Tag Archives: cutting tools

Barn Stars Block of the Month Preparations

Hello fellow Barn Stars Block of the Month or BoM participants! We are so delighted to be sewing along with you all over the next 9 months. As noted at the time of registration, the first boxes will begin shipping to all active subscribers in early May 2021. Keep an eye on your email inbox for related tracking details once they’ve left our warehouse!

My name is Zoey and I’ll be sewing right alongside each Barn Stars subscriber. My boxes will contain the same fabric and instructions, so I’ll be following the same schedule and sharing my journey along the way. 

Before we get started, I wanted to take a moment to introduce each of you to some of the skills we’ll be flexing over the course of the project, as well as some of my recommended notions. Of course, notions are always down to personal preference and directly relate to each individual’s specific sewing style. No specific notions are a requirement for this pattern, but I often find it helpful to see what everyone is bringing to the table, so I wanted to share a few of the extra rulers I’ll be using. 

As We Begin

If you haven’t already, check out our recent blog post titled Essential Notions. This post details my list of favorites for every project, and is a great place to start when building out your supply list! 

This pattern was created by the exceptionally skilled designer, Shelley Cavanna of Cora’s Quilts. While I’ll be sharing my personal process along the way, I do recommend that any questions or comments about the pattern specifically be directed to the designer. Her contact information will be located on the first page of your pattern, set to arrive with the very first box!

What to Expect

The Barn Stars Block of the Month has been meticulously designed so that everyone has the most enjoyable sewing experience possible! Each month, subscribers will receive a shipment of fabric, along with the cutting and piecing instructions to assemble the corresponding blocks.

While all fabric needed to complete the quilt top and binding are included, I recommend browsing for backing fabric early on, to ensure availability of coordinating prints if desired. 

Backing Requirements

Personally, I chose to deviate from the fabric collection used for Barn Stars and selected a general coordinating 108” wide backing fabric to save me a bit of time down the road by eliminating the need to piece standard width fabric. I’ll be backing my Barn Stars quilt with Hand Drawn Lines 108” Wide backing in color Baltic Sea. All current 108” wide backing fabrics options can be found here.

For quick reference, the pattern recommends 7.5 yards of standard 40” wide fabric or 2.5 yards of 108” wide fabric for backing. 

Along the Way

Skills flexed for this quilt include assembling Flying Geese, Elongated Flying Geese, Half-Square Triangles, and Square-in-Square units. Tutorials and detailed instructions are, of course, included within the pattern.

Throughout project assembly, a ¼” seam allowance is utilized. Now is the best time to check presser feet and dial down the best way to keep a consistent ¼” seam allowance. Before each project, I like to verify stitch calibration and sew up a few sample swatches to check against a ruler or seam gauge.

I always keep a strip of general use washi tape on my machine table to extend beyond my needle plate. Washi tape is my favorite because it pulls off easily without leaving sticky residue as I often change between ¼” and ½” seam allowances with various projects. It can generally be picked up at a stationary store or somewhere similar. 

Threads of Success

Because the Barn Stars background fabrics are light-neutral in hue, I stocked up on a few Essential Cotton spools in color Natural, which I’ll be using for both piecing as well as quilting. Antique, Sandstone, and Parchment would be great fits for this project as well. 

Ruler Recommendations

For the Flying Geese components of this quilt, I’ll be utilizing Bloc Loc rulers to help keep things nice and tidy. The Flying Geese Bloc Loc rulers I’ll be using are sizes 3”x6”, 2”x4”, 2”x1”, and 2.5×5”

For the Half-Square Triangles, I’ll be using the Triangle Square up Ruler by Quilt in a Day. The single 6.5” square ruler will work for all the Half-Square Triangle sizes used throughout the pattern. Because this ruler works with HSTs still folded, it makes trimming an absolute breeze.

I’ll also be using my 4.5” square and 8.5” square Creative Grids rulers for squaring up assembled blocks as I go. These rulers can also take the place of the Triangle Square up Ruler for those who prefer squaring HSTs only after pressing open.

Wrapping it Up

Aside from my love of precision rulers, I’ll also be using all my favorites from the Essential Notions list. Everything within this pattern is delightfully detailed with clear instructions and images to assist along the way. 

As the quilt top won’t be ready for quilting until February 2022, I’ve chosen to hold off on ordering my batting until after the New Year so I won’t have to worry about storing it just yet. 

Now that notions are at the ready, I’m off to pre-wind some bobbins and oil up my machine so everything will be prepped for box number one! 

We’ll see you again in May once the excitement has begun. Happy quilting!

