While working on a large project this week I was thinking about the tools I use all the time. Between quilting, embroidery, and general sewing there are many items that I find indispensable. With the holidays approaching I thought it would be nice to share my thoughts and recommendations for items that could be gifted to anyone that loves to craft with fabric.
I own every one of these tools and use them almost every day. These hobbies can be expensive, knowing what works can really help when trying to decide what you need and what to invest in. Some of the listed items I purchased myself and others were gifted to me. I feel that recommendations from other crafters are the best way to find something you didn’t know you needed!
I am going to start by listing the things I use for almost all of my work. These tools are useful for general sewing, quilting, and embroidery. Later I will list some items that are specific to one or the other.
Scissors – I mainly use four pair of scissors:
Fiskars 8 Inch Razor-edge Softgrip Scissors – These are fantastic! They cut through cotton, denim, leather and multiple layers of fabric easily. They are comfortable in the hand and have continued to be sharp after much use (I do not allow anyone to use my scissors 🙂
Karen Kay Buckley Perfect Curved Scissors, 3-3/4-Inch – I love these for appliqué or trimming small items close to the seam. The razor-sharp edge and pointy tip are excellent!
3 SWORDS GERMANY – cuticle scissor – I know, cuticle scissors? Yes! These are perfect for clipping threads close to the fabric or nipping a tightly sewn seam. I own two pair and keep one next to each of my machines.
Havel’s 3 1/2 In Embroidery Scissors – These are good for removing fabric in the hoop when doing embroidery machine appliqué. For some people a larger size may be necessary but most of my projects have small pieces to be trimmed and these work well.
Tweezers – I didn’t know I needed them until I had them:
Tooltron 4-Piece Tweezer Set for Jewelry – This set was recommended on another blog though I can’t remember which one. I was watching a demonstration of a Brother embroidery machine and these were used often in the demonstration so I decided to give them a try. I have found that the bent tip and the straight tip knot tweezers are very useful for pulling threads and holding down fabric or binding when my fingers can’t do the job.
Rotary Cutters, Cutting Mat, Rulers – For the best results when cutting all of your fabrics:
Rotary Cutters – I personally own Olfa and Fiscars rotary cutters and love both brands. Be sure to purchase some extra blades if you cut a lot of fabric. They last a long time, but if you nick one with a pin you will want to replace it to get a good cut. I find that the 45mm size is perfect for most projects and have cut many layers of fabric at once with this tool.
Fiskars 24×36 Inch Eco Cutting Mat – To properly use a rotary cutter you need a mat. I purchased my Fiskars mat two years ago and it is still providing a perfect cutting surface. Available in many sizes you can choose one that works for your space.
Omnigrid Rulers – One thing to keep in mind when deciding which rulers to purchase – choose one brand and stick with it. Each brand will have the same spacing on the markings for all of their rulers, if you purchase one of a different brand don’t use it in combinations with another brand – it won’t be as exact as you like. The most used rulers for me are the Omnigrip 8-1/2-Inch-by-24-Inch Non-Slip Quilter’s Ruler, the Omnigrid Ruler Value Pack 2, Package of Four, and finally the Omnigrid® Omnigrip Ruler 12 1/2″ Square.
Light! Give me light!
I find that lighting is very important in all of my work. A nice bright light with magnification is the best! Being able to move the light for a closer view is awesome. I have tried a few other brands, including the OttLite, but found that this one is the best for me.
Brightech – LightView PRO SuperBright 56 LED Magnifier Lamp – I have the lamp that clamps to my work area and swivels. This works perfectly for my setup. I can move it in close or put it up high creating a perfectly lighted work area. The magnification is great for finding tiny pieces of thread.
Press! Press! Press!
Anyone that does any kind of fabric works knows how important a good iron is. I have had many! Some leak, some don’t get hot enough, and some just don’t do the job.
Oliso TG1050 1600 Watts Smart Iron – I know, this is an expensive iron! I received it as a gift and honestly thought it was far too extravagant. Now that I have been using it for two years I know will never own another brand. I love this iron – who knew you could actually love an iron? The iTouch feature is very useful when doing any type of on and off pressing such as when sewing and pressing seams while piecing a quilt top. It heats up quickly and the settings are perfect for all types of fabrics. It has a nice long cord and the auto shutoff feature is great for when you get interrupted and walk away.
Other Little Things
These items are not required but are very useful and I keep them handy all the time.
Little Foot That Purple Thang – I received this as a gift and couldn’t imagine what I would use it for – into my sewing box it went. Then one day I needed something small to push some polyfill into a tight corner and there it was! Since then I have used this useful tool to hold down seams, push fabric into place under the presser foot, and push out corners. An amazing little tool that I use often.
Scotch Painters Tape – There are so many uses for painters tape when sewing I can’t list them all! I use this to hold things in the hoop or extending stabilizer when doing embroidery, marking straight lines as a guide when quilting, and holding fabric in place when I don’t want to use pins.
Hugo’s Amazing Tape – I was looking for something to keep my thread tidy and came across this truly amazing tape. It sticks only to itself and doesn’t leave any residue. Perfect for wrapping around those spools of thread to keep them in place!
