Keep It or Bin It: Lickety Grip, WonderFil Rayon, and the Clover Embroidery Threader

I’m finally getting around to sharing some of my experiences with some new products I picked up at the quilt shows last October. Up on the Keep It or Bin It review block today are a few products that I’ve been using and testing since then. Did they make the grade? Let’s see:

Lickety GRIP

Lickety Grip: One of the challenges when free motion machine quilting is getting (and keeping) a firm grip on the quilt. I used to use gloves with gripper dots on them, but had to take them off every time I needed to start or end a line of quilting, because I couldn’t manipulate the thread and everything else with the bulky gloves on. Then I started using a very tacky (not tacky, as in “without good taste”, but tacky as in sticky-ish) lotion, Neutrogena Norwegian Formula Hand Cream, a tip I picked up from Diane Gaudynski.

We all like to try new things once in a while though, and I thought maybe this Lickety Grip stuff might turn out to be even better than the lotion trick. Lickety Grip says it provides “Better Grip For Better Control,” and maybe it does, but the first problem is that it comes in a little box and you rub your fingertips across the top of it, instead of squeezing it out into your hand. I can see that after using it for a while, it will be hard for me to get the remaining product out of the box because of my nails (yes, I realize that this is a personal problem, but I’m probably not the only person to have it). The other problem: it claims to have no perfumes, but the stuff smells like exceedingly strong soap (and not in a good way, really) when it’s on your hands, despite being virtually odorless in the box. Eeeewww. In actual usage tests, I found it to be a poor replacement for the Neutrogena lotion. Verdict: Bin It.

WonderFil Rayon Thread

WonderFil Rayon thread: I use rayon thread an awful lot these days, so I thought I’d see if there was something better out there than Sulky (that comes on spools that are not ginormous). Not that Sulky is bad, not at all, but you never know when you might run across something better. I bought two assortments of ten colors each of this WonderFil thread at the Quilt Market Sample Stampede. I think I’m sorry I’m stuck with this much of it now.

From beginning to end, it’s totally frustrating. I couldn’t easily remove the plastic wrappers without sticking very sharp embroidery scissors under the wrapper to cut it, and catching the thread on the spool in the process. When I did finally get the wrapper snipped and started to peel it off, it only partly came off, and then I had to repeat the process with the embroidery scissors to remove the rest. When I put the spool on the machine to use it, instead of a hole getting poked in the paper label on the end of the spool, the entire end of the spool fell off in my hand. After using the thread, I tried to anchor the thread at the end of the spool, but the thread anchoring system on these spools is completely worthless. The thread broke more often than not while I was trying to get it to go under the little knobs, and when I could get it to go under the knobs at all without breaking, it wouldn’t stay.

Rayon thread being the slippery stuff that it is, what I’ll shortly have is a giant mess because none of the thread ends are anchored on the spools when not in use. Qualilty-wise, the thread itself is fine and comparable to Sulky so that’s not an issue, but it’s just such a pain to use because of the way it’s packaged that I know I’ll have to be desperate for a color match that I can’t get with 300 spools of Sulky to bother even looking toward the WonderFil. The WonderFil spools are just total junk IMO. Verdict: Bin It. Not worth the trouble.

Clover Embroidery Threader

Clover Embroidery Threader: I knew I would love this threader, and I hunted high and low through two quilt shows to get it. I was right, and it is a gem. The packaging says it all and doesn’t lie: “Unique design”, “Flat tip for easy threading”, and “Smooth threading even with thick threads”. I’ve been using quite a bit of embroidery floss and thicker specialty fibers lately for embellishments, and a regular needle threader just doesn’t cut it. Rather than just a slender (and easily breakable) wire threader, this threader is a folded piece of thin metal which slides through the needle eye vertically.

The instructions in the package are well written and worth saving as there is a needle chart showing different types and sizes of recommended needles as well as tips and tricks in case of difficulties with certain needles or threads. The threader itself is well made and the cover attaches firmly. It’s cool to look at with it’s elegant design in limey green, and even has a hole on the end to attach it to a cord or chatelaine to keep it handy. Verdict: Keep It. Definitely.

