wool pressing mat review

 

IMG_0037I recently purchased a Granny’s Perfect Press wool pressing mat from Granny’s Legacy because, well, curiosity got the best of me!  A friend had bought one in the spring during our trip to Paducah, KY and I had been thinking about it since then.  I decided I had to try it and I am SO GLAD I DID!!  It’s not often that I buy something so impulsively that I love this much.  I say it was an impulse buy even though I have been thinking about it for 4 months because my main reason for purchase was due to the fact that everyone had one except me!  I know, quite a foolish reason but isn’t that part of the fun of quilting?  I kept seeing them and I just had to try it out for myself.

I was told that the best part of the mat was the crisp, flat seams that my blocks would have when using it.  That sounds great, right?  The reason for this is that the wool mat retains the heat and therefore presses from the front and back at the same time.  I am a quilter but I am also a bag maker so my curiosity was about how this would help my bag making skills.  Would it help my bag making skills?  The short answer, yes!  I tried it out first with fusible interfacing.  I did my usual, placed the interfacing sticky side up and my fabric wrong side down.  I began pressing and found that the interfacing fused beautifully and very smoothly.

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But what sold me even more what the difference it made with cork. I use/sell/love/obsess over cork.  If you’ve followed me on social media or visited me at a show you know that cork is one of my biggest sellers and I make many samples with it.  I have minimal complaints about the cork but one thing that does irk me a bit is my inability to press a cork on cork seam flat.  It’s bulky like any heavy fabric and just doesn’t want to lay flat.  So I thought I’d try the mat and WOW I was blown away!  I did my best to capture the seams in the pictures below but it wasn’t easy.

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Front side after using the mat.

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Back side after pressing with the mat.

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Front without the mat (regular ironing board)

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Back side without the mat.

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Finished Cailey Handbag

One of the complaints that I have heard and read about the mats is that they smell ( I do use steam when I iron).  The reason is that they’re 100% wool.  They can smell a bit like a wet dog (or sheep lol) when used with steam.  Ever wash a wool sweater?  Yeah it’s that smell.  But it’s totally normal and really not as bad as some of the complaints I heard.  My solution?  I sprayed it several times with Best Press or Soak spray in a yummy smell like pineapple or peaches.  I pressed and then spritzed a little more.  Each time I used it, it got a little better.  I also bought the largest size that they had (17.5″ x 24″) so I could cover as much of my ironing board as possible.  Pick the size that makes the most sense for you!

So what are your thoughts?  Do you have one, do you love it, do you hate it?  Leave me a comment because I love to hear from you!

Happy Sewing!

Jessica

 

 

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How to use Zippers by the Yard

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There’s been a new edition to the website that I’m thrilled to present – metal-look, nylon zippers by the yard.  You can find them here on the zipper page.  They come in 3 tape colors (Black, White, Light Gray) and 5 teeth colors (Silver, Gunmetal, Antique Brass, Gold & Rose Gold).  What I love about these is that you get the look of metal zippers (which I love) but the ease of sewing with nylon (which I love even more!).  Metal zippers are beautiful but they can be a bit intimidating if you’re new to using them.

Working with zipper by the yard is not as hard as you may think.  It’s nice because you’ll always have the size you need since you can cut them to any size needed for a project.  Below are some tips for working with them and adding the pulls.  Remember, sometimes having a third hand can be helpful so if you have an extra hand around (like a friend or spouse) that can be super helpful.  And it gets easier with practice!

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Each set of zipper tape (1 yard or 3 yards) comes with separate pulls – 4 per yard of tape.  Always start with a nice clean, straight end.

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Begin by cutting to the size needed.  I always cut about 1″ longer than needed which you’ll understand why in a couple steps.  Separate just a bit so you can add the slide.

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The pull has a wider end and a narrower end.  You will insert the teeth into the wider end.

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Begin by inserting one side of the teeth at a time, just a few teeth.  Insert a few teeth on the left and then a few on the right. You want to make sure you have the tape in the narrow ridge along the side of the pull.