Odif Usa 505 Spray and Fix Temporary Fabric Adhesive – Most people think this is a quilting only adhesive but I use it all the time for quilting small projects, embroidery, and general sewing. This is a great fabric adhesive to temporarily hold fabric into place. If used properly it does not gum up sewing needles and washes out perfectly. Just a light spray will do the job. I don’t like to use it on large quilts as I prefer to pin baste, but on small projects this is a great product.
I use these items mostly for quilting though some are useful for general sewing as well.
Brother 1500S – The best straight stitch machine ever. You can see a full review of this awesome machine here. I love working on this machine – it is a workhorse!
Set of 100 Pcs Embroidex Premium Wonder Clips – These little clips are very handy when attaching binding. I also use them to keep pieces of fabric together for piecing a quilt top. Not a necessary item, but very useful.
Dritz Quilting Curved Basting Pins – I know, pin basting can be a pain but I actually like doing it. These pins make it easy. I have about 200 of these and use them on all quilts from baby to queens sized.
Narrowser Multi-colored Flat Flower Head Pins – These 2′ long very thin pins are perfect for matching seams when stitching a quilt top. They also lay nice and flat to avoid distortion of the fabric as you sew.
Aurifil Cotton 50 wt Thread – When I first started quilting I used machine quilting thread that I purchased at Hobby Lobby and Joann’s. Then I tried Aurifil thread, boy what a difference! This beautiful thread is lovely for both piecing and quilting. I also found that this thread created less dust/fuzz so it is much easier to keep my machine clean when working on large projects. Since it is nice and think your bobbin will last a bit longer with this thread as well. They have a wonderful selection of colors too choose from.
Fons and Porter Machine Quilting Grip Gloves – This is another item I thought was a bit silly, until I gave them a try. Especially useful for Free Motion Quilting (FMQ) though I have found that I often use them when piecing as well. Less stress on the hands and a nice secure grip on slippery fabric.
LaPeirre Studio Supreme Slider Free Motion Machine Quilting Mat – The super slider is for FMQ only. I did some FMQ before purchasing the super slider and found that it was difficult to move my piece around smoothly. If you want to try FMQ be sure to have one of these, it makes everything flow beautifully!
Brother SE1800 (Big brother to the PE770) – I really need to write-up a good review of this awesome machine! I purchased the SE1800 because I wanted something that could do embroidery as well as regular sewing so I didn’t have to have 3 machines in my sewing area. This is a powerful machine for the price! I haven’t had one problem that wasn’t user error. There are many YouTube videos out there about this machine – so lots to learn. When I received it I went through the manual and tried every function step by step to familiarize myself with it. I highly recommend this machine to anyone interested in embroidery. If you don’t need the sewing features go for the Brother PE770.
4-Piece Embroidery Hoop Set – Each machine comes with certain number/sizes of embroidery hoops. The SE1800 Came with two hoops, but I wanted more options. When stitching a smaller area I wanted to use a smaller hoop. I have been very happy with these Embroidex brand hoops. It is also nice to have duplicates of some sizes when stitching repeats or multiple pieces for a project.
Prewound 90 Wt Thread Embroidery Bobbins – I love the convince of using prewound bobbins for embroidery. These work beautifully, I have never had a problem with them and I have used more than 100 to date. I have only used those purchased through Word of Weidner.
Embroidex Embroidery Thread – When I first purchased my embroidery machine I wanted to have a good selection of colors on hand. I found that thread bought at local stores were quite expensive so I did a bit of research and found that Embroidex threads were reasonably priced and offered a good color selection. I started with the 63 spool set and was very happy with them. Not only were the colors beautiful but the quality was great as well. As I started doing more work I wanted a larger variety of colors and purchased the Mega Kit – 260 spools. I have used other more expensive threads as well, but I am so happy with the quality and price of the Embroidex thread that I will continue to use it. I did a full review of this thread – you can read it here.
Stabilizers – I have used stabilizers from Sulky, Vilene, and TAOindustry. I continue to use these brands and am very happy with all of them. Sulky Sticky Self-Adhesive Tear-Away Stabilizer Roll, Vilene Water Soluble, TAOindustry Tear Away Stabilizer, Sulky Tear, Easy Stabilizer, Sulky Of America Cut Away Soft N Sheer Stabilizer, Sulky Cut Away Tender Touch Iron-On Backing
R & M 2756 Pastry/Fondant Roller – How can you use a pastry roller for embroidery? Well – let me tell you this is a very useful tool when you want to have a firm adhesion of fabric to a sticky stabilizer! This one fits perfectly in hoopes from 4 x 4 up. I have found that when I use this little tool to press my fabric down firmly I get great stitching, no sliding, pinching, or stretching of fabric.
This is a long list of items that I have purchased and used over the past few years. For me this list is the best of the best. You can see by the pictures that some of them are very well used! I have purchased or been gifted every item in this list and have received no free products – these are my honest opinions.
If you would like to recommend tools you love please post in the comments below – I am always looking for great tools that others love.