clip art - sewing supplies and tools
Source: Google clip art

People ask me what my favorite “quilting” gadget is frequently.  I know they are hoping I will name some tool they saw advertised in a quilt magazine or website.  My answer is generally met with disappointment, after all it is a very common household item.

Drum roll for favorite quilting gadget
Source: Google clip art

And my favorite “quilting” gadget is……….(drum roll please)……….my stove timer (when home) or the alarm on my phone (when traveling) !!!!!!  Before you roll your eyes and give a disgusted snort…

A timer is my favorite quilting gadget
Source: Google clip art
Let me explain my reasoning:
  1. I work full time, and I spend hours many weeks traveling. I carry along parts and pieces of quilts that I can work on while in an airport or hotel.  In order to prepare for this, I need to have items sorted, cut, and organized. This includes thread, needles, and small scissors.  Setting the timer/alarm allows me uninterrupted time to concentrate and prep the supplies I need. 

2. Setting the timer allows me to concentrate solely on the task at hand.  It is amazing how much sorting, cutting, or even sewing on the machine I can get done in 10 or 15 minutes. 

3. If I am lucky enough to be home working, instead of traveling, before I start working for the day I sort, iron, cut, or sew for 15 minutes to start my day already feeling like I have accomplished something. It gives me a good mind set for the rest of the day.  

4. Setting the timer for a short amount of time allows me to hand quilt without distractions too. 

5. I try to utilize all those little spans of time between other things on my schedule to do something quilt related, but I get so engrossed in what I am doing that I forget to leave on time, or make a scheduled phone call, or get to an appointment, etc.  However, if I let the timer pay attention then I can relax and just enjoy the process of quilting.  

I would encourage you to try it

Stack the pieces you want to sew together in order by the sewing machine. Remember the machine needs to be in good repair and threaded correctly at all times so you don’t waste time on that when the timer is counting down. Set your timer for 15 minutes and sew. 

When the timer goes off, get up (this also breaks the concentration you had) turn off the timer, and go to work or the next thing on your “to do” list for that day. It might take a little practice, but if you get in the habit of setting a timer for those little bits of time within your day, you can get so much more accomplished on your quilting.

Source: Google clip art



Spending the day cutting quilt pieces ?? Is the scrap bin or space on your shelves too crowded for more fabric? Are you really wanting to get started on a new quilt but just not getting to the cutting part? The solution maybe to block off some time to spend part or all of the day cutting quilt pieces.

Rotary mat with ruler and rotary cutter for cutting quilt pieces.
Source: Google clip art

This week, I was able to sort out scraps and iron for one entire afternoon. I turned my phone off, listened to music I like, and just enjoyed the process of pulling various scraps out of the bins, ironing them, and laying them flat on an extra plastic table.

woman ironing fabric to cut out quilt pieces
Source: Google clip art

A prior post on my ironing area

The next day, I got up early to get my work done. Then I was able to make a block of several hours to cut up those ironed scraps. Again I turned off the phone, put in music I like, and enjoyed the process of cutting.

a word about messy sewing rooms

I have been working from home for several weeks thanks to the COVID-19. It’s a really nice change to not be traveling each day. The downside is that I have more and more quilting ideas – which leads to an even messier quilting area.

The perception and reality of a quilting room.
Source: Google images

Did I say messy – what an understatement!! I am one of those creative types who does not clean up the mess until I am done with said project. I feel like there has been just one continuous project the last several weeks. What that means is that in several weeks, the mess has grown because I continue to go happily from one project to the next.

I didn’t realize how bad it was until another quilter was here over the weekend. Her first question was, “what happened in here??” I really looked at the mess then. I am going to simply say there is no excuse (I can certainly relate to this kids book).

I can relate to this photo of a messy room - my quilt room looks just as bad today.
Source: Goggle clip art

I’m too embarrassed to post photos, but this is the cleanest looking area. It is one shelving area that goes to the ceiling. I have dug thru here several times looking for the “perfect” fabric. I do not have a pretty sewing area – it is functional. See my post about the sewing room on previous blog:

Quilt fabric semi- folded and stacked on shelves.
I know what is here sort of, but I need to go through and straighten, and move some to the donation closet for baby and veterans quilts.

Just remember that I have quilted for 40 years…I did not gain all this overnight. Nor did I buy all of it. Some was traded for other items (quilting and non-quilting items). My hubby, kids, and mom-in-law buy me yards of fabric for b-days and holidays.


Do you ever have days you just feel like cutting fabric?? I tend to do marathon ironing and cutting back to back. I work with some standard sizes of strips and blocks so I can cut up a pile of fabric fairly quick with a little preparation.

Step 1

Sort out the fabric you want to work with – whether scraps or yardage.

Iron and then lay out on a nice flat surface that will not be disturbed.

