Posted on July 12, 2012
Can you imagine making a quilt using scissors and a sewing needle? For ages this was how it was done. We can go back even further, to when Aborigines made patchwork cloaks out of possum skins using sharp pieces of shell or stone, and a needle fashioned from a bit of bone.
People have always used whatever was available to them as tools. Nowadays there are many specialty tools available that make patchwork and quilting faster, easier and more fun!
Tools Get the Job Done
Most tools are created and come into the marketplace, because someone thought of a way to make a task better. The inventor of the rotary cutter came up with the idea back in 1979 after watching a tailor cut silk with scissors. Noticing how uneven the cutting was he conceived a better way to cut fabric, inventing the first roller knife as a tool for tailors.
It wasn’t long before quilters discovered that the rotary cutter made cutting fabric more accurate and even saved time. So a tool devised for tailors became a must have gadget for quilters.
Whether it’s using a window as a light box to transfer a design or a pair of gardening gloves to machine quilt with, most of us have devised ways of getting things done using items that were never intended for sewing or quilt making. I don’t believe you need a lot of tools, but it is important to have the right ones and to know how to use them. The right tool will make the task better – easier, quicker, or give you an improved result.
Tools Can Be Unconventional
You probably have a few gadgets around your house that can be used to enhance the time you spend sewing quilts. I use two rubber door stops to raise my sewing machine in the back. You’ll have better posture while sewing with the machine tilted towards you, which helps to relieve the stress on your shoulders.
Discovering double-sided fusible wadding has saved me a lot of time and effort as I no longer need to baste the quilt sandwich with safety pins. I still have a use for at least one safety pin though. I tape the safety pin upside down to the back of my sewing machine, to use as a guide for fine monofilament thread. When you place this type of thread on the spool holder it doesn’t have time to flow without tangling before it gets to the machine’s top tension disk. If you have trouble using fine thread, pop the spool of thread in a juice glass or mug placed behind your machine and feed it through the safety pin before threading the machine. This eliminates thread jams and breakage.
Tools Don’t Need to Be Fancy
Dealing with bits of thread can be a tedious task but stray threads can show through your finished quilt so you want to make sure you remove them. A lint roller is handy to use on a quilt top before quilting to remove bits of thread, but even handier for me is shipping tape, which we always have on hand. Wrapping it sticky side out around your hand makes one of the best lint and thread removers to be found anywhere. I’ve never gotten around to making a swanky thread/scrap catcher but instead use an empty margarine or take away container. Tools don't necessarily need to be fancy - they need to do the job!
An item that I highly recommend to all quilters is Crisp™ spray starch. I don’t use it in the laundry room but it's a constant companion when I’m sewing. Use it on any fabric that is a bit fine or stretchy before cutting out patchwork pieces. The starch will keep the pieces from stretching out of shape during the measuring and cutting process. I use it all the time when making bias for use with the bias tape makers.
In my travels I hear many fantastic ideas from fellow quilters. I’m told that a salad spinner makes a great spin dryer for small pieces of fabric you’ve prewashed. Recently I’ve also heard about using leftover bits of non-slip shelf liner as a mat on your sewing table to keep spools of thread, bobbins and other items from rolling about. You can also put a piece under the foot control of your machine to stop if from slipping while you’re sewing.
For the Love Tools
Like all quilters I love fabric but I find the tools I use make the biggest difference to my enjoyment of the craft. When I discovered the Mesh Transfer Mat I realised it was definitely superior to using a window or even a light box. Machine quilting gloves are a better choice for me then gardening gloves which I find too bulky. If I ever find improved solutions to my rubber door stops, juice glass or Crisp spray starch I'd be open to trying them.
As a quilter, I’m always looking for items that can make patchwork and quilting easier or faster, and provide a better end result. The rotary cutter revolutionalised quilt making but changes for the better haven't stopped there. As a merchant of patchwork and quilting tools, I favour quality gadgets that will help achieve a better end result or those that can add a new dimension to the craft. As a tutor I want my students to be able to achieve the best results possible with the least effort and the right tools are an important part of improving your patchwork and quilting. They can make is easier, quicker, better and more fun!