More Quilt Tools From Common Household Items
There are so many items that are handy in your quilt studio that are not necessarily purchased at a quilting or sewing store. Here are some items and tips for how to use them to make your quilting easier.
The Variety Store
At the variety store you can purchase pony tail elastic bands. These are great for containing rolled pantograph patterns, rolled appliqué patterns, or keeping small containers closed. They are very inexpensive and come in multicolor packages. Use them anywhere in place of rubber bands. Pony tail elastics are sturdier than rubber bands and don't disintegrate and break with age.
Elastic head bands are also very helpful. They are simply larger pony tail bands. These are great for keeping a shoe box or small pizza box closed when traveling to guild or classes. Also use head bands to keep several books or patterns together. Simply use them where you need a large rubber band. They are colorful and long lasting.
Garbage can liner elastic bands -- these are meant to hold the plastic liner in the large garbage cans. Use these as giant rubber bands for larger pizza boxes or larger plastic containers with lids.
Rather than pinning binding, use metal hair clips. These hairclips are shaped like an elongated triangle and are curved. When you "snap" them open they curve in the opposite direction to clip over the edge of your quilt binding. Fold the quilt binding to the back of the quilt. Close the hairclip over the fold. They very conveniently hold the binding in position. If you use straight pins they will scratch your arms and fall out easily.
Mole foam is available in the foot care department. It is a thick foam rubber product with a peel and stick back. Use an old rotary cutter blade and cut a strip 1/4" x 3" long. Peel and stick this strip exactly 1/4" to the right of your machine needle and toward the front to use as a guide to line up your patches as you machine piece.
A great portable pencil sharpener is specially designed to sharpen eyebrow pencils. Two sizes of sharpeners are included -- one for large pencils and one for small pencils. Either size should sharpen most sizes of quilting pencils. Place one in your quilting bag and another close to your sewing machine to sharpen pencils at a moments notice.
Office Supply Store
Chalkboard chalk comes in white and colors. Chalk can be sharpened with a pencil sharpener and will brush off easily after quilting. If using colors be sure to test on your particular fabric to make sure the colored chalk brushes off or washes out.
Permanent Metallic Gel Pens are really great for marking on fabric. These should be used only for tracing around templates for "selective" or "fussy" cutting. After tracing you would be cutting most of the line off. Any markings left would be in the seam allowance. Do not use gel pens to mark quilting lines as they are permanent and won't wash out.
Small stapler, staples, and staple remover -- This handy tool can be used in place of pins for layering several layers of freezer paper to cut appliqué patterns or English paper piecing patterns. Staple several sheets of copy paper together with the pattern on top. Stitch a foundation pattern or quilting design using an unthreaded sewing machine. Remove staples with the staple remover. You will have made several tear-away foundations or tear-away quilting patterns at one time.
Electric pencil sharpener -- You might want to purchase an inexpensive electric pencil sharpener especially for use in your quilt studio. The pencil sharpener with the electrical cord that plugs into a wall socket is more powerful than a battery operated model. There are two styles available - pencil is inserted from the top or from the front. Buy the type that fits your space and your budget. Either style would work well for sharpening marking pencils and regular lead pencils. The pencils are sharpened to a very fine point. Be sure to empty the shaving cup regularly or your sharpener will be less efficient.
Rubber finger tips -- Many machine quilters use these on their fingers to grip the quilt when machine quilting. They could also be used for gripping fabric when piecing. These finger tips are very inexpensive and come in several sizes.
Dry erase pens -- Dry erase pens are specially made to mark on white marking boards but work wonderful marking on acrylic rulers and tools. They come in assorted colors and can be seen on a clear ruler. I especially like to mark the cutting lines on my large square tool with cutting slots. That way I don't make a mistake and cut in the wrong slot -- resulting in cutting the wrong width of strip. After cutting your project, simply "erase" markings with a dry tissue or soft cloth.
Carriage bolts -- Carriage bolts are an aluminum piece of hardware that has a screw in one end. The ones I have are approximately two inches long and 3/16" in diameter. I unscrew the end and can place four bobbins on each one. This keeps the several colors of bobbins all in one place for a particular project. It is especially helpful in keeping the bobbins from rolling around on the floor.
Double sticky carpet tape -- this comes in a 1 1/2 inch width roll. Both sides are sticky but one side is covered with a protective paper to peel after applying the first side. Carpet tape is great for taping sandpaper to a board, taping paper templates to heavy cardboard or template plastic. For thicker templates use carpet tape to position two layers of template plastic.
Sandpaper board -- Sandpaper comes in 9" x 12" sheets. Purchase fine grit. Use double sticky carpet tape and place strips of tape on the reverse side of sandpaper. Peel protective paper and tape sandpaper sheet to a piece of heavy cardboard or a thin board. This makes an excellent board to draw around templates for "selective" or "fussy" cutting. The sandpaper keeps the fabric from slipping as you mark with pen or pencil. A larger board could be prepared the same way with additional sheets of sandpaper. Simply "butt" them together.
