Fools for Tools
Here's a guide to the most useful tools for quilting.
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Quilting tool information provided courtesy of guest Heidi Kaisand.
- Look for a rotary cutter with blade that automatically extends when the cutter is pushed onto fabric. This type also retracts by itself, which is a great safety feature. Typical blade size for cutters is 20mm. For cutting smaller pieces, look for a 28mm blade. It's the perfect size for smaller jobs.
Rotary Cutting Mats
- A revolving circle mat like the Come Quilt With Me's Brooklyn Revolver seen here (figure D) is great for cutting hexagons or other specialized shapes that require the fabric to be turned.
- For traveling quilters, there's a mat lined for cutting on one side, and padded on the opposite side for use as a pressing surface.
Scissors and Snips
- Spring-loaded snips like those made by Fiskars make trimming quick and easy.
- Designate a pair of scissors just for cutting paper. Paper-cutting dulls scissor blades, so mixing usage between paper and fabric is a definite 'don't.'
- Keep a small pair of metal snips by the sewing machine for clipping threads or chain piecing.
- Applique scissors like the pair by Gingher help keep the cut inside the lines.
- It's important to have two basic rulers when quilting—a 6" x 12" and a 6" x 24" because they both offer versatility in cutting.
When selecting a thread, match the content with the fabric in your quilt. For instance, if using cotton fabric, use cotton thread. And what about thread weight? There are numerous thread weights but the most important thing to understand is the larger the number, the finer the thread; and the smaller the number, the thicker the thread. When piecing, use a 50-weight thread. Use the same weight thread on the top and in the bobbin of your machine. Here's some tips for specific types of cotton.
As with every tool, there are a lot of varieties available to quilters. Needles are numbered similarly to thread in that the larger the number, the smaller the needle. Size 10 is a good size for beginners but another option is to buy a pack of needles with various sizes to sample which size is best for you.
Freezer paper can be very useful for transferring patterns from paper to fabric. Just trace the shape you want to applique onto freezer paper, press the freezer paper to fabric creating a temporary bond, then cut the fabric. This method was used to create the bunny in penny rug project called "Hippity Hop" (by Jane Krause from the March/April 2003 issue of American Patchwork & Quilting) which was seen on this episode.
For a more permanent bond than freezer paper, use a double-sided fusible web to transfer patterns. Iron fusible to the back of the applique fabric, then position and iron it to the foundation fabric. The fusible web is not removed.
Quilting stencils and templates
To transfer quilting template design to a quilt top, try marking tools like this red plastic Chalk Wheel from EZ Quilting by Wrights or a fabric-marking pencil.
No matter your choice for transferring stencil or template designs, test it beforehand on a sample pieces of fabric to ensure it will wash out of the quilt. Painters' tape offers a nice option for marking straight lines on quilt tops. It sticks with low-tack adhesive, so there's no residue left on the fabric, and you don't have to worry that the marking lines won't wash away (demonstrated on quilt called Rebecca’s Basket by Jo Morton from the October 2003 issue of American Patchwork & Quilting).
Translucent template plastic is great for cutting templates, and it can usually be found at local quilt shops with or without gridlines. Gridded template plastic is perfect when cutting templates for a pieced quilt because it helps for adding seam allowance. Something that works similarly to template plastic is a product called Static Stickers. This pink, see-through plastic clings to rulers and other surfaces. It can be found in quilt shops and from online retailers.
Quilting pins tend to be thick, which is great for some tasks and not for others. Silk straight pins are often preferred for their thin, finer quality that's great for getting through layers of fabric. Silk pins with glass heads are the best because the glass heads won't melt under the iron. Plastic head pins will melt so avoid getting those under the iron. For fine applique work, try very small applique pins.
When doing machine applique, put a stabilizer underneath to avoid puckers so applique lies flat on the background fabric. Stabilizer comes in several weights (The pattern seen here called Forever Friends is from Better Homes and Gardens Quilting Ideas, Winter 2002).
Bias bars are flat lengths of heat-resistant plastic used to make bias strips for applique vines, stems, etc. To use them, cut a strip of fabric on the bias that's the width of the bar plus 1/2 inch. Fold the fabric (right sides out) in half around the bar then machine-stitch along the edge of the bar, closing up the fabric to create a tube. Press the fabric while still on the bar. Slip the tube off the bar and turn the seam to the back before appliqueing onto foundation fabric.
Setting quilt blocks on point adds wonderful interest but sometimes gives quilters a big headache when it comes to setting the triangles on the sides of the quilt. One product that offers a solution to the mathematical nightmare is a setting triangle. The triangle seen on this episode is The Setting Triangle. (The wall hanging used to illustrate the triangle is called Rebecca’s Basket by Jo Morton from the October 2003 issue of American Patchwork & Quilting).