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Precision Instruments For Precision Quilting
WARNING: This article is for comic relief only and should be read as such. Do not take this to the quilting store and ask the nice lady
Remember the old saw, “For want of a nail, the kingdom was lost”? It is that way in quilting. Use the wrong tool, or try to quilt without the
correct tool, and your masterpiece could end up in the scrap bag.
In an attempt to keep fabric shredding to a minimum, here is an exhaustive list of items that every quilter needs:
1. Sewing machine – make sure it is good and hefty, and can stand up to being glared and cussed at. Even if I have to get an old refurbished
sewing machine, I always look for one with a steel case. They do not melt as easily under such intense pressure.
2. Rotary cutter – or as I like to call it: Sharp Implement of Disaster. It looks like a pizza cutter but is 5 times as sharp. Very efficient at slicing
through layers of fabric and tips of fingers. Even when using the 24” x 3” ruler as a cutting guide and safety device, the rotary cutter can skitter
across 3” of plastic quicker than bare feet on a hot sidewalk.
3. 24” Ruler – used for cutting a straight line through and drawing long quilting lines on fabric. It is also supposed to protect your fingers from the
rotary cutter while slicing through material, but at only ¼” thick, it does not do a very good job.
4. Some sort of finger protection. I have tried leather, duct tape and chain mail, but they are all either too bulky, too expensive, or too hard to
5. Cutting mat – used with the rotary cutter to protect the work surface and keep the rotary blade from getting dull. It also does an excellent job
at keeping blood off the work surface when the rotary cutter goes a-skitterin’.
6. First aid kit with butterfly bandages.
Think you have everything? Not quite. Here are four more priceless items to have that you will not see on any other “Quilting Supplies” list:
1. Needle nose pliers to use when the sewing machine needle decides to fall out of its clamp and jam up the works.
2. Wire cutters for obstinate needles that will not come out with the pliers.
3. Magnifying glass to hunt for needle bits that have fallen into the shuttle when wire cutters were used.
4. Safety goggles to protect your eyes from flying needle bits.
If I had had these four little items, I would not have had to replace a sewing machine (which was plastic), a window and a big chunk of front
yard. That is another reason why I buy metal sewing machines: they hold up better when they go through a window and a-skitterin’ across the
Now that you have all your sewing and safety equipment, do not forget to add fabric and have fun!
Inside my businesswoman body beats the heart of an artist. And sometimes that artiste gets pretty darn uppity, wanting nothing more than to cut
up whatever I’ve been working on. The kids started calling these episodes Diva Moments, and the name stuck.
Diva Moments occur when a quilt I’m sewing is not meeting expectations. This is a bane to my perfectionist tendencies. Why can’t everything I
do be perfect the first time? Instead of realizing I’m not perfect and trying a different approach (perish the thought), my prissy little diva starts
“This is swill! Why can I not create anything but garbage? I’m going to put this in the fireplace and burn it!” Sometimes, on the way to the
fireplace, a reasonable facsimile of sanity returns. Or my husband brings the matches, and I am dismayed that he agrees with me.
Methods of destruction and expletives vary according to how high my frustration level is (much like the ever worsening rings of hell in Dante’s
• Small seam ripper: mutter, mumble, big sigh
• Large seam ripper: How hard can it be to sew two pieces of fabric together in a straight line?
• Big honkin’ seam ripper: If this weren’t for a customer, I’d cut it up right now.
• Big sharp scissors: This looks like crap! Prepare to say hello to your new friends in the scrap bag!
Other destinations where my projects have ended up are:
• The fireplace after being cut up.
• The dog’s mouth (Merle’s new chew toy).
• The shredder (bad idea – had to buy a new one).
You’d think after the shredder incident, I’d learn to control my little fits of pique, but no. Take this article for instance. It’s almost been to the
new shredder three times.
I’m getting a little better as I get older though, and my Diva Moments can’t be heard by the neighbors anymore. I realize I can’t be perfect all the
time, and try to be more patient with myself. But I did buy my own personal heavy duty shredder just in case…
The Creative Process
I had just purchased some scrumptious red, white and black fabric, and was sitting down to figure out what to make with it when my brother called.
“Can’t talk now – I’m designing a quilt.”
“How do you manage that? By…”
No, it does not involve pulling ideas out of my posterior. Since you want to know, Bubba, here it is. But I’m warning you, it ain’t pretty (or even sane).
Process I: Bolt From The Blue (my favorite). This involves standing around, minding my own business, when – BOOM! – inspiration strikes. The
downside is that it usually occurs when I am unable to write down my perfect bolt of blueness: I’m asleep, in the shower, standing in line at the store
with an armload of groceries, or at the bank, so when I excitedly pull my notebook and pencil from my purse, it looks like I’m pulling out my Handy
Dandy Bank Robbin’ Kit. I had no idea that bank employees were so skittish.
Process II: Sit Down & Doodle (this has steps!)
1. Get paper, pencil and fabric for inspiration.
2. Sit down at desk and stare at fabric.
3. Draw a blank.
This is where the ugliness (insanity?) starts.
Internal Voice (alter personality?): C’mon get going!
Me: I got nothing.
IV: Just start doodling for cryin’ out loud!
Me: Sounds good. Doodle, doodle, doooo :) ../~~~
IV: What are you doing?
Me: Huh? I’m doodling. What does it look like I’m doing?
IV: Not designing a quilt.
Me: Would you quiet down so I can think?
Next, I put my elbows on the desk, and cover my eyes with my hands. This blocks out the distractions, plus makes it look like
I’m weeping. Other family members steer clear, thus further reducing distractions.
Me: Hmm, should I do a variation on the Log Cabin pattern?
IV: No, everyone’s done that twice.
Me: Hawaiian appliqué?
IV: Remember the Diva Moment you had last time? Took the scissors to it?
Me: Yyyeahhh. I’m looking at blackness here. Utter and complete blackness, just like my career.
IV: Oh criminy! Here we go again. Would you please quit feeling sorry for yourself and get on with it?
IV: Wake up loser and get going!
Me: What to make? What to make? How about chicken for dinner?
IV: Stay on track! I’m going to leave if you don’t stop this.
Me: Mission accomplished!
If nothing comes from that exercise, I stand up and start swaying from side to side, like I’m comforting a baby. This usually unclutters my mind, but is
not successful all the time.
IV: What are you doing?
Me: Shut up! I’m trying to design here!
IV: Whatever. How about some appliqué? Throw in a bright color just to mix things up?
Me: That might just work. Maybe yellow.
Then I pull out some more fabric, start drawing, and everyone lives happily ever after. But sometimes, nothing comes from the ol’ Creative Department,
and no one lives happily ever after. Next comes pacing or putting my forehead against a wall. Bad news either way.
Me: This isn’t working. I’m going to do something else, and maybe I’ll get a Bolt From The Blue.
IV: That won’t happen. You’ll start doing laundry or errands or surfin’ the Web, and forget all about it until you need something new for the site. Then
you’ll be running around, squawking about how you’re always pushed for time and never have a creative moment to yourself. Like you’re some special
diva who has special needs. Blah, blah, blah.
Me: Would you shut up so I can think??!!
Husband: Why are you arguing with yourself? You’re scaring the dog. How many of you are in there anyway?
IV: *crickets chirping*
Me: Just having artistic differences with myself, dear.
Husband: *crickets chirping*, one eyebrow up in the air.
Then he leaves, I’m sure to measure the guest room for padding. By this time all’s quiet in the Design Department, so I can now get a little work done.
First, I get out a piece of paper, a pencil and the fabric for inspiration…
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|I almost fell out
of my chair. I
guess maybe I
can relate! -