I have a notion…

More than one.  Truth be told, I have a lot of notions.  The “opinion, view, or belief” kind, the “a fanciful or foolish idea; whim” and the “ingenious article or device” kind.  Mostly I have a lot of the sewing-quilting kind of notions.  


This picture is of the Notions Department – Sewing Supplies – of the Ben Snyder department store in Kentucky, circa 1949.

Did you know that Moda Fabrics/United Notions started as a notions distributor?  True story.  There is still an entire warehouse devoted to notions – threads, rulers, zippers, batting, scissors and rotary cutters, needles and pins, etc.  If you sew, you use notions.  If you really love to stitch, you probably have a couple of drawers full of tools, gadgets… notions.  You probably also have your favorites, I know I do.

So I got curious.  If we had our favorites, what did the Moda designers use?  In addition to being interested, finding out what others use can sometimes lead to my finding a new favorite tool.

Rotary Cutters.  Is there a preferred size?  Brand?  What do they use the most?

Big surprise – even though they have their favorite, almost everybody owned up to having “several” rotary cutters.

The 45mm Olfa was the most commonly mentioned – the “old-fashioned” one, the Splash – more have the Aqua (including Sherri McConnell) than the Purple – the ergonomic model and the Quick-Change cutter.  But Lynne Hagmeier, Corey Yoder, Laurie Simpson, Barbara Groves of Me & My Sister and Debbie Maddy all swear by their 60mm Olfas.

Janet Clare loves her Fiskars 45mm and Shannon Orr uses the Omnigrid.

The hand-piecers, appliqué-stitchers and English-paper-piecers also love the 18mm and 28mm size cutters – Jen Kingwell, Jane Davidson and Laurie all mentioned using those frequently.

What about you?  Do you have more than one?  And do you have a favorite size and brand?

Me?  I have multiples – if I cut in that spot, there is a rotary cutter there.  I love the Olfa Quick-Change cutter because of the shape of the handle – it’s comfortable for my hand.  I also prefer the 45mm – the 60mm has always felt HUGE to me… like a pizza cutter.  I do have and use a 28mm cutter and for that, I really like the Fiskars stick cutter.  If I could change one thing about my rotary cutters it would be that they came in red.  With polka dots – white or black.

Seam Rippers.  Yes, I also asked about seam rippers.  I know, they never used them but on the off chance that they might possibly someday need one, did they have one?

Everybody has multiples.  Kathy Schmitz said she keeps seam rippers around the way she keeps readers – on every flat surface in her home.  (I can so relate to that!). Only Jen Kingwell doesn’t have or use seam rippers.  It’s a hand-piecing thing.

For seam rippers, the designers either have a specific preference or “any kind will do… whatever is handy.”

Lynne, Corey, Janet and Chelsi Stratton have multiples and they’ll use whatever is handy.  Amy Ellis loves her Seam Fix but will use the Clover when she can’t find it.  Shannon Orr likes the small Dritz model – “in triplicate… because I misplace them.”  Barbara – Me & My Sister – has several seam rippers but prefers to use the tips of her embroidery scissors because they’re so sharp.

Misplacing seam rippers is a common theme.  I think it’s because they rarely, if ever, get used.

The most frequently mentioned is the white Clover seam ripperBetsy Chutchian, Anne Sutton of Bunny Hill DesignsSherri, Pat Sloan, Jane Davidson – of Franny & Jane, and Debbie Maddy.  (I’m in this group, I buy them in boxes of three.)

I was kind of hoping that someone would mention using their rotary cutter the way Eleanor Burns does but nobody would admit to it.  If you’ve not seen it, Eleanor can hold the pieces being separated in one hand and flick the edge of a rotary cutter on the stitches as she pulls the two pieces apart.  It’s a very cool and nifty trick… and no, I’ve never tried it.  I lack the dexterity and coordination.  (And I don’t own enough bandaids.)

On those rare occasions when you need a seam ripper, do you have a favorite or use whatever you can find first?

There will be more in the coming weeks and months – thread, rotary rulers, pins, etc. – but that’s it for today’s Tuesday Tool Time.

For United Notions latest and greatest notions – Winter 2017 Catalog.

Two last things to share today… two of the designers mentioned have new collections showing to shops right now.  Creekside by Sherri & Chelsi for A Quilting Life and Tuppence by Shannon Orr.

Every time I see either one, I start thinking about getting out my rotary cutter and making something.

