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Tools of the Trade – Part Two

About Quilting Tools - Sewing Machine, Iron, Ironing Board & Lighting
By Barb Bergquist

The quilting tools we will talk about in this edition are those that you likely already have if you currently sew and/or quilt.  Likely, though, some of these tools may have some differences that you might not realize that could simplify or make your project more difficult.  Today’s tools we will look at are sewing machines, irons and ironing boards, and lighting.  So let’s get into them.

First, I am going to talk about sewing machines.  I will not recommend one over another because the machine that is right for you will be the one that has the features you need and fits within your budget.  You can piece a quilt top with a $79 special from someplace like Walmart, or you can spend thousands of dollars on an imported machine with all the bells and whistles you can imagine.

With that said, I urge you when looking for a new sewing machine for quilting, take time to do thorough research.  Talk to your friends and visit your local quilting and fabric stores and see what they offer.  When you narrow down your choices, then go online and research the machines you are still considering.  Read about the features they have, check their price tags, and read the reviews.  Once you finish this process, you will know what to expect with the machine you choose and will be happy with your choice.  If you are not, you will also know how to address any issues you encounter after purchasing your new machine.  Nothing is better than being armed with knowledge and confidence!

Moving on, let’s discuss irons and ironing boards next.  Holy cow!  Before starting my research to write this post, I never realized how many different ironing boards are available to choose from.  I was fortunate to come across a review that laid out what to consider.  The first factor is design and size.  Though it is great to have a large surface to press large pieces of fabric, consider where you will be using it, how heavy it is, and how easy it is to open and store.  Another important factor is the strength and sturdiness of the board.  Know how you want to use the board and buy one that will withstand the use you will give it.  Finally, you also want to be able to adjust the board to fit the height necessary for the person who is using it.  Did you know that ideally, the surface of the ironing board should be approximately 9” below your elbow?  If you want to see more on this subject, visit Best Ironing Boards 2016.

I don’t know that I trust the many reviews that are out on the Internet for irons because the majority are provided by retailers.  You may start by deciding what is important for an iron.  Me?  I just want one that doesn’t spit water on the steam setting like my current iron does.  Otherwise, I want one that is durable and reliable with a reasonable price.  If you are like me, a visit to your local quilt or fabric stores to see what they offer will likely make your decision.  I’m sure you’ll find one that will fit your needs without much hassle.

When you are working on a small project, or have a number of short seams to press, you may want to consider setting up a small ironing station near your sewing machine.  You can buy a small pressing board from a number of retailers; some offer a cutting mat on one side and the pressing board on the other.  Another alternative is to make one with materials that you likely already have around your house.  A number of sites offer DIY pressing boards, and I found Perfect Pressing Boards very informative.

If you are looking for a smaller iron for your sewing work area, you can consider a travel iron, or any mini iron.  Just search the Internet and you will likely find a number to choose from.

Before leaving the realm of ironing, I am going to quickly talk about starch.  Starch is great to ensure a flat press that will hold.  I know there are a number of good starches on the market, but if you are looking for a homemade solution, here’s a recipe that is cheap and easy.  The one I was given included food color and scent, but if you are like me, you don’t want to chance the color or oil from the scent affecting the work you have done.

Homemade Starch

Add 3 oz. vodka (Any unflavored brand will do – get the cheap one!) to 24 oz. of distilled water in a large spray bottle and shake well. 


That’s it.  It really works!  Oh, and don’t forget to mark the spray bottle with what it contains so it won’t be confused with anything else.

Now about lighting.  Lighting can make all the difference in the results of the work you will do.  Your choice in lighting will be guided by your workspace – the layout, the size, etc.  As with anything else, you will need to think about your specific needs and do a little research to find what will work best for you.  If you are looking for an informative article on lighting, check out Sew Anytime of Day: Finding the Best Lighting and Magnifiers for Sewing.

This wraps it up for this edition of tools for quilting.  We will continue this series in our next post.  Until then, happy quilting!


Barb Bergquist along with husband, Ron, own A Block Away Quilt Shop.  A dedicated quilter with more than 25 years of experience, she is now actively sharing her love of quilting through the work in her shop.

Contact Us:

Phone: (956) 638-1961
Location: A Block Away Quilt Shop
                 2706 N. 10th Street
                 McAllen, TX 78501
Hours: Mon-Sat: 9AM-9PM, Sun: 10AM-6PM
Email: barb@ablockaway.com


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