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Place 2 fingers on the tape to hold it in place and use your other hand to slide/wiggle the pull into place.  Be patient with yourself!  This is where that third hand comes in handy 😉

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Once the pull is on you may see a bubble in the tape. This is caused by the teeth not being perfectly in line when the pull was added and it’s totally normal. It’s also why I cut the zipper a bit longer so I can trim it. I slide the pull all the way to the other end and then open it a bit so I can trim the end straight.

For recessed zipper purse tops you will need to close up the end so you don’t lose the pull (since you don’t have the metal stopped that you would normally have).  I used a scrap of cork to finish mine and I really like how it came out.  The zipper tape is about 1.25″ wide so I cut my cork a little wider and about double in length – 1.5″ x 2″.  I folded it over the end, clipped in place and stitched it about 1/8″ from the edge.  The cork doesn’t fray so no need to finish the edges!

 

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Cork strip cut 1.5″ x 2″

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Fold in half over the end and clip in place.

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Stitch in place approx. 1/8″ around the edges. I used my favorite Janome G foot.  With my needle in the far left position (0) I can stitch a nice 1/8″ seam with the guide.  This is what I refer to as my handle foot!  Most machines have one – look for a stitch in the ditch, edge joining or blind hem foot with a center metal guide.

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Voila!  A finished zipper!

I hope you enjoyed this tutorial.  Feel free to email me if you have any questions!

Happy Sewing 🙂

Jessica

jessica@sewmanycreationsny.com

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Creative Spaces Blog Hop: Dealing With Tools & Rulers

I can’t believe it’s Week 6 already, can you?  This summer has been flying by and I’m partly happy (goodbye humidity, hello fall!) and partly sad (My office assistant is leaving for college).  I’ve been super busy trying to prep for shows, getting new inventory in and writing patterns.

REVISED Week Six

I decided for this final blog hop post that I’d show you my method for organizing my teaching bag since that seems to be where most of my tools and rulers live.  I also acquired a few new things this week to share too!

So for me, teaching is a big part of my business.  I travel to my local shop several times a month as well as to shows & guilds & other shops to teach.  Regardless of where I’m teaching I always like to travel with my big teaching bag.  And surprisingly no I didn’t make it!  It’s a small 31 tote that just works great for this purpose.  Someday I’ll make myself one!

I like to have my own tools so that 1. I have what I need for demoing hardware, cutting, etc… and 2. So I have the tools I prefer.  Don’t we all have favorites that we must use for each project?  I have adopted a system of using smaller zippered pouches inside of my larger bag to keep everything organized by type. I like to make zippered pouches in different shapes and sizes (great practice for sewing zippers!) and they make my bag look so pretty too!  I have a cutting tool bag that I keep rotary cutters, extra blades, scissors and seam rippers.  I have another bag with marking tools and another with extra hardware bits like screws and what not in case someone has misplaced something.  I always keep a bag of binding clips too for making bags.  This method works great for me and might be a great way for you to get your things in order for upcoming classes.  I also have room in the bag for my rulers since I only carry a few small ones with me.

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This week I was at my local quilt shop teaching (of course!) and I had noticed these new Stash ‘N Store tool organizers by It’s Sew Emma they had displayed.  I was intrigued and had to bring one home.  I absolutely love it!  It’s more handy than I thought it would be and I like the compact size.  It has this colored rubber top that holds your tools upright so they’re easy to grab.  It’s slim and fits right next to my machine or even on the window sill.  The slotted design isn’t big enough for a rotary cutter but it’s great for scissors, marking tools, tweezers, seam ripper and all the other essentials.  I might have to grab another for the office to keep track of all my pens and scissors there too!

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Roxy had to check out my new toy!

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Ahh the pretty pic on the new English Garden fabric I also acquired this week!

