Welcome to Week Two of the Creative Spaces Blog Hop! This week we (all 16 designers!) will be focusing on our favorite tools. I'm sure you're going to see a range of favorites - and probably some of the same too - from each designer.
In case you don't know me, I am a quilt pattern designer and a fabric designer. I design quilts and other patterns under the label Tamarinis, and I design fabrics for Island Batik. I also have thread collections with Aurifil (yes, they are going to show up under favorites - big surprise, right?!). You can find my thread collections here , here and here.
I have to admit - this has been a tough post to write. Not because I don't have favorites. Oh - I DEFINITELY do! It was just difficult to narrow down the list and not overwhelm you with it! So I've tried to whittle down the candidates to the top 10 (and I'll discuss more in future posts when we look at fabric, thread, tools and rulers - so whew - all the good ones get to see some love). Please note this post does contain affiliate links - I've tried to make it easy for you to find the same tools if you like what you see! Just click the highlighted tool name to find it online.
I am a huge paper piecing fan. And in the past, I've used the old school light boxes, which were thick and bulky, or placed my pattern and fabric against a window to help in placement. But hey guys - there is a new kid in town. The Cutterpillar LED light board is a game changer. It is thin, light weight, and has three brightness settings. And if THAT's not enough, it comes with a cutting board that fits over the light so you can cut on it as well!
It is corded, but will hold a charge for 4 hours, so you can easily take to class, use it almost anywhere, and recharge without batteries.
How do I use it? My favorite - and most frequent - use is for paper piecing. When determining placement for those first two fabrics, it is SUPER easy to see where to place the fabrics so that I get proper fabric placement and an accurate 1/4" seam
allowance. In the image to the right, my paper piecing pattern is on top, and my Fabric 1 and Fabric 2 have been placed RST with raw edges aligned.
When I turn the light board on and place the fabrics and pattern on top, I can easily see if the fabrics are placed so that when I sew along the first seam line, I will have a 1/4" seam allowance. See that shadow line? That's my raw edge. I just pin and stitch. Perfect! In fact, I just taught a guild workshop in Alabama a few weeks ago and a gal brought hers to the workshop for just that purpose. It really sped things up for her!
What do I like about it? It has a nice long cord. But...the really awesome part is the steam feature (I really like to use steam when I press). You can turn the steam off, of course, or set it to low or high. When do you get steam? Every time you are holding the handle - and you get an amazing amount of steam. I love a nice, crisp seam when pressing, and the steam is perfect for that.
I've never had it leak or spit (did I mention I've been using it for over a year??). It uses regular tap water, and the steam is generated inside the iron and it heats VERY quickly.
You can use the temperature dial to determine the heat - but of course, I keep mine on High most of the time since I'm using quilters cottons and batiks. The auto shut off feature is nice, because if I am sewing or done for the night, it will turn itself off after about 8 minutes. No worries, no muss, no fuss!
I tell all of my quilting students that I'm pretty easy going, and I don't worry too much about things - they will get better with practice and skills will continue to improve. EXCEPT for pressing - I am somewhat (ok quite a bit) of a task master when it comes to pressing. Almost everything looks 100% better when well pressed. So you can image how head over heels I am about my wool pressing mat. I honestly don't know how I lived without it!
Yes, if you are allergic to wool then this particular tool will NOT work for you. But for the rest of us - well, this is a dream. Look closely at my iron to the right - it may look like it's just sitting on a gray ironing board - but actually it's comfy and cozy on my wool pressing mat.
Why is it so great? The wool captures the heat and reflects it back onto the fabrics you are ironing, increasing the efficiency of the press. I do a ton with batiks, which have a higher thread count, and this speeds up my pressing immeasurably! My blocks are pressed quickly, which means I finish the project faster, which means I can move on to the next project sooner!
4. Best Press
Which brings me to Best Press. Are you using it? Yes - isn't it amazing?!! No - well, you MUST try it. What is it? Heaven in a bottle. It is a pressing spray made specifically for fabrics. And it comes in unscented, or in an assortment of delightful scents. Most quilt shops carry it, as well as some chain stores. Get the spray bottle, then purchase additional quantities in the larger refill sizes.
Spray your fabrics and watch the wrinkles disappear! Ok - not like that. You DO have to iron - but the wrinkles will iron out quickly. Spray your blocks as you sew, and the seams are wonderfully crisp.
So you're thinking - wait. You just said the wool mat was amazing. It is. Do I use both? Yes, sometimes I do. Sometimes one is enough! In any event, I make sure I have both on hand - the wool mat and Best Press.
If you are thinking - what the heck is that? It is a blessing for old eyes when sewing!