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33 thoughts on “I have a notion…

  1. The 60 mm ergonomic Olfa is my go-to cutter unless I’m rotary cutting curved patches. The white Clover seam ripper is the best thing since sliced bread. Both of these tools fit comfortably in my man hands. Looking forward to the blog entry on scissors, because I am yet to find patchwork scissors I love (and I have tons!)

    1. Ditto on both! In fact, I own at least 3 Clover seam rippers: one at my machine, one at my ironing station, and one at my cutting table. Oh, and I definitely use them all!

  2. I love my embroidery scissors. Those sharp little blades are wonderful for ripping. Especially if, like me, you have lots of practice!

  3. LOVE my Clover seam ripper. I refuse to use any other brand it is so sharp and I love the handle. I own many so they are always handy.

  4. I do the Eleanor Burns methods on a short piece if my seam ripper isn’t laying right there. I have the old Fons and Porter and love it because the handle is bigger.

  5. After misplacing (how did that happen?!?) My rotary cutter after a late night cutting marathon, a back-up is on my shopping list, I was actually cutting with shears for a bit before it surfaced- horrors! Sometimes it is necessary to have multiples of certain notions and tools!

  6. As far as seam ripping goes, I much prefer the clover ball pointed awl. You can pull out every few stitches easily (unless you are stitching micro mini size) and it leaves no little bits of thread hanging around. I have multiples of this tool because I am afraid they will stop making it. That happens often with things I love.

  7. Several years ago I took a class and the teacher mentioned that you get more control with the 28mm rotary cutter and it is now my favorite. It seems to cut as many layers as the big ones. How many rotary cutters do I have??? LOTS! On the “very rare” occasions that I might use a seam ripper, I really like the white Clover.

  8. I love my little brown Clover seam ripper, the one pictured up there on the right. It’s the only one I use. It’s just a perfect design. I have three. I also have three rotary cutters, a pink Olfa 45, an original Olfa 45 used only for cutting paper, and a 60 one that I plan on replacing, don’t care for the design and the way it cuts, not an Olfa.

  9. I have lots of seam rippers, well at least 5. One is a Hoechstmass I’ve had for years. That and the one that came with the Bernina sewing machine are my favorites.

  10. I have several different rotary cutters but the one used most is my Martell because it’s an ergonomic one and helps with arthritis. My favorite seam ripper (although I have a huge assortment ) is one that my daughter’s father-in-law made be. It has a regular sized ripper on one end and a fine ripper on the other and when I’m not using it (or one or the other) the rippers reverse in the handle. It’s really great to take with me places (no accidentally stabbing myself or others) and it’s beautiful, hand turned from wood.

  11. I have several of the blue Dritz rippers. Even tho they aren’t the smallest,finest points, they are bigger (to find easier) and flat, so they don’t roll away!

  12. My favorite seam ripper is by Havel, it is stainless steel with replaceable blades, looks like a scalpel, can be used like one as well but that’s for another story. I have named mine Jack. (The ripper).

  13. I’m so, so glad that Moda has expanded from only notions! I honestly think that I could sew for the rest of my life using only Moda fabrics and designers. My favourite cutter is 45 Splash and my favourite ripper is the white Clover. The feel of it is perfect in my hand.

  14. I have too many scissors and rotary cutters..just love them all but
    have to say the big purple splash is my fav.
    I received a seam ripper with an led
    light and magnifyer attached. Its turned out to be useful to
    older eyes.

  15. Photo looks like the old JC Penney’s fabric department in the 1950s-60s. Those were the days when I’d ask my dad for $5 to for a pattern, fabric, zipper, and thread to make myself a dress.

  16. I use the Seam Fix seam ripper for small jobs… I love the rubber end that I can use to get all the little pieces of thread out of my seam. For larger problems, I use a mustache razor. It works like a champ for long seams. Unfortunately it does make a lot of noise and everyone around you at retreat knows when you have made an error. I have a purple Fiskars 45mm that I love for my rotary cutting needs.

  17. I’ve seen Eleanor Burns do that – when I messed up something in a class I was taking from her. And it’s slick, but I’m not quite as tricky as her.

  18. Omnigrid is my favorite rotary cutter. No safety shield to open and close. I do not have small children, so safety is not such a big issue. The seam ripper (I never use) is a fold over type, I do not know the brand. I like it because of its small, thin point that easily fits between the layers. Some of the seam rippers are way to bulky and hard to insert between stitches. Thin is the goal!
    Love your newsletter.