One last thing that I got this week is this adorable little Clip-on lamp from the Daylight Company.  Ok, in all fairness I have had this since May when I went to Janome training but I just got the chance to take it out of the box.  It’s such a cute little light and it’s great because it’s portable!  You can clip it anywhere you like.  It has 3 brightness settings and it’s rechargeable.  Great for travel, a book lamp, extra light at a retreat or right next to the machine like I have it.  I used it tonight while I was adding some hardware to a bag since it’s been so dark and dreary today.  The arm can be moved and bent in any direction too so it’s definitely a new must have for me.  I also have the larger slim line LED lamp behind my sewing machine that I use for night sewing.

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Thanks again for joining me on my journey to get organized.  I hope you learned something along the way.  I have received so many comments from each of you, some to commiserate and some with great tips that I really enjoyed.

Happy Sewing 🙂

Jessica

 

 

Creative Spaces Blog Hop: Dealing with Embellishments, Buttons & Thread

REVISED Week Five

Let’s talk about dealing with all those little things that take up lots of space – Embellishments!  As you saw earlier (Week 3 mostly) the types of embellishments I work with mostly are for bags.  Things like frames, strap anchors, magnets, etc…  And since I sell items like these on my website I buy in bulk and use my large bins and drawers for those.  For smaller items, things I use for myself personally, I like these smaller drawer units that I found at Michaels.  They’re pretty and see through and great for organizing small things like buttons, etc…  Plus the drawers tip forward for easy in and out and I like that.  This unit also has a small footprint so it doesn’t take up much space on the end of my cutting table.

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Right next to this unit I keep a couple small round tins with my Sharpie markers organized by color.  These are great for embellishing all sorts of things (including the tins they’re in!).  Does rainbow order make anyone else this happy?

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One of my favorite embellishments is ribbon.  I especially love Renaissance Ribbons.  They work with artists like Tula Pink, Amy Butler and Jessica Jones to create these amazing designs.  I use them on all sorts of bags and of course I can’t throw out a single bit!  When I have large amounts I keep them on the spools and store in baskets.  For the smaller pieces I like to wrap them on cardboard scraps (I use shipping boxes from the post office after I receive a package).  I wrap them up and pin the ends.  Simple and easy to store in a basket or bin.

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And of course we already talked a little but about thread.  I shared this pic during week 3 but thought I’d share it again because it’s just so pretty 🙂 I just can’t get enough Aurifil!!

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So what kind of embellishments are your favorite?  What are you currently collecting?

Thanks for joining in.  Next week is the last week of the Creative Spaces Blog Hop – Can you believe it?  I definitely can’t!  I’m hoping to continue posting weekly so if you have any ideas or suggestions for upcoming posts, feel free to leave in the comments!

Happy Sewing!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Creative Spaces Blog Hop Week 4: Dealing with Fabric & Scraps

REVISED Week Four

So if you’ve been following along for the past 4 weeks you probably have learned some things about me: My sewing area is tiny, my organizational skills are (slightly) lacking and I LOVE fabric!  So that being said I only have a few tips to share with you but for me they’re key to my happiness.  Well happiness in my sewing area anyway 🙂

I already mentioned a couple posts back that I like to leave my thread on display.  Same goes for my fabric.  I love to have my fabric out on display.  I like to look at it, pet it and be inspired by it as much as possible.  Plus it reminds me of what I already own lol.  Sometimes fabric speaks to me and tells me what it needs to be made into.  Not in a creepy Norman Bates way but more of a “psst, hey, I’d make a great bag!”.  so I like to look at it often.

Now maybe this next part comes from being a pattern designer and being trained to work within a fabric  line.  Maybe it’s just my brain’s way of organizing. I don’t know.  I  like to keep things in order by collection or designer.  This isn’t always true (I mix batiks and random pieces that don’t have mates) but most of the time I like to keep collections/designers together.  It’s easier for me when I start a project to know that all of the Tula Pink or all of the Kate Spain is together.  Here’s a few examples of those collections & baskets.  Oh and I LOVE baskets.  All kinds, any kind, I must have them all.  I love, love, love baskets!  You’ll see more baskets as we go on!

