Every great hobby deserves great tools to make the experience more efficient and more enjoyable. There are so many tools in the quilting/sewing world and it is sometimes difficult to decide which are worth spending your money on. All you need to do is walk down one aisle of a quilt/fabric shop to be completely overwhelmed. Besides the usual rulers, rotary cutters, and cutting mats, there are five special tools that I have found to be quite helpful.
1. I have a special cutting mat that is 12” x 12” and rotates. It comes in very handy when I have blocks that have two or more sides that need to be cut because I don't have to pick up the block and move it to cut another side. I just rotate the mat so that the part I need to cut is on my right side.
2. I often use is Fons and Porter's Quarter Inch Seam Markers when I am making half-square triangles. You take two squares and line up the ruler from corner to corner on one square. Mark on both sides of the ruler. (The rotating mat works well with this technique so that you are marking each time on the right side of the ruler.) Match the two squares right sides together and stitch on the marked lines. Cut from corner to corner and open the two pieces to find two half-square triangles. Voila! Much easier than sewing two triangles together because the longer edge of the triangle usually tends to stretch.
3. When I am quilting on either the long arm or my domestic machine, I try to avoid having to mark the design if at all possible. However, there are times when you just have to. And I have tried several marking tools -- in fact, I counted 11 different ones in my sewing room. That gives you an idea just how hard it is to find one that really works well!! However, I have discovered that when marking a quilt on the long arm, I like to use the Bohin pencils. They are like mechanical pencils so the lead is very thin and the markings are very precise. I especially like the white lead because it erases easily. There is also a graphite lead for use on lighter fabrics. For hand quilting and quilting on my domestic machine with stencils, I like to use Pounce powder. It easily marks through the stencil and the powder wipes away with a small towel when water is spritzed on it.
4. I like to paper piece and a must-have tool for this technique is the quarter inch add-a-seam ruler. In addition, a 4" x 6" index card is also helpful. The way I use these two items is to line the card up with the seam line marked on the paper and fold it over towards the card. Then put the seam marker up against the index card and cut along the edge of the fabric with the rotary cutter. When you match the next two fabrics right sides together and stitch on the marked line, you will have a quarter inch seam. Just like magic!
5. The tool that I use most often is the Angler 2. I place it on the bed of my domestic machine and use it to stitch diagonal seams to make continuous binding and longer strips when they are needed for borders. I also use it to sew squares at the corners of squares when a diagonal is required. I just did this on a quilt that I was piecing which needed 192 1½” squares. The pattern told me to mark a diagonal line on each one and then stitch on the line. With the Angler 2, I was able to skip the marking step and go right to the stitching. To accomplish that, I match a smaller square in the corner of another square or rectangle and stitch from one corner of the smaller square to the other. The extra is then cut off and the small square is pressed open forming a diagonal. Another bit of magic!!
I have a few other tools that I received for Christmas this year and I am anxious to give them a try. Maybe they will make my next "Five Favorite Quilting Tools" blog! I'd also love to know what tools you can't do without when you are quilting. Just tell me about them in the comments section below. Happy Quilting!!