Handy Sewing Bag

When I was teaching in Wenatchee, Eastern Washington last autumn, one of my students had a handy zipped bag with pouches for storing quilting tools and notions.

Inside there are several divisions for keeping items separate, including four zipped compartments so that rotary cutters, spools of thread, pins etc may be kept contained.

These bags are made by Pat Lannoye of Malaga, WA and are available for purchase. You may contact Pat at plannoye@msn.com.

Rotary Cutter Maintenance

I’ve just changed the blade in my rotary cutter and oh my, what a difference! Whenever I do this, I think to myself that I should have done it weeks ago. As I tell my students, we spend hundreds of dollars on fabric, but we balk at replacing rotary cutter blades and sewing machine needles. This doesn’t make any sense. Ergonomically and for ease of use, having a sharp blade is the way to go. With a new blade, fabric cuts are like cutting through butter. They are clean and can be made without applying much downward force on the rotary cutter.

When I’m teaching, I’m surprised how often I come across rotary cutters that are incorrectly assembled. I’ve had students say to me things like, “I’ve just put in a new blade, so I don’t know why it’s not working very well”. Make sure that you put it back together in the right order with the large black circle in the center on the top and the washer and nut on the back.

Charming pincushion

When I travel to teach, I love to see the variety of gadgets and notions that my students bring to class. One lady in my class at the North Carolina Quilt Symposium had this charming pincushion. It’s a small basket with a lid decorated with a wool applique pastoral scene. Inside is a divided pincushion embellished with embroidery. This is adorable.

I asked where it had come from and the lady said that she purchased it at the Dragonfly Quilt Shop in High Point, NC. The website has an on-line store, but I don’t see this particular item, so it’s possible that they no longer have it in stock.


Comical Sewing Band-Aids

When I taught in Soldotna, AK at the Kenai Peninsula Quilters in July, one of my students who was a nurse passed out sewing band-aids for everyone. I always joke about having liability insurance but not wanting any blood in my classroom! I’m a stickler for checking that my students close their rotary cutter blades every time they put their cutters down, even if they are going to pick them up right away. I tell them that they get one warning and then if I catch them again, they will be fined $5 which will go to the Mongolian Quilting Center! They laugh, but seriously, we need to respect these wonderful sharp rotary cutters that save us so much time and cut so cleanly and accurately. Here’s the selection of sewing band-aids. These really amused me.

Travel case for quilting gadgets

One of the many aspects I love about teaching, is being introduced to useful quilting “stuff” by my students. A lady in my class for the Metropolitan Patchwork Society in Beaverton, OR, had this great little travel case for storing quilting tools. It is supported by a plastic display rack, approximately 8″ x 6.5″. The purple cover flap is hanging down the back and flips over to close the case with the velcro strip. This is so handy for all the small tools and gadgets that quilters like to carry and have at their disposal.

This nifty travel case was designed by Pearl Pereira and the pattern is available for purchase at her on-line store.


Favorite pins for piecing

I’m re-posting my two cents’ worth on quilting pins, (first posted in May 2013), as I still have the same favorite pins and would like to recommend them to you. When I’m piecing my quilts I like to pin at intersections to help keep everything precise. I always place my pins perpendicular to the seam line. If I use narrow pins and sew slowly, my machine will run over them without any problems. I’m always cautious about telling my students that they may sew over pins. Some machines are very finicky especially if the pins are fat, or positioned at an odd angle rather than at right angles to the seam line. If in doubt, take them out just before your machine reaches them. There are a variety of choices out there. Here are some of the options.

20130507_152012 20130507_152532

The pins on the far left are my favorite. These are Clover Extra Fine patchwork pins. They have yellow or turquoise glass heads and a nice slender shank of 0.4 mm. They are hard to find in the stores. I buy them wholesale and have them available for my students to purchase. Please contact me if you’d like to buy some. The ones next to them are Fine (0.5 mm) and work well too. The Fine ones seem to be more readily available in the quilt stores than the Extra Fine. If you want longer pins, the flat headed flower pins, (far right), are good. The shank is narrow (0.45 mm) and the head is easy to grab. The second from the right and other similar pins, which are often called “quilting pins”, are too fat in my opinion and not appropriate for use when machine piecing. They do have their uses. When I’m auditioning fabrics on my work wall, I use them to pin the fabrics, (which are often folded several times), onto the board. Some people swear by forked pins, but these are pricey. One of my students told me that the forks bend easily. They are problematic if the forks aren’t exactly parallel and can cause puckers.