Essential Notions

What is a notion? Essentially, a sewing notion is any tool used when completing a project that would not otherwise be classified as a sewing machine, fabric, nor thread. The world of notions is vast and can quickly become overwhelming. I’ve narrowed this down and compiled a list of multi-use essentials that are key for any successful sewing or quilting venture.

Regardless of the pattern selected, most projects rely on the same basic sets of foundation tools. These can be broken down into two flexible categories: preparation and process.

Preparation can be described as any tasks that need to be completed prior to the actual task of sewing. This predominantly encompasses cutting, but also marking and preparing the fabric for smooth stitching.

Process includes anything that takes place simultaneously with actual sewing or quilting. Ensuring fabric remains in the proper place and fixing any errors as you go are vital to the success of any creation.


Olfa Deluxe Rotary Cutter (Item #80979)

I’ll start this list off with my absolute favorite cutting tool. This is one of the few times I would recommend getting an upgraded version of something straight out of the gate- and it is so worth it. There are a huge variety of rotary cutting tools available, but this one outshines the rest by far. When not in use, the cutting tool automatically secures the blade and nestles it within the top of the tool. This safely retracts the sharp edge and keeps it from swiping against fabric or fingertips. The amount of accidents and miss-cuts I’ve avoided by this simple feature is astounding. When in use, a very lightly pressured squeeze pops the blade out and keeps it in place- ready to cut. Because the squeeze release is worked into the handle design, it takes no more pressure than just simply holding the handle. Even after hours of standing at my cutting table, the handle’s curved design helps prevent hand and wrist fatigue. It is also a delightfully bright yellow, so unless I carelessly place a pile of fabric on top of it, it is always easy to find.

Sew Great 45mm Rotary Refill Blade (5 Pack) (Item #82503)

While we would love for a rotary blade to last forever, they’ll eventually need to be replaced. The Sew Great refill blades are fabulously economical and vital to keep on hand when you finally realize you’ve been pushing harder than necessary to slice through that pile of half-square-triangles.

Omnigrid Rotary Cutting Mat 12” x 18” (Item #81692)

With precision measurement grids across the entire surface, in addition to multi-degree diagonal guide lines, this mat serves as a dual purpose of protecting table surfaces while also guiding rulers and cutting tools with expert precision. The 12”x18” size is absolutely ideal for fat quarters or smaller pre-cuts, but can also accommodate full yardage with a careful quarter fold. This size offers the most versatility of use without requiring a large amount of table space.

OmniAngle Ruler 4×18” (Item #82582)

Carefully selected to coordinate with the 12”x18” cutting mat, this 4”x18” ruler makes use of the full length of the cutting space. With no need to fold, a fat quarter is truly this duo’s best friend. Once my blocks are assembled, I take them straight back to my mat and use this ruler to square everything up. The ruler acts as a guide for the rotary cutter, ensuring smooth, straight lines every time. With it’s clear design and guided grid lines, finding and staying on grain is a breeze while the 4” depth helps work as a thick pivot point to ensure enough overlap to verify all measurements are in-line and nestled right where they should be. Built-in angular guide lines creates a simple multi-purpose tool and eliminates the need for specified angle rulers. 

Point 2 Point Turner (Item #82171)

When something can be considered “multi-use,” it immediately holds a higher value within my notions box. This Point 2 Point Tuner is, without question, one of those things. A hera maker and blunt point combined, there are few projects that don’t have me reaching for this tool. When working with fabrics I don’t want to mark with a fabric pen/pencil, the flat rounded tip of this tool is sharp enough to contour creased dents that stay firm in fabric until I no longer need them. It is always my go-to for half square triangles or four-at-a-time flying geese when I need a quick seam-allowance guide as it can dent through multiple layers at once. The opposite end is absolutely perfect for poking out corners of zipper pouches or keeping your fingers out of the way when holding down binding. When ready for finger pressing, the smooth rounded end glides evenly across fabric and saves your fingertips from having to battle out the chain-piecing on their own.

Sewline Mechanical Pencil – Blue (Item #82790)

The perfect companion to a set of stitch and flip strips or squares or anything else that needs an extra precise spot of placement. I also use these extensively with bag and pouch making to pre-mark pocket or hardware placements. While the refillable lead comes in a variety of colors to accommodate numerous fabric hues, I find myself reaching for the blue option more often than the others. The pencil markings wipe easily with a damp cloth or the built-in eraser. Generally, I find the damp cloth method a bit easier while also avoiding accidentally stretching my fabrics by rubbing at them. When it comes time to quilt, the pencil pairs beautifully with rulers or stencils to pre-mark stitch lines (though, I always test on a scrap of fabric first to ensure a full wipe off before starting!).