As I have aged (ahem...gracefully....maybe), I find that I need more light to clearly see. This little beauty is amazing tiny and yet brilliantly bright. It is battery powered, and (of course) rechargeable. It velcro onto the side of your sewing machine (as shown at the right).
The itty bitty LED light in on the end of a flexible wand. I bend mine to shine directly onto my sewing area. Just look at the "before" (left side) and "after" (right side) pics of the area under my sewing machine needle. Amazing, right?
What else can I simply NOT live without? Ah....the list is seems to be endless. But there are the final five items I consider essential with virtually every project.
6. Bohin Pins
Such a little thing - and yet such a big thing....these ultra fine glass head pins are a true indulgence. Like rich chocolate or an awesome massage, they are a luxury that every stitcher deserves. Fine pins are important because they help ensure accurate sewing. What, you say? Well yes. Think about it. If the pins are fine and sharp, they will slide through the fabric without distorting it. If they are long enough, they allow for you to get a good grip on the fabric and secure the pinned area. And it doesn't hurt that they are bright and pretty!
Some of you may be aware of my new guided improv patterns. If so, you already know I recommend the Clover Chaco Markers. For those of you who don't know about them - they are a marking tool that uses powered chalk that feeds through a fine roller to make fine marked lines on fabric.
Because of the roller, it is easy to make marks on fabric without distortion (which pens and pencils often do). And because it is chalk, when (ok - if) you make a mistake, it is super easy to just brush it off and remark. So......I may or may not make mistakes from time to time, so I use the chaco markers all the time.
Another plus - they come in an array of colors, so you can find one that works for almost every project. My go-to colors are above: white, yellow and gray. And you can purchase refills!
If you've been quilting as long as I have, you may remember those old, awkward metal binding clips. Ugh. These adorable little clips from Clover are incredibly strong given their tiny size. I use mine for holding binding on when hand stitching. But I know folks that use them to hold all manner of things together. I love that they come in a large package (let's face it - if you're using them for binding, you're going to need a bunch), and that they have their own handy dandy storage box. They also have markings on the flat side that you can use for measuring the depth of a fold, pleat, etc.
I will admit to being a loyal Schmetz fan - I really adore their needles. The new non-stick needles are an absolute essential for fusible work. And I do have numerous fusible appliqué projects. I mean - what's not to love about fusible? It's quick. It's accurate. It's done in almost no time. No edges to turn under. No muss, no fuss.
Edge stitching in a longer stitch is my go to finishing for fusible appliqué - and these needles ensure that your stitches glide through the fusible and the base fabric cleanly, which means your project looks clean and crisp. How awesome is that for one little package?
FYI - remember to change your needle after approximately eight hours of sewing with any of your needles!
Again showing my age here, but when I first started quilting, the easily obtainable rotary cutters had straight handles. I remember being super excited when they started padding those handles. What a relief to the palm of my hand!
And then came these incredible curved handle rotary cutters. Why is that so noteworthy? The curve relieves strain on the wrist (longevity for the quilter - the less strain on your wrist, the longer you will be able to rotary cut!).
The squeeze grip means that the blade is only exposed when the cutter is in use. When you set it down, the blade is covered. No more having to remember to engage the blade shield.
The cutter will work for both right and left handers - simply move the blade from one side of the cutter to the other for the proper orientation. Hint: the blade should be against the edge of your rotary ruler!
Oh - and I default to the "pizza cutter" size (60mm) - a larger blade surface means quicker cutting!
Are there other tools I use? Absolutely. But these are my top 10 - and I wouldn't even mention them if 1) I didn't use them and 2) I didn't truly believe they bring joy and/or efficiency to my cutting and quilting experience. If you have a favorite tool, I would love to hear about it!
Please be sure to check out all of the other amazing designers that are sharing their favorite tools with you this week! Oh, and be sure to enter the drawing to win a special prize this week. The awesome folks at Schmetz have provided one lucky winner their new Bobbin Saver 2, as well as a Pocket Guide to all things needles. Comments and giveaway for this post have closed. Thank you. Please see other blog posts for additional opportunities to enter giveaways.
Remember that Cherry Blossom Quilting will be adding some great grand prizes throughout the hop as well from the terrific folks at Bosal, Daylight lamps, and Crafter's Edge.
Hey Hoppers - just a note. Please visit all of the talented designers each week. And we would all GREATLY appreciate your "follows". As designers, our social media following (our followers) are what enables us to stay in business. Please kindly click "follow" on our social media platforms: Facebook, Instagram, Pinterest, Twitter. This allows us to continue to work with companies to bring you great content, contests, and giveaways. Thanks so much!
The Blog Hop Schedule:
Thanks for sharing the quilting passion with me. Happy stitching!
If you are interested in having me teach at your shop or guild, please contact me!
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