We Have a “Notion” (or Two): Our First Group Post

Recently we reached an important milestone at See How We Sew, and—as you can see—we treated ourselves to a little celebration. It was a big moment for us, and since you are the reason for our success, we wanted to bring you something special as a way of saying thanks. Since we couldn’t share the cake, we decided to debut an idea we’ve been thinking about for awhile. Welcome to our very first group post!

For our first collective posting we decided to address the question: What is your favorite tool or notion for piecing? We’ve provided links whenever we mention a product by name so that you can research our favorites for yourself. If you decide our must-have is a must-have for you too, we hope that you’ll look to your local quilt shop as your primary source.

Ready? In first-name alphabetical order, here were our responses.

Christie:   I am a big fan of Clover Fork Pins. They’re “two-prong” pins that work beautifully to keep intersecting seams from slipping when you’re sewing rows together. In most cases, I press the seam allowances for my first row in one direction, then the next row in the opposite direction, alternating every other row.

The pins are easy to use. Pin two rows with right sides together. At each intersection, nestle–but don’t overlap–the opposing seams. Insert the pin with one prong on each side of the seam. The two prongs keep the intersecting seams from slipping like nothing else I’ve ever tried.  I won’t sew rows together without them!

Clover Fork Pins: Great to use when sewing rows together.

Darra: Lately I’ve become a big fan of my 4-in-1 Essential Sewing Tool, designed by Alex Anderson. It “lives” right next to my sewing machine. Embarrassed to say, I probably use the seam ripper most, but I’ve also become hooked on the stiletto for keeping seams flipped in the right direction and for guiding the tail-ends of pieces/units under the feed-dogs. The cap on one end of the tool is blunted for “finger-pressing” and the other cap is pointed, which is great for poking out pillow corners, stuffing doll parts, and myriad other sewing tasks. (The “4-in-1″ link above takes you to a video that shows you how to use it.)

Another must-have for me is my Grabbit Magnetic Pincushion. Even if I don’t have a major spill, I “sweep” the floor around my work station when I wrap up a sewing session; I don’t want to lose any of my precious Clover extra-fine, 1 3/8″, glass-head pins, or have my faithful sewing-room buddy, Scooter, try one as a snack. Oh…and spray starch; I use it to press all my finished blocks.

That super sewing room cat, Scooter, asks "What's this stuff doing in my snoozing spot?"

Jennifer:  For me, it’s fantastic small, sharp scissors and a great seam ripper. I guess by my choice I’m demonstrating a propensity for snipping stitches. Hey, we all make mistakes, especially when we’re powering to the end. For me, at least, that’s where I meet trouble and I gotta fix things. Do I have a brand? No, but I have a tendency to buy tiny scissors, and I like them all. I’ve got a terrific Clover seam ripper, but I’m thinking of trying that thingy that slices stitches—anyone know the name of that thingy? Then, to vanquish the miniscule thread scraps, I like to use my beading tweezers because the tips snag those last bits of thread wonderfully. And then tape or one of those 3M lint removers to pick up the stray strands from my thread-picking session.

Going all Etsy with a scissors fashion shoot!

Laura: When I’m piecing, I use a “scant” 1/4″ seam allowance, and it’s important to me that I achieve it accurately and consistently every time.  If you’re frustrated by the inability to sew an accurate 1/4″ seam allowance every time you sit down to piece, you might like to try the Perfect Piecing Seam Guide by Perkins Dry Goods. It’s easy to use, and the packaging explains how the tool works. I like the fact that it allows me to set up my machine for the perfect, scant 1/4″ seam.

To use the guide, simply place it under the presser foot of your sewing machine and lower the needle into the hole (shown in the middle of the horizontal line in the photo above). Then lower the presser foot to hold the guide firmly. This is important: Straighten the guide so that it is parallel with the edge of the throat plate.

Now you’re ready to place masking tape or several layers of sticky notes up against the right hand side of the guide to mark a perfect scant 1/4″! Remove the guide and use the edge of the tape (or sticky notes) to guide the fabric as you sew.

So there you have it: some of our very favorite tools and notions for piecing. We have no doubt that you’ve got your favorites as well, and we’d love to hear about them. To sweeten the pot, we’ve planned a very special giveaway!

Post a comment telling us about your favorite tool(s) or notion(s) for piecing, and you’ll become eligible to win a goodie-filled gift package that includes a selection of the favorites we’ve revealed in our post, plus a few additional “surprises.” Since we want to give you the optimum opportunity to comment, we’re extending our usual one-week deadline until noon (PDT), Friday, August 5. That’s a little more than 10 days to share your “faves.” Laura will announce the lucky winner in her Tuesday, August 9 post.

Do let us know if you like the idea of an occasional group post, and if you have any thoughts on what you’d like to see us address. We’ll toss those comments into the pot for the drawing as well.

