Saturday, July 2, 2011

New Goodies to Make My Quilting Easier!

Lately I've been giving some thought to the various tools that make our quilting lives better, faster, easier. To that end, I've made some purchases over the past few months to update my sewing room and thought I would share the details with you:

A standard size ironing board is not shaped properly and it's not quite wide enough to press a full 45" width of fabric, let alone the quilt tops and backings that I press before pin-basting. I looked around at various ironing boards and available add-ons to see what would work best for me. Patrick Grant of Unique Sewing Furniture made this 72" long board with wood framing underneath so it just slides onto my regular ironing board. A batting with reflective coating (I think it's called Insulbrite) and the cloth cover were included with the board.

I don't use my iron all the time and like to take the ironing board down and put it away to give me more room in my sewing area -- another benefit of this board is that I can take it off and stow it behind my sewing room door when I'm not using it.

The second present that I bought my ironing setup is this Digital Velocity V100 by Reliable. It has a very large water tank and awesome steam capability. This is a very heavy iron, which could be an issue if you have wrist problems. I really like a heavy iron as I feel it helps me press my piecing and quilt tops very flat, so this was the iron for me.

Besides weight and steam capability, another reason that I chose this particular iron is that it is known for not spitting yucky stuff! The company does recommend distilled water for filling the iron, so I'm using that, but there is an additional filtration system (filter should be changed every 6-12 months depending on how much ironing you do) to keep those spots off your fabric.

Also important to me was the fact that you can override the automatic shutoff function. It will shut off after 8 minutes of idle time, but you can turn that function off -- hooray! I always seem to finish chain piecing and get to the iron after it's cold and then have to wiggle it and wait for it to heat up again. LOVE that I can turn that off!

I purchased this iron from Carrie Mecherle at Downtown Sewing Machine Company in Henderson NV. You can contact Carrie at 702-457-9600 if you can't find one locally.

One of the reasons that I can quilt really big quilts on a standard home machine is the placement of my machine cabinet. My cabinet is 65" wide by 24" deep with a leaf on the back that extends the depth to 48". I always leave the leaf up, so I am working with a 65" x 48" surface all the time. My cabinet, as well as some other furniture pieces in my sewing room, was made by Unique Sewing Furniture.

One of the nice things about this cabinet is that you don't have to leave the leaf up all the time. If the leaf is down, your cabinet measures 65" x 24" deep. If you have limited space in your sewing area, you can piece or applique with the leaf down; then, when you want to quilt, you would just pull the cabinet away from the wall and put the leaf up to gain that additional space.

The important thing to notice about the picture above is that my cabinet is pushed into a corner with no space between the furniture and the walls. That means that my quilts bank up against the walls as I am sewing; the weight of the quilt is supported by the cabinet, so all I have to worry about is what's in my lap!

There is a 29" x 15" hole cut in the cabinet to allow me to drop my machine down so that I can quilt on a level surface; that size cutout will accommodate any home sewing machine. I can adjust the height of the platform that the machine sits on to work with the various machines that I use. For each machine, I have an acrylic insert made by Sew Steady to fill in the space around the machine. Each machine has a different "footprint", requiring its own insert.

I've had my cabinet for a few years; my new purchase in this picture was the Sew Steady insert for my new Laura Ashley machine made by Brother International.

I talk to people who take my classes about setting up a quilting space. Quilting on a level surface is so much easier than working over the tray that comes with a lot of machines; I even have some people in class trying to do their machine quilting without any tray or extension table at all. That is really difficult as you have no place to put your hands and the quilt isn't getting any sort of support to help you manage the weight.

At the very least, if you don't have the space to put a cabinet/insert setup, consider buying an acrylic Sew Steady extension table to fit your machine. They come in several sizes and are also ideal for classes, retreats and anywhere else where you are taking your machine with you. I have both: the insert for my cabinet when I'm at home and the extension table when I get to go someplace fun.

Another recent purchase that I am finding most helpful for these eyes that are not as young as they used to be is the Koncept desk lamp pictured above. There are four high power LED lights on a bar so thin that it doesn't obstruct my vision when I'm sewing. The lamp comes with two bases: the round one that I have set up and a clamp that could be attached to my table.

I decided to use the round base because I want to be able to take this to retreats and other places where I sew without having to mess around with the take down process. There is never enough light at these events and this lamp easily folds up to a pretty small size that will fit in with my other sewing supplies.

I purchased this lamp from Carrie at Downtown Sewing Machine Company (ph: 702-457-9600) and I'm very pleased with the additional lighting. It can't help but improve my piecing results, and everyone who has ever taken a class from me knows that I'm always saying, "You can't quilt what you can't see!"

I'm really excited about these additions to my sewing room efficiency -- now all I have to do is find the time to sew!


  1. Thanks for sharing what works for you. It is always nice to read reviews by others who have tried certain products and liked them. I really want a new sewing table, one where my machine can be flush with the surface...I'm off to check your links and see if there are prices to give me an idea of cost. do you care to share if it isn't posted there?

  2. Great finds, Paula! I've had the Reliable Velocity 100 for a year and a half now, and I will never look back. The steam is amazing and it never, NEVER spits!!

  3. To free indeed: Dealers post their own prices and have occasional specials and there are many sizes and configurations of cabinets, so I really don't know a price. I know that often when I teach at a shop that is a Unique dealer, they give a special discount while I'm there....

  4. To Cindi: I'm just now starting to use the iron a lot -- and, you're right, I love it!! I'm doing some piecing today and the steam is just what I need!


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