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A basket of Tula Pink….This is just the beginning.  And this is mostly the old stuff.  I started buying larger quantities as my love for her fabric grew!

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One of the misc. shelves – batiks on the bottom grouped by color.  Top shelf is the odds and ends and leftover from projects and ends of bolts.

 

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More Tula – De La Luna – Pulled for a project

 

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My first fabric line with Windham due out this fall – Gypsy – I definitely photograph and pet this fabric a lot.  Like a lot a lot.

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Foundation by my sweet friend Shayla Wolfe

The next tip that works well for me is to keep my fabric the same size when folded.  I try to fold everything exactly the same from fat quarters to yards and everything in between.   By maintaining a consistent size I can fit more in a basket or on a shelf. And it looks neater.  Obviously FQ’s are smaller than yards but anything 1 yard+ I fold to get the same width when done.  Does that make sense?  The second pic above has various sized fabrics ranging from 1-5 yards but I folded them all to be the same width.  The pics below are mostly from shows but this consistent folding technique works great for that too.  I have to pack everything in certain size boxes and display on shelves so if I keep the folds the same it all looks much better 🙂  Plus it’s easier to tell the difference between a FQ and a yard by the way they’re folded.

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Consistent folds!

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All the yards and all the FQ’s are folded the same.  Makes packing a breeze!

I mentioned my love of baskets right?  Here are a few that I made which also works great for storage of scraps.

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Notice the various (messy) baskets in the background?  Those are filled with 1 yard cuts and organized by designer.  I found them at Michael’s (I believe) and they are the perfect width for my 1 yard fabric folds.  The baskets in the front are from my Store It pattern and hold lots of fabrics!

So when it comes to scraps I have to admit something – I don’t like saving them.  I know, some of you are mad.  Some of you don’t like me anymore and I get it.  But I’m just not a scrappy kind of quilter.  I don’t do scrap quilts or make tiny things that need scraps.  There are some exceptions, mainly Tula.  I can’t even think about throwing out even the smallest piece of her fabric.  But everything else is pretty much a goner.  I find that my hoarder tendencies come out more when I have small scraps and I start justifying why I should save small 2″ squares of fabric and next thing I know I’m overwhelmed by the tiny pieces.  So I have to toss them for my own metal health.  Usually I donate them to someone locally who makes dog beds for shelters so I don’t feel horrible about not saving them.  BUT (there’s always a but with me) I do have a few other exceptions.  First of all when I’m making a quilt or prepping for market I don’t throw anything out until I’m 100% sure that I’m done.  If I need a small piece to finish a project or decide at the last minute to make one last project for quilt market (which always happens) I’m prepared.  I like to save everything in a zip lock bag labeled with the fabric name and/or project. Also a great way to organize projects when you’re on multiple ones at once.

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Last fall before market I was making something using Foundation from Windham fabrics.  I saved this bag until I was done.  I had also overcut the amount of pieces needed so I could pick and choose as I went along.

Exception number 2 – Cork.  I never throw any cork out unless it’s completely unusable.  First we cut from the rolls, then I cut any leftovers into sellable pieces.  Then comes 1″ – 3″ wide strips for handles and 4″ x 5″ rectangles for demos and cork tassels.  Lastly is anything 1″ or larger that I can use for the girls in the office to identify colors.

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A bag of 1″ strips ready to be cut into handles.

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Rectangles for show demos and cork tassels.  Again, cutting things into the same size makes organizing so much easier and neater!

So how do you like to organize?  By designer?  By color?  In baskets or on shelves?  Share your tips in the comments so I can learn from you too!

Happy Sewing!

