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Quilting Notions & Tools
There are so many tools and notions on the market, it’s completely overwhelming!
At least it was to me when I first started out to try and sift through and know which were the key ones to buy and which were just “nice to have”. I made the rookie mistake of picking up some of the first tools I found at my local big box fabric store. I was just so eager to get started that I thought any tool would do. I mean, surely if it’s sold at a fabric store it must be good, right?
Sadly, I’ve come to realize through my own testing that that isn’t always the case and some products/ brands are just made better than others. I would have loved to have had a resource to rely on to help guide me through and help me spend my dollars wisely. I hope to do that for you with this section on sewing/ quilting notions and tools. Learn from my trial and errors and avoid your own costly mistakes!
If you have a notion or tool that you’re curious about that isn’t listed below, feel free to send me an email, I’d be happy to help with any insight I may have.
Juki TL-2010Q sewing machine - I’m constantly raving about how much I love my Juki. I do. Every. Single. Day. You don’t need the fanciest sewing machine, especially if you are just getting started. Since I wanted to be able to quilt my own quilts, I needed to upgrade from the Singer Inspiration I started on. The Juki has close to a 9” harp space (the technical term for that hole in the center of the machine) which is great for working on larger quilts. There are lots of options on the market. So, know what features are important to you and then do your research and test drive them to make sure it’s a perfect fit.
You can read my full review of the Juki TL-2010Q here and download a handy shopping guide to help you purchase the right machine for your needs.
Cleaning your sewing machine can be a daunting task, but I've put together a quick overview of how I maintain my machine in hopes of making it a more enjoyable process for you.
Sewing Machine Needles by Schmetz in sizes 75/11 for piecing and 90/14 for quilting. They are available in a handy combo pack. But I’ve used lots of other types of needles and it got the job done.
Hand Sewing | Quilting & English Paper Piecing “EPP”
Here are the tools I love having in my kit when it comes to hand sewing and EPP:
Thread Heaven - this stuff coats your thread so it glides effortlessly through all those layers when your hand sewing or quilting. Plus, it helps prevent the thread from tangling as much. You want this in your kit if you do any kind of hand stitching. The only time I don’t use it is when I’m big stitch hand quilting. And even then, I probably could. UPDATE - Thread Heaven has been discontinued as the owners have decided to retire. I've since switched to Sew Fine thread gloss, which is made from natural and locally sourced beeswax.
Sewline Glue Pen - I prefer to use glue than to hand baste when EPPing. This is the first glue that I tried and it’s worked so I keep using it!
Thread – I love Aurifil Thread and rely on 50wt cotton mako thread for connecting all my EPP and appliqué.
Hand quilting thread - There are lots of hand quilting thread options out there. I gravitate towards big stitch hand quilting, so, the size and type of thread I go for is different than traditional hand quilting. My go-to are:
I’ve had a tough time finding pearl cotton thread in my area. I've put together a shopping guide of over 20 stores to help you find the perfect place to get your own stash of perle cotton thread. You can find all the details for that here.
Travel Sewing Bag – I love to keep these notions in a handy zip pouch. It’s perfect for on the go sewing for when you travel or attending a sew-in with your local guild.
Notions & Tools
Binding Clips - these Clover Wonder Clips are super cute and work great for a whole variety of projects, but they can add up real quick! I had a huge stash of binder clips (you know, from the office supply store) and they work perfectly.
Clover Hera Marker – a must for plotting out quilt designs!
Clover Hera Marker Slim – works perfectly at turning corners – say on a pin cushion or pillow you might be making. Genius tool for that. You can also use a chopstick in a pinch!
Curved Basting Pins - I've tried with regular pins before and I ended up with lots of puckering on the back. That could be because I was still new to basting at the time, but having to re-do basting is not my idea of fun! And these curved ones have been reliable so, why mess with a good thing?!
Frixion Pens & Markers – these are nifty little tools to have in your arsenal. I just forewarn you they have a tendency of bleaching darker fabric, which I talk about here. So, I only use it in areas that will not be seen (e.g. while making HSTs).
Kwik Klip - this is a nifty little tool to help speed up your pin basting. Plus, it helps alleviate some strain on your hands, which is super handy if you suffer from any hand pain like I do.
Measuring Tape - comes in handy far more frequently than one would think!
- Hand Appliqué Needles - for hand appliqué I love these straw needles in size 10. I've also been meaning to give these Sewline Tulip Appliqué needles a go.
- Big Stitch Hand Quilting Needles - I adore these Clover Gold Eye Embroidery Needles in sizes 3-9.
- Piecing Needles - ever since I got my Juki, I swear by Schmetz in size 75/11.
- Quilting Needles - I use Schmetz size 90/14.
- Binding Needles - I use these straw needles in size 10 and just adore them. It goes through the fabric like buttah.
Pins – I love these flat head flower pins from Dritz Quilting.
Pin Cushion – I make my own (here) and encourage you to do so too!
Quilting Gloves - yup, it's a thing! But, I first started off using good ol' rubber gloves! The Machingers are really nice as your hands don't get as hot and sweaty as with the rubber gloves. I've even started trying out gardeners' gloves, which are working out well too. You just want something that will help you grip the fabric. It does make for a more enjoyable quilting experience.
Rotary Cutter – I do love this one by Olfa.
Rulers – the ones I use on a regular if not daily basis are:
- 6 ½” x 12” ruler that is my most used ruler hands down,
- a 12 ½” x 12 ½” square ruler that is my go-to for squaring up blocks and quilt corners, and
- a 6” x 24” ruler which is great for squaring up quilts and cutting yardage.
Seam Ripper - it's inevitable that mistakes will happen. A good seam ripper will be your friend!
