Items you'll need to make the quick and easy light box. Some of these items you'll already have around the house.
A child's plastic step stool -- you know the kind that has four legs and sort of reminds you of a very small table -- these are available at discount and even "dollar" stores.
A florescent "light stick" -- 18" long -- available at hardware and discount stores.
A 12" x 18" piece of 1/8" thick Plexiglas -- available at hardware and discount stores -- they'll usually cut it for you.
A 12" x 18" piece of clear but frosty self-adhesive shelf paper -- this is optional -- place it on the Plexiglas to diffuse the light when tracing.
I bought everything for about $10.
Now turn the step stool upside down -- with the legs sticking up -- place the "light stick" lengthwise between the legs. Place the Plexiglas on top.
That's all you need! An instant light box! And it's light weight! You can put the pieces in a tote bag or plastic bin and take it to workshops or classes.
I had a piece of glass cut to my measurement. Put common building brick on each side, glass on top, light underneath. This is my light table, larger than most. Plexiglass bends more than glass. Need to protect the table from heat of the light source.
I put a string of clear Christmas tree lights in a low box (like the tray that holds the 24 packs of bottled water). Then I just lay a piece of plexiglass over it. Instant light box!
Sara Beth Mitchell
Easy way to hand wash small pieces of fabric or applique.
Items you'll need -- A salad spinner from the discount store -- it is plastic and designed to spin excess water when washing lettuce and other salad greens. Usually cost less than five dollars.
If I purchase small pieces of fabric such as charm squares or block of the month kits, I usually like to preshrink the fabric. After all stitching is finished; I also soak my appliqued block in warm soapy water to remove the washable glue stick. When I purchase vintage hankies, I launder them carefully by hand. So I find many uses for the salad spinner.
Here is where the salad spinner comes in -- after rinsing the fabric, hankie or applique blocks I place them in the salad spinner and spin. The excess water spins out and the small fabric pieces or blocks are not dripping wet so are easier to separate and hang to dry. They dry faster and I don't get wet trying to hang them on the clothesline or hangers.
A perfect circle for machine quilting.
Items you'll need -- some you'll already have around the house.
Three junk CD's -- many of these come free in the mail!
Double stick carpet tape -- plastic tape that has sticky on both sides. You could also use office type double stick tape.
A small piece of cushiony shelf liner -- available at discount stores
Using the double stick tape, layer three of the CD's together. You will need the three to make the circle thick enough. Cut a circle of rubber shelf liner slightly smaller than the CD's. Use the double stick tape to stick the shelf liner to one side of the CD's.
Now you can machine quilt perfect circles with your free-motion foot. Place the rubberized side of CD stack down on the quilt. Butt the CD against the edge of the free motion foot on your machine. Holding the CD firmly, move the quilt so the machine stitches around the CD in a perfect circle. Practice a few times and you'll get it just right. What a great handy tool for easy machine quilting.
Protective sheet for applique paper patterns
Items you'll need -- 3/4 yard heavyweight clear plastic table cloth vinyl available at Wal-Mart, variety and discount stores. Trim it evenly (they never cut it straight) using rotary cutter, mat and ruler. Cut it in half so you have two squares approximately 26" square.
I use a light box when composing my applique projects. Rather than placing my paper pattern directly on the Plexiglas, I place my paper pattern between the two pieces of clear table cloth. The static cling keeps the original paper pattern enclosed in the vinyl. This keeps my original pattern totally clean from the glue stick and sticky fingers. When I am finished composing the applique block, I wipe the glue stick off vinyl with a damp cloth. Allow to dry (or dry with towel) and peel apart to remove the pattern. Pattern is clean with no glue mess and can be put away.
Self-stick paper reinforcements
These little white donut shaped stickers are very useful in a lot of areas in the quilting studio. Of course the obvious is to mend torn pattern pages in your three-ring binders.
Other less obvious uses for self-stick reinforcements --
I place them around the hanging hole on my clear acrylic rulers and tools. This way I can see where the hole is when I am trying to hang the ruler on a nail on the wall.
I use them to label bobbins -- write on them any information you want to know such as type of thread -- this way you can keep the cotton quilting, embroidery, and polyester sewing thread bobbins separated.
I place them on the reverse button of my sewing machine touch pad. That way I have a "bull's eye" to aim for when I want to stitch in reverse. When I took my machine in for maintenance the repair man thought that a good way to mark the center of the "touch button".
The Mouse Pad Pincushion
I actually figured this out when I was doing some emergency hand work at the office where I work. I stuck my straight pins in the spongy type mouse pad and just loved it. The pins stood up to be easy to grab and they did not sink into the padding of the pincushion. Buy an inexpensive mouse pad and use it as it is or cut it in smaller pieces and place one at each work area that you usually need a pin cushion.
There are many simple tools that are useful in the quilt studio that are available in office supply stores, variety stores, and home centers. As you browse in these other types of stores, be sure to keep in mind things that can be used for your quilting.
One that I have is taking 2-3 mousepads, adhered on top of one another to make it thick, and cutting out a hole that fits your machine foot snuggly. It keeps the foot from "walking" away.
Here's a handy tool a friend gave me although it may not be necessarily a household item in all households. Take a golf tee and glue a small round magnet onto the top of it. Place the golf tee inside the hole of a spool of thread and place your needle on top. Needle is always with the thread.
You can also use a rubber band to pull your needle out of your quilting if it should get stuck in a seam. Just wrap the rubber band around the needle and pull. Works like a charm.
Wearing a finger cot on your index finger when you hand quilt gives you a good grip to pull the needle and is thin and flexible. They are available where you find band-aids.