When I recently took up quilting, I didn’t realize just how many gadgets, gizmos, doodads and whatchamacallits were out there to help us get that quilting done! Scissors, pins, cutters and mats. Markers, thread, rulers and fabric in vats! But, I guess with any great hobby come great tools of the trade. And quilting is certainly a Great hobby!
Looking at our display wall at Cozy Quilt Shop, most of the tools were unfamiliar to me and I had no idea what I really needed on my sewing table. I just wanted the basics. But like many people these days, I have a pretty tight budget. So, to help me pass over the tools I really didn’t need, I asked the ladies in the shop what some of their favorites are. I even got suggestions from our customers. You guys are so helpful!
What follows is a fabulous selection of Cozy’s Favorite Tools – The Basics. These are sewing and quilting tools we use on a regular basis and can’t live without! You may have seen some of them before, but didn’t know how wonderful they are. And some of them may be completely new to you. Take a look. You may find something you just can’t live without.
Marking & Measuring ― ― ― ― ― ― ― ― ― ― ― ― ― ― ― ― ― ― ― ― ― ― ― ― ― ― ―
After just one quilt, I am ready to toss my mechanical pencil out the window! The lead keeps breaking and it seems to scratch my fabric rather than mark it. I needed something else to mark with and Kara told me about one of her favorite tools, the Clover Chaco Liner. This liner glides over the fabric better than most other chalk liners, leaving a thin line that is easily removed with a soft dusting. No more breaking lead! And no sharpening needed either.
If you do use pencil to mark your fabric, you’ll need a good eraser at times. A Cozy favorite is the Sewline Fabric Eraser. The eraser is designed to leave larger particles on the surface that won’t get caught in the weave of the fabric. The pen-like tool is easy to hold and it comes in that pretty Sewline pink! At just a couple of dollars, it’s a bargain.
Speaking of Sewline… our Facebook friend Melissa is a fan of the Sewline Trio. I wondered what made this pencil-combo different, so I watched the video demo at AllPeopleQuilt.com (another Favorite!) and darned if I’m not convinced! This 3-in-1 pencil holds black and white lead and a tracer point accessible with just a simple twist. It has a soft, comfortable grip and even has its own eraser. Melissa uses hers so often that it’s always right next to her sewing scissors.
To help mark those straight lines, we have to have rulers. But I was stumped. There are tons out there! And when you're just starting out, you certainly don’t need them all. A standard for quilting is a 6” x 24” ruler. The Cozy Quilt Shop favorite is actually a 6 1/2" x 24 1/2" ruler by Creative Grids. Non-slip dots on the back side prevent the ruler from sliping. Measurements are labeled in 1/8”, ¼”, ½” and 1” increments throughout the ruler, not just on the long ends. And it also has handy 45° and 60° angles.
For marking shorter lines, Kara’s favorite is the 1” x 6” Creative Grids ruler. This cute little guy has non-slip dots on the back to help your ruler stay in place and is a perfectly handy size to grab and go. Kara’s other go-to ruler is the 6” Bias Square by Martingale & Company. She uses this for squaring up and cutting squares because the increments are marked better than most other rulers and larger, bold numbers are so easy to read.
And how could we create a list of our favorite things without including our own Strip Tube Ruler! Of course we love it, but our customers and fans love it too. Our Cozy friend, Jan, doesn’t know what she would do without it. With this great gadget and the “tube technique”, you can easily make accurate half square triangles from 1" to 9½"! It’s a breeze. For more on the Strip Tube Ruler, just check out the Strip Tube Ruler Post on this blog!
Another favorite which helps with repetitive cutting is Omnigrid’s Glow-Line Tape. When cutting multiple pieces, we use this transparent tape to mark measurements on our rulers so it’s easy to see for the next cut. Reduces cutting time and is easy on the eyes. The tape is low-tack so it won’t leave sticky residue on your ruler when removed, and it can even be repositioned. For a couple of dollars you get 21 yards of tape!