Note: In all honesty, “Bin It” is probably not an entirely accurate representation of what will happen to these failure products. I generally don’t throw anything away, and you never know when you might need some sticky stuff in a box for some odd job or other (though it’s too light to be a paper weight), and maybe I can think of something creative to do with the tangled mess of rayon thread that won’t stay on the spools. They probably should go in the bin, but I’m way too much of a pack rat for that!

Have you tried any of these products? Have a different view or experience? Share it!

Clover White Marking Pen Love

Clover White Marking Pen review: Keep It or Bin It? I’ve blathered on about the Clover White Marking Pen before, but it bears repeating, especially after my “A-Ha” moment” the other day. This is why the White Marking Pen (Fine) from Clover rocks:

White marking pen mistakes

No, you’re not seeing double, I marked the first set of lines through the stencil on the border of this quilt, and it was in the wrong place, so I marked over it, figuring I’d be able to remember which lines were the right ones later. Yeah, right. And there were other parts of the marking on this quilt that were much worse, with so many lines and marks that it was likely to be impossible to figure out where to machine quilt when the time came.

But wait! I’d temporarily forgotten that you can use the iron to make the marks disappear:

White marking pen mistakes

Ah-la-peanutbuttersandwiches and A-Ha! A quick pass with the iron, and the marks were gone, and I could re-mark the lines in the proper place. This makes fitting continuous line borders easier too, since you can start at the corners and mark your way along, guestimating as you go how it will all fit together in the middle, and if you need to, you can erase a bit of it and remark it to make it fit better in the end.

And while the Clover White Marking Pen is ideal for really dark fabrics like this black Bali batik, I’ve used it successfully on even medium value printed fabrics, when nothing else would do. The ink is delivered via a roller ball like a Gelly Roll pen, and marking lightly is best. Also note that the ink is virtually invisible until it starts to dry, and will become fully white and opaque when completely dry. The white ink sits on top of the fabric a bit, so that it’s easier to see under the sewing machine lamp. It’s become my go-to marker when I’m faced with a difficult marking task.

It is a bit expensive, selling for around $6.50 per pen in shops, and to be honest, I sometimes marvel at how fast the ink in the pen disappears, but it’s so worth it when no other marker in the arsenal is up to snuff. You can find it cheaper if you scout the Internet a bit, and buy in multiples so that the shipping costs per pen are cut down.

Definitely a Keep It notion in my book! If you’ve used it, share your experiences, good or bad, here!

WFMW–Basting quilts with a tagging gun

For many years I’ve used plastic tags and a tagging gun to baste quilts together for quilting. In fact, this is the only method I’ve ever used, since I purchased the tagging gun when i was making crafts to sell (BQ) and needed to tag them with prices and info. When I started quilting, I heard about the tagging guns and tags that had just become popular with quilters, so rather than going out and purchasing hundreds of safety pins to baste my quilt, I dug out the tagging gun and tags I already had.

Tag on quiltThere was only one small problem: the tags I had were 3/4″ and had a fat end and a skinny end, instead of 1/4″ with two skinny ends like what was sold for quilts. If I’d used them the way other quilters were using them, straight through the quilt from top to bottom, my quilts would have been quite unstable, with too much potential for movement between the layers. I decided to try putting the tags in like you would use a safety pin or a straight pin, into all the layers and back out again, so that both ends of the tag are on the top of the quilt.

It worked great, with the added bonus that I didn’t need to buy one of those funny grid things that lifts the quilt up slightly off the table or floor that you need if you use the shorter tags, since you have to put them straight through the quilt. I could always tell if the needle (and thence the tag) went all the way through the quilt because I could feel when the needle hit the floor or table under the quilt.

The quilt is secure and the layers don’t shift any more than they would with safety pins. Both ends of the tag are on the top of the quilt so they are easy to see and quilt around and the tags are easy to remove without digging around under the quilt for the other end after you cut it apart. Cutting the tags out of the quilt is safer too, since they’re longer and you can keep the scissors farther away from the quilt surface.

One thing I must point out: You may find that the needle on the tagging gun makes a bigger hole than a safety pin might, or causes a snaggy looking bit on the fabrics. I’ve been told this repeatedly over the years by quilters who tried the gun and don’t like it. Yes, sometimes it can do that, but I think the trick is to be very careful with your needle, and replace it at the first hint of a burr or bent tip. Treat the needle very carefully, just like you treat the needles on your machine; maybe even more carefully, since they cost much more per needle to replace. Read More

Favorite Things: It’s hip to be square!

Stanley Laser Level Square

Okay, I realize this is not your usual quilting type tool, and no, I’m not taking up carpentry along with all my other hats that I wear. This tool is a borderline “must have,” though, even for us quilter types, and it definitely saved me the other day as I was finishing up my latest quilt last week. I’ve never really had problems putting on the hanging sleeves and getting them straight. I’ve always just pinned them on parallel to the top of the quilt and it’s been fine, and the quilt hangs straight.

Well with this latest quilt, the top edge was scalloped, and even though I measured from the tops of the scallops to position the sleeve evenly across the top of the quilt, when I hung it up on the quilt stand to take a photo, the sleeve was obviously out of whack somewhere. It was really bad, with a great big wave in the bottom. I could tell by looking at the quilt hanging there that the sleeve ended up with a big curve in it somehow as I sewed it on, but I really couldn’t tell by looking at the sleeve itself.

So I removed the sleeve to start over again, and that’s where the Stanley Laser Level Square comes in. Read More

Favorite Things: Infinite Feathers Quilting Design Book and Template

Infinite Feathers

Infinite Feathers,
by Anita Shackelford

If you’re interested in feather quilting, you won’t want to miss this one! Anita Shackelford takes you on a feather odyssey in Infinite Feathers: Quilt Designs, and introduces you to her indispensable companion tool, the Infinite Feathers Quilting Design Template. Feather quilting seems to be the hallmark of really intricate and detailed heirloom quilts, and it can be rather intimidating to consider quilting feathers whether by hand or machine, not to mention drawing your own feather designs. Anita makes it an easy, step-by-step

Infinite Feathers Quilting Design Template

process with her detailed instructions and creative ideas for using the Feather Template to draw your own designs to fit any space on your quilt. There are also lots of ready to use designs included in the back of the book. I’ve used Anita’s designs, methods and template on many of my large quilts like FeatherGlow and Material Marquetry as well as other smaller projects.

Hanging Quilts

How do you hang your quilts? Do you use the “hanging sleeve and dowel rod method?” I have for years, and still do, but recently I wondered if there wasn’t something better out there. I like to have a seasonal quilt hanging in my entryway that changes depending on the time of year. Now of course, these quilts are not all the same size, so it’s a bit of a hassle (not to mention bad for the wall) to have to put new nails up for each different size of quilt. Enter Arti Tec. Arti Tec is a company in the Netherlands manufacturing state of the art hanging systems for museums, galleries, offices and homes. I discovered this system at my local hardware store, but I do live in Germany, so I know it’s not necessarily available easily in the States. There is a distributor in Canada, however: www.arts-supplies.net. I’m sure if you head to your hardware store, you can probably find supplies to imitate this system as well.

Gallery rail with hooks, cables and picture hooks

I purchased a gallery rail, a moulding shaped wooden rail that is attached to the wall just below the ceiling, with hooks, perlon suspension cables, and picture hooks. Perlon is a clear plastic cable. So, I have the gallery rail that’s a bit wider than my widest quilt that will hang there, and the hooks can slide across the rail so that the system works for any size quilt. I use adjustable cafe curtain rods in the quilt sleeve, which are small enough to fit on the picture hooks. Problem solved!