Henry Ford – Thoughts For Quilters

Henry Ford once said, “If you need a machine and don’t buy it, you will eventually find you

henry ford

Henry Ford

have paid for it, but don’t have it.”

Now I am not advocating that you run right out and break the bank by purchasing every machine, tool, and gadget you think you want for quilting. But, there is a lot of truth to that statement.

Those of us that go back a few years will remember when the first rotary cutter and mat came on the market. The first I purchased was a mat and ruler set, which I still own, 12” wide and 24” long.  The mat did not even have a grid on it. We were very excited to have a tool to accurately cut patches. What a time saver as well as a hand saver from manipulating the scissors. Previous to this new tool we used ruler and pencil to make templates from cereal boxes. Try as best as possible we would cut the templates out following the line. Cutting on the lines was one of the useful skills I learned in kindergarten. Another was learning to wait in line, now waiting in the cutting line at the quilt store. After cutting the cardboard templates we would carefully trace around them on the fabric and again pick up the scissors to cut the patches. Depending on whether you were going to hand piece or piece by machine, the ¼” seam allowance might or might not be included on the template.

quilting tools

Quilting “Tools”

Wow! That was a lot of work. Not only do we have the rotary cutter today, but an even faster and potentially more accurate system, a machine with dies to cut the patches.

Henry Ford, of course, was looking at the “time is money” principle of business as he grew his auto company from each auto as a custom build to the assembly line with the goal of every family in America affording a car (and, of course, employ people and put dollars in his bank account). In business, the more labor (time) involved the higher the cost to produce.

What do we actually need to quilt? Tools and machines that will help us become more efficient. Today we spend money to get time. If a machine or tool will give us more time, then it could be worth the purchase. If the longer bed home sewing machine makes it more comfortable  or easier for sewing, then we are trading the money for that purchase for increased comfort and enjoyment in our craft. If the crank or mechanized cutter improves our quilting, gives us more time to make more quilts, and increases our enjoyment in quilting, it could be worth the expense. And what about a really big purchase like a longarm quilting machine? If you want to have ownership of the entire quilt from start to finish, quilting at your sit down home machine is a frustration, or as in my case, painful to my neck and back, or renting time is not possible, then perhaps purchasing a longarm is the right decision.

There is a trap that many of us fall into. That of thinking we must justify a purchase like an

featherweight and table

Me enjoying my “new” Featherweight and table.

embroidery machine or longarm and do work on it to “help pay for it.” What is wrong with owning something just for the enjoyment of owning it? Or owning it because it makes the process easier, more enjoyable, or simply saves us time? How many men do you know that have purchased a hunting rifle, bass boat, or the latest and greatest lawn and garden tractor want to justify the purchase by making money with it?

Certainly Henry Ford was on to something back in the early 1900’s recognizing the importance of having the machinery (and tools) to get the job done. Without the machinery to take the place of costly labor, those machines were paid for, but not owned.  For us as quilters, not owning the machines and tools we really need may save us money, but could cost us more in time, make us less efficient and productive, and lower our quality of life and enjoyment of quilting.  Although I can’t give you permission to run out and purchase what you want, I do give you permission to seriously consider machine and tool options that will make you more efficient, be more comfortable to use, give greater productivity, and greater enjoyment as you travel along your quilting journey.

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Safety with “Rotary Cutting Basics”

A quilt top that starts with square cut patches and strips will sew better and lay better once pieced. By knowing the basics of using your rotary cutter and ruler you can have accurately cut patches and strips for your quilts. Also, part of knowing how to use these tools involves safely using them.

A few years ago one of my quilting friends was not holding onto her cutting ruler in the best place and the rotary cutter slipped and cut off the side of her index finger. A trip to emergency, stitches, and her hand in a big bandage is how her day turned out. The injury took many weeks to heal enough so that she could resume her quilting along with other activities.

The video below from The Quilt Show will illustrate how to safely use your cutting tools and how to make accurate cuts. Remember, every time you pick up the rotary cutter, think about safety first and the best practices to protect yourself from injury.

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