• Many More Quilt Tools From Common Household Items

    Articles in the past have given tips and pointers for using common household items for quilting tools. More household items are found that are very useful in your quilt studio. Try a few of these ideas and see if they work for you.

    Retractable Reel Clips -- These handy items are available in the office supply department -- a package of three is less than two dollars. They are for clipping ID and name badges to your clothing but they also work great for clipping a small pair of scissors to your clothing. Then when you are machine stitching or quilting you simply pull on your scissors and they are right where you want them. Then they retract into the little reel keeping your scissors handy at all times.

    CD Pages -- These CD pages have four pockets especially to fit CD's but are very useful to store smaller size acrylic templates. A 4 1/2" square acrylic template fits in the pouch and any templates that are smaller will also fit. The CD pages have a special liner to protect CD's from scratching but will also protect your templates.

    There are two pockets on the front and two on the back with holes to place the pages in a three ring binder. If you don't wish to use a binder, a few pages can be tied together with a ribbon or yarn. CD pages are available at office supply stores and are fairly inexpensive and very convenient to keep acrylic templates from getting separated or lost.

    Cupcake Carrier -- Super discount stores sell inexpensive cupcake carriers decorated for the upcoming holidays. I have seen them available for at least three major holidays so they can be obtained with pumpkins, hearts, or snowflakes. I found one in a 10' size and it is exactly the right size to place a stack of nine inch inexpensive paper plates. Place pre-cut pieces for a quilt block on a paper plate, place a new paper plate on top and place pieces for another block. Continue stacking fabric and paper plates until all blocks hare ready to stitch. Place the entire pile of paper plates with pre-cut fabric in one of the cupcake carriers and they are ready to go to a sit and stitch or simply to keep organized by your machine to stitch at home.

    Child's Slate -- These slates are available in the toy section of the store. They are a clear vinyl layer with a base that can be written on with a plastic wand. When you wish to erase the slate you simply lift the vinyl sheet and the writing disappears. These slates are great for practicing free motion quilting designs. You can draw a design similar to quilting and simply erase it and practice again. Your brain gets used to the direction and flow of the quilting design and there is no waste or mess. So when you are ready to quilt that design your hands will coordinate with your brain from "patterning".

    Vinyl table cloth with flannel back -- A flannel back table cloth can be used as a portable and temporary design wall. When you are at a workshop or "sit and stitch" you can drape a table cloth anywhere and design your blocks or quilt. The small fabric patches will stick to the flannel back of the table cloth and then the entire table cloth can be rolled up and carried home to be stitched later.

    Pill Box -- Buy a large one that has seven or more compartments for sorting medications by the day and week. Cover the lettering with contact paper, plain white sticky labels, or pretty stickers and you have a great container for storing sewing machine presser feet or for small buttons and embellishments.

    Stickers -- Stickers are available everywhere with the popularity of scrap booking. Purchase a package of stickers you like and use them to mark the right side of purchased acrylic templates or handmade plastic templates. When a template is directional simply flipping it over will result in many pieces cut incorrectly. If the right side is marked it might avoid this common mistake.

    Pants Hanger -- I have a plastic pants hanger that clips the entire width of the pants cuffs -- not the kind with two clips or clothespins. If you purchase several fat quarters, simply fold them in half at the selvage and clip them to a pants hanger. Swish the fabric including the pants hanger in a basin for a few minutes, rinse and drip dry. Your fat quarters are preshrunk and they can be ironed easily as they are not all wrinkled.

    Mesh laundry bags -- A small bag that is usually used to launder delicate items in the washing machine. If you only have one or two fat quarters, place them in a small mesh bag and throw it in the wash. When they are protected in the mesh bags they won't ravel as much.

    Pillowcase -- Of course the obvious use for a pillowcase in the quilting studio is to store your quilts. Sometimes books and instructions recommend making a muslin bag to store your quilt or give it as a gift.

