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Part Three: Tools and Equipment

If you haven’t read parts one and two of this series, you might want to do that first. For the most part, the tools depend on what projects you bring. And don’t be overwhelmed by the list – I seldom bring ALL of it!

Here’s my tools list, with a basic discussion of each, and the Sew on the Go Checklist

Sewing machine (including the power cord and food pedal – ahem). Depending on the machine, or how long you’ve had it, the manual is a good idea, too.

Extension cord, 3 plug adapter and a SURGE PROTECTOR (not a power strip). Even the most modest machine deserves a surge protector. I’ve sewn in lots of places, and not one of them has better than adequate power available. You don’t want your machine at the end of a daisy chain of power strips when things go bad.

Task lighting: I have a folding OTT lamp and a bendable Bright Light that attaches to my machine. I can’t say I love either one of them, but it’s better than working in the dark.

Cutting mats: I bring a 15×18″ and a 9×12″ mat every time.  Whenever possible, I pre-cut before I go so I don’t need a larger mat. It saves me from making mistakes, too. Table heights, poor lighting and distractions make it a poor time to cut into your precious organic cottons or munki munki prints.

Rulers: I always bring two 24 inch rulers (usually the 3.5″ and 8.5″) plus my 4×18″ and 8.5×12″. If I’m making a block that will need to be trimmed to a size I have a ruler for (6″, 6.5″, 9.5″ or 12.5″) I’ll bring that, too.  I don’t bring them all though, because it turns out you can actually cut a 4.5″ square from a 6.5″ ruler (not saying you have to, but it can be done).

Travel iron and small ironing board. I’m on my 2nd Rowenta travel iron. I use it every day that I sew at home. Every day. I have a full-size Rowenta and a steam generator, but at my workstation the small iron gets all the action. Teflon sheet, pressing cloth, spray starch, travel iron bag.

I bring the ironing board we made here.

Note: iron and board are only needed if you have enough power and outlets. Frequently it’s necessary to just share a couple ironing stations and leave the small irons at home.  You should still bring your own pressing supplies if that’s the case.

Sewing notions – I started collecting 2 sets, but once I found these stacking boxes it was easier to just snap them together and go. One level has my hand sewing notions, another my commonly used thread and extra bobbins, a third has calculator, marking tools, 1/4 inch marking and trimming rulers and extra rotary blades. The last box is the one that sits next to my sewing machine every day.  Seam ripper, scissors, stiletto, rotary cutter, 2×8″ ruler….you know the stuff.

Thread and bobbins – piecing and quilting. I use Aurifil 50wt for most everything.  I have it in basics and a few blender colors and it never fails me.

Chair: Do I want to be sitting on banquet chair for 4 hours? How about 4 days? I have a very ergonomic set-up at home (table height, chair, tools, etc.) For a Friday night or all-day Saturday sewing session, most any chair will do.  But for 4 days? The chair goes with me.

Table: I have this terrific folding table I got at Costco. It’s 18×28 inches, and height adjustable. I only bring it on retreat weekends, but it’s a lifesaver when I need it. I use 3M Command strips to keep a cutting mat in place on it.

Design wall: I have one of those nifty folding design walls. I love it, but unless I’m going to be able to finish the project during the time available, it’s not very practical.  A couple yards of flannel (or better yet a flannel-backed vinyl tablecloth) that you can throw down on the floor, and then fold with your pieces inside, is easier (and cheaper) in the long run.

Camera: It’s on the tools list for a reason. Use it to document your layouts (if you must pick it all up before you’re finished), view your quilt from a distance, or capture pattern or color ideas that inspire you. Be sure to ask before you take (or post!) photos ~ I know several quilters working on projects that are super-secret (either gifts or patterns and designs they intend to publish). And of course you’ll never be sorry you took lots of pictures of your friends!

Notepad & pencil: I have a spiral-bound graph paper notebook that I use constantly – notes, sketches and shopping lists…..

Mark your tools, please! Rotary cutters and rulers are especially notorious for getting misplaced (those tiny return address labels you get in the mail work great on rulers). I’ve even labeled the power cord for my sewing machine – it really helps when everyone is unplugging and packing at the same time.

So have I frightened you into never leaving the house? It’s really not that bad ~ and you can get along quite well without most of it for an evening or an all-day sew-in. Either way, spending some time in the planning and preparation can make all the difference.

And if I’ve forgotten something, or you have a tool you can’t live without, let me know! I’m always ready to add something new to the checklist.

2 Comments Post a comment
  1. What kind of spray starch do you use?

    May 5, 2011
    • It’s Mary Ellen’s Best Press. I really like how light it is.

      May 5, 2011

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