Wednesday, May 7, 2014

Two Things That Are Worth The Money. And One Maybe Not So Much.

It sure is fun getting new toys.  Getting them from thrift shops is the best, of course, but now and then there are things that it is worth paying retail prices for.

As usual, no one is paying me to plug the following products.  I just really, really like them.  I would happily sell out if only someone was offering.  But I would tell you if that happened.

What are the two most important skills for piecing quilts?
Precise cutting
Precise seam allowances
These first two products will help you.  Or as in my case, save you!

Grip Strips (click for a link to this item on Amazon)

I do LOTS of cutting.  I go thrift shopping almost every week, and almost every week buy fabric.  Sometimes LOTS of fabric.  It all gets serged (to prevent ravels in the wash), gets washed and dried on hot, and then I do my own precuts:  10" squares, 5" squares, 2.5" squares and 2.5" strips. That's a lot of cutting.

I've tried many things on the bottom of my long cutting rulers.  Sandpaper dots (they work but wear away over time).  A handle that suction-cups on (suction quickly fails, usually in the middle of a cut).  A clear vinyl that self-sticks on (better than nothing).

Then I found these Grip Strips.  They work.

I kind of feel like I ought to say more about them, but really, there is nothing else to say.  They work.  They are long strips of plastic with adhesive that sticks to the bottom of your rulers, one per long side.  They grip to the fabric and keep your ruler from slipping.  Really, they do.  What else is there to say?

Buy several sets because once you try them you will want them on every ruler you use.  They are easily cut with scissors so you can piece them together on extra long rulers,  or cut them to size if you want to put them on the small square rulers.  And you will.

Nova Montgomery's Sew Straight seam guide (click for a link to this item)

This is another product that I discovered after trying lots of different things.  I HATE the seam guides that come with sewing machines.  They fasten on a single screw hole and they get loose and move around.  Or they scratch the bed of your machine.  Or both.  Utterly useless IMHO.

A bit better are the big magnetic ones, if you are sewing on cast iron.  They will NOT move, and you need decent finger strength to pry them up off the bed to move them.  They might scratch your bed, too.

A short stack of sticky notes also works, and that is what I generally recommend to students.  Almost everyone has sticky notes floating around the house somewhere, and they won't hurt the finish of your machine, even if you leave them on there.  At least that has been my experience so far.

But this long, clear acrylic seam guide from Nova Montgomery is the bomb.  It fastens with TWO tiny screws, and my only warning is that you need an allen wrench if you want to do more than finger tighten them down.  It does not come with an allen wrench.  But because there are two of them they will not rotate to a new position--they stay in place.  The length is great too.  The shorter seam guides just don't work as well for me.  As a quilter, keeping a consistent seam allowance is VITAL.  Probably the most important part of quilting.  That and precise cutting.

I replaced the allen screws with regular sewing machine presser foot screws.  I can turn them easily by hand when I need to move the seam guide to a new position.

I only have one problem with it, and that results from the fact that the needleplate does not sit exactly flush with the machine bed on my favorite machine for piecing.  This results in a small gap between the seam guide and the bed, and I have to be careful not to let material slip under there.  It is not a big problem.

OK, so those are the awesome well-worth-retail thingys.

Now here are the awesome thingys that are probably NOT worth the money.

Renaissance Dagger Scissors (click for a link to this item on amazon)

These claim to be a reproduction of a 14th century dagger.  One of the ads for these seemed to indicate that they can be used as daggers as well as scissors.  No.  Not going to work that way.  To be a dagger they would also have to be sharp on the OUTSIDE edge of the scissors.  A terrifying thought for scissors, and fortunately not the case here.

They are for sale from several different sellers on Amazon, so if they are sold out on the link above just search for "Renaissance dagger scissors".

Aren't they awesomely cool looking?  I couldn't figure out whether I wanted silver (colored) or gold (colored) so I got both.

The comments section on amazon focused on their wonderfulness for RenFaire attire.  I don't do that, but I can certainly see it.

I am collecting items for my dragon rider costume.  This is a long term fantasy project in every sense.  Meaning that dragon riding is a fantasy.  My idea of converting my electric scooter into a dragon is a fantasy.  My ideas for a dragon rider costume are fantasies.  And the idea of riding that dragon in my small town's Christmas parade is the ultimate fantasy.  None of this will ever happen.  But fantasy is an important component of life.  As long as you can tell the difference between fantasy and reality.  So far, so good.

So after all that, how do they function as scissors, you ask?  Did I mention that they are really, really cool looking?  Let me just say that they will be in no danger of getting worn out from use while waiting for that dragon rider costume to materialize.


  1. I have two packages of the grips strips and they work perfectly. Just love them. I also have Nova's seam guide and it has totally improved my piecing. Both of these are indispensable to my quilting. The other things are I think are great helps are the organ or Superior titanium topstitch needles, Glide thread (USA), sharp scissors, flat head pins, sewmates extension table. Thanks for sharing!

    1. Thanks, Linda. I keep reading about Glide thread, guess it is time to try it on my new midarm machine!

  2. Note: the Nova Montgomery seam guide will NOT work with a zigzag walking foot for 1/4" seams. The pressure foot part of the walking foot is wider than 1/4" from needle to edge so you'll need something installed in front of the foot, closer to the sewist, to use as a guide.

  3. If you put a strip on the guide bar would it fill the gap on your piecing machine without affecting the others?


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