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As quilters it’s easy to swoon over fabric and shiny machines. It’s fun to fill our thread racks with every color of the rainbow. And it’s such a treat to pop open a new pack of needles knowing that smooth sewing awaits us.
But what about those sewing tools and notions that aren’t quite as shiny or exciting? What about the tried and true items that keep chugging along and rarely need replacing? Should we forget about them?
I say no, my fellow quilters! Let us sing the song of our unsung heroes! They don’t ask for much. In fact, they ask for nothing at all (mostly because they can’t talk.) So let’s all agree to take a moment and pause to recount the great acts of valor these tiny champions play.
5 Underrated Quilting Notions: The Unsung Heroes
1. Safety Pins
You probably won’t see a glamour shot of safety pins on the cover of your favorite quilting magazine, but that’s OK. Safety pins wouldn’t want the spotlight like that. It’s not their way. Safety pins play the invaluable roll of holding our quilt sandwiches together so we can stitch with ease.
Yes, we complain about basting, and suffer through the steps of stretching, smoothing, and pinning, but where would we be without our safety pins? (If you’re saying the words basting spray right now, I’m going to need you to cut it out.)
I opt for safety pins over basting spray because they are cheap, reliable, and you can literally reuse them forever. The spray stuff, on the other hand, will require you to consistently re-buy, racking up quite a bill. I’d rather use my crafting funds for something more fun… like that swoon-worthy fabric we mentioned earlier.
Hot Tip: If you think basting with safety pins takes too long because of the whole opening and closing and opening and closing again, try skipping that first and last step and store your safety pins in a box in the open position! Don’t make yourself, or your pins, work harder than they have to.
There's also this nifty little tool called a Kwik Klip that acts as a stand-in finger so you can close those pins without hurting your sweet little finger pads.
When I first tried free motion quilting, I treated myself to a pair of machine quilting gloves and a supreme slider (more on that in my FMQ post)– and I’m so glad I did! Now, I never quilt anything without these funny little gloves. They have a grippy underbelly to help me hold on to the fabric of my quilt with minimal effort – saving my neck and shoulders from a world of strain and pain.
They’re also incredibly stylish, and as I’ve frequently reminded the Instagram world, they make you feel like your own butler as I choose to drink everything from a wine glass. Drinks for one?
I may not condition my hair often enough… but I always make sure to condition my thread. I’ve been using the same pot of Thread Heaven for over a decade. In fact, I’ve been using it for so long, I don’t even think they make this product anymore! Any conditioner will work, even simple beeswax does the trick (just make sure you don’t use too much.)
I find thread conditioner extra helpful when I’m hand sewing with cotton thread, which is typically how I whip stitch my binding (Click here for a full binding tutorial with video). A little bit of conditioner helps to smooth the cotton fibers so the thread glides through the fabric without tangles, snarls, or eventual knots. It’s like butter. (But don’t use butter to condition your thread… that might get greasy.)
Quick Note: I choose to not use thread conditioner when hand quilting. I have tried it and find it to actually hinder my stitching and gunk up my thread. Maybe it's because I use a thicker, yarn like thread for hand quilting? For more info on my favorite hand quilting tools, and a video tutorial, check out this post.
Glue – what an underrated little product. A good old glue stick can help you quick baste appliqué pieces AND bring back great memories of second grade crafts at the same time! Want your seams to perfectly match? Grab a fine-tipped screw-on top for your liquid glue and use that rather than pinning.
Yes, your fingers may get a little sticky, but the speed and accuracy will be worth it.
When sewing my Sugar POP quilt together, I always use this method to make sure my center seam matches up perfectly.
Last on our list of unsung notions is the simple needle threader. This humble tool, made mostly from a little piece of wire, can remove all of the frustration of poking a piece of thread through a needle eye.
I do a lot of hand quilting, and my thread of choice is a thick Pearl Cotton No. 8 thread. Have you ever tried to get that stuff through the eye of a needle with just your finger tips? It can take a few tries! Use a needle threader and no licking or squinting will be required.
Check out more of my favorite notions!
- How to Choose the Right Quilt Batting
- The Best Sewing Table
- The Best Quality Thread: Part 1 and Part 2
- 5 Best Cutting Mats for Quilters
- Best Rotary Cutter
- The 4 Best Quilting Rulers
- The Best Iron for Sewing
- The World's Best Sewing Scissors
- Your Guide to Finding the Best Thimble
- Best Pins for Quilting
- The Best Quilt Marking Tools
- Fusible Batting Tape: Why You Need It and How to Use It.
- 8 Things You Never Knew About a Tailor's Clapper
- 5 Types & Sizes of Hand Quilting Needles
- Must-Have Quilting Tools
You could add ALL of these magical, underrated quilting notions to your quilt kit for half the price of a fat quarter bundle. They maybe not give you the same surge of instant gratification, but the tiny little bubbles of joy they lend on an ongoing basis will be just as nice.
Do you have any unsung heroes that deserve our attention? I'd love to hear about those notions in the comments!