Monday, June 30, 2014

Sewing and Product Preferences

Working in a quilt shop, there is one question that I get asked more often than any other:  "Which [fusible/ruler/pen/thread/etc] do you use?"  With so many options available to them, it's no small wonder that people want to cut to the chase and be referred to one product, especially if they're trying something new.  I do it all the time too, especially if I walk in to a store where I am only familiar with the most basic of basics. For example, if I walk into Ulta, I'm like, "Gee there's someone who's got their business under control, they will obviously know what the best products are." (Because, clearly I don' degree of humidity and POOF I look like this guy...but I digress)

While I may not know much about concealers and hair-taming concoctions, I do know what my sewing preferences are.  No one has a foolproof methodology, and a product to my liking may not be to the liking of someone else.  Here are my preferences...what are yours?

Starch, or no starch?
It depends on what I'm doing and why.  Generally, no starch.  But if I am working with a lot of bias, or small pieces, then yes on the starch.

Starch Brand?
I prefer Mary Ellen's Best Press.  The rose and the mint ones smell SO good and they don't leave flakes.

Steam, or no steam?
Steam, always.

Prewash, or don't prewash?
I don't prewash my fabrics.  However, if someone has given me fabric that HAS been prewashed (which is very rare) then whatever I am putting with it, I will prewash.  I subscribe to the school of thought that either your prewash all of it, or prewash none of it.

Cut, or tear?
CUT.  The tearing of fabric wakes up the little OCD goblin and drives me nuts. And yes, I know it makes it more straight on grain, but I hate the fuzzy edges which I would have to trim off anyway.

Mix batiks, or segregate batiks?
I like the look of mixing batiks with non batiks.

Thread Type?
For piecing, I always use cotton.  For quilting, if not cotton, then I will use rayon because I like the sheen of it against the fabric.

Thread Brand?  
Gutermann, Presencia or Sulky for my top thread, Superior Bottom line for my bobbin.

Fusible Brand?
Heat n'Bond.  I prefer their "Lite" fusible.

Window your fusible, or not to window your fusible?
It depends on how intricate the appliques will be and how small the pieces get.  I am not THAT dedicated to windowing.  If it is a medium to large pieces, then yes.  Smaller than that, no probably not.

Batting Type?
I LOVE the way wool looks when it's been heavily quilted, so use that quite a bit.  But, if I don't want that toasty of a quilt, and I need it to lay flatter for hanging, then a medium to low loft cotton.

Batting Brand?
For wool, The Tuscany Collection.  For cotton, Warm & Natural, or Hobb's Heirloom.  Whichever I find first.

Spray Baste, or Pin?
If it's a baby quilt or wall hanging, then I spray baste.  Anything bigger than that, I pin.

Spray Baste Brand?
Metter or 505.

Machine Needle Brand?
Schmetz, always.  I tried Klasse needles, and they were terrible.

Go-To Machine Needle Type?
I use a Schmetz Microtex sharp 80/12 for all of my piecing.  I will use it for quilting too, but only with cotton thread.  If I am quilting with anything other than cotton I will use a Schmetz Metallic needle 90/14.

Ruler Brand?
Creative Grids.  Those rulers are worth every cent.

Rotary Cutter Brand?
I have a pressure sensitive rotary cutter that I love.  I never have to worry about leaving my blade out because the cover retracts only when you apply pressure to it.

Sharpen blades, or just replace?
Replace.  I tried a few sharpeners but the time it took to get the blade back to a usable sharpness wasn't worth it.

Marking Pencil, or Marking Chalk?
I have a Sewline mechanical pencil that I love.  I prefer mechanical pencils to wooden ones anyway, so the fact that there is one for sewing kicks ass.  I use the regular lead and the white lead the most.

Air Soluble, or Water Soluble Pens?
Water.  I find with air soluble I don't get back to the project quick enough and the lines have faded already.

Quarter Inch Foot, or Walking Foot?
Quarter Inch Foot.  I have only ever had to use a Walking Foot once.

Hand sew, or machine sew binding?
For all the complaining I do about binding, I much prefer the look of a hand sewn binding.

Wide backing, or regular backing?
Regular.  The greigh goods used for wide backings are still not quite as nice as those used for regular 44" cotton.