One last thing before we sign off. We have a very special guest poster scheduled for Tuesday, August 2. We’re so excited–and you won’t want to miss it!

‘Til next time, keep creating!


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55 Responses to We Have a “Notion” (or Two): Our First Group Post

  1. Pingback: “Animal” Attraction: Cats and the Quilting Life |

  2. Linda says:

    My favorite tool is my little metal hem gauge (probably designed for sewing). I keep it right on my sewing machine bed+use it for measuring+checking all seams! Thanks so for sharing!

    • Darra Williamson says:

      Linda, I haven’t seen one of those for a long time, but I can imagine it is a pretty handy little gadget to have around, especially if you are switching back and forth from quilts to garments. A 5/8″ seam looks huge to me now! Darra

  3. Anne B says:

    I love your blog & the group posts are great! One of my favorite tools is Clover’s bias-tape maker. It does a fabulous job & bias tape in the fabric of my choice really adds a nice touch to projects.

    • Darra Williamson says:

      Thanks for the kind words, Anne! Those bias tape makers are pretty popular with us here at SHWS, too. (Have you seen Jennifer’s FREE PATTERN for ruched roses today?) Glad you like the group post idea, too. We’ve decided to make them an “occasional regular” feature. Watch for the next one in late September. PS: You’re comment came in time to be eligible for the notions giveaway (deadline noon today, PDT). Good luck!

  4. Michelle says:

    My Gingher sicissors of course, learned them from my Mama and everyone in the house knows don’t touch “fabric only”! I will be checking out the staples listed here to be adding to my go to’s.

    • Darra Williamson says:

      Hi Michelle, I remember well the day my seamstress mom caught me trimming my bangs with her “good” scissors! Darra

  5. Leddi says:

    Mary Ellen’s Best Press! (Lavender scent) It does an amazing job with those center of fabric creases and makes my wavey blocks lay flat.

    • Darra Williamson says:

      I’ve never heard of this product, Leddi. I’ll need to look for it. Sure could have used it for a recent project. Nothing seemed to get that center crease out! Darra

    • Laura Nownes says:

      Hi Leddi – I too love Best Press. Not only do I use it for my pieced blocks but also for preparing appliquéd shapes. It works great. Thanks for stopping by and sharing.

  6. Linda in NC says:

    My favorite piecing aid is an inherited antique stiletto that makes me feel connected to past generations of sewers. But a close second are my Gingher snips. Of course neither of these would be as useful to me if it weren’t for my primary piecing notion – a strong pair of reading glasses!

    • Darra Williamson says:

      Linda, Glasses! Of course! I’d be lost without those readers, which I wear over my contacts for close work. (Does that make me Six Eyes?) You are so lucky to have that heirloom stiletto. It’s wonderful to work with tools that have been shaped by the hands of our “forefolks,” isn’t it? One year, for my birthday, a dear friend gave me a pair of socks that she handknit with a pair of my late mother’s knitting needles. I treasure those socks!

  7. Debbie Sedberry says:

    My new favorite tool is the Clover Bias tape maker: so much fun to use, and the results are awesome. I’ve always wondered how those of you who do fancy applique make those tiny stems, and now I can do it too! It made that Japanese taupe block a breeze.
    Debbie

    • Jennifer says:

      Hey Debbie,

      I hear ya! I my favorite Clover bias tape maker is the 1/4″ model. Fold those skinny strips in half and you’ve got a 1/8″ strip that curves beautifully for stems. Merci for the visit and comment.

      Jennifer

  8. amorette says:

    ooh, there are some great ideas here! i primarily use my 1/4″ quilting foot, though I recently discovered I lost it somehow in my sewing room. time to get another tool!

    • Jennifer says:

      Hello Amorette,

      We’re so happy you dropped by–we’re working hard to deliver great information with every post.

      Jennifer

  9. Chris C. says:

    I LOVE my marking tools — I use a rolling chalk marker and one of those triangle-shaped tailor chalks. Both work really well, and I don’t have to fuss with marking pens, which always seem to end up as much on me as on the fabric! (And which make me anxious — what if they don’t fade or wash out!?!)

    • Jennifer says:

      Chalk trumps ink every time in my book as well, Chris. After all, who wants to be haunted by ghostly marks showing up on our handiwork?

  10. Hi! I’m a “lapsed” sew-er who recently started sewing again! I found your blog through Amy Butler. I absolutely love her fabric and that’s one of the reasons I started sewing again. As far as favorite tools go, I love the magnetic pincushion, which I’ve found is really good for more than just pins. As a crafter as well, it helps pick up a lot of brads, studs etc. I also LOVE my Fiskars Rotary Cutter – I’ve had it for sometime, but just started using it and OH! it cuts fabric like butter! And I’ll be heading out to buy one of the 4-in-1 tools…I have a feeling that will become my new best friend. Thanks for the tips! deb c. from waterville, OH

    • Jennifer says:

      Hello Deb,

      Looks like you and Darra are on the same wavelength with the magnetic pin cushion. Wait till next week before buying the 4-in-1–it’s a featured item in our giveaway and maybe you’ll be the lucky winner!?! We’re Amy Butler fans as well and are happy to be in that sisterhood with you!

