My 5 Essential Quilting Tools

I’ve been trying to track down another seam ripper clipper to have at my embroidery machine and they’re hard as hen’s teeth to locate and get to Halifax. I bought my original online at Nancy’s Notions in Wisconsin – the tool isn’t expensive but the cost of getting one here is prohibitive! It got me thinking about what are my essential quilting tools.

Essential Quilting Tools

Here they are:

  • a seam ripper clipper – it has a small but sturdy/strong point that easily slips under a 2.5mm stitch and fits nicely in my hand. Insert it under a stitch and when you continue pushing, it cuts the stitch on the sharpened interior edge below the point. I needed it yesterday when I had to take out 1000+ quilting stitches to redo the quilting. It’s a must have tool – way better than a conventional seam ripper because there’s less likelihood of cutting the fabric
  • self threading needle – I like to leave tails when I start and end embroideries/quilting which I then embed in the sandwich. A self threading needle with an open back end is easy to thread – place it in the fabric, push the threads into the open eye, pull thread through and trim
  • very sharp small scissors – useful for lots of tasks including trimming threads close to the fabric; definitely essential when I’m doing appliqué work
  • fine pointed 3.5″ tweezers – I can’t manage without these – they’re perfect for grabbing the pulled up bobbin thread when I’m starting a seam – I always have a pair right at hand at each of my machines. Perfect for pulling out loose threads when I’ve taken out a quilted seam.
  • Frixion heat erase pens – I just finished the internal panel of the double convergence quilt I’m currently working on. I was doing an edge-to-edge quilting with three different embroideries adjusted to fit the quilt – I had to do a lot of marking to position the starts and ends of the embroideries/quilting elements. Press the panel and the markings disappear (I’m guessing they would reappear were I to take the quilt out into below zero weather or put it in the freezer….)

These are my five essential quilting/sewing tools; can’t function without them. I highly recommend having one of each at each machine in your sewing space.

Tropical Flowers III

Yesterday I finished a second leaf. For the moment I’ve left the medium teal unstitched and I think I like how it looks. I’ve covered the grey with the light teal thread and the dark areas are stitched but I like the texture leaving the medium coloured area as is, for now, at least.

Second Leaf

Next I will tackle the red/pink anthuriums – they will actually be a bit easier to work on because the colour moves in a way that will make the stitching flow. Probably not today, though. This morning I went back to the double convergence quilt top.

Tropical Flowers II

One leaf done – a second underway and weeks of work left to do.

One Leaf Done; Weeks Of Work To Do

The question is why bother? Why didn’t I just fussy cut the flowers, fuse and edge-stitch them in place and leave it at that? Good question. The thread painting, in spite of the large amount of work involved, adds interesting texture and dimension to the fabric turning it into a piece of wall art. I probably should have thought more about the size of the piece before I began, choosing fewer elements, but this panel does make an interesting art object. So I committed myself to the work. In addition, the fabric raw edges are inclined to fray because the bark cloth is loosely woven – thread painting lets me densely edge stitch creating a sharper outline for the flowers and leaves.

Tropical Flowers – Bark Cloth

I started with printed bark cloth given me by a friend – 4 one metre pieces with different coloured backgrounds. I chose the blue to work with here but you can see from the black piece just how clearly printed the flowers are. The fabric provides a lovely foundation for doing thread painting.

Tropical Flowers – A Selection

The first step is to choose a few flowers/leaves and cut them out. Next I apply a fusible web to the back of the fabric, pressing the whole thing flat, then fussy cutting before removing the paper backing from the fused web – the paper makes cutting out much sharper. Once the flowers are fused to a background fabric, thread painting can begin.

So that’s where I am in the process. It will take many hours to fill in the colour gradation of the leaves and flowers – I’m working to eliminate the grey using light values of the adjacent colours so “grey” won’t mean grey when I’ve done thread painting – there will be pale green, or pale teal, or pale pink where grey currently is found.

The flowers/leaves on the black backed fabric don’t have grey, instead the fabric has appropriate light shades for each element, making the decision-making process somewhat easier. But now, back to the teal leaf which I began yesterday….