Of course, when you have pins, you need pin cushions. I have several including a Shaker one with bobbin holder, tapestry, little basket, blue-bird with green wings, a rather angular chicken, and a round felted chicken.

The FabGrab Quilter’s Sandboard

As a quilt teacher, I sometimes receive e-mails from people wanting to promote their new products. Maureen Lasslett, maker of the FabGrab sandboard, contacting me offering to send me this 3 in 1 no-slip fabric grabbing tool and asking for critical feedback. Maureen is a former quilt shop owner (2001-2011), quilting and sewing teacher, and the current co-owner of a sewing machine resource center in her home state of New Jersey. When she had her quilt shop, one of the more popular products that she offered her customers was a sand board, used for holding fabric patches in place while tracing template outlines, sewing and cutting lines. Clover and Dritz both carried their own version of this very useful tool, but no longer produce them. Maureen felt that this was a product that should be readily available for quilters, so she designed her own and it is now in the market place. Here’s her website.

20160905_121457Don’t be put off by the rather dated-looking packaging. This is a great tool with three surfaces for use in a variety of quilt-making techniques: the sandy textured surface holds fabric firmly in place for ease in marking and tracing, the felt surface may be used for a mini design wall for small pieces and applique, and the white acrylic surface on back provides a smooth area for writing and tracing. I particularly like the sand board and am already using this frequently. The size, 8-1/2″ x 11″, is convenient to use and to transport. I have no reservations in recommending this product.20160917_162016

Maureen is working on improving the packaging and will be removing the gimmick of the free fabric squares and pincushion pattern. On the updated versions, you may also find a different color of felt for the mini-work wall. Give it a go!



Quilting Rulers

I feel the need to re-run my thoughts on rulers because I am appalled by what many quilting shops are offering. In May, I visited Shipshewana, IN, an Amish quilting Mecca. The only rulers at both the Yoder Department Store and Lilly’s, the two impressively large quilting stores in town, were Creative Grids rulers with an extra 1/2″ added which I hate. Despite the huge array of sizes displayed, there were no rulers without the extra 1/2″. I wanted to get a ruler for my friend who is a beginning quilter and could not bring myself to buy her the 6-1/2″ x 24″ which is so confusing. I do not understand the logic of producing rulers like this except for 9-1/2″ and 12-1/2″ squares which can be used for easily cutting finished-sized 9″ and 12″ blocks for applique. I am a huge fan of Omnigrid rulers without the extra 1/2″ and always recommend these to my students.


The Omnigrid rulers are clear and easy to read. If I could only have one ruler for all my quilting, I would choose the 6″ x 24″ and this is the one I advise new quilters to purchase. With my 6″ x 24″ I can use either long side for measuring my cuts. For the Creative Grids 6-1/2″ version I get confused by the extra 1/2″ and I find it easy to make a mistake if the ruler is turned round the wrong way. My second favorite is the 15″ square which I find extremely useful for cutting large squares and squaring up my Kaleidoscope and Op-Art Kaleidoscope blocks. Another I like is the 6″ x 12″ ruler. This is especially good for cutting strip sets into segments which I do frequently when making my Bargello block quilts. When you are making these repeated counter-cuts, it is easier to use this smaller ruler rather than the long 6″ x 24″. You can line up the horizontal lines on the ruler with the seam lines on the strip-sets which helps to keep everything square and even.


I realize that part of this is simply due to habit and what I’m used to, but for me it is hard work using rulers that have the extra 1/2″ or that have variable divisions in the measurements marked on the ruler. I have seen some appalling specimens on my teaching travels and my students get frustrated when their rulers are so difficult to use.

Bobbini bobbin holders

When I was teaching for the Sew Broke Quilters in Mars, PA, one of my students had these nifty bobbin holders. They are made from squashy rubber and are a very handy way to keep a bobbin with the corresponding spool of thread. I think they are ingenious and am ordering some. Once again, I was introduced to an awesome new gadget during a workshop.

20160507_135013 20160507_135000

Here’s a YouTube video from the makers, Smartneedle Inc. These bobbin holders are available on Amazon and cost $9.99 for a pack of 12, (no shipping charge if you have Amazon Prime).