Wednesday, April 8, 2009

Everything but the Kitchen Sink, etc.

Sorry, I just didn't get around to this blog yesterday. Life intervenes sometimes. And Sally the Cat kept waking me up during the night before with little 'presents'.  She kept bringing me her toy mice and things, wanting me to wake up and play with her. I didn't even know she owned so many little mice! As soon as she'd lose one, she'd hop off the bed and race downstairs. Sometimes it was 10 minutes between gifts and sometimes it took her 2 hours to locate another toy. One gift was the top off of a milk jug that she found in my recycling pile in the back porch! I think my husband has decided to lock the door tonight, but you know cats.... she'll probably stand at the door, crying and scratching at it. So much for adorable little Sally.
Several years back, I discovered that quilters are among the most creative and innovative people around. What won't they think of next? So, I started looking around my house for things that could be used for quilting, even though the intended purpose of those things was not for quilting! My list became an article for Quilting Today magazine. But I've managed to add a few new ones over the years. So here's my "Everything but the Kitchen Sink" review:
1. Reeled extension cord: Now you can place your iron and ironing board next to your sewing machine, even if the only other outlet is across the room. Because it is easy to roll up and carry, this heavy duty extension cord is great to take to quilting classes.
2. For hand quilting, a piece of black electric tape on the underneath fingers will help protect it from needle pricks, but you can still feel the needle point as it comes through the fabric layers.
3. A small, wall-mounted case with tiny drawers that is intended for the wood shop is great for storing buttons, specialty threads and other small sewing items.
4. A fishing tackle box is perfect for storing all those sewing machine feet. Mine is two-sided with a secure latch on both sides, and the sides are see-through. I can find what I need without having to open the box to see the contents.
5. Sharpie pens are permanent on most surfaces, but can be removed easily with rubbing alcohol. Use them to mark tools before sewing class, and you'll never have to go hunting for you're ruler or cutter.
6. Store unused portions of fusibles and stabilizers in a expanding file folder.
7. Buy quadrille pads at the office supply store. This quarter-inch graph paper is perfect for sketching quilt patterns, but best of all, you can draft perfectly-sized quilt pieces on it, and use glue-stick to adhere it to template plastic and then cut out your exact templates. (You can leave the paper on the template. It makes the edges easier to see.)
8. Gardening gloves, especially the newer ones with the sticky coating, are perfect quilting gloves.
9. If your hands tend to sweat, as mine do, in gloves, cut the finger tips off of snug-fitting rubber gloves and use the finger tips only for machine quilting.
10. Buy Orvus paste by the gallon at farm stores, or veterinary supply stores. It is the same as the quilt soap sold in quilt stores. There are no perfumes, bleaching agents, or other additives. It is economical enough to use for all your laundry, or just for your fabrics and quilts.
11. Look for molding strips at the lumber yard. They come in different lengths, and are great for marking long lines of cross-hatching across your quilt.
12. Tape a large magnet on a yard stick, or purchase a tool at the lumber yard that is intended to pick up nails on a construction site. Bet you can guess what you can use this for!
13. Hair clips make an inexpensive alternative to binding clips.
14. Use glue stick in place of pins for holding applique pieces in place before stitching them to your block.

15. Hang a clear plastic shoe storage with pockets over your closet door and use it for storing everything from marking pens to rotary cutters and extra blades, etc.
16. Store washed and pressed yardage over clothes hangers, and hang them in a closet. They are easily visible and accessible, don't press against each other as they do when stored folded, thus avoiding heavy creasing, and you can shut to door to protect them from light damage and fading.
17. Place a piece o non-slip shelf liner cut to size under your sewing machine pedal to keep it from traveling across a hard-surfaced floor.
18. Empty cardboard bolts make great storage pieces for cut bindings. I like to cut my bindings at the same time that I cut borders. But I don't usually finish my quilts very fast, and was always losing the strips. Sometimes, I found myself cutting them up for other quilts without remembering what they were for. Now, I wrap the strips on empty bolts and label them as to which quilt they belong to before I store them. 
19. Empty eyeglass cases make perfect traveling cases for rotary cutters.
20.  A new, unused hot glue gun is perfect for tacking fusible pieces in place at the design wall before taking them to the ironing board for permanent fusing, or for pressing seams and corners at the sewing machine. (Just make sure you have a pressing surface nearby.)
And, of course, there's the old stand-by FREEZER PAPER!  Have I got some ideas for you! But there are too many. We'll save them for another blog.
Do you have things that you use for quilting that really weren't intended for that use? Let us know. I'd love to hear what you've found surprising uses for.


  1. Thanks so much for your helpful hints on your blog, Elsie. I have your blog hooked in to my Google Reader so I don't miss any of your posts.
    Kathy H.

  2. I love your ideas. I have taken up several already but needed something to secure the foot pedal which can get trapped under the edge of my sewing cabinet. I always look in the Pound shop for cheap storage boxes the hardware shop for hanging tubes and shape templates and secondhand shops for useful material for lining and backing pieces. I always make up a sample size quilt using the actual material and batting to do stitch trials as I quilt.

  3. Joan, great suggestions to add to this list. I hope others are reading these comments. Maybe someone else has other ideas to add?

  4. The more we join together, the more useful we become.