Got the basics down? Want to take your craft to the next level? Here are my recommendations to increase your efficiency, try a new technique, and make more complicated shapes.
My favorite cutting rulers are ones with versatile shapes, lots of measuring lines, and a hole for hanging. Not all meet this standard, but here are the ones that get used the most:
Omnigrid squares are an absolute MUST for HST trimming and squaring up blocks.
Both Stripology Mini and regular squared Up rulers are HUGE time savers for cutting strips from yardage or fat quarters.
I LOVE being able to piece curves accurately with the Color Girl Quilts ruler.
If you’ve got some counter/desk space and ready to up your cutting game, a die-cutter is an amazing option. I have the Sizzix Big Shot Plus. It comes with a circle die that is awesome for cutting perfect circles for applique (or the planter covers I made here). There’s a new electric version too! Additional dies are an investment but usable over and over again. I love the rag square die that cuts the fringe so you don’t have to, the Dresden die because even with hand rulers I can never get perfectly-cut angles, and the Varied Triangle that builds an awesome quilt in minutes!
At quilt guild meetings, I’ve tried the Acuquilt Go! and liked having the automatic shapes cut as well. It’s more expensive but is more specifically directed to quilters. Its advantage is being able to cut more layers at a time and there are a variety of novelty dies with little waste. The Go! Me is a smaller, manual system very similar to the Sizzix.
Carol Doak’s Foundation Paper is so handy for printing Foundation Paper Pieced patterns. Removing the paper at the end is a breeze!
Alphabitties woven labels are a handy way to keep piecing piles organized.
Ready to break into Free Motion Quilting? On your domestic machine you can get stunning shapes just by turning off the feed dogs, attaching a Free Motion Foot (make sure it matches your machine and get a shank adapter if necessary) and grab a ruler! It is so amazing to see complicated twists and turns without having to wrangle the quilt in a million directions!
I highly recommend Angela Walter’s book to get more comfortable with Free Motion Quilting. Very straight-forward and she’s got additional follow-up videos and resources online.
For Foundation Paper Piecing, using a roller press can save a ton of time for pressing short seams and keeping the paper from curling or transferring ink to your fabric.
Bias Tape Makers are so handy to form and iron the sides of binding at the same time. I ONLY buy the Clover brand as other cheaper brands tend to catch the fabric and not slide as smoothly. They make a variety of sizes. I use the 1/2″ and 2″ regularly for different size projects.
The Binding Tool makes joining binding ends a breeze.
If you haven’t tried That Purple Thang yet, now’s the time! It’s a simple but incredibly versatile stiletto/edge turner that makes corners turn out easier, stuffs tight spaces, keeps seam allowances from kicking out of the presser foot, etc.
My newest notion is Gutermann’s fusible thread. Seriously fun! I thread it onto a bobbin, use it when attaching my binding, then press to fuse while turning the binding so the other side matches perfectly without any pins or clips! Try it! I’ve also seen it used to help line up stripes–just run a length of thread in the seam allowance of your fabric and press to baste. REALLY handy for machine binding, especially for small projects where binding can get bulky and hard to work with.
I also like to glue baste my corners to ensure good mitering. I’ve seen regular old Elmer’s white glue do the trick, but it can get stiff and doesn’t wash out well of some fabrics. This water-soluble glue won’t ruin your project if you bleed a little outside the binding, but do use sparingly. A little goes a long way!
So that’s my list of advanced tools/notions. Anything I’ve missed? What have you discovered that needs to be shared here?