By Barb Bergquist
Today we wrap up the series about the tools we use for quilting. I started by addressing the basic quilting tools, cutters, rulers and mats. In the next post, I covered the larger tools, our sewing machine, irons and ironing boards. Last week, I talked about more basic tools – pins, needles, threads and rippers. Now we will discuss tools that can make quilting a little easier, what I consider the special tools of quilting. The list includes glues / adhesives, marking pens, quilting gloves, foundation paper, grippers, a fabric folding pen, and last but not least, the Purple Thang.
It was only about a year ago that I ran across an article that suggested the use of glues or spray adhesives for quilting, though I realize now that I used fabric glue on a quilted jacket that I made a couple years ago. There are two main ways to use fabric glue or spray adhesive for quilting. One is obvious – to hold fabric pieces in place until they are stitched in place. This works well for appliqué. The other use I hadn’t considered until I came across the article I mentioned previously is for basting a quilt.
When it comes to basting your quilt using a spray adhesive, the advantages are obvious: it is fast and no pins are needed! But there are some disadvantages to be aware of: the adhesive gums up your needle causing you to stop occasionally to clean is; the spray has a fume to it; and over-spray happens. Also be aware that this works well for smaller quilt projects, but you may find it less helpful on bed-size quilts. Whatever spray adhesive you choose, make sure the adhesive is temporary and washes out. If you are considering basting with a spray adhesive, multiple articles are available on the Internet about the process. Read up on how to baste with spray adhesives before attempting it.
Another great tool for quilting is a marking pen. Yet before you buy one and start marking a design on that light colored quilt top you just spent hours on, you want to again do research. Most marking pens available today are advertised to be water or heat soluble, but if you read comments on various articles and posts, not all dissolve quite as cleanly as you may wish without washing. In all cases, it appears that the marks do wash out but if you don’t want to wash your quilt, then I would suggest that you do your own test on a sample with the marking pen that you chose beforehand.
Quilting gloves – are they really necessary? Let’s look at the advantages of using them. The gloves reduce the stress on your fingers from the constant movement of your quilt as well as improve your grip on your quilt. And as an added bonus, they help keep your quilt cleaner! So now that I’ve convinced you to invest in gloves, what size do you buy? The best way to know is to measure – from the base of the palm to the tip of your middle finger. Based on that length, here’s a guide to what size you may need.
It appears that many people favor the Machingers brand of quilting gloves, but check out as many brands as you wish and choose the one that you will be comfortable with.
And while we are talking about getting a grip on things, let’s talk about grippers for your rulers and templates. Some of the rulers available on the market today are made with some sort of grips to help hold onto the fabric you are cutting. That may be all you need, but if your ruler doesn’t grip like you want, you may find that you would appreciate one of these grippers.
I think everyone knows about the dots. In general, there are just a few types, sandpaper, vinyl and rubberized. The sandpaper dots are adhesive dots of fine textured sandpaper that you place on your ruler or template. They increase your grip between the fabric and your ruler, but you cannot see through them to the fabric under them. Most of the vinyl or rubberized dots are transparent, but not all.
Maybe you need more than the dots that you add to your ruler or template. In that case, you may want a sheet that fits the whole ruler or template. I found a product called Invisi-Grip that you cut and stick to the back of your ruler or template giving you grip on the whole surface. Likely there are other brands that are similar. Another gripping product is called Cutting Edge and is a vinyl strip that you place under your ruler. This gripper is repositionable but it may be a little harder to work with if you are trying to use it with a template such as a hexagon.
Another way to get a grip on your ruler (pun intended!) is with a grip handle. A handle on your cutting ruler allows you to easily place equal pressure across the ruler and makes picking up the ruler simple. There are a variety of handles available on the market and some branded with names you recognize, such as Omnigrid, but you might want to visit your local hardware store. The handle that construction workers use to hold large sheets of glass may work on your quilting ruler too. Check it out!
If you want to try foundation paper piecing, then you will need foundation paper. Ideally, you want a paper that stays in place while you are stitching but tears away easily afterwards. It should be absorbent so that any inked area won’t bleed onto your fabric. And you want paper that doesn’t shrink, curl or turn brittle.
The fabric folding pen is a unique product for quilting. Convenient to use for appliqué work, it makes folding fabric easier. Using a special liquid, the fabric becomes more pliable and easier to crease. If you tried to fold a fabric piece the width of the ¼” seam without this pen, you have likely experienced the same frustration I have with the piece “unfolding” as I worked with it. This magical pen creates the fold that stays, making the work more enjoyable!
Last tool to discuss: the Purple Thang. My friend, Julia, asks everyone she quilts with, “Do you have the Purple Thang? If not, you better get one.” Since I had never heard of it before Julia mentioned it, I did a little research and learned that this is a great little multi-purpose tool. You can use it to turn, poke, stuff, pull, score and thread. With so many possible uses, it is probably a good idea to have one on hand. (Yes, Julia is right. We should all have one!)
This wraps up the four-part series into the tools that are commonly used for quilting. I realize that there are some that I probably haven’t mentioned, but I’m ready to move onto other subjects and I’m sure you are looking forward to something new too. Until next time, 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.