    Another use for a pillowcase is to store your cutting mat. Place cutting mats in a pillowcase and it can be hung on a skirt hanger or attached to a wire shelving unit with clothespins. Template plastic, poster board or any other flat object could be stored in a pillowcase also.

    Most of these common household items will help you organize your quilting space and give you more time for quilting. Try one or two of these ideas and see if it helps you.

    Tie Your Next Quilt

    Do you have some quilt tops that you have pieced and simply don't want to spend the time machine quilting them yourself or the money to send them to a long arm quilter? Or is it your first quilt and you have just learned how to piece but haven't really mastered machine or hand quilting? If you answered yes to any of the above questions, you might simply want to tie your quilt.

    To tie a quilt you need to layer your quilt the same way you would for quilting. On a large table, place the backing wrong side up, then smooth out the batting, and last place the quilt top right side up. Place some straight pins or safety pins along the edge and a few throughout the quilt as it helps to keep the layers from shifting as you tie or tack.

    Machine tacking

    To machine tack a quilt simply lower the feed dogs or cover them as you would for machine quilting. Set your machine to zigzag and thread the top and the bobbin with cotton thread or any specialty thread you wish. Place the portion of your quilt under the presser foot and lower it. Simply zigzag approximately ten stitches. Without cutting threads, simply move the quilt to the next tack position and repeat. Continue tacking until the entire quilt is tacked. Remove quilt from machine and trim all threads close to stitching. Be sure the presser foot is always down before beginning to stitch. If not the tension will not be correct and you will have ugly thread knots on the back of the quilt.

    You may add embellishments to machine tacked quilts by simply stitching through a button or a small ribbon bow. If you wish the bows to stay tied it is better to tie them first and then stitch them to the quilt, but you could simply stitch the ribbon to the quilt to tie later as you wish. Remember to limit embellishments on quilts for babies or small children.

    Materials for Tying

    Materials for hand tying quilts can be as diverse as your quilt. Traditionally wool yarn scraps were used to tie quilts but in recent years anything goes. Modern quilters are using heavier crochet cotton, or Pearle cotton. Pearle cotton is available on balls and hanks and works well for tying.

    Another convenient material is embroidery floss. Embroidery floss is 100% cotton and comes in many colors and is also readily available. Most quilters tie their quilts using all six strands of floss.

    Narrow ribbon is an alternative to yarn for tying. Try 1/8" ribbon to tie a baby quilt or for a feminine touch to a larger quilt.

    To Tie Your Quilt

    Thread your choice of wool yarn or cotton thread through a large eye needle. If you prefer you might even want to invest in a curved needle. Layer your quilt as usual. Begin in the center of the quilt and work toward the outside.

    Take the first stitch. Do not cut your yarn. Take another stitch and continue until you are out of yarn. Thread again and continue, moving from one area of the quilt across. When all stitches are taken, clip the thread or yarn and tie in a square knot. Trim yarn so there is about a half inch remaining -- or trim to whatever length you desire.

    Making The Square Knot

    Remember when making a square knot think "left over right and right over left". Or the opposite if that is easier for you. Remember if you do both layers of the knot the same you will have a knot called a "granny knot" that is not as secure.

    Where To Place The Ties

    There is some discussion about where to place the ties. Some place the ties where patchwork pieces intersect and others place ties in the center of a patchwork piece. Your preference is the correct way.

    Distance Between Ties

    The distance between ties depends on the type batting you are using. Read your batting package and if they say you can quilt ten inches apart, you may put your ties ten inches apart. Although you may wish to put your ties close because your pieced patches are smaller. The frequency of ties may depend on the design of the pieced patches.

    Tie Your Quilt From The Back

    If you don't want the yarn tufts on the top of the quilt you simply tie the quilt from the back. The back will have the yarn tufts and the front will simply show the quarter inch stitch of yarn or floss.

    Tied Quilts Are Very Sturdy

    I have a quilt that I tied twenty years ago using six strands of cotton embroidery floss. I tied a square knot. It has been laundered numerous times and the knots are still holding and securing the layers of the quilt.
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