Many common household items readily available in your home make excellent and usable quilt tools. If you don't have some of the items mentioned you will find them easily in your local stores. You may find just the tool you need in the list below.
From the variety or discount store
Vinyl string envelopes available in the scrap booking department for less than $2 are great for storing quilt blocks -- the packaging says 12" x 12" but they really are 13" x 13" plus they have a pleat so they would contain a thickness of an inch or more. The string will keep them closed while they are stored.
Plant mister spray bottle -- Use one by the iron to spray before pressing as needed or spay cotton batting before placing it in the dryer on air fluff to remove wrinkles from being in the package.
Plastic wrap -- if you like to eat when working on your computer -- cover the keyboard with clear plastic food wrap -- it will keep the crumbs out of the cracks between the keys of the keyboard and you can still punch the keys through the plastic wrap.
Grapefruit spoon -- the teaspoons with the little serrated edge for cutting grapefruit sections -- they are great for closing quilters safety pins when pin basting a quilt.
Flashlight -- a small flashlight is very useful for finding things that fall under or behind furniture. The lighting isn't very good under there!
Chalk Line -- like construction workers use -- a little case with string that pulls out and a little handle that winds the strings back into the case -- buy a new one and fill it with powdered sewing chalk or cornstarch and "snap" a line to make a straight line across the quilt. Don't use construction workers chalk supplied with the tool as it may not wash out of the quilt. Using the chalk line tool is a two person job so you'll need someone to help you hold the other end of the string.
Emery board -- when you need to draw a diagonal line on fabric to piece binding strips or for half square triangles -- use an emery board -- it will grip the fabric and not slip as you are drawing a straight line.
Padlock -- put a padlock on your good scissors and place the key in a secret place -- it might work to keep your sewing shears from being used improperly in some households. Another idea would to simply mark with a felt tip permanent marker -- "good scissors" and "evil scissors" -- tell everyone they can not use the good scissors but can use the evil scissors. Some children might get a kick out of using "evil" scissors.
Wallpaper seam roller -- buy an inexpensive wallpaper seam roller. This tool is really great for pressing seams rather than finger pressing. Simply place piecing on a hard surface and roll the wallpaper seam roller over the seam. Also works for curved seams and saves fingernails.
From the office supply store
Vinyl string envelopes are available in 9 x 12" size and are great for storing small blocks or works in progress. These are also great for storing acrylic templates or acrylic tools with instructions. The envelopes are pleated so expand to about one inch thick. The string will keep them closed when being stored.
Stack of mini sticky notes -- A small stack of sticky notes can be placed 1/4" away from the needle to use as a guide for piecing exactly a 1/4" seam allowance.
Onion Skin Paper is great for paper piecing. Tracing paper would be another option that would work well. The papers are firm yet tear away easily.
Non-woven interfacing can be cut into designs and pinned to the quilt. Then quilt around by machine or hand. They can be removed easily and reused in another portion of the quilt.
Extra bobbins -- keep extra bobbins on hand and fill them with the thread colors you usually use for piecing -- when you run out of bobbin you simply have to change and keep sewing rather than stopping to wind a bobbin and re-thread. Extra bobbins are also great for winding different color of threads to carry with for hand appliqué or other hand work.
Pet supply store
Orvus soap is available in the pet supply store or in the pet supply department of a larger store. It is usually used for horse shampoo. It is available in larger containers and is much more economical than purchasing a small bottle at the quilt store.
Bag Balm is available in 10 ounce tins and is the same product available in 2 ounce containers at the quilt shop -- and much less expensive.
Many quilting book authors, teachers, and professional quilters recommend using Orvus Soap for pre-washing new fabric and laundering finished quilts. It is considered a very safe soap to use rather than using detergents that may have added color, perfumes, and other unwanted chemicals.
Most full service quilt stores carry Orvus Soap in small containers but it is readily available at pet supply stores in larger containers. The most common use for Orvus Soap is to wash horses. It has been suggested to buy the larger container at the pet store and divide it among several quilters.
If you wish to use this product rather than regular laundry detergent, it is a personal choice. Many quilters simply use a mild laundry detergent to pre-wash fabric and finished quilts and are quite happy with the results.