Thread Painting – Tropical Flowers

You’d think because this piece has borders and piping that I’ve done all the thread painting – wrong! I started adding borders on the weekend because I was having the second session for the thread painting workshop and I needed to be able to show the gals how I finish a piece. I’d carefully marked (using a heat removable Frixion pen) a centre vertical line, used that to set up the inner border line. I kept all the markings visible as I partially bordered the piece. (Here are instructions for how I do borders with piping: creating borders). I marked locations and created a signature to show how I position the signature embroidery, as well.

Then I began thread painting – this is going to take several weeks – there’s a lot of fabric to cover – I did enough on the leaf on the bottom left to give an idea of how I shade the colours using two different but similar rayon threads through my needle eye. This provides a bit more texture than using just a single thread and lets me fill in spaces more quickly.

Thread Painting Underway On A Leaf

My plan is to eliminate the grey on leaves and flowers using other shades to in-fill spaces. In this leaf, I’ve used pale greens/yellow greens to stitch in the grey areas. I also did pistils on the anthuriums, flower stems, and leaf central veins while I had a specific thread combination on the machine. This is not my usual way of working but in order to share technique with the gals I did a lot of skipping around.

Now I need to settle in to resume thread painting; this weekend I plan on finishing this leaf and move on to the darker green one above. I also need to baste the edge of the outer border to the batting so I can more easily move the piece around while threading painting.

Last Two Tunics Finished

Finally got the remaining two tunics done. My friend Janet suggested I add a cowl neck and it would have worked nicely but for the fact that I’d already cut these tunics out and didn’t have enough fabric to make a cowl neck scarf to wear with either. So crew necks I’ve got.

“Feathers” Flared Tunic #3

This is the same printed pattern as the second one I did, just in shades of black/grey/white. It’ll look good with a black turtleneck and pants.

“Grey” Flared Tunic #4

That’s it for garment sewing right now. I still have corduroy for a couple pairs of pants and I need to make another bedspread jacket for a friend but it’s back to quilting right now.

Flared Tunic II

Fabricville was having a sale a couple of days ago for “elite club” members (I’ve been one for years since I often drop into the shop for fabric, notions,…). The poly/viscose fabric was half-price so I looked at the other bolts they had. I chose three more lengths to make tops – here is the second one completed. I liked the bright colours.

Second Flared Tunic

I have the other two lengths cut and ready to stitch up. I am aiming to do one today and probably the second tomorrow.

Two Flared Tunics Cut Out And Ready To Sew

These will replace the tunic tops I made last fall – the fabric pills badly (I have to shave it after every wearing) and they are just a tad snug in the bum. So they will go to Hand in Hand – the St. Vincent De Paul thrift shop in the area. These days my rule is: something new in the wardrobe means something out! My wardrobe is still embarrassingly large I’m just trying to keep it under control.

Flared Tunic

Came across a pretty poly/viscose knit the other day at Fabricville. Thought it would make up into an attractive flared tunic top.

Flared Knit Tunic

Very simple garment to make – a front, a back, sleeves and a band to finish the neck edge. It’s based on a Marsha McClintock pattern – “T-Shirt Trifecta”

Safe-T-Pockets Pattern

Marsha’s patterns are all about hidden pockets everywhere for travelling. I made up View 2 originally but subsequently attached the diagonal top piece to the bottom and made a single front piece which I later flared a bit more than the pattern since the couple of tunics I made up were just a bit snug through the bum. I sewed the flared single piece front tunic in a black sweater knit last year. It fit well over a pair of jeans.

I’m happy with this latest tunic top which is comfortable and colourful. No pockets, though. To put them in the side seams will drag down the sides once anything is put in them. Same with pockets on the front because the fabric is soft and stretchy. So I have to wear this garment with pants that have pockets so I can carry all the stuff I carry in my pockets!

PS – I bought three more lengths of this poly/viscose fabric (different prints) today ( a half-price sale). Just finished cutting them out. Intending to replace the solid tunic tops I made last year with a fabric that pills like crazy – it needs to be shaved after every wearing. This fabric didn’t pill when I wore the tunic yesterday.