Wednesday, June 24, 2015

Product Review: Our Favorite Piecing Notions and Tools

With the Block of the Week ready to start next Wednesday (!!!), I thought it would be fun to share with you our favorite notions and tools for piecing.

Accurate piecing depends on several elements in the process:

1. Accurate and Consistent Cutting

Our favorite rulers and rotary cutters are Creative Grids and Martelli, respectively, and we keep looking for the perfect mat!

Creative Grids Rulers

I was recently introduced to Creative Grids Rulers by a friend of mine.  My first reaction when using one was the quintessential, "Where have you been all my quilting life??!!"

Creative Grids Rulers

The high points for me are:

  • They grip the fabric and don't move when rotary cutting.  Seriously.
  • The markings are clear and easy to read (less "busy").
  • 1/4" from the edge, there is a continuous dashed line on two sides that works beautifully for marking or adding seam allowances.
They're made of clear acrylic and are marked only in black and white. They have 1/4" "gripper" edges on all sides and circles in the interior areas that seriously keep the rulers from moving when cutting.  More accurate cuts and less possibility of cutting fingers!

For small blocks, such as we'll be doing in the Block of the Week project, I love the Itty Bitty Eights 3" x 7" ruler.  The eighth-inch markings are really helpful and aid in amping up cutting accuracy.

Martelli Rotary Cutter

When I first saw this, I wondered if it would really be as good as it is billed.  It is. 
It's ergonomic and my hand just doesn't tire even when I have lots to cut.  Which is often.  It fits in my hand naturally and it's held similarly to holding a computer mouse.  There's no bent wrist, and the motion is fluid.  It has a blade guard and easy-to-change blades.  I like it!

They come in both right- and left-hand models.


Cutting Mats

We have tried a number of mats, hoping that there would be one that would last us a long time.  Still looking!  But then again, we use ours multiple times everyday.

These are two that have been better than the others:


These are made in three layers and are thicker than any I've ever used.  And they're reversible.  One cutting side has markings and the other doesn't, with a cushion layer sandwiched in between which makes cutting amazing and protects your rotary blade. These are also self-healing.


These are high-quality self-healing mats.  They are double-sided, and have clear, simple grid markings on both front and back, which doubles the life of the mat. One side is red, the other is gold, which makes it possible to use the side that works best with your fabric colors.  And on a purely esthetic note, we like the red way better than the museum green of many of the other mats!

2. Accurate Pinning

Clover Patchwork Pins

When we found these pins, we were ecstatic!  They are amazing.  A friend of ours, after using these for the first time, said that regular quilter's pins feel like spikes!  They are so smooth and fine that pinning anything is a breeze.

In using them for piecing, because they are so thin and fine, they minimize the distortion of the fabric and the seams, thereby increasing accuracy.  There are no huge bumps to navigate at the pin entry and exit locations.  They also have heat-resistant glass heads, so they can be ironed. We love them!

3. Accurate Sewing

Schmetz Machine Piecing and Quilting Needles

These are needles designed specifically for machine piecing and quilting!
They are made with a special taper that ends in a slightly rounded point, and are designed for easier fabric penetration and the elimination of skipped stitches.  After I started using them, I had this feeling of, "Oh, there was no stress in doing that bit of difficult piecing."  It just went much smoother.  The size is 11/75.

If you'd like to compare needles, you can check out a cool Schmetz Needle Guide here.

4. Accurate Clipping & Trimming


I do a lot of clipping on the backs of my blocks. I'll do a tutorial someday on clipping tricks, but for now, the most important thing to know is that sharp scissors with a good point are essential.  There are none better in my experience than Karen Kay Buckley's Perfect Scissors.  I use the small and medium sizes daily.  They have tiny serrations on the blades, helping to keep cuts from fraying.  The best ever!

Block Trimming

All the same information as in number 1!

5. And a Bonus! - Protective Storage

Project Bags

After I'm finished with my blocks, I store them in theses wonderful project bags.  Not only do they protect the blocks, they allow direct sight to what's in them.

They are heavy-weight clear vinyl with a sturdy zipper.  They come in three sizes: 17" x 17", 10" x 13", and 5" x 8".

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Click the button below to look at notions on our website!

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Happy Quilting!!

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