Pieced backing, or plain backing?
Plain...I like the look of pieced backings, but once I am done with a quilt top I like to fiddle with the back as little as possible because I usually have another project I need to get to.

Pincushion Style?
I love the convenience of the magnetic pincushions, so that is what I use most often.  The one I use for classes or get-togethers is a regular stab-them-in kind.

Thimble Style?
Okay, fine, I'll say it....I hate using thimbles.  I have a hard time with them because they feel cumbersome and I don't feel like I have tactile control over the needle.  But when I must use a thimble, I like the cheapy, adjustable plastic ones that cover the pad of the finger, but not the fingernail.

Other preferences?
- I prefer to sew barefoot.
- I am a much more productive night-time quilter.
- I prefer Netflix/DVR to music when I'm sewing.
- I do ALLLL the cutting that is possible, excluding borders, before I sew a stitch
- My design wall is the felty side of a $1.84 vinyl tablecloth.  Id on't know how I lived without that thing.
- I'm a bad kid who uses a rotary cutter instead of a seam ripper
- I never choose my binding until the quilt is quilted, and I rarely choose the borders until the center is complete.

What are your preferred quilting products and techniques?  I'd love to hear!


  1. I just posted that my new favourite marker is a Bohin chalk marker, especially since I was marking on black Kona! I love that thing. Wish I still had ALL the eraser, but my cat ate a big chunk of it... I bought a gridded flannel from Hancock's Fabrics over a decade ago, and I just LOVE it, couldn't live without it. In fact, it's pinned to the vapour barrier of my basement sewing corner (one day down the road I will again have a sewing room; we moved across the country not quite 2 years ago). Prior to this, it was mounted on styrofoam 4X8' sheets and glued to one of my walls. In our Florida condo, I have a Fons&Porter design wall, that really is a tablecloth with a grid rather than a design on the vinyl side! I prefer music when I'm sewing; otherwise, I either miss facial expressions, or other important non-verbal information, OR I stop sewing and just get pulled into the show! I, too, will often use a rotary cutter instead of a seam ripper!!! I learned how to do that from Eleanor Burns on Simply Quilts - LOVED the horror on Alex's face when she demo-ed how to do it! Visiting from Anything Goes Mondays!

    1. Hi Sandra! That chalk marker sounds great...even if the cat ate a chunk of that eraser. I have a pug that your cat might be kindred spirits with, lol. I had a marking pencil fall to the floor and she nabbed it and ran as fast as her stumpy little legs could carry her. When I got to her (crafty little girl went under the sofa where I couldn't immediately reach) she had already gnawed off a decent chunk of it. Our pets think they're so helpful :-)

  2. I'm a steam-free starch-free quarter inch foot using thimble wearing pin basting any batting available kind of quilter. I mark with mechanical pencils (love the Fons & Porter white!), keep my pins in a little dish, and hand sew my bindings. Backing can be pieced or whole; what I really want to do is use what I have on hand. In general I prefer a dark backing, and I like for it to relate either in color or theme to the front. I see no reason to keep batiks separate from the other fabrics, but I do cut my fabric unless it's really dark or patterned and can't see the threads. In that case I'll tear to find the straight of grain, but those edges have to come off! I usually don't have anything going while I sew, but if anything is on it's music. With the television I miss too much since I can't hear over the machine. Like you, I don't have the entire quilt planned before I start. The center will tell me what it wants as far as borders and binding, so there's no point in cutting them before it's finished.

    Having never been much of a morning person I am much more productive in the afternoon and evening and prefer to sew barefoot. In the winter I am forced to wear slippers, but I never sew in regular shoes. I don't have a thread or needle preference, and while I try to have the cutting done beforehand sometimes I just can't wait. If the blocks are all the same fabric I'll go ahead and cut first, but if it's scrappy and I need a quick fix I'll cut maybe a third or half of them. I like to chain piece, and I cut them apart on the ironing board so they'll stay in order better. A lot of quilters recoil and gasp, but I press my seams open. This way is so much more accurate for me. I equally enjoy traditional and paper piecing, but my applique exposure has been limited. I don't mind it, but I just haven't done much.

    As different as we are we both somehow seem to manage. :)

    kmen3035 at hotmail (dot) c0m


I welcome all comments and constructive criticism! All I ask is that you keep it clean and keep it kind.