Step 2

I personally cut fabric from the largest to the smallest blocks/strips I want from that fabric. In my case, I keep a bin of 2.5″ strips, 3″ blocks, and 5″ blocks on hand all the time. I will cut up the piece until there is nothing left but a scrap that does not fit with what I normally use.

Fabric on cutting board with ruler and cutter.
This scrap is lined up and ready to be cut into 2.5″ strips.

I saw a quilt on Pintrest made of rectangles, so while I am cutting scraps I got out another bin and started putting 4″ x 7″ rectangles in that.

Just a little to trim off this 4+” wide strip for the rectangles.

A word of warning: Rotary blades are sharp and will make a serious cut in your finger or hand. Always, always pay attention to where your fingers are before using the cutter. Keep blade covered when not actually using it.

Step 3

A cutting area for yourself needs to work for you. Below is my cutting table. It is a sturdy 6 foot long plastic table on risers so the table is at a comfortable height. Under the table is the “crumb” bin, then a bin of colored yarn (for tying quilts) with a bag of big plastic clamps (for holding down quilts to table as I tie them). The stacked bins on the right are toys for the grand-daughter when she is here.

Cutting area for quilt pieces.
On top of the table (left) is the three bins of cut strips and blocks I am cutting today. The box in the back is lined with a purple double knit that will be filled with all the too small fabric pieces and left over strips of batting to become a “nesting” bag.

Here is another photo of the area. This is what works for me. When making a work area for yourself, arrange so it works for you.

There are 3 plastic bins: 3″ squares, 2.5″ strips, and 4″ x 7″ rectangles.

That left-over piece goes into the “nesting” bag (that will later be sewn shut and given to the humane shelter) or the “crumb” box (for making string/crumb quilts). Think about the size of scrap you will realistically use for the “crumb” box. The rest goes in the “nesting” bag.

Step 4

As you completely cut each size of strip or block, put it in the correct bin. Here they will stay nice and flat to be used when you are ready.

Bin of 4" x 7" scrap rectangles for quilting.
4″ x 7″ rectangles
Bin of 2.5" quilting strips.
2.5″ colored strips. I have another bin of 2.5″ white and muslin strips.
3″ squares


Set up a comfortable area for yourself to do quilt related activities in. A table the right height. A chair that is comfortable for you. Shelves or some sort of storage area for fabric and books. A way to organize your actual tools that works for your area and budget. Get busy on doing your own spending the day cutting quilt pieces.

I love to see how others organize their sewing areas, however, I am more about function than beauty. I have a budget for quilting and will cut corners by buying the furniture (shelves, desk, chair, plastic bins and jars, etc) at a used store or a dollar store. That leaves more money for fabric, batting, and the annual trip to Paducah quilt show.

Other links about cutting quilt pieces



Clip art - triangle quilt block

Getting more time to quilt – in our crazy, busy lives this can pose a real problem. People have emailed me recently asking me how I get so much time to quilt each day. I don’t have any more time than you do.  However, I have learned to be a very good time manager and multi-tasker. We must make each minute count. Here are some simple things to help get more time to quilt each day.


compare what you get done or not to anyone else. None of us have the exact same responsibilities, schedules, or lives. Do what you can do. Remember that quilting is supposed to be fun.

Clip art - Never measure your progress using someone else's ruler.

get discouraged. Look at Pintrest, quilt shows, Facebook, magazines, books, etc as ideas for yourself. Look at the colors and patterns and enjoy.


keep several projects going simultaneously. I try to have a project in cutting stage, another in sewing stage, another in binding stage.  Also, one that can be completely by hand like English paper piecing or applique.

Tumblers and Hexagons are ready for sewing

always keep the sewing machine maintained and threaded so it is ready to be used whenever I(or you) have a few minutes.  Keep a project that is ready to be sewn beside the machine (right now I have a stack of tumbler blocks ready to go). I keep a container with all the pieces cut (and pinned) there ready to be sewn.

Get more time to quilt by being prepared.

use assembly line sewing if possible.

set a timer for small amounts of time to sew.  Even 5, 10, or 15-minute blocks give you a little more done on a quilt.

Making time to quilt - supplies are ready by sewing machine.
I have my timer set for 15 minutes and the project is ready to go.

limit social media and TV time.  If you are not good at this, set a timer and be firm with yourself about stopping when the timer goes off.

limit time talking on the phone, especially if you cannot multitask while visiting. I iron and sort fabric while on the phone. I put the phone on speaker while cutting.

Multi task while on phone.

keep a small project and supplies in a bag always ready to go along.  While waiting on the doctor, picking kids up, at the airport, at breaks between meetings, etc work on a project.  Small amounts of time add up quickly to a completed block or project.

Take heart:

Quilting should be fun. Even a few minutes each day brings enjoyment into your life. Have a wonderful day.

Other helpful ideas: