Chances are that if you have a hobby you've noticed this phenomenon: Tools specifically marketed to hobbyists are more expensive than the same tool marketed to the general public. Cycling socks? If regular socks cost $7, cycling socks cost $20. Model railroad board? If a sheet of regular plywood costs $12, a sheet of model railroad board costs twice as much and is one-fourth the size. You can buy a package of a dozen spring hairclips at the dollar store for, well, a dollar. A package of 30 of identical clips, packaged by Wright for quilters to use when binding a quilt, retails for $7.00.
As a quilter I'm always on the lookout for tools in unlikely places. Often tools purchased at the dollar store or at Home Depot will be cheaper and will work better than tools made especially "for quilters". Need to label your blocks or stabilize them for signatures? A roll of masking tape ($2.00) will do the trick nicely. Need an unusual template? A window shop will cut a piece of acrylic in the shape of a bunny or an acorn for a buck or two. Need a guide for stitching that perfect 1/4" seam? A little stack of Post-It notes from Office Depot will handle that task easily.
So you can bet I'm patting myself on the back. I've just acquired the largest quilting tool in the world and it was absolutely free. It's the vinyl floor in my new studio. You can see the pattern is a black and white checkerboard. The squares are 9". When I need to block a quilt, or measure a piece of fabric, or pin-baste a quilt sandwich, this grid will keep things nice and square.
Of course, the floor wasn't free, but it didn't cost anything extra for this pattern. So I'm calling it free.
Oh, and the studio is 15' x 30'. I think it's fair to call a 450 square foot floor the largest quilting tool in the world -- until someone challenges me for the title.
By the way, if you want to keep a pair of thread snips handy to your machine, do what my friend Mattie does. Pick up a key coil. Thread your machine's cord through the ring, and fasten the clip to your scissors. Voila! Your snips will always be at your fingertips.
In the latest news on the house, the interior painting began today, and the finish and trip work progresses. Tomorrow I'll be shopping for mirrors, towel bars and such for the bathrooms.