Wednesday, September 30, 2015

Gadgets, Gizmos, and Glue

I don’t often fall victim to the latest gadget trend. Plenty of sewing gizmos have come and gone without garnering any attention from me. There are a few, however, that I have found are worth the money. What follows are the items I’m become most reliant on in the past year—and a few I’m still undecided about.

Olfa Spinning Mat

My favorite tool purchased in the past year is my rotating Olfa mat. One night at guild, a friend was extolling the virtues of her spinning mat. I was at Joann’s the next day and saw that all mats were 50 percent off. Clearly, this was fate. I needed one. 

I really like mine. It’s compact—just 12” square—and works well for the fabric I cut on it, which is small blocks that require precise cutting. Plus, my sewing table is often cluttered with other stuff. It’s nice to rotate a block without moving my full-size cutting mat, moving to the other side of the table, or tidying up.

Chalk and Glues

Sometimes what I have on hand does the trick just fine. That’s what I’ve found with regular old school glue and chalk. I use liquid washable Elmer’s glue for binding. After sewing the binding to the front or back of my quilt (it differs for me based on the project), I use Elmer’s glue to adhere the binding to the other side, avoiding the need for pins or clips, before finishing the binding by machine. Plenty of other people have talked about this process (see, for example, Angela Pingel of Cut to Pieces), so I won’t repeat it here. Glue-basting your binding—and fully attaching your binding by machine, for that matter—is worth trying if you haven’t experimented with it before. (P.S. I’m using the glue stick for basting an English paper-piecing project. I’ll save my judgment until after I have to remove the paper!)

I’ve found school chalk to be useful when marking my quilts for free-motion quilting. (I write this as if, you know, I’m always working on a little FMQ. I’m not. I used it here, where I needed some rough guides for my swirls.) When a project requires more precision or when I’m straight-line quilting, I use the white Chaco Liner from Clover. Its thin point of application ensures that I know exactly where to quilt. (Heads up: I do have a horror story about the yellow Chaco Liner, though. Beware!)

Clover Mini Iron

In a moment of weakness, I bought Clover’s Mini Iron to finish up this Social Tote. The jury is still out on this gadget. I haven’t used it since that project, but I also have not been making as many bags as I usually do. I can’t say yet that it was worth the investment.

I can tell you that it’s light, and it gets crazy hot (although it takes several minutes to heat up). I can see how it’s useful in bag making, but if you have one and use it for quilt projects, please share!

Steady Betty

Here’s another gizmo I’m not sold on yet: the Steady Betty. I have the 15”-by-24” version and didn’t bother taking a picture because mine is already marked and ugly. See the Steady Betty site for pics.

The surface of the Steady Betty is heat-proof foam, which means that my fabric doesn’t slide around as it would on my regular ironing board and that I can pin fabric to the pressing surface. Since my full-size ironing-board cover disintegrated in the washer (for real), my Steady Betty has become my only ironing surface. I’m fine with using it to press small bits of fabric or pinning some bias tape to it for pressing, but when faced with an entire quilt top to press, the foam surface makes for cumbersome ironing. 

Are you a gadget buyer? If you have thoughts on any of these products—or have other interesting ones in your sewing arsenal—please share in the comments.

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  1. I have used my Tucker Trimmer ruler a LOT this year to square up fabric cuts or blocks that are whole and half inches. I borrowed a friend's Tucker Trimmer II, which does quarter-inch finishing blocks, and I may need to add that to my ruler arsenal. I have also used my Flying Geese ruler - the Wing Clipper - for several projects. It usually only serves to show me how off my flying geese are rather than helping me to trim them to size, though! I have just purchased a spinning mat because I'm going to be making a lot of HSTs and will need to use my Tucker Trimmer again to square them up! A little less fussing with the block as I trim will be nice.

  2. I recently purchased a rotating mat, but haven't used it. Haven't tried glue basting, but I might have to give it to try. Thanks for the tips.

  3. I love my rotating mat, though mine's only 6.5". I get gifted a lot of notions by non-quilters, so it's always kind of interesting. My favorite so far have been fork pins. And the add-a-quarter ruler is really helpful when paper piecing. The only notion I ever buy for myself are gardening gloves to use while FMQ (and I do do a lot of FMQ!) :D Unless coffee and music count.... (PS. You can buy a new ironing board cover... just sayin)

  4. I'm not much of a gadget user. Several years ago I participated in a BOTM at my LQS and we were using templates so they recommended the 12" rotating mat. It was useful for cutting fabric with templates. I can see how it would be useful for trimming blocks, you've inspired me to pull mine out this weekend.

  5. Thanks for sharing. I just put that rotating mat on my Christmas list. ;) My new "gadget" has been wonder clips. I had always thought they weren't worth it, "pins work just fine for binding". Then I got a set for Christmas and fell in love!

  6. I love iron. I put it next to me when i'm foundation paper piecing, it saves gettimg up every two.minutes to go to the ironing board and it's perfect for pressi g small pieces

  7. The mini iron also works really well when you are prepping those tiny appliqué pieces for needle turn projects. Folding over edges and pressing them down wouldn't be possible without burning your fingers on a large iron.

  8. Thanks for all of the reviews on the fun notions, I have been on the fence on whether I need one of those little irons or not.

  9. Read you title and started immediately humming "I've got gadgets and gizmos aplenty...." I'm still envious of your spinning mat cause having spun it I know it's superior to the one I have and I'm totally with you on glue basting: game changer!

  10. I have a Chakoner marking tool that I love. I got it from someone I was working for in 1985 and have never refilled it. I use it off and on, and it still works! (I'm a little worried that it will run out sometime soon so I've been looking online for refills. It doesn't seem to be in any local stores. I'm intrigued by your spinning rotary mat. I have a gift card to spend. Hmmm...

  11. I so want one of those rotating mats! My best gadget lately is my Sizzix I won last month!

  12. I love my rotating mat definitely my best buy last year! I've not heard about glue basting binding... Sounds interesting :)

  13. Does occasional pin usage count as a gadget? I'm not a typical gadget user, people get them for me and they just sit around collecting dust.


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