When Maureen makes half-square triangles, she uses the Quilter’s Rule 8” Quick Quarter. This inexpensive and clever marking guide has a slotted center that gives a ¼” seam allowance on each side. Making multiple half- or quarter-square triangle blocks or Flying Geese blocks are a breeze – no cutting or piecing. You’ll wonder what you ever did without it!
Underneath it all, a handy new favorite of Diane’s is the Olfa Rotating Self-Healing Rotary Mat. It’s like a Lazy Susan for quilters! Just perfect to help with repetitive cutting of square, triangles and other shapes, this mat allows you to cut, spin your mat and fabric together, then cut again. The compact 12” x 12” size won’t take up too much room on your sewing table and is very flat for easy storage. After clumsily flipping and flopping my own 18” x 24” mat around, knocking my cutters, patterns and iron right off my sewing table, I’m ready to get one for myself!
Cutting ― ― ― ― ― ― ― ― ― ― ― ― ― ― ― ― ― ― ― ― ― ― ― ― ― ― ― ― ― ― ― ― ―
Choosing the right pair of scissors can be a daunting task. There seem to be hundreds of different types of scissors on the market. The good news is that you can easily get by with just a few sizes or types, and they don’t all have to be expensive.
On the smaller side, our “must have” is a good pair of embroidery, needlework or detail scissors. With blades less than 5” long, these little snips are perfect for quick cutting of even the smallest threads and for embroidery. Most work for right or left-handed people, too. Some come with a plastic cap to protect the tips, but you’ll probably be grabbing these scissors for a quick trim, and the cap may be a hassle. Just about any brand will do and you don’t need to spend more than a couple bucks per pair.
Now for fabric cutting. You usually have to spend a bit more to get a great pair of fabric scissors. If you spend less than $20, you probably won’t be happy with them. There is nothing worse than shears that won’t cut through your fabric (and we love our fabric!) or snag or chop up the cut. Our favorite fabric scissors aren’t fancy or even pretty. In fact, the one’s we love and use here in the shop are actually industrial scissors used for gardening, crafts, and for cutting meat and poultry as well as fabric. These “chicken choppers” made by Wolff Industries, have ergonomically designed handles to make cutting easier and more comfortable and the sharp 8 ¾” blades are made of steel. They run $38.99 but should last a very long time. To keep them sharp longer, use on fabric only!
Another favorite for cutting fabric is the rotary cutter. Again, there are many on the market, but not all of them work well. For the sake of your quilting fingers, we like rotary cutters with self-retracting blades. My favorite is the Olfa Ergonomic Rotary Cutter with a 45mm blade. This cutter has a squeeze handle that slides the blade into position for cutting. When you release the handle, the blade falls back behind the guard so you can’t cut yourself by accident. Olfa’s cutter also has a safety button so the squeeze handle can be locked closed and won’t budge even if bumped or knocked. Diane’s favorite, a slightly different style, is the Dritz 45mm Rotary Cutter. This cutter’s blade is pressure sensitive and has a guard that slides out of the way when you press the blade to the fabric. It has a soft grip and a safety lock as well. It works the same for right or left-handed quilters. Of the two, the Dritz cutter costs a little less than the Olfa.
Perfect Pining ― ― ― ― ― ― ― ― ― ― ― ― ― ― ― ― ― ― ― ― ― ― ― ― ― ― ― ― ― ―
One of the first things I learned in Intro to Quilting was that not all pins are created equally. If you don’t get the right kind, they may bend or be too bulky for comfort. For most quilting and sewing, my teacher suggested a great standard, the Flower Head pin. The pins are long enough to hold many layers of fabric and the flower-shaped heads rest flat against the fabric for easier sewing. Most packages note that they are also better for ironing, but the heads aren’t heat resistant, so don’t apply your iron to them directly. A package of these pins cost only a few dollars, but you’ll need lots if you are making anything very big. Find a small tin or container (perhaps an empty Altoids tin) and fill it up with flower head pins!
