Favorite Notions

by Sandra Bruce

Before I get into my post for today I want to show you a Material Matrix quilt from one of my Zephyr students last year, Nancy. She finished it recently and had me quilt it for her. I went to visit her guild in Danville, CA this week and saw Nancy there with her quilt. Here it is, or I should say here they are, and I am guessing she will name it “Wes” since it is an image of her son, Wesley. I think she did a great job, don’t you? Way to go, Nancy! IMG_8862I had a great time with the Diablo Valley Guild, and was happy to meet all the ladies, and especially the lovely Diana McClun who came to hear my lecture and is a member of that guild. The ladies in my Matrix class were all enthusiastic students and made good progress, and I think they all enjoyed it, as I did. Thanks to the guild!

When I teach it is always interesting to see the notions and equipment that ladies bring to class. I learn from them about new products, and sometimes they learn from me about my favorite notions and other goodies that make quilting and sewing in general just a little easier, or more fun. I’ll share a few of them with you today.

We all have seam rippers, and I own several different kinds, but this one is my favorite:

IMG_8865   Here’s why I like it….the little white bulbous thing on the end of it is a little helper for getting those ripped stitches out. After you’ve ripped, you rub that end on the stitches and they come to the surface. It makes it a lot easier to get those pesky threads out of the way so you can start sewing again!

If you oil your sewing machine regularly like you’re supposed to there are times when you get machine oil on your fabric by accident. This happens more on my long arm machine than my Bernina at home but it does happen. The best thing is to right away put cornstarch on the oil and let it sit. After a while you brush away the cornstarch and the oil is gone! A great tip and easy to do. I love this old fashioned cornstarch box! IMG_8864

I have a few favorite marking pens/pencils. Here’s a photo of 3. The top one is by Bohin, a French firm who makes this great marking tool. It’s basically porous chalk, and it comes with several colors of chalk that fit into the holder in a very ingenious way. What I like about it is the chalk is pretty soft and is removed easily, except you have to be careful with white and very light fabrics, some of the darker chalks don’t come off very easily, best to test it first. The line tends to be on the thick side, but you can sharpen the chalk with the sharpener that comes with it. The middle one is also by Bohin, and is my very favorite, as it keeps a very fine line. The bottom one is the disappearing pen that we’ve all had and used for a long time. Sometimes it is the best choice. I use mine a lot making Matrix blocks when I’m piecing and it comes out OK when I spritz it very well with water.IMG_8870

The Clover bias makers are one of my favorite tools. They come in several sizes and I love them all. I haven’t bought commercial bias tape in years, it’s much more unique to make your own and it’s pretty fun too. I even use it to wrap gifts sometimes instead of ribbon.IMG_8872

I run across ladies occasionally who don’t know about Mary Ellen’s Best Press, and I am always glad to tell them about it. It makes quilts/blocks look great and stay whatever shape you want it to be. I buy it in quantity as it is more economical that way. I knew when I used it to press my son’s graduation gown that he had crammed into his backpack that I was sold…that ugly polyester thing looked like a million bucks! It’s not as stiff as starch, but does have a nice amount of body and hold and doesn’t leave any residue.


You may have already seen or perhaps you own a swiveling rotary mat. This is a wrist and time saving device, you can carry it around, and it helps me keep my workspace more organized. It can also be used when playing Scrabble 🙂IMG_8869

For Christmas I got this very cute and wonderful traveling steam iron….yes, it has steam capabilities! It’s only about 5 inches tall and perfect for small projects and taking to classes. You can see from the scale of the seam ripper how small it is.IMG_8873

I only have one more goody to show you, but you’re going to have to take a Matrix class from me to find out what it does!IMG_8871

By the way, most of these items can be purchased at Sugar Pine Quilt Shop, where I work on Thursdays. Come by on a Thursday and say hi and I can show you what’s new on the notions wall.

That’s all for now, let’s all do a rain dance this week and maybe we can conjure up some much-needed precipitation. See you here in April, I’ll be prepping to go to the Folsom, CA guild and also to Southern California for the SCCQC’s Meet the Teachers. Please write if you have a favorite notion you’d like to share! Bye for now!

12 thoughts on “Favorite Notions

  1. Love all your tips on notions. I have several you mentioned, but have never had or tried the seam ripper with the “nubby” that brings threads to the surface. The quilt your student did is great.

  2. Oh how I wanted to sign up for your class in September at Lake Tahoe. In the end, I had to make a decision and so I decided to take Christine’s classes. I hope to peek in and learn a little more about your technique as I’m so very interested. Your student’s picture (above) is so beautiful. Looking forward to meeting you.

  3. Wow, your student’s quilt is awesome! And that little iron is also one of my faves. Any chance you’ll ever make it to the east coast to teach? We have some great venues!

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