People often ask me what tools and notions I like to sew with. Below, I have gathered some favorites that I reach for every time I quilt. These are the tools that make my sewing accurate and fast.
I learned a long time ago that starch makes a big difference for me when it comes to accurate piecing. Starch makes the fabric stiff and easy to work with. Faultless Niagara Original Hold is my current favorite, and if you want to see how I starch, check out this collection of videos. The Pink Auto Lift Pro Zone Iron by Oliso is my preferred iron at home and in the studio. I keep a Tailor’s Clapper nearby to flatten seams. After ironing with steam, I set the wooden clapper on the seam and press it. It leaves the seam nice and flat.
Cutting fabric is my favorite step of the process, so having a good cutting mat, ruler and rotary cutter is crucial.
- Omnigrid 4″ Needlecraft Scissors I keep several pairs of these handy little snips around my sewing room for trimming thread and small pieces. They are very sharp, with a serrated blade that grabs and holds whatever I am cutting.
- Sweet Snips Fabric Scissors These 6″ snips are tough as nails. They easily cut through fabric, leather, paper and more.
- Kimberly Cuts 5.5″ Square Rotating Cutting Mat This is a lightweight self-healing mat perfect for cutting charm squares and mini-charm squares, and it comes in a larger size, too (see below).
- Kimberly Cuts 12.5″ Square Rotating Cutting Mat
- Olfa Deluxe 45mm Ergonomic Rotary Cutter Since the beginning, it’s always been the Olfa 45mm Ergonomic rotary cutter. The blade automatically retracts, and the locking mechanism is so easy to use and adds an extra layer of safety.
- Olfa Pacific Blue Splash 45mm Ergonomic Rotary Cutter
- Olfa Endurance 45 mm Blade I use the Endurance Blades for longevity.
Measure for Measure
Creative Grids Rulers are my go-to for measuring. The special grip on the back keeps it from sliding on the fabric when light pressure is applied. They come in just about every shape and size imaginable. For a beginner starting out, I recommend a large ruler for cutting fat quarters and yardage and a small ruler for marking small pieces. Those are versatile enough to get started, and as any quilter will tell you, you will probably acquire new rulers over time depending on what your project requires.
Having a set of square rulers in sizes 2.5″, 3.5″, 4.5″, 5.5″ and 6.5″ at my cutting table is a must.
I use design boards to organize my fabric for sewing. They make it easy to demo fabrics, arrange fabric for blocks, and carry pieces from the cutting table to the sewing machine and back again without getting anything out of order. These lightweight foam boards with batting on one side are designed to hold fabric pieces in place.
- You can purchase Design Boards in multiple sizes and colors or make your own following this tutorial by Lori Holt.
- Pink Alphabitties Specialty Marking Tools These adorable plastic squares are perfect for labeling fabric pieces after cutting.
Quilting and Binding
- Quilter’s Dream 80/20 Batting This 80% cotton, 20% polyester blend gives the right amount of warmth and durability.
- Stash ‘n Stores by It’s Sew Emma These are perfect for storing sewing notions, scissors and marking tools close at hand.
- Clover White Seam Ripper This is the only seam ripper I use.
- Clover Silk Pins These glass head pins are strong and thin.
- Black Frixion Ball Erasable Gel Pen The fine point is nice for drawing on fabric, and the ink disappears with heat from an iron. I have heard the ink can re-appear in the cold, so be careful where you mark!
- Clover Black Gold Size 9 Quilting Between Needles I use these for binding.
- 50wt Aurifil 100% Cotton Thread (color 2021) This Italian thread is low lint and high quality. I keep color 2021 handy because it matches almost everything.
My favorite machine is the Juki TL 2010Q. It’s perfect for me because it is so fast and easy to operate. It is a dedicated machine for piecing, as it does not do zig-zags or decorative stitches, but it can sew up to 1,500 stitches per minute! The foot pedal operates an automatic thread trimmer, and it has a knee lifter lever, too. The 8.5″ long free arm allows for a generous workspace. The presser feet I use most often are a compensating 1/4″ foot and the open foot that came with my machine.
These aren’t tools or notions, but they are essential! Bella Solids in 9900-97(top), 9900-98 and 9900-200 are the main backgrounds that I use. I use these so much, I actually keep 15-yard bolts on hand! Here’s a tip – if you want to buy a full bolt of solid fabric, you can get a 20% discount when you order 15 yards of the fabric and add a note that says “bulk discount” to your order.
Do you ever need a background with a little personality that isn’t too busy? That’s exactly what I like about these fabrics. Blossom Tone on Tone White C725-WHITE (top), Bee Backgrounds in Honey Circle and On the Farm Cream Spots & Dots are some of my favorites.
When compared side by side, you can see the difference from off white to bright white on these basics. Starting with a “solid” standby, Bella 9900-200 (on bottom), to an off white toned Sunday Stroll Tonal White Sweet Dot 55226-21 (top), to a bright white Blossom Tone on Tone White C725-WHITE.
Chances are I will discover new tools or notions in the coming year that will make their way into my sewing room. And when they do, I will add them to this list.
What about you? What are your must-have sewing notions?