Indispensable Tools

We recently had a conversation about the tools that we can’t possibly do without. As always, the comments were wide-ranging and interesting:

Kay Laboda said she can’t live without a seam ripper. “I use it for lots of tasks. Like when I need to hold down the fabric in front of the foot on the machine, or pulling the thread through from the back of the quilt, or when I thread the needle and have to pull the loop, and dozens of other small things. It’s truly my best friend. That’s why I have a dozen of them.”

“Misty Fuse is my favorite tool,” says Vivian Helena Aumond-Capone. “I love the Goddess Sheets because I can be sure my iron will remain clean. And I couldn’t be without Quilting Arts Magazine and all the gals connected with it.”

From Diana Mains Welte, “I cannot live without my ruler. It is a 6”x13” Easy Rule by Sharon Hulton from EZ Quilting. I have had it forEVER. I rely upon it to accurately cut a 4 x 6 postcard — I would be lost without it.”

“I’m going to admit that I can’t manage without my Squeezers!” says Myfanwy Hart. “Scissors that you squeeze closed, fit perfectly in the hand and have curved cutting edges to fit under the sewing machine needle for trimming threads as close as you can go!”



“My essential tool is an extension table.” says Lauren. “I have one for each of my sewing machines. My favorite is the Sew Steady.  I use it on my sewing machine even when making postcards. The only time I take it off is for piecing 1/4-inch seams.”

Sara Kelly chimed in, “My favorite tools are my hands. They are the happiest part of me most days if I’ve been able to sew, knit, etc., especially when arthritis reminds me to treasure their flexibility each day I have it.”

Maureen Curlewis admits that she would be LOST without her collection of hand sewing/embroidery needles. “And,” she adds, “at last we have wet weather in south-east Queensland, making conditions perfect for stitching!”

“I cannot imagine life without my computer,” says Franki Kohler. “I’ve made so many wonderful connections with other artists around the world. It also connects me with incredible teachers and more inspiration than I could use in a lifetime!”

What is your favorite tool?

P.S. None of the above comments are paid endorsements of products.


Six giraffe-loving members have created a delightful herd of the long-necked wonders! Click on an image for a larger view.

To see more postcard art, check out the individual galleries. Just hover your cursor over the Gallery tab, then select an artist’s name from the list. Enjoy!

White on White

One of the themes that eleven of our group is working on is White on White. It’s so fun to see the varied interpretations of this idea. Here’s a peek at what has been created and sent off in the mail so far.

Click on image for larger view and more information.



First Friday Studio Tour – Lauren in Sammamish

This month we are returning to Washington state to visit with Lauren in Sammamish.

Do you call it a studio or sewing room?  To yourself, to friends and family?  Why do you think this is so?  Difference in starting point between quilting and art?  Thinking of this as a business rather than a hobby?

I call my quilting space my sewing room because it is actually my dining room!   I think that even if I were lucky enough to have a dedicated room for quilting and sewing, I would still have a hard time calling it a studio.  I see myself as being in the early stages of my quilting adventure, still trying many things. I have not yet discovered what defines my work.  It definitely is still a hobby.
Lauren1What do you have in the room?  machines, supplies, fabrics, paints, etc.  Anything that might surprise the rest of us?

Typically I have multiple projects spread out over every available surface: my sewing machine centered on the table, active work area on one side, thread for the projects at hand, books, notes, and project elements spread on the rest of the table and credenza.
Lauren2We have two lovely antique cabinets in the dining room that were originally in the captain’s quarters on a ship.  One has a flat shelf and the other has fabulous cubby-holes where I have my every day sewing supplies stored.  It was originally intended to store wine. Fortunately, my husband decided we needed a dedicated wine cabinet so I got to take this over!  Granite tops on both mean I have a handy place to rest a hot iron.
Lauren3How is your “stuff” organized?  How do you organize your fabric? By color?  Amount? Any separate categories (batiks, hand dyes)?  How do you organize your thread (color, weight)?

My fabric is in bins in closets throughout the house.  I’ve now accumulated enough that I even have one bin in plain sight in our family room. (I’m not sure if my husband hasn’t noticed or is just being remarkably tolerant.)  I tend to store speciality fabric together:  batiks in one area, Asian fabrics in another, supplies targeted for certain projects in other bins, then several that are sorted by color.  I tend to have an abundance of tone-on-tone fabrics for good blending.
Lauren4My every-day piecing thread is stored in the dining room along with some specialty larger spools that don’t fit in normal thread containers.  The rest of my thread is sorted by 50-weight cotton and specialty in another antique chest I took over in our family room.  If I have enough of one brand/material/weight, I keep that group in a separate container.Lauren5Do you have anything, supplies, more machines, etc. tucked away in any other rooms of the house.  How many other rooms? (My husband likes to talk about that one.) Has a family member or significant other ever accused you of “taking over” the entire house? If you have a separate building, we want lots of pictures.

YES.  Just about every room in the house now has some of my supplies.  My husband has actually been encouraging me to turn our living room into a dedicated sewing room.  But I already use the living room for almost every project:  my design wall is often standing for weeks at a time and for larger quilts I use the living room floor as I finish the quilt top, bast and then quilt.  I can’t give up the space for that!
Lauren6I also often use the living room couch to audition large pieces of fabric that are too heavy for my design wall, or when I have a project that is back in the thinking stage as I contemplate what to do next.

Lauren7How much horizontal surface do you have, and is it ever enough?  Do you have to move piles of stuff to cut anything bigger than a fat quarter?

I’m pretty organized so I use the active working area of my dining room table to cut fabric.  I have also started raising my kitchen table to do all of my cutting for a project at one time.

I tend to have project materials on just about every surface close to my sewing.  As I’ve gotten more into quilting, my interest in giving dinner parties has waned. It takes too much work and time to put away all of my supplies!

My husband built two railings to separate our living room from our foyer.  I have put these to excellent use as storage racks to keep project fabric and quilt tops wrinkle free.  Every time I walk by I think about the project at hand and develop ideas, especially for how to quilt finished tops.
Lauren8Do you straighten/organize as you go, putting each fabric away as you cut, or do you clean up after a project?  How many projects do you work on at a time and how do you keep them organized?

I have ‘organized messes.’  Cuttings from a project are usually in a general heap, with other project-specific heaps of fabric, embellishments, etc., all together.  But I do organize my fabric as I cut and keep only 1 project at a time in my active work area.

Anything more you want to add about your studio, organization, working methods, etc., please do.

I bought an ergonomic stool which I use instead of a sewing chair.  It has freed me from back and neck pain and it’s much easier and faster to get in and out of.  I also have cork flooring, cork side up, under my machine foot pedal to stop it from sliding around on the carpet.
Lauren9My grandfather’s antique sewing cabinet is in the living room.  He was an engineer with Western Electric (manufacturer division of the old AT&T) during the depression.  When they had no other work, they built these sewing cabinets.  I have no idea if they sold them or gave them away or if my grandfather made this particular one, but it is a cherished piece of furniture.
Lauren10And lastly, I have an adorable dog, Riley, that particularly enjoys lying in the sun and supervising the drying of my quilts.  There is a little bit of dog hair in every quilt.
Lauren11Thank you, Lauren, for a delightful tour.  I love your use of the antique pieces and the creative use of the spaces in your house.  And we all know that quilts are made warmer by the addition of dog (or cat) hair.

Next Month:  Lisa Alff