Wednesday, October 10, 2012

These Are A Few Of My Favorite Things

After that last blockbuster post, how about something short and sweet:  three of my favorite things.

2.5" clear Not-A-Ruler
Yes, it IS hard to see.  I lose it on the cutting mat all the time.  This has been photoshopped to make it show up!
Once upon a time, only a few little old ladies quilted (or so the myth goes).  They may have learned their skills back in the 1930's when there was a surge of interest in quilting, but I am just guessing.  There were no guilds.  There was no multi-billion dollar quilting industry.  There were no rotary cutters.  There were just the little old ladies like my great-aunt Bessie, and they had two choices in quilting fabric:  solids and little calicoes.  They cut their fabric with scissors.  They used thin cardboard to make their own quilting templates.

Then America had a national bicentennial (that was in 1976 for those of you from other places).  Suddenly all things colonial were hot and trendy, although the words "hot" and "trendy" were not yet heard of, and "colonial" was not yet a synonym for evil (at least not in the US).   A quilting revival was born, and I was there for the birth.

Barbara Schaeffer (at the time a mother of schoolchildren, NOT a little old lady) taught quilting to a small class of interested women at the community room in her church.  From that tiny beginning a guild* was born.  One of the women in the group volunteered to have her husband cut long pieces of clear rigid plastic into sizes useful for quilt blocks.  I used them to mark fabric with a pencil, which I then cut with scissors.  Nothing like this was available on the market.  There WAS no market!

Pre-cut 2.5" strips.  This photo was taken a while ago and these jars are full now.

I still have the whole set, but it is the 2.5" one that I use all the time.  I do my own pre-cuts of fabrics I buy at the thrift shops.  And I love remembering the days when we were quilting pioneers.  Don't get me wrong, I'm perfectly willing to spend money on awesome fabrics and the latest tools (you should see my collection of specialty rulers).  But I also get disgusted at the crass commercialism of the quilting industry today.  Yes, this is quite hypocritical. 

*ps:  After 25 years away from Maryland, I still love and miss you, Eternal Quilters of Glen Burnie.

Not-A-Steam Press

Imagine that your iron was 25 inches long, 11 inches wide, and exerted umpty pounds of pressure (one of the ads says 100 pounds).  That's what this is/does.  I could not live without it. 

The upper surface gets hot, the lower surface is like an ironing board.  The official name of this awesome device is "steam press" because you can put water into it to generate steam. I have learned my lesson with steam irons and NEVER do this.  A spray bottle of water does the trick and the device will last years longer.

Pressing fabric.  Pressing blocks.  Fusing.   That's what I use it for.  And when I say "fusing", I don't mean fusing one wimpy little piece of quilting cotton to another, although it will do that.  I mean fusing rag rugs to canvas backing.  Xena Warrior Princess fusing.

The first one I had was "digital" and had an electronic display.  It burned out quickly and I was lucky enough to find this older, pre-digital model. 


Break a bamboo skewer in half.  Keep the pointy end, throw the other half away.
I sew with this in my right hand, using it to place, guide and push the fabric (as needed) under the presser foot.  It safely gives you much more precision than a finger would do.  Some people use chopsticks for this, but I like the pointy-ness of the skewer.  It is also great for fishing out that little loop of bobbin thread from under the presser foot when you are threading the machine. 

And life is all about the enjoyment of the simple things, like bamboo skewers.  Did you know that they come in all sorts of diameters and lengths?  I buy them all and they are useful for all sorts of things.

Feel free to share your own bamboo skewer stories or tips below.


  1. OOOHH I must have a Steam Press. And I will go break a skewer on my way to light a fire in the loft. It's chilly up here, north of Dixie!

    PS I linked this post to my blog.

  2. I have used bamboo skewers for knitting needles. Break or cut off the length you don't want, sharpen the cut end with a razor blade or utility knife, and sand lightly. Voilà, you have DPNs. Nice for when you don't have the right size for the sock yarn you bought.


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