.
- Tweezers/Purple Thang – Tweezers are great, little tools to keep near your sewing machine. They come in handy when you change your sewing machine needle. They can hold the needle in place while you tighten the needle screw. They are perfect for helping to position applique pieces before gluing or fusing them in place (especially the small ones). They are really useful when I use the Apliquick applique method – they can help fold the fabric over the edge of the interfacing – which really comes in hand with the smaller pieces.
However, the place I use both tweezers and the Purple Thang most in is paper piecing. I’ve found if I can score the paper with the tweezers or the pointy end of the Purple Thank, they come out oh-so-easy. Then I can use the business ends of the tweezers to retrieve any tiny papers left in seams and corners.
Tweezers come in all kinds of forms and sizes. Personally, I like the kind with the angled ends. These seem to be able to get in the tiny places better. I think the kind used for putting on eyelashes/eyelash extensions are the BEST. Amazon has these sets in a price range of $9.99 to $29, depending on if you’re happier with only four different kinds of tweezers or absolutely must have the diamond grips. The Purple Thang, which is one of my favorite quilting tools for lots of reasons, has price points between $6 and $12. The more expensive Purple Thang price includes a case and 10 Thangs – which now come in colors other than purple.
- Quilting Gloves – For me, if I’m quilting on my domestic sewing machine, I have to have these gloves. They help hold the quilt sandwich in place, flatten the sandwich so I can see the area I’m quilting, and help me keep a firm grip on the sandwich bulk. However, I also use these gloves when I machine applique. They help me steady the background fabric and maneuver it. I also use them when I am sewing my quilt rows together and when I’m putting on the borders. The grippy surface of the gloves really help you tame all the bulk. The quilt market has lots of different kinds of these gloves. My favorite are these:
I like having some of my fingers free – this allows my hand to remain cooler and not sweat. When I need to remove the gloves, I can just slide my fingers out and the band of the gloves keeps them on my wrist, which means I don’t lose them if I just need to make an adjustment or two or answer my phone, etc. These are available on Angela Walter’s website, Quiltingismytherapy.com for $27.99. They are also available on Amazon, but are more expensive on this website. One word of caution, they do run a little small, so you may want to purchase a size larger than you normally wear.
I like the Machinger Gloves, too. Admittedly these do make my hands hot, but they have really good gripping action. Plus the grips are on both sides of the gloves, so if one side gets dirty, you simply flip them over and keep quilting. These range from $6-$13.
- Zoom Classes – I’m not revisiting how wonderful Zoom quilting classes are – you can go here https://sherriquiltsalot.com/2022/09/07/the-zoom-zone-of-truth/ to read about those. If there is something you want to learn how to do in quilting (or almost any other area) or want to learn to do better, there is a Zoom class for it. You can take them in the comfort of your own home, in your own studio. Prices can range from under $50 to several hundred dollars depending on what you want to learn and how many classes are offered in a program. They’re a great way to expand your skill set in the comfort of your own space. Plus you don’t have to pack up all your stuff and then unpack it when you get home.
There. I’ve listed most of my very favorite quilting notions and tools. If someone is in a bind and wondering what exactly the perfect present for you would be, show them this blog. Better yet, print it out and circle the items you want. Not too many of their pennies will be spent, and you’re quilting life will have gotten a lot easier!
Until Next Week, Make Your Quilt Yours!
Love and Stitches,