I have been quilting for 16 years and I thought to share my favorite tools for easy quilting with you; these are the tools I use all the time and I can’t imagine my quilting without them.
I hope you will find a few helpful ideas; we all want to quilt more and make our quilting more enjoyable.
1. Washable markers
The day I discovered the washable markers designed for kids was a big day; I started to enjoy the applique technique and now I am not afraid to mark designs for quilting.
If you ever feel that marking design on fabric is a tedious and boring task that requires time, I can tell that this is a false issue! Once you have a reliable marker that can do the needed job, you will be happy to do it, no matter how much time it requires.
Recommended reading: Washable markers for quilting
2. Thread snips
When I need scissors, in 95% of the cases I use these thread snips. I can’t live without them (there are so many versions available: some of them – good looking and more expensive, while others are cheap and good, like these ones).
They are great for snipping thread while piecing, cleaning the surface of the quilt after quilting (trimming the threads after quilting), cleaning up the edges of the quilt before adding binding.
They are my powerful tool for successful trapunto (it’s the only scissors I use to trim the batting away).
3. Thread in neutral colors
I quilt most of my quilts with neutral light colors. I think the quilting looks gorgeous on any color fabric.
I don’t buy many colors, but I try to buy at least 2 large spools of the same color- it’s more economical (if there is not enough tread left on a spool, I know I can use it all because I have another spool). Buying cones is even more economical.
And I have to mention again how important it is the quality of the thread. If your machine loves the thread, you will love quilting!
4. Jeans and topstitch needles – for quilting
Quilting with the walking foot usually doesn’t generate many problems and can be done with many needle types. The free motion quilting is the one that requires special needles.
If you have a difficult project that requires thick thread or quilting over the fusible applique or bulky seam allowances – the Jeans needles or Topstitch needles are the best choice.
Recommended reading: The best needles for quilting
5. Newsprint paper
Sometimes, for various reasons, you don’t want to mark the design on fabric – for quilting, as an example. Then you could print the design on paper, make the quilt sandwich, pin the paper to the quilt sandwich and quilt through all the layers. Then you tear away the paper, revealing the nice and perfect quilted design.
You can’t use any kind of paper for this job. You need a paper that tears away easily, without distorting or pulling out the stitches, and, at the same time, a paper that holds up beautifully while stitching.
There is paper on a roll too, I prefer these A4/Legal versions because I can use them with my printer.
More about how to use the paper for quilting next week.
6. Price tags
Sometimes you need to keep your (applique or patchwork) pieces in a certain order- it’s easy to label them using these price tags (see an example here).
Or you have to piece many patches of different sizes and it’s helpful to know the size without measuring them all the time – it’s easy to label those pieces with their size (see an example here).
7. Washable glue
This glue is great for applique, it’s helpful when you have to do a difficult piecing (matching points) but what I like most it is the binding technique that it is used for.
Check this tutorial here – I can’t use other technique for binding my wall hangings.
8. Glue pen
If you don’t have too much time for an English paper pieced project, then use a glue pen (instead of needle+thread) to wrap the fabric around the paper templates. You will finish this step quickly (then, of course, removing the paper templates will take a little more time, but who thinks about it when this pen offers almost instant gratification?).
I don’t know which technique is faster; but I know that if I have this pen in my tool box, it’s my first option.
9. Hexagon Paper Templates
Do you need a 7/8” hexagon? Maybe 1 1/4”? Do you need it NOW?
I love my hexagon sheets! There are hexagons in various sizes, the templates could be printed at a reduced size too (resulting even more sizes) and there is a super technique that allows us to cut the templates in no time!
Recommended reading: Tips for cutting hexagon templates (+downloadable hexagon templates)
I always pre-wash my fabrics (to remove the chemicals); when I start a new project, I starch and press the fabric I need.
A firm and stable fabric means more accurate piecing and easier cutting. Starch the fabric especially when working with pieces cut on bias or narrow strips.
Starching is great for wholecloth quilts too – transferring the design to a fabric that doesn’t stretch becomes easier and more accurate.
It’s great for quilting too: imagine a flimsy quilt sandwich and a stiff one: which one do you think glide easier under the needle?
11. Adhesive basting spray
The basting spray is FABULOUS! I always use it for small to medium projects (about 50”); I always have a few cans at hand. Why? It saves me time and it’s more comfortable to quilt a quilt basted this way than a quilt basted with pins.
Some quilters say that the starch and basting spray counteract each other (the basting spray doesn’t stick a starched fabric to batting); I haven’t noticed this with my products, but maybe it’s a good idea to test your products first.
12. Lint roller
I keep it near the sewing machine while quilting; it’s better to clean the surface of the quilt before quilting than pulling out the dirt from stitching after the quilting is done.
Could you imagine your life without it, especially if you are sharing your life (and sewing studio) with some furry friends?
13. Hera marker
This marking tool is useful when you don’t want to use a marking pen on your fabric (that needs to be washed out later); it’s a piece of plastic that creates a visible crease on fabric (by pressing that curved edge into the fabric).
I use it when I need to mark lines for grid quilting, it’s great for small quilts. The creases disappear fairly quickly so that I mark the lines as I quilt.
It’s also useful if you need to fold a seam allowance; you mark the crease and the fabric folds easily on the creasing line.
14. Fusible web
Sometimes we need a quilt for yesterday! I think the fusible raw edge applique technique was invented for such quick projects! And the technique is not only quick, it’s easy too; actually, I think it is the easiest quilting technique.
It requires fusible web- a double-sided adhesive that has a paper backing and that it is used for fusing two pieces of fabric together.
The fusible web comes in different weights; for the quilt weight fabric the lightweight fusible web is the best.
Here are a few brands of fusible web: Wonder Under, Steam-a-Seam, Heat and Bond.
There are two important things for any fusible web:
- the stiffness added to the fabric (from my experience, Wonder Under offers the least stiffness, which is desired most of the time)
- how easy it is to remove the paper backing (I like Heat and Bond).
15. Sealing wrap
So I made the quilt sandwich and I am not sure what to quilt on my quilt. The easiest way to test a quilt motif is by using sealing wrap.
Here is what to do: place it on top of the quilt sandwich and with water soluble marker start doodling different motifs on the sealing wrap. Because it is transparent, you see how different motifs would look on your quilt. Once you have made your choice, remove it and quilt as usual – only through the quilt sandwich.
16. The biggest ruler
I have a 20” square ruler (Creative Grids) and I think this ruler is a great investment.
Do you have trouble when squaring up your big quilts? This ruler is a big help. Squaring up smaller quilts? Piece of cake!
17. Edge quilting guide
It works great with the walking foot.
Details on how to use it here.
18. Equilateral triangle ruler
This ruler is the one I use often for my patchwork quilts. It allows you to cut triangles that can be stitched into hexagons, as in this picture.
If you have the ruler and a pretty print, why not sewing some kaleidoscope hexagons? You could sew the triangles into a hexagon by machine (it’s so quick) and then you could join the hexagons sewing by hand.
Recommended reading: How to sew Kaleidoscope Hexagons
19. Wonder Clips
Great alternative to using pins. Especially great when you need to hold thick layers of fabric together. Great for binding but especially great for sewing bags.
20. Magnetic pincushion
Do I need to mention this? I feel so, because I bought it 10 years after I started quilting. And I did it because the first cat arrived in our house and I thought it is for his protection. Not for me and my quilting!
It is a wonderful container for pins, I can’t even remember how it is to keep and work with them from a tin!
Do you have a secret tool for easy quilting?
Please share it with us!