Thursday, November 18, 2010

LHQ - Supplies


If you have ever bought a Wonder Mop® - and taken it home and mopped and twisted and mopped and twisted and mopped and twisted until the mop fell apart because you had unscrewed it - you might be Left-Handed!  ( My apologies to Jeff Foxworthy - but I just couldn't resist!)

As Left-Handed Quilters (LHQ), we are all painfully aware of the fact that some supplies marked "for right or left handed use" are not really for "left-handed use".  They are a right-handed person's version of what they think can be used left-handed - just like the gravy ladle, manual can opener, coffee mug with the logo facing away from you, etc.  You know what I mean.  You can use them left-handed - but they are not really left-handed.

With that in mind - I thought I would share a list of some of the stuff I use.  And any "links" provided are there so you can see the "catalog" info on the item - if I could find it.  The link is not necessarily the best source for the item.  It is just to give you an idea of what I'm talking about - you really should shop around for the best price in your area.

Also - be aware of the fact that a lot of this information was originally intended for my sister-in-law - a beginning quilter.  I do not - in any way - want to insult anybody's intelligence.  If you are an experienced quilter - just ignore the stuff you already know.  You might want to read it anyway, though,  just in case I say something interesting.  You never know, I might.

Anyway - here we go -  it's probably going to be pretty looooooong - just warning you!!

Fabric - Batting - Needles - Thread - Seam Rippers are neither left nor right-handed so they are not included in this list.  We can talk about them later though, if you want.

Sewing Machine

Sorry, they are ALL right-handed.  Actually, I think that is to our advantage.  All of the dials are on the right side - and we are already used to telephones, adding machines (I'm a retired CPA), and every household appliance known to man being right-handed - so that is no big thing.  Our advantage comes into play with all the stuff that happens on the LEFT - the needle, the screws, fabric and pins.  I think we have an easier time with the little screws on the left and threading the needle.  We also have an easier time maneuvering the fabric.

I have three sewing machines and one serger.  I refer to them as my Pinto, Toyota, Lexus, and Sergio.  The sewing machines all have the same basic features, but each is a step-up from the other.  They are all free-arm sewing machines with variable stitch length and width, reverse stitching, various stitches, buttonhole, variable thread tension, and various presser feet available.

My Pinto is a Montgomery Ward® - Signature 2000.  I have had this one for years and am just too lazy to get it off the shelf to take its picture.  When the day came that I needed a machine that had adjustable pressure and a "drop-feed" feature - I got my Toyota - a White® - Model 1777.  I have this one set up on the dining room table to do free motion quilting.  I'm going to do a Free Motion Quilt Along so it's all ready to go.  The "L" and "W" in black marker on the dials were put there by the staff at the sewing machine store - it was a demo model - and I just left it 'cuz I could never tell which dial was for stitch "length" or "width" either. ( I'll tell you about the dinosaurs later.)

When the day came that I needed/wanted a new "electronic" machine - I got
my Lexus - a Husqvarna® - Viking Lily 555.  She's my baby.  I don't know what I'm going to do when she breaks so I try to take real good care of her.  I have her set up in front of my window to do piecing and applique.  She usually has her cover on since she sits in front of the window, but I took it off to take her picture.

Sergio is a Brother Serger 1034D.  I only turned him on once (pun intended) - and don't know him very well just yet.  One of these days...

Iron and Ironing Board

My iron has the cord coming from the middle of the back - that makes it "left-handed" in my book..

It is also an older iron without the automatic shut-off feature and I love it!  When I need to press something, it is always ON!  I had a newer one and didn't like it when I had been sewing for a while and tried to press something just to find that it had turned itself OFF!   I'm a grown-up and am perfectly capable of remembering to shut off my iron when I'm done - I don't need it to do it for me.  (Same goes for the damn coffee pot - I go to get another cup of coffee and it has turned itself OFF!  But I guess that's what the microwave is for, huh?)

I set up my ironing board at sit-down height and with the pointy end on the left.  That way I can put my iron on the pointy end and use the square end to press fabric.  I just "scoot" from my sewing machine to the ironing board when I need to press something.


I like the yellow flat pins with the little "flower" heads.  They are long enough to handle easily and they lie flat when you pin.  You can iron over them without leaving marks on the fabric and they don't melt.

I know pins are non-directional - but the way you use them may not be.

The direction in which you pin depends on which hand you want to use to REMOVE them as you sew.  Remember that the pieces are fed into the sewing machine with the raw edge to the right, and pin the pieces so the head of the pin will be next to the hand you want to use to remove it.
If you prefer to use your left hand, then pin with the pointy end of the pin closest to the raw edge of the fabric - like the top pin in the picture.