Jess

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Creative Spaces Blog Hop Week 3: Organizing Tips

REVISED Week Three

I like to think that I’m organized.  Generally speaking I’m not and could use some extra help but hey it’s the thought that counts right?  😉  One of the areas that I need to be organized in is my office.  We ship dozens of packages each day, hundreds each month, plus I travel quite often for shows – at least once a month – and teach quite often.  So I need my office to be organized.  Many days it gets messy because it seems like we’re always in a hurry to get work done.  But I have found some great things that work for me and hopefully will inspire you to reorganize your space too.  Ready for a glimpse into my other work space?  Here’s my office!

Tip #1 –  Get the right shelving & the right size containers

Yes I am storing massive amounts of hardware & cork BUT that doesn’t mean this won’t apply to your space.  The right shelving will help to not only organize your space but will also be strong enough to hold the weight of whatever items you need to organize. For me personally, I love these metal racks from Home Depot and I use them in various sizes and heights.  Remember, fabric is heavy. The same goes with the purse hardware I carry and even cork fabric.  I store folded cork on the top shelves with stackable containers in the middle.  I used to use lighter weight laminate shelving but you do get what you pay for.  The small white shelves looked so pretty….until they started to bow!  Plus the backs would always pop off.  That doesn’t look nice.  Maybe a different shelf works for you in your space – check the weight limits before you buy.  My friend Barb who’s a long arm quilter also loves these particular shelves for organizing customer quilts.

The containers that I use are also from Home Depot.  They’re lower in the front making it easier to get things in and out.  They’re also stackable.  I think they’re actually made for nails, screws, etc… For us in the office they work great.  Everything is unboxed, labeled and ready to grab for orders.  This helps tremendously when you can see what you have.  Imagine also using this system for thread, zippers, bobbins, organizing notions – whatever you need!  I have a few of these at home on my dining room table by the cutting mat for rotary cutters, blades, scissors, etc.

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Tip #2 – Overflow in closed containers

We get so much inventory that we often have overflow.  Clear plastic containers are perfect for the bottom row of the shelves.  Think about those items that you don’t use every day but need close by.  Maybe extra rulers, marking tools, extra fabric, or those great sale items you pick up that you know you’ll need someday (whenever someday comes)  And of course – label those bins!

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Tip #3 – Plastic Drawers

I love these plastic drawers.  You can remove the drawers to carry items to different parts of your studio and still see through them.  Pretty awesome right?  And they work for lots of other areas as well.  I have a couple small sets of these at home for my makeup so it’s not just a sewing organizing piece.  I found these on Amazon.  I also have a large rolling drawer bin under my cutting table at the office for misc. items like works in progress & color cards.  Things I need sometimes but not every single day.

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Tip #4 – Let it all hang out!

Well, let some of it hang out.  I love fabric.  And thread.  And notions.  And makeup.  And cookies.  Oooh cookies.  Focus, Jessica. I never put my thread away.  I did have some of those wooden spool racks and I loved those.  I used to have them hanging on either side of my sewing machine in the old studio since I sewed in a little alcove.  Now that I’ve downsized (See post 1) I have limited space.  So I like to store my thread in a fabric bowl that I made.  It brings me joy and adds some bright color to my space plus it’s all there for me to see.  What I’m saying is, don’t put everything away.  Keep it neat but leave something out that inspires you and makes you smile.  Side note: I use another much larger fabric bowl I made for dog toys!  I keep trying to train the dogs to put the toys away but some battles can’t be won.

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Tip #5 – Keep the good stuff close and remember anything can be a container

To the right of my machine is where I keep all the essentials – scissors, seam ripper, binding clips, glue, pins, etc…And each item has a spot.  That’s how I attempt to keep my living room looking nice and make it easier for me so I’m not digging around for something when I need it.  I use coffee mugs for sharp tools & pens (from fun places I visit), magnetic dishes for pins (Can’t live without & the dogs can’t knock the pins over), and pretty metal cups I pick up from craft stores like Michael’s for misc. items.  I also use this system for my teaching bag that you will often see me carrying at shows or shops when I have a class.  Each item has a zippered bag all stored within a larger bag.  Again, it’s pretty AND organized.  And I can grab it when I have a class and I’m out the door!