Certainly the investment in Orvus Soap would be worthwhile for laundering antique or vintage quilts which would need to be handled with more care.
Bag Balm is available in a green cube shaped tin. Quilt stores carry very small containers but a larger size may be purchased at pet supply stores for only a few dollars more. Bag Balm has the appearance of very thick petroleum jelly but also has a medicinal additive. Quilters and non-quilters may use Bag Balm for dry and chapped hands. If you hand stitch and have small needle pricks in your fingers - apply a small amount of bag balm, it will heal very quickly.
Bag Balm was originally made to treat the udder of milk cows but its usefullness has carried over into the quilting community.
A cube shape tissue box can be used for a small trash container near the sewing machine or on the cutting table.
Cut an X shape in the lid of a small plastic tub or potato chip tube. Place used needles, bent pins, dull blades and other stuff you don't want to dispose of in the regular trash. Put another one near the sewing machine for thread scraps and trimmings. You may tape the lid securely to the container so children won't be able to remove the unsafe contents.
Clean dry bath towel can be placed in the dryer to keep your fabric from wrinkling as it dries after the first wash.
Pizza boxes -- ask at your local pizza take-out -- sometimes they will give you an extra clean box when you buy a pizza or charge a nominal amount for a clean pizza box. These are excellent for storage of quilt blocks or works in progress.
Hanging Your Quilts
There are several ways to hang your quilt. The standard way to hang a quilt is with a hanging sleeve. A hanging sleeve is a narrow tube of fabric stitched to the back of the quilt so you can insert a rod for hanging. Four inches is the standard finished width for a hanging sleeve.
After the sleeve is attached to the quilt a wooden dowel, PVC pipe, electrical conduit, or other pole is inserted in the sleeve to facilitate the hanging of the quilt.
Making a hanging sleeve after the quilt is bound
1. Cut a strip of coordinating backing fabric or muslin 9" wide and the width of your quilt. Piece as necessary and press seams open. Hem both short ends by turning under 1/4" twice and machine stitching close to the folded edge.
2. Fold the strip lengthwise wrong sides together aligning raw edges. Stitch with a 1/2" seam allowance. Press seam open. Do not turn.
3. Place the open seam against the quilt back. Center the sleeve and pin the top edge of the tube to the back of the quilt about 1/2" below the binding.
4. Hand stitch the top edge of the sleeve to the backing using a whip stitch. Smooth the sleeve downward along the quilt back making a half inch fold along the entire length to make a pleat. Pin if desired. Leave the sleeve pleat as folded and pin the bottom edge of the sleeve to the quilt. Whip stitch the bottom edge of sleeve to the quilt. Remove pins from the pleat. The sleeve will puff out a little to allow space for the hanging rod.
Making a hanging sleeve before binding the quilt
1. Stitch the binding to the quilt as usual. Do not hand finish the binding to the back of the quilt.
2. Cut a strip of coordinating backing fabric or muslin 9" wide and the width of your quilt. Piece as necessary and press seams open. Hem both short ends by turning under 1/4" twice and machine stitching close to the folded edge.
2. Fold the strip lengthwise wrong sides together aligning raw edges, press. Machine baste the raw edges together using a 1/8" seam.
3. Center the folded strip along the top edge of the quilt against the backing. Align the sleeves raw edges with the raw edges of the quilt. Sew the sleeve to the quilt with 1/4" seam. Try to match the sleeve seam to the same seam as used when the binding was stitched to the quilt.
4. Smooth the sleeve downward along the quilt back, make a half inch fold along the length to make a pleat. Pin if desired. Leave the pleat as folded and pin the bottom edge of the sleeve to the quilt. Whip stitch the bottom edge of sleeve to the quilt. Remove pins from the pleat. The sleeve will puff out a little to allow space for the hanging rod.
5. Finish the binding as desired.
Temporary hanging sleeve
Some quilters prefer to not have a hanging sleeve permanently attached to their quilts -- yet many quilt guilds require hanging sleeves for quilts to be displayed at shows. Make the hanging sleeve as described above in "making a hanging sleeve after the quilt is bound". Attach the hanging sleeve to the quilt at the top and bottom the same way it would be hand stitched only use quilters safety pins placed approximately three inches apart. Remember to make the half inch pleat to accommodate the rod. The safety pins do add weight to your quilt so be sure to use enough to support the quilt.
Different materials for rods to place in hanging sleeve
Wooden dowels -- Wooden dowels come in 36" lengths in several diameters and a few larger diameters come in 48" lengths. Because of the length you would be limited to using this method on smaller quilts. Wood contains acid that could damage your quilts. Seal your wood with a stain, varnish, or polyurethane so the acids don't damage your quilts. Wooden dowels are available at craft stores, hardware, and home centers.
Thin Wood Molding -- Wood molding is a thin piece of lumber that is similar size and thickness as a good yard stick. Again being wood you would want to seal the wood with a stain, varnish or polyurethane so the acids won't damage your quilts. Wood molding is available at lumber yards and home centers.
Electrical conduit -- Electrical conduit is made of steel and comes in 10 foot lengths available at hardware stores and home centers. A 3/4" or 1" diameter is strong enough and sufficient to support a bed size quilt without bending. This size is relatively inexpensive and most home centers will cut them to length at your request. Be sure to clean off any dirt or oily residue before using with your quilt.
PVC pipe -- PVC pipe is relatively inexpensive and can be easily cut at home. It is available at hardware and home centers in 10 foot lengths. The drawback of PVC pipe is it will bow easily under the weight of a quilt. If you use PVC you might wish to use it on quilts less than 48" in size. You will need to clean the writing from the outside of the pipe with rubbing alcohol or nail polish remover. PVC pipe would not contain any acids or chemicals that would damage quilt textiles.
Curtain Rod -- A regular round curtain rod would work for smaller quilts but would not support the weight of a larger quilt
Hanging odd shaped wall quilts
You will need to purchase a sheet of Foam Core -- Foam Core is a paper covered Styrofoam available at hardware and home centers. It comes in different thicknesses. This product can be cut with a utility knife and is wonderful to use if you have odd shaped wall quilts.
Examples of odd shaped quilts that would need to be hung include rectangular quilt with a half circle at the top, a square quilt on point, a round quilt, a hexagon quilt, or an octagon quilt.
Let us begin with the wall quilt that has a half circle at the top. This method will keep the top half circle portion of the quilt from falling forward. A standard sleeve would not work for this type of quilt and not support it for correct display. For this quilt you will need to make a different type of sleeve treatment. The easiest way to explain it would be to stitch an upside down pocket to the back of the top half circle of the quilt.
The pocket is attached after the quilt is quilted before binding is applied. Cut a piece of coordinating backing fabric or muslin that is a few inches larger than the area you need to support for hanging. For a rectangular quilt with a half circle at the top, your upside down pocket should cover all of the half circle area.
Hem the bottom edge by simply turning under twice and machine stitching. With right side of pocket fabric out, pin the prepared pocket piece to the back of the quilt smoothing it out and pinning the raw edges. The hemmed area would be at the half circle line. Machine baste around the raw edges if desired. Stitch binding to edge of quilt as usual at the same time stitching the hemmed piece into the binding seam. Essentially you will have a half circle pocket of backing fabric or muslin on the back of the half circle area of your quilt.
Once your upside down pocket is stitched on, cut a half circle piece of foam core and slide it inside the half circle upside down pocket area of the quilt. You may hand stitch the pocket closed if you wish but it is not necessary. Attach a standard rod pocket sleeve to the back of the upside down pocket area and hang the quilt. The half circle area at the top of your quilt automatically will stand up and not flop forward.
For a round quilt your upside down pocket with foam core would cover about half the quilt. For a square quilt on point the upside down pocket would be triangle shape of about half the quilt.
The upside down pocket with Foam Core will also work for a hexagon or octagon quilt -- again covering the top half of the quilt.
Hanging corners for very small quilts
Two small triangles in the upper corners of the quilt contain the small wooden dowel for hanging. Cut two 4" squares of backing fabric or contrasting fabric -- fold in half on the diagonal and press. Pin the raw edges of the squares to the top two corners of the quilt back matching raw edges. Pin or machine baste the raw edges. Machine stitch to the binding to the quilt as usual. Finish binding to the back as desired. When binding is finished measure the distance between the two corners. Cut a small wooden dowel slightly less than that length. Use the dowel to hang the tiny quilts to the wall.