If you are comfortable removing them with your right hand, pin with the head of the pin closest to the raw edge of the fabric on the right - like the bottom pin in the picture.

Either way, you will be removing the pins as you go along.  It is not a good idea to sew over pins.  If the needle hits the pin, it may break the needle, bend the pin, and even knock your machine out of alignment.  And the broken piece can wind up anywhere - on the floor, inside the sewing machine, or in your eye - not a good idea!  That being said, I do occasionally sew over pins - I slow down when I reach the pin and the needle seems to glide right over them.  I have, however, broken a few needles and replacing them in the middle of a seam is real pain!  (I have also jammed a needle through my thumb while trying to change a presser foot.  You can ask my sister-in-law about that one!)  So - be careful!!

Wooden Presser Stick and Stiletto

The thing on the left is a wooden presser stick for Foundation Paper Piecing - or "finger pressing" seams.  They do make left-handed versions - make sure you get the correct one.  ( I almost said "get the right one" - geesh!)

A stiletto is just a long, pointy stick used to hold down the fabric as it goes under the presser foot.  Sometimes your finger or fingernail just won't do.  You will find these for sale in catalogs for $5-$6, but I use the "cuticle sticks" found in the nail care department of Wal-Mart to do the same thing - and - they come in packages of 4 for only a couple of bucks.  You could also use a chopstick or bamboo skewer.  I just love finding stuff and using it for a totally different purpose!


The rotary cutter and mat have replaced the traditional scissors.  You will, however, need a pair of small scissors to cut threads as you sew.  I use Fiskars® - 5" micro-tip.  I have three - one at my Lexus - one at my Toyota - and one on my ironing board.  The extra-fine tip is great for detailed work.

The left-handed scissors that I have seen have the handles reversed but not the blades.  They are easier to hold in your left hand, but the cutting edge is on the wrong side and blocks your line of sight when cutting.  My orange-handled Fiskars® - 8" - scissors are like this.  So are my Fiskars® "Softouch" scissors, which are cool since they stay open and need pressure to close - great for arthritic hands.  I've had them so long that the slide lock has broken and I have to put a rubber band around them to keep them closed!!  I have also found that it is easier to cut around something if I hold the "something" in my right hand and cut around it "clockwise".  That way, the part I cut off isn't the part I wanted to keep!!

Do not buy "applique" scissors - they are right-handed.

Rotary Cutter

I use a blue Dritz® 45mm rotary cutter.  I prefer the Dritz® rotary cutter to the Olfa® brand.  The Olfa® (yellow) has too much exposed blade to suit me.  I think it is extremely dangerous and has to be opened and closed - and locked when not in use.  And some models need to be disassembled and then reassembled for left-handed use.

The Dritz® (blue) comes in different sizes - 45mm and 60 mm - and is pressure-sensitive.  The blade is automatically locked until you actually press down to cut.  It has settings for light and heavy-duty use.  It is always ready for use - and can be safety locked.The 45mm blade is the perfect size for me and is truly for left-hand use without having to disassemble and reassemble the cutter.  As an extra bonus - it uses generic replacement blades - and generic blades are usually cheaper - yay!!

Again, be careful!!  The blades are extremely sharp and they should only be used with a rotary cutting mat.  And if you drop it - don't try to catch it - just let it hit the floor - the pressure of the "hit" may engage the blade and we sure as hell don't want that to happen!!

Rotary Cutting Mat

Rotary cutting mats protect your cutting surface and prolong the life of your rotary cutter blade.

I recommend a mat at least 18" x 24" in size - the larger the better, whatever you can afford.  I use an old gray Fiskars® with one plain side and a 23" x 34" orange grid on the other side.  It is so old that the orange lines have been cut away in some sections.  I use it when I'm cutting something that doesn't need grid lines on the mat - 'cuz it doesn't have them!

I also have a brand new Fiskars® mat that is pale yellow on one side and pale green on the other.  Both sides have a dark green 24" x 35" grid.  The mat itself is 25" x 36" and is just a tad bigger than my cutting table - so it hangs over the edge a little.  It's really not a problem, though - I just push it back until it is flush with the front edge of the table.

What is a problem for me is the numbers on the grid.  They confuse me. I think that the numbers are set up for right-handed quilters.  They seem to run backwards to me.


Since I cut from the RIGHT edge of the fabric, I put the square with number "1/1" in the BOTTOM RIGHT corner.