Many of our experienced quilters tend to splurge on Fine Quilting Pins, the Gucci of pins. Janice loves these! The long, sharp pins have a fine stem and a small, glass, heat-resistant head that can be ironed. They are so thin that some daredevils even sew right over ‘em (of course we can’t recommend doing that for the sake of your machine). A small case usually contains 100 pins, but they can easily run over $10 per package. But, those that use them love them and it’s a welcome expense for their sewing kit. Cozy ladies prefer Clover Quilting Pins (Fine).
So where do you stick all these pins? In the Ewesful Pincushion, of course. Dyed in bright and bold colors, these pure wool, hand felted pincushions have a layer of fleece inside to keep your pins sharp and a touch of lanolin to prevent rust. The Ewesful Pincushion with a flat top and The Very Ewesful, Too with a rounded top are even large enough to hold a quilt’s worth of pins. A little more that a run of the mill cushion, but better protection for those Fine Quilting Pins!
Odds & Ends ― ― ― ― ― ― ― ― ― ― ― ― ― ― ― ― ― ― ― ― ― ― ― ― ― ― ― ― ― ― ―
In the thread department, Janice’s favorite is Wonder Invisible Thread. She uses this thread for top stitching, appliqué, and quilting. It’s the perfect choice we she doesn’t want to see color of the thread against fabric, just the texture of the quilting. It comes in two colors, Clear and Smoke, depending on your fabric color.
For keeping our bobbins organized, we love the BobbinSaver. This inexpensive tool holds over 20 bobbins, metal or plastic, small or large. Your bobbin threads won’t unwind when stored in this little blue ring. And it’s a great way to distinguish what type of thread is on those bobbins, too. Janice keeps one BobbinSaver for regular cotton thread and one for embroidery thread. What a great idea!
Our friend Carol introduced me to one of my new favorite things. She saw me struggling over my machine adding in-the-ditch quilting to my first quilt. The layers of fabric and batting were a little uncomfortable to hold, so she suggested Machingers, a special set of gloves for machine quilters. The gloves are soft and fairly thin so they’re comfortable to wear. The flexible fingertips grip the fabric as you sew and your layers become more manageable under the needle. They will even provide a little extra protection when doing a lot of pinning and help grip fabric when adjusting or lining it up. Amazing!
We All Sew! Yes, we do. It’s not just a statement of fact, it’s a fabulous web site sponsored by Bernina. At weallsew.com you’ll find all kinds of stuff about sewing updated weekly from the best stuff on the internet, all in one place. There are video demos on different sewing techniques, favorite sewing blogs to visit, Facebook groups to investigate, links to various charities you can “sew to serve” for, photo galleries and links to tons of great things to sew – All For Free!
Another one of my favorite web sites is AllPeopleQuilt.com. If you haven’t been there, you are missing out. This site is chuck full of everything about quilting! It has projects and ideas, tips and techniques, videos, forums, blogs, galleries, printable patterns, shopping, and article after article on quilting. It’s a fun site to scroll through even when you don’t have a specific need in mind.
And Moda Bakeshop. For me, visiting Moda Bake Shop is like going to See's Candies. It's filled with treats and goodies that just make me happy! This division of Moda Fabrics provides delicious "recipes" for all types of sewing and quilting projects using pre-cut fabric from various designers and quilt shops. The site also includes tips for getting your projects going and a wonderfully helpuls "Weights & Measures" page with printable cutting guides, setting charts, and equivalent measures. And again, the best part is that it's all FREE!
For More Information ― ― ― ― ― ― ― ― ― ― ― ― ― ― ― ― ― ― ― ― ― ― ― ― ― ― ―
If you are interested in purchasing any of the products we have mentioned, you are in luck! Most of our Favorite Tools - The Basics are available on our website under Favorite Tools.