      Jennifer

  11. Karen Duling says:

    I will be shopping for those Clover fork pins. What a wonderful idea!

    One of my favorite things is the Creative Grids 20 1/2″ square ruler. It is so handy for squaring up quilt tops. It makes the job super easy. I have often wondered why they don’t make one even bigger.

    I have been learning so much by reading your blog. Thanks!

    • Darra Williamson says:

      Hi Karen, Those large rulers are great for cutting big squares to divide for half- or quarter-square-setting triangles, too. Thanks for the kind words about our blog. Will talk with you soon ;-) Darra

  12. Nikki says:

    One of the things I’ve added to my sewing kit after doing bridal alterations is a razor blade from the hardware store. For some jobs, a seam ripper just takes too long, especially when a seam has been serged and overlocked. Just barely nick the thread and things move along pretty quickly!

  13. Patty says:

    My favorite notion to use while at my sewing machine is a simple wood cuticle stick. Keeps my fingers from getting too close to the needle as I feed fabric into the machine. It also works great when pressing!

    • Jennifer says:

      Isn’t great when you can find many ways to use simple tools? Thanks for stopping by Patty and keep your fingers crossed for winning the FUN giveaway!

      Jennifer

  14. Melissa Gerber says:

    I, too, love Alex A.’s 4in1 tool. I also love Marti Michell’s templates. They are very accurate (even when I am not) and the blocks turn out perfectly. I started using them when I did a Patchwork Party quilt (you order the blocks from different stores and use the templates to create a sampler quilt). I simply love gadgets and notions!

    • Jennifer says:

      Thanks for the visit Melissa! I’m always a fan of a multipurpose tool and the 4 in 1 is perfect for someone (like me) who wages a constant battle to de-clutter her workspace. I’ve not seen the Marti Michell templates, but what a great product to use on a progressive sampler project.

      Jennifer

  15. Laura tawney says:

    Found your blog by way of Diane Gaudynski’s blog. I absolutely love the Clover extra fine pins and usually buy two packages at a time. My other favorite item is the Brooklyn Revolver Table. I believe I used a 40% off coupon + an additional 10% off for it. I would love to try out the 4 in one tool:) I’ve bookmarked this blog and will be back!
    LauraT

    • Darra Williamson says:

      Glad you found us, Laura! Those Clover extra fines are the best, aren’t they? There will be a package of them in the giveaway basket, along with a 4-in-1 tool. You just may be the lucky winner ;-) Darra

  16. laura windham says:

    Thanks ladies for some new suggestions and ideas. I can’t wait to try the thumb ring pincushion.

  17. Patti says:

    Like Christie, I love the little fork pins. I discovered them just before making a large number of small nine patch blocks (Laura knows what I am referring to), and they were a godsend. I can’t do without my Clover needle threader for handwork nor the Bernina needle threader for my machine with a broken needle threader. These eyes aren’t what they used to be!

    • Christie says:

      Hi Patti,
      Three cheers for the fork pins – glad to hear from another believer. I haven’t tried the needle threader yet. So far I’ve not needed it – but have noticed the eye of each needle gets increasingly smaller as the hours in the day get later!
      Christie

  18. Amanda says:

    I love my Bernina’s 1/4 inch foot – couldn’t sew without it. And I find a bamboo skewer is great for guiding patches straight under the needle. It doesn’t do any major damage if it comes up against the needle, unlike metal stilettos. And third, my Sewline three-in-one marker shows up on every fabric.
    do I have to choose just one?!
    I bought a packet of fork pins a while ago, but I’ve never actually used them. I’ll have to go and dig them out to try.
    Amanda

    • Christie says:

      Hi Amanda,
      You and I have some of the same favorites. I also love my Bernina 1/4 inch foot – I use the #57. And those bamboo skewers – a full packet sits on the shelf right above my machine. I also give them out when teaching classes that involve blocks with curved seams. I’ll have to try your Sewline marker – that one is new to me. So get that packet of fork pins out and give them a try – I promise you’ll love them!
      Christie

  19. Cathy says:

    Ooh – I’d love to try those fork pins! Never heard of them. Could have used those today…I love my 5″ Gingher craft scissors – I have a pair for fabric and a pair for paper. They are so sharp and cut so well…excellent for anything but especially applique.
    I’ve recently used the flying geese ruler – great invention – and the Wonder Ruler for making half triangle squares.
    Like your website. This is my first visit – came to you from Diane Gaudynski

    • Christie says:

      Hi Cathy,
      Welcome, and we’re so glad you came to visit us via our good friend Diane Gaudynski. You must try the fork pins – I know you’ll love them! I’m a big fan of the Gingher scissors too – my favorites are the 4″ designer series. I think all the different handle designs are so fun – I’m a bit addicted!
      Christie

  20. Dawn says:

    I’m loving my thumb ring pin cushion. Whether at the machine or working on hand sewing it’s ‘right there’ when I need it. So many artistic ones available too! Thanks for sharing your faves.