I place the mat so that the numbers 1 to 35 run from RIGHT to LEFT along the bottom and the numbers 1 to 23 run from BOTTOM to TOP along the right side.  

You may think that this makes you count backwards - but it really doesn't.  I'll explain what I mean when I get to Rotary Cutting.

Rulers - MY FAVORITE!!!

I have a LOT of rulers!

I have four that I actually use.  None are truly left-handed.  I have to compensate differently depending on which ruler I use - what a pain!!  (Why can't someone just make a left-handed ruler?  I'll design it for you - I just want credit - and the bucks!!)

EDIT UPDATE - I DID design a Left-Handed Ruler - to cut HST and QST easily - LEFT-Handed - follow the link or check out the tab at the top of my blog. I call it the LEFT-EZE Rule™ - because we do! - LOL - ;))

(Sorry for the glare in the pictures - the overhead lights don't play well with the plastic rulers.)

I use a Quilter's Ruler - Mini-Square - 6-1/2" x 6-1/2" square ruler to square up blocks.

It still has the markings on it from my Halloweeny tablerunner/placemat.  I forgot to flip it over before I cut my charm squares.  If I had - I might not have screwed up the second set.  (I use alcohol wipes to remove the marker lines.)

My favorite ruler is the O'Lipfa® Lip Edge Ruler.  Mine is 5" x 23".  It's long enough to cut fabric as it comes folded off the bolt.  It also has a lipped edge that works like a T-square and hooks on the top edge of the cutting mat so that it doesn't slip while cutting.  I especially like it because the numbers go 1-2-3-4-5 from left to right.  Just the way I like it!!

My least favorite is the Omnigrid® - 6" x 24".  It has 1-2-3-4-5 going from left to right - and - from right to left.  That's too many markings for me.  I use it to fold my fabric.  (That's a post for another day.)

 But I can make it work for me if I put stickers on the numbers I don't want to see.

My Fiskars® - 6" x 12" - is used a lot.  Even though the numbers are backwards for me - I have found a way to compensate.

You can't really see in this picture - but the numbers go 5-4-3-2-1 from left to right across the bottom of this ruler - and from 11 to 1 up the left side - and 1 to 11 up the right side.

If I turn it around - to read the other side (without flipping it over) - the numbers go 5-4-3-2-1 from left to right across the bottom of this ruler - and from 11 to 1 up the left side - and 1 to 11 up the right side - exactly the same way.  Definitely right-handed.

I want it to read -1-2-3-4-5 from left to right across the bottom of this ruler - and from 1 to 11 up the left side - and 11 to 1 up the right side.

OK - so now if I flip it over - sure enough - I can get the numbers to go the right direction - I just have to read them "BACKWARDS".  Don't you just love it when all you have to do is "reverse it"?  Yeah, me too!!

So I put stickers on the one end - 

and the other end.  I don't bother with the sides - I learned early on to read upside-down and backwards - I think we all did.

NOW it's a left-handed ruler!!  And I want the credit - and I want the bucks!!


OK - so that's all I can think of right now.  It's your turn.  Has any of this information helped you?  Have you found something really neat that you use and that you want to share?  What have you found?  Where did you find it?  What do you use?  How do you use it????  Tell me - tell me!!

Next up - Rotary Cutting - so -

Talk to you later - gotta go - gotta write some more stuff -



Unknown said...

I discovered a left handed ruler. Actually both rt & lt. It's make by It has both lt to right numbering & rt to left. I got a 6x24 inch one today. WORTH the extra $$ it cost. Alex Anderson is whose name is assoc /w it, she may have designed it not sure. I understand exactly everything you say in your blog (im lefty, DUH). Also Martelli makes an ergonomic rotary cutter for leftys. I love mine. Also you can buy little metal ruler strips I have one I taped on the table just below my cutting mat. Helps so much. Haven't found a lefty mat yet. WHY doesn't someone make one???? Sure we're a minority but every one of us would buy at least one, right? Enjoyed your blog. Cathy Mc

Unknown said...

There is a left handed ruler (set of them actually) which works for both rt & LT. I'm a lefty so I get it. The rulers have BOTH numbers going from rt to lt & from lt to rt. You can find them on Alex Anderson's name is assoc with them not sure if she designed them but she promotes them. They do not sell them on that site but there are links. I just got a 6x24 one today and it is awesome. I want someone to make a line of left handed tools for quilters.......Oh also Martelli makes a left handed ergonomic rotary cutter for leftys, I have one & love it. Check it out Cathy Mc

Unknown said...

I already did this


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