As a new quilter, I have experimented with several products and notions designed to help improve quilting. I’m no expert, but my thoughts on a few items that are particularly helpful to me are below. I’m not linking to the actual projects here, but a quick Google search should provide all of the purchasing information you need.
Oy Vey…I can’t begin to tell you how much research I did on sewing machines. I tried out a few in various shops and read many reviews online. The biggest factors for me in narrowing it down were budget ($3,000) and functionality (Large throat space, free motion quilting options, auto thread cutting ). I was very close to going with the Handi Quilter HQ710, but due to the price point, I opted instead for the Janome Memory Craft Horizon 8200 QCP Special Edition, which was a really similar model. I found a great bundle deal on Amazon, that came with a lot of extras. So far, the only downside has been that it’s a bit finicky about the thread it likes for free motion quilting. Otherwise it’s been a great investment.
By no means have I even begun to scratch the surface of thread options out there, but after some frustrating Free Motion Quilting experiences with various brands (see Threaded blog post), I decided to stick with what works. Though I can use a variety of threads for piecing without problems, this Aurifil 50 wt Cotton thread seems to be the favorite of my machine for FMQ.
MISC CUTTING SUPPLIES
Rotary Cutters -There are many rotary cutters on the market. I use an Olfa 45mm Rotary Cutter and I’ve been very happy with it. For quilting, a rotary cutter is a must – ok, well I guess you could use scissors, but these little dandies make cutting out your piecing for more efficient. But be careful – 1 ER visit and 10 stitches later and I can attest to how sharp these things are.
Self Healing Cutting Mats – Like the rotary cutters, there are all kinds of self healing cutting mats on the market. I use two – one is 24″ x 36″ and I use it for cutting large pieces of fabric and squaring large blocks. The other I use for almost all of my smaller piecing, due to its versatility. It’s the Omnigrid Fold Away Cutting and Pressing Station, with one side a cutting mat and the other a pressing pad.
Cutting Rulers – You’ll probably want to get at least 2 rulers, if you can swing it. One square and one longer ruler for cutting larger pieces of fabric. I most commonly use a 4-5″ square and 24″ inch rectangle. These give me the flexibility to work easily with multiple fabric sizes and cutting various pieces. I truth, I never met a ruler I didn’t like and have several more, but I would advise to start with just a couple and dd to your collection as needs arise.
OTHER HELPFUL ITEMS
One of the toughest parts of quilting large projects on a domestic machine is fighting gravity and bulk. I have found that a couple of items have really helped me move the fabric more smoothly.
The first is the Supreme Slider helps move my quilts around more smoothly, getting hung up less on the edges of my machine or extended table. I have the smaller one that is 8 1/2″ x 11,” but there is also a “Queen Size” slider that measures 11 1/2″ x 17″ — essentially taking the total area from a letter to a tabloid size.
The other are quilting gloves. They have gripping material on the fingertips, allowing you to keep a much better handle on the fabric. I’m currently using Machingers.
SteamFast Home and Away Steam Iron – One of the biggest surprises so far on my quilting journey is just how much pressing you have to do. To be honest, it’s a step I had usually skipped in other sewing projects. But, once I gave it a try, I realized that it really does make a difference. Since you press so many small pieces when piecing a quilt, this little iron works great. Plus it fits great with the fold away mat listed above. For pressing quilt tops, I use a standard iron.