  19. I love my aqua Splash cutter! Why? It’s aqua (athough I don’t like the yellow in it but I love, love the aqua) and it’s so easy to change the blade.
    Seam ripper? No, I don’t own one. I’m always using a pin a trick my mom once showed me.
    I love Sherri’s and Chelsi’s new collection the prints and the colors are great (okay not the yellow so much but that’s because it’s with purple one of my not so much loved colors). I’m currently using their Desert Bloom prints (the dots! I heart them) and it’s so fun to sew with fabrics you love:-)

  20. I bought the rotary cutter from Martinelli and I really like it. I never realized how much pressure I was putting on that arm and this one seems to help! I use a seam ripper constantly! I don’t know why but I seem to sew most seams at least twice! I have the Clover ball point awl that I use most of the time! That way I cannot stab myself! Notions make sewing so fun!!!

  21. Oh, polka dot rotary cutters, that would be awesome! Maybe you can talk to the people you know in the business and make a push for polka dots. Enjoy your blogs!

  22. I love the Olfa that closes itself because I am clumsy and because I sew with four-footed helpers, two of which like to jump up on the cutting table. Wish those came in a variety of colors and designs.

  23. I probably use my 60 mm. cutter 95% of the time. If this makes any sense, it goes farther faster. Cutting is my least favorite part of quilting so I try to cut multiple layers as often as I can and the 60 mm. cutter performs well every time. I am a huge fan of Buggy Barn and Karla Alexander’s stack/slash/shuffle/sew patterns where lots of layers are cut at one time. I joke about being rotary cutter challenged. I teach quilting and cannot just pick up a student’s cutter to demo something. I am not comfortable with the ergonomic cutters; my go-to 60 mm. cutter is one of the “original” yellow-gold Olfa ones. I’m also not a fan of seam rippers. I hate all the little thread fuzzies that are left behind. I use my trusty stiletto that I have worn the brass off of. I slip the tip under about every third or fourth stitch and pull the thread up. When I’m done I have one long thread on the top and one on the bottom. No mess to clean up! Yes, occasionally the top thread will break but usually I can take out a seam without that happening. I have used Eleanor Burn’s method when the stitches are especially small – like when PPing.

  24. Never aware that Eleanor Burns started frogging with a rotary cutter. Saw one of my friends do it, cringed, then became aware of how fast things were going. (She was taking off a long border strip.) I decided to try it. I use the 18 mm Olfa for just that purpose. The little rotary cutter fits my hand like a pencil and is easy to control. But, keep a sharp blade so you easily slice the thread and not push into the fabric. I have tried the huge Olfa and Fiskars cutters. Fiskars appears to be a waste in my opinion. It does travel longer around to possibly give you longer life on the blade, but it doesn’t have any more exposed blade than the regular large. So, cutting thick things like batting is not easier with it. I used to love my big Olfa Mamu…but arm injuries prevent me from applying the kind of pressure necessary to cut with the larger blade. That one was great for plowing through thicker batting.

  25. I use the Eleanor Burns method because it’s SO fast, but I learned it from Judy Niemeyer a number of years ago. I was pretty nervous the first time I tried it, but it works like a charm.

  26. I’ve had the Fiskars ergonomic rotary cutter you have pictured (except in dark gray) for around 25 years. I bought it long before I did any quilting and used it for crafts — cutting fabric, yes, but also fome core and anything else where I wanted a straight line. Any other kind or shape of rotary cutter feels foreign and uncomfortable to me. I do have the Fiskars stick 28mm cutter as well, but I haven’t used it much. Ref. that foreign feeling mentioned above. 🙂

  27. I have used Eleanor Burns’ seam slicing method on many occasions. This year I learned that I’ve been seam-ripping the wrong way (picking and pulling rather than a cutting slide between the fabrics). I use my seam rippers as a stiletto, so need a nice flat point. I have found that the Seam Fix’s rubber end is fantastic at getting batting trails off my cutting mat. My go-to rotary cutter is the Splash but I like to use the Martelli Ergo for strip cutting.

  28. I like to have lots of seam rippers about, but I did not like any round ones since they roll.

  29. This post really hit home – my mother and I visited the Ben Synder Department Store in Louisville, Kentucky for all our notions and fabric when I was learning to sew!! My first Log Cabin quilt was Eleanor Burns Quilt In A Day and yes, I do use her method for ripping – she is one of kind!

    My favorite notion is the 60mm Olfa Rotary Cutter.

    Love reading Moda’s blog and hoping for the opportunity to meet you in Maysville.

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