    • Jennifer says:

      Hello Dawn,

      There’s an idea that suits my sewing style–thanks for the comment! I’m going to keep my eyes open for a flowery one.

      Jennifer

  21. Marj says:

    I have been doing a lot of scrap quilting lately and am loving the 2 1/2″ x 6 1/2″ ruler by Creative Grids that they are putting Local Quilt shops names on for advertisement. I actually own two now, one for home and one in my traveling bag. I came here from Diane Gaudynski’s blog “A New Tradition in Quilting”. Your blog looks like a good place to share ideas and new products.

    • Darra Williamson says:

      Hi Marj, Glad you popped over from Diane’s site, and hope you’ll be back! Scrap quilts are my thing too, and I really like those Creative Grid rulers. My friend from Britain, Christine Porter, introduced me to them a few years ago; I love the way they grip the fabric. I’m so happy they’re available in the States! Darra

  22. Mar Johnson says:

    I recently discovered a new marking tool that I love. It’s the Clover rolling chalk marker that looks like a pen but a little shorter. It comes in several colors and makes a strong mark that dusts off easily later. I like to make bags, quilts, and garments, and I use this tool a lot.

    Your web site is so pretty, delicious and fun to read!

    • Darra Williamson says:

      Mar, Word of a new marking tool is always welcome, especially one that is easy to remove. It sounds like you’ve found the right one for you! Thanks for saying such nice things about SHWS. Hope you’ll spread the word!

  23. Kelly says:

    My first favorite and can’t do without is my Fons & Porter needle threader. With my middle-aged eyes, its getting harder and harder to thread my machine needle. I like it because it has a big handle and pushes the thread through the needle. Its beyond me why they have those metal hook type threaders – the hook is just as hard to get through the needle as the thread!

    My second is a cross-over from my knitting obsession :) I use a knitting needle point protector on the Gingher scissors I hang around my neck. Without it they would hang open and poke me. This little plastic protector is much easier to use than the scissor’s leather sleeve.

    My newest tool that is quickly becoming a favorite is the Grace TrueCut Linear Blade Sharpener. Its very easy to use and it works!

    • Darra Williamson says:

      Kelly, Love it when an item gets repurposed, as you’ve done with your knitting needle protector!

  24. ida says:

    My favorite is That Purple Thang by Littlefoot out of Chama, NM.

    It is a stiletto, a poker/stuffer, puller/turner and gives me a quick 1/4-inch guide. :)

  25. Judy, SC says:

    Do a lot of foundation piecing and could not live without my 6″ Add-A-Quarter ruler. Second would be the small Fiskar really pointed scissors for trimming threads. Like the squeeze handle and that they can be locked closed.
    Congrats on your milestone. So glad I found you all.
    Judy, SC

    • Darra Williamson says:

      Hi Judy, I’m glad you found us too ;-) I didn’t realize you were doing so much foundation piecing. You really are the Renaissance quilter! Hope you’re staying cool. I hear the weather back east has been hot, hot, hot. Darra

      • Judy, SC says:

        Foundation helps when you can’t sew a straight line. Like to use it for miniatures. Recently finished a pattern by George Sic.(rest of spelling?). After completing and giving away 5 queen size quilts in 2008 I sort of went back to my miniatures. What will even surprise you more is I used to teach ‘Using Your Scraps in Quilts’ plus classes in Redwork , Making Miniatures and Beginning Foundation Piecing. See what you started.

        We are keeping cool in this 100+ daily temps. no rain. Of course, will not be too excited when we get the power bill. Judy, SC

  26. I am excited to see the “perfect 1/4 inch seam ruler that sits under the pressure foot.. What a brilliant idea. I use a simple “awl” for piercing, it is a tool used to mark holes for book making projects. It can be purchased at most any art store—fine art. So often we get “functional fixedness” and think we can only use certain tools for certain tasks. Took me a lot of years to realize that :) thanks for the great ideas—geo

    • Admin says:

      HI Georgia – I too was delighted when I recently found this tool. I teach many beginning quilting classes and this will definitely be added to the supply list. Yes, I too often get stuck using the same set of tools. It’s fun and often enlightening to try something new.
      Thanks for taking time to share with us.

  27. Lorna Dressler says:

    My favorite tool for patchwork is a wrist pincushion I made from a silk flower. It’s pretty and functional!

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