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I hope that some of my tips will work for you.  Or maybe you just enjoyed the brief tour of my office.  Is there anything I missed?  Something else I can share with you?  Or maybe you have a great organizing tip for me?  Please feel free to leave a comment!  I’m always looking for other blog post ideas so I want to know what you want to see!

Happy Sewing 🙂

Jess

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Creative Spaces Blog Hop Week 2 : My Favorite Tools

REVISED Week Two

Welcome to Week 2 – My favorite Tools

As a bag maker & quilter I have a lot of go to tools.  The favorites that I can’t live without and feel make my work easier, better and more efficient.  Most of the tools that I’ll share today I use for bag making but that doesn’t mean you won’t find a use for them in other applications!

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First up are the most important tools for me – my rotary cutter & scissors.  I use them each and every day no matter the project and would be completely lost without them.  My favorite rotary cutter is the Olfa Splash 45mm.  Yes I have one in each of the fun colors (Aqua, Pink & Purple).  Does the color make a difference to my cutting?  No, but it’s awfully cute and pretty to look at!  Plus I can see it much more easily.  The reason I love this one so much is the not only does it have a super easy quick change blade but it’s also made for right & left hand cutting.  I can cut with both hands (it’s the only super power I currently have) so I love that about this cutter.

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Scissors are just as important to what we do as anything else.  When it comes to bag making you need a pair of sharp, study scissors that can cut multiple layers cleanly and efficiently.  I discovered Kai scissors a few years ago and haven’t used another pair since. I bring these to classes with me and my students are always amazed by how great they cut.  They have a comfy handle grip and nice weight as well.  I do sell these on my website if you’d like to check them out for yourself.

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Next up is my absolute favorite, can’t go on living if I lose it tool – The Alex Anderson 4-in-1 tool.  I call this my corner turning tool because I cannot turn a flap or poke out a corner without this!  On one end is the poking tool which also hides a stiletto underneath.  On the opposite side is a wood iron great for paper piecing and a seam ripper.  Now not all of them are as unique as mine.  It was chewed by my sweet little Zoey to remind me how much she loves me.  Aren’t puppies great?

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This is the culprit above who ate my 4-in-1 tool…..

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I think I have said at lest 100 times, how did I live without binding clips??  Seriously these little clips are an absolute game changer when it comes to bag making.  No more poking myself with pins.  No more bent pins from trying to hold too many layers.  I personally love the Klip It style the best.  I like the size and strength and they’re purple 🙂

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One of the most frustrating things in dealing with bag hardware is dealing with itty bitty screws.  That’s why I am never without my magnetic Diva wallet screwdriver.  I’ve been using and selling these for a few years and I LOVE mine.  Perfect for small screws.  Tip: If yours loses it magnetism (is that the correct use of that word?) or if you have one that isn’t magnetic, place it in a magnetic pin dish and voila!  Magnetic screwdriver!

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Are you zipper phobic?  If so you want to sit down for this one….  That’s right, I’m talking about zippers next.  As a teacher of bag making I find that so many quilters and sewists are absolutely terrified of putting in a zipper.  A recent student of mine said that she blames 8th grade home ec for that. She’s probably right.  I have many easy techniques for putting in zippers and most of them use this simple, easy product: fusible           double-sided 1/4″ wide tape.  Game.  Changer.  Check out the video that I linked on my website to see some tips on using this awesome product!

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Last but not least is my favorite glue – Gutermann HT2.  It’s an awesome metal to fabric compatible glue that is wonderful for hardware of any kind – wallet frames, loose screws, twist locks.  I’ve even fixed my shoes with it!  What I love about this one is not only it’s strength and durability but that it has a fine tip and doesn’t glue itself to the cap like some competitors can do.  If you make bags of any kind you should definitely check this out.

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I hope you enjoyed this post.  Feel free to comment with any questions you’d like me to answer about my favorite tools.  Let me know what your favorites are too!

Happy Sewing! 🙂

Jessica