Clear packaging tape or self stick clear laminating roll -- Apply paper template to cardboard or template plastic with double sticky carpet tape. Then apply clear tape or clear laminating material to strengthen them and protect them from spills.
Metal Tape Measure -- get the retractable metal type that carpenters use. They don't stretch and they retract into their receptacle with a touch of a button. A lot of them are marked in metric and inches and have markings at foot increments and yard increments. A metal tape measure is a great tool to use in the quilting room.
Door peephole -- Do you ever want to stand back and look at a stack of new fabric, a block, or a portion of a quilt on the design wall but find your room is too small. The door peepholes are usually used to view through a solid door to the outside of a house or apartment. But if you use one for quilting it will make your project look farther away so you can get a perspective of distance without having a large room. There are several sizes. Purchase the largest one in your budget. Be sure to look through it before buying to be sure the lenses are clear and not scratched or distorted.
Clear plastic tackle box -- Quilters need storage space for lots of small tools, sewing machine feet, buttons, embellishments, and thread. Check out the fishing tackle section for many various sizes of clear plastic storage boxes. Don't forget to look in the toy section for a box made for the little metal cars. It works great for thread storage.
Magnets -- Small magnets are useful items to have in the quilting studio. A disc magnet about the size of a fifty-cent piece could be glued to the end of a simple wooden dowel and used to pick up pins that have fallen on the floor. Glue a ribbon to a disc magnet and hang it around your neck for a pin catcher while piecing or quilting.
Zip close plastic bags -- Snack size and sandwich bags can be used for buttons, embellishments, and small notions. Quart size bags would be helpful for storing small block or appliqué pieces waiting to be stitched. Gallon size bags will hold pattern pages and protect paperbound quilt books when traveling to class or guild meeting. The larger two gallon size bags can be used in tandem -- place the bottom of a bolt of fabric in one bag; place another bag over the top of the bolt. Secure where the bags overlap with an elastic head band. Your bolts of fabric will be dust free. If you will be storing fabric for a long period of time, cut small holes in the plastic bags so the fabric can "breathe".
Paper plates -- Layer paper plates with appliqué pieces or block piecing pieces. Place all the pieces for one block on a plate. Place another plate on top. Place all the pieces for another block on plate. Continue for each block. Because the plates have a slight curve, the pieces will stay in place and the stack of plates can be moved around as necessary or placed in a zip close plastic bag for transporting.
Bagel cutters -- A bagel cutter is a wooden or plastic holder to allow the bagel to stand on end to be cut. The grooves allow the knife to make straight cuts on the bagel. I use my bagel cutter to store small acrylic rulers and tools. They stand up perfectly in the spaces made to accommodate the knife.
Freezer paper -- freezer paper has many uses in quilting. It comes on a roll eighteen inches wide. It is available in the grocery store near the freezing and canning supplies not with the baggies and plastic wrap.
Freezer paper templates - Sometimes you only need one or two odd size templates. If you cut them from freezer paper and iron shiny side down to the fabric then you can use your rotary cutter to cut around the paper. You have a quick odd size pattern piece.
Plastic wrap -- Press'n Seal plastic wrap has a "sticky" side. Place the sticky side down on a book or pattern to trace a quilting design. The wrap can then be peeled and placed on the quilt and quilting design can be quilted and torn away. A blue ball point pen it is more visible on most colors of quilting fabrics.
Parchment paper -- for lining baking pans is very useful for tracing paper. It is available in 12" and 15" rolls. It is great for drafting patterns and tracing. If you use a lead pencil and need to erase, the erasure is very clean. A permanent pen can also be used. This paper can also be used for tear-away foundation patterns and tear-away quilting designs.
Wax paper -- Wax paper is an economical tool that can be used as a "tracing paper". Trace quilt designs onto wax paper with a permanent marker. Then place paper over the quilt to audition the fit of the quilting design. Many different designs could be auditioned so the decision can be made before quilting begins.
Quilted potholders -- Use one square quilted potholder. Fold it in half and stitch around two sides. Use the resulting "case" to store rotary cutters or when carrying a rotary cutter to class.
Buy a rectangular potholder that has a pocket. When you are finished with your warm mini-iron, place the point in the potholder pocket. The warm mini iron will not damage the potholder and you will be protected from burns.
Buy two square potholders and stitch them together around three sides. Use this little bag to store your Guild Name Tag with collector pins. You can carry it in a tote bag or basket and the pins won't catch on other items or become scratched.
Many of the items listed in these tips are already available in most households. Try any one of these ideas and see if it works for you. You might find just the right thing to help you with your next quilting project.
Hi, just an additional household item to be used as "something else". I use the container from Crystal Lite -- makes a handy little carrying case and place to store the little pieces for applique and beading etc. Cut good quality flannel the length of the can and twice the circumferance -- then glue an inch or so to the can and then wrap the flannel around the can. You can spend a lot of $ for ready mades but why do that when you have lots of leftovers in the house!