Scissors – I’m still on the hunt for the perfect pair – stay tuned!
Self-Healing Cutting Mat – I started off with a cutting mat that essentially deteriorated on me very quickly. So, don’t skimp here. I've tried Olfa and Alvin and both have worn out at about the same rate.
Sewline Fabric Pencil White Ceramic Lead – I was so thankful to have won this at my guild meeting when I was working on the needle turn appliqué for my Hexed quilted table runner. So handy for marking dark fabrics.
Thread - lots to discuss here, including:
- Piecing thread – I piece everything using Aurifil Mako Cotton 50wt thread in white #2021, so much so I’ve upgraded to the cone!
- Machine quilting thread – for quilting I adore a more prominent stitch, therefore, I just adore 40wt Cotton Mako Aurifil Thread. I typically quilt using Aurifil 40wt thread in whatever colour best suits my project. Pick up their handy color card and always have the exact coloured thread you want!
- Binding thread – I don’t have a go-to for binding. It will either be 50wt or 40wt Aurifil Thread all depending on what colour I have on hand that matches best. I’ve also used 100% cotton Gutermann Thread, as they have some great colour options and are easily sourced at local fabric stores.
Iron – I’ve gone through a few irons by now and have done a ton of research on the topic, talked to countless sewers and quilters on which irons they swear by and here’s what I’ve learned. They all have pros and cons. Sometimes, it’s also the luck of the draw. Ever heard of the “lemon” concept with cars? Where everything seems to be constantly wrong with the vehicle? Yeah, that term can apply to irons too. My favourite to date is still this one I use today which is by Rowenta. You can read about my experience with a Black and Decker here.
Flatter Spray – this has similar benefits as starch, but without the ick factor! Bonus, it comes in scents. I went with the scent Fig and it leaves such a lovely scent while I’m working away. Oh, and it gets my wrinkles out. It’s good at the important stuff too!
Design Wall – I kick myself for waiting as long as I did before making my very own design wall. You can DIY it yourself too. I share how to here.
Lighting – I’m on the hunt for a better lighting solution for my work area. Too often I find myself wishing I had more light. I’ve been eyeing these Sewing Machine Led Lighting Kit that goes inside the throat of your sewing machine. Or, this Slimline Led Light that’s made to mimic real sunlight. I really like the sound of that.
Fabric Cupboard - Ikea Billy Bookcase with Morliden doors. This has been so amazing to have and I highly encourage you to find a storage solution for your stash. Whether big or small, it's always nice to have a designated spot for your textile goodies.
1/4" - the standard seam allowance used in quilting.
1/4" Foot - a sewing machine foot that has an edge running along one side to help you stitch a perfect 1/4" seam.
Basting a Quilt also known as the Quilt Sandwich (yes! It’s true!) – is the act of joining the quilt layers. First by laying out the quilt backing wrong side up. Securing that in place so the fabric is nice and taught without any wrinkles or puckers. Lay your quilt batting on top followed by your quilt top right side facing up. Baste together either with:
- curved safety pins,
- thread (this is slow and painful, in my opinion!)
- Micro Stitch, or
- spray basting (I've heard Odif 505 is the best).
My go-to is pin basting as the pins can be re-used which seems more earth friendly. Although, I am tempted to try spray basting as it looks so quick and painless. If you love it, I’d love to hear more, Send me a note.
English Paper Piecing "EPP" or "EPPing" - the art of forming fabric around paper templates and then hand stitching the pieces together. Sounds crazy, but it’s kinda addictive! You can see some of my first attempts here.
Free Motion Quilting - when you are the one moving the fabric to create the quilt design instead of the machine doing it for you. Allows you to create more intricate quilt designs.
Free Motion Quilting Foot - used for free motion quilting.
Half Square Triangle (aka HSTs) – this is where my quilt journey started, just playing with these fun and versatile quilt blocks. There are lots of ways to make them, but the simplest is by placing two squares of fabric right sides together and draw a line diagonally from one corner to the other. Then stitch ¼” on either side of the drawn line. Cut on the drawn line and press open. Yields two HSTs. And just try and say that’s not addictive 😉
Needle Turn Appliqué – when you use the needle to turn the fabric under as you hand appliqué to another piece of fabric.
Piecing - the act of joining two pieces of fabric with a ¼” seam allowance either by hand or machine sewing. These pieces are stitched together to form a quilt top.
Quilt Batting - the fluffy stuff that goes in between your quilt top and backing. I've only worked with 100% cotton batting. My current go-to is Quilter's Dream Cotton Batting and I love the Select style which is a little thicker than Request.
Quilt Label - a label to identify who made the quilt. It's a small item, but one that shouldn't be overlooked in the quilt making process. I share tips on how to make your own here.
Quilting - the act of quilting the backing, the middle layer of batting and a quilt top together with thread either by machine or by hand.
Sewing Machine Oil – my Juki is quite thirsty, so I make sure to keep her well oiled. I'm currently using this type, but have my eye on this one.
Snowballing - to create a different coloured triangle on the corner of a quilt block. Achieved by simply drawing a diagonal line on the back of a small square. Then laying the smaller square on the corner of another larger square. Stitch on the line. Trim ¼” away from the stitched line and press. Fun, right?!
UFO - Unfinished object - meaning an unfinished quilt lurking in your stash ;)
Walking Foot - a sewing machine foot that helps evenly feed several layers of fabric through the feed dogs. Especially helpful in quilting! Don't attempt it without one!
WIP - stands for Work in Progress and, let’s face it, we all have several of those kicking around!
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Have a quilting term or notion you would like more info on? Send me a note and I’ll look into it for you!
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