Premium Wool Small Pressing Mat 9”x12” (Item #82597)

Few things are as magical as a wool pressing mat. At 9”x12”, this mat accommodates a variety of quilt blocks without needing too much movement or adjustment to get the full piece pressed. I keep this next to my sewing machine constantly – with an iron at the ready for pressing as I go. While a small iron is great for convenience, it isn’t entirely necessary as a standard house iron will do the job just fine. The magic is in the wool. It accommodates either dry or steam ironing depending on fabric type and preference. Buddy it up with a tailor’s clapper or a spare piece of wood for ultimate crispness.

Clover Wonder clips – 100pcs (Item #82705)

While there is a bit of a division in the sewing world between clips and pins, my personal preference plops me right in the middle of this dispute. I absolutely prefer both and switch between the two for various projects. Where pins fall short, wonder clips pick up the slack and level the playing field. With these Wonder Clips, Clover has designed the ultimate tool. The clips stay put even with fine, slippery fabrics. The handy seam guide on the back allows me to double check my points before sewing. I can quickly clip my blocks and line up the ¼” seam guide on the clear bottom of the clip. Once secured, I flip open my pieces and make sure everything is precisely where I want it to be, or make any necessary adjustments without having to unpick stitches. Wonder clips are also my absolute favorite for thick seams and binding.

Magic Pins – Extra Long (Item #21611)

These heat-resistant beauties are a dream. Extra-long and thin enough to not damage fabrics, these pins are an obvious must-have for any notions box. After years of use, these pin tips have remained sharp, straight, and delightfully reliable. In tight spots where clips can become cumbersome, these pins will pick up the slack and keep everything ready and where it should be until pressed or stitched into place.

Clover Seam Ripper (Item #82862)

While I would love to pretend mistakes never cross my sewing table, this little seam ripper is there when I need it. The sharp edge slices smoothly through misplaced stitches as the red safety edge prevents accidental slips through the fabric. The light handle and ribbed grip makes it easy to hold for quick, precise unpicking that gets me back to my sewing table quick and efficiently.

Safety Scissors with Blunt End (Item #82281)

Thread snips are vital for absolutely any project and I’m always sure to keep a set close at hand for trimming tails and tidying piecing. While these are no replacement for the rotary cutter when cutting fabric, they make quick work of small snips needed while at my machine. The blunt ends prevent accidental fabric damage and make separating chain-piecing a breeze. They’re also the cutest oil-slick color so they clearly stand out amongst the pile of threads I inevitably set them on.

Curved Brass Basting Pins – Size 1 (Item #82184)

While everyone has their own personal basting preferences, these curved basting pins are my absolute favorite. At just over an inch long, they’re the perfect size for keeping that quilt sandwich in place. A single package is plenty for an entire Queen sized quilt, with a few left over for tidying up a few spots that may have been missed. They are perfectly sharp and poke through the multiple layers with ease, gliding back up to the top of the quilt with help from the curved shape. The nickel-plated steel stays sharp for years of repeat use.

Tulip Sewing Needles – Asst. Sizes (Item #82832)

Once quilting is finished and edges are trimmed, I like to machine sew my binding to the front, then curl it on over to the back (securing with wonder clips) and hand sew that final step for a nice, clean finish. Whether using a blind stitch or opting for big stitch binding, this needle assortment is ideal for accommodating a wide variety of threads. When I’m feeling overly ambitious and opt for hand-quilting, the largest size needle is perfect for the thicker, size 8 perle cotton.  These needles are flexible and long, which makes a simple running stitch a breeze by catching 4-6 stitches in a single pass without dropping the backing. 

One of the most delightful things about sewing is no two artists operate in precisely the same way. The only true necessary components to modern making are fabric, thread, and a sewing machine. Everything from there is built up with personal preferences and trying new things through the process of creation. 

Before I discovered the Point 2 Point turner, I used a library card for creases and a capped pen for my blunt edge. Prior to discovering curved basting pins, I either used straight pins (with a lot of accidental palm-stabbing) or simply kept layers on the floor as I crouched over them, hand sewing every single quilt-line. None of these substitutions worked nearly as well as their proper notion counterparts, but they were the tools I had at my disposal as a very early beginner, just barely testing the waters.

If I were to start again today, these are the supplies I would deem absolutely essential and would have given me the opportunity to sew with confidence rather than struggling where I otherwise didn’t need to.

Looking over this list and glancing at your own collection of essential notions, are there any that you haven’t tried before, or any that you’d add? Leave us a comment below and continue the conversation!